November 28th

Good morning. Have you written your Christmas cards yet? No? Never mind, here's a Message to get you in the mood.


Dear Special Friends

What a better time than Xmas to meet new soulmates! I love to imagine your surprise at getting this letter! Some of you might have gone straight to the bottom to see that the sender is indeed Brian, but this time it’s Veronica-and-Brian as opposed to Jane-and-Brian! I’m pleased to meet you!!

When Brian told me about Jane’s now famous Christmas letters, I thought her tragic death was no excuse to lose touch! Even our therapist has joined our quest to forge a new, special and wonderful relationship (very unlike Jane and Brian’s but that’s another story).

So what’s happening? You’d be amazed to see how much happier Brian looks these days! Jane was a wonderful woman in many ways, but even her friends among you will agree her dress sense wasn’t one of them! I know you’ll all agree that Brian could never be an autumn, so why did Jane keep buying him all those brown clothes? But I digress. To our delight Kevin at Headzone has taken Brian’s hair under control, and his cosmetic surgery is planned for May. Watch this space…!

You’ll probably be relieved to hear we’ve cleared out all Jane’s boring books – what a dust trap! – and painted the walls a nice Magnolia colour. In the garden, we cleared out Jane’s herbs and laid some wonderful trouble-free paving. In place of that horrible old apple tree, there now stands a sculpture of Brian and I making love in celebration of that natural and important part of our lives!

We hope all you special people will visit us. My sweet Brian says I’m too modest, but I’m sure you’ll find my cooking is in a different league to Jane’s homely fare!

Yes, friends, come to this joyous celebration of our love!
Veronica-and-Brian xxx


  1. Dear Pete

    You are such a git. Why won't you be with me for Christmas? What kind of a paltry excuse are you going to come up with this time? You're good at excuses, you've had so much practice making them to gloss over your other women, your drug-taking, and your pathetic attempts at writing poetry. 'It's experimental and radical' is actually no excuse for 'I can't be arsed to work at writing', you know. Even I can see that 'I have to wait until the muse approaches' is a by-word for laziness. And then there's your cross-dressing. 'I want to get in touch with my feminine side,' you said, when I came home early one day to find you wearing my frillies. 'Get the fucking hoover out, then, you moron,' I replied. Still didn't make you do housework, though, did it? Just more shit I have, for some stupid reason, put up with from you for the last fourteen years.

    But not being with me for Christmas, well, that's the last straw. We've always spent Christmas together. You know it's one of our best times. Holing up at home with treats to eat and drink. Eggs Benedict on bagels with Bucks Fizz for breakfast. Christmas pudding and brandy butter in the afternoon, with a chilled Muscat, in front of a blockbuster movie. Probably some stuffed pasta with a nice bottle of red in the evening when neither of us can be bothered to cook. A few phone calls to family, but otherwise, the day to ourselves.

    I look forward to it all goddamn year, do you know that? It's one of the few things about you that I can rely on. And now it's not happening this year. Why?

    Oh yes, I remember. You just died. Arsehole.



  2. On a six hour flight to New York, last Christmas Eve, I sat next to a man who bounced his foot up and down for the entire journey. He had no talent for conversation as I tried to distract him.
    "You live in New York?"
    "Just visiting?"

    A real traveller's dream. I couldn't concentrate on my book. All I could see, out of the corner of my eye, was his knee bouncing. It was an evening flight and I could feel myself getting irritated. I took out my journal and began to write:

    Important things I have found out:

    Sleep on your back if you want to avoid a wrinkly chest.

    Don`t buy prescription medicines for: impotence, hair loss or obesity online.

    If you are taking Viagra, don`t drink grapefruit juice.

    Order pizza on Fridays rather then Sundays- minus the garlic bread.

    If you suffer from breast pain, try laying off cow`s milk.

    Sleep with your arms and legs in the number 4 position.

    Leg bouncing is a classic symptom of repressed sexual energy.

    To eliminate leg bouncers on a plane, accidentally scald them with hot coffee.

    The person who develops a pill for stopping leg bouncing will become wealthy beyond their wildest hopes.

    I tried to sleep but the seats were actually rocking. I ended up spending nearly half an hour in the tiny toilet to get some relief. Just before he got off the plane he threw me a sly smile.

    It is not until I am in my apartment and open my journal the I see the new entry, written not by my hand:


  3. Dear All

    I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas but more importantly to thank you for all your kind messages. It was so wonderful to see you all there at the funeral, albeit on such a sad occasion.

    Despite the distance between us, I like to try and keep up with what you’re all up to. It hasn’t escaped my notice that Brian has moved on; I hope you will join me in not congratulating him on his choice of new partner. The woman’s a completely insincere control freak so you mustn’t believe a word she says. She hasn’t even made a Christmas cake yet.

    I saw them back in September – the trees in the garden were such beautiful colours – and they were hacking away my herb garden. Veronica farted and tried to blame the smell on the fusion of herbs. As if. I’ll let you into another secret; she vacuums twice a day just so that she can let rip without anyone hearing; long, drawn-out ripples of eau de rotten vegetation. Of course, she says that the hoover recirculates the odour of dog hair in the bag but we know different, don’t we? She’s even Googled ‘excessive flatulence’ and chosen to believe that it’s the sign of a healthy bowel. Ha!

    I must admit that in the past, I thought that those sad little messages in the local paper posted on the anniversaries of people’s passing were rather silly and I really didn’t expect to still have it delivered up here (although you tend not to get all the leaflets tucked inside for some reason). So do keep in touch, won’t you?

    Anyway, have a fabulous time and I look forward to seeing you all soon (especially Veronica).


  4. Once a year they go to church, a dull concession to his parents’ idea of Christmas, and she glazes over in the waft of incense and empty platitudes. Victorian Gothic arches bend under their overambitious aspirations, rigidly bowing to the pale, flat Virgin and her fat, serious baby. Stiff flowers abrade the feet of an austere angel which, rather than heralding the miraculous birth, seems to be admonishing this heathen interloper into the tired rituals of belief. Belief? How can anybody really, seriously believe all this stuff – I mean, not just find comfort in the stories and go through the motions, but genuinely believe? All these people look normal enough, certainly not deluded or fanatical, but there they are, lining up for their primitive symbolic cannibalism, bowing to a man in a dress. Something has to be seriously wrong here, doesn’t it?

    She turns again to the windows and, as she looks beyond the glass, the grey sky silvers. Snow begins to fall. In spite of the snow on the cards and the usual films on television, she can’t remember the last time there actually was a white Christmas. There is soon a buzz in the church – children getting excited and adults, well, getting just as excited. The ritual at the front carries on as normal, but the focus is elsewhere, outwards. She feels herself smiling and, for the first time, she is not the one who doesn’t know when to stand and kneel, not the one who resolutely stays in her place when the others go to take communion. She is a part of the congregation, sharing equally in this bright sacrament; not ritualised, not formulaic, but a spontaneous union of humanity.

    She may even join in the next hymn. On the other hand, maybe she won’t. Let’s see.

  5. “He’s not real, is he?”

    With that shattering request, everything fell into place. Throughout their strangely silent walk home through the late December dusk, where night meets day before teatime and streetlights burn twenty four hours a day, Raymond was unusually sullen, uncommunicative and lethargic; incredulous for a boy charged with energy and excitement at this time of year.

    “I said, he’s not real, is he?”

    Relieved and horrified in equal measures, his mother reached to place longing, comforting arms around him. He shrugged her away. Relieved of the nightmare prospect of bullying, guilt and shame quickly riddled her tortured mind. Her silence provided the answer in volumes.

    “So it was a lie.” Tragically, he moved further beyond her proximity, electing to stand in the opposite corner of the room. ‘You’ve been lying to me all this time.’

