Residential Home for Distressed Gentlefolk,
Under Royal Patronage to
H.R.H. Princess Alice of Schleswig-Philistine von Gotha und
Mrs Hilda Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh (Matron)
My dear Caroline, Bruce, Blaire, Artemis, Nathaniel and Tookie,
How kind of you to remember one with another of these very entertaining and informative Christmas messages. Your (as you describe it): ‘Wilmots Christmas Greetings Bonanza’.
It took one a few minutes to realise what had flopped through the letterbox and fallen heavily on the Victorian tiled entrance hall at Twilight Lawns. One was in some trepidation, thinking that it might have been a bundle of legal documents or something equally as nasty because of the size of it. However, Nurse Smythe explained that it was an example of what is commonly (Please excuse the word “Commonly” when referring to your little missive, but somehow it springs to mind in this connection) known as a “Round Robin”.
According to Nurse Smythe, members of the Lower Bourgeoisie consider it to be de rigueur to send this sort of communication over Christmastide. So forgive one for the tardiness of one’s reply. One had assumed that it was a communication from one’s dear friend, His Eminence Cardinal Robin Limegarten, Papal Nuncio to Great Britain, rather than your estimable treatise on the comings and goings of the Wilmot family.
Did you ever meet Cardinal Robin Limegarten, dear? Perhaps not, it is so long since we met, isn’t it? One is assuming that we have met; but where or when, one is not sure. There seems to be some connection in one’s mind between your name and that dreadful, pushy woman who made such a nuisance of herself when Twilight Lawns opened its gates once a year for some awful charity or other. Maybe you were the kind person who helped one escape from her dreadful clutches. Does this incident ring any bells?
Getting back to your interesting “Round Robin"
One hopes that you don’t mind, but one isn’t sure as to whether one should reply to this form of communication, as one isn’t really familiar with the concept; but here goes. As one leads a very busy life, one has persuaded dear Raj to “write” a reply on his Laptop as one dictates. Several other members of the Staff of Twilight Lawns have popped in and out to help and also to try to unravel your exceedingly long and somewhat confusing tome.
Dear Cardinal Robin Limegarten. So much fun. Dear chap carries rather a lot of weight but regardless, he’s very sprightly. However, being a Cardinal, he does strike a rather gorgeous figure. Especially when he is in full drag and wearing the Biretta. Hence the nickname, ‘Round Robin’.
Oh what fun we had at The Lawns, at the beginning of last Michaelmas (in one’s private apartments, of course), when Fluffy, the Anglican Bishop of Crawley, Dear Round Robin and Dolly, Dowager Duchess of Saint Reatham entertained us with a Soirée Musicale, which ended with all three in a very spirited rendition of ‘Three Little Maids From School’ from Gilbert and Sullivan, those sweet fellows who wrote ‘The Mikado’. An absolute swirling kaleidoscope of red, purple and the Dowager Duchess’s lilac Court Mourning. The poor dear has so many relatives who seem to have nothing better to do with their time than die, with the result that Dolly is forever coming out of, or going into, Court Mourning. One is sure one can’t imagine how she keeps up with it all.
Thank goodness we managed to prepare for any untoward occurrences by having sufficient quantities of incontinence pads ready for our lovely Patron, H.R.H. Princess Alice of Schleswig-Philistine Von Gotha und Hans-Knees-und-Bumsen-Daisy Und-So-Weiter. Princess Alice does enjoy a good laugh but one can never be too careful.
One doesn’t know what brought more of a flush to the face of Fluffy Crawley; the excitement of skipping around to the words and music of ‘Three Little Maids From School’, or when Raj, the Gardener’s Assistant, and his cousin Samir performed ‘Nubile Arab Lads’ which the splendid Bishop of Crawley had choreographed especially for the occasion. Goodness me, Fluffy’s talents seem to know no bounds; Bishop, Choreographer, Singer and Dancer! How clever the dear chap is!
Well, one must admit it. What a full and meaningful year you have all had!
Busy! Busy! Busy! Every year seems to be more exciting than the last in your household, if your four-page ‘Wilmots Christmas Greetings Bonanza’ is anything to go by!
One was so pleased to hear that you have been so engrossed in the work going on in the “new Bathroom”, but a nice photograph or two would have sufficed, Caroline. One is sure that blueprints for the loft and the description of the several guages of plumbing, in Metric and Imperial, would make fascinating reading for someone else, but certainly one finds them somewhat daunting. The booklets of Farrow and Ball colour charts, also, would be more interesting to the likes of Sister Vestibule of the Little Sisters of Selective Charity. The dear soul has a passion for decorating and plasterwork, one believes. Perhaps one could pass them on to her, if you wouldn’t mind.
Artemis’s exams results! How lovely for her, but surely you wouldn’t expect anything else, dear. One has heard that Halstead College for Ladies is hardly worthy of mention in the same breath as a decent Finishing School in Switzerland or Wycombe Abbey School, Saint Swithun’s in Winchester or even Saint Mary’s in Ascot. One has heard that Halstead College must surely be just a step above a Comprehensive.
