Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Christmas 2003

We feel like a victim support group. Burglaries, illnesses, accidents, bereavements – you’ve had a bad year. Might a lack of humour be appropriate? Well perhaps, but we and appropriate have been living apart for years so prepare to dress in comedy black and we’ll give you our take on victim er, hood, ship, whatever.

Let’s have a theme of almost not dying. Last year the St Paul’s staff and their partners had a secret Santa. Draw a random name and buy a pressie for less than a fiver. What do you get the busiest woman on the planet? How about something that needs looking after, cleaning out and feeding? Welcome to Tilley Mansions, Silas the goldfish. He nearly lived a year. By October he was acting strangely, floating on his back with a fixed expression, until one day the floating stopped and he (unexpectedly, for we had anticipated the opposite, what do we know?) sank to the bottom of his bowl from whence he went to the great kitchen flip-top bin in the sky. Goldfish without a fixed expression. Hmmm. What would that be like?

Joe the dog from next door came to stay and started looking poorly. A prayer: ‘Please God may he live until his owners come back. It will save saying, ‘Your dog’s in the garden – under the lawn’.’ He lived but isn’t well. His owners say Joe’s sense of timing will probably lead him to die on Christmas day, doggie presents unopened.

Max and Fred also visited. Both collies with a hint of retriever. (Isn’t that a paint colour?) Fred eats cat pooh but he does go outside to cough. Ben also came back to live with us. Human with a hint of the night. He doesn’t eat cat pooh but coughing remains indoors. Max is asleep on my feet as I write this. He is dreaming. Bless. Given Joe’s health there may be extra chews at Christmas if we pop next door. The rules of Fred’s Mothers Footsteps are at http://stevetilley.blogspot.com. It has a few other ramblings. It’s an on-line journal. Get one yourself. A blog not a dog. Silly.

MTtumms, Leamington sandwich bar displays a sign saying ‘10% discount for students (proof needed)’. Can we prove that? If they aren’t convinced who can be? Best since ‘Watch small children boiling hot water’ - terminally disappointing for those looking forward to the Michael Wood Services, under-fives kettle juggling.

Excuse for not coming for a meal on a Saturday night. ‘Sorry Steve but my mother is coming for lunch on the Sunday so I will have to clean under the floorboards.’

Clues to our lifestyle can, we believe, be gleaned from our dry-wipe shopping board. One day in August our urgent needs were kitchen towel, paracetemol and vodka.

Our award for the most self-evident statement of 2003 goes to The Leamington ice-cream seller interviewed in the Courier, ‘There’s a definite increase in profit when the weather is hot and the kids are off school.’ Thank-you Courier. Friday mornings are a news-free treat. During the year they managed a run of five successive weeks with photos of people pointing at various things wrong with pavements. Cracking.

Terribly sad letter from BT telling us that we could save money on our phone bill if we nominated Cargo’s Head Office in Thame as our best friend. If Cargo made anything trendy would they call the range Chic-cargo?

Those who have followed the ‘how-many-bits-of-dishwashers–are-really-necessary?’ saga will be sad to hear that Liz’s nerve went and she purchased a new one. The other still worked acceptably as long as the house was quiet enough to hear the ratchet clicks on the dial whilst you set it with pliers. Why waste money on another? The new one has fuzzy logic. It learns as it goes along; where’s the fun in that? OK, the fun is knowing that a dishwasher learning in our household will soon require vodka, paracetemol and kitchen towel. The washing machine also has such logic but hasn’t been the same since Jon (remember him?) washed his jeans with a box of matches in the pocket. The rotating drum is percussive man.

Same Jon completed his first year at Aberystwyth. On course for a 2:1 in happy hour studies. Walked most of the length of Sweden in July, climbing the high bits on the way. Didn’t shave during the month away. When met at the airport he was wearing a green army cap and had a beard that looked as if there must be some ginger genetic material knocking around. (Lizzie - you know that bloke who used to call round on Fridays when I was late back from work?) Imagine a cross between Fidel Castro and a Smurf and you will be on the way. He decided that dogs were a good thing and now slips ‘get a dog’ into every sentence he speaks to us. He says it will work subliminally, given time. If it’s subliminal how come we know about it? English students eh?

Ben is now gainfully employed by Vauxhall Interlease Leamington Spa, 600 yards from home. Paying rent(ish). Pulled the best-looking gym instructor. Gender available on request. Almost gave up smoking.