    Reconstructing cogs of perception and logic slowly turned within the chambers of his ten year old mind. She wished she could make things better, but knew it was impossible. Not only was this permanent break terminal, demons of guilt absorbed her. Had she really been to blame? After all, Father Christmas is just one enormous, sanctioned lie all parents tell their children from earliest infancy. Who could blame Raymond for conjuring the dreaded question; if she’d lied about this for so long, what else did she lie about?

    “So that’s it then.” He regarded her through angry red eyes, devoid of tears. How dare adults tell children lying is wrong, that truth and honesty is always right. The truth hurts. Hard.

    “Things will never be the same mum. It’s going to be different from now on…”

    As Raymond escaped his mother for lonely bedroom sanctuary, passage into adulthood loomed closer. Santa was dead. Brutally slain by schoolyard sharp tongues and burdensome inevitability.

  6. Dear

    Well, this year has passed by all too quickly and here we are again with our annual news round-up from ‘the Bodley’s Headquarters’, which comes with our Christmas Greetings.

    First of all, we want to share with you the news that James was appointed partner at Freelands last year, celebrated by a firm’s dinner for 70 special guests at the ‘Black Agapanthus’. All the family came and it was indeed a time for celebration.

    Janet continues with her studies in Palaeontology at the University and came up with a Distinction for her assignments at the end of the first year. She deserves it as she’s worked all the hours in the calendar, as well as running the home.

    Maggs and Boyd have gone back to Chicago where Boyd runs a branch of Winterfields, very successfully, and has introduced several new practices in the selling of exercise machines, see their website ( Do visit it. Ben and Susan are doing well at school, Ben plays baseball and is in the first team, while Susan plays the drums and wins rosettes with Patapan at every opportunity!

    We were visited by Tracey and Phil in March and while they were here we went over and joined up with the Dorlands and their families for a hugely enjoyable lunch party. Tracey and Phil are back in Dubai and the Dorlands are finishing their stint in Sydney.

    We’d love to see you, so do keep in touch!

    We send you every good wish for Christmas and the New Year.

    (Janice: please photocopy 200 sheets and send them out as on the enclosed CD. Please use first names after ‘Dear’ and sign off each sheet ‘Janet and James’.
    Use the home address at the top. Ta. See you in the ‘Jug and Jerkin’ 6.30?? JB)

  7. Dear Mr and Mrs ---,
    Congratulations! Your son has gained a place at our achool. It has been a long and difficult journey, but we just know that your faith in us will be amply rewarded.

    Down to particulars:
    The English-as-a-second-language was of course a worry, but his extra tutorials have brought him on in leaps and bounds. His English is second to none now, and yes we will be careful to place him with his friend just to be sure of total comprehension, as we agreed. Those misunderstandings were just minor blips. Minor blips.

    The £200 will go towards the swimming pool. We are so grateful.

    The exam was out major triumph of course. No one could have believed that such a fabulous grade was possible. Yes it was odd how there was that mix up with the papers and it is so sad that Mr and Mrs ---'s girl will not be joining the children again next year, but academia is like that, grades come and go, genius' rise and fall.

    The £300 will be used to replace some of the Design and Technology equipment that was destroyed in a moment of high spirits by the pupils last thursday. No suspensions. It is important not to let these things blemish otherwise spotless records!

    He has a room now in the boy's dormitory. Johnny's Father has had to withdraw his son after that rumour about his wife and Mr Lancaster. Such a fuss, I didn't see why I should fire a perfectly good teacher when no one could prove anything. Little Jenny did turn out to be such an unreliable witness.

    The £250 is going on a staff outing.

    Anyway. Congratulations once again, and I look forward to seeing your boy next year.

    Regards. Mr ---
    Head Teacher (Acting).


  8. Dear Veronica-and-Brian

    Thanks for the wonderful invitation. I may just pop in sometime soon.

    I am so thrilled you two have found each other again! You definitely deserve each other. Veronica, let me say that I think highlights and some heavy-duty liposuction will do wonders for Brian. Wish I’d thought of it myself. Brian, I’m sure you are loving Veronica’s cooking. I can just see you getting through the day on a diet yoghurt and sprout sandwich. I’m sure there’ll be no need to come home and trough through the grocery cupboard before dinner the way you used to!

    So, when would be a convenient time for me to visit? There’s no point coming during the day when you two are at work (Veronica, are you still enjoying your job as a “facialist”? Depilated any good bottoms lately?), so I thought maybe a night visit would be good. Obviously, I don’t eat any more so no need to prepare your famous tofu casserole on my behalf, Veronica. Perhaps I could come after supper, while you’re having your postprandial elderflower sherry - with extra fizz, for giggles - and show you some of my scars. They haven’t quite healed yet, given that I was knocked over only five weeks ago. Since it’s virtual blood, it won’t stain your new shagpile either. Bonus!

    If the thought of actually seeing me freaks you out, I could just hide in the broom cupboard and make a few rattling noises. Remember the broom cupboard, Veronica-and-Brian? The place where you two snogged during my fortieth birthday party? While I wondered around looking for my husband to ask him when we were going to blow out the candles on my extra-chocolately birthday cake?

    Looking forward to scaring the shit out of you,



  9. Veronica and Brian, in the corner, have renamed their house Verbian. It makes me think of herbs, green borders, harmony. I overheard two ‘school-drive’ mothers sniggering over it as they returned from their five minute treks in their overland expedition vehicles, and parked them on the kerb. I have to say I’m rather impressed, although I don’t usually go in for ‘personal’ displays; it adds a certain je ne sais quoi, to The Close, a je ne sais quoi that has been sadly missing recently.

    When the houses were first built in the 1960s there was an unspoken code for The Close. Residents were middle-class, in the true sense of the word. The husbands were bankers, doctors, lawyers, none of this hitching-a lift on class you come across these days: the words ‘internet technology’ mask a multitude of common flaws. As for the wives, well I hesitate to use that term for women who wear clothes that shouldn’t be seen on anyone over the age of eight. And I don’t imagine any of them know what to do with a chicken carcass.

    I no longer speak to children, not even outside my own home. The last time I made an attempt at polite conversation – 'Seven,' I said, 'you’re far too grown up to be seven!' – the little madam from next door said, 'You spat in my face then.'

    So I keep myself to myself. Though I have to say I am tempted by Veronica’s invitation to a Coffee Morning this Friday. Her theme is ‘Top-tips for Top-wives’ and we’re invited to bring along one tip that will ‘revolutionise our lives’. I’ve waited a long time to share my ‘Make a Chicken Cheaper’ recipes. I’m sure V, I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her that, will appreciate my little wordplay.

  10. She would write it in a card, leave it with this morning’s delivery of Seasons Greetings unopened on the table. It would be safer, quieter, less fuss all round. But the words; what words to use?

    She leafs through her thesaurus:

    Leave: ‘to leave’, ‘to depart’, ‘exit’ ‘to take off’…

    She likes the idea of ‘slinging her hook’. Flinging a catch, a clasp, a hasp, a lock up to the sky and watching it fall unfastening, releasing, setting her free.

    She pictures herself ‘doing a flit’: brisk and flirty, a kick of her heels and a trail of silk scarf as she shuts the door. Or ‘to forsake’ him, with a salt-sodden handkerchief, and a breathless run to a hazy new lover waiting in the steam of a railway platform.

    ‘Decamping’ and ‘deserting’ are too military. Too organised, too stand-to-attention, ‘Do it right and do it now’. Too much everything she is leaving behind.

    She wants ‘to retire’, ‘withdraw’, ‘slope off’, but can already hear-see her counsellor’s facial ‘tut’. Be confident, assertive, take strength from your goddess. Don’t act the injured cub slinking off to lick its wounds. You are a woman who deserves better, you are a woman who needs to…

    ‘Quit’, ‘do a bunk’, as if she is the guilty one, as if she is the one with blood and tears on her hands.

