Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Round Robins - Good or Bad?

It's the time of year when not only Christmas cards flop onto our doormat, a lot of them contain this year's crop of Round Robin letters as well. These have had a bit of a bad press of late, particularly as The Guardian political sketch writer Simon Hoggart has developed a whole income stream for himself by writing several books containing the worst examples readers have sent to him.

Now, I don't mind Round Robins at all. I look forward to receiving long newsy letters with my cards, especially as a number of my friends live so far away. They always bring a smile to my face when I get them. Having handwritten my letters for a number of years, I also understand how difficult it is to continue in this vein. I succumbed to the charms of word processing when I reached an annual tally of 15 (each one took about 3 hours to complete), now it's significantly more than that. I haven't had any bad examples like Simon's, though my brother-in-law does get one that's full of name dropping and consequently is a bit of a bore. The ones I receive are chatty, fun and a delight to receive. I hope mine are thought of in the same way - I did omit them one year and received anxious enquiries from several people as a result, so I know at least some of my friends and family do enjoy my annual missive.

Looking back at the genre, I see we've gone from handwritten -> photocopied -> word processed -> newsletter with pictures over the past few years. I'm still at the word processed stage, having not made the leap to include pictures. Going from single sided to double sided printing is a major advance as far as I'm concerned! Having had a blog for a while, I wonder if blogging will kill the Round Robin eventually because isn't it a perpetual version with all sorts of (optional) bells and whistles tacked on? Personally I believe there's a place for both. I don't think anyone else in my circle has a blog, so currently it would be difficult for us to keep in touch that way. And I don't think a private blog for my friends and family would work very well either. I did advertise my blog in last year's newsletter, but haven't had any positive response yet - unless you're all lurking here of course! If you are, do stop by with a Comment sometime. However, I do like adding individual (handwritten) messages at the end of my letters and continuing our conversation in a more personal (and more private) fashion. Some of that would be lost if we kept in touch via blogging.

Of course a more regular contact would be lovely, but I do understand why it doesn't happen. So, I'm looking forward to the Round Robin season once more and having a good catch up with everyone's news as well as writing my own this weekend. What do you think? Do you send a Round Robin or do you have another favourite way of keeping in touch with friends and family?

22 comments:

  1. I don't have any strong feelings either way, it is nice to catch up with friends news, and I usually enjoy reading them.

    I usually write inside the card on the left handside, which restricts how much I can say. I usually restrict it to generalities, a few words about the kids, work and so on. Consequently most my friends dont know I was ill this year unless they have contacted me in the past 3 months. It wasn't something I was going to include in an Xmas card either, so they remain blissfully unaware.

    Live and let live I say, be boring if we all behaved the same way.

    Zoë

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  2. Love 'em. All of them. Even the boastful ones. Those that mock obviously don't understand friendship. I have a feeling S Hoggart must be a sad old ...

    Joanna

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  3. Hi VP.

    The newsy personal letters are a joy to get. We have received a few that border on Hoggart book worthy; too bad we didn't keep them! We don't send them; just never have gotten into the habit. Most of our family and closer friends don't either. As a whole our family members are greeting card with short personal note senders and email and phone users.

    Gail

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  4. Personal letters are one thing but it's people who send exactly the same letter to 30 people who don't know each other that I find strange.
    Simon Hoggart's Round Robin comments brighten up my morning. Some of the letters are shockers!

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  5. VP .. Nope ! don't care for the perfectly word processed, bunch of boulogne, full of hot air .. silly ones, especially from people I have had no contact with for literally YEARS ! .. Why they send them to us is beyond my comprehension.
    Like Zoe in some respects .. "they" have no idea how seriously ill we both are and I'm sure would care so little if they did .. being in the military and moving so often .. well thankfully some people forget us too ! phew !

