“Right! That’s it!” exclaimed the Lawyer, screwing up the fifth Christmas family newsletter we’ve received this week and aiming it at Liability’s head. “I don’t have to take this sort of thing. We’re writing one and inflicting the same sort of pain on everyone else.”
I know what he means. That excruciating attention to detail: who cares how quickly the insurance paid out after Sheila cut off her finger at sushi evening class, or how many times Peter abseiled down the shopping centre before the police took him away? There’s the obligatory joke “it’s not a circular, it’s an oblongular”, the obsessive referring to the family: “We made our famous Pender fishcakes”, and the achievements, iterated in a breezy, “we’re not at all superior to you, but I just must mention Poppy’s nomination for the Nobel prize while I’m about it” sort of way.
“Okay,” said the Lawyer, clutching pen and paper. “Subjudice, what have you done this year?”
“I was terribly bored,” she said, looking out from under her gothic black hair.
“Okay, we’ll put ‘Subjudice has been on a personal journey to discover fashion.’ Deminimus?”
“Cubs, violin, drama, tennis, chess, homework, football, computer games, eating, sleeping, watching telly.”
“Very full life. Well done. Liability?”
“I can do a somersault. Look.”
“Yes, okay. We’ll put gymnastics down. How about the ball and chain?”
“I’ve also been on a journey of personal discovery, although I still haven’t found what I’m looking for in the fish aisle of Sainsbury’s.” He ignored this and went on to his own achievements. Long pause.
“Ah,” he said. “Well, of course I went to work every day.” Pause. “And I ate a lot of lunches. I suppose I could put gastronomy. And I usually read the Sundays – that’s politics, isn’t it?”
“Let’s face it, Dad,” said Deminimus, “you don’t do anything but go to work.”
“That’s because I do a lot of stuff at work,” he said, nettled. “In fact, I think I’ll write about what we achieved at work instead.”
“That’ll certainly bore them to death,” I said.
As with all things we scorn from a distance, the act of moving closer opens our hearts, and by the time he’d finished the Lawyer had created a firm, three-page newsletter which earned him a very warm handshake from the touchy-feely managing partner.
“We came very close to joining up with another family this year,” the document gushed. “But at the last moment we realised we were happy as we were. And we didn’t think they were as posh or loaded as they made out. We’re especially proud of our little stars Property and Corporate, who signed up lots of new friends and even won awards at the big school prizegiving. Pensions has been struggling with his homework, but says he’ll be back on track soon. We bought some second homes in Germany and France and even one in Hong Kong. So lots of us are spending masses of time out there and not seeing much of the family at home, I’m afraid, but they’ll all be back for Christmas. As you probably heard, some of the family members left us because they said they weren’t getting enough out of it, but we say, ‘who needs them anyway’. We all had a big family holiday where we all got together and played games and did quizzes and decided – because it’s always a family decision – that because it’s all going so well we’re going to work really hard and double our family income next year. Won’t that be great?”