Liz is one of three regional managers at Cargo covering four jobs. Company Honda Accord (155,000 miles in four years, RIP) replaced with Vauxhall Vectra. Got rid of under-performing boss and replaced him with one familiar with the words ‘thank-you’ and ‘rise’. Now working on under-performing staff who are all rapidly becoming familiar with the words ‘disciplinary’ and ‘hearing’.

Steve had a book published. About time we say since he alleges he is a writer from time to time. A Youthworker’s Tale (SU 2003) is the story of a year in the life of a fictitious church youth worker. The book is designed to help youth workers who wouldn’t read a training book. Buy it and know Steve will be 45p richer. Sorry that was a bit promotional. He obtained a Food Hygiene Certificate. Come for dinner now and he will know why he is a dangerous cook.

The first three items on the ITV news tonight were:
• Mortgages can be too expensive if you can’t be bothered to shop around.
• The government didn’t say anything today but will be announcing something on Thursday.
• Ruth Ellis was a murderer.
Perhaps we should retract our derision about the Courier.

Rounds of applause this year to the following people for making our lives better:
• Scripture Union, Crusaders and CPAS for services to cash-flow
• Cheltenham Everyman Theatre for services to meeting friends halfway between here and the Forest of Dean. Hey, we saw the News Quiz being recorded, how cool is that?
• The Coen Brothers for continued services to movie lovers. Honourable mention to the Wachowski Brothers but they blew it at the end
• The Alabama 3 for services to acid-house, techno, country, gospel rhythm and blues
• Solo Restaurant, Leamington Spa for services to sanity
• Wolverhampton Wanderers for services to comedy
• The English rugby union team for services to breakfast
• Will and Grace for services to Friday evening. Honourable mentions to the West Wing, 24 and Absolute Power for the rest of the week

Thank you for continuing to subscribe to this letter. Your invoice for 1985-2003 will be with you shortly. 2000-2002 issues have been posted on the blog site. Must finish so we can get to the pet-shop before closing. Can’t remember why.

St, Lizzie, DJ ‘jamin and Mcgillianmonkeystein@hotmail.com (don’t ask)

Christmas 2000-2002

So here’s the problem. What paragraph do you put the bereavement in? We’ll go for the first since we suspect it was the only one Liz’s Dad ever read. Unless his final words were, ‘You’re standing on my oxygen tube’, Ken Bill died peacefully on Thursday 5th December aged 81 after a short illness. We’re happy and sad. We have enough flowers. Send more red wine.

We’d like to commend empty nest syndrome to you. Here are a few snapshots from our early autumn diary. Oops. Two paragraphs in and metaphors already being mixed. Put that in your cocktail shaker and smoke it.

Fancied bacon sandwich. Found bacon in fridge. Had one. It’s a mini-adventure.
Cleaned bathroom in a few short moments. Steve paused to reflect that the sanctity of his underpants’ drawer had been re-established. Liz realised nobody else had used her towel for a week. Sausages in fridge went mouldy. Still four cartons of orange juice available. Took five bags of clothes from Jon’s room to the charity shops. Liz also took her new trousers for reasons not unadjacent to tiredness and overwork.

Having transacted our mortgage for ten years we asked Woolwich plc to help us buy out the shared equity in our house. They came up with a package to help us manage our finances more sensibly (pay off credit cards and spend less if you must know). Then for motives best known to them they spent the next five months making our lives a complete misery. At one point, about half-way through the saga, Steve was so overjoyed at the matter being sorted out he took flowers to the branch manager. Two days later they changed their minds and decided they hadn’t. To cut a long story short is a shame so we won’t.

A further bit of wrangling and they admitted that we couldn’t borrow against a property until we owned all of it, but we couldn’t own all of it until we’d sorted out our monthly outgoings which we couldn’t sort out until we owned the property. It won’t surprise you to know that someone in the family kept a hilarious diary of his day-to-day dealings with the bank and when the matter was settled sent it to the Chairman and asked if he thought all was well with his business. Two weeks later we received compensation for thirty wasted hours at ten pounds an hour, plus reimbursement of unnecessary travelling costs and, yes, the cost of the flowers. This is a cheque equivalent to two weeks mortgage by the way. Asked for compensation of several times more than that to stop us broadcasting our dissatisfaction wider but they don’t do blackmail so we ask you, if your friendship means anything, to consider your investments carefully.

