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She was Missing in Acton...

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Christmas cards and the Reader's Digest are under the spotlight of John Ward in his latest Ward's World column.

As the year slowly draws to a close it means the final battle is on to get us to dig into our wallets, purses or look into the ‘old tin truck under the bed’ to get the money to splash out on assorted festive baubles and presents to possibly bring cheer and joy to many.

Yes, it’s that final ‘countdown’ before that festive time grips us where the spirit of kindness, goodwill and general wellbeing is offered to others, some less fortunate than ourselves – or in some extreme cases they seemingly have it all anyway and are hanging on to it for as long as they possibly can.

A few from the Reader's Digest collection
A few from the Reader's Digest collection

We are now in the season of assorted last minute ‘festive offers’ being brought/shoved to our attention by various means from adverts in the media, on the sides of buses and lorries (remember them?) plus flyers or leaflets in with your shopping and so forth as no level of notification or communication is left unused at this crucial time of the year.

If we had to rely upon the services of the old Town Crier from years ago to inform us, with just about everything on offer, he or she would have to put in for a new set of lungs and a few gallons of industrial strength throat spray afterwards due to the sheer amount of ‘offers’ being bellowed out.

There is another side to the festive occasion in that you hear from folk you don’t normally hear from so it can be quite touching at times knowing folk are still about.

One such friendship came via of all things the Reader’s Digest magazine as somebody read a feature about me in a copy: I didn’t know they were basically the same in content throughout the world in different languages but only became aware when I was sent assorted complementary editions from around the globe prior to their respective publication dates.

The Oriental ones are quite fun but they do spell my name right. However for the tricky bits I went along to our then local take-away to have them translated.

I must admit that at the time I thought it was a joke as the article was written by respected author Tom Congdon from Nantucket, Massachusetts who came to meet the family and interview me as he was originally commissioned to write it for Forbes magazine in which it first appeared, and then apparently it was considered ‘so good’ (his words) that it was printed in the RD worldwide.

I digress: I have known Eve from years ago as her late husband Alan engaged me for an event after reading about me in the RD and we have been friends ever since but she was saying not so long ago that she had just saved up enough for the stamps for sending out this year’s Christmas cards to those in her small, decreasing circle.

She is bewildered that the two boxes of festive cards cost a fraction of the cost of sending them in the post but as I explained this is evolution while she agreed I do have a point – she noticed I still use a pencil, still keep it sharp in my top pocket – but it does not explain why some people at the other end don’t receive the cards she sends out.

To be fair they do apparently alternate between those who do and those who don’t send back as it’s not always the same person complaining but feels it must be her friend Margaret’s turn to moan that she won’t/didn’t get hers this year based on the law of physics and ‘Sid’s Law’ – Sid is her postman who pacifies her at tricky times of non-delivery of expected items although junk mail succeeds mostly.

However, she does point out the technical aspects of card sending as gleaned over the years: she nowadays uses up two dozen stamps but they are all the second class type as she points out that ‘speed is not an element of surprise as we all know when Christmas is and on what date, so first class is pointless and money wasting’ in her mind.

There used to be more than 50 cards sent some years ago, regular as clockwork, but some recipients have passed away – or moved on without leaving a forwarding address or in some cases they did but the handwriting was hard to read as it was so spidery.

In one case she took one such letter to her local chemist to ask if they could decipher it as they were very good when she took her – then – handwritten prescriptions by her Dr Baxter. But they could not decifer her Crimbo cards sadly.

Nowadays it’s down to two dozen through ‘evolution’ or put another way, she points out ‘some have snuffed it’ to get to this figure but it did once drop to 23 which meant she had a ‘free’ stamp to squander on something or other but out of the blue somebody was sorting through her now deceased friend’s things, found her cards and so her daughter has been sending a card ever since ‘in memory of my mum’ so the ‘free stamp’ only lasted a year.

One of her neighbours – Betty – she knew for years moved away to live in Acton in London to be near one of her relatives who had become seriously ill but with no known relations or dependants to care for her, Betty felt it was the thing to do and so off she went with her husband, having sold their house and moved there. For a few years the letters and the cards arrived as expected as Betty was a regular letter-writer plus the Christmas cards were always a joy to receive, then nothing came again as cards and letters sent to her came back ‘not known at this address’ and so on.

It’s been a few years now since no response so Eve has put it down as a case of ‘Missing in Acton’ until further sightings happen.

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