Sunday, December 23, 2007

News bragging

Some years ago it became a bit of a "thing" to send around Christmas news letters with or instead of cards. Does this happen elsewhere in the world?

Sometimes referred to as "round robins", i have no idea why. In my experience they are rarely as delightful or interesting as robins.
(We do have friends whose Christmas letters are regular exceptions to this rule.)

On the one hand, most of the people I receive cards from are people I care about and/or have some interest in; I'm glad to have a bit of an update on how they are and whats going on in their lives; I also find people interesting am quite nosey.

On the other hand, these news letters can easily be rather impersonal; full of rather more information than I really feel I need; just an excuse to flaunt one's fab lifestyle.

Some members of our extended family/friends/Christmas-card circle went through a thankfully brief phase of sending news letters which were basically a showy-offy catalogue of exotic holidays and the achievements of their offspring: in short, bragging.

There is a book which is full of fine, mind-numbing, gobsmacking, unbelievable, hysterical, excruciating examples of this contemporary literary form. The letters were sent in by readers of the Guardian to one of its columnists. I haven't read the book, but remember some he cited in the paper - one of which, for example, gave exhaustively detailed, blow-by-blow and rather unsavoury details of a year's illnesses, medical treatments and surgery.

Of course the horrifying thought does occur that these letter-writers may have something in common with (and in fact probably now are) bloggers.


If ever it happens with my blog, please please please please tell me and put me out of my misery.

Anyway - what all this has been leading up to is that I am going to share with you the only family newsletter which was ever circulated by us. Recently recovered from a friend who - unlike us - kept a copy, I can claim no credit at all for this, it was written by M who, I think you'll agree, has a gift.

(sorry this is rather a long post. but then these letters are very often way too long)

Christmas 2004
Hi everyone, its been a busy year as usual here at number 46. So many things have happened that we thought we’d share some of them with you in order to make our lives look better than yours.

January was a good start to the year. Lettuce’s rediscovery of an ancient lost weaving technique which allows sheep to spin their own fleece and in some cases weave it into intricate pastoral scenes came as something of a surprise and caused a stir in both the fabric and farming industries. Little Gem sensibly chose to turn down the offer of a role in the new Harry Potter movie in order to keep up her commitment to the RSC, and while the extra money would have been nice we respect her decision in this. M continued to make progress in the whole “getting up in the morning and putting his trousers on one leg at a time” arena – still a long way to go yet mind.

February was a funny old month as both Lettuce and LG, both independently of each other, achieved spiritual enlightenment and learned the secret of the universe at the same time – imagine! LG achieved his via her martial arts training while Lettuce through her commitment to yoga. What was interesting about the whole thing was that the secret of the universe turned out to be an entirely different colour to what had previously been suspected – how we did laugh! M started using joined-up writing this month.

March is always an exciting time and this year was no different. LG, embarrassingly, won the award for the most popular girl in school for the tenth year running along with the netball cup, the cross country running medal, the academic achievement plaque, the “emergency-heart-bypass-in-the-playground” sash (a new one this) the 500 meters unpowered-flight Silver Wings, the raising-a-fellow pupil-from-the-dead Crystal Decanter, the 'Supreme smart-arse of the year' gold spoon and she was milk monitor. Lettuce of course was promoted to “uber-Lecturer-Grandisimo-Supremo” with sweeping cultural and academic powers to redefine truth and the nature of reality as she sees fit. M got a year older.

April, and spring was very much in the air. This is always a busy time of year for Lettuce and LG as they return to the garden to give frail old mother nature a leg up. This year saw the construction of an eco-dome at the bottom of the garden. Through a carefully balanced selection of flora and fauna Lettuce and LG were able to exactly recreate the conditions that existed in the Garden of Eden with all the attendant effects on the human physiology – emotional well-being and practical immortality to name but two. A number of major pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies are currently in negotiations for the plans and exclusive marketing rights. M also demonstrated an interest in horticulture this month, mostly through the consumption of wheat beer.

