The Irritations of Modern Life; 20: Round Robin Letters

IT'S THAT time of year again: when the round robins come bob, bob bobbin' through your letterbox. By Christmas Eve you'll know all about Martha's hip operation, will have heard about Clive and Louise's trip to Hawaii, and will know why poor Elmer can't be with the family this Christmas.

Round robins always pose the same question: who the hell are all these people? You probably haven't seen the sender for several years, let alone their friends and acquaintances. You're never going to meet them, either, because one of the main objects of a round robin letter is to describe, in luxuriant detail, all the family feasts that Derek and Sheila couldn't quite find room to invite you to. "The party to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in July was blessed with golden sunshine..." Hey, what party, you hear yourself saying. How come I wasn't asked?

It is only in the last five years that the round robin letter has taken off here. Before that, the only one you got was from that nice couple from Alabama you once met in a B&B in Salcombe. When their round robin arrived you read it out loud and had a good giggle. Ah, well, you said, those Americans! But it's not just Americans any more. It's Dick and Vera from Carshalton, Reg and Marigold from Ipswich.

But what is the point of a people as reticent as the English trying to give their news on a photocopied sheet of A4? If something genuinely interesting has happened in the last 12 months, they're not going to tell you about it. They never say: "In May, Dick had a brief fling with his secretary. Vera's first instinct was to seek a divorce and screw him for every penny, but now they're trying to patch things up for the sake of the children." You never get one admitting: "Ryan's been terribly troubled by his acne this year. We think it was the anxiety that led to his being pulled up for shoplifting in WH Smith's in Basingstoke, but it's all behind him now and the new cream is working well."

No, all you get is a commentary of the weather at family events: showers at Brian and Julia's wedding, five degrees of frost at great-aunt Bertha's funeral.

What a blissful age it was before the word processor was invented, when your fourth cousin three times removed couldn't run off 100 identical letters at the press of a button.

Technology can't be uninvented, but there is one tactic you can use to defend yourself: just send a card back and write: "What a splendid idea to send your Christmas greetings in a chain letter. I think we did what we were supposed to do: we sent photocopies to 10 people picked at random from the phone book. Good luck to you too in '99."

That should stop them.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before