Gifts across the globe

have, of course, bought presents for family and friends - but probably spent less than usual. I have also written many cards and, with immense pride, announced the birth of my granddaughter, Lucie.

I think I rank sending and getting cards along with hanging out the washing on a windy day, wonderfully fulfilling. But I'm quite a snob - don't send me one with glitter. And don't ask why I cross out the word Christmas and scrawl in "Solstice". I have also put up a tree, new cut and fragrant, and have noticed that along with relative affluence over the past few years come some very classy things to hang on it. Thankfully, I haven't totally sold out - tinsel angels my boys made in Canada in 1990 still make an appearance.

But I haven't bought a turkey, made a cake, peeled sprouts or made a trifle. Food on Sunday will be what I can be bothered making. Lentil soup, maybe, and for the guests at tea time, I will make something relatively nice . . . just as I do for any visitors. Even so, I quite envy a friend who avoided the whole issue by fasting last Christmas Day and raised a thousand quid for charity.

If it is dry enough, I'll spend the morning cutting wood (beachcombing usually involves lugging home a few tree trunks - the sea salt makes them burn with vivid turquoise flames). Hopefully I will be partying a bit - and no doubt will have friends round . . . but hey, any excuse for a knees-up.

What has changed is that when I can't be arsed doing something these days, I don't do it.

When the kids were small, there was a certain pleasure in their excitement, and I did enjoy choosing their presents. Then they got older and their needs and tastes got more sophisticated and expensive. I still regret buying computer games - yet still remember the desire to get it right for them, even if I did spend more than I had.

And why does guilt creep in? I have bought my granddaughter a goat, from Oxfam. As I watch her grow, I'll know that somewhere in Africa a goat is also growing, giving milk and hopefully having babies - so that gift will go on indefinitely. Some friends are getting 100 Third World school meals - six quid - and I think it was realising that our pupils spend pound;2 each day, while these children get by on 6p worth that jerked me off the Christmas merry-go-round. I'm not getting cynical, or humbuggish, just a little more aware that we have more than our share, they have less.

And I get more presents than I can handle. I think with my thank-you notes, I might just ask instead for a contribution next year towards training a teacher to take my place when I retire.

It's a wonderful world, I'm glad I'm part of it.

Have a good holiday.

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