I've done it. I've finished writing my Christmas cards. I know I intended to try a radical solution to this pre-Christmas chore, but in the end it was simplest to knuckle down to the task as traditionally tackled. I had several stacks of cards, each of a different design, and just got on with it. It took three sessions, but then it was suddenly all done. Fifty-five cards. Family, friends, neighbours, and my 'staff'. All handwritten. I didn't bother with sending emails, except for a handful of people who must have them. I even sent a card - not a mere email - to my step-daughter in New Zealand. A proper job, then.
That notion of emailing a print-out card of my own design proved to be a non-starter. The program I'd thought of using saved the designs in its own special format, which was useless to anyone else (it was a very old program). No doubt I could have worked around this, but time was pressing and I quickly gave up.
Hand-writing things isn't so bad, not if you have a flowing, cursive hand as I have. I'm not saying mine is the best and clearest handwriting there is, but it can be read easily enough. For instance, my doctor had no trouble this morning reading the list of blood tests that I'd prepared for her and wanted her to authorise (I'm very pro-active where my health checks are concerned). And something handwritten is undoubtedly very personal, which is highly appropriate for a greetings card. Indeed, handwriting confers a much more personal touch than any kind of typewritten communication. A pity it's getting rarer.
Next year I'll be better prepared. I really will look into the possibility of luxurious and beautiful Christmas cards, specially ordered well before Christmas, and pre-printed with a festive message of my own devising. Each card could be 'finished off' with extra words or kisses in my fair hand. Taken as a whole, I think the job of sending as many cards as this year would definitely be simplified and shortened. I'm sure it wouldn't be made cheaper, but cost is not the issue. Or at least I wouldn't personally begrudge the expense of ordering a supply of very nice bespoke cards, and sending them to my chosen victims by first class post. (Said in complete innocence of what this might really filch from my pensioner's purse. I may change my tune when I find out!)
Still, for now the task is over and I can relax.
Tomorrow promises to be something of a bacchanalia, walking to Ditchling, having a boozy lunch there, walking back, then staggering out again in the evening, this time down to Brighton - I'd better do that by train, and try hard not to fall asleep on the return trip!
The day after will be interesting. My nephew Michael reminded me recently that his father (my younger brother Wayne) was killed twenty years ago, and he wanted to see the spot where Wayne was buried. This isn't in a public place. It's in the private inner courtyard of the High Anglican church Wayne used to attend in Upper Sydenham in south London. My nephew contacted the priest - it was the same man as back in 1995, known to us as Father Paul. Wayne had been a star member of the congregation.
The precise twentieth anniversary was yesterday, the 20th December - a Sunday - and therefore the priest was keen to arrange a special memorial service to be shared with the entire congregation. But Michael didn't want that; it would be way too stressful to endure a lengthy and formal service, which specifically might not allow him to contemplate the burial place alone and peacefully. He wanted something far more private, devoid of ritual and the sincere attentions of well-wishers. Just him and his father. This was exactly in accord with my own ideas.
So at 2.30pm two days hence, we will be welcomed privately by Father Paul, and Michael can commune with his father in his own way. As I shall too, but separately. I also want to sneak a photo or two - shots to record the exact location of where Wayne's ashes were interred. As a genealogical fact.
I wonder what kind of memory Father Paul has. I last saw him in 1995, and I can hardly remember what he looks like. He will have aged by twenty years, of course, and might seem rather different, even unrecognisable. As will indeed have happened in my own case. I very much doubt if he will remember me when we meet! But I'll explain that I was indeed there, with Adrienne my step-daughter holding fast onto my hand. It doesn't matter anyway. The focus must be on memories of Wayne, and letting Michael salute his half-remembered father. He was young when Wayne was killed, and he may feel tearful at bringing the loss into such a sharp focus. I may too, but for Michael's sake I will hold my own tears back if I possibly can. I think Michael's wife Cheryl is coming (though not their child): perhaps we, Cheryl and I, can talk quietly at a distance while Michael stands alone, staring at a stone slab in a hushed courtyard that few non-churchgoers ever see.
And then we will leave. No doubt Father Paul will entreat us to come again, and soon, but I'll leave that up to Michael. We will have managed to make the pilgrimage just this once in twenty long years. It will be a singularity, an event that may never be repeated. Certainly an exhausting occasion. If we come away satisfied with what we saw and felt, and not too disturbed emotionally, then that will indeed be Mission Accomplished.