Night in. Able to choose our viewing and relax in front of the TV. Liz’s choice? Two and a half hours of mystery shopper videos. You’ve cringed at ‘The Office’. You’ve hidden behind the sofa during moments of Alan Partridge. Well coming soon, ‘Mystery shopper tries to get furniture advice from a Cargo Homeshop Saturday casual employee.’ Highlights from Liz’s commentary include:

So they wear jeans when they don’t think they’re being watched. That is not authorised music in the background it’s too lively. She hasn’t got her badge on.
Yes you can have 20% discount. Yes you can. You can. Please tell her she can. Tell her. Idiot. Doh! Steve, Steve, wake up.

We all got a bit more worried about how long Liz spends managing her staff when Steve got a written warning for not cleaning the grill pan properly followed by a list of training priorities and a time scale to meet the required standard.

Bought each other jewellery to celebrate 25 years of marriage. We wear it on bad days. Comfort jewellery; it’s the next big thing. Really.

Felt grown up enough by then to play a game of listing each other’s faults over a few drinks. Got serious. Liz’s faults by Steve. 1. Leaves lists everywhere. 2. Tells him it’s not a pile of clothes it’s preparation for tomorrow morning whereas his celebration of the night before is a pile of clothes. 3. I’m not working I’m just phoning one of my managers to see how they are. Steve’s faults by Liz. 1. Tries to look as intelligent as me yet fails. 2. Fidgets constantly. 3. Is a bad loser. 4. Despite the practice he gets.

After nine months working at every cafĂ© bar in Leamington Jon went to University in Aberystwyth. He went to Wales to do English. We don’t know why either (are 56 pubs a clue?) but a weekend in a cottage in Wales punctuated by a flying visit to feed, clothe and hand over all your money seems like fun to us.

Ben carried on pushing his music career and DJ ‘Jamin got a residency at Derby Soda Bar. This is a good thing. In the daytime he works for BT Openworld dispensing music software advice. Last year’s prediction that he would be sending us cheques from Ibiza was a little short of the mark as we ended up lending him the cash to buy a computer and new decks in order to become a famous DJ. So it’s an investment then? We’ll try and act more convinced in future.

Steve left CPAS and became a part-time Associate Minister at St Paul’s, Leamington Spa. Rest of the time he writes. He is happy. CPAS downsized immediately as this action could now be taken without acknowledging that Steve, or any other former employees offering that advice, had been right all along. They’ll be opening a small office in the south-east next. And a book shop.

Needed new people to invade our lives so invited scaffolders to help with the top floor decoration? Couldn’t imagine how to choose which ones were any good. Remembered that Leamington FC (The Mighty Brakes - a new interest since West Brom arrived in the Premiership and kept changing kick-off times and selling out) were once sponsored by The Inter-County Scaffolding Company. Actually the players with smaller chests were sponsored by unty Scaffo. Still, worth a try and the quote wasn’t excessive. Hard hats and harnesses? Don’t be daft it’s the danger in the job that makes it fun. Two brews of tea for three guys and the sugar ran out. Scaffolders timing is wonky. Must be all the bangs on the head. They erected three days late and dismantled three weeks late. Still the bill was £100 less than the estimate.

Once the scaffolding was down we cleared the garden. Found three bits of scaffolding, one paint brush and two dead Christmas trees. Gardening’s not really our scene. Took garden to tip. Met CPAS employee throwing himself in.

Genuine small ad. from Saturday Independent ‘Gentleman sought. Must have terminal illness (with doctor’s certificate), into highly polished floors and faulty electrical equipment, Swiss bank account, for immediate marriage. Wicked SOH imperative. F, 34 Kent/London.  14300.’

Enjoy Christmas. It’s about a boy.

Christmas 2001

Dear friends. Here is your annual entertainment to make up for us being unblessed with the gift of visiting. As you embark on our letter please be aware that this is neither a prayer letter (although you may pray for us if you wish) nor a news letter (as it has no news in it). It may, however, give you an insight into the sort of people that we have become.

You will find these facts helpful. Liz failed a personality test. Ben discovered that Orange network mobiles do not work in orange squash. The BBC dropped Steve. A surveyor described our house as ‘heavily furnished’. Jon lived with us for the whole year but for a period of eight days in May we heard him a lot but only saw him once. We believe these facts will get no more entertaining with explanation.

It is a tradition that staff leaving Starbucks are taken out the back and done over with squirty cream. Jon left Starbucks. His clothes went through the wash three times and then had to be thrown out as they biodegraded in dairy extract before our very eyes. If you value your vital organs never eat squirty cream. Can’t believe Starbucks is in the spell-checker. Conspiracy theory needs work.

He went to work for Rhubarb again. Readers of many years standing will recall this as a small, ethno-vegetarian, gift-restaurant thingy at which he once had a Saturday job. The owner of the premises tidies up with a chain saw (really). After he (yes, it’s a bloke, how did you guess?) had tidied up some old wires in the yard, BT called round and asked if he knew any reason why none of the phones on the block were working anymore. The manager of the business is, ‘another menopausal feminist’. We think she’s in her 30s actually but that must look old when you’re 19. Occasionally Jon is the chef. Be very scared. Often he is the waiter. ‘Don’t expect a smile I’m paid to deliver food not jokes’.

CPAS appointed a new General Director with a sense of purpose. Whilst this doesn’t, apparently, extend to any sign of liking Steve it is nevertheless a refreshing change and to be applauded.

Painful bits this year include:
Kidneys (Jon - infected) Ribs (Ben - broken)
Teeth (Liz – abscessed)) Back (Steve - rubbish)

Cargo popped its head out of administration for a few months and, since none of the creditors shot it off, went back into full business. As a gesture of thanks for helping keep the company afloat and making loads of people redundant they give Liz more work to do, longer hours and told her to be more of a bitch. Not at home Lizzy, not at home. Actually, ‘Not-at-home Lizzy’ would be a good name for that woman to whom Steve alleges he is married. The ‘sorry I’ll be late home for tea’ phone calls started to become ‘don’t-wait-up’ phone calls. Soon there’ll be ‘I’m coming home, which way do I go at the roundabout?’ calls. This is revenge for eight years of husband’s parish ministry isn’t it? In order to spend an evening with her Steve has agreed to attend the Cargo Christmas party. At the time of writing it hasn’t happened but the venue, ‘Thame Snooker Club’, is not that promising. Liz has provided a list of things not to say to her management team including, ‘Can I have my wife back you kidnapping bastards?’

Tom Robinson (yes 2-4-6-8 Motorway that Tom Robinson) invited us to his party. Bit of a con since he was so impressed with the small audience at his Stratford gig he carried on playing in the bar after the encores and then invited all fifty of us. It’s on January 6th.

Car wing mirrors were vandalised as a regular feature of Leicester Street life and a piece of our front wall was thrown through our next door neighbour’s window. Steve helped police with their enquiries into a burglary over the road. Very badly. He now tries to notice things a bit more, such as the gender of people. Liz’s car has been scratched twice. As it has 93,000 miles on the clock after 30 months it is probably beyond economic repair. The Americans have a great word for this - totalised. Better than ‘written-off’ isn’t it?

Anyone want to give a good home to an upright piano? 1909 Paul Gerrard in a condition. We bought a Kurzveil stage piano. It’s so cool. Just need a stage now.

The dishwasher had a near-death experience. Bits fell off but none, apparently of sufficient substance to stop it washing dishes to order. Sounds like a new party game. How many bits can you take off the white goods before they cease functioning? Someone else’s party please.

The cooker was feeling left out at this point and exploded. It’s electric so that’s not quite as bad as it could have been. Steve heard the bang, checked the fuse box, found the fuse had blown, replaced it, and turned the cooker on again. An altogether more professional bang this time followed by smoke effects. That’ll be a new cooker then. Indeed. And we’ve got a microwave after all these years. We almost know how to work it too. The joy of defrosting.

Ben, how many jobs do you have? (January) DJ, Next early-shift lorry unloader, Global Video assistant, Baxi call-centre operative, student. (September) student. We prayed for a job for him. (December) student, assistant at Supercigs and ISP call-centre operative. God must smoke heavily while he surfs. If it weren’t for irony we’d have no conversation in this house.

A Saturday. Plumbing. Cistern. Leak. Emergency call out. £75. Cheque. Plumber revisits the next week. Could you write me another cheque? Why? My girlfriend was so cross at you waking her early on a Saturday that she tore up the cheque.

Glyndebourne. Did you think this was a place for posey nobs to go? We did. Then we got invited to Harrison Birtwhistles’ Last Supper. Guess what? We’re posey nobs. Hated the music. Loved the setting, the drama and the words. Think libretto may be the word we’re searching for here but wouldn’t bet on it.

