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9 August, 1996
Another year older, certainly. Another year better? 'Tis difficult to ascertain, as one has reached a certain pinnacle of personal and public perfection that is difficult, if not nigh upon impossible, to surpass.
For those of one's readers (and one has it upon a high authority that they are so many in number, that were they all to dance upon the head of a pin onto which the Lord's Prayer was inscribed . . . ah no, one is referring to angels. And any regular peruser of this literary exercise in good manners and taste knows that one's correspondents are anything but) who have not twigged to the implications of one's first paragraph--though it was blunt enough to penetrate even the most thick of noggins (even yours, In a Doozy in Indiana)--one reiterates succinctly: This week saw the celebration of the anniversary of one's natal day.
As usual, the telegrammes and cards and letters of congratulations from one's readers (and one has it upon the greatest of authorities that were they all to play games of bowls in the heavens while . . . blast, that would be angels again) have quite overwhelmed the staff, who have had to forsake bearing the mails to one upon the usual silver tray in favor of multiple trips with the Lady Felicia's thirty-armed epergne. As is one's usual tradition, one will forego the usual preamble to one's insightful responses to the dreary problems of commoners in order to reply personally to several of one's well-wishers.
To Rising Moon in Riseholme: One would thank you for the 'star chart' and personality analysis based upon astromoogical principles, but one's goat-herd informs one that 'Old Nanny' died upon ingesting all thirty of the shredded pages one placed in her trough. One will be sending a bill under separate cover.
To Proletariat in Provo: No, one does not make the servants buy one gifts for one's birthday, nor at Christmas, either. One dislikes your tone, sirrah! One cannot help that one's staff is so enamoured of their master that they spend fully one third of their year's wages in presents for him. And as for the 'evidence' you have threatened to sell to the Hampshire Herald, one must point out that one is merely providing the poor misguided common creatures with a detailed, alphabetized list of suggested gifts (with prices and vendors) in order to guide them in choosing presents appropriate to a man of one's stature and rank. 'Tis the kindest thing, really. One would hate to dismiss a servant for showing a grievous lack of taste and generosity.
To Nitting Nut in Nantucket: One believes, madam, that it is spelled 'Knitting.' The K, much like the sweet voice of intelligence when she whispers into your ear, is silent. As for the bookmark, one hardly understands how a clump of sweat-stained knotted pink worsted is supposed to resemble one's estate of Blandsdown . . . one of the greatest of the great British manor homes. (Is the correspondent unaware that there are establishments, stateside, that offer to manufacture spectacles in one hour or less?)
To Nursie Higgins: One does miss the old days, dear Nursie. How one so used to tremblingly anticipate your yearly gift as a lad! (Especially the 'one to grow on.')
To Long Lost But Eager To Inherit: How delightful for you to share the same birthday as oneself. But no, one does not have a missing twin. Yes, one is sure. Yes, one is really sure. No, one actually suspects that one's Mater would have noticed a second one coming out. Yes, one is really really sure.
To Hearthwarmer in Hampshire: No, one did not find it a particularly clever present, nor did the poor footman who discovered you lurking in the smoking room. The least you could have worn was a ribbon.
To Budding Poet: What a wonderful poem. How clever of you, at the tender age of . . . what was it? Fifty-six? . . . to have mastered that highest form of poetry, the sonnet. True, it only had four lines. Also true, it did not scan. Nor is the word you chose really appropriate as a rhyme for 'pains us.' Try 'Coriolanus,' next time.
Personal to Chatsy: My dear, you shouldn't have. But qu'est-ce que crotchless?
Once again, one thanks one's readers (and one has it one the most knowledgeable of authorities that they are so numerous that . . . ah, but the moment is lost) for the voluminous outpouring of affection and good wishes, and one remains for yet another year,
Dear Sir Charles,
Me mother, bless her soul, is a bit on the barmy side, and thinks she's Queen Victoria. You'd think the old buzzard would have picked a jollier monarch, but oh no. She's even taken to referring to me late pa as 'Good old Albert.' (His name was Hamish, God rest his soul.) And me sis says her kids are getting plenty tired of singing 'God Save the Queen' whenever she walks into the room.
Any suggestions for a tired old bloke?
Ex-Tory in Exeter
Sir Charles replies:
One is afraid that the correspondent must not search for solutions from the hands of grubby psychoanalytic professionals. These individuals, full of puffery, are certain to hound her to an early grave in no time.
Tempting as the prospect might be at this point, the correspondent would do much better to extract a small degree of amusement from the situation. For example, one might designate the loo her 'throne room' and give her a royal sceptre (the rubber plunger, one would think--one advises the correspondent not to consider the fish slice) with which to punctuate her proclamations.
One rather suspects your mum of believing that the royal life is all glamour and little responsibility. One suggests taking a tip from the Royal Family itself. Embarrass old mum as much as possible. Indulge in all sorts of wild affairs with equestrians and football players of both sexes, hold scandalous phone conversations, and run through misguided marriages like pistachios, and then ask her to pay for it all from her pension fund. Give the old biddy a real annus horribulis she'll never forget, and soon, one wagers, she will return to her common, yokel-like self.
