Yes, it’s that time of year again. I’m starting to write this on the 21st December: the Winter Solstice. Even for non-Christians like me, this is a special time, because it marks the turning of the year; when the days, imperceptibly at first, start to get longer. Tomorrow will be a fraction of a second longer; the next day six seconds longer, and so on.
I am aware that for many, there is another meaning to Christmas: the birth of Jesus. Even an atheist person like me was horrified to go into a “pop-up” Christmas shop (looking for Nativity figures; don’t ask why) to find that the ONLY item out of thousands that referred to the Christian story was a “treetop angel”. Oh dear.
However, my main theme is that Christmas staple: that perennial favourite, the Christmas newsletter; the round robin. I believe the latter expression is an Americanism. Why a round robin? I’m sure Google could tell me, but I’d sooner fantasise about why robins write newsletters.
The yearly newsletter has been roundly mocked, especially by newspaper columnists looking for a quick target. They apparently range between two extremes.
At one end of the spectrum is the eulogy to the family. Tarquin, who at the age of eight wrote his first oratorio, is now studying quantum mechanics at Harvard, while playing violin for the Met orchestra. (I have no idea if that is geographically possible.) He will be off to work in the slums of Mumbai in the summer, before his free climb of K2. Meanwhile, Lucilla is modelling for Vogue, but still finds time for her campaigning journalism, while playing rugby for Harlequins at the weekend. The England tour of New Zealand looms. The whole family are having a brief week in Namibia, then a proper holiday in Tibet, where Dad will once more study with the Dalai Lama. He and Tarquin will have their usual bonding week in a sweat lodge in Greenland. Then Mum and Lucilla are recording another…. oh, I can’t be bothered. You get the point.
On the other hand…… Antonia is fighting hard to overcome her crack cocaine addiction, but her terminal cancer means she can’t make it onto the streets to finance her pimp, so she has started begging to make ends meet. Mum, who is coping without her leg, has left Dad for the car park attendant at the shopping mall, who knocks her about but makes her feel like a real woman. Dad’s operation has gone well but the sepsis is a problem. He has however found salvation with the Church of the Divine Bob, and is devoting his earnings from his compensation package to Bob and…. You get the point of this one, too.
Actually my correspondents are mostly rather different from this. They write interestingly and often amusingly of what has happened to them and their families. They are realistic. I am glad to receive the newsletters, as I don’t see many of these old friends and family from year to year.
As for the Obliques; well, it depends which of us is writing it and the mood we are in. If anything, we have sometimes been guilty of the misery letter. However, I know that we have some pleased recipients, one of who even says she looks forward to it.
So, if you have sent us a newsletter, thank you very much. We love getting them. Although I’m hoping my daughter gets a distinction in her MA, so I can crow about it.
(Finally: who remembers the lobster and the ironing board? Oh, of course, you do. So do I. Happy Christmas.)