    ‘Disappearing’ requires magic, ‘absconding’ suggests a crime. She touches the tenderness on her cheek. A domestic, a spat, a crime passionel: a travesty, a tragedy, time to be ‘making tracks’.

    She rejects robins, smug families, kings; chooses a candle, a steady flame. Draws a face with a wonky smile, adds a cartoon hand waving ‘bye-bye’, ‘farewell’, ‘adieu’.

    Too late for words, too late to hear ‘sorry’, she just decides ‘to go’

  11. Veronica lifts the page off the printer with a wry smile. If only she could send this one instead of the carefully constructed tissue of cheerful lies she’d created earlier. Did anyone tell the truth in these Christmas round robin letters? Jane certainly hadn’t. All her friends probably still believed she was this down to earth homely woman who was devoted to her husband and garden whereas she couldn’t wait to get Brian out of the house to work in the mornings.

    At least Charles had had the decency not to turn up at the funeral although of course he’d been with her in the house when she died. The way she carried on it was no wonder she’d had a heart attack.

    What had upset Brian most was that she’d been refusing to sleep with him for years, putting forward a motley collection of excuses, everything from the usual headache to the onset of the change. None of which had stopped her from having it off with Charles on a regular basis. Veronica almost felt sorry for Charles. It can’t have been pleasant trying to get a dead Jane back into her clothes so he could phone her husband.

    Veronica gives herself a shake. She must stop dwelling on the past. At least she isn’t as bad as Brian although the therapy is helping him forge a new life. All the reminders of Jane, her books, her appalling taste in clothes and d├ęcor have been eradicated from the house.

    Veronica isn’t sure about the surgery. She’d hoped buying Brian a new wardrobe of clothes and getting his haircut would be enough to raise his self-esteem. He hadn’t liked the sculpture. As she gazes at the entwined figures in the garden Veronica crumples the piece of paper in her hand.

  12. Darling Popsy,
    I have to write and tell you about the fab news.
    I have met a man with real potential at last. I had no idea how much I was missing with poor old James. I mean, he was a love, in his way, but so simple.
    I can’t understand how I stuck with him for all that time. It must have been over a year. But that was before I found out what a good man really is.
    He is called Sebastian (not Seb for short. I tried that and he was quite upset). He is something in the city. I don’t know exactly what and he tells me not to bother my pretty little head about it. He is sooo masterful!
    We met at Olivia’s drinks party to celebrate her decree nisi. Absolutely everyone was there, packed, and it was easy to slip him my mobile number without James seeing. He called me the very next day and by the end of the week we were in bed together making plans to have a weekend in Paris. I was in a sort of trance. Still am. I think he was too, because he forgot his credit card for the hotel. Luckily I had mine! It was a very smart hotel, everything the best, champagne and smoked salmon for breakfast. Bliss. We are planning a trip to New York next.
    Of course I dropped James straight away. He said he was about to propose. Just as well I beat him to it. I avoided the embarrassment of telling him to get lost when he was kneeling down!
    Dooo come round soon so I can tell you all about it.

    Dear Amelia,
    I knew you were stupid, but can’t you even address an email?
    Good luck,

  13. As Christmas wings it’s way ever closer, I thought I’d write before the rush of post takes a grip on the country. Writing is a dying art, don’t you think? It’s a shame that we, as a nation, don’t write more often. I mean put pen to paper more often. See the ink on the page. Smell it as it’s delivered from the pen.

    Emails are such a poor substitute. Yes, they’re instantaneous, I know, but really, does one need to have an instant response to everything, always? We have a telephone for such things and sometimes, heaven forbid, people actually get to meet one another face to face and have a real conversation. Writing is becoming a dying art I fear.

    I’m writing with my trusted fountain pen. It’s rather lovely. It’s black with two gold bands around the centre, just where you grip it when writing, and it’s just the right circumference at that point too. Not too slim and not too bulky. It’s very neat. The nib is gold and allows the ink an even flow. Not a broad stroke as you can see. The top fits snugly over the nib extending down to the two gold bands, so if there ever was an escape of ink, it would be held securely in this. Not that I’ve ever had this happen of course because, it’s such a good pen.
    David bought it for me, you may remember.

    The first time I used it, I wrote to him on rich embossed paper with a matching envelope. I felt so proud that he had given me this beautiful gift and I wanted it to be him that I wrote to, first. I remember the words, indelible and unstoppable. The hand unmistakeable.

    How time flies!

    Dashing to catch the post.

    Chris Hoskins

  14. Dear Brian,

    When I opened the bright orange envelope this morning, I couldn't believe it. 'Dear Special Friends' indeed, haven't you told her yet you've got a sister?

    Just as I was starting to recover, I couldn't believe what I was reading. Utter garbage packaged as a so-called Christmas letter. Please. Spare me. Jane and I were really good friends Brian, you know that. It was our passion for architecture and poetry (and all things arty-farty as you always said) oh, not forgetting gardening. Do I need to remind you WHO planted that lovely apple tree that wet November afternoon? No. Thought not. The phrase ... hanging one's head in shame ... springs to mind here.

    I'm absolutely livid that all Jane's books have been unceremoniously dumped. I know who I'd be dumping and it's not Jane Austen! OK, granted Jane dressed like a provincial librarian, circa 1950 - but that was dear old Jane, wasn't it? At least Jane could see beyond the end of her nose, see the bigger picture. This 'Veronica' sounds as bland as her magnolia paint. I know what I'd like to do with my Farrow & Ball right now ...

    Now, now Bri, don't get all huffy with me ... you know I'm right. You're too soft. It's like taking candy from a baby with you. And talking of candy ... therapist? Do you even know what the word means, brother dear? Remember that year I spent working in New York? Don't talk to me about therapists. THAT'S most definitely taking candy from babies. Here's another free tip from your big sister - if you want to get rid of that beer belly of yours, stop drinking beer! Cancel the cosmetic surgery!

    I know what else I'd be cancelling too ...


    (your concerned) Marge xxx

    Louise Laurie

  15. 20th December

    Dear Author,

    Thank you for sending us your manuscript which we have read carefully. However, I am afraid we are unable to accept it for publication.

    It is not our policy to offer authors advice. However, you may wish to consider the following:

    1.Submission guidelines: We would remind authors to only send us the first few chapters and a brief synopsis, not their full manuscript, especially not all 1,500 pages of it. Today's market demands a fast read, not the like of Tolstoy's War and Peace. (NB This time of year is particularly stressful for us.)

    2.Coherency: Mastery of a range of techniques, such as first and third person, the epistolary form, multiple viewpoints and stories within the story, is great, but the author must know how to use them. A mishmash of such techniques in one book will not appeal to the reader.

    3.Scope: Remember to focus on the main story eg friendship and betrayal. Beware of becoming sidetracked into the genealogy and family history of all your characters.

    4.Credibility: Do not treat your readership as stupid. Modern readers call for gritty realism, not miracles like walking on water or parting oceans.

    5.Spice: A little sex never goes amiss in today's bestsellers. Consider which you would prefer to read: a pacy romp or a long list of commandments?

    6.Title: Choose this carefully. “The Bible” is, frankly, uninspiring. You might consider something more catchy, such as “Betrayed”.

    7.Threats: No publisher reacts well to threats of bolts of lightning, plagues of locusts or the death of their pets and children should an author's work be rejected.

    I wish you luck placing your manuscript elsewhere and the very best in seasonal greetings for the winter solstice.


    N.O. Faith (Publishing Director, Devil's Imprint)

    Sarah James

  16. I knew Jane when she was a student at college. She was in the first year of a two-year foundation course in Art when I was in the second, where I was looked up to both for my advanced status, my independence and my maturity – I’d taken a few years out before going to college.

