The Herald



TWO Boxing Day postscript­s to Christmas. Visitors is a festive homily by Diana Hendry and Hamish Whyte that saves its message for its final lines. In Gap Year James Aitchison reflects on being a Christmas ‘postie’ in the post-war years. VISITORS Our turn to do Christmas this year. Already we’re anxious to get it right. What size turkey? Who’s veggie now? Who won’t eat sprouts? Can we borrow a cot, can we order snow? Something’s sure to go wrong. Last time We all went down with flu. One year we forgot to roast the tatties, the pudding exploded, red wine sploshed on the carpet and no-one remembered to leave a mince pie for Santa. Maybe it’s what goes wrong that’s somehow right, reminding us loudly that we’re human and foolish and can’t do without the hope and help of visitors at Christmas – especially the birthday boy. GAP YEARS Ernest Marples, Postmaster General in the late 1950s, sent hundreds of undergradu­ates and me a letter of thanks for delivering Christmas mail. In the 1950s ‘a gap year’ meant you’d been sent down from university or you’d had tuberculos­is and spent a year in a sanatorium. My gap lasted decades before I saw that the blessing I got from walking in the rain made me oblivious of my unpaid and now unpayable debt. My ignorance is as inexcusabl­e as my excuse: for three winters I went from street to street and door to door delivering good news.

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