How would we express ourselves without greetings cards?

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The Independent Culture
YESTERDAY I brought you an extract from the trial in which Damien Frontway, who never knew his father, is suing the mighty Birthmark Card empire for issuing Father's Day cards and thus causing him mental and emotional distress by reminding him of his absent parent. Today we hear more of the evidence given on the stand by Mr Roberts, chairman of Birthmark Cards.

Counsel: Tell me, Mr Roberts, has it never occurred to you that your apparently harmless little greetings cards, with their idealised little drawings and jejune little verses, might be the cause of suffering?

Roberts: How can a four-line verse offend anyone? It can only make people happy. "This little card to you I send, / With season's greeting at year's end, / Hoping all the best to you, / To both your children and to Sue."

Counsel: Did you just make that up?

Roberts: Yes.

Counsel: But you still haven't told me how you cater on Father's Day for people whose fathers ran off years ago!

Roberts: "This little card to you I send, / Hoping it will make amend/ For failing you so long ago. / I've been a rotten Dad, I know."

Counsel: That might be a good card for an absent father to send, but what about the person abandoned by their father after birth?

Roberts: I would recommend them to send their absent parent a Wish You Were Here card.

Counsel: Hmm. And what about those people whose fathers vanished before they were born?

Roberts: I would recommend them to buy a Whatever Happened to You, You Old Bastard? card.

Counsel: There is such a thing?

Roberts: Certainly. The card trade has moved a long way. When I joined Birthmark Cards, people only wanted the most innocent of cards. A Happy Birthday card looked much like a To My Favourite Nephew card. But now one can get satirical cards, blokeish cards, rude cards, film cards, Great Master parody cards, gay cards...

Counsel: Gay cards?

Roberts: We have two ranges. There is the Who's A Big Boy, Then? rude range, and the Michelangelo's David range in which we use gay icons of the past.

Counsel: Why gay icons of the past?

Roberts: Because they are out of copyright.

Counsel: And do you now have a To My Favourite Gay Nephew range? Or perhaps...

Judge: Mr Beasley.

Counsel: Yes, my lord?

Judge: Please stick to Father's Day.

Counsel: Certainly. Mr Roberts, let's return to those who have no fathers. Father's Day is a very cruel time for them, is it not?

Roberts: That is like saying that Bastille Day is a cruel day for the Queen. Is Christmas a very cruel time for Muslims? I think not.

Counsel: There is a difference. Father's Day, unlike Christmas, was created by the greetings card and advertising and flower industry. You must bear responsibility.

Roberts: Then the Christian church should bear responsibility for the ill effects of Christmas.

Counsel: Oh? And what are these ill effects of Christmas?

Roberts: Bankruptcy, obesity, appalling industrial output in late December and a grim lack of AA batteries in the shops.

Judge: Mr Beasley, I think we are straying from Father's Day again.

Counsel: Yes, my Lord. It's just that for those of us without fathers...

Roberts: Ah ha!

Counsel: I beg your pardon?

Roberts: Did you say, "those of us without fathers"?

Counsel: Yes, I may have...

Roberts: So you are in the same state as the man you are representing? You, supposedly the impartial advocate! You too feel a grievance against my card firm because you have a father who let you down!

Counsel: Grievance? No. That is too strong a word. But it is true that my life has been coloured by the absence of a father. He left my mother and me when I was three, and all I remember of him is a tattoo of a mermaid on his shoulder and a smell of Bruno pipe tobacco.

Roberts: Mermaid? Bruno? Good God! May I ask you a very personal question, young man? Was your mother called Iris?

Counsel: Yes, she was. But -

Roberts: Then I am your long-lost father! My son!

Counsel: My father!

Judge: Oh God, I can't bear this. Court adjourned!

Roberts: Before we adjourn, may I just say this? "Father's Day is here again, / With such a thrill for you,/ For the man here in the witness stand / Is the dad you never knew!"

The case continues, though not in this column