Happy to have made a small corner of the universe a little brighter, one remains,
Sorority Gal writes:
Dear Sir Charles,
I'm a poor college co-ed who's lost her fellowship. How was I supposed to know that once I was in Tri-Delt I was supposed to keep going to class? It wasn't in the college handbook!
Anyway, my problem isn't about the $20,000 per year I need for tuition and tight, tight, tight sweaters (it's only a state university in Minnesota, after all), because I know that a wealthy man like you wouldn't be interested in supporting a 19-year old blemish-free girl who looks like Tori Spelling except without the surgery. Really!
I have another question. Do you think our cheerleading outfits are too skimpy? I have enclosed for your pleasure a few photos. Take especial notice of the one where I'm doing the splits.
Oh, not that it'll matter anyway, once I get kicked out from my department for insufficient funds and have to go work at Dairy Queen instead of finishing my major in British History. I'm going to miss those parties we gals had in the sorority house, though . . . having pillow fights in our white bras and panties until the sprinkler system went off! Sigh.
Sir Charles replies:
One is not totally unaware of one's weaknesses. Oh no. It may surprise some of one's readers to read the confession that one has weaknesses at all. But one sighs deeply and admits to having, in the past, a soft heart for a young damsel in distress.
However, the correspondent has attempted a ruse so transparent that even oneself is not fooled by it. She thinks that by summoning images of nubile young girls bouncing about in their tight, white foundation garments made nearly transparent by mists of water that one will immediately write a cheque made out to the university in question. She thinks that one's better judgment will leave one, the moment one espies the 'cheerleading' costume in question. A costume comprised merely of a flimsy excuse of tartan plaid skirt and a bodice that leaves nothing to the imagination. A bodice so tight, so revealing, clinging to every mysterious curve, every tantalizing hint of womanhood, that one could imagine the smooth, silky feel of the flesh beneath it, flesh that goosepimples to a man's touch, flesh that begs to be stroked and . . . ah, where was one?
Well, 'Miss Gal,' one is here to inform you that the ruse will not work. One is a man, a baronet, by gum!, in complete possession of his faculties and reason. One is not ruled by carnal desires! One will not respond with the lustful instincts of a wolf on the prowl at the sight of these dozen eight by eleven glossy photographs . . . these photographs that kept one awake for most of the night previous, appalled at the egregious display of feminine flesh, outraged at the flagrant way in which the correspondent stretches her limbs in an athletic, unfeminine manner . . . so wide! So confident! So flexible and soft, yet with a smile that hints of pleasures uncounted within her sweet embraces . . . her hair the color of cornsilk, yet softer than wings of a thousand butterflies, and sweeter-smelling than a lilac in bloom. . . . ahem. No, one will not be taken in!
Quickly reaching for one's cheques, one remains,
Lady Amanda writes:
Dear Lady Felicia,
I can't tell you how refreshing it was to hear someone remember me from the ball! Some people, though I shall mention no names, are of the opinion that I wore the same dress as the Princess Anne, not vice versa.
Mother was thrilled to hear from you again! She so looks forward to reading your column every week. I hope this letter finds you in good health, my lady, as my mother and I so dearly hope. It has occurred to me that I haven't had the pleasure of your presence since the ball at Derbyshire. I do dearly hope I will meet with you soon, as Lady Sara Wilson has invited me to a party of hers. Of course you shall be invited, for what sort of party would it be without you?
I want to thank you for your kind advice also. I have not given up the young gentleman (though he is not an ambassador) and I shall listen to my heart. Thank you so kindly.
The Lady Felicia replies:
My dear Lady Amanda,
Who has faced the jibes and barbs of many a self-styled critic more than I, I ask you, when it comes to the affaires du couture? Jealousy. That's all it is, my dear. Jealousy.
Do you recall the time, Lady Amanda, that I wore to the Somerset Heart of the Dark Continent Themed Ball and Whist Tournament my stunning gown trimmed with tigerskin and ivory beads, with matching elbow-length gloves of baby seal and my alligator purse? Why, you yourself said you had never seen me look so radiant. And one could tell, by the talk and the whispering, that one had aroused not only a sensation, by wearing the most scrumptious confection at the ball, but that one had aroused envy as well. Thus the comparisons to this 'Cruella de Ville' woman one has never heard of. One cannot find her in the peerage.
And oh, the shame, when the dirty 'animal rights activists' attempted to toss buckets of red paint upon one! Thankfully they missed completely, and hit one's husband instead. There's plenty of silk to be had for men's suits, but tigerskin and ivory are so dear in these sad days. Between you and I, Lady Amanda, one does believe that these ruffians were hired by the Honourable Lavinia Phrumpp, with whom both you and I have had contretemps in the past.
But one rises above the fray, when it comes to dress. And thus, my dear, should you.
Serenely, and with best regards to your mother, one remains
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