Please destroy after reading

Here’s an infallible method for remembering your PIN. However, before accessing the information, you have to key in your username and secure password (at least six digits) by pressing on the appropriate letters in the headline above.

Never divulge your password to another person. Do not write it down and then leave the piece of paper where people might expect to find it, for example in the same place you hid the 17-digit customer reference number your gas supplier took the trouble to choose for you personally.

Don’t make your password easy to guess. Don’t choose the nickname you had at school, because criminal gangs will access Friends Reunited, kidnap one of your contemporaries and torture him until he divulges your nickname. I reckon someone like old James Broad would crack easily in a minute or two.

Oh heck, now hundreds of people all over the world are at their computers, keying in the password “chunder”, and all Broad’s financial secrets are popping up on their screens. In the circumstances, I think I’ll give the old boys’ reunion a miss.

And don’t choose your dog’s name as your password. Criminals lurk in parks listening for people calling their dogs, then rush back to their lairs and use these passwords to order lowbrow books from Amazon.

I think it’s nice to have an intellectual password for Amazon; it impresses them. That’s why I chose “Gustave ” which is Flaubert’s first name. On second thoughts, it could be “Honoré “, for Balzac.

On the whole, mobile phone companies don’t go overboard for French literature, so, as a password, “Gustave” would be wasted on them. You need something that springs easily to mind – “amnesia” is certainly a candidate, but I think “divulge” is a good one, and quite euphonious. Then, as one is always needing new passwords for internet transactions, you can move on to “disclose”, “reveal”, “betray” and so on.

It’s a good idea to have, stored in your mobile, the number of a trusted friend you can call when you need to know what your own mobile phone number is. It would probably now be unwise to burden Broad with this duty.

You are not always at your best when talking on the telephone to your bank and it’s easy to become confused when they ask you, for security purposes, for the fourth letter of your mother’s maiden name. That’s why I have a large letter B painted on my sitting room wall. The B stands for “bathroom”, and reminds me that’s where I’ve hidden the shredder. The fourth letter of my mother’s maiden name is written on the bottom of the shredder.

It can also be hard to concentrate when there is a terrible racket coming from your burglar alarm because the dog (which, for security reasons, shall remain nameless) has accidentally set it off at two in the morning.

You have to key in those secret digits to silence it, but all you can remember at the time is the numbers you always pick for the Lottery. The noise is beginning to disorientate you and you are now trying to key in the postcode of your last address but one, followed by your extension number at the office and the combination of your locker at the gym.

By the way, never use your spouse’s birthday as your burglar alarm password; underworld gangs are constantly trawling through mountains of birth certificates, so that they can break into your house, silence the alarm and then steal your shredder, before cutting a swathe though your bank direct debits with the fourth letter of your mother’s maiden name.

It’s much better to use the birthday of your secret lover. If you don’t have a secret lover, it’s certainly worth considering getting one, simply for PIN purposes.

As the ringing in the ears continues, you begin to wonder if it was perhaps a genuine break-in. Maybe Broad, seeking revenge, has forced his way into the house and is, at this moment, spitefully painting over the letter B in the sitting room and replacing it with a mystifying W. On the other hand, it could be someone from Amazon who has popped in through a back window for a chat about Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

The answer is to put all your pins, user names and passwords in one place. Divulge them to a discreet and sympathetic person in customers services at your gas supply company, then ring at any time of day or night, remembering to quote your 17-digit customer reference number. When ID cards arrive, things will be a little more complicated.

Post-Christmas inquiry

The public inquiry, conducted by the distinguished judge Lord Hindsight, into the Events Occurring on 25th December enters its sixth day today.

Here are some of the questions that Lord Hindsight will have to consider: when the Wilkinsons arrived on Christmas morning, did anyone notice the manner in which Marjorie Wilkinson slammed the car door? Should Mr David Truscott (the host) have spotted the door-slamming, realised that it was a sign of trouble to come and warned his wife, Julia? Whose responsibility was it to stop the New Zealand Cousin singing the show-offy descant in the spontaneous outburst of Noel Noel?

The judge will also have to consider if it had been foreseen that charades could occur and what steps had been taken to prevent them. One of the mysteries he will have to solve is, who was in the know, about the New Zealand Cousin’s second allergy? Although all relevant people had been informed of the cranberry hazard, the second allergy came as a surprise.

