Another letter from Santa
I have received letters recently from all three of your grown-up children expressing some real anxieties; I understand they are all coming to stay with you over the Christmas period. They seem to feel there is no one else to appeal to and have asked me to contact you, taking on the role of a mediator. Whether I will be successful in getting you to modify your behaviour is in doubt; after all, we have corresponded before, haven't we, without much success in this regard*?
I have read their letters and the grievances they express - some of the material was quite distressing - and have compiled the following list of things I think you should keep in mind if you want to make Christmas bearable for your offspring this year.
1. Perhaps it is time to stop hiding a Brussel sprout amongst the children's Christmas dinners. They didn't find this funny when you began doing it twenty years ago and don't find it funny now. They feel that now they are adults it should be up to them to decide whether or not they like sprouts, and that having to forage amongst their festive meal to look for the sprout before they start eating is demeaning and does not engender Christmas cheer in them.
2. It really is not a matter for tears whether you get the big end of the Christmas cracker or not. Your children feel this is an over-reaction, particularly when the prize is a set of playing cards one centimetre square or a plastic fish key ring. Last year, particularly, they say things got rather out of hand and that clearing up the jug of custard you threw at the wall took a while and was the reason why you all missed the Queen's Speech.
3. Your children feel it is time you dropped the tradition of wrapping yourself a present from a supposed 'secret admirer' and feigning great surprise when you open it on the day. Each of the children, in their separate letters to me, quoted you: 'Oh, how did he know what I wanted?' and 'He always gets the right thing! It's incredible!' If your children know these phrases off by heart, it seems to me this might indicate that they feel rather tired of the whole thing. Your eldest, particularly, is worried, as her father tells her that as well as the usual present from 'Your loving secret admirer' there is another present under the tree this year labelled, 'From your secret admirer's twin'. Your daughter dearly hopes this does not mean an escalation in the whole charade.
4. Your children also feel that it is about time you stopped giving them a pound coin wrapped first in paper and then in fifteen different cardboard boxes. When you began doing this they were at Infants School, and there was double pleasure for them in receiving a pound coin and in the fun involved in unwrapping all the boxes. Now, however, as they are all earning their own wages and feel disinclined to spend an hour unwrapping a pound coin, they wonder whether it is time this practice ceased.
5. Finally, I have to deal with the tricky matter of the word games. The children realise that, as an English teacher, you feel that word games are enjoyable. However, they do not feel the same. They say that they have spoken to you about this year by year in as gentle a way as possible so as not to hurt your feelings, but that you still insist, whenever conversation lapses for more than fifteen seconds, that everyone play 'Alphabet Vegetables' or 'Word-Association-but-you-can-only-use-words-beginning-with-vowels'. Being pointed at and told 'You're starting, yes you are, don't argue, think of a vegetable beginning with A' is, they feel, more than they can bear for yet another year.
I do hope you will take my comments on board for the sake of your children.
PS You will realise I have acknowledged none of the fourteen letters I received from you during November and December with what are quite outrageous requests. I must repeat: I have absolutely NO power or influence with either George Clooney or Johnny Depp, their publicity agents or their managers. I would suggest, anyway, that neither star would want anything to do with crazy women who hide sprouts under other people's turkey and stuffing. Perhaps you should bear this in mind.