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  6. I certain don't mind them and have sent such things out maybe three or four times - mostly when our eldest was severely injured and lots wanted to know how he was.
    If the people who seem so vehemently opposed to the whole idea wrote personal letters themselves I'd sympathise with their objection but usually I suspect they just aren't bright enough to string their thoughts out coherently over a page of A4.

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  7. I love getting letters in Christmas cards, but they do need to be about people I know - some round robins are full of news about people I've never heard of. With that type it's usually all good news about how wonderfully they're all doing (gold medals, prizes, promotions etc.) - which strikes me as just boastful (and a bit fake). Like Zoë, I just tend to write on the card itself. I did put the URL of my blog on cards last year and have gained a few regular readers that way. As you've found, they don't seem to like leaving comments on the blog though!

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  8. I love getting these printout letters, VP! If I didn't, I'd never know a thing about distant friends and relatives, since, as you say, handwritten letters are pretty much a lost art. (I hand-write all my Christmas cards and insist on actually conveying content, but it takes about an hour a card, so my recipients are damned lucky to get one before Christmas!) I'd so much rather hear the news and have a chance to catch up with friends and relatives, even if only in my imagination, than get a blank generic card with a hand-written signature. Not everyone's a born writer, true, but it's the content that counts, not the style! And let's just say you're not alone in trying (and failing) to get family and friends to read your blog! My brother and one close friend read faithfully, bless 'em, but otherwise, it's definitely the kindness of strangers and blog friends that keeps me going! Sigh.

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  9. I do enjoy getting letters with cards at Christmas time but especially appreciate the hand written ones. Despite my good intentions, I usually leave things to the last minute, so like Zoe and Amanda I also write a few sentences on the inside of the card.The cards and the essential glass of sherry will be coming out tomorrow afternoon:)

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  10. I think it is great that people communicate with other and share. So often we are so busy that we do not around to writing a letter until Christmas.
    My Aunt kept up contacts from people she has known all her life, even from elementary school. Were she here today, I think she would have a blog.
    So, I love letters, emails whatever. I have not put together a facebook page, but my brother has. It is so incredible to hear from people from the past: my old teacher, friends, classmates. I could not believe how much older everyone looked, and yet just the same!
    :)
    It is a lot of fun.
    Best regards,
    Philip

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  11. I am not keen on them really - especially the ones that we used to receive with glowing references to their childrens amazing wonderfulness and achievements.
    Having said that - I am contemplating doing one because of our move to wales, I left a lot of really good friends behind. But the truth is I probably wont get around to it before the last posting date before Christmas ... When is that by the way? :)
    K

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  12. I understand Round Robins sometimes- like for example after my Godmother had a big op (involving a transplant) she sent one to all her well-wishers with just a few lines of personal note at the end. I can see how that is a good idea as she wasn't up to writing to everyone. And if you only have the same news for everyone, then why not?

    But as for the Xmas Round Robin, no, sorry. I hate these. I have two friends who do this and don't personalise them in any way, not even leaving the "Dear - " handwritten, or a personal PS to each person. Basically it's a newsletter, most of which will only be relevant to family members or people they see week in, week out (hence the in-jokes).
    I'm afraid I give them scarcely a quick glance,then drop them into the bin.

    I think that's probably pretty harsh but hey ho. I feel insulted. It's only once a year. Start early. Start in November. Write a few lines for each person in their card. And frankly if that's too much effort, don't bother telling me your news anyway!!!!

    Sorry. Wrong time of the month ;)


    (HAHAHA the word veri. thing is saying "MONES" !!!!)

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  13. Pssst.........VP!!! VP!!! Good news over on my blog!! Come and see!! :@D

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  14. I wasn't sure what you meant with round robin, but then figured out is was a Christmas letter. I prefer the telephone or email rather than those letters in the cards myself, but like you said, I guess I understand why personal contact doesn't always happen regularly. I am glad I am not the only one who really does not like them.