The judge is also expected to decide whether the remarks made by Martin Truscott (aged nine) about the gravy went beyond the bounds of fair comment.

The inquiry is expected to last several months, but, by the end of it, we should know what role, if any, was played by the Vegetarian Niece. She is, of course, the 14-year-old daughter of Julia Truscott’s sister Dawn and her husband, Clive Minter. It is thought that Clive Minter’s position as brother-in-law could be under threat when Lord Hindsight produces his findings.

Today, the New Zealand Cousin will be giving evidence from behind a screen. Yesterday the Granny spent three hours on the witness stand, but gave very little away, sticking to her story that she had spent the whole day eating chocolates and Turkish Delight and looking at family photograph albums. She strongly denied suggestions that she had been responsible for the “killer photo-message” sent from a mobile telephone in the house. She insisted that the only time she left the room was to arrange her eight new bars of soap in order of fragrance.

Supporters of Marjorie Wilkinson say that she spent 25 minutes alone, walking up and down the garden, because she wanted to have a cigarette without troubling other people. However, evidence has been given to the inquiry that she gave up smoking four years ago. One theory is that her time in the garden was a result of the notorious Stuffing Altercation. (Mrs Wilkinson had been a member of the sage and onion faction, which lost out to the campaigners for chestnut and sausage meat.)

One of Lord Hindsight’s recommendations is likely to be that, in future, the stuffing question should be negotiated and agreed by all interested parties, not later than 25th November.

It has been suggested that Mrs Wilkinson’s presence in the garden may have some connection with the earlier slamming of the car door, possibly following an in-car dispute with Mr Wilkinson.

No evidence has so far been produced to connect Mrs Wilkinson’s visits to the garden (three or four altogether) with the smuggling of mince pies and various alcoholic beverages to the five members of the Anti-War Street Theatre Group hiding in the garden shed. It remains the likeliest theory that the theatre group had links to the Vegetarian Niece.

No one has yet come forward to admit to have pulled the crucial cracker with young Martin Truscott which led to Martin crawling under the table to search for the novelty – believed to be a Homer Simpson key-ring. It was while looking for the novelty that Martin saw certain things occurring underneath the table. When he re-emerged and started to report what he had seen, attempts were made to silence him. The evidence of Clive Minter (the brother-in-law) will be crucial here. As will the testimony of Marjorie Wilkinson. Could what happened under the table have led to her taking up smoking again?

Mr and Mrs Leadbetter will be travelling from Leeds to appear before Lord Hindsight’s inquiry. They are expected to say that the Truscotts had specifically informed them that they were not invited for Christmas this year because they (the Truscotts) were having “a very quiet time” on their own.

The Leadbetters are likely to show the inquiry the “killer photo-message” they received on the day, showing all the family and guests (in festive paper hats) coming to the assistance of the New Zealand Cousin, who was just reaching the point of crisis in her allergic attack.

The Vegetarian Niece has now acknowledged that it was probably an error of judgment to invite the five members of the Anti-War Street Theatre Group into the house to join in the game of charades. It will be up to Lord Hindsight to decide if Mrs Truscott acted out of malice when “Sparky” (shawm player and leader of the street theatre group) acted out End the Occupation of Iraq and she guessed Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

It will be important to establish at what point in time exactly, in the ensuing confusion, it was realised that “Sparky” and the Granny were missing. Were adequate steps taken to track them down? Did nobody report the absence of the shawm?

Lord Hindsight is also expected to rule on the legality of the Druid-style marriage of “Sparky” and the Granny solemnised in a woodland clearing in the vicinity of the M4. Finally, he will draw up a list of recommendations to ensure that such Christmases never occur again.

A selection of emails sent in preceding days

From dear wilkinsons, so glad you can come. must warn you that zinnia the new zealand cousin is descending on us … wont let it spoil things. remembering last time, we are removing all cranberries within a six-mile radius.

From hi, bob and sue. sorry, am doomed to go to dread sister in law this xmas. Used singaporean yuppie flu excuse 3 years running and car packing up on motorway twice before that. Let’s do a proper christmas on dec 29th. will have to bring dear daughter. she’s still vegetarian but sometimes almost human.

