Counselling Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

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My brother has been an alcoholic for a long time. He is now in his mid- thirties, and has just agreed for the first time ever to go into rehab. Good news, you might think. Except for one weird thing. My parents, who have been very supportive up to now, are being curiously negative about this move - muttering darkly about, "Well, we'll see if he sticks to it", "He hasn't got the guts" etc, etc, etc. Why can't they be more encouraging? What is going on?

Jemima, Leeds

UNCLE ONY: A positive mental attitude from all concerned is vital in these situations. Why don't you suggest a course of family counselling to your parents? Also it might be encouraging for your brother if all of you are simultaneously undergoing therapy; he won't feel like the odd one out.

AUNTIE AG: I'm certain they are actually terribly worried about your brother, darling, and at the same time simply frightened that he won't actually stick to the treatment. I'm sure they are only saying this kind of thing to you, and not to your brother himself, and I wouldn't weigh in with anything at all when they make these comments. You see, by not letting their hopes rise too high they are just taking out a kind of mental insurance policy against him not staying the course. I do hope it all works out, angel.


My girlfriend is very attached to her mobile phone. As she does not need it for business, it allows her to indulge herself when it comes to instant whims for conversation. However, I feel that there are times when it should be turned off, particularly as there is a message service - when we are out as a couple for example, or when we are in bed. Should I persist with my current mere acceptance of her approach, or should I indicate the strength of my feelings?

Sean, Acton

UNCLE ONY: Our obsession with instant communication is one of the curses of modern life and I can quite understand your irritation. You should most certainly indicate your objections, and in no uncertain terms. A constantly switched-on mobile is an irritation to all those within a 20- yard radius; I'm surprised no-one else has mentioned this to her. As a sweetener, why not buy her a quire of embossed notepaper and a fountain pen; a much more elegant mode of keeping in touch.

AUNTIE AG: Well, if you haven't said anything about it yet, darling, you can hardly expect her to be aware that she is annoying you. Tenderly but firmly inform her that you are not impressed. If this fails, start a campaign of calling her at inopportune moments and chatting wildly; while she is having her nails or hair done would be perfect, or (if you can manage it) just as she is reaching the head of a long queue, perhaps to buy a rail ticket. This should guide her towards the principle of sometimes switching off.


I turned 30 a couple of months ago, and ever since have been getting obsessed with my belly. It bulges more and more, all white and pasty and distended over the waistband of my skirt. I have started doing sit-ups, 50 daily, it's murder, and I've always been a swimming freak - but it doesnt seem to do any good. Is this just what it's like, being 30-something? Or is there some secret belly-busting exercise I can do?

Melanie, Exeter

UNCLE ONY: Having a belly is part of being a woman! You are meant to be voluptuously curvaceous, sensuously rounded, softly forgiving. So stop obsessing. (Having said that, of course you shouldn't let it get too big, but there is always liposuction.) As for the white and pasty aspect, you could try a sunbed.

AUNTIE AG: Do you remember that bit in Pulp Fiction where that Frenchy- accented actress goes on at length about how sexy it is to have a "leetle pot"? Sadly, 99 per cent of us didn't believe it. Apparently there are things called crunches. Film actresses and supermodels have boasted of clocking up several hundred of these each day. I don't know what they are, darling, and frankly I don't want to know. I would just buy a larger and more forgiving skirt, angel, and have a glass of champagne whenever your leetle pot starts to depress you.


I have worked for several years as a secretary and my time has been divided between two delightful bosses. Now they are both leaving the company, and they both want to take me with them! They have both offered me an excellent post in a congenial office and I am absolutely torn. The two jobs are quite different, and each has its advantages, as do my two bosses. I am in a complete dilemma. However can I decide, particularly without hurting the feelings of the one I don't choose?

Suzanne, Aigburth

UNCLE ONY: You must take a pen and paper and make an absolutely rigorous list of the pros and cons of each job you have been offered - without taking into account the individual characters of your bosses. After all, there is no guarantee that you will stay with them forever and the job is the most important thing. Writing this down will clarify your thoughts.

AUNTIE AG: Oh, darling, how exciting, you are a tug-of-love secretary! Dither as long as possible (hopefully they will up their salary offers and send you lovely bottles of champagne to persuade you) and then go with whichever one has the most superhuman patience with your prolonged indecision.