I spent much of last night slaving over a hot inkjet, printing off scores of Christmas cards ready to go in the post this morning. I had a mild scare when my printer refused point-blank to print in colour, although closer inspection revealed that the 'new' cartridge I'd just installed had a use-by date of August 2003 and had therefore self-destructed or clogged-up or something. A fresh replacement cartridge (expires 2007) solved the problem, but that means I've now spent at least three times as much money on ink as I have on stamps, card and envelopes. I sometimes liken printer companies to organised drug dealers, luring us in by selling us an implausibly cheap reproductive device, then fleecing us at regular intervals as we struggle to feed our machine's insatiable ink habit. Anyway, cards printed.
I spent much of last night copying addresses onto envelopes ready to go in the post this morning. As I slogged through the list it dawned on me that I'd not sent anything to the great majority of these addresses since the same time last year. It was particularly grim to realise just how few people from my past I'm still in communication with. I have just one contact to show for over a decade of schooling, a mere five from my time at university and only one from the large group of people I worked with during the first job I ever had. It's amazing how so many people who were once at the very heart of my life are now forgotten footnotes, lost somewhere out there in an anonymous corner of Britain at an unknown address doing unknown things. And as for my current work colleagues, all 30 of whom are getting a card this year, I wonder how few will still be on my Christmas list in ten years time. Anyway, envelopes written.
I spent much of this morning trudging up to the local sorting office to post my cards, and to collect a package which couldn't be delivered yesterday while I was at work. It's possible to fit either 72 CDs or 20 books in my letterbox (I just checked) but, once Amazon have slapped a great big slab of protective cardboard packaging around them, my postman can't even get one CD and one book through the slot. Never mind, it was a lovely, crisp morning for a walk, and my envelopes dropped into the big red pillar box with a deeply satisflying clunk. So, cards posted.
When I got home I found that three more cards had just arrived. One contained a brief potted summary of what had been going on in the sender's family's lives over the last twelve months (Sarah's joined the police, Julie plans to go to Ghana and Nicola's working in an orphanage) and then, rather pointedly, asked me what I'd been up to. But too late, because their card went into the postbox half an hour earlier, so they'll have to wait another 52 weeks for my reply (assuming I remember). And the other two cards both contained brief "we really must get together soon" messages, just as they have done for the last few years, with the usual absolutely tiny probability of either of us actually deciding to make it happen. It's a strange thing, sending small pieces of folded cardboard every Christmas to people we'd not otherwise speak to, just to maintain the illusion of continuing communication. Sometimes I think that if it weren't for Christmas, I'd have lost contact with almost everybody I ever knew. And, even though most of that contact is a sham anyway, I'm glad we all still at least try. So, Happy Christmas, whoever you were.