Kathy Lette on when banter with staff goes too far and how to go away with an antisocial stepbrother.

Q My partner is a terrible flirt when we are on holiday – with cabin crew, restaurant staff, hotel maids. He says that he does it to charm them into giving us better service, but I find it cringey and slightly humiliating. Whenever I’ve raised it with him he’s just laughed it off and said that he only has eyes for me. What can I do about it?

A I love flirting and I love upgrades, so I am finding it hard to feel your pain. Were flirting a university course, I’d graduate with honours in amorous anthropology. Honestly, the batting average of my eyelashes would rival that of Ian Botham? I guess you would have to call it wishful winking.

Why do I like flirting?

Well, for women, wordplay is foreplay. James Bond says it all really. It’s not 007’s pecs appeal and trigger finger that attract women, but the way in which he shoots from the lip. The bloke has a black belt in tongue-fu. Bond’s wit is so effective that it should be registered with Interpol as a secret weapon.

A bit of risqué repartee is the Wimbledon of wit, as banter is lobbed back and forth. And what is wrong with that? A man’s gift of the gab doesn’t automatically mean that he also has the gift of the grab. A lingering look does not mean that your relationship is over in the blink of an eye.

But, that said, insincere flirtation is like central heating – nothing more than hot air. “The poetry of your soul is in your eyes,” an oleaginous Frenchman once whispered into my ear. He was just feeling the draught from the flutter of my eyelashes when I noticed that he had a hand on the thigh of the woman to his left. That’s when I realised that his words were simply Gallic for “you’re female and I’m horny”. When he asked me to go for coffee I knew that he meant “coffee” in perverted commas.

So, yes, that kind of predatory behaviour is “cringey”. If you really do find your partner’s conduct too humiliating, the only way to curb his friskiness is to be outrageously coquettish and kittenish with every handsome man who comes within range. A dose of his own seductive medicine may teach him that the only thing he’s flirting with is danger ? of losing you.

Alaska booms - 10 reasons you should visit right now
Doggone… he lets his pets on the furniture.

Q We’re organising a big family gathering – our first in ages – for our mums 80th birthday. My brother has offered to organise it, maybe booking a cottage, but is worried that our stepbrother and his wife will smoke indoors, let their dog on the furniture and drag their feet over paying their way. We want to make it happen for our mum’s sake, but would love suggestions on how to manage the situation.

A I know you want an answer, but your question should be: “Is it too late to put my stepbrother up for adoption?” There’s a cream to cure people like him – haemorrhoid cream, because he’s clearly such a pain in the bum. Cigarette-puffing, unruly dogs, not paying his way – I suspect that in a film his part would be played by a weasel.

Sharing a cottage with him and his immediate family sounds like hosting a hurricane. It’s his choice if he wants to smoke, but leave the lovely 80-year-old to get some fresh air. He must also pay up. So, how to avoid the chaos and tension?

Most of us have a family member we’d like to anchor with weights in a pool of piranhas. But, crippled by politeness, we don’t complain. At family reunions any slight angst I feel at a certain uncle’s behaviour is soothed by simply burying my face in a beach towel for half an hour and screaming and screaming and screaming.

Of course, the annoying uncle never notices that his family’s smiles are glued to our faces, thin lips compressed to the width of a paper cut.

So, rather than making a mental note to pick up a wax doll and some pins on the way to the cottage, why not organise a pre-emptive strike?

Does your stepbrother’s father know that there’s an elephant in the room? If so, can he grab it by the trunk?

If that’s not possible, simply choose a non-smoking cottage that has a ban on dogs; to discourage bad behaviour, point out that the guests who smoke and bring dogs must pay the bond.

As the guy is clearly tightfisted, why not also hint that your mum hates smoking almost as much as she disapproves of dogs clambering over furniture? I’d then casually drop the fact that such thoughtless behaviour may influence her decisions around inheritance – I’m sure that a miraculous change will come over him immediately. Where there’s a will ? I’m pretty sure your selfish stepbrother would really like to be in it.

 Kathy Lette’s column originally appeared in The Sunday Times, London