YOUR CUT-OUT-AND-KEEP GUIDE TO PERFECT MODERN MANNERS

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The Independent Culture
Dear Serena,

Is it permissible to give a man flowers these days?

Joan, Llandudno

Of course. They're suckers for it. A few rules, of course: avoid pansies (for obvious reasons), carnations (a general rule of flower-giving) and any of those dead-petal arrangements you get in the trendier flower shops, as he will think you've stolen them from a graveyard. A nice bunch of lilies, though, and you can bend him to your will.

If hiring a PR agency, is there any advantage in using one with royal connections? They seem to cost a pretty penny.

Rupert, Belgravia

You can't skimp on class. The people associate royalty with education, intelligence, worldliness and personal success, and any goods or services linked with this branding cannot help but have a little of that magic rub off upon it. The same can be said of media ventures, pantomimes and those shiny lavatory cisterns you find in the better class of bar.

I am planning a party, but my house isn't big enough to fit in everyone I need to ask. But every time I think I've found a suitable venue, someone has a negative opinion to offer: it's not cool enough; it's too cool; it's south of the river; it's north of the park; no one goes into the centre of town these days; they don't like the decor. I am at my wits' end. Do you have any solutions?

Brian, London SE1

Throw the party at home, and only ask the people who haven't complained about your other choices of venue. No one needs so many friends that they can't cram them into the kitchen.

Following a bout of treatment, my therapist says that I will be ready to go it alone after a couple of weeks' severance sessions. Although nervous at the prospect, I am delighted by the improvement that she has brought about. I would like to get her a present to show my gratitude, but am not sure what is appropriate.

Kirstie, Inverness

Therapists always claim that they don't accept gifts, but even therapists can be swayed by a nice bunch of flowers. Remember, though, that therapists read something into every choice you make. Follow the rules as mentioned above for men, but remember that the recipient will probably have a copy of Freud on Flowers somewhere on her bookshelf. Stick with white roses, sweet peas and freesias; they may be bland, but they smell lovely.

Any suggestions for a good gift to bring a new mother?

Rachel, Stoke-on-Trent

New mothers always appreciate something that makes them feel normal after their ordeal. I always bring a half- bottle of Wild Turkey and a good fat stogie. But remember: fathers can feel very neglected at this crucial time. A nice bowl of fruit and a Georgette Heyer novel will help and succour them through those long, sleepless nights. Avoid giving explosives or firearms to infants and toddlers.

I find a combination of St John's Wort and lavender oil works wonders for insomnia. The St John's Wort you put under your tongue, the lavender on your pillow; this will guarantee a good night's sleep.

Antonia, Bury

Unless, of course, you're the sort of person who lies awake at night worrying about whether you're gullible or not.

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