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Devon Life - - Inspirational Women -

Ihope all your Christ­mas cards are writ­ten and posted. Mine aren’t as I’m all be­hind as usual, although I have at last got my list down to man­age­able pro­por­tions – mostly fam­ily and close friends.

At one time there were 100+ names on the list un­til, re­duced to a fraz­zle one year, I thought to my­self: “This is ridicu­lous; I never see most of these peo­ple and more to the point never par­tic­u­larly want to, so why am I send­ing them a card?”

Out came my list and my blue pen and in a few min­utes the list was halved.

The fol­low­ing year quite of lot of the ex­cised peo­ple didn’t send me a card ei­ther. Oth­ers, no doubt think­ing it was some over­sight on my or the Post Of­fice’s part, sent off their yearly of­fer­ing as nor­mal. I felt a bit bad about that but held firm. Soon the cards were no longer flow­ing be­tween us and I glowed in the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing that over the com­ing years I would save a small for­est, not to men­tion a small for­tune.

It wasn’t only the cards from pass­ing ac­quain­tances that seemed un­nec­es­sary, it was also hav­ing to read all those round robins. Why some­one I briefly worked with in 1990 thought I would be in­ter­ested in the com­ings, go­ings and do­ings of all their rel­a­tives was be­yond me.

Many were on the lines of: “Aun­tie Gla­dys has AT LAST had her Hear­ing tested and is the Proud re­cip­i­ent of Dig­i­tal Hear­ing Aids. What a dif­fer­ence that has made for her at the Bingo!!!!”

The sur­feit of cap­i­tal let­ters and ex­cla­ma­tion marks in no way made me any the wiser as to who on earth Aun­tie Gla­dys was, although I was happy for her that she could now shout “House!” with im­punity.

I’m sorry if I’m com­ing across as a bit cur­mud­geonly. One part of me was pleased that these peo­ple still re­mem­bered me and took the trou­ble to write a let­ter and buy a card and stamp to keep me in touch with their lives. But as I get older I re­alise how short life is and spend­ing hours writ­ing cards to peo­ple I no longer know is not a pro­duc­tive way of spend­ing my time.

This year I in­tend to go even fur­ther and, apart from re­ally close fam­ily, not send any cards at all. Be­fore you start think­ing I have turned into Ebenezer Scrooge, the pur­pose is not to save money but to chan­nel it into a more use­ful pur­pose.

There are sev­eral char­i­ties from which you can buy gifts for the de­vel­op­ing world. I was look­ing at one site and you can donate a goat to a needy fam­ily for only £20, or chick­ens for £18. The gifts range from mos­quito nets, school sta­tionery or seedlings for un­der a ten­ner, right up to things like tents, ed­u­ca­tional cour­ses or a class­room for be­tween £500 and £1,000.

This, to me, seems much closer to the true mes­sage of Christ­mas than splash­ing out on a glit­tery pic­ture of a robin which in a cou­ple weeks could well have flown off to the rub­bish bin.

Now I’ve got the card sit­u­a­tion sorted, next year I’m con­sid­er­ing ex­tend­ing the prin­ci­ple to gifts. This would pro­vide the an­swer to the peren­nial ques­tion, of what to get the man who has ev­ery­thing. In­stead of wrap­ping socks, ties and after­shave in fes­tive pa­per, I will be get­ting him a goat, two chick­ens and a wa­ter pu­ri­fier, with the bonus of not hav­ing to wrap them at all.

I of­ten ask the ques­tion: “Is there any­thing in par­tic­u­lar you want for Christ­mas?” Only to get the re­ply: “I re­ally don’t mind. Sur­prise me!” I think a girl’s san­i­tary kit for my un­mar­ried nephew and birthing equip­ment for my el­derly aunt would be sur­prise enough.

What­ever I even­tu­ally de­cide to do about gifts for fam­ily and friends, I will still buy a Christ­mas present for my cat, wrap it lov­ingly and hang it from the man­tel­piece.

Go ahead, mock me. I don’t care. Oh, and Merry Christ­mas to you all.

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