So, the evidence of the late festivities has been tidied away, and I have turned the roast potato fat into nutritious blue tit seed cake, and there are, presumably, no more cards to come in, and I have been moved to compile an inventory of the thirty five or so that our household has received.
Nearly all the ones I sent this year were IWA. I like them because they're nice pictures, on good solid cardboard, with no hint of religion or other supernatural beings (e.g. Father Christmas, hedgehogs wearing bobble hats), but are usually nicely wintry and old fashioned. I always order the surprise packs of whatever they didn't sell last year (the thrill!) and am left this year with a set that are resolutely narrow boat free, featuring some sort of sailing barge, that I've been slightly loath to distribute (although I have received one).
The other excellent thing about the IWA cards is that they are produced not only in Britain, but in East Sussex, by Judges of Hastings (the postcard people); a fact that I was not slow to point out to my friend David, Liberal Democrat ('think global, act local') leader on East Sussex County Council, when he sent us one, shock horror, printed in China.
I always keep our old cards, which after a while get recycled, with the help of pinking shears, into traditional gift tags, and have envelopes full now going back ten years, and it is possible to discern some changing trends. For example, over half of the ones received this year were for charities in some shape or form, and quality is generally higher - thicker card and better printing. There are more without any traditional Christmas - or even winter - content too.
So for the record, here is this year's inventory:
Non-charity various: 17
Generic/multiple charity: 5
Cancer Research: 2
Cats' Protection League: 1
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust: 1 (also by Judges of Hastings)
Marie Curie Cancer Care: 1
Foot and Mouth Painting Artists: 3
Now, that's a bit of a rum one. I remember they always used to send out packs of cards, unsolicited, with a request for payment if you wanted to use them. Of course I was thrown into a tizz; I didn't want to pay, and I resented them sending them and putting pressre on me, so I never sent them back. But it would have been too awful to use them without paying, so they languished year after year at the bottom of the Christmas box, doing no good to anyone, but making me feel guilty and resentful whenever I saw them. I stopped being sent them a while back, so maybe they have a different system now. But whenever I receive one, I have the nagging thought, did the sender actually pay for this...? This year's haul of three is a record, I think.
And we got one from the local fire brigade, reminding us not to burn the house down this Christmas, which was a nice thought.