Weekly photo challenge: Surprise – Christmas cards

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.’

‘Why not?’

‘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.


26 comments on “Weekly photo challenge: Surprise – Christmas cards

  1. How nice you still have these cards. At one point I used to send and receive many cards. I so enjoyed hearing from friends and family;y even if only at the holidays. I used to save the cards and look through them the next holidays when I unpacked my decorations. I may get one or two now and have to admit have sent none these past two years.. I think I will rekindle this tradition next holiday season..

    I hope you and partner have a most wonderful Christmas!!


    • I don’t have very many cards. I just appreciated some this year, and was surprised by others, so thought it was worth a light-hearted post.

      The most I ever received was when Pippadog was into big-time blogging and we really did have loads. Or rather he did. It was the laugh of the block that every day there were more and more cards for Pippadog through the letterbox. Even today he got one from a long-time cat friend (and he hates cats!)

      I haven’t quite got to throwing those wonderful dogblog cards out, although I really should because it is ages ago. Such a lovely community at the time though.

      Thanks L, I hope you have a nice holiday too. We don’t do anything so you may find me around on here (but not on twitter or FB).


  2. “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.”

    That’s great, I loved that comment!
    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.


  3. I love the surprise cards, especially when there is a personal message written inside too, they have been sent to me, for me.
    The ones that arrive, obviously addressed to us, but nothing inside except from ‘name’, I find cold and unfriendly, and basically a waste of time. They haven’t been sent with any thought at all.
    The oddest cards I ever received was from the husband of an old school friend.
    My friend and I had exchanged cards since I left Yorkshire, she died years ago, but for several years after her death I still received a card from her husband…….. who I’d never met.


    • Surprise cards are lovely. I’m not into, I’ll send you one because you have sent me one. Well, except sometimes :D

      Because I send so few, mostly my cards get a personal message. I won’t be sending one to the GSLP or if I do, it won’t be with a message they will like.

      Ha! He obviously stuck to the old list. If I die before A there will be no cards sent at all, because he is even worse than me.


  4. How nice you are getting cards. I sent some out – but this year only have gotten 2: my brother, and a friend in CO. LAst year was about the same – people just are too busy? It’s always nicer when they include a note instead of just a name. I had to laugh over Pippa’s popularity – I can so see that happening.
    The job thing seems annoying and depressing. UGH. You are quite capable, but they don’t seem really interested in identifying jobs or getting the right person in the right place? Hope you stumble across something next year….I still think Gib is missing out not having you publicize/write things for tourists.
    May warmth and joy find your hearth and linger long there.


    • I’m not really into cards. Partly because I’m not into Christmas apart from the peace and tranquility. I loathe the commercial aspect, and people rowdily partying on getting drunk. There should be a law that says ‘if you want to get drunk – do it at home.’ :D

      There were a few years when I dug my heels in and didn’t send cards, but I still received some, so guilt kicked in and I’ve sent them again. Most/all of the UK ones I receive are in support of a charity, which I like, but here they are difficult to find, so I stick to buying cards from the Heritage Trust. It was a nightmare in Spain tracking some charity cards down, and a charity I agreed with, although I eventually found some Medicos sin fronteras ones, so hastily snatched them up.

      I think it is interesting how the senders and recipients change over time. I was surprised to not receive one from my closest university friends – as you say, too busy? Even so, it does say something,

      At the time Pippa received a mountain of cards, we were part of an active dogblog community on blogger. I’ve not kept up to his blog as much on WP, and a lot of his friends died/stopped blogging/preferred facebook (instant soundbites, yes?)

      As for the job thing, I need to sit down and send out some serious CVs in the new year, something always seems to get in the way though. But as long as Partner picks up some work now and again, we’re not quite on the breadline.

      Thank you for your good wishes. Igualmente. Although we have no hearth in our flat and if Santa landed on the roof looking for a chimney, he probably end up falling six floors down into the small patio :D


    • :D I haven’t sent my Gib cards at all yet. Tomorrow is not too late to drop off three with neighbours in the same street. That won’t include the job centre or the current party in power however.

