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 firstname.lastname@example.org: 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 email@example.com: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org: 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
- A 23-carrot gold ring.
- Because he knows his plaice.
- A kangaroo with a speech impediment.
- One is in the know and the other is in the nose.
- A Chinese taxidermist.
- Because he saw the butter fly.
- One tests watches and the other watches Tests.