Dear Graham Norton: How do I explain to my choir I can't afford to join them for drinks?

Graham says: 'there is no way around this, so learn to live with it' Credit: Andrew Crowley/Alamy

Dear Graham

I recently joined a good amateur choir; we are taking part in festivals and competitions around the country. It is a wonderful experience but I have a small income and the cost of travel is considerable. As I got to know the rest of the group, they started to ask me to join them at pubs or restaurants during breaks in our rehearsals and performances. Initially I offered a couple of feeble excuses, before returning to my sandwiches and my Daily Telegraph; but they persevered, and I have been persuaded a couple of times. It was very enjoyable. I was, however, shocked by the expense. How can I explain to these lovely people that I simply cannot afford to join them every time? A further question: how can I do so without them offering to pay for me, which I am sure they would but which would be unfair to them and mortifying for me?

Tim, Leics

A glass of wine may cost a few quid, but being able to belt out a harmony is priceless - says Graham Credit: Andrew Crowley

Dear Tim

You clearly enjoy singing and the general camaraderie that come from being in a choir, so whatever happens, don’t let this problem deter you from those pleasures. The most important thing is to be honest. There is no shame in saying that money is tight. If I was you I would look at the choir calendar and figure out how many social evenings you could afford. With the remaining dates split them into two groups – the ones when you just go home or eat your sandwiches, and the ones when you accept people’s generosity. I understand your pride, but equally you must give people the opportunity to be kind. Including you will give them pleasure and thinking of you being alone will make them feel guilty.

There is no way around this, so learn to live with it. On the nights when you have resolved to allow your Daily Telegraph to keep you company, cheerfully refuse people’s offers to treat you – but reassure them that next time you would like that very much. By being upfront you should avoid any social awkwardness – and always remember why you are all there: singing. A glass of wine may cost a few quid, but being able to belt out a harmony is priceless!

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