May saw the usual letters from dignitaries from around the world wishing Lettuce a happy birthday – George Bush got our address wrong AGAIN! I swear you’d think that man hardly knows the rest of the world exists – but that would be silly, wouldn’t it? Anyway gifts came flooding in – a sizeable chunk of Kent was a rather generous one from HRH and most unexpected (she’d given a similar gift the year before, but I suppose she’s getting forgetful in her old age). LG’s training for her two month stint on the European Space Station in 2010 begins this month. M managed to eat his own weight in pork scratchings this month, so a personal triumph there.

June and the sun finally decided to put in an appearance. LG’s tour with the Bolshoi Ballet company was sadly cut short as the silly girl had double booked this with an international Karate competition to be held in Osaka – the only western martial artist to be invited to compete for the last 50 years as it happens. We were ever so cross with her for the mix up, it was all terribly embarrassing, but everyone was very nice about it. Luckily enough Lettuce was able to stand in for the Bolshoi gig freeing LG up for Osaka. M went to Woolwich once or twice this month and got some good pound shop bargains.

July was rather a quiet month with Lettuce only exhibiting work at the Tate Modern and the V&A, and LG taking her mock Oxbridge entrance exams. I don’t think M got up this month.

August – a real change of pace from last month. By an odd coincidence LG had been reading up on ancient civilizations, while at the same time doing a bit of amateur astronomy. By cross-referencing the names and relative positions across Egyptian, Babylonian and Sumerian texts she managed to locate the lost city of Atlantis! Admittedly this was only a rough estimate – accurate to within a 5 mile radius – but it was enough for the Royal Academy to finance an expedition. The commemorative stamps are due out some time next year. Lettuce was equally lucky this month accidentally discovering a combination of dyes and pigments that – when used to paint a self portrait – allows one to transfer physical damage and the ravages of time to that portrait. She now has one of herself stored in the loft. M discovered that you can’t eat an egg and bacon sarni without the yoke dripping down your front.

September, and for her tenth birthday, we decided to get LG flying lessons – well, she had been going on about them for years. She seems to be getting on really well and having someone in the family with a pilot’s license will be a great help, particularly in Lettuce’s charitable work in the 3rd World and Eastern Europe. Lettie’s conclusive proof for the existence of God caused a major stir in philosophical and theological quarters. The proof, now known as the “ 'Good gracious, why didn’t we see that before?' Argument for the existence of God" has been regarded as totally airtight and irrefutable by leading atheist thinkers. The postmodern atheist Jean Lyotard was quoted as saying “I don’t half feel a right Charlie now!” M still remains unsure as to whether the word postmodern ought to be hyphenated.

October, and isn’t nature wonderful? Discovered, quite by accident, that LG’s guinea pigs are in fact mutants! Yes, I know!!!! These mutant animals, or X-pigs, as we like to call them, have a range of mostly psionic powers – telepathy, telekinesis, a little precognition in the female I think. Harley also has the strength of a grown man – which is not as much fun as you might think. LG is in constant telepathic contact with them and they are revealing some startling insights into the animal world. David Attenborough is said to be “as sick as a parrot” over the whole business: “you spend your entire life up to your neck in bat poo and being groped by monkeys and this kind of thing happens in Charlton!” Sorry David. Oh, yes, almost forgot, Lettie found the Holy Grail in a charity shop this month – currently getting a lot of interest in this on eBay. M seems to be getting the hang of that whole trouser thing (see January).

November. Very boring, nothing happened. Lettuce went to work. LG went to school and M played on his Xbox.

December. Another year has almost come to an end. As we reflect upon our many modest achievements we would also like to use this time to remember those of you whose lives are neither as full nor as satisfying as our own. Only by parading our catalogue of excellence before your eyes can you truly appreciate the staggering gulf that separates us from the rest of you and in this way we hope that we might serve as an example to you all. If we have, in some small way, inspired you to be better than you are then our job here is done. In other words, you’re all losers and we’re great, get over it.

A Merry Christmas to you all.


Vintage to Victorian said...

Lettuce, I absolutely love it!!! Having been down that awful route of do I don't I from time to time, I think this has confirmed that I most definitely shouldn't ever write one again!!!!!!!!!!!

Have a super Christmas and here's to plenty more blogging laughs in 2008.

Sue xx

Antipodeesse said...

I read and enjoyed every word!

