Roy Hollister asks:

Cheryl Cole says this is the last time she will talk about her private life. Is this a real promise, or a Liberal Democrat promise?

It’s not a promise at all; it’s just a statement! The distinction is important; it’s like the difference between “I promise I’ll be back by six” and “I’ll be back by six”. The former is a commitment to do something in the future, and the other is just a prediction.

What this means for Roy is that he will, if Cole talks about her private life in public again, be entitled merely to declare that she was wrong, rather than that she broke a promise.

Christopher Abbott asks:

Hooray! Cheryl Cole has spoken exclusively to Weekend! Who is she, by the way? She looks lovely!

Cheryl Cole is a popular singer. She became well-known initially as part of Girls Aloud, a British girl group who have sold many millions of records. Currently she is working as a soloist; her first solo album sold over one and a half million copies, and her second has just been released. She is also a judge on The X Factor, which is a British television talent show that regularly draws audiences of over ten million.

Liz Henderson asks:

For goodness sake, David Halkyard (Letters, 23 October). Many readers (like me) are/were private sector workers who have already faced redundancy. And when living in comparative poverty, a little escapism (in the form of covetable items in Weekend) is welcome. Are you saying that things you can’t afford should be hidden from you, you fragile thing?

David wasn’t quite suggesting that he should be protected from knowing about anythings he can’t afford. Rather, he was expressing frustration with the Magazine’s tendency to dwell on products that are unaffordable for many of its readers. He feels that this shows a careless incomprehension, on the part of the editors and contributors, of what he perceives to be their relative wealth and job security.

David and Liz clearly see the role of the magazine differently! Liz sees it, as she points out, as a piece of escapism, covering recently-released desirable clothes and household objects; whereas David sees it as a guide to products to consider purchasing. Liz is fortunate in that her conception more closely matches that of the editors.

Helen Gilbert asks:

How To Dress (16 October) informed us of the importance of belted coats (not coats with belts) and how the belts should not be chunky and tied like dressing gowns. Then All Ages (23 October) suggested four coats, all of said forbidden variety. Are you trying to mess with our heads?

Probably not on purpose, though the contradiction must have occured to the fashion editor! It’s likely, however, that the photography-intensive “All Ages” is planned further in advance than “How To Dress”; and that when last week’s “How To Dress” was submitted, plans for this week’s “All Ages” were already well underway.

Generally speaking, a “How to Dress” column is a reflection on a particular current trend, with the columnist drawing his or her own conclusions; so inevitably there will be occasions when a trend portrayed in “All Ages” is reflected on by Cartner-Morley or Petridis, and found wanting. The matter of coats with matching belts is, it seems, one on which reasonable people can be expected to disagree.