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Friday, 14 December 2007

A Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,

At this time of year I like to include a “round robin” letter in our Christmas cards. I find it a good way to boast to friends and acquaintances that I don’t deem important enough to talk to the rest of the year.

It’s been a mixed year for the family. Geoff’s dad has become slightly frail so rather than take any risks we are looking in to transferring all his savings directly to us. He’s well in himself though, although he does feel his cold. To help him with this we have his heating allowance paid directly to us as he does spend every other Sunday with us.

Lynne and Tony are well. Tony has changed jobs and seems to relish his new role as P.E. specialist at an all girls college. Lynne is still very active in am dram and recently undertook the gruelling role of Mimi le Bonk in the Great Munsdon production of “Allo Allo” the musical. They are looking in to adoption. It was hoped that Louise would grow out of the “terrible twos” but she’s still very trying so they hope she’ll fare better with another family.

Will and Fifi are doing very well. Will’s recently floated his company and Fifi is terribly busy redecorating their dining room. Their three children; Horatia, Domenica and Florentina are excelling at school and Florentina is thinking of a part time job in pizza express.

Annabelle is still single and childless.

Pippy, our youngest, has just finished his gap year. He travelled to Thailand where he found a very good job in transportation. He was in the supply end of the chain. He was unclear on the details but I think it involved animals. He certainly mentioned mules. He really is terribly enterprising. Apparently he has earned enough in his gap year to fund him through all three years of university and the people in Thailand are willing to keep his job open for him and are happy for him to work his summers there.

Geoff and I trundle on. We will have been together 30 years this year. To celebrate we are going to have a holiday. Geoff is going to France and I am going to Spain with the girls. Geoff is still very in to his wood work. He has turned the shed in to a workshop and spends many happy hours out there bashing away. Sometimes Sue from next door pops round to give him a hand and they merrily spend the afternoon together.

I do find these letters are an excellent way to keep in touch with people. I find them a great leveller. Everyone from the woman who was my bridesmaid to the people we met on a coach trip to Hastings gets the same – it’s an excellent way of maintaining friendships. However, although addressed to “friends” I shall personalise yours slightly by scrawling in biro at the bottom that we must meet up in the New Year.

Best Wishes

Sandra and Geoff.

Monday, 3 December 2007


I am at war with my bank. Here follows a week in emails:


“Quite a few times of late I have tried to purchase good s over the internet. Always from secure sites, however every single time my card is rejected as my bank has refused the transaction. Whilst I appreciate the extra security, this is beginning to drive me mad and is incredibly frustrating. It has also introduced the element of danger in to all shopping. "Oooh I've just filled my car up and I know I have money in my account but will my bank refuse the transaction for reasons best know to itself". I can't say I am looking forward to Christmas shopping this weekend knowing that every single transaction could be refused. Or as in July this year you could just cancel my card and not tell me for 3 days. I have banked with you for 14 years and have been generally happy until this year. I am now considering changing banks which I am reluctant to do but the lack of customer service (and lack of access to my own money) may leave me no choice.”


“Just to keep you updated this has happened again. When I tried to use my switch card for my lunch. For £5-20. Which was not only intensely annoying but also highly embarrassing. This is getting ridiculous. Would you like me to ring you everytime I am going to use my card so you can tell me whether it's going to work or not? I would quite like to buy petrol at around 6pm tonight. It should cost £30, I only have £475 in my current account. Is this OK? Please try and let me know. It'll save you the bother of cancelling it and issuing me with another switch card (which you'll cancel) and save me having to do a runner from the petrol station when I am not allowed to access my own money.”


“As I still haven’t heard from you I think it’s best to tell you that I don’t intend to spend any money today. I’ve bought my lunch from home (it was bought from Sainsbury’s at the weekend – I can provide you with a receipt if needs be) and tonight I have friends coming round. Therefore if any money is removed from my account today then please block my card immediately, that is if it’s actually working at the moment.


“Out for lunch today and then out again in the evening! What a busy life. I would invite you but I don’t think you’d be able to get the money together for the flight – unless of course you would like to use the money from my account. It seems a shame that it’s just sitting there when someone could be using it – even if it’s not me.