No wonder your lovely Artemis did well in her exams, but are the intellectually challenged permitted to sit exams, Caroline? It must have been one of the silly ideas from the last Communist Party in power - those dreadful Socialists!
From what Sharon informs one, most girls from that seat of learning would find themselves more gainfully employed by attending ante natal classes and concentrating more on the mathematics entailed in scraping together the wherewithal to survive as a single mother in some hideous little subsidised council flat on the outskirts of Tower Hamlets or somewhere equally salubrious. There is, one has heard, an absolute plethora of local louts who hang around the front gates at Hallstead College for Ladies, ready and more than willing to impregnate the lot of them. One wonders how long it will be before your little Artemis succumbs to their virile charms. If she hasn’t already.
Our dear Sharon informed Nurse Smythe that the girls at Halstead College have been known to have looser morals or even less, the ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies than her (Sharon’s) Aunt Deidre. “Loose Deidre” as she is known locally.
One notes that you mentioned (at length) that your Blaire has had to repeat a year at University “due to some corrupt lecturer” or a “little misunderstanding” concerning her project.
What was she studying, Dear? Something useful like Media Studies or Advanced Origami or ‘Green Ideas for Foreigners’ (Ecology for the Third World)? One would think that that would be right up her street. But from what one has read in the National Press, the nasty little University that has had the misfortune to open its door to the likes of your Blaire have had to admit that getting up any street would be a difficult task for many of their Undergraduates due to the inordinate amount of illegal and prescription substances they smoke, inhale and squirt into their horrid little arms and thighs.
By the way, Caroline, one is quite perplexed. Is “Blaire” a boy’s name or a girl’s name? Either way, it seems a very silly and pretentious arrangement of letters, don’t you think? But one supposes that if she, or he, has been accepted by the horrid little university you mentioned, the poor child needs something that would help others to remember her. Perhaps an “interesting” name would be more useful than any amount of the education that they could possibly be able to provide.
And while we are discussing Education, did you realise that your ‘Wilmots Christmas Greetings Bonanza’ as you refer to it, requires a possessive apostrophe? So your letterhead should have read: ‘Wilmot’s Christmas Greetings Bonanza’. Or if any of the others of the Wilmot clan had a finger in it, it should have been: ‘Wilmots' Christmas Greetings Bonanza’.
Just a small thing, but perhaps your poorly educated offspring wouldn’t have been able to help you in simple punctuation and grammar. You did mention several times in describing your lovely offspring that “Blaires anger at having to repeat her year at University” and “Artemises exams results” and “Nathaniels new job at a Quality Car Showroom.”
Surely you should have realised that the correct punctuation should have been: “Blaire’s anger at having to repeat her year at University” and “Artemis's examination results” and of course, “Nathaniel’s new job at a Quality Car Showroom.”
Do you know, Dear Caroline, the more one has read (and reread) your little missive, the more one sees parallels with that dreadful woman one referred to earlier in one’s reply to you.
Both Artemis and Blaire strike one as being very familiar; if only by name. But for the life of one, one can’t get it out of one’s head that the dreadful woman’s children not only had bizarre names, but they were remarkably similar to those of your brood... if not the very same.
The name Nathaniel brings up the picture of a spotty youth with one finger excavating the contents of his nostrils. One wonders why one has made this connection.
Your charming description of the Happy Wilmot Family gathered around the festive board was absolutely riveting:
“...and of course the family is doing well. Uncle William has come up with his Haemorrhoids as sure as clockwork; right on time for the 1st of December. Somehow it seems rather a rite of passage for the family, don't you know. I can’t imagine Christmas without Dear Old Uncle William perched on his inflatable cushion at the Festive Table. And of course that leaky old cushion always creates gales of laughter with its interesting sounds. Well I'm assuming it's the cushion which provides the interesting sounds. Cousin Phoebe always sits close to him at table, and perhaps it is not intimacy that she requires, but it is also a ploy to disguise her own chronic flatulence.
I’ll never know, but my goodness, some of those bass notes need to be heard to be believed.
Tookie was violently sick in Bruce’s lap after overindulging in sherry trifle and Battenberg Cake. So we put her outside in the garden; but not before she has emptied her bladder over Nathaniel’s back, in passing.”
Dearest Caroline, One knows you won't mind, but one has taken the liberty of correcting your punctuation in the small section above. The section that deals with Christmas Dinner at the Wilmot's residence. One noted that you seem to have only the vaguest concept of the use f "its" and "it's". There is a difference, dear, and one is only glad to point out those difference.
One is enclosing a Book Token from Waterstones, and one implores you to pop along and ask them to hand you a very lovely little book, written by Lynne Truss: "Eats, Shoots and Leaves". One found it very entertaining, and one is sure that you will find it more than helpful.
Ask someone to read it to you if it helps, my dear.
