There was a time when I used to send over one hundred Christmas cards. I was so obsessed with missing the posting dates, that I resolved to send them early, very early. For many years, I would ensure that they were all in the post by the second week of November. This understandably irritated some of the recipients, as by the time they were receiving more cards, my one had long been lost or mislaid.
The large number I sent was not only to family members, and long standing friends. It also included former school friends I had not seen since I was seventeen, work colleagues from jobs I had done in the past, and even neighbours next door to houses I had long since sold and moved from. And that amount didn’t include those I might hand out personally, to people I was working with, staff at hospitals, and people at places I encountered in my everyday working life.
This may seem excessive, I agree. However, I saw it as a way of keeping in touch, mostly with people I would never see again, or rarely met up with anymore. And most of them seemed to enjoy that contact; returning cards containing recent photos, family updates contained in short letters, and very often a change of address notification, as they moved around. I would generally receive almost the same amount, often more than I had sent. It made me feel good, to keep up that annual tradition of ‘touching base’ with so many people, far and wide.
Over the decades, I noticed some changes in my address book, and noted that some people no longer sent me cards in return. A few had died, and some had gone so far as to inform me that they would no longer be sending any cards. That was fair enough, I still sent them one anyway. The arrival of the Internet meant that some people began to send a generic ‘Electronic card’, adding every contact in their email address book, and just clicking ‘Send’. I could understand that too, as postage costs in Britain were becoming steep, with the price of a stamp far exceeding the cost of the card inside the envelope. But I budgeted for those increases, and carried on sending my hundred-plus cards every year.
Once I retired and moved here to Norfolk, I decided to send the cards later, waiting until the first week of December to post them off. Without the large salary I was used to, I did notice that the continued price increases in stamps was making it an expensive annual proposition, on a greatly reduced income. But I bit the bullet, and carried on regardless. During the last six years, my contact list has reduced considerably. More deaths in the family, friends lost too. Some people may have misplaced my change of address, or just decided that enough was enough. And the postage costs had risen to new highs. A second-class stamp (slower delivery time) now costs 58 p. In old money, that is over eleven shillings. For someone of my age, that seems to be outlandish, and almost unthinkable, to post one small letter or card. (For the benefit of my American friends, that is 73 cents)
So, sending one hundred cards would cost me £58, ($73) plus the purchase price of the cards. I can buy nice cards for around £2.50 for a pack of ten, each less than half the price of the stamp needed to send them. The few cards that I like to send abroad are also ridiculously expensive to post. A small card to America is over £2 by air mail, and similar cards sent to France cost almost £1.50 each. This year, I finally began to think seriously about my card list. I checked off all the people I hadn’t heard from in years, and crossed through all those I know have died. Then I went through some others whose addresses I am no longer sure about, and excluded them too. By the time I had completed my reluctant ‘cull’, I written just forty-one cards. They will be posted today, the latest I have ever sent a Christmas card.
So, if any of the sixty-plus people who didn’t get a card from me are reading this.
Sorry about that.