Friday, May 09, 2008

Molesworth and personalised mail

People of my age and background may have spotted the Molesworth reference in my last post. I nicked this image from the St Custards website.

As a boarding school pupil I loved the Molesworth books* which normalised my odd experience of childhood. Our hero, Nigel Molesworth is at an archetypal prep school, St Custards, that I was convinced was modelled on my own.

His letters home start off as detailed accounts of his school-life, gradually homing in on test marks received, the latest school football match and the present he would like to be sent. Finally they come down to a form letter: (a) Maths 3/10 (b) St Cakes 4-0 (c) water pistol.

When my son Alex was about that age we were able to take advantage of modern technology to build a simlar mail merge system for his Christmas letters: the mail merge table contained a column with 'Granny, Aunt Marjorie, etc', another with a choice of suitable adjectives ('nice, interesting, great, brill') and third with a choice of gift ('cheque, book, WHSmith token', etc). It worked very effectively for several years.

*Written by Geoffrey Willans and illustrated by Ronald Searle, they were written in the mis-spelled voice of Molesworth. They are the origin of the Private Eye catchphrase 'as any fule kno'.