My aunt went to market and she bought an apple, a banana, a cup, a dog, an elephant, a fire engine, a goat, a herbaceous border, an igloo, a jumper, a kite, a llama, a marigold glove (singular), a nectarine, an orangutang, a purse, a quirkafleet (which we must perform), a rusk, a semaphore kit, a tea set, some umbongo, a vivisection kit, a weeble, a xylophone, a yoghurt and a zulu.

All on my switch card! Please block it immediately.


Dear ,

Thank you for your correspondence. We understand that having your card blocked and cancelled is frustrating and can cause problems for you. However we are acting in your best interests and are stopping your money falling in to the wrong hands. Please be assured that we are looking in to this situation and will hopefully be able to find a solution to it soon.

In the meantime, it is an excellent idea to keep track of what you have spent so that it can be compared to your statements. However, it is unnecessary to keep up abreast of these transactions.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further help.

Yours Sincerely.


Of all the things I heartily dislike about myself (and there are many) by propensity to buy rail tickets for insane times just because they are cheap is one of the things I dislike the most. Actually I blame GNER for ridiculous pricing but they’ve had enough abusive letters off me over the years and all they ever say in return is “two singles may be cheaper than a return ticket”, which is pretty much telling me to sell one kidney instead of two to be able to afford to get past Milton Keynes. Anyway; at 7am last Saturday morning I was on a train bound to Edinburgh, going out the night before wasn’t a good plan and it meant I was in absolutely no mood at all for the collection of morons and biffers I found myself forced to sit with. People who think they are funny and talk loudly, people who bought their dog on and expected other people to enjoy that (the dog was called Mitzy and apparently didn’t need a lead as the stupid owner could just bellow at it – all the time), over-priced food and drink and a toilet that smelt like it had been used by a terribly unwell egg. And the best thing about it was that in just over 24 hours time I’d be back on it heading home.

Yes, I had a weekend away. I went to Edinburgh. It was extraordinarily pleasant. It was a sort of reunion. There were 8 of us who were terribly good friends at university (we had other friends as well) and so decided to meet up. We scattered slightly after university: Australia, Japan, Dafur, Malawi, Finland, Nottingham. So this was the first chance we’d had to all meet up again, so the 8 of us returned to Edinburgh. Well 9 of us really as I’ve pretty much doubled in size. But it was lovely. We abandoned all attempts to catch up on each others lives (I realised on the train back that I’d never actually asked about a mate’s kids – which is not very friendly but kind of a relief as I’m not actually very interested) and instead drank a lot and pretended we were 21 again. Which we blatantly are not. At university we drank a lot and we didn’t really care where we did it, this became clear when we were talking about a club we used to go to and I recalled it as a sort of garden shed/air raid shelter, turns out it actually had 3 floors but I had never been there sober. This time around we rejected any pub which didn’t have enough seating for all of us.

Some things never change though. I instantly disliked being the tallest girl. Although not exactly tall I am 5’7 in flats which is fine but in heels I look borderline transsexual. This would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the other 3 girls I met up with are all 5’2 and under. Meaning I look like some sort of giant freak especially in photos where I look like I am eyeing up lunch. Or like some kind of supervisory lollipop lady. Would have helped if I wasn’t wearing a fluro jacket and carrying a giant stick.

But it was lovely. It was nice meeting up with people who have known you for ages and knew you when the height of your ambition was getting the money that had fallen down the back of the sofa so that you could afford to eat that night or who knew you when you slept through a fire alarm and had to be woken up by the terrifying night porter (called Tam, had 3 teeth and an impenetrable highlands accent – not the kind of man you dream of slipping in to your room at night). It was also nice to reminisce about those we left behind. Jacquiline who ate only cheese and used to grate it by rubbing it sideways against the grater (“you might get there a bit quicker if you pushed it up and down there Jacquiline”). Dave – the boy that never washed, you knew when he was coming your way as you could smell him. Ah the joys of communal living. Nice at the time but not something I am anxious to return to. Which is how I felt at returning to the train. The journey back was better, no dogs, no comedians, just an old woman who fed me polos. I still hated it though. I felt obliged to.