    Jane was a mature student as well. She was the mother of three, married to a bloke who could easily have been a fourth for all the help he offered around the house, and as individual a woman as I had yet met. She was tall, easily matching my 5’ 10” and had wild hair and cotton hippy clothes. As the star student I had my own studio room, tucked away next to the darkroom and she’d come in at breaktimes, make me a cup of tea and hand-roll a cigarette.

    It was Jane that taught me how to roll Borstals; cigarettes so thin that you were almost smoking nothing but paper. Such cigarettes helped eke out a half ounce of tobacco – forty-five pence in those days – for almost a week. She talked about sociology and politics as they applied to life on the council estate where she lived and handed me home grown cannabis after we had sex in the cemetery off Abbeydale Road. I gave her a lift on my motorbike and chatted to her husband who played Deep Purple on his guitar as Jane showed me her library and read Proust to me under the apple tree in the evening.

    When she came into college with a black eye and two bandaged but broken ribs I advised her to leave Brian. She declined and said he’d just got stoned and lost his temper. It would be okay. I never saw her again.

  17. Hi Mavis – festive cheer and all that.

    Just a quickie to implore you not to siphon your energy into a mammoth epistle this year. A card is more than sufficient. The long telephone conversation I had with Geraldine recently, revealed a little too much of your escapades.

    So you still play the cornet in Sally’s Army. Those bonnets are brill. and as you’ve had rather a brutal haircut - so Geraldine tells me – it should add a little panache. And all those carols producing so much spittle. How about spittle farms to aid fuel shortage on the lines of wind farms? You’d be an asset to them, too, with your bowel problems!!

    She spoke, in great detail of your trip to Germany in a converted bus. Bully for you! Rupert’s into exotic breaks and who am I to argue?

    So you were arrested in Bonn for drink driving; still I was pleased to hear you found the loos so inviting. Remember that notice they put up in college? I guess Stella was a tad unsavoury and the way Betty blew her nose into the washbasin - well! Poor girl, she always seemed to have a bubble of green peeping out of a nostril ready to plop.

    Geraldine remarked that the cream cakes you stuffed in Germany put on pounds. More like stones from the photos she sent; is this why you and Rob split? Well, this is certainly no time to cut down on treats, so ignore any snide remarks.

    Hope you both enjoy your time ‘Youth Hostelling,’ over the Christmas break. Do they really serve turkey with all the trimmings? We’re off to Bermuda for a few kicks.

    Hope your stocking will be filled to the brim. Keep knocking back the mince pies.


    Luv, Miranda and Rupert xx

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  19. Dear Carlotta

    Your yearly epistle arrived on November twenty-fifth. Its early arrival will leave us free to enjoy our family Christmas in a month’s time. In return I enclose news of my family and friends.

    Curly’s cousin once removed, you will I am sure be delighted to learn, has just completed a wonderful voluntary job for charity. He found a good site in the middle of Maidstone and auctioned every bit of his clothing, piece by piece. His sheepskin overcoat raised Two pounds, but with each layer the bidding became more frantic. By the time he was down to his underpants it had reached the One thousand pound mark. Just think, they only came from Primark. Who would have thought they would go up in value to such an extent! As he was leaving the site, with no article of clothing left, having decided to retain only his shoes, he was arrested, clutching his well earned takings in his hands. He has been released pending trial which comes up in a few weeks’ time. He says he will be sending a small donation from his well-earned takings, to a charity of his choice. We are all so proud of him.

    Bessie has resigned from her job in the local car park kiosk, as she is now too fat to pass through the door. She drew a large crowd as Borough Council staff managed to rescue her when her posterior became firmly wedged. Just think, she made the front page of the local paper, so once again the family’s good name is well to the fore.
    Alfred has made an excellent job of converting the toilet into an activity room and reinstating the toilet outside. You’ll be relieved to know we have bought Grandma a commode for Christmas.

    Christmas wishes, Goneril.

  20. I don’t like her watching me.

    Every time I go into the living room, she there. Staring at me. I can’t tell what she’s thinking; her expression changes. Sometimes she’s smirking, other times she’s more tight-lipped and disapproving.

    I like to think that she’s jealous. She knows I make him happier than she ever did. All he needed was a good woman, to put on a good show in the kitchen and a good show in the bedroom.

    I’m an excellent cook, and better than she was in all respects. He got the same thing from her every week. She was always too tired, he said, to cook up anything much. I know the type. She took his money to get the lifestyle, and gave nothing back.
    I prefer to be experimental in the kitchen, offering something different every night. Something fancy. He says it makes his guts hurt, but it’s unfamiliar, that’s all. He’ll get used to it.

    I’m an excellent lover too, and, again, better than she was in all respects. He got the same thing from her every week. She was always too tired, he said, to be up for anything much. I know the type. She took his sperm to get the kids, and gave nothing back.
    I prefer to be experimental in the bedroom, offering something different every night. Something fancy. It makes his chest hurt, he says, but it’s unfamiliar, that’s all. He’ll get used to it.

    So, there. She’s jealous. She knows I’ll be the better wife once I’ve persuaded him to marry me.

    I only wish I knew why he used tamper-proof screws to fix her picture to the wall. I don’t like her watching me; but he says it’s unfamiliar, that’s all, and that I’ll get used to it.


  21. Christmas and fat geese. Fat. Goose. What a goose I was to think that Christmas would fix everything. Time of cheer. Family. Peace. Home. I was out of it. On the other side of the world in the middle of an argument with the love of my life. Skype kept cutting off. Email. He doesn’t answer emails, just reads them. I could hardly post Luv U on my blog and sms was out of the question for the love of my life had three thumbs. There was more of me, too.

    Weeks passed and I pined. I had to see him. Bring him a gift. Both meant money I didn’t have. Passion makes possible, I chanted. I ate only salads, drank only water, walked and jogged everywhere I went. Sometimes I was even faster than the bus, but only when it was going the other way. In the Op Shop I bought five metres of red ribbon and asked the butcher for ten sheets of wrapping paper, promising to pick the turkey up later. My old car was getting lonely, I know, as I wasn’t driving it any more. Bye, Morris, I said. I have to sell you.

    I bought a cheap ticket via Beijing and Virgin and landed shivering in the snow. With my paper and ribbon under my arm, I hitched a ride to town. Then I wrapped myself up in the paper and rolled about in the metres of ribbon. I tied a bow around my middle and another around my forehead. People were hurrying home. The smell of mulled wine was in the air. Candles glowed from behind windows. I rang his bell. The door opened. “Merry Christmas,” I said.
    He pulled me inside, kissing me around the bows. “I knew it was you,” he said.

  22. Dear (remember to hand write names here)

    Well it is that time of year again and what a year we have had!

    Kylie has provided us with our own Christmas baby (or at least he would have been if he hadn’t arrived a month early). Of course she has had to give up all her GCSEs and drop out of school, but she is a great little Mum. She even changes his nappy sometimes. She still hasn’t worked out who the father is, so we are thinking of ringing the Jeremy Kyle show to get some paternity tests done. Watch this space.

    Wayne has recently spent a few months in Feltham Young Offenders. The police were getting fed up of locking him in their cells as a warning, even though he used to enjoy the cooked breakfast they gave him there. So in the end it was ten strikes and out. Never mind, while he was away I only had to walk down the road to see his graffiti tag. It made me feel so much closer to him. He’s back home now and occasionally even gets out of bed before mid-afternoon.

    John has been signed off sick all year with a bad back again. He did really well in the London Marathon, finishing in just over four hours. I would like to say he was running for a well-known charity, but all the money that went into his collecting bucket has been spent in the pub. It has been a good supplement to his disability benefits.

