The entire hand-written text of a card just received from an old school friend reads, "Any grand-children yet?" (Well, there's the usual printed "Season's Greetings" or whatever, but I was so startled I didn't notice that).
I'm sure she didn't mean to be rude or upsetting in any way but the measure of my reaction can be gauged by my reply in my card to her: "No, not yet!"
The exchange just made we wonder what is acceptable to put in a card. In another one, a different schoolfriend (these are the only two I have kept up with) mentioned how she and her husband were feeling really old but, by definition, she is the same age as me and I don't.
Most people don't just write "Good wishes" or "With love" and I admit to feeling just a tad disappointed if they do. If you hear from someone only once a year, you sort of want to know what they've been up to in the last twelve months. But when you have several children and a busy career, you get tired of writing all the same words in a hundred cards: hence the dreaded Christmas newsletter.
Such things led to Simon Hoggart's first book on the Round Robin, The Cat that could open the Fridge. Followed later by The Hamster that Loved Puccini.
It's apparently a middle class phenomenon, the Christmas newsletter and I am guilty as charged on both counts. Wikipedia says "While a practical notion, Christmas letters meet with a mixed reception; recipients may take it as boring minutiae, bragging, or a combination of the two, whereas other people appreciate Christmas letters as more personal than mass produced cards with a generic missive and an opportunity to "catch up" with the lives of family and friends who are rarely seen or communicated with."
Lynne Truss is currently producing "Six replies to the Christmas newsletter" on the Today programme on Radio 4 and this morning's episode saw her get her revenge by correcting the family's punctuation and telling the wife her husband was a secret adulterer! Clearly she hates them.
The first Christmas card was produced in 1843, only 170 years ago and got the creator into a bit of trouble, since it showed parents drinking wine with young children:
|by John Callcott Horsley|
Bizarrely, it came out in May. I wonder what message people put in them? "Have a great time in seven months from now!"?
Do you send lots of Christmas cards, a few or none? And what do you write in them? Do you hate round robins or find them interesting?
And have you got any grandchildren yet?