How to get out of Millennium Eve parties

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I DON'T know about you, but most of the people I know are dreading Millennium Eve because they haven't made any plans - or have made plans which are rapidly coming apart - or have made plans which they fervently hope will come apart - or are still hoping to be invited somewhere nice ...

Whatever the reason, a lot of these people will find themselves writing letters of extraordinary delicacy, involving excuses, alibis, changes of hearts and other forms of lying. As a service to readers, I have asked a well-known counsellor to provide some model letters of apology which you can copy or follow in your own correspondence.

TO CANCEL A PARTY YOU ARE GIVING

Dear ..., I am sorry to say that my wife, who has recently become licensed to practise Feng Shui, has discovered that it would be wildly dangerous to have numbers of people in our house in the last week of December. I therefore write in haste to let you know that we have been able to spare you some terrible fate in the nick of time. Thank God it has all turned out for the best!

TO POSTPONE YOUR OWN PARTY

Dear ..., I have recently become convinced that the millennium will not end until the last day of 2001, and I propose to invest the pounds 100 you have already sent me to help fund the party. I hope to be in touch again in 12 months time.

TO GET OUT OF AN INVITATION YOU HAD ACCEPTED MONTHS AGO BECAUSE A BETTER ONE HAS COME ALONG MEANWHILE

Dear Sue, The taxi driver we had booked long ago to take us to and from your party has unfortunately died. I know you will join us in grieving for the sudden loss of a good family man and splendid conversationalist on long journeys. Out of respect for his memory, I feel that Sheila and I should stay quietly at home on the evening we would have shared with him. I am sure you will understand our feelings.

TO WITHDRAW AN ACCEPTANCE OF AN INVITATION TO A PARTY YOU ARE HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT

Dear Jim, I regret to say that the taxi driver we had booked long ago to take us to and bring us back from your party has unfortunately upped and died. On the whole, this is no particular loss, as he was a curmudgeonly wretch who always drove very slowly and played local radio as loud as possible, but it does mean, of course, that we now have no means of getting to and from your party - all other taxis have been hired solid for weeks in advance!

I shall go to his funeral as a last resort, as I imagine many of the mourners will be fellow taxi drivers, and I will ask all of them if any of them is free for 31 December, but I severely doubt it.

TO LET SOMEONE KNOW THAT YOU ARE CANCELLING AN ARRANGEMENT IN ORDER TO TAKE UP A WILDLY REDUCED MILLENNIUM SKIING PACKAGE IN FRANCE

Dear ..., This is just to let you know that my firm has ordered me abroad in the week after Christmas. I am so furious I don't even want to speak about it. See you next year.

A FEW GENERAL EXCUSES

Dear ..., I can hardly believe it, but Jim has just been told he may have to be on standby over the holiday period for the Tory London Mayor selection process, so ...

Dear ..., My accountant has told my wife and me that, for tax reasons, it would be wise to spend the New Year period abroad (and preferably not come back at all!), so ...

Dear ..., My aunt, to whom I was very close, has just died, and my solicitor says it was her dying wish that I should take up the flight to New Zealand and the hotel bedroom she had booked for the millennium, so ...

Dear ..., I have unexpectedly been asked to keep myself free for the period of December 31st for matters connected with the New Year's Honours List. The request has come from an unusually high level, so I have no choice but to go along with it unwillingly. You will understand if I can say no more about the matter than that, so ...

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