We went out for a friend's birthday the other night and I was late. I wasn't horribly late; we were only meeting for drinks and there were plenty of people who turned up after me. The thing is, though, I didn't intend to be late. I arrived about an hour after I had planned to.
Why? Well, it was because I'd been writing the birthday girl's card.
When it comes to the greetings cards industry, I have a few issues. It's an industry which is not against huge marketing hype for occasions which weren't previously card-sending events, or even inventing new occasions, then trying to convince everyone that if they don't send a card, they're causing someone great offence. So I'm a greetings card cynic. The industry thrives on our fear of offending.
Of course, there are some occasions when a card is genuinely lovely (to give and to receive). Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births etc. But at those times, the selection of cards available (at least in the main high street shops here) is TERRIBLE! And horribly expensive for what you get.
If you've already spent a fair amount of money on a gift, there's something uncomfortable about spending more on a card that doesn't particularly look nice, and then just writing 'Happy Birthday' or 'Congratulations' or whatever is appropriate, and 'lots of love from Joe'.
This is why - (1) I wholly approve when people make their own greetings cards. Surely that's what it's about? The time and love that goes into it say so much more than the message - even if the result is not quite professional.
And (2) - I like to write LOTS. I don't make my own greetings cards - I have found a good selection at my local art shop that I don't mind paying for. Instead I put my energies into the message - and the decoration.
I like to fill the card with a stupid story, soppy rant, silly pictures or anything that makes me sit down and think about the recipient for a good length of time. Something perhaps that will mean the card doesn't get thrown away, and that maybe when someone reads it in the future it will make them laugh, or bring back memories.
That's why I was late the other night.