The Emperor's New Clothes (02/12/12)

We like to sneer at Christmas round robins, but David Randall is proud to be writing (a short) one today

Share
Related Topics

This weekend, I will sit down and commit what is now almost universally regarded as a social clanger. I will write a round-robin letter of family news to slip inside some of the Christmas cards I send. It will define me, according to popular thinking, as being beyond any remotely acceptable pale. I might as well live in Croydon and own a caravan; both of which, as it happens, I also do.

The letters have gained this terrible reputation because alarming numbers of folk have used them as a form of social point-scoring – school playground boasting, only with better grammar. You know the kind of thing: "Lavinia got straight A-stars and is bound for Trinity, Cambridge, to join her brother Tarquin. She plays flute in the National Youth Orchestra, and her latest wheeze is learning Mandarin. She spends the entire journey every Friday night down to our cottage in the Cotswolds conjugating verbs!" And then there are the bores, the senders of 3,500-word journals of the year recording everything from their eBay purchases to the state of the toilets on the overnight ferry to Bilbao. Both kinds are not so much information for the recipient as therapy for the sender.

There is another way. We have friends from our youth, and relatives distant in every sense, with whom a Christmas card is the only contact. They have a passing interest in us, and so get a brutally brief news summary, eg "Paul married Laura in July, Tom is now engaged to Roisin …" etc. Just the facts, no comment, and, for a family of wife, husband, four sons, attendant daughters-in-law and grandson, not much more than half a page on one side of paper. It abides by two further dictums: self-deprecation rarely works on paper, and anything of which you are inordinately proud should be struck out. No one likes a braggart.

Alternatively, to enliven Christmas card sending, you could adopt the approach of my grandfather. Every year, he would send spoof cards to well-chosen targets. Once, to his street's most ardent temperance campaigner, he despatched a card depicting some especially boisterous wassailing with, written inside in a cheery hand: "Thanks for all your custom, Dolly at The Rose and Crown".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links