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…

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Geriatric Shopping-a Pensioners’ Guide

                Having spent weeks undertaking gruelling online research and having narrowed the selection down to shape, acceptable colours, length and fabric I was ready to set foot inside some shops. I say this, although the foot in question was itself neither willing nor especially able due to its pesky and painful condition [see last week’s post]. I took along my personal stylist [AKA Offspring] since I believe my own opinions as to what suits me are not to be trusted.

                This was to be our initial foray, you understand. We were sheltering under no illusion of plucking the frock from the first rack inside the doorway of the first store in the first shopping centre we came to. Oh no. We had every expectation that further expeditions would be necessary; and in these expectations we were not disappointed. We had harboured the illusion that a certain, well known department store that offers a range of designer outlets would be an obvious early destination-might even negate the need to travel further. How wrong can you be?

                After some confusion in locating the entrance we found ‘womenswear’, a floor offering [in no particular order] Hobbs, Whistles, Ted Baker, Mulberry, Coast, Alice Temperley, Ralph Lauren, Miss Selfridge, ‘Kin’ [Kin?], White Stuff and a number I do not recall. As Stylist and I made our way around the racks and displays our initial silence began to be broken by snorts of derision at the array of designs that designers have presented to us for their new spring ranges. I understand that they are under pressure to come up with something new, but really-dayglo orange crimplene? Digitally printed nylon?

                Stylist insisted we try things, even though we might be repelled by them. We scooped random numbers from the racks, she snappishly scolding that I have body dysmorphia as we disputed my dress size. Bowing to her superior knowledge I accepted her advice and staggered into the changing cubicle under the weight of gowns selected for attempt. I followed my usual changing room technique of ‘back to the mirror until it’s on’, as each garment failed to do up, proving that Stylist, on this occasion, had it all wrong.

                Later, after a restorative lunch we resumed, touring the remaining shops until at last, a Eureka moment-Stylist found the perfect frock-for herself.

                Foot, in the meantime was demonstrating in no feeble way that it was done with walking. That was it for the day. ‘Tomorrow is another day’ seemed an apt quote.

                Next day we went local, selecting another only slightly less well known department store and by some miraculous fluke contenders for the role of wedding outfit began, not only to present themselves, but to positively fling themselves into our arms. Unable to choose between two I bought both, with the intention of returning one. This, reader, has not happened.

                The triumph lasted a day or two, until the realisation that shoes, jacket, hat and bag are still at large. Where’s Stylist when I need her?