Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A card-carrying curmudgeon

I'm a hypercritical and ungrateful old so-and-so, as my nearest and dearest will willingly confirm.  Other people are delighted just to receive a gift; I moan about its colour, practicality, whether I have the space to store it.  Others are generous with praise and sparing with criticism when friends cook for them; although I bite my tongue, I'm thinking: "That salad was dreary; hasn't she ever heard of dressing?  And this bland mince is meant to be chilli?  A toothless crone has more bite!"   

I've just had another birthday.  51, since you ask, although I've the skin of a 29-year-old.  Actually, I must give it back to him, I'm stretching it!  Boom! boom!  (I'm afraid years of appearing in pantomimes takes its toll.)

Where was I?  Oh yes, my birthday.  As usual, I received about 20 cards and, as usual, I didn't deserve them.  Rather than be thankful for my caring friends and family, there I was, picking every one of them apart.  ("Ooo, this one's a bit naff.  Hmm, that one's dreary.  Why does my auntie still think I'm 15?") 

I'm not sporting a naughty-but-lovable schoolboy smirk as I write this.  I wish I wasn't like it, really I do, but I fear the spot-changing potential for quinquagenarian leopards is slight.

Before you condemn me, however, stop and think for a moment: aren't you just a little bit like me?  Doesn't tearing open at least some of the following on your big day make you tut and roll your eyes rather than smile and coo?

Cards that aren't birthday cards: I'll concede that any card is better than none - at least the sender remembered your special day - but surely they could have laid their hands on a birthday card rather than a reproduction of an impressionist painting or a dirty cartoon joke that's blank where the birthday rhyme or salutation should be.  "I was bothered about your birthday, just not that bothered," is the scent these cards give off.  And it's so easily avoidable; keep half a dozen assorted birthday cards in a drawer - girlie ones, men's ones, trad ones, modern ones, a couple for tinies, but nothing too specific - and you'll never get caught without.  Replenish supplies whenever you find yourself passing a card shop or even at the supermarket.  The recipient will never know their card was selected without them in mind.

Non-date-specific cards on important birthdays: stepping gingerly across the line into a new decade is a very big deal, so don't mark it with a general birthday card.  Every shop stocks ones with 30, 40, 60 or 80 emblazoned on the front.  Use them!  (If the recipient is trying to knock a few years off their age, you also gain the delicious pleasure of bursting their bubble of denial.  You may need to pull a convincing innocent face, of course.  Practice, if necessary.)

Cards that have nothing to do with the recipient: you hardly drink but receive a jokey effort with a little cartoon man who's clearly the worse for wear and is holding a giant pint, four times his size.  Or a golfer in plus-fours hopes you'll be 'in the swing' on your special day, even though you've never picked up a putter.  Has the sender somehow mixed you up with his Uncle Ernie?

E-cards: don't get me started.  E-cards are the very antithesis of what birthday cards are all about.  Sending a traditional card takes thought and effort.  Sending an email with attachment does not.  Neither does texting or sending greetings via social networking sites.  And let's not hear the saving-the-planet excuse.  Saving the sender time, trouble and money, more like.

I'm reaching the end of the blog now.  This is where I'm supposed to say something conciliatory like: "Still, at the end of the day, it's the thought that counts. As long as people remember and wish you well, perhaps it doesn't matter too much how they do it."

Never gonna happen.....

(Images courtesy of http://www.home.bitconnect.com/; http://www.squashed-tomato.co.uk/; http://www.forgiftsandcards.co.uk/)


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