auntie ag & uncle ony

I am really keen on the ex-girlfriend of my best friend. There was always a great rapport between us, and a mutual friend once told me she had confided, after she and Simon split up, that she should have been going out with me. The trouble is, although she left Simon a year ago, he is still distraught about it and hopes to get her back. I have kept away from her for his sake but can't stop thinking about her - would it be disloyal to ask her out now?

Peter, Winchester

Uncle Ony: Oh-oh. Paradigm shift time! You are not talking about loving a woman here, Peter, but your own repressed homosexuality. Why are you seeking to wound Simon in this way if not to "punish" him for continuing to want a woman who no longer loves him instead of wanting you? A course of counselling may help you.

Auntie Ag: (Ignore Ony darling, he always goes through an Oscar Wilde stage in the early spring.) Look: after a year, if you really think you might love this girl, of course it's fair enough, but it will make Simon sad, so make sure you're not doing it for insubstantial reasons.There is a rather ghastly tendency among young men to want their friends' girlfriends to fancy them. From her resolute rejection of Simon, it looks as though this girl would fancy either member of Little and Large more than him, so it won't be so much an ego massage as a quick wipe with a soggy face flannel.

I'm worried that I am not getting enough out of my day. I work in the City, go to the gym before work four times a week, but I am constantly made unhappy by the feeling that I cannot keep up with things in the rest of life - running the home, friends, keeping abreast with the latest books and plays.

Julia, Fulham

Uncle Ony: As a long-time student of effective time management, Julia, I can tell you that it is a question of managing, not time, but ourselves: focusing on a "fourth generational" principal of importance, not urgency; prevention, not crisis management; opportunity, not problem. Bearing in mind the "Pareto Principle" - that 80 per cent of results flow out of 20 per cent of the activities - what you need is a burning "Yes!" inside you to what is important in order to say "No!" to the merely urgent.

Auntie Ag: (For God's sake take no notice of Ony.) Darling! You must stop going to the gym at once. It has clearly so over-exhausted you, your mind is starting to slip. How any woman can imagine she's expected to do a full-time job, and fit in anything else at all except being taken out for dinner is beyond me. This is what to do. First buy lots of champagne and magazines. Then, when you get home from work, slip into a scented bath with a glass of fizz, hang around in a pretty robe flicking through the mags all evening, then flop into bed ready for the morning. Repeat for a few weeks until you feel better, angel, then take a week off for some top-up shopping.

My husband and I live in a very large house. In fact to be perfectly honest, it's a stately home and my husband is a Duke. We are throwing a party for my daughter and her closest friends are staying in the house. The trouble is two of them are a homosexual couple. If I put them in separate rooms my daughter will be mortified. If I put them together my husband will probably try to have them beheaded.

Antonia, various counties.

Uncle Ony: Your husband, Antonia is clearly a homosexual in denial. His display of homophobia is nothing other than "blocking". I suggest you put the boys in separate rooms but encourage them to talk to the Duke and get him to "open up" during the party, perhaps by asking him if he has ever had homosexual fantasies.

Auntie Ag: Put them in a double bed, darling. And if the Duke makes so much as a squeak tell him the whole point of the British aristocracy is supposed to be good manners: good manners means putting people at their ease, and attempting to behead them will make them most uncomfortable and look like the height of rudeness.

I recently started dating a marvellous chap who I thought was a couple of years younger than me. I just found out that it's 12! I don't think he has any idea how old I am. What on earth shall I do?

Francesca, Chester

Uncle Ony: You are in denial, trying to convince yourself that the ageing process either does not exist or is imperceptible; at the same time trying to "cloak" yourself in the youthfulness of your companion. The laws of economics and childbearing dictate that older women with younger men always look ridiculous. Bow out, and learn to grow old graciously.

Aunt Ag: (Ony, one more like that and I shall send the photos to the editor and have you sacked.) What should you do, darling? Pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate of course, then roger him senseless.

A friend of mine who is a dressmaker has been making me a dress for a wedding. I told her I wasn't happy about the shape but she insisted it was just because it wasn't finished. Today I went for the final fitting. I hate it, wouldn't be seen dead in it, but was so embarrassed I paid her the pounds 200 she wanted, brought the dress home and didn't say anything. Now I'm home I'm furious and want my money back.

Jackie, Exeter

Uncle Ony: lt is not your friend or the dress which is making you angry, but your own failure to assert your own authority. The answer is to make such a deep impression on your consciousness that it cries out, wounded, for authority - I suggest you achieve this by forcing yourself to wear the dress for the wedding.

Auntie Ag: I'd forget about the money - you'll never get it back and you'll end up with a hideous scene and no friend. Just wear something you love, and give the dress to Oxfam, then you haven't actually lost out and the poor of the world will have a lovely new frock! ( As long as it isn't so frightful that even the poor of the world won't want it!)

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