What a Card!

Just as the sending of holiday postcards has [mercifully] almost completely died out, the sending of Christmas cards is a dwindling occupation, according to recent news articles. Reasons given include the cost of postage and the rise of popularity of social media.

In our household we still send cards, although in a true portent of how life will become in the future, the number of cards we must send has reduced.

Among those of us [mostly older] who uphold the tradition of sending cards there are various methods of acquisition, from those who manufacture their own-from family photos or recycling last years’ to my own preferred method of buying charity cards. The purchase of the cards is probably the most pleasurable part of the process, since many of the major charities’ cards are sold by volunteers in our local library along with wrapping paper, gift tags and so on.

I am sorry to say that my criteria for choosing are not altogether altruistic in the sense that I tend to choose by design rather than choice of charity. This year, for example I was much taken by a design featuring a shelf of books on winter and Christmas-related topics. Steering clear of anything religious I eschew biblical scenes such as the night sky over a fictitious Bethlehem, camels, three ships or whimsical stables. I also reject ‘humour’ in the form of comical Santas, reindeer or snowmen in cartoon poses. I don’t like glittery snow scenes either.

It must be tricky for card designers to produce originality nowadays. Old masters are acceptable, as is anything well drawn or a stunning piece of photography.

With a few exceptions the writing of Christmas cards is not a task I enjoy. The exceptions are the cards for people with whom I have little contact apart from this. There is a friend from student days, a friend from single-dom days [whose card, by tradition must be from one ‘Archers’ character to another; this year it was from Lilian to Justin-a story line only die-hard Archers fans will understand].

In an unprecedented effort, this year’s cards were written early in the month. This was in order to apprise those of a Luddite nature that we have moved house. There are few of them, now-friends and relations who do not use email, let alone social media.

As we begin to receive cards it is clear that the early writing formula has succeeded, with cards from the ‘once-a-year’ contacts plus a smattering of cards from our neighbours. Notable among these is a ‘home-made’ card from the single gentleman at number 2. He has already done sterling service as the basis for the character, Jeffery Marsh in my story ‘The Courtyard Pest’ [see last month’s posts for the story] and has much more potential for creative fact and fiction. The card, in a large manila envelope is shoved through our letter box. An autumn leaf has been glued on to a piece of gold card-clearly recycled from some packaging, although one corner of the card is missing as if torn off. There is some hastily scrawled writing ‘Happy Xmas’ in red, replicated as Happy New Year inside. Has he taken irony to an unprecedented level? We can only hope…

p1020533

Advertisements

Pouring Cold Water on the Challenge

I realise it makes me into a bit of a humbug-but I have to confess to feelings of relief that the blanket high-jacking of social network sites from the ‘ice bucket challenge’ is beginning to subside. I was just a little tired of watching yet another acquaintance saying something to camera [I don’t know what as I have a tendency to leave the sound off] having water poured over them and exclaiming loudly with their hair and clothes plastered to their skin. But it was for Charideee, of course, which means it must have been a great thing- wasn’t it?
Charities do good work and those who work selflessly for them are to be admired. In these recent times of austerity and financial recessions they have suffered from lower incomes and less giving. So I suppose anyone who comes up with a wacky, ‘fun’ and different idea for fund raising is to be clutched at.
I can never quite understand how those prolonged treks and cycle rides in foreign parts constitutes fund raising-it always appears [and shoot me down if I am wrong] that those who take part are actually enjoying an exciting piece of travel courtesy of those who’ve kindly donated to their particular cause. At least the iced water doesn’t look exotic and desirable.
But isn’t there more than just a bit of smug, do-good, aren’t I generous?/a good sport/a fun-loving sort about such viral challenges as the ice bucket? Why do those taking part need us to see them? Why not go out into the garden, or yard, or car park and tip a bucket of cold water over your head then go indoors and have a cup of tea? Or go and have a bath in some baked beans, shower off and go and dig the garden? Of course, it must not only be filmed, reader-it must be shared on a social network. Why? Well, because a]All your friends must know what a big-hearted, selfless and philanthropic person you and b]You will have been nominated by another fun, generous person-demonstrating that you are also popular and a ‘good egg’.
Wouldn’t it be a great world that had no charities at all in it-because they were never necessary-because the richest, fittest, most advantaged people’s incomes were taxed enough to cover funds to address disease/famine/injury/social deprivation et al; or better still, that the most advantaged gave from their free will, without recourse to iced water, baked bean baths, shaved heads, prolonged cycling or taxation. I know there are those who do contribute a great proportion of their wealth, quietly, without publicising the fact or using it to promote themselves. Good for them.
I doubt the respite will be long. There will be another daft series of selfie videos in due course. In the meantime I’m revelling in the lull.

Give all you like…Just don’t keep telling me!

                I am sorry to be banging on about Facebook yet again, but whilst I have no wish to leave it [yet] there are elements that I do find irritating and the particular issue I’m tired of this week is pleas for sponsorship.

               OK. This makes me sound humbug enough to get haunted by ghosts dragging chains, I know. I should be reading all these stories of children with wasting diseases, mums who’ve died of cancer, heroes who’ve fought for queen and country and had bits blown off, poor, emaciated donkeys and the deprived local tennis club with tears in my eyes and then rushing to dig out my credit card immediately. I should revere those who are selflessly walking, swimming, jogging, knitting, singing or cycling their way to £10.50 or whatever their target figure is and should be thoroughly ashamed not to be following their shining example or even accompanying them in their respective crusades. Shame on me!

                 But actually, where charities are concerned, to me it is personal. I am not averse to inserting some loose change into the occasional collecting tin, provided the cause is worthy in my eyes, but on the whole I want the choice. I want to choose who I donate to, when I donate and how much. I don’t want to be reminded on a daily basis that this or that FB acquaintance is of such a saintly disposition they are giving of their time for such a selfless act whereas I am content to slob around at home heedless of the plight of such victims as they have elected to support.

                   It seems to me that those of us who are lucky and privileged enough to have been born and brought up in a relatively wealthy western civilisation are the lucky ones. We inhabit a country with a moderately stable climate [alright-it did go a bit pear shaped this winter], we can be provided with enough to get basic provisions, however impoverished we may feel ourselves to be. If our health is threatened we have access to some [admittedly marginal] health care. The authorities can provide some fundamental shelter, if it becomes necessary. This safety net is not available to vast numbers of people in the world; people who live in countries racked by drought, floods, famine or wars. We will never find ourselves stranded in a desert with starving, diseased children and nothing but grass or leaves to eat. We will never have to walk ten miles for some water.

                 This is what makes me averse to donating to the redundant donkeys’ homer, Helicopter rescue or Save the Allotments, although I am in favour of taxation to fund overseas development.

                  I do have my favourites! Oxfam, for one. The charity I do like to support, through a regular  standing order from my bank account, is Wateraid. Because I cannot think of anything more important than the provision of clean, safe water, vital to life itself. But I don’t want to swim, sing, dress up or walk…I’ll just donate, thanks!