Tenerife. We drank champagne on top of a volcano whilst watching the sun set over a nearby island. We saw pilot whales in their natural habitat (that would be water then). Groovy (St). Romantic (Lt).

Steeple-chasing. What a silly sport. How fast do steeples normally go? And that’s a stupid song. Why must we hang sally?

Dave Gorman. Best preacher we heard this year. Go see then go figure.

The year to come. We plan that:
Steve will leave CPAS to go back to youth work (60%) and start freelance writing (40%) for a living. Ben will qualify in sound engineering and become a famous DJ, sending us regular cheques from Ibiza throughout the summer. Jon will go off to college. Liz will drop down to eighty hours a week. We’ll have a silver wedding anniversary. 10/9/02, send Liz ‘with sympathy’ cards.

We guess that:
Liz’s car will die and her hours will increase. Ben will find a reason still to need money. West Brom will fall at the last hurdle. Jon won’t tell us where he’s gone.
Happy Christmas

The Tilley’s Annual Attack of Post-ironic Claptrap; Christmas 2000
82, Leicester Street, Leamington Spa CV32 4TB

Apologies for taking shortcuts across the corners of truth’s pleasing right angles last year. Bad habit and we’ll try to break it, but here are three lies from last year:

‘Ben is enjoying Fine Art at Derby University.’ He wasn’t. He came home, firstly to sell computer systems and then clothes to women. At Next, he learned to lie professionally. Of course it suits you and no it isn’t tight. In case that was libel we emphasise it wasn’t part of official staff training. Now he’s back in Derby working for egg.com and doing a part-time sound production course in Nottingham. Alarmingly that means he offers banking advice. Don’t get an overdraft like mine. That would be good advice we feel.

‘Jon opted to do Arts Foundation like his brother.’ He didn’t. He decided, late, on Thames Valley University to do Media Arts after good A levels (oops bragging, sorry). It all went non-circular, orchard-fruit shaped and he returned in time for Christmas, a rethink and a job at Starbucks. What did Lady Bracknell say about clumsiness?

‘Radio 4; 3.30p.m. February 16th.’ It wasn’t. Steve was victim of BBC re-scheduling (waited a lifetime to use that sentence). His story was broadcast on February 9th. Well done those who caught it. Another is in the pipeline but no dates available yet so not even his producer (another new expression) can say when it will go out. It’s called An Unofficial Position and is about a vicar who hates Morris dancing. Autobiographical. You jest. He’s not a vicar. Yet.

Lets try a few half-truths. We had a good year. Wrong. It was rubbish. We’ve all been well. Again no. Steve’s job was straightforward. Uh uh. Cargo Homestores enjoyed financial stability. Oh come on now you’re being silly. We’ll have to face the truth. It’s been a demanding year. We’re glad it’s over but enough good things have happened to make us glad we lived it. That sounds about right.

What sort of music do you play in your house?
Oh we play both sorts, drum and bass. (This gag  The Blues Brothers)

Genuine correspondence to the Leamington Spa Observer: ‘I would like to publish this letter to say a proper thank you to the two kind ladies who helped me with two of my three accidents on August 22nd at Warwick Castle. Thank you to the lady who helped me when I fell down a flight of steps in one of the towers, and to the kind young lady who helped me when I fell out of my wheelchair while my son was pushing me down a hill by the wooden bridge. It was so nice to come across some kind, unselfish people, as I haven’t met many since being ill for three years and disabled for one. Most of my neighbours and their visitors are the total opposite.’

Two of the three? Did she die and write from beyond the grave? And what of the rest of the story? Did her son not like her very much to push her down a hill in a wheelchair? Where was the wheel chair when she fell down the stairs? Please don’t tell us she was in it then too. Neighbours visitors go out of their way to be unpleasant; now why is that? We need more information.

New ground rules for life at 82:

• Do not leave your skateboard next to the stairs however drunk you are when you come in.
• Do not play any music, especially real drums, loud enough to upset deaf neighbour.
• Tidy up two hours before others get back from holiday in case they are early.
• Squalor is acceptable as long as it remains within the confines of your own room.
• Clean the grill with water not fire.
• If you are travelling down the stairs faster than usual check if you are using a skateboard.

