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
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)
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.