From dear truscotts, as you know, george is an extremely nervous driver so I am afraid we must refuse to pick up your granny on the way to you. am absolutely adamant about this.

Some text messages sent from the Granny’s mobile

It’s gr8. I am now entirely au f8 with this text messaging business.

Sorry can’t come and celebr8 with u. I will have to 4go that pleasure. I had completely 4got10 that I am going to truscotts. I feel very upside down smiley about this. It puts me in a satur9 mood.

It will be most un4tun8 if Marjorie Wilkinson is there on Christmas Day. I h8 her. She always makes me feel totally and utterly discombobul8ed.

Answers to the cracker riddles

  1. A 23-carrot gold ring.
  2. Because he knows his plaice.
  3. A kangaroo with a speech impediment.
  4. One is in the know and the other is in the nose.
  5. A Chinese taxidermist.
  6. Because he saw the butter fly.
  7. One tests watches and the other watches Tests.

F14 virus warning

Can the deadly F14 virus (commonly known as Valentine flu) be passed on from chocolates to humans? Scientists say there is no immediate cause for alarm but the next ten days will be crucial in seeing if the virus can be contained. In the worst case scenario 75% of the country could be infected with a pandemic of swooning, extreme soppiness and a certain queasiness.

One theory is that the virus entered this country in a consignment of coffee crème chocolate filling from Bulgaria. That consignment is now being analysed by scientists, but this could take several weeks. Meanwhile, panic-stricken shoppers who dumped millions of tons of Turkish Delight into the sea at Lyme Regis have been denounced as unduly alarmist by the Department of Health.

A spokesman for the Confectionery Safety Authority says that the risk of contacting Valentine flu from a chocolate is minuscule, but, as a precaution, people should avoid feeding hazelnut whirls to small dogs. Young women in a fragile emotional state are advised to avoid heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, especially those tied with red ribbon.

A greeting-card factory in Northamptonshire has been isolated while a 120-strong team of poetry experts in protective suits has been working 24 hours a day to read every single line of verse printed in the cards. “It’s possible that the F14 virus could be spread through a dodgy rhyme,” explained said their Deputy Director of Lyrical Resources. “This is very arduous work and the poets involved run a serious risk of catching doggerel fever.”

In a nationwide television broadcast today, the poet laureate urged the public to continue to read poetry and simply avoid undue exposure to words that rhymed with “blue”. Yesterday a 27-year-old librarian was forced off a bus in Exeter after a woman thought she overheard him saying something about “a heart so true”.

The Postal Safety Council has decided that it is safe to continue to send greetings cards but the sender should make a point of signing the card, so that, if it does contain some tainted rhyme, it can be traced back to its source.

The Home Office warns that terrorists may attempt to spread the deadly F14 virus through deliberately infected messages in newspaper Personal columns. It is sending out a reminder that all silly pet-names used in these messages must be registered (plus a full explanation of their origin) with the Home Office before 12th February.

The current scare could have a disastrous effect on Britain’s rose-growing industry, which has issued statements pointing out that no link between roses and the virus has been established and that every single rose sent out will be checked and disinfected. Members of the public have been told it is their patriotic duty to buy extra roses this year.

Campaigners are arguing that the possibility of a Valentine flu epidemic is the direct result of the rose-growers’ methods of intensive cultivation. With roses forced together in bunches, they say, it’s not surprising that the virus gets passed from stem to stem. The Campaigns Co-ordinator of the militant group Friends of the Greenfly posted a message on the group’s website saying “the murderous junta of rose-growers have had this coming to them for years”. The Cellophane Board is launching a massive advertising campaign on the theme “cellophane protects your loved ones” to counteract rumours that the virus is spread through the wrappers on bunches of roses.

Can candlelit dinners help to spread the virus? The head of the Wax Studies Department at the University of Lochboisdale says there is no evidence that the virus is spread by candle fumes. But it is possible that the candle could set up a reaction with nearby pink cocktails to create swooning, temporary blurring of the vision, rapid heartbeat, heavy breathing and impaired judgment – which are similar to the symptoms of Valentine flu. Should couples refrain from holding hands across a candlelit table? “In my view,” she says, “it is reasonably safe to hold hands, but it would be sensible for both parties to wear surgical gloves.”

Keep your eyes peeled until 15th February and should you notice anything amiss you won’t be able to say that you weren’t warned in advance.