      I did buy a tiny Christmas cactus for my neighbour today though, so shall skip over there with that tomorrow to wish her best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.


  5. LOL, we have dozens of cards but they are mainly for E and the kids. I have a couple from my immediate family and a close friend and that is it. I’m getting too cynical in my old age and these days Christmas is more about commercial profit than anything else so I object to having a ‘who sent the biggest most expensive card’ competition with people. Having said that I do find txt messages rather offensive especially when they’ve been sent at 2am (waking me up) from some drunk friend that hasn’t spoken to me all year via phone, email or letter! (I’ll include my brother in that too….)


    • I tend to leave buying the statutory half dozen cards until as late as possible because I really have better things to do. I had one left over from last year, so that neatly accounted for the seven I’ve sent (and received from everyone too).

      Any more than that, and it’s too many :D

      Most people know not to contact us after 9pm, let alone at 2am!!


  6. i sent but one card this year. i always feel for the postal workers who must carry such a heavy sack of mail, so i decided to reduce their stress a bit, LOL. ok, so i just didn’t do it, would be a more honest response. life just gets busy at times. so i say Merry Christmas to friends nearby face to face. others who are far away i call.
    even so, there is something special about Christmas cards – and i think this is an ingenious post. and funny, too, in a frustrated sort of way, especially with your job search. must be tough.


    • Haha, I don’t think I add much to their sacks of mail :D

      I like the cards that have some meaning in the sending of them, which pretty much most of these do, so that is good. I could still live without them though.

      When Pippa got his mammoth haul a few years ago I had to stick them all over the cupboards as we had no space to put them anywhere else (not allowed to put them on the walls!!)


  7. Sending a card back to the Liberal and Socialist party?

    I go back and forth on sending cards. Some years I think that its a huge waste of money. Some years I’m into them. This year, I even made some, unartistic though I am.

    Merry Christmas to you and Partner and, of course, an extra special happy Christmas to Pippa.


    • I’d only send them a card if they’d give me a job. Maybe I should have sent a card?

      I’m pleased to hear that I’m not alone in fluctuating with the wretched things. I’ve done some email ones in the past, but never actually made them, although I like the idea. Basically I would feel guilty spending time making them (it would take AGES!)

      Pippa sends a gentle snose and paw wave to you and BD Ralph (and any others you may have). He sends his apols for not getting over to BDR’s blog and blames it totally on me (rightly in this case).

      Wishing you Season’s Greetings and a Happy 2013.


  8. I send two cards in the mail each year. One to a good friend who lives in Wales who I rarely see, although he did come and see me in October this year. We exchange birthday cards too.

    The other is to a couple who recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. Rarely see them but we do exchange the odd email. I receive two cards in the mail as well.

    Immediate neighbours do stick cards through my letter box, I reciprocate. I buy my cards in the January sales!!!!

    No surprise cards for me, but surprise invite to Xmas dinner from two doors down. I will be wishing all my facebook friends a Merry Xmas a little later, but like you I don’t really celebrate, not so much as a sprig of holly.


    • I do have a standing invitation to visit my UK friends, and one of them always repeats it each year (yes, I did visit some years ago because I thought it was time I accepted his offer, and I like him too).

      January sales eh? Do they do appropriate charity cards? I always find it fascinating to see what charities people choose. And those who don’t choose one at all.

      I’m on borderline double figures this year. It depends whether you count Pippa’s card from some cats, and two cards from the GSLP (one for each of us – think they need an address filter on that one). Anyway I cannibalised the one to scan it in for this post.

      Otherwise you wouldn’t know it was Christmas here. But two peaceful tranquil days are to enjoy. We will probably go for a walk tomorrow or BD. Enjoy your surprise dinner, (hope they are good cooks!), it’s a nice gesture.


      • Its two sisters, from a litter of about 12 (you know what I mean). A third sister has this week withdrawn from buying my house, so it looks like the house auction on April 23rd is now back on plan, I’m told its worth waiting the few months as more DIY developers are out and about in the Spring.

