I love writing Christmas cards. I mean I know it's a bit of a slog, but I still enjoy it.
Which is just as well, because I write a lot of them every year, and often put a little note in or on each one - especially if the recipient is somebody I don't see very often, or don't chat to on social media. Not newsletters. I don't do those. Although one year, I did write a spoof newsletter, with various fictional relatives indulging in bizarre activities like evening classes in witchcraft and black magic, and equally fictional ten and eleven year old nieces and nephews obtaining first class degrees in Nuclear Physics and suffering from early onset male pattern baldness. A good friend of ours thought - at first glance - that it was genuine, and was disgustedly reading it out to his wife, before she pointed out that it was all made up 'because that's what she does!' she added. 'Makes things up.'
I've already written and posted cards to old friends in mainland Europe and elsewhere. This year that includes our son, currently living and working in Barcelona, and for once not able to come home for a Christmas visit. Not just a card but a large parcel, which next year will be made much more difficult by what is called, in this household at least, sodding Brexit.
Still, this being Scotland, we have options.
But I digress. I like spending a little while thinking about all the people that I have known and loved throughout my life. I like remembering all the tiny and sometimes silly and often hilarious details about our friendship, especially when it's a long term friendship, even when we don't often see each other.
Sadly, the older you grow, the more you find yourself missing the people who have fallen off the end of the list. You still remember them. And they are in the address book as well as in your mind. But you wish you could drop them a line, or phone them or see them.
So it is that I find myself wishing that I could write to my Canadian friend, Anna, who would phone me - latterly from Canada - for long, warm, chatty calls, roughly once a month. We were a generation apart, but she was smart and wise and witty and she took no prisoners, and I loved her. I wish my Auntie Vera was still here when I get out the gorgeous nativity set she knitted for me. I wish my lovely mum and dad and my kind, wise mother-in-law were coming for Christmas. I wish I could send a card with all my news to my old head of department, Scottish folklorist Stewart Sanderson, who I kept in touch with for many years. I wish I could send him a copy of my new book, because I know it would be right up his street. And I wish I could still open an envelope and find a newsy note from Leonard White, who produced a television series I worked on many years ago and who kept in touch with me for the rest of his long and productive life.
Most of all, this year, I find myself missing two friends, my radio producers and friends, Hamish Wilson and Marilyn Imrie, who both died this year - I wrote about them on this blog and elsewhere, here and here, but it's very hard to accept that they're not here, when I see their names in my address book, and fleetingly imagine meeting up with them again before remembering that it isn't possible.
All of which makes the remaining friends - and the new friends, of which there are many - all the more precious. If you ask me what I've missed most, during this last Covid and rabid politician infested year - I would say it has been the hugs. Sometimes the need to hug somebody, close friends, good friends, my son, has been so acute that it is a physical pain. I think many of us are feeling the same.
For now, the occasional socially distanced walk, the Zoom calls and the phonecalls and Christmas cards with their messages and kisses will just have to do.
As for me, I'll be queuing for the vaccine whenever it's available.