    As for me, my hair has gone from blonde to red to brunette and back again and I’ve spent a lot of money in that little dress shop by the market, where the Millwall WAGS go. Photo enclosed.

    Happy Christmas everyone!

    (sign here)

  23. Becca looked at the screen with satisfaction. That would show Mum. She had the bloody cheek to talk about learning lessons: perhaps she’d remember, after this, that it wasn’t a good idea gating Becca and making her print out the fucking Christmas card labels instead of going to Trisha’s party.

    What sort of person would get her knickers in such a twist about Becca being caught smoking dope on the playing fields anyway? What WAS it with Mum and her control-freakery? Other people’s Mums were a pain too, of course, but hers seemed to be determined to stop Becca doing anything – ANYTHING – which might actually allow her to enjoy herself.

    She turned her attention back to the screen and a smile crept across her face. If only she could be there to watch them all reading the letter which would fall out of her parents’ boring Oxfam cards this year. Then she sat back, considering. She hadn’t put anything in about her brothers. That was a toughie. She hated letting them off so lightly, but she’d already killed off Mum and installed some hideous harridan in her place, and lined Dad up for plastic surgery. Perhaps it would be going a bit far to have spotty Steve banged up for drug dealing and swotty Simon facing several claims for child support. She thought for a moment, then added a line about chopping down the apple tree (as featured on last year’s card) and replacing it with a massive statue of Dad and his new floozy bonking. Then she pressed print.

    Mum would be amazed when she came back to find the labels not only printed, but stuck on the envelopes, with the cards and letters already inside. So amazed she might even let her go to Trisha’s party after all.

  24. Dear Veronica,

    I am writing after several alarmed friends got in touch recently to either a) check that I was still alive or b) alert me to the dreadful lie that you have put in your Christmas letter. You can imagine my distress when I read a copy of your letter and learned about my tragic death! Or perhaps you can’t imagine because to appreciate my distress would require a degree of compassion and a grasp of reality, which I had begun to suspect but have now concluded, you do not possess.

    I am very much alive and I hope that you do actually know this because your believing I had died in a tragic accident would indicate a level of derangement that no letter could begin to deal with. So, let’s assume that you know I am alive. Why on earth then would you tell my friends and family that I am dead? You’ve already successfully wrestled my husband, my dogs, my home, and my cherished books from me but I must draw the line at my life. You cannot take that too!

    Despite my anger, I have had some time to think. I’ve been wondering, for example, what your employer would have to say if a copy of your letter were to be hand-delivered by a very vital me? Or the town council that I happen to know you have just recently joined? Or the coffee group you attend on Monday mornings? Or even, let’s say, the police?

    In short, I want the dogs, my house and my books back. I do not care about that mollusc of a man – take him with you. The twenty-fifth-of-December seems an appropriate date – be sure to be gone by then.

    A joyous Christmas to you and yours


  25. Hi Jo
    I’m glad you liked the statue. At first I was a bit worried what people would think of it. I mean, that sort of thing is usually kept private. Not that I’ve got anything to be ashamed of you understand, definitely not. In fact, Veronica says… but never mind that.

    She just wanted a tribute to our new-found passion. (And to her new boobs, I think. I mean you don’t spend three grand on something, only to hide it away.) I didn’t mind posing for the photos the sculptor said he needed. We just emailed the pics from our digital camera; Veronica snapped me then I did her. She was a natural, the camera loved her as they say. The photos were good enough for those Internet sites people pay for.

    No, the photos were fine and I was even ok when he wanted to sketch us in the altogether. As Veronica said, he’s seen it all before. I did come close to backing out when he said he needed some action shots. As in the actual act, you know, sex!

    I really wasn’t happy, but as Veronica said, he needed to understand how our muscles work. He was kind enough to video us, so we only had to do it once. I was relieved. Have you any idea how hard it is (excuse the pun) to perform in front of a long haired, unshaven bloke? Pretty tricky, I can tell you. Veronica said, it just showed how dedicated he was to making the statue show our true love.

    And apparently that’s what he was doing last month too, with Veronica when I was away. Veronica said that a true artist needed to understand his work inside and out.

    Anyway, see you soon.
    Your loving brother

  26. Dear Friends,

    The Holidays are right around the corner and I wanted to make sure to send out a Holiday missive so that you all know you’re in our thoughts.

    It’s been a difficult year. As most of you know, Brendan got hit on the head with a stuffed alligator in a freak taxidermy accident and lost most of his memory. It’s been difficult but he’s improved greatly! He no longer talks in tongue and no longer thinks Jeebus is his saviour. He now prays regularly to the Alligator God for salvation.

    He’s also famous! Most of you will recall last month when he was on the news. He was wearing a lovely ballerina outfit and dancing the sugar plum fairy suite with a large nut cracker doll! Since the performance was caught on television, he’s been asked to star in this years rendition of The Nutcracker Suite!

    More exciting news! Our cat, Mr. Jiggles, will be starring in his own cat food commercials as Franklin the Flying Cat! Our neighbour is an animal talent scout and happened to see Mr. Jiggles flying through the air. This happened after he bit into the electric wires of our Christmas tree lights and shot into the air like a bat out of hell. He ended up landing on Mr. Johnson and ripping his toupee off his head. Either way, we’re very excited to see Mr. Jiggles in his very own commercial!

    We’re having our annual Holiday party soon so keep an eye out for your invite! Don’t worry, there will be no alcohol in the punch. After last years Flaming Flamingo punch, which set my curtains on fire, we’re a booze free house! And for those of you who asked, no, my curtains weren’t covered under our insurance.

    Happy Holidays!



    Jamieson Wolf

  27. Merry Christmas indeed! Who came up with this stupid holiday anyway? All this fa la la and Happy Holidays. Here I sit in front of the stupid television watching pathetic Christmas specials while eating half a tub of cookie dough.
    I know I need to move on. He did, with that little blonde headed, tree hugging, nitwit. Excuse me “earthy”. That’s how he describes her. “Earthy.” Earthy!
    If she was earthy, she wouldn’t have paved over the garden would she? If she’d any sense for nature she wouldn’t have killed off Jane’s plants.
    She probably threw out all the beautiful ornaments they’d had and decorated the tree in purple and orange or something ridiculous like that. I guarantee there will no garland over the fireplace this year. Oh no, she’ll probably put seashells and twinkle lights and use some sort of teal ribbon.
    She’s a slut who likes to show off her nakedness in whatever form – painting, sketching, sculpture. Now mind you I can see that she has a bit of talent. I’ve been down to the gallery – of course only when I knew she was away.
    Honestly, I don’t know what he sees in her. But she’s been quite a hit with some of our old friends. Friends? Why they would spend time with her I can’t understand. She is nothing at all like Jane or any of us really.
    Brian and I had spent so much time together when Jane was sick. We really grew quite fond of each other. I know it’s a bit morbid but I think Jane approved. I was certain he and I would be announcing our engagement this Christmas – it has been almost a year after all. We would have been so happy together - if it hadn’t been for the earthy girl!

  28. Dearest Loved Ones,

    Do not mourn for me. It was time to leave.
    I wanted to go.
    It was my life that was tragic, not the leaving of it.

    For Brian, as well as me.
    He began to see a therapist,
    his life empty, meaningless.
    His swarthy good looks gone,
    women no longer gave him a second glance.
    Can you imagine?
    Mr Super-Sexy’78,
    Gone to seed by the Millenium.

    I used to buy him silk shirts
    In colours of bright jewels.
    Purple, pink, emerald.
    Snakeskin shoes.
    ‘Take them back,’ he told me.
    Bring me something brown,
    Something more suited
    For the autumn of my life.

    He let his hair grow wild,
    His beard a wiry bush
    for insects to nest in.
    He discarded his cosmetics, even toothpaste.
    His rare kisses sour on my lips.