        Its all jjust such a pain in the neck.


        • Ha! Guilty complex methinks, and sorry to hear about that. After all the toing and froing you have done.

          Our private buyer wanted to live next door to her mother, so was very keen. But we’ve been messed around by estate agents too. Hope your auction goes well and hits above reserve price.

          Post Easter is always meant to be good for house sales until autumn when they tail off.

          Fingers crossed we see you in Gib in 2013.


  9. awe.. ms you are a delight!
    You will not miss my Christmas card that I dd not send you then?

    I actually for the first time in 42 yrs liberated myself from that nasty Christmas card list i had kept up the pretense of far too long.
    It is those friends.. no strike that! It is those acquaintances I never see but periodically in the neighborhood shops, or at the library across the stacks that I have refused to send this year.
    If we do not speak on a regular basis you will not hear from me via a Christmas card ever again.
    Its just prudent, not rude.
    I loved this post.

    Your employment issue mirrors very much the issues my state of Oregon faces although the nationality changes.
    Our bordering country Mexico with its extremely poor people have been crossing the USA border illegally to work as migrant field hands for as long as I have been on this earth. My state not only accepted this it encouraged it. We could not find enough Oregonian to harvest the fields even it was going to save our economy.
    The people of Oregon and its farmers never took issue until the people from Mexico wanted better for their people.for their work environment, and started branching into other industries. Now this state is screaming “Make them go back home.. now, Governor Kizhaber”

    So when I need to look for work at this point in my life I am now having to compete with those who have no legal right to be here in my state absorbing the open job market as well as any social and health service.benefits. Have you heard you are over qualified? Lovely reason to hire someone else.
    It is interesting to me that almost no matter what country a person resides in there are those who really have no say anymore in how to make a decent living.

    Great writing ms ~


    • I have had a few internet cards this year and in the past, but with the exception of the dogblog mega card exchange, I think internet greetings are fine by email or ecard or whatever. So the answer to that was, no, not at all :)

      And I was horrified at the cost of the postage for the card exchange. It was a long drawn out story but my dog was part of a big dog-blogging community so we agreed to exchange cards. Of course, everyone (or nearly) had cards of their dogs published or hand made them or whatever. So my printer chose to pack up that year before Christmas. It wouldn’t recognise my computer.

      I finally sorted something in the new year (probably a new printer) and sent a couple of late cards, but realised it was ridiculous sending cards half way across the world in January. That Christmas I was determined to make up for my lapse so sent a myriad of cards to all the ones I had received from. By then I was persona non grata, or he was canina non grata, so we received a handful. But the postage was more than £100, before you even included the printing costs and envelopes. I didn’t join in again – that money could have been put to better use.

      What I like about this post, is that so many people have been refreshingly honest about only sending to close friends and family, maybe far away, rather than just chucking a card to someone you nod at in the street every day.

      Your comments on employment are exactly the same as another blogger has previously made (lives in Texas) regarding cross-border workers.

      Cheap labour rules. There is no good work anymore. Or no desire to pay for good work.

      Thank you bb.


  10. I’m back tracking through missed but want to read holiday period posts… I hope it’s not too late or impolite to be commenting now…
    Other than the GSLP card, the cards you received especially the thoughtfully chosen donkey card are wonderful. That’s a card I’d like to receive. Ours were very hit & miss this year. I’d really like to not bother but for some of the older family members it’s a cultural thing, and they’d be put out.
    Your job centre experiences are so entertaining but it’s almost too painful to contemplate the actuality. Reading upside down is a wonderful skill. I think once I leave the glass tower and the city it will rate equally with all my other work skills, which is why your job seeking experiences make me shudder a little… foretelling my future.


    • Comment whenever you want :)

      I like the personal ones too. When people know what you like and choose cards accordingly that means far more than a whole load of bland cards signed and sent for the sake of it.

      Upside down reading probably came with the reporting. And the civil service, and public relations, and the health service etc etc. Just always helpful to know what people have in front of them :) You don’t need to turn something round when they turn their back. Just be able to read it in the first place :)


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