Counselling

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PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER

My wife has become an enthusiastic disciple of feng shui, which is some kind of bonkers way of directing your life in a positive manner by rearranging the furniture. Because of this, our house is full of plants, she has shifted our bed across the room so we can't open any of the wardrobes properly, and she wants to move our perfectly good bathroom to the back of the house, at great trouble and expense. (The house itself is apparently facing the wrong way so she wants to knock a new front door into a side wall.) The dog and I are both being driven crazy. We can't find anything and we keep falling over objects that have turned up in odd places.

Derek, Basildon

UNCLE ONY: The drive towards the philosophies of other cultures is a fundamental feature of pre-millennial tension: the feeling that there must be something else out there, an answer, a creed that will provide a rock to cling to in the turbulent times in which we live. The growing popularity of feng shui is a perfect example. Should we dismiss such fads as claptrap or embrace them as the ancient wisdom of wiser peoples? It's hard to say. If your wife finds comfort in feng shui, it may in the long run be better to fall in with her. After all, you'll only have to remodel the house once.

AUNTIE AG: Oh, darling, surely it would be easier to move house altogether? Find an arcane new-wave thing of your own that involves painting everything purple and turning it upside down (if it doesn't exist already, which is quite possible, angel, invent it). I'm sure your wife will soon find she's ready to compromise.

EVERY NIGHT A DJ SAVES MY LIFE

I am concerned about my obsession with radio. I listen to various stations for 24 hours a day. I never want to sleep as I may miss an interesting show. Of course, this is having a detrimental effect on my life: I cannot conduct a relationship because of my radio fetish. What can I do?

Mark, Walthamstow

UNCLE ONY: I would confidently suggest that you are confusing cause and effect. You say you cannot conduct a relationship because of your radio fetish. I contend that (subconsciously, of course) you do not wish to have a relationship with another person and have thus constructed this one-to-one liaison with your radio to protect you. Have you suffered hurt in your life before? Was your mother suffocating and overpowering? You need to identify the root of your fears, with the aid of a qualified therapist, and delve it out; then your radio compulsion will disappear as if by magic.

AUNTIE AG: Oh, darling, I wish you'd tell me what stations you are listening to, I can never find anything that would keep me up all night. Have you ever come across Citizens' Band radio? You can chat to people on shortwave, and many a soulmate has been found crackling across the airwaves. This way you can simultaneously keep listening and have a relationship at the same time.

DON'T LOSE YOUR MARBLES

In a couple of weeks time we are going on holiday, and a friend of my husband is coming to house-sit our flat and look after our cat. I have no qualms about this, he is neat and tidy, reliable and honest, and (about most things) very nice. Also, our cat likes him. But he is incorrigibly nosy and I can't help thinking that he will be rooting through our private stuff as soon as our backs are turned.

Lavinia, London SW19

UNCLE ONY: What makes you think, Lavinia, that your "private stuff" is of interest to anyone but yourself? I can't help thinking that you must be rather self-obsessed. Inviting someone to live in your home, particularly while you are not there, implies a certain openness in your relationship and a basic trust between the parties - one that you do not seem able to achieve. Search your conscience. Do you have something to hide?

AUNTIE AG: There is a classic answer to this one which I have seen suggested elsewhere: it is that you fill some enticing-looking cabinet with loose marbles, and when the nosy one opens it they all cascade out. The trouble is, I don't see how you get the marbles in there in the first place, and secondly, the person who opens the cupboard will either think (a) that you don't trust him or (b) that you are some kind of crazed psychopath who fills their cabinets with marbles. I think most people would be unable to resist doing a tiny bit of innocent snooping if they were alone in someone else's home. Perhaps you could lock your bedroom door, with any sordid secrets safely behind it. Apart from that, if it really bothers you, you'd better find an alternative house-sitter.

VINDALOO AND MASH

Can you suggest a dinner-party menu for six people who are coming over next Saturday night? One couple is French, and I want something impressive, yet typically British, but also modern and, of course, delicious. Also, it has to be simple to cook, because I'll only have about one hour's preparation time. I have been through every cookbook I possess and am feeling thorougly bug-eyed about it and completely panicked and confused.

Richard, Richmond

UNCLE ONY: Sausage and mash with onion gravy, as seen on the menu of every top-notch London restaurant, followed by a selection of British cheeses and some fruit (no namby-pamby starters or desserts). Don't forget the mustard.

AUNTIE AG: If you really only have an hour, forget it. Use the time to make a restaurant booking. Take them out for a curry, angel, you can't get more modern British than that.

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