Season's greetings from absent friends

Related Topics
"Know what I hate worst in the world at Christmas time?" said the man next to me in the pub. "I'll tell you what I hate worst at Christmas time. It's getting all those Christmas cards from firms you've done a little business with, all signed by everyone in the office. You know, small charity cards with five or eight names on, all signed by Tracey, Jim, Roger, Sue, Dave, Wayne, Hazel..."

The man in the pub, whose name was actually Pete, which is why he hadn't included Pete in the list of mundane names, trailed away in gloom.

"What's so depressing about that?" asked his companion, a cheery woman despite being his wife.

"Well, I just find it depressing, the thought of all these office workers getting round the table one morning, signing 200 cards in a row, not knowing who any of them are going to, just automatically dishing out Christmas cheer, just signing their name over and over again, Mandy, Mandy, Mandy, Mandy, Mandy ... and then a week later, us getting the card, and we're meant to say, 'Oh, how nice, Excelsior Office Supplies have sent us a card!', but we don't, we don't even say to the wife as a joke, 'Oh, look, we've had a card from Mandy, Rog, Emma, Doug, Sally and Binky', we just say, 'Why on earth do businesses waste their money on this token gesture, because they're not getting a card from me!' "

There was a pause after this low-level tirade, until Charlie chipped in and said: "Well, he's certainly right about the names. I get some of these cards and they're always signed by people called Rog and Mandy and Hazel and Phil. You never get people called Clytemnestra or Phoebe or Cecil or Noel. They're always ordinary names, like Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice."

"When that film came out," said a woman called Mrs Minter, who wasn't the sort of woman you'd like to know the first name of, "when that film came out, I bet there were some groups of friends really called Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, and I bet they were really rather upset by the goings-on in the film."

"Oh, sure," said Charlie, "and I bet that when the famous pop group of the same name got going, there were lots of groups of people called Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich who were very upset. Very likely."

"It wasn't Dave, comma, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, etc." said Pete. "It was Dave Dee, Dozy, etc. There was one chap called Dave Dee, not two people called Dave and Dee."

"Are you sure?" asked Charlie.

"Landlord!" cried Pete, "Bring hither your copy of the Guinness Book of Pub Arguments!"

There is in fact no such book that I am aware of, but it is a tradition in the pub that whatever reference book is needed to settle an argument, it is referred to as the Guinness Book of Pub Arguments.

"Point one," said the landlord, "the correct title of the group was Dave no comma Dee, etc. Point two, when firms send out Christmas cards, their office workers do NOT sit round all morning signing cards."

"Then how do they get signed, clever clogs?" said Charlie.

"By an outside firm of contractors."

"You what?"

"Oh, yes," said the landlord. "Quite common now. If you're sending out commercial Christmas cards, you get a firm to do it for you. We did."

"Who did?"

"Us here at the Old Black Lion. Last year it took us ages to do all our cards, but this year we were approached by a firm who would do all the signing and sending for us, so we leapt at it. We had to compromise a bit, because we don't really have many people working for us, so the firm added five fictional names of pub staff to the card."

There was a stunned silence.

"Flo, Annie, Mick, Ian and Kim," elucidated the landlord.

There was another stunned silence.

"They do family cards as well," said the landlord.

"If you're interested, I'll give you their card. They take a family mailing list and send cards to everyone on it. They actually practise forging the signatures of everyone in the family so that they can make the names look authentic."

Much later, when the pub was emptying, I asked the landlord if it was true what he had said about the firms that do cards for you. He said it was a total fabrication, but he was getting fed up with the conversation and wanted to bring it to an end.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Lead Marketing Specialist

£34500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A lead marketing specialist is required ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 2nd / 3rd Line

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Folder Gluer Operator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: There will be a number of exciting opportuniti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The message displayed on the monitor of a Piraeus Bank ATM in Athens. The Bank of Greece has recommended imposing restrictions on bank withdrawals  

Get off your high horses, lefties – Big Government, not 'austerity', has brought Greece to its knees

Kristian Niemietz
A church in South Carolina burns after a fire breaks out on June 30, 2015  

America knows who has been burning black churches, but it refuses to say

Robert Lee Mitchell III
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map