[A very silly thank you letter due in 2009 and sent three years later. I was so ashamed.]
Dear Aunt and Uncle,
Once upon a time there existed a half-decent nephew. Granted, as a growing boy he may have incorrectly suffixed his favourite Aunt’s name with an -er, abused discordantly the delicate keys of his Uncle’s harpsichord, smoked the odd illicit fag out of the attic window during his cousin’s more intense Buddhist chants and of course overcharged wildly for ineffectual tree surgery, but in general he could be relied upon to produce the occasional stilted screed and perhaps even show his face in return for morsels of game suffused with heavenly reductions. But as time accelerated he became lazier and self-absorbed—yet paradoxically busier—and good behaviour was rudely, disgracefully cast aside.
Yet still the wonderful geyser of presents and touching handwritten cards continued to erupt from Middle Earth, without fail scattering annual joy on the undeserving nephew.
A cornucopia of beautifully be-jarred herbs: every scrap now committed to curry, bolognese, melted shoulder of hogget and other unfortunate yet delicious creatures;
perhaps a cashmere jumper of such softness and quality that it nearly shamed poor Cotton into simply giving up production of her rough thread;
certainly a pussy blanket—possibly two—composed of luxury fleece once resplendent in tan and pure white, which has succumbed gratefully to a thick layer of tabby fur because one can count the minutes during which a pussy is not ensconced in it on one foot. The counting, that is, not the kitty, as their genes don’t allow for acrobatics (though I allow that there is the occasional dramatic sink-bound leap, to inspect the flow of water from the tap as if for the first time. These often fail with a skittering of paw and embarrassed thump – oh how we try not to laugh). This foot and its corpulent attachment are often found lurking under it too, probably watching trashy TV and not writing letters;
a deviously cunning bottle opener that glows gently blue in sympathy with the kettle (embarassingly, this was also a present) and managed to appear literally hours after its rival the Screwpull (1999-2011 RIP), having failed to entice its last cork even a quarter way out of the bottle, shattered its femur with a noise that would have worried the Inquisition.
I am certain there are countless other treasures that have enriched the life of this appalling nephew beyond the capacity of mere words; regardless it is clear that something of an imbalance has presented itself, to put it mildly. And mildly it will have to be because if I think too hard about the injustice of the situation I will probably weep. I’m so sorry!
Which diabolical apology leads me to the cheering news from M that we may see you next week in D for a well overdue ketchup, albeit not under the ideal circumstances; nevertheless your presence will line the afternoon cloud with a most considerable gilding of silver. The nephew will be found hiding in shame in a corner of the church, while his dear wife braves a short reading. Meanwhile on this balmy eve he hastens once again toward the wonderful corkscrew, yet again to challenge it with an evil plastic cork, staunch protector of a Chilean plonk whose number is up. A toast will most certainly be raised in your direction.