AUNTY AG UNCLE ONY

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Is it socially acceptable to send a thank-you note after a dinner party by e-mail?

Joanna, Cheam

Aunty Ag: Absolutely. Everyone loves getting e-mails that aren't to do with work.

Uncle Ony: Certainly not. I suppose your heart is in the right place as you actually bother to thank your host in the first place, but sending an e-mail just doesn't take enough effort. A handwritten note, perhaps in a pretty floral card, is the least you can do.

This may sound rather like a foolish whinge, but it is really getting on my nerves. Of the four mums who live in my street, I'm the only one with a car. All the kids are friends, so I end up doing the school runs every day, and I also end up ferrying them back and forth to various activities after school and parties. I wouldn't mind so much except that everyone is now so used to this arrangement that no one even bothers to thank me any more, let alone offering to give me any petrol money.

Yvonne, London SW4

Aunty Ag: Don't worry - most of our correspondence comes in the form of foolish whinges! In fact this particular whinge is less foolish than many we've dealt with. These women are definitely taking advantage of the situation, and they must be squashed. I think it's about time your car developed some kind of minor but inconvenient fault which causes it to conk out on the corner of your road tomorrow morning. Whichever mother comes out first, ask her to take your child to school along with hers as you have to ring the garage. Then go home and have a cup of tea. Hopefully it will be raining hard. Repeat as necessary. Everyone will behave better once the car becomes an unpredictable luxury rather than a regular fact of life.

Uncle Ony: You write as though you think you are doing these children and their mothers some kind of favour. You are not. The car is one of the most polluting forms of transport and it also promotes laziness and lack of fitness. Announce that you will be walking your child to school every day from now on and that you advise the others to do the same. You will feel a lot better for it, as will your child, and you will not be spewing out filthy clouds of exhaust. When the other mothers realise the benefits they will probably join you and you will be able to draw up some kind of rota for walking the kiddies to school between you.

I have decided that I want to be a pop star. My careers adviser at school says this is not a very sensible ambition and wants me to go into catering. I don't even want to stay on to do my exams because I don't think I'll need them. What do you think?

Mark, Leeds

Aunty Ag: What a super idea. What fun you'll have: the huge quantities of alcohol and drugs, the massive pay cheques, the mansion, the girls, the glitz, the glamour! (Not to mention the long hours, the living out of a suitcase, the constant pestering by autograph hunters.) After all, someone has to make it big in the world of the popular beat combo, and why not you? However, I would say that you should take your exams first. After all if you can't do maths, how will you know if your agent is ripping you off? If you can't write English, how will you hone your lyrics? Plus if you can't speak French you won't be able to chat up all your future European groupies. And if it all does go horribly wrong and you do end up in catering, you might be glad of a few certificates.

Uncle Ony: I fail to understand why the most ephemeral and parasitical of professions (and I use the term profession very loosely indeed) have the greatest power of attraction for the young. Even if you should make it to the top and become the new Cliff Richard - and for every Sir Cliff there are hundreds, nay, thousands of sad, failed and embittered persons who are not Sir Cliff - what will you really be contributing to society? Pop music is merely a frippery, an indulgence, strictly non-essential. Your careers adviser is right. This is not a sensible ambition. Your chances of attracting hordes of nubile young fans are, frankly, minimal. Far better, my lad, to go into catering and learn how to fry an honest egg rather than dabble in the superficial glamour of the pop world. People will always need to eat.

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