Auntie Ag

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The girl who came to dinner

A few months ago my girlfriend's best friend split up with her boyfriend. Ever since then she has been living in our spare room. Our flat is not exactly enormous and the bathroom is always draped with her washing. And what's more, she has not contributed so much as a loo roll; in fact she is eating us out of house and home (not to mention huge boxes of tissues and wine). I'm sympathetic but can't help feeling she's taking advantage of us. But if I so much as mention rent or putting something into the housekeeping kitty, my girlfriend goes wild and starts going on about "poor Charlotte". In fact it is us that will be poor if this goes on.

Mark, Selly Oak

Auntie Ag: Your girlfriend is displaying quite natural solidarity. After all, who knows when one might find oneself in a similar situation? Actually, women are even more territorial than men, and I would suspect that underneath her sympathetic exterior, she is getting quite sick of not being able to find the bath through the forest of poor Charlotte's tights. It won't go on forever, but if you really can't stick it out, I'd hurry things to their natural conclusion. Do you and your girlfriend have some kind of mutual savings scheme? Perhaps a nice Pep or a Tessa. Insist that you want to cash it in and help poor Charlotte with the deposit on a new flat. Once your girlfriend has mentally worked out how many lovely frocks and holidays in the sun this would be wasting, I'm sure she will suddenly start encouraging poor Charlotte to move on under her own steam. And even if she doesn't, at least you'll be getting poor Charlotte out of your hair.

meals on wheels

Is it okay to dial a meal and serve it to guests?

Denise, Battersea

Auntie Ag: Not really, darling - specially not pizza. You can't expect people to make a journey to your house for a meal they could get by phone. But it's quite acceptable to get the caterers in.

who are you talking to?

I work in an industry where we are constantly plagued by sales and PR people ringing up to try to get us to take an interest in products that are quite unsuitable for us. Recently, I have noticed that they tend to start their spiel by saying "Who am I speaking to?" and then when I give my name they launch straight into their pitch, which can go on at some length. I really don't have time for this, especially as I'm rarely the person they actually need to speak to. I don't want to be rude (well, not too rude) so how can I discourage them?

Laura, London E1

Auntie Ag: How maddening, angel, especially if your time is precious. When they ask for your name, you need to counter with, "Who are you looking for?" This will force them to disclose who they are and what they are selling. Then you can swiftly pass them on.

break a leg

I am going on holiday for the first time with my boyfriend this year. My idea of a holiday is lying by the pool, or on the beach, doing absolutely nothing, and I am very alarmed by the brochures he has been bringing home. They are all action-holidays where the main activities are antics like water-skiing and bungee-jumping, which I find quite death-defying. I would almost rather stay at home.

Susan, High Wycombe

Auntie Ag: It is so testing going away with someone for the first time, darling. Accept the notion of the death-defying holiday with enthusiasm, but be sure that it is somewhere suitably exotic and sunny. Then twist your ankle getting on (or off) the plane. That way, you can lie by the pool with a clear conscience. It will be a wonderful character test for him: if he happily curtails at least some of his activities to bring you delicious cocktails on your bed of pain, he is a find, angel. But if he insists on paragliding to the bitter end, give him his marching orders as soon as you get home.

pennies from heaven

Did you know that if you cut the top off your washing-up liquid bottle when it seems to be empty, you will find several more days worth clinging round the sides of the container?

Andy, Exeter

Auntie Ag: No, darling, I didn't. Are you sure you've written to the right column? I know these thrift tips are all the rage, but frankly, angel, if I couldn't afford a new bottle of Fairy Liquid, I wouldn't be quite so keen to broadcast it.

what a balls up

Last week I was meant to be going to Wimbledon with my boyfriend, but at the last minute I couldn't make it. He paid for the tickets, and he wants me to give him the pounds 22 he paid for mine, as I couldn't come. There was rain all day anyway, and no play at all, so I don't feel I should have to pay him. We have both got quite cross about it.

Chantelle, Richmond

Auntie Ag: Well, angel, a lot depends on why you couldn't turn up. Did someone die, or were you just working overtime? In general, when one's partner has proposed a lovely treat, it does seem a shame to let it go by the board (though demanding money instead of expressing deep regret is not terribly elegant either). It seems more than likely that there will be one of those free-for-all days so all the players can catch up, so why don't you go to that together, enjoy it, and thank your lucky stars you didn't decide on Glastonbury instead of the tennis?

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