    The death of the apple tree
    Had a profound effect on my soul
    Neither of us had the heart to chop it down.
    It withered my spirit to pass by
    On those mornings I ventured away from home.

    We both lost interest in the house,
    The grotty carpets, the walls stained with smoke.
    My cooking deteriorated, but then
    Neither of us had much appetite for food.
    I think the herbs suppressed my appetite
    Before their poison took a hold.

    My only worry as I left your world
    Was somebody eating those herbs by mistake,
    somebody happy with their life, a child maybe.
    The poison books posed no such threat,
    Their covers, deadly boring, would not attract attention.

    If you can pick this message up,
    You are already tuned to the Love vibration.
    I wish you peace and happiness,
    Joy and goodwill to all mankind.
    Know that I am in a place of bliss.
    Wish Brian well with his Veronica
    And hold your judgement.

    Jane xxx


  29. Dear V'ronnie,

    Great to get your Chrissie letter - almost!!!

    Opened the envelope, read the first couple of lines then, just like you said, (clever girl!!!) looked to see who it was from, when Jasper (Seven months, Liver Springer!! Newest family member!!) hopped up like he does, wanting to play.

    Cresswell called out, "Mummy, he obviously wants to read it for you," (he's so forward, Cressie, just two and using words like obviously!!!) So I asked Jasper to read it to me.
    (Thinking I could read it over his shoulder, whilst not discouraging Cressie. (I hate risking putting him down by implying that his bright little suggestions may be unrealistic!!)!!)

    Anyway. I held the letter so that Jasp. and Cressie could read it properly!!
    He, Jasper that is!!, grabbed it and was away across the leek patch before I could stop him!!!

    By the time we caught up, most of the print had washed away on wet greens!!.
    Cressie said, " The rest has seccumbed to slobber." (Seccumbed!!! )

    Anyway. Fortunately, I can respond because we knew who it was from!!!
    Hope you can both come over on Sunday week.
    Could you bring a carrotty quichey thing with those lovely herbs, like Jane used to make?
    (They spent hours in the kitchen together, so I bet Brian could make it himself, or give you the recipe!!!) And enough stewed apples for twelve.
    Sophie is going to bring her surprise turreen again and Jerry and Georgie have insisted on doing their usual.
    (V'ronnie, Has Bri. told you about Jerry and Georgie?!!!??)

    Anyway. I'm looking forward to meeting you!!
    Cressie asks, can you bring a duplicate (Duplicate!!!) letter for Him and Jasper to read properly, 'cos they are special friends too?!!!

    Love you,
    Tracey, Cressie, Damien, Jasper, Flopsie, Widget and Simmie (Cats!)

  30. Dear Veronica,

    How divine to hear from you. We were all wondering what you were like, and now we know. And your letter was so full of exclamation marks, too, which I don't think I've seen since the 80s when we were all so juvenile.

    I can fully understand your therapist telling you to try and forge new relationships. You poor dear, you must be so lonely. Never mind, perseverance is the key and I'm sure someone is bound to talk to you eventually.

    I'm watching this space (so cliched) to see what happens to Brian. I wonder what your colour season is. Winter, perhaps, with its blacks and other cold colours?

    I guess you had to clear out all of Jane's books. They were obviously a teensy-weensy bit difficult for you to read, but if you have some empty shelves to fill there are some superb picture books on sale now. The decor sounds nice. Very bland. Oops, I meant grand.

    The paving slabs sound attractive. Do they cover the whole garden? Beware if not, you know what they say about husband's burying their wives under the patio. But of course, you are already in the garden, aren't you? Not too many bird droppings yet, I hope.

    We would, of course, love to come to dinner, but we have developed rather fragile constitutions, so we feel it advisable to stay away. We will be moving house after Christmas (I do so like to keep Christ in the word Christmas, don't you?) so I really must remember to write our new address at the top of this letter.

    Please give our commiserations to Brian.

    With love,
    from Brian's friends.

    PS Absolutely LOVED Brian's addition to your letter. What a hoot. Never mind, dear. We won't tell a soul.

  31. Dear Janey

    Thanks so much for your Round Robin Christmas letter. It’s always nice to hear how well people are getting on isn’t it? I must admit, I’m always a little self conscious about sharing our news. I usually tend to go for a slightly more expensive card, and then give people the URL of our website in case they really want to know! So much better than boring people isn’t it?

    I was very pleased to hear that your anniversary celebrations went off well. I do think you were right to keep it low key. We haven’t been to The Green Lily since Philip had food poisoning that time. But it was very sensible of you not to go splashing a lot of money about.

    You and Gerald are marvellous I must say! At least now I’ll be able to tell that terrible gossip Mrs Perkins that those rumours about him playing away from home are simply not true!

    You must be proud of Harvey! He must be doing so well in his business. I was only saying to Philip the other day that those newspaper reports about a filing for bankruptcy must have been about a different Harvey Knightly! Still, it’s a shame isn’t it? Especially with it being such an unusual name. You know what they say – mud sticks! I expect you’ve been able to put people right though.

    And little Audrey is so special isn’t she? I knew Felicity must have got it wrong when she came home from school with that story about Audrey being suspended. I did say to her, that as head girl she has a responsibility not to pass on gossip.

    We really must meet up in the New Year. It would be so nice to see you.

    Lots of Love


  32. Yes! It is the same brown haired, short old woman that is Julia’s mother, whom I have met in
    Tesco along with Julia two years ago, now her mother alone in the provision section, could not
    reciprocate Christmas greetings, but gave a dry smile. When I approached her out came a sad
    reply, with sobs, “Julia is no more, last year soon three days after Christmas, she met with a
    tragic accident I was in the orphanage feeding children and spending time with them, the news
    came as a sudden shock; Her husband Jacob could not easily digest this news, all the notes on music which she wrote to the piano exponent for she was a lover of music were preserved upstairs, that is where she would stay read, write and sing, look like haunted by ghosts now,I don’t want to go upstairs, for it is ghastly and I am struck with nostalgic memories of Julie,
    NO, Julia is still alive, can’t believe she reached heaven, whenever I open her wardrobe, I see
    Julia s dressed up. Only thing you know, she did not have a flair for dress, herself a poor dresser
    but she is a voracious reader, and loved Gardening.”

    "Jacob is married to Eliza, men can with stand such predicaments, it is we, women who pine
    and pine and remain alone, you see, “she gave a pause, “Some body told me that Eliza is a
    good cook ,mastered all recipes, but who can substitute my daughter, my daughter?”
    I patted on her shoulder, consoled her ,held her hand till we came out of the counter.
    Recently I had been to Jacob for the family is known to me as well, house full of new
    Clothes, walls wonderfully acrylic painted, here new life began.

  33. Hi

    Dis s Jeanette. u may remMbR me frm such xmas newsletters as ‘Jeanette’s 1st Solid Poo’ n ‘Jeanette’s gunA B a Musical/Literary/Artistic Genius’. l8r der wz ‘Jeanette’s 1st Swearword’ n aftr dat Mum stopD mentioning me. wel here’s an ^d8: I broK my flute ovr my boyfriend’s hed; my paintbrushes r n my mascara bx n my Jr thesaurus S hollowed ot so dat I cn hide my stash. Nyway, Veronica – aka d wtch beast – S gunA mak me wrt ot n adr her xmas cards. I thort I’d + a few thorts of my own.

