Friday, 05 December 2014

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 5 December

If you are too busy to pen a Christmas greeting, is it okay to send an electronic card instead? Thomas Blaikie advises

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
Since it’s going to take me two days – two days I don’t have – to hand-write my Christmas cards this year, do you think it would be too awful to send electronic Christmas cards to at least some people?
Violet Barnes, Swindon

Dear Violet,
My first thought: no! no! no! What use is an electronic card? How do I fish it out of the computer and add it to my lavish array of proper cards? It won’t be signed, there’ll be no personal touch at all. The sender doesn’t have to do a thing, other than ‘click on’. It’s a short cut too far.

As I say every year, I’m fanatical about Christmas cards. Do please send them and hang the expense. The people you haven’t seen or heard of since last Christmas or indeed the Christmas before should be top of the list, not struck off it. If this frail contact is all there is, surely it’s better than oblivion. If you must cut down, leave out those you’re with all the time. Portrait, rather than landscape, because the latter do the splits and knock over all the other cards. Include a few sentences of news for those rarely seen.

Of course, this is a major task. And I sense a thought flapping about – those cards from the dentist or the bank, usually an especially insipid shade of grey, and always the first to come, for some reason. Who’s paying for them? Doesn’t it all come round to the client? Is it possible… could we begin to imagine that e-cards would be an improvement?

I’ve looked into it and some e-cards do things. They’re little films, with a dog running round in a snow scene while Chopin’s Minute Waltz plays, for instance. So, as we begin to reconcile ourselves to thanks for dinners, parties, even presents coming by email (with some people, if you’re waiting for a letter, you’ll wait forever) should we perhaps open our minds just a little to Christmas e-cards? Computerminded friends might enjoy them, especially if the animation is spectacular, as much if not more than a ‘real’ card.

So why not send a small percentage of e-cards, carefully chosen with a ‘fun’ element as I describe, to those likely to enjoy the novelty? You will reduce your workload, and save paper (environmentalists happy). The e-card might be a good solution for friends living abroad, especially if you’ve missed the posting deadline. The main drawback is – no card. Until high-quality print-out facilities are the norm in the home (the day will come), e-cards will have limited use. But we’ll be seeing more of them in the future: we mustn’t be Luddites. An e-card is better than no card at all.

Please send your questions to thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT… A BUDGET FOR PRESENTS

Apologies if you’ve heard this before, but it’s my traditional Christmas story, and one day will be recognised as equal to that of the Three Wise Men. Every Christmas, Vera Passmore, my oldest friend’s mother, would open her present from June Cut-Deeping, her bosom pal from the war. It was a box of yellowing men’s handkerchiefs with alien initials, which June had acquired from the charity shop where she volunteered. Vera would say, ‘You gave me this last year and I gave it back to you.’ Then she’d issue her ritual condemnation: ‘Your presents are a disgrace.’

It’s not a popular view, but I think meanness is one of the most forgivable of human failings. Some people are funny about money. They can’t help it. In the meantime, if you’re worried about what to spend on children this Christmas, a survey by Orchard Toys reveals that between £5 and £15 is more than acceptable for a child outside the family and up to £23 for one within it; £188 on 12 children not your own is the average. Of course, you can buy something thrilling for £5.



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