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The uncomfortable thank-you note

Everyone knows that if you say something with your arm twisted up your back it doesn't really count. Parents are normally as aware of this as everyone else. But there is one case when parents, particularly middle class parents, have a blind spot. And that is the 'Thank-you' note. (How do you spell that? Should it be 'Thank You' note? Who cares?)

I have broached this subject because Amazon, perhaps feeling guilty about avoiding paying tax, has turned into a nagging parent. I had turned some Nectar points into an Amazon gift certificate, applied it to my account and Amazon gave me a quick nudge in the ribs and said 'Oi! Where do you think you are going? Before you play with your new certificate, send Nectar a thank-you message like a good boy.' Leaving aside the amusement value of being asked to thank the piece of plastic that is my Nectar card, it made me think about thank-you notes and how much I hate them.

I can remember all too horribly that long drawn out process over several days attempting to get small children to write thank you notes, contemplating writing them with the left hand myself, and finally pinning them down long enough to scribble some platitudes. And to be honest they aren't always nice to receive either. When you receive that 3 page essay from little Marmaduke, complete with a few pencil sketches and an impromptu sonnet of praise for your gift of a handkerchief, the feeling is not one of pleasure but rather of guilt at never achieving this level of response.

Don't get me wrong. Thank-you's of the right kind are wonderful. When they aren't automatic responses, but someone takes the time to say 'Thanks for that book, it was absolutely brilliant,' who most of the time doesn't bother to thank you for gifts then you know it has really meant something. You get a little warm glow of self-congratulation. But the knee-jerk thank-you note (something I never experienced as a child because we weren't really middle class, and anyway I saw everyone who gave me presents most weeks) is not something I can warm to.

As to Amazon giving me a nanny nudge towards issuing a thank-you:

Dear Amazon,
Thank you so much for your unexpected reminder to issue a thank-you. It was a lovely surprise, just what I've always wanted. I will print it off and put it on the mantlepiece, alongside the invitation to the Lord Lieutenant's Ball. Super.
With much love,
For those of you who were fans of Searle & Willans' How to Be Topp, (and if you aren't a fan you should rush out and buy a copy now), I leave you with the Molesworth Self-Adjusting Thank-You Letter:

As an after xmas wheeze n. molesworth presents his self-adjusting thank-you letter. Cut out hours of toil pen biting wear on elbows blotches and staring out of windows.

Strike Out words with do not apply.

Dear (Aunt) (Uncle) (Stinker) (Gran) (Clot) (Pen-Pal)
Thank you very much for the (train) (tractor) (germ gun) (kite) (delicious present*) (sweets) (space pistol) (toy socks)

It was (lovely) (useful) (just as good as the other three) (not bad) (super)

And I hav (played with it constantly) (busted it already) (no patience with it) (given it to the poor boys) (dismantled it)

I am feeling (very well) (very poorly) (lousy) (in tip-top form) (sick) I hope you are too.

My birthday when next present is due is on . . . . . .

From . . . . . .

(Postage must be prepaid.)

* When you can’t remember what it was. 


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