Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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December 14, 1998 Picture: A Portrait of the Author as a Smug ManDear Mr Claus,

As usual, one does not write for oneself. One would stoop to assume that the blessed holiday of Christmas existed merely for the base purpose of making out lists of prezzies that one would like to receive. Why, that would make the entire holiday a sham! People would be frantically making Machiavellian calculations of what to buy their friends and relatives that would elicit the maximum amount of giftage to themselves while costing them the least amount of pounds. Individuals would rigorously cross off their Christmas card lists those who did not return their pre-printed holiday greetings the previous year, on the grounds that they are not worth the postage.

And as we both know, Santa, that is not the sort of thing that happens this time of year.

No, one is not writing for oneself. If one did, one would be making very plain right about now that one could really do without another cravat, this year. One can only have so many. No, what one would really like--if one were actually asking for presents for oneself, which one is definitely not doing--would be a sumptuous smoking jacket in Persian silk handspun by little Persian grandmothers in an elegant paisley pattern in the shades of sepia and mauve. Oh, and a girl from the village to polish one's collection of ancient Indian brass spittoons in the shapes of the Kama Sutra, once a week. Twice if she was a pretty little thing. And of course, one would ask that the 'Furby' craze be carried on a little past Christmas. Last year the bottom fell out of 'Tickle Me Elmos' so quickly, and one had to reinvest rather hastily in the Kathie Lee Gifford line at 'K-Mart'.

At any rate, one is not asking for anything tangible for oneself. That wouldn't be the point at all of this joyful holiday season, or this letter to you.

Rather, one merely craves your ear for a moment or two so that one might express a few more abstract wishes for the holiday season. Naturally one wishes for peace on earth, and goodwill to all. That is the best present of which one can think. But one has a few suggestions of how to go about it. After all, Santa, you've not been that efficient about it in the past.

Item one: Goodwill would be so much more easy to distribute if there weren't so many idiots roaming the face of the earth. Out they should go, Santa. Begin with the fellows who perform 'wheelies' on their tractor lawn mowers. Next, let the ambulances arrive late at the homes of those homeowners who feel compelled to string their homes with electrical lights while standing on a conductive metal ladder on a rainy evening. And those who, on the first day of a freeze, stare at the river and decide that the thin, uncertain layer of tentative ice will suffice to hold their all-terrain four wheel drive 'spit-utility vehicle'? Let them disappear beneath the water, Santa. We're better off without them.

Item two: Peace on earth. It would be quite a P.R. coup if you were to pull this one off, old chap. It strikes one that it would be so much easier to achieve if nations didn't have pesky differences between them. Religion, for example. And politics, certainly. And of course those nuisancy American spellings of proper British words. One suggests that you allow Great Britain once more to become the dominant world power with a proper conservative government, and allow us to assimilate all the nations of the world into our empire so that we might erase these differences with the King James Bible in one hand and an edition of Mrs Grundy's Etiquette: The British Way in the other.

Just a suggestion, Santa. But you never know . . . with all the corporate takeovers these days, you never know when your little workshop might be taken over by another with similar forward-thinking ideas. (One's solicitors are looking into it right now, as a matter of fact.)

For year another Christmas season, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Brian writes:

Picture: A Croupier's TargetDear Sir,

Would you please advise me on a matter of gratuity.  We are staying at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas.  The stay has been wonderful and the service world class.   What is the rule for tipping when it comes to the housekeeping staff?  I know tipping the bell desk, room service, and other services is expected, but should we leave a sum for the housekeeping staff?


Sir Charles replies:

My dear lad,

One's understanding of the prevailing etiquette in :Las Vegas is as follows: The correct manner of tipping is simply to empty your wallet and purse of their credit cards and cash onto the centre of your bed's coverlet. Place your return fare aeroplane ticket on top, as well as the deed to your sports car. Carefully folding the coverlet's four corners towards the middle, create a nice sack to carry your worldly goods. Proceed downstairs to the craps table, whereupon you dump your loot into the middle of the table and walk away.

