Posts Tagged ‘Oxfam’

Have you bought your cards yet?

For Christmas?

I have. (Smug).

Last week I was in a pretty market town somewhere in the south of England when I spied the charity cards for sale sign, denoted by a little triangular Father Christmas. I always buy my seasonal greetings cards from this outlet, they who temporarily take over abandoned church and village halls, take up space in tiny museums and libraries. I don’t know how much of the profit goes to charity but it’s better than none at all.

So in I went. I was the only customer – it was early afternoon and the foyer of this particular hall was decked with festive cheer and boxes and boxes of cards laid out in military precision on tables, each box clearly stating for which charity the cards were supporting. I had plenty of space and time to browse.

Manning the ancient transitory till were two lady volunteers of a certain age so very obviously of the Jam and Jerusalem variety. Couple this with the fact that I was in the home counties, add a padded green gilet or two, a tweed skirt, a would-be Hermes scarf and a set of pearls and you’ll get a pretty accurate picture of these two frightfully well-meaning souls: pillars of their community. Huddled together as they were, around a battered convector heater, clacking away with their knitting needles, (probably socks for the Ebola crisis – any world crisis and the British Women’s Institute is right in there to knit the socks) I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, delivered as it was in the unmistakable bray so inherent of the Shires.

For the sake of the telling, I’ll call these ladies Phyllis and Felicity. Their conversation went something like this:

Phyllis: Did you see that Tony Blair….

Felicity: Ugh, ghastly little man….

Phyllis: Yes, quite. Did you see that he’s been given some sort of an anti-poverty award by Save the Children?

Felicity: No! Unbelievable! Something else to keep his horrible little profile going…

Phyllis: Absolutely.  Well, I for one certainly won’t be donating to them any more … What on earth were they thinking?

At this point I was perusing the children’s charity cards. My hand hovered; I hesitated, selected a pack of cards then moved to the next table.

Felicity: Well I don’t give to Cancer Research anymore. Did you see how much they’re paying their Chief Exec?

Phyllis: Oh, I know; absolutely outrageous isn’t it? Oxfam’s just the same.

And so it went on, the two of them loudly dissecting different charities and posing reasons as to why they wouldn’t support them. It was hilarious; I had to stifle my laughter.   It was like landing in the middle of a comedy sketch worthy of the Two Ronnies. Characters so blatantly unsuitable for the roles they were performing…

Then it occurred to me that these ladies could be conducting some sort of psychological experiment of which I had unwittingly become a part. Were they amusing themselves by trying to work out the personality of their customers by leading them away from certain boxes of cards? Were they trying to ascertain that some customers were defiant?  Were they testing me? Should I play their game, double bluff them or put my theory down to an unusual rush of paranoia?  I put the cards back. I started at the other end of the room. Two can play at this game, I thought.

As I sifted through a box of assorted odd charities such as the Benevolent Milkman’s League or similar I remembered that one of my very good friends volunteers for Christmas card duties every year. (SSF – she of the London bus tour – remember her?) She’s as far from Hermes scarves and pearls as one could possibly be but she does have a wicked sense of humour. I can just imagine that if she and I teamed up in some village hall in a volunteering capacity, we’d probably invent a game like this to while away the hours. Perhaps I’ll sign up with her next year – we could have a lot of fun, even though I’m not a knitter.  As it happens, I’m seeing her tomorrow for tea. Maybe we could play a version of this by commenting on the calorie content of the cakes at the counter as potential customers salivate.

Anyway, back to my cards. I purposely haven’t bought as many this year. I’m paring down my list, I’ve decided. I’m sticking to my inner circle. Not because postage is so astronomically expensive and I’m a skinflint – no – but when we send out cards year after year to people we never see, don’t want to particularly see and receive cards from people we don’t even know, what is the point?

For instance, we open a card every year wishing us all the best from Roger, Bev and family (with all their love). We have no idea who these people are. Not a clue. At least it’s a source of annual amusement: we await the envelope dropping on the doormat with seasonal anticipation.  I suppose we should be grateful that they don’t include a family newsletter although in this case it might help us with their identity.

I loathe those letters, don’t you? The ones people photocopy and send out to everyone on their card list, regardless how well they know the recipient. I’d go as far as saying that I find them offensive. If I’m not worth writing to individually, then please don’t bother. If I don’t know you that well then I’m not interested in the condition of your great aunt’s care home or your daughter’s violin lessons or the problems you’ve had with your kitchen extension. If you really want to write about the minutiae of your life, then start a blog and make it at least half-way amusing.

Right then, that’s the cards done. Just the present buying and food shopping to go and we all know how much I love that.



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