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Tuesday 29 December 2009

Round Robin Rubbish!

It's time to take stock of your Christmas cards, note who forgot and who remembered (that works both ways), and quickly read through those round robin letters that come from near and far from people you know really well but also from those you've met once or twice so long ago that you can hardly remember who they are: "Jenny came first in her year, again, despite her late start in September. After a nasty bout of Chicken Pox, she got straight down to her studies and didn't let Peter's success in the swim team distract her for a moment. Delilah, not to be outdone, worked her socks off and pulled an A in Home Economics, with the help of her mother, of course!" Good lord, who cares? Do I even know these people? I'm sure I'd remember a Delilah!

The amount of boasting that doting parents indulge in can make their offspring appear superhuman with their straight As in school and university, career paths as well defined as aircraft runways, and perfect relationships with other beautiful and successful people.

If I were tempted (I'm not) to write such a letter detailing my every move in the last 365 days and then send it to all my friends and vague acquaintances it would read like a comedy of errors full of semi disasters, unforeseen expenses, glitches, bouts of depression, burnt dinners, and missed opportunities; with minor successes along the way, the occasional successful holiday, excellent entertainment in the cinema and theatre, and many a laugh with friends thrown in. But the thing is, I've had another great year; I'm alive and kicking and not in debtors prison. Absolutely no one in their right mind would want to hear chapter and verse of my ups and downs other than my therapist and she's heard it all before.

The Guardian columnist, Simon Hoggart, compiled three books on the subject of Christmas round-robin letters, all of which made me snigger with glee. The Hamster who Loved Puccini: The Seven Modern Sins of Christmas Round Robin Letters starts with the Peccadillo of Proud Parents: "Fortunately Megan is doing well with her singing and gained a first-class grade in her performance exam at the end of summer, after only half a dozen singing lessons!" In the chapter The Melancholy Mawkishness of Misery, a letter tells about an unusual discovery in September of the year: "Alasdair and Judi paid a visit to the Family History Centre, and unearthed what may be a minor skeleton in the family." And in the wonderfully titled Vice of Vituperation, one family describe their neighbours between gritted teeth: "At least the Parkers can be relied on for consistence – they are all still gifted, multi-talented, and smug!"

I really shouldn't be such a curmudgeon but if the round robin letter comes from a good friend, I'd far rather a quick note intended for mine eyes only. Surely we'll be able to catch up on all the gossip at some time during the year. As for those acquaintances whose lives and mine merely touched in passing, I can only admire their tenacity in keeping my home address, year in year out, as if at some stage in the future we might meet again when they will be confident that I will be fully up to date on how they have spent their time in my absence.

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