The casino manager will thereupon present you with a coupon for their special $3.95 All You Can Eat Reheated Pot Pie buffet, bringing your visit to the City of Sin to a fitting and gluttonous close.

Sincerely, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Charlotta writes:

Dear Father,

I know that one does not prefer for me to address him by that name, but I must for I am tired of being one of your dirty little secrets.  I am even more ashamed to be the result of such horrible circumstances. 

I am writing to express my disgust in the way you treat your illegitimate children, of which there are so many that if each one of us were to cry just one tear, it would fill enough tubs to give all of England and her territories a bath!  I am now sixteen years old father, and I was wondering if I will be getting a gift this Christmas? 

If I do not, I shall be forced to let the world know the circumstances surrounding my conception and birth.  It will not be pretty. 

Suggesting that you get off your bloody fat arse and get to shopping, one remains ever so threatening,
Your--at the moment--loving daughter,
Charlotta Grandiose

P.S.  I will also need to be added to you will as the recipient of the bulk of your estate.

Sir Charles replies:

My dear little extortionist,

How lovely it is to receive one's yearly demand from one's alleged daughter. One can virtually set one's pocketwatch by its arrival.

Once again, my dear, one makes the usual protests. One is not your father. One could not be your father. One already has a loving wife to whom one has pledged fidelity and all that other guff. One has never strayed from the highways of faithfulness into the dirty back roads of adultery. In fact, one has never even met your mother. (Is she well, by the way? How is that little rash of hers?)

And once again, one must state emphatically and unshakably: One will not stand for this base blackmail, especially when one is as innocent as a newborn lamb.

One remains paternally, yet not linked to the correspondent by virtue of genetic inheritance,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Postscript: One hopes the correspondent likes the 'chunky' cloisonnČ necklace that one took from . . . er, that is, that the Lady Felicia sends with her gentle regards.

Col. Ponsonby Verne de Bryce-Fortesqu writes:

Picture: Nice KittyDear Sir Charles,

Permit me to introduce myself:

My name is Colonel The Honourable Ponsonby Verne de Bryce-Fortesqu, Officer Commanding Her Majesty's 13th Light Poltroons.

I have a question, Sir, of the utmost delicacy. I assumed command of the 13th but two days ago, having spent a wearying three months sailing to India around the Cape. Dashed uncomfortable it was too, but I digress.

My question, Sir, is as follows.

I find that as part of my duties I am expected to host various and frequent entertainments for the local populace. My predecessor here in Bangalore, was Colonel Hercules Grytpype-Thynne, splendid fellow, related to the Somerset Thynnes, I believe. Anyhow, be that as it may, he was recalled to London after a particularly nasty incident during which a tiger from the local forests came in through the window during the fish course. As one can imagine, there was a frightful uproar and Colonel Grytpype-Thynne was forced to dispatch the blighter. Unfortunately, he was recalled before he had the opportunity to brief me in local customs.

Now I know that this is something of a frightful bore, Old Chap, but I should be remiss in not asking. Does etiquette allow one to defend oneself with the steak knife during these incursions or must one stick with the knife appropriate to the course?

This kind of rum do just doesn't happen at Horse Guards, Old Chap, and I should so hate to make a melon of myself in front of the local Gentry.

Your advice would be most welcome.

I have the honour to remain, Sir,
Your most loyal and obedient servant,
de Bryce-Fortesqu.

Sir Charles replies:

Honourable Colonel,

Though of course it is the British Gentleman's duty to maintain the niceties, there are times of emergency when they may be temporarily suspended. Naturally, the point in question here would be whether the dinner in question is or is not formal. If the tiger were to leap through the window during a casual dinner party for sixteen, for example, grabbing one's beefsteak knife and doing away with the wretched beast would be perfectly acceptable.

At a regimental affair or at a dinner to which a peer of the realm has been invited, however, one is afraid you might have to make do with the fish knife, old bean. The ladies might faint, otherwise.

In one's element, one remains
Sir Charles Grandiose

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