So, when you have to choose a birthday card for one of your nearest and dearest, what approach do you take?
I ask because
of late I have been wondering whether I have been wrong all along in choosing cards according to whether I like them or not. Should I, instead, be choosing the card which the recipient will love, even if it isn’t exactly my cup of tea?
Mr B has no doubts. He always buys my birthday cards from the newsagent’s shop at The Strand. Not the London Strand, that is, but the one just round the corner from
where we live. He says they have the very best choice of birthday cards anywhere he’s seen and at a price that a poor old pensioner can afford. Mr B, you will remember, is rather selective about when to play the “poor old pensioner”
card. As a poker player he knows just when to bluff, when to raise the stakes and when to go all in. I almost (though only almost) feel sorry for any unfortunate who is daft enough to telephone us in the middle of the day in a bid to sort out our pension,
insulate our roof or send us on a holiday to a place we don’t want to go.
If they are lucky, they will experience the “bluff” – otherwise
known as the poor old pensioner card. Once Mr B has laid it on thick just how impoverished we are (surviving on bread and water, huddling over a single bar of an electric fire, you can imagine how it goes) the caller is just desperate to end the call
so that he / she can ring someone who might actually have some pennies to spend.
Raising the stakes is equally amusing. This involves Mr B answering the phone,
then remaining completely silent while the caller goes through his /her spiel becoming increasingly anxious at the non-response from our end. It is well worth listening in on the extension phone just for the fun of it. However when
it comes to “all-in”, well it’s better by far not to even be in the room when Mr B goes all-in. This is when, on answering the fifth such call of the day, he loses it completely and tells the caller exactly what he thinks of him / her
/ BT / the government and, for good measure, anything else vaguely annoying which happens to come to mind while he is working himself up into a lather.
But I digress.
I was talking about birthday cards, wasn’t I? The Son And Only’s 40th birthday is not until February 11th but we are starting early with a family celebration tomorrow. And standing in W H Smith’s in front of the card
displays, I was faced with the usual dilemmas. Do I opt for a card emblazoned with “Son” on the front, on the basis that this is a card only his father and I can buy so at least we don’t risk duplication? On the other hand, it is his
fortieth so should I maybe buy a card with a large 40 on it, because, after all, you are only 40 once in your life? Should I go for sentimental? Or amusing? Should our card be adorned with a badge? Or not? I’m aware that it is perfectly possible
that he might not even be allowed to open his birthday cards himself, given the enthusiastic presence of his sons, my three Little Welsh Boys. Should I choose a card which will make them laugh?
Mr B points out, helpfully, that I do not need to worry about the size of the card as we will be delivering it in person. Usually he inspects every card I choose, before purchase, to ensure that it doesn’t qualify for
additional postage on account of (i) its size or (ii) the number of bits and pieces of felt, ribbon and other decorative fol-de-rols adorning it. It’s not just the extra money, you understand, but the fact that to post it we will have to trail
all the way down to the Post Office at the end of the road in order to find out the exact postage to be paid. When did life start getting so complicated, can somebody tell me?
In the end I bought a card I thought the Son And Only would appreciate. I'm not giving anything else away because I know he reads the Daily Blog (presumably to check up on his father and me) and what’s the good of a birthday without a surprise
or two. Or three?