CREATIVITY / Making a little old lady very happy

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WELCOME back. We trust you had a creative Christmas, and we are happy to have returned just in time to offer advice on what to do with your old Christmas cards, writes William Hartston.

Several readers came up with recycling ideas. 'Cut the pictures out and use them as postcards', suggests Dimple Godiwala, claiming that this helps to save trees. Katy van den Berg uses them as next year's gift tags to save money. N Wilson says: 'Don't cut them out to make gift tags for next year's Christmas presents. It's totally naff and anyway, you will have lost them all by next year.'

Simon Draper wishes us all a prosperous new year and offers an environment-friendly, wastage-free service, recycling other people's cards at only pounds 1.25 per card. Michael Pollard reminded us of Gilbert Harding's solution to the problem: he kept them until the following year, then added 'and Gilbert' to the signature before sending it on to someone else.

Stuart Cockerill preserves anonymity, saves time and increases random joy by not even opening anything looking like a card, but scribbling on it the words 'Moved to . . .' and a fictional address. This, he says, keeps someone in work at the Post Office and ensures that the little old lady living at 1402 Karlsbergstrasse, Badeiberg 1908342, Germany, does not feel forgotten at Christmas.

Mr Cockerill also provides two further suggestions in seasonal bad taste. Compost the cards with half- eaten mince pies and stale sherry to provide the ingredients for next year's Christmas pudding, or cut out the individual characters to compile festive blackmail demands.

Andrew Hawker believes that much can be deduced of a person's character from the cards their friends send them. Do your friends see you as a robin on a frozen pond, or a blazing log fire, or a charcoal sketch of Westminster? He recommends that job applicants should be required to submit a complete set of cards received for a personality assessment by experts.

Tim and George Mercer suggest that nimble work with a needle and thread can turn cards into a swanky waistcoat. Heather Gregg sent a set of splendidly impractical suggestions, including impaling them on a thin pole to make a Christmas tree or glued on to brown paper for cheap gift wrap.

John Earle has no idea what to do with them, but Fiona levels the table, washing machine and tumble drier with the more attractive ones. James Taylor says: 'Bundle them up into a parcel, add a brick and send them cash on delivery to one of those sanctimonious people who tell you to give them to a charity.' For anyone wishing to follow that advice, Judith Hartley points out that Friends of the Earth make labels for re-using Christmas card and can be contacted on 0209 831999. She recommends sending the card back to its original sender, because 'they are bound to like it.'

Following an embarrassing misunderstanding at our Creativity Christmas party, we should like to assure Paul and Steph that the person in the day-glo tutu and hyena mask was in no way connected with the Independent. If said person would like to identify themselves, we can put him or her in touch with Paul and Steph to clear things up.

This week's challenge is one plastic bag, seven pins, a plastic collar, a rectangle of cardboard and a metal clip, as found in the packing of a shirt Creativity received for Christmas. Uses for all or part of this collection will be welcome at Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.