Lynne said...

haha, well done!! Yes, M does indeed have a gift. Poor thing, he had a rather boring year compared to you and LG!
I needed this today, Letty, thank you, as I watch the rain (yes, you read correctly, RAIN, not snow) pour from the sky.

Dumdad said...

This round robin is quite brilliant and I'd happily receive one of these every year. Very funny.

Merry Christmas!

Reya Mellicker said...

We Americans despise the Christmas letter one-upmanship too. Most of the folks I know don't do that anymore, unless they've written something funny.

2004 was quite a year for you! (winking) May 2008 be twice a great!

Ex-Shammickite said...

Awww, so you didn't like my newsletter?

PG said...

Priceless! And yet, as you noted, there is an awful lot of 'my wonderful lifestyle' in Blogland (and no, yours is not one of them!)

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

so excellent. Please tell M that the trick for the egg is to swallow the yolk whole - takes years of practice but he should be reporting progress before the next scheduled Nostradamus blowout in 2012.
As for LG's "Supreme smart-arse of the year" award; I want one too! (any chance any will surface on ebay?)
lettuce: do pray tell - the irrefutable proof of God's existence...(prod, prod).
As Jon Stewart says on Comedy Central's Daily Show; "We're all ears."

Akelamalu said...

That was hilarious!

I wish I could brag like that. :)

d. chedwick bryant said...

I want an Xpig!!!!

tut-tut said...

The OTHER forum for gagging hyperbole is my college alumnae magazine . . .

We actually get a Christmas letter not too dissimilar to yours here, although it is single-spaced, both sides of the page. It is knows as THE LETTER, and gets read aloud with varying levels of incredulity.

Gary said...

Letty this is excellent! M has quite the imagination (unless of course every word is true). I have read the alternate take on these holiday letters which are also a hoot. Things like Tammy got knocked up again and we are hoping to make it three chidlren by the time she hits 16, Twyla has graduated to crystal meth and Little Ruhl is eligible for a shortened sentence from the prison board next May. Oy, as I write this perhaps it is not so fun afterall. OOPS.

Have a fantastic celebration and Happy New Year. 2008 will bring our meeting! Yippee!!

kimy said...

totally enjoyable post. for a few years I did a photo collage (which with captions probably did qualify as the annual holiday letter although I did thin it was in 'good taste and not too braggy) this year however I never got it together to mail off the collage and associated sheet of captions which may have been a good thing! although I do admit I do enjoy 90 percent of the letters I receive....

recently our local paper printer an article about the ubiquitous 'holiday letter' and quoted a study which found the following commonalities of this phenomena:

• We're busy, busy, busy. So much so that the researchers noted, "we find ourselves impressed, even amazed with the sheer volume and intensity of activities described in the letters."

• We're successful. Letters often mention achievements, awards, recognition, acquisition of material goods and enviable vacations. Ray said extreme examples may be the basis for the "brag sheet" image of holiday letters. In those cases "it's like name-dropping, getting kind of artificial about it," he said.

• We keep it positive. Any "bad" news of the past year tends to be downplayed or re-cast as a "challenge" or "growth experience." Ray said that tendency is partly in keeping with the upbeat mood of the season.

• We're thankful. For good health, family, friends and assorted other blessings.

• Above all, we're family. In a sort of annual report fashion, new additions, losses, birthday or wedding celebrations, visits and other developments are scrupulously noted.

Lily and Agathe said...

Thank you thank you thank you.... Can't wait to see you all in less than a month although I am a loser... I receive a newsletter each year when I see M I will tell you who it is from....

Trac said...

hahaha.... very very funny!

Such a clever chap - can write and put on trousers!?

I shall now go and repeat the number 46 over and over again, just in case you ever cut back your front garden or move your dalek and I get lost.

d. chedwick bryant said...

sadly my letter would go like this:

January--I don't remember what we did.
February--My humans bought a huge new scratching post and bed for me--they call it a "sofa".
March--I don't remember
April-- don't remember...

Donna said...

Very funny, I did enjoy that but I do take exception to the fact that nothing much happened in November. You met up with MEEEEEEEE!!! ;-)

Dave said...

Christmas newsletters are becomeing a thing of the present here in Canada as well.

