Letter from the editor: When families fall out

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The Independent Online

For some reason, Les Dawson came immediately to mind when I read the story of the woman who sent an email to her future daughter-in-law to admonish her about her manners.

“I can tell when the mother-in-law is coming to stay,” Dawson would say, in his deadpan delivery. “The mice throw themselves on the traps.” Les Dawson, of course, belongs in another era, long before the advent of political correctness, but the mother-in-law remains a figure of comic potency.

Yet the story of Mrs Bourne and her email is much more than that of a cartoon mother-in-law. She complains about her son’s future wife’s behaviour when she was a guest: staying in bed all morning, being a fussy eater, getting stuck in to her dinner before everyone else, and generally behaving like Lady Muck.

The email went viral after Heidi Withers (the daughter-in-law to be) sent it on to a number of her friends, and yesterday her father defended her honour in forthright terms. But I’m afraid Mrs Bourne gives the game away when she complains that she’s been saddled with much of the cost of the wedding, suggesting that Ms Withers might be a little less Victoria Beckham in her aspirations.

The point is that whenever families fall out, it is almost always about money. Brothers never stop talking to each other because one eats with his mouth open. Sisters are not driven apart because one says “less” instead of “fewer”. So, Mrs Bourne, you should admit it: you might find Heidi’s peccadilloes a little more tolerable if you didn’t feel you were subsidising a wedding day that you consider the height of naff. Anyway, I don’t think you need worry. Either the wedding will be off, or any number of glossy magazines will want to pay for it, given the potential for high jinks or even fisticuffs. You can imagine the groom’s speech: “I’d like to toast my new mother-in-law ... on both sides!” See you tomorrow!