Dear Friends

‘Bring them on’ I say. None of this fashionable snootiness about the ’round robin’ Christmas letters from friends. My Christmas wouldn’t be complete without them. I savour them every one. And of course we send a Blogstead Bulletin to 580 of our closest friends. Somebody once said that these are letters written by those whose children are good at passing exams. If I was to be critical of our particular effort, I would say that it evinces a sort of bland cheeriness while sharing no more real information than it needs to.

It’s really about disclosure. I used to think that the charm – and the danger – of the sort of ‘rolling disclosure’ on blog and Facebook which some of us are into is that it is impossible to dissemble on a continuing basis. You will always reveal your true self in that idle moment when – as now – it’s 1205 and I haven’t a clue what to write about. But as time goes on, I’m less sure about that. Perfectly possible to be endlessly personable without being personal. And to those who say, ‘I read your blog so I know how things are with you,’ I say ‘Aha!’

But the ‘one off’ Christmas letter has none of that professional presentation. I love the sentences which begin, ‘Unfortunately … ‘ and go on to speak of some minor parachute-opening issue ‘. I love the lengthy references to named individuals whom one has never met or heard of – but the dark corners of whose lives one is being invited to share. Most of all – as a religious professional – I love the passages which speak of ‘God’s Unfolding Plan’ and marvel at what people are able to tuck away in that category. It always reminds me of the arms-outstretched realism of an old friend who said of the call to work in Lisburn that ‘You would need your hands pre-drilled to work there.’

Yes I’m something of a kill-joy in that department – not sure that it could ever be safe to speak of GUP other than in the context of suffering.