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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison


Dear John and Sheila,

Rachael and I are delighted to hear that you’re finally planning to visit England after so many years abroad.

We’re very glad that you’ll both be able to have dinner with us next month.

Before you arrive, you need to know about some changes in UK law since you last joined us for a dinner party.

You might have read in the UK newspapers a while back about a rise in the number of guests suing hosts for accidental injuries caused during social visits. It’s now obligatory for visitors to sign a disclaimer stating that they accept full responsibility for any trauma, physical or psychological, which may befall them.

We enclose two copies of the disclaimer form. Please sign one each, have them witnessed and return them to us at least fourteen days before your arrival so they can be registered with our solicitor.

Unfortunately, these disclaimers have sometimes been challenged in court. In a landmark case, a visitor to a coffee morning successfully sued her host for causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by revealing her husband’s marital infidelity. Public liability insurance is now required by anyone who plans to entertain social visitors.

As you’ll only be with us from 7.00 pm until midnight, we’re able to insure at only twenty pounds for the evening. It’s become etiquette for such costs to be divided between host and guest, so we hope you won’t mind enclosing a cheque for ten pounds when you return the above papers.

Also, please don’t be offended if we insist that you are off the premises before the cover lapses at midnight. It’s OK to carry on our conversation in the street.

I think we mentioned in our previous letter that we’ve been decorating Sophie’s bedroom. Regrettably, we’re not going to have time to finish painting the skirting boards before you arrive. This means that her room remains officially designated as a ‘construction site’ and ‘hard hat’ area, and so we won’t be able to show you the work we’ve done. In part that’s because we don’t have extra sets of protective clothing and equipment, but in any case a viewing would significantly raise the insurance cost.

I’m afraid that this designation also applies to the garden due to the water feature we’re building. We’re taking photographs for you of these areas and other parts of the house that the Law prevents you from visiting.

By the way, we hope it’s OK to have a pre-packed salad for dinner? Rachael hasn’t fully completed the relevant food hygiene certificates, and the insurance indemnity in relation to food poisoning requires this. In fact, until she’s properly certificated, she’s not legally allowed to re-enter our kitchen.

Finally, the insurance company insists that contemporaneous notes are kept of any conversations and activities undertaken with guests while on the premises. I gather this is so antecedents of events for which there might be a claim can, if necessary, be accurately reported in court.

Minute takers are in demand for this sort of thing at the moment, particularly on Saturday nights, and so, if we can’t get one, we wondered if Sheila, with her secretarial experience, could take the minutes of our evening?

Anyway, we look forward to seeing you soon.


Henry and Rachael.