Emails from papa

For some reason I was looking through some of the earliest emails in my Gmail recently, and found these, from early December 2006, when I was living in Sheffield and had evidently sent some sort of cheeky package to my father. I can’t remember what was in the parcel now but I love the banter.

My dad has a great sense of humour, with a good dollop of madness when the occasion suits. In that sense we’re similar – a conversation between us can often veer off into the imaginary or bizarre. I think this was especially true when I was younger – late teens or early twenties, when I was at my most confident and playful. Being absurd was just normal. I’d like to inject a little more absurdity into my day to day life.

Photo: My papa, some time ago…


Subject: parcel arrived covered with snow and ice

Quoting david smith:

Hello Julia,

A parcel has arrived from the frozen wastes of the North. The postmark, very blearly as it has been badly chewed by a polar bear, looks as though it came from somewhere called snefold? Or could it be snefwich? Hard to tell.

Anyway it is addressed to your loving Father. It rattles a lot.

Is it, my precious daughter, a Christmas present or can I open it now please?


D E Smith wrote:


As it isn’t from me and the sender is therefore completely anonymous, I’d guess you should open it up quick as can be! After all, it’s too early for Christmas and it hasn’t got Christmas stamps on it. Though I don’t know that, as it isn’t from me.

Did I mention that it isn’t from me?

Love you lots and lots
and chocolate drops
and ships and yachts
and vodka shots
and jelly tots
and complex knots.

Julia xx

Quoting david smith:


Well if it isn’t from you perhaps it is a bomb? Did I mention that it is covered with snow? It could be from Moscow or Shnovlostok..

Well I’ll open it then.

Love you lots with smudgy ink blots


P.S. I’ve opened it “ah bless it must be his age”. If it had come from you I would of course be very upset but I am just grateful that I have a daughter who is more sensitive to her father’s feelings… Your mother laughed like a drain – not a pretty sight…

D E Smith wrote:


Where does the phrase ‘to laugh like a drain’ come from I wonder?

Quoting david smith:

You obviously don’t spend enough time watching and listening to water pouring down a drain after a good rainstorm. Does the sound of the water pouring through make a sound similar to water? Or if you laugh whilst pointing your face in the direction of the drain which must be amongst the top 100 things to do before you reach 30 does the drain laugh back at you?

Or is it a mistranslation of an old viking proverb… “Ja Erik the Red he laughs very heartily” “Ja Erik” was mistranslated to “drain”.



PS My dad calls me Julia. It’s not my name, but it is a long story.

PPS To ‘laugh like a drain’ was first recorded by Eric Partridge in A dictionary of forces’ slang 1939–45 as ‘Ward-room and also Army officers’ slang’. It’s listed in my beautiful Brewer’s as “To laugh noisily or coarsely, like water gurgling down a drain” so it seems papa was right.

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