Fountain pens at the ready, it's Christmas card writing season once again.

For those not deterred by the prohibitive price of stamps, the etiquette of card-writing remains a potential minefield.

First of all, whom to include? What sins committed in the last 12 months are deemed so great as to result in a person being dropped? And then there is the question of whether to address new or intermittent partners; is cousin Sylvie still entrenched with that banker bloke or did they split again? As for the sign-off, can we get away with just our names or do we need to include something more thoughtful. Are round-robin letters ever socially acceptable?

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To address this latter quandary, the Middle Class Handbook has helpfully published a set of tips on its website on festive round-robin letter writing to ensure "the recipients aren't inspired to burn you in effigy".

Hints include cutting down on mentions of kids, toning down the smugness, including bad news and, most importantly, maintaining a self-depreciating tone. Giving one's life the Hello! magazine treatment may be tempting, but will only lead to resentment and social isolation.

CONTINUING on a festive theme, town centres across the land have been a focal point for festive wrath as local councils miss the mark with their yuletide entertainment. Children of Wolverhampton were left bereft when SpongeBob Square Pants was unable to mount the stage and switch on the Christmas lights due to access problems – his suit was too wide for the staircase. His subsequent meet-and-greet with the crowd was also curtailed to a measly 40 minutes as health and safety regulations stated that no human could endure any longer inside the foam suit without a break. Meanwhile in Hastings, residents hoping for a sprinkling of stardust were sorely disappointed when the mystery guest booked to open the Christmas market was none other than 90s one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes.

Closer to home, the good people of Alloa were left reeling in apparent wide-eyed horror following the unveiling of this year's Christmas tree. In place of the traditional fragrant pine, a rather severe-looking, plastic isosceles triangle has been installed as a cost-cutting measure. Bah, humbug.

SPORTING a swish new 'do this week, the Duchess of Cambridge has provided a lifeline for commentators who had run out of things to say about her high street chic and sensible shoes.

The delectable Kate has opted to have a Farrah Fawcett-style floppy fringe cut into her eye-catching tresses. Now, to many observers the addition of a fringe may seem like a mere trifling at the edges of a look –it's hardly a mohican, or even a bold bob – but when viewed alongside Her Madge and Princess Anne, who have sported the same barnets for a good half century, it's a radical move.

Indeed, I toyed with the notion of a fringe for a good number of years before finally submitting to the hairdresser's scissors. It took a leap of faith to overcome a hard-wired fear of bangs fostered by an early bowl cut/fringe combo which is immortalised, sadly, in a succession of devastating school photographs.

Post-chop, I have found that covering half your face in hair is most useful in concealing a multitude of imperfections, something bearded men clearly cottoned on to years ago.