    I rthR lk d nu LkIn d gardN, consisting as it dz @ presnt of a Stalinesque (did him n history) wasteland of concrete n rusting Homebase metal ornaments. d %-) paving S particularly luvly, festooned as itz W brokN gnomes dis AM. Veronica had 1of her Le Creuset tossing moments dis AM wen Dad refused 2 pay her crdt crd bill. . n mem: of Mum Ive rescued a sml basil plant frm d cold frame bt IK d wtch wl sniff it ot 1 dy. 2nite Dad S ot n she’s ordering nothA patio 4 xmas. It’s goin whr she’s had Dad dig ot a hol 4 a pond, so what’s dat bout? I’m nt suposD 2B listnin. I’m suposD 2B putN d 15th coat of beige ovr my previously satisfyingly black-walled bdrm.

    So, sinC Mum died a lingering 4 a ch@ on a pelican Xing, lyf hs bn robustly merdesque @ chez Veronica. f NE1 ot der nEdz a sml pot of basil, gimme a txt. It c/w a miserable refugee jst bout off drugs, f u Rnt 2 fussed. lk I z, gimme a txt.

    lov n loathing jeanette

  34. Twelve Replays of Christmas

    1. Lying wide awake in bed for eons, afraid to get up and pee, for fear that Santa would realize you weren’t asleep and toss every last gift back into his sleigh.

    2. Succumbing to neighbor’s lies about Santa being a myth, searching for hidden gifts, and finding the guitar you’d asked for tucked away in the attic. Christmas morning without surprises just isn’t Christmas.

    3. Realizing that despite your adamant college-bred anti-consumerism claims, there’s just no magic without a tree, and rushing to the bodega for a last-minute Charlie Brown sapling.

    4. Dining at your first Manhattan “orphans’ feast” and subsequently hosting them for nearly a decade.

    5. Waking up on your sister’s sofa at 5 am to find your 9-year-old niece kneeling under the tree, quietly shaking presents and changing gift tags.

    6. Dressing up Ken in Barbie’s gown to create a heavenly tree-topping angel.

    7. Arranging lifelong dream of a Dickensian Christmas with new London friends, then learning everybody deserts the city and can’t return because trains don’t run on Boxing Day.

    8. Watching children pretend to believe, “but only because their little brother still does.”

    9. Visiting an Ecuadorian open-air “Christmas morning market” and finding pigs being traded and led, squealing, to slaughter. Immediately becoming vegetarians (well, at least until the following Easter).

    10. Romanticizing a quiet Cornwall Christmas despite other half snoring off third bottle of Shiraz, long before 7 pm. Standing solo by the sea, beneath a starry silent sky, is like a blessing from the Universe.

    11. Accepting it’s better to give than to receive, but sometimes it’s necessary to give things to yourself.

    12. Ignoring history and believing this year, when you schlep home to middle America, everyone will get along.

  35. Dear Veronica and Brian,

    As Jane's psychic, I have been asked to channel a brief Christmas greeting to keep up Jane's tradition. If you look at the bottom of the letter you will see Jane-via-Psyche. Jane has also asked me to send letters to all special friends too, so that no one feels left out. Here are soulmates matched in psychic connection rather than therapeutic conundrums and soundbytes printed in the guise of love.

    Jane's very pleased to say she will remain near Brian's side for the requisite haunting period of forty-nine days, since her death was so abrupt and tragic but not mentioned because it might seem ugly and unpleasant. Jane's looking forward to being reborn in Veronica. She will reappear! Though Veronica doesn't believe in rebirth, Jane does, and as for Brian, he's a susceptible one, and once he gets an idea in his head, he will recognize his newborn child as Jane.

    Of course, after Brian's cosmetic surgery, it will be difficult to recognize him as he once was when he was with Jane, but it's the best way to mend a broken heart, by surgically removing heartbreak. It's good that Veronica has taken to removing all Jane's books, because this way, the newborn will have an opportunity to create his own library.

    Since lovemaking is of paramount importance to Veronica and therefore also Brian, it's very exciting to know that the opportunity to be reborn is available every time you copulate.

    Don't worry about wanting to abort the baby, Veronica, any baby to come will be a reincarnation of Jane. Perhaps the child can be conceived on Christmas day, it would be a wonderful symbol of the eternal love of Jane. And maybe, the child will bring compassion into the parents' hearts.

    In celebration,

    Jane-via-Psyche xxx

  36. From: Prime Minister’s Office
    To: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, all staff
    Date: 15th July.

    Due to the recent outbreaks of contagious diseases among UK livestock and the consequent depletion in numbers of actual, as it were, live stock, it is with regret that the Prime Minister has decided the deployment of an entire Ministry devoted to farming is unjustified.

    From next year a core staff of seven will be relocated to Woking to deal with all administrative issues relating to the country’s remaining animal and bird populations (Old Hay Organic Farm, Wiltshire; The Isle of Dogs Farming Cooperative, Greenwich; and Born Free Model Children’s Farm in Solihull).

    All remaining employees will, with immediate effect, be transferred to more meaningful employment. It has not escaped the Prime Minister’s notice that the lack of available British meat is having a detrimental effect on the nation’s spiritual health by undermining core Christian meals.

    The so-called Easter Uprising disturbances, fuelled by the withdrawal of lamb products in April, threaten to reignite this December following plans to slaughter the entire UK turkey flock.

    All remaining DEFR staff will, with immediate effect, be split into three groups: Soya, Tofu and Curd, and be tasked with providing festive and filling alternatives to turkey for the nation in six month’s time.

    As their blueprint, staff should use government’s response to the decimation of the Norwegian Blue Spruce tree due to acid rain. This resulted in last year’s excellent campaign to introduce to the UK the Germanic custom of decorating the home with a traditional Weihnachtszweig or Christmas Twig – compact, economic and eco-friendly. Let these be your watchwords.

    Two celebrity chefs are on standby to assist with any culinary queries and Richard Branson has agreed to lend the necessary gravitas to any future media campaigns.


  37. 25 Santa’s Grotto
    Elves lane
    Somewhere in the North Pole

    Dear Santa,
    I am writing to inform you that you are a made- up character created to amuse small children. After nineteen years of believing you to be real I was greatly disappointed when I woke up on my daughter’s first Christmas to find no presents to speak of. When I rang my parents (currently down the pub) to ask why this was and whether I and my baby had been bad I found out that you in fact are not real and that parents leave presents for their children and feed them stories of magical creatures! This is a barbaric exercise in cruelty as it deeply upsets us when we find out and I am telling you now – I will not participate in this twisted game and will be expecting no presents next year or any other year for that matter. I shall be expecting your reply before next Christmas. I appreciate you’re a busy man, if in fact you are real, but I really need to know either way, so if you could write back as soon as possible to tell me if you are not real I would be very grateful.

    Yours insincerely
    Lauren Jivani
    P.S. If you are real and just didn’t get our Christmas lists and therefore assumed we wanted no presents, I am sorry. However, it was very inconsiderate of you not to pop by and ask, I mean you have visited me every year since I was four and well I was rather hoping you could meet dad and persuade him you’re real, though he always mysteriously disappears whenever you come by. Anyway, I shall be very angry with my parents if I find out this was just some cruel joke. Toodle-pip.

  38. Her dinner parties were legendary. Held on the first Saturday of each season; tonight’s marked the start of winter. She imagined the disappointment her friends felt when they realised a handmade seasonal invitation wasn’t going to slide onto their doormat.

    When asked, Margaret always said the secret of her success lay with the guests. She took full credit for this because she was the one who thought to invite them, always careful to handpick the right mix, tonight was no exception. She had invited a colleague of John’s and his wife (he could tell a good yarn, she had to be watched around the red wine), Dave and Beryl their old neighbours from Yeovil (still in the same house), Liz from her sewing club (single and hopeful) and Steve the recently widowed chair of the local Wine Appreciation Society (highly suitable).

