Getting any Christmas cards is a surprise to me these days. I’ve never had a long list of people to send cards to, and my walls have never been covered with them.
Even my mother received and sent more than I did which always surprised me as I thought they didn’t know many people. Perhaps it’s about staying in the same place and within the same circles of people which is not something I’ve done.
When I was renting a flat at university the landlady (who would probably not like to to be called that, although technically was – she was married to a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and I lived in the top floor of their house) said she thought it was particularly stupid to send cards to people you saw every day of the week. She thought they should be reserved for people that you didn’t see, and it gave you chance to catch up with them once a year.
Actually if the only thing you have in common is a once-yearly card it begs the question of why you even bother doing that.
My mother was precious about postage. Not for her the stealthy delivery around to the neighbours after dark to deliver the cards through the letterbox. No. She proudly walked down to the post office (obviously much further away), and paid for the stamps. I think she thought hand delivery was akin to being a penny-stamper – so to speak.
As you move around the country/the world, the list of Christmas card recipients becomes ever smaller. The neighbours fall off the end, with my only remaining regulars being my university friends. Even one of those didn’t bother last year, rather rudely (in my opinion) sending a cursory mail sometime between Christmas and New Year.
But new places mean new neighbours, and I do send cards to a couple of Gib ones. I’ve acquired internet card people too, so I’m nearly into double figures at this rate.
The first card was a lovely surprise. Remembering my love of donkeys she had chosen the card especially for me. How thoughtful.
The next card was a bigger surprise (although not as nice as donkeys). It was from the freeholder of our block of flats, for which I now chair the management council. I don’t think it is common practice for him to send out cards to everyone who has bought a flat in his blocks (he owns a few lucrative blocks), so I must have done something right.
The picture is a presentation of a painting of the queen (Elizabeth II) to the Earl and Countess of Wessex on their visit to Gib earlier this year, in the presence of the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Adrian Johns. What an illustrious gathering to have on my dusty sideboard. I don’t mix in those circles but my freeholder does.
Next, and totally different, is a card from my neighbour over the road. It depicts the ‘We Three Kings’ carol, always one of my favourites – especially sung by Mario Lanza – and inside she had written a note saying how much she misses chatting to us across the street through our windows (yes we do that sort of thing in Gib) since she had a stroke. I really appreciated her taking the time to write such a personal comment inside the card.
The next card is a County Air Ambulance charity one. Another perfect card with sheep, a dog, looks like a collie to me, and what I shall choose to consider to be a rag-top Land Rover. And – the surprise with that card – was that there was a present inside too. A lovely diary in aid of a dog charity. How good is that? It is amazingly useful, because although Gib is predominantly Catholic, we seem to have every other religion under the sun here too, and it lists all their religious holidays. Extremely helpful when I live in the Jewish quarter of town. Apart from anything else I can’t call meetings for the block on Jewish holidays as it would be disrespectful, so a quick flick to the diary to check out holidays.
Finally the last surprise was a card from our Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and our minister for employment, Joe Bossano (previous party leader and chief minister). In fact, it’s not from them as government ministers, but rather from the Gib Socialist and Liberal Party. From the GSLP family, no less, ‘working for you’. Um, they are not my family and right now they are not working for me at all.
There is far too much black labour from cross-border workers that they are doing nothing about to my knowledge. I know someone who has been working illegally in Gib for more than 20 years (in construction). There are endless cleaners working on the black. Spanish residents (of varying nationalities, British, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Eastern European), are being kept on company payrolls because once they are sacked it is hard/impossible to get them back – so Gib residents get the push instead. Great policy there that is not doing a lot for local labour.
At the job centre everything had changed yet again. No daily updates for jobs, all jumbled together in glass/perpex case displays. Not broken down by date, category or anything.
When I saw an employment officer, I asked what was going on.
‘Those are specialist jobs, for people with degrees,’ she informed me.
Right, well that wouldn’t apply to me would it, with a first degree and a Masters as well.
I didn’t bother answering. Sometimes you waste your breath.
‘The call centre has finished,’ she informed me.
Ah, the one I never heard from. Where it is staffed by inane idiots who decree what jobs I may apply for, based on a tick box form that says my interests are journalism, management, PR, and something else – I forget what because it clearly didn’t matter. They don’t need a CV do they? I might as well have ticked all 20 categories for all they knew.
‘Why did it stop?’
‘It wasn’t working.’
‘They were sending people for the wrong jobs.’
Ha! Just. Ha!
‘You need to speak to us now, as we have the jobs on file.’
Oh, that’s good, instead of an idiot at the call centre who I don’t get to see and who gets to dismiss me on the basis of my interests – and my non-Gibraltarian name? – I get to see a person in the job centre who determines what jobs I can apply for.
Note to prospective job-hunters. Do make sure you can read upside down.
‘I can speak Spanish,’ I said as she skipped a load of jobs that started with ‘must speak Spanish.’
‘Will you accept administrative work?’ she asked.
What the hell. Why not.
She gave me two cards. One was the inevitable gambling/gaming company, and the other was an HR assistant.
I rang the number. It was a legal firm. The job was not for them so I have no idea why their number was on the card apart from to mess people about.
I rang the number she gave me. It didn’t exist.
I’d done enough for the day and decided to do something more rewarding like read blogs.