COUNSELLING: AUNTIE AG AND UNCLE ONY

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Indy Lifestyle Online
STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES

I am finding it impossible to program my new mobile phone and my husband says that this is because I am thick. Could he be right?

Marianne, Spalding

UNCLE ONY: Some humans have developed an intuitive relationship with the machines of our age: the mobile phone, the video and so on. But it is no measure of intellectual ability, any more than having green fingers or being able to dowse for water is such a measure. It's just a knack. Tell him not to be so rude.

AUNTIE AG: Get him to try to program the washing machine to do a delicate cycle, half-load with rinse-hold, angel. If he doesn't manage it, you have won the moral victory. If he does, he gets to do the washing from now on, given his superior capabilities and all.

HOMEBOY TURNS HOMEBODY

My boyfriend Blake is 21-going-on-40. He never wants to go out, and his idea of a great evening is staying in and watching endless television. We haven't been clubbing since February 1996 and I don't remember the last time we had a meal out (though he is fine about dialling pizzas). He is kind, supportive and loving, but I think that I may be about to bludgeon him to death.

Suzanne, Birmingham

UNCLE ONY: Blake is cocooning - wrapping himself in the comforts of home to the exclusion of all else. He has probably developed a considerable fear of the outside world by now. You will have to rehabilitate him very gently. The next time he wants pizza, coax him to go out for it rather than dialling it (perhaps remind him you also get the benefits of the salad bar if you actually go to the restaurant). Gradually increase the length and intensity of the evenings out, working through restaurants and the cinema until he is ready to face back up to clubbing (which, frankly, does sound like a bit of an ordeal).

AUNTIE AG: No need for bludgeoning, angel - after all, just because he doesn't want to go out, doesn't mean you can't. After all, if Blake were, for example, a keen member of the Territorial Army or an Arctic explorer, you'd have to make your own entertainment while he was away. Slouching on the sofa takes up just as much of the time he could be spending with you, so leave him to it and hit the town.

SPAWN OF THE DEVIL

My partner and I have been happily together for five years. We both have grown-up children from previous marriages, and he also has two young grandchildren, a boy aged seven and a girl who is four. This pair are brats from hell: whingers and screechers, totally undisciplined, thoroughly spoiled. We have had them for the weekend, and I have done my best to welcome them. It has always been expensive and exhausting. Even my partner finds them a handful, so imagine my horror and amazement to find that he has invited them to stay for 10 days over the next half-term break! It may be selfish of me but I simply cannot face it.

Barbara, Swindon

UNCLE ONY: At a conservative estimate, Barbara, a human being may expect to live for considerably more than 25,000 days. A mere 10 is an infinitesimal proportion of that 25,000 - it is indeed selfish to grudge such a tiny blink of time. As a grandfather, your partner naturally wants to share in the miracle that is his genetic legacy to the world, and, of course, a few weekends here and there are simply not enough. A word in your ear: perhaps in your desire to show off to them with "expensive" and "exhausting" pursuits you are trying to do too much. Simple childhood pleasures like a football or skipping rope in the back garden, a leisurely read of Peter Rabbit, and above all a feeling of boundless security are worth far more than all the theme parks or museums in the world. Enter into the experiment in a spirit of love and you may even find you enjoy it.

AUNTIE AG: Oh, really, Ony, sometimes the piffle you come up with surpasses itself. Give a modern child a football or skipping rope and you are asking for broken windows and finding next door's dog strung up in the 30 seconds before they ask where your Playstation is. Angel, if your partner wants to play the doting granddad, that's up to him. Book immediately into the nearest lovely health farm, and don't forget to pack away any precious breakables when you leave. And be prepared to spend some time nursing your partner back to health when you return, because it sounds to me as though the silly fool has certainly bitten off far more than he can chew.

HE'S ALL RIGHT, JACK

I'm godmother to my best friend's son, but the trouble is, he's called Jack. This is, at the same time, so unimaginative and so cringe-makingly pseudo-working class that when I take him out I am embarrassed to call his name in case people think he's mine.

Chloe, London SW1

UNCLE ONY: Smother these unworthy thoughts at once, because you will give Jack a complex about his name if he senses your reluctance to use it. Overcome your phobia by calling all males around you Jack for a few days until you are so used to the name that it has lost any power to upset you.

AUNTIE AG: Oh, darling, think how much worse it could be. Imagine if you had to shriek out something like Shayne- Darren, or Keanu or Tarquin. Why not invest in one of those neat little sets of baby-reins? That way he will be unable to stray and you won't ever have to call him back.

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