Your life in my hands

'Give your son and his girlfriend separate bedrooms when they visit, but make sure there are no valuable antiques in the corridor between'
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The Independent Online

I recently introduced a new kind of advice column in this space, in which I adopted a revolutionary approach to problem-solving. For every problem you put to me, I advanced two solutions, one the opposite of the other, so that at least one of them was bound to be right for you. It was based on the theory that when we ask for advice, we always accept the piece we really want, deep down. So we should have a choice of conflicting advice.

I recently introduced a new kind of advice column in this space, in which I adopted a revolutionary approach to problem-solving. For every problem you put to me, I advanced two solutions, one the opposite of the other, so that at least one of them was bound to be right for you. It was based on the theory that when we ask for advice, we always accept the piece we really want, deep down. So we should have a choice of conflicting advice.

The reaction to this column was interesting. Fifty per cent of you thought it was excellent, while 50 per cent advised me that it was codswallop. I think that shows I am getting it 100 per cent right, so today here are some more of your problems, with their solutions.

Is it a good idea to take photographs on holiday?

A) No. In years to come you will remember only the photos of the holiday, not the holiday itself.

B) Yes. If the holiday is terrible, programmes such as Watchdog will need visual evidence of your claims.

My wife and I had an argument recently about whether it was ever necessary to know the words of other nations' national anthems. She said it was only polite to learn the words in case you ever got caught up in a state occasion abroad, or a World Cup or something. I said most people didn't even know the words to their own anthems. Somewhat to my surprise, my wife has stuck to her guns and has started an evening-class course of 'National Anthems of the World', from which she comes back flushed and stirred, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I must admit that her rendition of the Brazilian national anthem is a bit of a show-stopper. Nevertheless, I can't help feeling she is wasting her time. What do you think ?

A) What she is doing is utterly praiseworthy. If only more people made the effort.

B) Nobody anywhere offers an evening course on national anthems. There is no such thing. Wake up, man! What she is actually doing is having a hot, torrid affair with some secret lover. Brazilian, probably. Act now while there is still time!

My son is coming to stay next weekend with his new girlfriend. Should I put them in separate rooms?

A) No! If you put them in separate rooms, that shows only one thing – that you are making sexual assumptions about them which may not be at all true. You are the person who is obsessed with sex, not them. Most couples spend most nights together without any thought of sex crossing their brains, just enjoying each other's proximity. Be honest – ask yourself when you and your wife last had sexual congress! Treat your son and his girl as responsible adults. Put them in the same room and let them get on with it, even if it is nothing that they are getting on with.

B) Yes! Separate rooms every time! If you give them separate rooms, you are giving them the freedom to choose. If one or other of them wants to join the other one during the night, they can. And let's face it – creeping into the other person's bedroom in the middle of the night is one of the most exciting things you can do. Well, if you're young, anyway. If you're an elderly married couple who have taken to separate bedrooms, like you, it's a bit different. Anyway, my advice is to give your son and his girl two separate bedrooms – but to make sure that there are no valuable antiques anywhere in the corridor between the two rooms!

C) Oh, for heaven's sake – just ring your son up and ask him what he wants you to do!

Just a moment – you gave three separate bits of advice there! What's going on? How can there be three different bits of advice?

A) Ask Tony Blair. He invented the third way.

B) Of course, he never told us what it was.

C) But three conflicting pieces of advice is quite logical.

D) Or four, if necessary.

I sometimes feel left out of things when I find I am the only person in a circle who does not know what is happening in 'EastEnders', or 'Big Brother' or something. Should I conquer my natural inclinations and watch these soaps?

A) No.

B) No, no, no, no!

Another edition of 'Opposite Options' coming soon!

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