Well, you are a cowardly lot. Or maybe you're just nicer than me. Despite apparently having "touched a nerve" with my broadside on round robins, most of your letters did not actually come up with the goods. Clearly the worry of being crossed off Dick and Shirley's Christmas card list next year won out against the prospect of a year's supply of life- enhancing lessons for your children. So the prize must go to Liz Radcliffe, of Lancaster, for her own family newsletter, which shows an acute understanding of the genre. She starts with the more modest achievements of her husband - "a contender for the Nobel next time round" - and builds up to a crescendo with daughter Judy teaching swimming skills to underprivileged dolphins while son Jacob, after only one term at medical school, is showing "such great potential that he has been offered a chair in microbiotic surgery at Liverpool University. However, he turned it down as it would not give him enough time to train the England squad in rowing, plus study for his FRCS,FRCP, combined with lecturing in Radiology techniques in the 21st century." I particularly like her spin on the traditional closing line of a round robin - "If we have time, or if we are passing on one of our regular trips to your area. we will try to call ... I know your family news cannot live up to ours, but it serves you right for all your pompous letters in the past." Sadly Liz feels unable to accept the prize - her family's extra-curricular activities are already booked through to the millennium.

"Couldn't you just move the buttons?" demanded my five-year-old daughter as she struggled to trap her belly inside the waistband of a Monsoon skirt. (Where does she get these quaint historical notions from? Heavens, she'll be asking me to let her hems down next.) But five does seem awfully young to be getting negative body images from clothes labels - I hesitate to say this in case it's an imprisonable offence, but she doesn't actually have a waist yet. I thought it was something you got with puberty. Still, its nice to have a daughter who aspires to wearing puffy silk skirts - the other one took Andrea Dworkin as her sartorial role model from an early age. And this precocious interest in fashion is some compensation for the shame of being the mother of the only teenager in Britain who does up his trainer laces.

Having a birthday shortly after Christmas was never much fun as a child because Christmas presents that were no bigger than anyone else's were always handed over with the warning that they were a "joint birthday present". Years of drumming up sympathy for my deprived childhood has resulted in bumper crops of birthday presents as an adult, but of course it's too late now to enjoy them. Presents are given in compensation for, rather than celebration of increasing years. Mouth dropped by another five degrees? Here, have a box of chocolates. Crepey neck? A polo neck jumper. And it'll take a lot more than that to make up for the turkey wattles in a few years' time I can tell you. Like a neck lift. Through years of tracking my own deterioration in the bathroom mirror I have become an expert in the ignoble pursuit of age-dating other women. And I've come up with an alarming theory, which is that between the ages of 40 and 50 the years kind of telescope together - women in their late 40s look no older than those in their early 40s. So a 35-year-old who seemed ancient when I was 25 now looks no older than me. This would be depressing if it weren't for the fact that in 10 years' time I will look the same age as Juliette Binoche.

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