Two years ago to the day — not that I’m counting — I received a Christmas card from David and Samantha Cameron. “Happy Christmas, lots of love from Dave, Sam and the kids,” it read — or something similar. I was thrilled. The PM had sent me a Christmas card! I’d arrived.
Then I noticed the addressee.
Ms Laura Weird.
Ms … Laura … Weird? My face crinkled into a Munchian scream.
There are no tidings of comfort and joy in Number 10 spelling your name incorrectly. Still, it remains one of the funniest things that’s ever happened to me.
This year’s festive missive hilarity comes courtesy of Facebook. Yesterday it banned the sale of a card illustrated with a “robin redbreast” due to the sexual nature of the word “breast”. Jackie Charley, the 52-year-old artist behind the cards, wrote on her Facebook page: “Hilariously, Facebook has blocked my Christmas cards from becoming a product in my shop due to their shameful, sexual nature! Judge for yourself! (Can’t stop laughing!) And if you’d like a pack of six at £5.99 plus postage and packaging, let me know.”
Less hilarious is the fact that Christmas card sales are in terminal decline — their sales raise £50 million for charity each year. As we become less intimate with our IRL friends we send “elf yourself” emails or Instagram messages instead of handwritten notes, and wish even our closest friends happy birthday with a flurry of emojis, sent via WhatsApp.
Perhaps this is why retailers are desperately trying to recast the greetings card market as the preserve of under-30s. In a Soho branch of Scribbler yesterday afternoon I was faced with rack upon rack of Christmas cards, shimmering with millennial glitter.
The festive slogans came thick and fast from the shelves — “F*** you, a*******, sorry, I meant Merry Christmas” read one. “Merry Christmas, you p****” was the other, from the cartoon mouth of a tinsel-bedecked cactus. The “see you next Tuesday” word, the B word (all of them), what the Jiminy Christmas is going on? Forget heaven on Earth, this was Sodom and Gomorrah. I’d take a spelling mistake over that any day.
The festive slogans came thick and fast. Forget heaven on Earth, this was Sodom and Gomorrah
Life can be mapped out by the festive cards you choose: at secondary school it’s a standard-issue Paperchase effort, when standing out means social disaster, while a homemade gesture determined your status at university — if you had time to make a Christmas card, who were you? Why weren’t you drunk?
Then come the “humour” years. Once I’d moved out of home, my flatmates and I staged a spoof family Christmas card shoot, sitting under the tree when Christmas jumpers were a “thing”. I even included a letter when I sent them out: “This year has been a happy and healthy one for the family. Laura nearly blacked out at The Venue in New Cross, while Alex pulled 180 girls this summer, and Luke got a 2:2.”
Now, though, I’m a grown-up, and for the past six years or so I’ve been getting my cards from St Mary’s Church on Upper Street. They usually depict a hedgehog trundling through the snow, and a percentage of sales go to Save the Children. I buy my advent candle there too, I don’t even live in Islington any more, but it’s become a tradition.
Christmas symbolises warmth and togetherness — and when Donald Trump is tweeting Kim Jong-un fat jokes, and the world is going to pot, there’s no comfort like focusing on simple things we can control — like sending a Christmas card. But when a first-class stamp is 65p, maybe spell the name right?
Yes, Rita, you’re a true friend of design
It has to be a record — singer Rita Ora hosted the MTV Europe Music Awards in a suitcase-busting 13 different looks.
The various get-ups included a bizarre white dressing gown and matching towel combo, the latter worn on her head, with diamonds around her neck as if she had just stepped out of the shower, sending her fans on Instagram potty.
Not that I’m recommending “the wet look” for your next night out but in the spirit of sticking two fingers up to good taste I’m all for it — plus, the singer was championing emerging designers as she grabbed the headlines; the towel look was by designer Palomo Spain, she wore a black dress with a wobbly pitchfork stuck on the front by tongue-in-cheek British design duo Rottingdean Bazaar, and the fluoro dress — trippier than a pot-smoking
Pat Butcher in EastEnders — was by brilliant St Martin’s graduate Matty Bovan. London’s avant garde has a friend in Rita.
* It’s taken courage and a few tears but I accept that I am, in fact, uptight. I should’ve seen the signs when I bought an actual sign.
“No junk mail or cold callers” read the most passive-aggressive purchase of my life. A mean- spirited, curtain-twitchy sign for our front door. It was a new kind of uptight, even for me.
For further proof of my slide into overstrung, the sign-buying came the day after I left a party in a pub because “it was too loud”. The DJ was great, all my friends were there, but it was deafening.
I was staying the night at a friend’s house — I had childcare — I could’ve gone nuts but you know what? My hosts dropped me at their place, bid me goodnight and went clubbing. Not before trying to persuade me with “come on, let go a bit”. So I stayed in the spare room while they went out. I loved it. Weird, right?