Just happened by your blog... Enjoyed it... will be back.

Have a great Chrostmas!

Ex-Shammickite said...

It's Christmas Day here in Canada, the sky is grey, and the sun is hiding behind the clouds. It's cold and there are remnants of last weeks snowstorm still on the ground, making it a rather muddy white Christmas. But it's a lovely day, and I wish you and your family all the best, and may 2008 be a good year for you.

Gigibird said...

Ha ha ha.

I was only reading about round robins this morning in the Telegraph.

My life is so dull I would never dream of committing the 'highlights' to paper otherwise it might read as a suicide note......

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I had to chuckle reading this - aside from the fact that your post is very funny - I've just been watching a rerun of Grumpy Old Men - On Christmas. Don't know if you ever saw it but one of the aspects of Christmas they covered was the round robin, Christmas news letter - real laugh out loud stuff but I suspect the letters they were referring to were very dull by comparison to yours! ;-)

joyce said...

..... So you didn't change the world last year?
Thanks for that grand attempt at coming down to our level!

lettuce said...

V2V happy christmas to you too! (not sure if i feel glad or guilty about being a deterrant...)

antipo, full marks to you then.

lynne, its a privilege to make you laugh (all credit to M, I'll tell him)

and to you DD

yes Reya, was a year we're still recovering from :op

um....well now you mention it, shammy.....

pg - phew!

Lee thanks for the tip, i'll pass that on. Are you not also interested in the uber-lecturer-grandisimo-supremo title? As for the irrefutable proof, i'm keeping schtum, its probably best for all concerned.

me too Lulu, tis a gift.

me too Ched - now that really WOULD be a gift

tut-tut - you have quite a turn of phrase too, "gagging hyperbole", thats v. good.

lettuce said...

maybe thats covered by calling it "black humour" or something? Yippee indeed Gary!

Kimy those elements are true of the letters we receive i think - tho it seems there are some which rather delight in the negative too. :o/

L&A, can't wait, you loser! (go on, tell tell)

trac, neither of those is likely to happen. (i mean the hedge and the dalek, rather than the writing and the trousers)

ched, i wasn't aware of the feline amnesia thing.... a longer memory than goldfish though maybe? Goldfish in a bowl: "Oh! what a lovely view.....Oh! what a lovely view.....Oh! what a lovely view.....Oh! what a lovely view....." (Eddie Izzard)

Donna, how could you think that of me? this was a letter for 2004, i'd not begun blogging nor met you.
So, wasn't such a good year after all!

hi Dave - happy christmas to you too.

thanks Shammie, and best festive wishes to you and yours too.

hello gigi, nice to see you again. Wishing you a happy 2008 full of incidence!

hello Ab V&A (heehee) - i think i did see that a year or two ago. Those Grumpy Old programmes are very entertaining whilst also rather worrying - in terms of the extent to which I find myself thinking 'oh yes! thats so true...'

No, well joyce, after 2004, it seemed worth resting for a decade or two. :o) (thanks so so much for your card)

Donna said...

Doh! Silly silly me! I have a good excuse for not reading it properly the first time. We are all very poorly here, nasty old flu bug :-(

Tats off skiing, not showing off or anything! said...

hahaha Donna...
Letty love I am off skiing, think of me! don't forget the 19th and I would rather like to stay with you a night if I could and have lunch or dinner or both with you and Trac and perhaps Netty? the 19th.. OK, this loser can't wait.
Blessings to you all xx

Jay said...

Wow, I feel so inferior by comparison!

lettuce said...

oh donna, poor you. :o(
I hope you're recovering by now...

as for you, Mrs. Show Off, I'll delighted to offer you B&B (and more) any time. Will contact Nettie... have a great snowy time. xx

Well of course, Jay, that was my intention. :o)

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

lettuce: kind of you to offer the uber-grandissimo-supremo title. I've outgrown it, unfortunately. I now stuff geese in a small French town.I still think LG's Supreme Smart-Arse of the Year golden spoon would be terrifically useful in this regard. Do you, best not.

d. chedwick bryant said...

but lettuce, what would the goldfish say when a naked man with a hairy bottom walked into their view

oh what a ....