Thanks for the nylon thing/ day-glo pencils/ size 10 dress

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Dearest Ben and Anna,

How clever you are, darlings. Peppermint creams are my very favourite thing, especially ones dipped in melted-down Marathon. Was it terribly difficult not to eat it all as you went along? And what a beautiful way of packaging them, in a toilet roll. How sticky you must have got with all that glitter and glue: I could hardly open the envelope] I shall treasure it for always: alas, the peppermint creams were too delicious to save.

Homemade presents are the very best. I do hope mummy wasn't too cross about the chocolate dinosaurs I sent you.

Best love, etc.

Dear Auntie Mary,

Thank you so much for the lovely gift. By Christmas Day itself I was beside myself with excitement, having been waiting to open it for all these weeks. How sensible you are not to trust the post. Anyway, you came up trumps again, since the one you sent me last year has quite worn out. Nylon is such a practical fabric, and pale yellow makes a pleasant change from boring old black. The elasticated waist made it perfect for Christmas Day, in fact, since I was feeling uncomfortably full by the end of the day] Hope you are well and that the fudge arrived intact.

With all good wishes, etc.

Dear Great Uncle Horace,

What a pleasant surprise it was to receive a Snoopy pencil case from you this year. How clever of you to find one in Skye: I haven't seen one for years] It quite took me back. But I am as untidy as ever, so it will be very useful. Thank you, also, for the day-glo pencils. I'm sure my editor will be delighted by my bright copy] Don't worry at all about missing my birthday: we thirtysomethings try not to count the years.

Tony loved the football. Did the woollen socks arrive?

Very best regards, etc.

Dear Jill,

Sorry it's taken so long to write: I wasn't in when the postman arrived and I couldn't get to the sorting office until the new year. The first time I went I didn't have any money on me, so I couldn't pay the excess postage. I could have kicked myself, because exactly the same thing happened last year.

Anyway . . . Thanks for the book. Unfortunately I've read it, because Tony gave me a copy last year. Didn't he give you one, too? (What imagination that man has]) You don't happen to have the receipt, do you? On the other hand, the book seems to have got awfully battered in the post, not to mention stained, so I don't think Waterstones would be too happy.

Oh well] You can't have too many copies of a favourite book, can you? I do hope you liked the calendar.

Love, etc

Dear Andrea,

Well, well. Another year, another size 10 dress. How many times do I have to tell you I'm a 14? I'm not ashamed of it; why are you? Do I have a problem with your weight? Do I send you a size 14? Sorry to be so ungracious. I've just been hunched over my word processor all morning, trying to think of something kind to say about the nylon abomination that Auntie Mary sent; did you get one, too? The hamsters had a good chew on mine on Boxing Day. And what about peppermint creams from the twins? I force-fed them to the dog, who was sick everywhere.

Truly, the dress is beautiful and, you never know, I might just be able to fit into it one of these days. Did the ear-rings arrive safely?

Happy new year, etc.

Dear Mark and Sue,

God, you're ostentatious. The whole family knows how well you've done. The whole family knows what a happy couple you are, with your bloody celebrity clients and your bloody cottage. So you can imagine Dad's comments when I opened your present. The parfum, of course, not the common or garden eau de toilette. The decanter-size bottle, of course, not a spray that you can carry in your handbag.

'Have you got a little something to tell us?' he says. 'French perfume is a very romantic present, isn't it?' Then Mum started on about my biological bloody clock and Dad segued into an attack on feminism. Not that I'd tell anyone in this family if I was involved with a man, not after the reaction Carlos got. What would they know about Catholic countries? Then I got half an hour lecture on how generous you were, and what had I sent you.

It's pointless giving presents to the couple who have everything, isn't it? After all, it's easy to be generous when there are two barristers in the family, isn't it? How about thinking a bit before you go mad in Harvey Nichols next year?

Seasonal greetings, etc.

Miles Kington is on holiday.

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