Gozo - birthplace of the much-publicised Siamese twins. We hadn’t heard of it until Liz spent a few hours browsing in Thomson’s ‘Small and Friendly’ brochure and booked us two weeks there. Idyllic, hot, friendly and relaxing holiday, although the taxi ride across Malta from the airport to the ferry is not one we recommend without blindfolds. Also all fish have unfamiliar names. Our favourite supper was called Lip, or was it Dot? Gozitans speak Maltese with an accent. Maltese is what happens when you nick a bit of language off everyone who has conquered you, same as English. It mixes French (bonjoo = good morning), Italian (grazi = thanks) and Arabic (leh = yes). Spoke English and pointed a lot, which is apparently very rude in an Arab culture. Popped into a bakers. Smelt wonderful cooking aroma. Asked what it was and if we could buy some. Baker said it was his Sunday lunch and we were too late. Magic.

Jon went to Dublin for the Guinness oops we mean Folk Festival. He saw and heard Courtney Pine. Steve and Jon saw the excellent Dr John in Bristol. Steve saw The Who at the NEC. Steve and Liz saw Henry the Fourth Part One; Steve, Liz and Jon Henry the Fifth. Steve and Liz saw Bill Bailey who proved beyond doubt that U2 were a skiffle band before The Edge got an effects pedal. He also did Sounds Of Silence in 27 seconds as by the world’s fastest, constantly moved on, busker. Ben appeared on the same bill as Grooverider and almost on the same postcard as DJ Hype. This is a good thing.

Great year at the movies. We ticked off some of these: Sleepy Hollow, Erin Brockovich, Boiler Room, Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, American Beauty, The Beach, Three Kings, The Talented Mr Ripley, Gladiator, Mission Impossible 2, Bringing Out the Dead, The X Men, Snatch, Oh Brother Where Art Thou and Shaft. This in a year when Leamington’s Apollo Cinema burnt down. Flooded in 97; arsoned in 2000. Look out for gnats, boils, frogs, dandruff and popcorn-based tumours by 2003.

Cargo Homestores went into voluntary administration. Liz had to make people redundant, almost including herself. If there’s a joke hiding there we haven’t come across it. One of her managers probably left it somewhere hazardous. Liz did manage to lose a person who had been making her life a misery though. Her nearest place of responsibility is now Thame. The Malaysian Holding Company who own the chain may ask her to handle the Middle-East at this rate. She has reached Wokingham.
‘Liz, why not give your staff a card on the anniversary of them starting employment with Cargo?’
‘I’d have to do it monthly.’

Following three weeks off work for intensive back therapy Steve was told to get fit again. He and Liz joined Dragons gym. Three times a week folks and a new familiarity with MTV. Great pecs and about a four pack so far. Steve looks fitter too.

You will find our contributions to the Good Pub Guide 2001 if you buy a copy. Especially recommend the Case is Altered at Rowington as the unspoilt pub of any year. Couple of great ones in Wales too.

St Paul’s saw massive church growth as a new vicar turned up with a wife and five kids. Someone, during the interregnum, said, ‘We need a family man’. We think it would be interesting to find a vicar who came into the world some other way. Alternatively, ‘I’m your new vicar and I’d like you to know I hate children and young people.’ Maybe that would make an impact. We only ask.

CPAS continued to keep bits of its anatomy above water but none of them are usually associated with breathing. Steve produced a book of sketches which upset the whole of Scotland and Ireland, or at least would have if CPAS reps would sell any copies there. Must have been the one about Jesus, the Republican and the haggis. After a year of deciding on a new plan we have reverted to the 1996 – 2001 five year plan. We are going to have a youth and children team again only we aren’t going to call it that. Someone decided that getting a vision before a new General Director wasn’t right so now we are trying to get a new General Director to see if they have any vision. Why don’t we just settle for getting a life? Time to be off on sabbatical (January–February 2001). Hooray. I’m Jonah; please chuck me overboard.

Steve’s car alarm (a persistent Christmas theme) went off 127* times between March and November before Ryland Soans (another) declared it ‘over-sensitive’ and agreed to replace it. You can no longer claim expenses for car washes. Steve stopped washing the car. Simple and petty. He likes to think so

Charlotte came to live with us. Joke about not so much gaining a daughter as losing a bathroom fits here somewhere. Liz’s revenge for twenty years of all-male dinner-times was forcing Steve to overhear a conversation about feminine hygiene. Pub. Now. If your details are wrong on our database how come you got the letter? Tarra.

Steve, Liz, Ben and Jon

* randomly generated large number