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  15. We sent them for several years when they were the thing, but he-who-does-the-Christmas-cards has resorted to handwriting individual greetings and information now.
    Like others, I like to hear the news of people I care about, but become glazed at the academic prowess/promotion genius of some of our "friends".It seems so "Un-Brittish".
    I think perhaps round robin letters are doomed. Rather like blogs are apparently. : O

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  16. Hi everyone - what a variety of opinions you all have! Perhaps I should have done a Poll too?! There seems to be an even split amongst you - Love, Loathe, Message in Card and a variety of methods(especially e-mail/Phone Calls).

    Judging by your remarks, it looks we're fortunate to have friends and family who don't overachieve or name drop. We're just normal, average people, so our news doesn't grate like it does with some of you.

    To those of you who think a Round Robin is a sign of not caring, I'd like to say I take a great deal of care over mine. The newsletter bit is for the news I'd tell everyone (writing that bit over 30 times would get pretty tedious) and then I hand-write a personalised paragraph or two on top of that. If I did it any other way I just couldn't get them done. As for my style, I do try and write them in a similar style to my blog, so that should give you a bit more of an idea of what they're like.

    I was interested in what the card message people had to say too. Whilst I prefer it to just a signed card (no news is bad news in my book), I do prefer lots of news, even if it's a newsletter style. I love a long read :)

    Thanks for all your comments - it's good to have a bit of a debate :)

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  17. They do seem to divide opinion, don't they? I get some which are fairly dull (mostly the ones which are all about my friends' children - I want to hear about my friends, not the children I've never met), and others which are an annual treat - well-written and funny. I don't think we get any boasting ones. Overall I'm with our friend Ben - I'd much rather get a photocopied newsletter than a card with just a signature and no news at all!

    I must admit I normally write a round robin - I'm not well enough to spend time/energy hand-writing notes in all my cards, and I like to think my friends would also rather get a photocopy than an information-free card. This year I haven't written one though - we didn't feel we had any news! - and we've written something to the effect of "nothing has changed since last year" in all our cards. I wonder whether the majority of our friends will be disappointed or relieved?!

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  18. I have been sending out Christmas newsletters off and on for several years, mainly to show off pictures of my grandchildren! I usually get positive feedback from them, and I do enjoy getting them as well. Some people do get a little carried away, though, such as the relative who went into great detail about his colon operation:)

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  19. Dear VP

    The Townshend Family have had an absolutely wonderful year this year, what with finally getting to meet of all of Brad and Angelina's wonderful children! The setting (at George Clooney's Lake Como villa) couldn't have been any more fabulous, and appropriate! We will be celebrating Christmas this year by roasting a pig from our own estates which is absolutely free-range, organic, and happy - and serving it with vegetables from our own biodynamic vegetable garden!
    Wishing you could be more like us all the time,
    Emma xxxxxxxxx

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  20. Juliet - I bet you had a better year than you think. I do hope so :)

    Rose - yes, I tend not to dwell on the bad bits (just a few details) and go for the positive things. Bit like my blog really.

    My dearest EmmaT,

    So glad you've been whooping it up with the stars and having a lovely time :)

    Things have been much the same as ever here too. NAH and I have been tugging at our hairshirts and are anxiously awaiting a return to more comfortable apparel as soon as we've recovered from our various bits of surgery that have taken place this year.

    Presents will be on the rather sparse side I'm afraid, owing to our reduced circumstances - we have been forced to knit them all from NAH's beard clippings, plus the combings from Skimble and Jess' fur, collected fastidiously over the year. I'm hoping my knitted potted cactus will be a suitable gift for you - this should be one houseplant you should be able to look after without any problems?

    Our Christmas fare will be whatever I can glean from the hedgerows assuming the squirrels haven't bagged the lot; washed down with a bottle of supreme 20-year old sloe wine of course.

    Love n' stuff

    VP
    xxx

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  21. that has made me laugh and laugh.....

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  22. Emma - I couldn't resist ;D

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