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December 2000 - Sent the Cards?

Oh no! Does that top line actually say what I think it says? Are we really well into December already? Is it only a couple of weeks away from the jolly old festive season? As usual, I haven't even considered Christmas yet.

Don't you hate all those terribly organised people who spend October and November writing their Christmas Cards and pop them in the post promptly on December 1st?

I mean, what on earth do you do with Christmas cards which fall through your letterbox on December 2nd? You can hardly put them up on display can you?

When I lived on my own, I well knew that having the cards up for a long time was a damn good excuse for not dusting the shelves, but I don't think you can really justify having them up for about six weeks.

The only good thing about the people who are organised, is that at least by the time I get round to sending my cards out on the last possible day for first class posting, I know exactly who's sent me one and who hasn't; and can adjust the list accordingly.

Except that a lot of my friends seem as disorganised as me, so the system has just one or two flaws!

The day AFTER the last possible posting day at first class rate, the next sixteen cards drop through the door from all those people I've just erased from the list because I was convinced that they couldn't possibly send their cards out so late.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem for investigation in this edition of Comment. You seem to get into this strange sort of cycle with Christmas card lists don't you.

This year THEY sent to YOU late, so you've dropped them off the list and THEY don't get one from YOU. This means that next year they don't send you one; but, seeing as you remember that they sent you one late last year, you think it best to put them back on the list and send them one.

So next year they get one from you, but haven't sent you one; and as you've posted on the last possible day it's too late for them to reciprocate.

This means that you cross them off your list for the following year because YOU didn't get one from THEM. But the following year they will send you one, because you sent them one the previous year.

At this point, we seem to be back at the beginning of the loop, but no! THEY remember that your card arrived late the previous year so they send you one on December 1st. However, this just happens to be the year that you ARE organised and you've sent the rest of your cards out on December 1st as well.

But, there's a very good reason you sent yours out early this time.

You've got a very busy month this December what with one thing and another, so you remember that you've had one from them and fully intend to send one back to them. The day before last posting day you're rushing past the card shop and do actually pop in and buy them one, rest it on the steering wheel when you're back at the car and scribble something in it; shove it in the envelope and put a stamp on it.

You write their name on the envelope and rack your brains for whether it's 24 or 28 Acacia Avenue. The address book's in the case in the boot and it's just started raining so you can't be fagged to get out and walk round to find out which; so you throw it up in the pigeon hole thingy above the glove box to put in the post box that evening after you've looked up the rest of the address.

Isn't it funny how the term "spring cleaning" started. It must be some sort of human instinct which makes us clean and tidy things once the evenings start to get a bit longer and the weather starts to improve.

I mean, who cares if the inside of the car is like a muck heap through the winter, most of the time it's too dark for anyone to see whether it's tidy or not.

Which brings us neatly to Easter weekend, usually the Saturday; and there you are having washed the outside of the car and just started on the inside.

You stand there in the drive with two hundred and fifty seven Visa vouchers for the winter's petrol, last November's mouldy banana skin, an old five pound note and THAT Christmas card in your hand.

Like a prat, you stuck the envelope down instead of just tucking it in. You stand there transfixed, trying to remember what exactly it was that you scribbled in the card on that cold, wet December afternoon.

The card's worth about a quid and the stamp's worth best part of thirty pence, but you stand there for about ten minutes wondering whether to keep it for this year or throw it away.

If any logic at all was to prevail, you'd realise that if you were being paid to stand there thinking, the ten minutes would be worth about a fiver, so by far the cheapest option is to throw the damn thing away.

But no, the Visa vouchers and the banana skin go in the bin, the ancient fiver goes in your wallet and the card gets propped up on the shelf in the sitting room.

Never mind worrying about how long to leave the opened Christmas cards up at the festive season, this one's going to sit there on that shelf for about four months!

Every so often you sit in the chair looking at it on the shelf and racking your brain about whether you wrote "hope little Suzy's over the mumps" above the Happy Yuletide in the card.

You remember you were in a tearing hurry that December afternoon, so you probably didn't write anything in it which would preclude saving a few pence and using it this year, but you can never be quite sure.

Suzy's mumps had been quite bad if your memory serves you rightly, so you probably did put some reference to it when you hastily scribbled the greeting.

April has turned to May, May to June and June to July, and still it preys on your mind every time you sit down and see it there.

It's finally August Bank Holiday Monday, funny how you seem to associate one Bank Holiday with another, isn't it? You've convinced yourself you DID mention the mumps, so there's no hope of it being used again.

You reach up, take it down off the shelf and rip the envelope and card in half to finally throw it away. With the whole thing in two halves, it's easy to pull the bits of card out of the envelope, just to confirm that you DID go into great detail about the mumps. "Hope you're all keeping well, Happy Christmas, Nick".

Now I wonder if they'd notice if I Sellotaped it back together?

There must be better ways of sorting out Christmas card lists than all the strange systems we seem to use at present.

Perhaps we should all publish our lists in The Times during the first week of November so everyone else can check if they're included and decide whether to send one back. No, I don't suppose that would work either.

If we all published our lists on the same day, exactly the same problems would occur. I sometimes wonder if the best answer is not to send any cards at all.

I've got a friend who's never sent a Christmas card in his life and makes it quite plain to everybody that he never will. He seems to receive more cards than most other people for some strange reason.

That's what it comes down to I suppose, the old adage that it's far better to give than to receive. All his friends still like to give him a card, even knowing full well that they won't get one back.

I wonder what he does with them? For that matter, what does anyone do with used Christmas cards? What a waste of paper and cardboard the whole operation is!

It's a bit like the turkey carcass really isn't it. Just more junk for the bin men to cart away after it's sat out the back in the black bag for an extra week because there's no hope of a rubbish collection Christmas week while they're all exhausted from rushing round the week before collecting their tips.

There's an idea, I think I'll send a Christmas card to the bin men!

No, on second thoughts I think I'll throw the list away right now, and not send anybody a card.

I reckon old Scrooge had the right idea. Humbug! Humbug to the lot of you! Please feel free to send me cards or presents; but I think I'll simply forget about Christmas this year and just spend the week playing guess the time of the news bulletin on the telly.

Or I suppose I could give a little consideration to the subject for January's edition of Comment. No, perhaps not. I'll leave that till after all the festivities.

Oh well, never mind, it'll soon be twelfth night. Right, I'm off, where's me blow-up plastic Santa?

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