Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

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YOU'RE NEVER ALONE WITH A FAG

How does one deal with people who nick one's cigarettes at parties? I am always more than happy to share, but can't help feeling that complete strangers are going a bit far when they swan up with barely a hello, demand a fag, and then wander off again. This happened to me at a party the other day - one woman didn't even speak a word to me, she just made a smoking gesture in my general direction, gestured at the pack, raised her eyebrows, smiled, helped herself and went off with one of my last Silk Cuts. It was a smooth performance, but surely a bit rude?

Angela, London SW11

UNCLE ONY: You could keep your pack in your handbag or pocket and only extract it when you want to smoke yourself. But remember that these freeloaders are saving you from yourself. After all, one cigarette smoked by someone else is one cigarette not smoked by you: and cigarettes, as we all know, seriously damage health.

AUNTIE AG: Conviviality at parties means that cigarettes, drinks and other more nefarious substances are more likely to be seen as common property than usual, darling, and there's no way of getting round this - making a scene would be dreadfully over the top. Think of fags at parties in the same way as you think of booze. You wouldn't dream of going to a party without taking a bottle (I hope) and in the same spirit, take a spare pack of fags and expect to give most of them to others. Or you could change brands: those who smoke Silk Cut or Marlboro Lites are in the front line when it comes to this kind of thing, because they are the brands preferred by so-called "social smokers" - in other words, those who never bloody buy their own. Smoke something offbeat like Consulate, angel, and you'll be left in peace (until, that is, everyone gets desperate around 2am and will smoke anything).

FOR GOD'S SAKE, DUMP HIM

Sorry to bother you again, it's me, Prudence, of the love rat entanglement, I've written several times before. The love rat has been having lots of e-mails from his ex-fiancee, the love rattess; when questioned about this, he says they are all business, about dividing up their ex- possessions. He's away skiing this week and left his laptop at my flat to look after and I couldn't resist having a little peek. Not that I don't trust him, I just couldn't suppress my curiosity. I just read three to start with, and they are of an explicit nature (both from him and to him). Should I read the other 279 messages in his mailbox? Please advise.

Prudence, Bath

UNCLE ONY: Ha! I feel completely vindicated in all my previous excellent advice (not that I am in any way glad to be proved right, of course). If people would listen to me from the start they would have much better- regulated lives. I'm afraid I can't advise further without more information on the content of these e-mails - just how explicit are they, exactly?

AUNTIE AG: Oh, shut up Ony, smugness is so ugly. Prudence, darling, in dealing with a love rat there comes a moment when the time for giving the benefit of the doubt is over and one should call in Pest Control. I think you may have reached this point, angel. You should most certainly read the other 279 messages, and if any of them are amusing send them on a global e-mail to everyone you know (and quickly, darling, because they're talking about bringing in some silly anti-intrusion bill).

THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT

I have a very happy 20-year marriage, but my wife recently went on a course to help her "rationalise her life" and has turned our home upside down. First she threw out all her clothes and bought two very expensive outfits, all in black, then she emptied the freezer of stew and filled it with Quorn, then she got cracking on the house, threw out nearly a skipful of things just because we hadn't used them for a few years. She even rooted out the old lawnmower from the back of the shed, and I'd always thought it would be jolly useful to keep for an emergency. Could I have done anything wrong?

Graham, Slough

UNCLE ONY: Clutter not only makes the housework difficult, Graham, but it's bad for the soul. It sounds as though your wife's course was not only effective but extremely positive. I'm not surprised you're feeling confused, but now might be a good time for a stock-take of your own. I would highly recommend it, because once your wife has dealt with the wardrobes, cupboards and freezers, she may turn her attention to her husband! Get with the programme, Graham, and remember, less is more!

AUNTIE AG: Oh, darling, how wonderful. Sit back, enjoy the wide open spaces and look forward to all that new-found freedom from ironing and dusting.

MOMMIE DEAREST

Why does my mother always criticise me?

Simone, Penzance

UNCLE ONY: Mother/daughter relationships are extremely complex and there could be many reasons. Perhaps your mother sees, reflected in you, her own ageing body, diminishing allure and slowing lifestyle and, subconsciously or not, resents it. Or she may be trying to live her life vicariously through you, and is attempting to control you and make you behave as she would. Or it may be simply a genuine instinct to protect, advise and guide. I could probably run through a million other possibilities. Would she consider a course of joint counselling, perhaps?

AUNTIE AG: Because you're her daughter, angel, and that's what mothers do.

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