Tuesday, March 26th, 5:30am. Ten minutes into the half hour walk to the Acton Post Office Depot, the heavens open up. By the time I reach the depot I’m drenched. In the dark pre-dawn I’m collecting a package from a remote location in an industrial area. I still have to go home, shower and get myself ready for another frantically busy and stressful workday. But I happily bop along to the music playing through my earphones. I’m collecting my father’s birthday gift, and though I know I won’t like the present, I’m very much looking forward to reading his card.
I pay the £29.38 customs charge (that I’m not happy about) and open the item then and there. I look at a silver pendant of an owl. No surprise, I don’t like it. But I look at the envelope containing my card and I know that’s where the real present is. Dad’s written words. And I know that the words will contain a link to the owl. I smile. When he sent my Christmas present I rushed to a café to savour the experience of reading the card. Today I don’t have the time to indulge.
An hour later I’m on the Central line. I pull the card from my handbag, open it, read the first page and loudly laugh – a woman’s dead-eyed glance reminds me that I’ve grossly violated the “silence at all times” tube rule. I quietly look down to read the second page.
I’ve previously written about Dad’s cards. They’re the highlight of every birthday and Christmas. Over the years he’s had countless accidents; he’s fallen off the roof, sliced his hand with a circular saw, and crashed his bike into stationary vehicles (that, he’s done numerous times). His copious mishaps and narrow escapes from the grim reaper have made him a family joke. His card makes reference to his dance with death, as well as his frustration at people ruining his cinema experience (the apple doesn’t always fall far from the tree …).
The card amuses me and when I emerge from the tube I email a friend about it. My morning messages to Ed are part of my daily routine. Rain, hail or shine, I send him a message every day by 8:30am. My friend, Helen, will also know about my Dad’s card before I’ve reached my desk. Time permitting, as soon as I arrive at work, I’ll email a friend I call The Hulk (I’m hoping mentioning him in this post doesn’t make him “go green”).
Written communications are priceless to me. I love sending them, and I love receiving them. I relish every email, text and whatsapp that comes my way. My birthday is particularly gratifying because not only do I get more of these, but I also get good old-fashioned hand-written cards; the crème de la crème of written communications. I’m so grateful for the messages; my father’s funny card, my mother’s meaningful one, my sister’s interesting one … and those from my friends. I’m immensely thankful for the people in my life.
On my birthday last year I flew to China. Tomorrow I fly to Australia. The black and white photo that heads up my blog was taken at my 5th birthday party in 1982. Despite the knowing (and mischievous) twinkle in my eye, I had no idea what the next 31 years would bring. As I sit here and type this, I have no idea what the next 40 hold for me …