And who is Tookie? One thought at first that it may have been some form of smelly variety of feline or canine animal. But Cook entered the room as Nurse Smythe and Sharon were conjecturing about the name. There resulted a somewhat heated discussion concerning the matter until someone remembered that there was a “Tookie” or someone with a similar name who was involved with most of the male staff at the East Grinstead Sorting Office. She was known as being a “bit of a Tart” as they say. That’s where your Bruce is employed, isn’t he Caroline? Then again, you probably know all this already, so it can’t come as much of a shock to you, can it dear?
And as it’s Christmas I’m sure you can let bygones be bygones, don’t you know.
One was somewhat at a loss to place some of the players in this captivating domestic scene, but the juxtaposition of one or two of the participants reminded one of Christmas Lunch last year at the Maharani of Sisalpore’s country retreat in Hertfordshire.
Fluffy, Anglican Bishop of Crawley, was reminiscing, quite outrageously, about an incident which had occurred at the grape treading at Chateau Plantagenet the previous vintage. Dear “Blossom” Sisalpore had just nodded off whilst listening to an interminable anecdote which Albemarle Lord Porcine-Trotter was bleating into her left ear.
Perhaps you have met Lord Albemarle. He is the great-grandson of the former Viceroy of India, Lord Porcine-Trotter.
No, perhaps you have not. You don’t mix in those circles, do you, Caroline?
Suddenly, during the Fish Course, Beatrix Brandenburg-Hohenzollern, a dear friend of the Maharani, rose to her feet and having taken a rather large fowling piece from below the table, levelled it at the young man opposite, Quentin Something-or-Other; a young and rather attractive gentleman reputed to be her lover. She fired both barrels.
Blew the chap across the room, and killed him; one believes.
“Blossom” Sisalpore was up to the occasion, naturally. Being a Maharani with impeccable good taste, she immediately ordered those serving at table to bring in the Cold Collation, which involved a rather spirited dry white from the Alsace. So everything passed off well.
Of course, nobody asked Beatrix why she had blown the chap away. It wouldn’t be at all polite, but one had one’s suspicions.
Unfortunately, at the same time, a couple of the servants were either killed or maimed, which is a shame, because it is terribly difficult to find decent domestic staff over the Christmas period. Very decorative Armenian lads, one seems to remember. What was even worse, however; that next day, the Butler noticed that a section of lovely cornicing has been blown from a delicious baroque frieze. Of course that would be so difficult to replace successfully.
But one supposes that our little experiences at the Christmas board pale into insignificance when compared with your enthralling anecdotes concerning life chez Wilmot.
One notes that you travelled all the way to New Zealand this year. Was that wise, Caroline? Did you go alone? Heavens, it must have been difficult to communicate with those people. They hardly speak a word of English as it is known here, and your skills in grammar and punctuation would tend to confuse the poor inhabitants. Maybe sign language would have helped. Certainly not the written word.
Maybe Bruce would have been able provide some form of assistance, but one imagines that he would most probably have been in the U.K. with Tookie, if the truth be known.
One was informed in your rambling Christmas Round Robin that you also travelled to the South of France, but this did not register with one until just this minute, when Raj confirmed that it was you and your family who had attempted to gain entry to the Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh residence at Maison Featheringstonehaugh, Plantagenet sur la Plage, Vallauris. Raj, in his capacity of chauffer, had driven both one and Fluffy to Vallauris for the grape harvest at the Plantagenet Vineyards.
It was while this was all going on that clever Raj noticed your ghastly son. What on earth do you mean by saying that "“Nathaniel has a new job at a Quality Car Showroom”? Raj informed us that Nathaniel works at Halfords which is a chain of High Street purveyors of spare motor parts and windscreen wipers to poor people. Apparently he still seems to enjoy digging around in his nostrils; even while serving customers.
You, Caroline, and your motley collection of offspring apparently turned up and were seen banging at the gate; pulling on the bell pull; demanding entrance. Raj was forced to have you removed by the local Gendarmerie.
You, Caroline are the dreadful person who made such a nuisance of herself when Twilight Lawns opened its gates in charity and made the day hideous for all those who attended.
One hates you, Caroline and all your progeny. Please cease with these horrific Christmas Round Robins. Set yourself some standards woman.
Christmas should be celebrated by sending Christmas Cards... simple Christmas cards with a simple message of no more than half a dozen words and a picture of that Jesus chap as a baby. That foreign fellow from Portugal or Assyria or Rome or wherever he came from. And it has to be an Old Master. Something painted by an Italian or other foreign person. The card should have a picture of the Jesus chap’s mother.
And that, Caroline is it!
Penned by Mrs Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh upon receiving yet another Christmas News Letter from the Wilmot Family.
Just like this, Caroline.
No mention of foreign holidays, no reference to relatives of yours who have died and whom nobody knows (or cares), no showing off how clever your children are.
Just the Baby Jesus and his Mother.
And if you must, you may have a few wise men and angels and stuff...
but that's enough.
Have a Lovely Christmas
Wonderful New Year.