Counselling: Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

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SAVE ME FROM GARDEN CENTRES

We have just had a three-day bank holiday weekend, and I had a dreadful time. My husband had me out of bed by 8am every day to chase round the garden centre and the DIY superstore. He has now half built a barbecue, half re-tiled the guest bathroom, and half planted the hanging baskets, and is planning to finish these chores at the next bank holiday later this month, which means I have another wretched weekend to look forward to.

Julie, Nantwich

UNCLE ONY: Many women would be delighted to have an industrious hubby who doesn't need to be nagged into barbecue-building/bathroom tiling/gardening. Far better a bit of enthusiasm than apathy - which brings me to my second point. Why, instead of sitting around moaning, don't you pitch in and give the poor chap a hand? I realise, of course, that tiling is a skilled job and you have to know what you are doing, but at the very least you could have finished off the hanging baskets for him.

AUNTIE AG: Far from being a fan of DIY, darling, I am a great advocate of GALMI - get-a-little-man-in. However, if your husband is determined to put himself through all this, see it as an opportunity, angel. Snatch the chance to book in for some lovely sessions of massage, aromatherapy, anything you fancy. That will put you in just the right mood to appreciate his toils; you will be able to come home, all serene and beautiful, and trill "Well done, darling!"

MY BOSS IS TOO GOOD FOR ME

My boss is showing me an amount of attention that embarrasses me, even though I'm flattered by it. I respect him as a person and for his intelligence and because he's capable, but I feel I'd be too much of an inferior for a relationship to work for any length of time. And I don't think I'd want to be a quick fling. Is it cowardly to discourage him, or unprincipled to have a fling? He's divorced and I think he's lonely and resentful of his ex-wife.

Margaret, Oxford

UNCLE ONY: Before you think about launching into any relationship of any kind at all, you must work on your self-esteem. How can you say you are an inferior to this man with such conviction? Any relationship you embark on in such a frame of mind is doomed to failure - I would even go so far as to say it would be disastrous. Seek counselling immediately. In the meantime, try visualisation techniques: for 10 minutes each morning, imagine yourself as a successful, superior person, the radiant, confident, bouncy equal of all around you!

AUNTIE AG: It is never cowardly to discourage a relationship that you don't really want, angel. In fact it is more cowardly to allow things to slither on in this way, because if you are quite, quite sure he is after you, by not being firm you are being encouraging by default. As for a fling being `unprincipled' you've already decided it's not what you want, principled or no. Most important of all, darling, lonely and resentful men are never a good bet.

CAN MY BLOOD PRESSURE TAKE IT?

My new boyfriend is five years younger than me - I'm 30 and he's 25, though I think he looks older. A friend says he's too young for me. Is she right? It's true that he is good fun but not serious and always wants to go out and socialise more than I do.

Anonymous

UNCLE ONY: This is a perfect example of the kind of mindlessly sexist prejudice that dogs the modern relationship. For example if I, at 53 next birthday, were to start dating a young lady of 18, everyone would congratulate me, while you, at 30, barely past your prime, are being put off this energetic, lusty young lad. It is simply not fair, and I suspect your so-called friend is simply jealous. You are only as old as you feel, after all!

AUNTIE AG: Ony, if you were to start dating a young lady of 18, far from congratulating you, everyone would be calling the police (or her parents, at the very least). Anonymous, dear, there is no rule-book for relationships that says each and every one has to be "serious". If he is, as you say, "good fun" and you are enjoying yourself, carry on with a light heart. Just don't let him wear you out, angel.

KEEP THE PATIO GOAT-FREE

My two children, who are aged nine and six, are obsessed with that Pet Rescue television programme. Every week they beg to adopt whichever poor animal is in need of a home (last week it was a horse, before that two baby goats). We live in a flat with no garden, only a terrace, and I am having a terrible time trying to impress on them that it would not only be impractical but cruel to try and keep a pet.

Suzanne, Stockport

UNCLE ONY: Your children are displaying a charming and totally natural urge to nurture something even smaller and more helpless than they are themselves. However, I agree that ponies and goats are not a good idea. Why not enrol them in a scheme to sponsor something? These days you can have Third World children and/or grannies, tigers, killer whales etc. This would fulfil their instincts without you having to actually welcome anything or anyone into your home.

AUNTIE AG: Surely you could manage a fish or a gerbil or some such, darling - something not too big, energetic, or smelly? After all, while few could cope with a horse, plenty get lots of fun out of something small, furry and sleepy. A hamster might be ideal. And if things don't work out, you could donate it to Pet Rescue, thus making the programme thrillingly interactive for the children.

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