Living in Cyprus, we have to ensure that Christmas cards to the UK are sent in reasonable time, with the hope that they might arrive at least a day or two before the 25th. I know that many people are well-organised, and sent out cards on December 1st. I am not one of their number. But kudos to those who do.
I did actually write our annual newsletter about ten days ago. But I wanted our sons to check it first; then it required some tweaking. It was Friday last week before it was finally printed. I thought I might write cards on Saturday, but somehow didn't get around to it... however, Sunday, I determined, would be The Day. Richard was out at a VHF radio course all day, and I wanted to get them in the mail today.
I knew it was going to take me a few hours, so, of course, I found several other vitally important things I needed to do instead. Some of which were indeed important and others which weren't. The sky was grey, and it was rainy and windy so I didn't plan to go out anywhere. But by 10.30am I still hadn't started on the cards.
I decided to turn the heating on for an hour's boost - it was that chilly - and make myself a cup of fruity tea.
Then I just wondered if any email had arrived in the past five minutes - as you do - and sat down at the computer. And browsed Facebook, And started playing one of those fast-moving silly games that I do at least limit to weekends.
Then suddenly my computer screen went blank.
It was a power cut. The first one we've had in a long time. And while I don't wish to spiritualise everything, it did feel as if God was taking rather drastic measures to ensure that I finally got started on my card-writing...
Despite the greyness of the day, and the rain, there was enough light in the dining room without using electricity. And the radiators had at least warmed up, and I'd made my hot drink... so I gathered my resources:
Cards. List. Newsletters. Address book. Pens. And the hot fruity tea.
It's sad that I think of card-writing as a chore. Once I've started, I love thinking about our relatives and friends, despite their being thousands of miles away, as I fold the newsletters, choose the cards, and write the addresses.
Last year (and I find it interesting that it was also on December 12th), I did something of a production line system for writing Christmas cards, adding all the addresses at the end. My fingers were cramping by the end, so this year I decided to do one card at a time. It worked considerably better.
After an hour, I'd finished about fifteen cards. I had decided to reduce the numbers somewhat; last year I posted 69 to the UK and wrote 29 for local people. In the event, I only gave out about half the local ones - people went away, or we didn't see them, or I forgot. Lots of people don't do Christmas cards any more, anyway.
I decided that if I hadn't heard from someone for three years, I would not send out a card. Of course I don't only want to send cards to people who send them to us - people can get in touch in all kinds of ways. But if I haven't heard a thing from them in the past three years, I think it's probably safe to assume that they don't particularly want to hear from us... that cut the numbers down somewhat.
Happily the electricity resumed after about an hour and a half. I took a break for some lunch, and noticed the sun coming out briefly. For a few minutes, there was a rainbow:
Then I got back to card-writing, with a cup of coffee and another hour's boost to the central heating. Unlike last year, the cats showed no interest until Tessie decided to come and help towards the end:
Even with reduced numbers, I had 51 to post, but I only wrote five for local friends. If I decide to write some more, I still have plenty.
Then, feeling virtuously efficient, I did the majority of my Christmas shopping online at Amazon.co.uk and Play.com.
This morning, the skies were blue, the rain had stopped. After a couple of hours of housework - rather necessary, inside and out, after the stormy weekend - I had a pleasant twenty-minute walk down to the Post Office where I bought stamps and then spent half an hour sticking stamps and air mail stickers on to my 51 envelopes.
Waiting in the PO Box were some Christmas cards from friends and relatives who are a great deal more efficient than we are. When I got home, I found the ones we had been given by local friends already, and discovered that there were ten altogether. Rather than risk losing them amongst other paperwork, I decided to hang them up.