    Of course Margaret was being modest about the guests, the real key to a great evening was what she called the FAH factor; Feast, Ambience, and Hosting. For the feast the guests should never feel they weren’t good enough for their meal; game or exotic meats were never on the menu. She served hearty, comforting food like mustard mash and beef Wellington. Mulled wine and cheesy nibbles would greet the guests tonight, a hint of cinnamon to warm and relax. When thanked for a wonderful evening, Margaret would always claim the real host was the beautifully polished, walnut dining table that had quietly held them all together. Although in truth, without her as the conductor teasing the evening along the parties would be a flop. For the ambience she borrowed from the seasons, tonight church candles would flicker in the recesses of the room, pine cones crackling on the fire. She hoped a romance would leap from the flames.

  39. The phoenix was the first clue. A red eagle screamed “Welcome to Phoenix Nest Farm!” from a carved cedar sign hung over the driveway, western ranch style. A board hung from a nail over the front door declared “Disobedient children will be sold as slaves!”

    Good god, if Dad was going to marry a blonde, young hottie after Mom died, did he have to pick such a bitch? A cheerleader and a homecoming queen, for Christ sake. And what was this phoenix bullshit? Was our family—the original—that horrible? I can understand why she wanted to burn her past. All she had to show was a short marriage to a cocaine-snorting, steroided-up, wife-battering, ex-football player. But Dad?

    I was home for the holidays, and in just one semester away at school, Veronica had made short work of the house. It was like stepping into a Country Living magazine. If mom was artsy-fartsy, Veronica was artsy-craftsy. Wooden frogs holding fishing poles sat on the mantle, and bird’s houses I presume she painted herself were EVERYWHERE. A granny in calico knitting in a rocking chair was the only thing missing.

    “Come on in, it’s cold out there, but take your shoes off first,” she said, her smile about to break her face. “We want the new carpet to last a while.”

    It was white and so was the new couch.

    She led me to the kitchen (my mom’s kitchen!) and sat me down at (my moms!) table and cut me a slice of pie.

    “You must be hungry after that drive,” she said, glancing back to see if Dad was watching her be so nice. “Oh, he must have taken your things down to the guest room.”

    GUEST room? What the hell. I sipped my cider and looked out the window as sleet began to fall.

    Valerie Gregg

  40. Dear Brian and Veronica

    Thank you for your letter and the invitation to visit you in your newly found state of domestic bliss. Sadly we must decline your kind offer. You see it was always Jane we really came to see; Jane with her exotic outfits that reflected her overflowing personality – Jane who made everyone around her feel good, brightening their day. Brian, we fear your morbid disposition was more about your own inability to join in the fun Jane created around her, than any failings on her part, and as for your obsession with all things brown, we recall many occasions when Jane came home from one of her shopping trips with a new jumper or tie as a gift, only for you to return it to the store the following day saying the colour wasn’t quite you.

    Jane accepted people for what they were and never once mentioned that horrible mole on your cheek or the fact that your nose was really rather large. We’re not sure that any amount of cosmetic surgery will counteract the appalling halitosis that afflicts you. Perhaps you never realised that was why we avoid kissing you good-bye.

    As for the house and garden, we agree, it’s probably best that you paint out every sign of Jane with magnolia walls, and replace her beloved trees with paving slabs. After all it would never do for you, Brian, to be constantly reminded of what it is you’ve lost. As for the old apple tree, well, we guess it lasted for many more years than your self-absorbed statue is likely to, or come to that, your life together.

    So, Veronica, we look forward to never meeting you but we wish you well in your new life together – you certainly deserve each other!

    Betty and John

  41. On the first day of Christmas my mother said to me, “Hello darling. Lovely to see you.”

    On the second day of Christmas my mother said to me, “Have you met any nice men recently darling?”

    On the third day of Christmas my mother said to me, “I was engaged three times before I married your dad. Lots of men wanted me.”

    On the fourth day of Christmas my mother said to me, “You turned thirty-eight on your last birthday didn’t? I had three children by the time I was your age. Tick tock, tick tock.”

    On the fifth day of Christmas my mother said to me, “You’re very pale. Have you considered a spray tan?”

    On the sixth day of Christmas my mother said to me, “I’ve got some spare hair dye upstairs if you’d like to borrow it, hide those little grey hairs on your temples.”

    On the seventh day of Christmas my mother said to me, “Have you thought about having your teeth whitened? It would do wonders for your smile.”

    On the eighth day of Christmas my mother said to me, “Apparently botox can work wonders on women of your age.”

    On the ninth day of Christmas my mother said to me, “Shouldn’t you wear slightly longer skirts once your knees have started to sag?”

    On the tenth day of Christmas my mother said to me, “Are you sure you want a mince pie? Carrying a little extra weight makes you look healthy but you don’t want to look too healthy.”

    On the eleventh day of Christmas my mother said to me, “What do you mean shut up? You want me to die grandchildren-less don’t you? You’re so selfish darling.”

    On the twelfth day of Christmas I murdered my mother and buried her under the tree.

    taylor_cally [at]

  42. Dear Santa

    You probably don’t remember me. It’s been thirty years since I last wrote. The time I asked you for a pony. The same year Mummy told me you weren’t real. Helen my therapist suggested I contact you again. I’ve been seeing Helen for five years. I’m much better than I was. When I began therapy everything was black. An all-consuming, paralysing blackness. But this year the blackness has begun to shift, like a Dalmatian gradually losing its spots.

    I think the turning point came when we finally worked out the source of the blackness. It was a long painful journey, but we got there in the end. At first we thought it was related to Dad leaving when I was twelve. But I doubted it, as what with his drinking he was only ever there in body anyway. Then we connected it to Uncle Mark taking me into the attic at Grandma Huxley’s funeral to show me his old train set when I was eight. But I discredited this hypothesis too, as the sensation of choking on thick pubic hair which used to wake me several times a night, went away in my twenties. Eventually we traced it back to when I was six and Mummy told me a truth that sliced my soul like a guillotine. After that I was like a person slowly losing their sight. For years everything seemed out of focus. By the end of my teens I could only see outlines. Then nothing. Fade to black. Blank-black. Time, the great concealer.

    Like I said, I’m much better now. The lights are slowly coming back on, shining brighter with each passing month. Writing to you again has definitely flicked a few more switches. There’s only one therapist forgot to give me your address.

    Sarah Charsley

  43. Trisha wrote back a very polite letter declining the invitation, adding that both Jon and herself had already pre-arranged a special Christmas get-together with a few close friends.

    ‘I’d come and haunt you from the grave if you did that to me, Jon darling!’ she threatened, her cheeks reddening as she waved a rolled up newspaper at his head. Her words gathered momentum with each passing mood from anger, frustration, grief then sadness. ‘I miss you, sweetness!’ she uttered compassionately as she clutches the letter in disbelief whilst Jon holds onto the newspaper, knowingly. Another onset of illogical hysteria was about to happen. A vague reminiscence of the day Tripsy their border collie was diagnosed with colon cancer.

    The thought had never crossed his mind before. Now that Trish had mentioned it, why, he honestly couldn’t say whether he’d blatantly brush aside any remnants of his life with his first wife and let his second, a brash upstart, control his lifestyle and deprive him totally of a voice of his own. He wasn’t that weak; he wouldn’t let any woman control him like that. Never. As to remaining single to live in abject misery after Trish or immediately find another love to unnaturally let the past fade so quickly, is anyone’s guess. It hadn’t happened so he hadn’t planned anything as yet and who would? Predicting a future without his Trish was just too macabre to contemplate, just on the off chance like this.

    ‘What-t-t-t?’ he asked quizzically when Trisha interrupted his train of thoughts.

    ‘Have you decided where we’re going instead?’ she snapped, annoyed that he’d been so silent on the matter whilst she ranted on about how disrespectful this person was and had she no shame and what right had she to criticise her friend?

    ‘You decide, darling.’



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