Tuesday 18 December 2007

What a card

A few years ago I was visiting my popular next door neighbours at around this stage in December, when I noticed something odd about their sitting room. Where were the dozens of Christmas cards that I would normally expect to see occupying every flat surface, from the sideboard to the piano, not to mention being liberally festooned across their walls?

In answer to my question, a powerfully built octogenarian, widely revered as the area’s leading repository of folk wisdom, delivered the following verdict: “What’s the point of putting the bloody things up? You only have to take them down again.”

I instantly adopted the same approach in my own house, and felt no sense of loss. The trouble is moving on to the next logical stage and not sending any cards. Every year around October I decide that I’m definitely not going to bother this time. Then in November I weaken and order 150 personalized cards. It’s always 150, because I look at my list and work out that I actually need about 102, and you can only order them in multiples of 50. If any of my near neighbours fancies a substantial number of tasteful cards with a reasonable approximation to their address printed in them, and you don’t mind tippexing off my name, I can offer you an outstanding deal.

The box of cards has been sitting by my desk since the beginning of the month, and I’ve got thoroughly sick of tripping over it. But I haven’t actually summoned the energy to open it. As it happens, I am in the habit of e-mailing a substantial number of my friends each week, so today I take the opportunity to repeat next door’s aperçu and suggest that we skip an exchange of cards in 2007. I receive a number of replies, none of them containing the expected words “Great idea – Merry Christmas!” Instead, they can all be summarized as “You miserable bastard”.

I truly cannot see the point of sending a printed card to people one sees every day. And as for the people one never sees, what use is there in just sending them a signed card? To make the exercise worthwhile, one surely has to provide some supplementary information on one’s own life and make some solicitous enquiries about theirs. In a personalized sort of way, so that one does not end up producing one of those self-congratulatory round robins that come in for so much ridicule (though personally I have to confess that I rather like them).

So that’s my fate sealed, then. If I spend every day until the end of the week writing cards, I might just get all 102 of them into the post in time for them to arrive on Christmas Eve. Which will, with any luck, embarrass several people who have decided not to bother sending cards this year.

No comments: