Hallmark of Hell

A newborn baby is a gift from God Himself as we all know, thanks to the cascade of simpering halfwits, otherwise known as ‘parents’, repeatedly hammering the fact into our skulls via media of all types. There has been one such arrival in my own sphere of influence in the past few days and all power to the little sod’s elbow, though I won’t be paying it much mind until that elbow is weathered enough to legally raise a pint glass to its accompanying face.

My friends have had a baby and I am happy for them. I find it unlikely, though, that given we’ll be seeing this new child in the coming days, and its parents, there’s any need to send it a card. And not just any card – adorned with the words ‘It’s a boy!’ no less.

It was long ago decreed that the world’s a safer place without my progeny, but I’ve learned enough about the emergence of new people to know a tiny cock and balls diagnoses a fresh sufferer of the male condition without parents having to be informed by mail.

Cards, of the greeting or congratulatory ilk, are the singularly most pointless invention humanity has yet conceived, bar none, for the purposes of this edict. Facile and meaningless in almost every instance, they are inexplicably surviving the age of digitalism while such great arts as the writing of a letter are being replaced by tossed-off missives via social media, much to the dismay of great aunts everywhere.

I cannot have the sending of a card upon the birth of a child explained to me in a way that doesn’t make me gawp in bafflement at the lunacy of it. Perhaps the marginally-older-than-nought-years-old child would otherwise instinctively know that we failed to acclaim its arrival, harbouring a powerful hatred against us for the rest of our lives, simmering with barely suppressed fury every time we buy it an ice cream or laud its third place in the egg and spoon, and imagining our demise with Stewie Griffin-like malice. Or perhaps it’s an infant and couldn’t give a fuck, it’s just too early to tell.

Then again, the card might be for the benefit of the parents. Parents who we’ve known for two decades. Parents who I personally introduced to each other. Parents who have now turned into parents and have duly lost their wits, furiously scanning the doormat post-postman to see which of their so-called friends has failed to celebrate their offspring with the cardboard garland that is its right.

I recently endured the annual increase of the number that is humanity’s burden, that heavy figure signifying one’s progress to the slow shaking of hospital staff heads and the grim humour of an Irishman with a spade. As you might imagine I celebrate a birthday with great, often liquid fervour, but I don’t know how I’d get past noon without spending a few minutes tearing open envelopes and staring dead-eyed at cards from people I will be seeing in the next few days, sometimes hours.

My gratitude is unending as I open yet another hilarious Hallmark of Hell. Miraculously this year I actually got a card that made me laugh – Charlie Croker bemoaning that “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody candles out!” from my mother. But such moments are rare among the deathly forced chuckles as I peer glumly at cards whose purpose is to prove the sender knows me well, and has bought a card with a football or a pint of beer on it to highlight the full depth of my personality. One in three cards will make reference to the word ‘miserable’, or ‘grumpy’, or the less common but not unfamiliar ‘bastard’. Love is strongest when conveyed via insult.

Those black and white cards juxtaposing an innocent image with a caption about an old woman farting or some such, those can be amusing. But they’re a lot more welcome when a fiver falls out of them, which at my age is a tragically uncommon occurrence because at some point it was decided that the older I get the less money I need. I haven’t received a card in the last 20 years that wouldn’t have been better off as part of a tree, with the money better spent on something, anything, that will get me drunk enough to push aside thoughts of a graveward march as civilisation crumbles about us.

Why do people insist on keeping Clintons in business? Not the screeching harpy across the water, without whom one suspects we would all be facing far fewer happy returns, but those grinning capitalists gleefully producing massive badges with 80 on them that we seem to genuinely believe Grandpa wants pinned to his chest because he can’t find one saying “Not long to go now old fella!” Isn’t it time we recognised that cards can safely be replaced by telephone calls, emails, texts, even those wretched messages you TwitFaces ping at each other day and night? I know ‘e-cards’ are staggeringly worthless even in this context but content yourself that for every ten cards you don’t send in the post an indigenous South American tribe might get to hide its home from developers for another few minutes.

Is there a man or woman alive who wouldn’t rather get an actual message from an actual person than “Drinking can cause memory loss, or even worse, memory loss. Happy birthday!” HAHAHAHA. Sorry, involuntary. I can’t be absolutely certain that I can live without a ‘Minion’ in an Arsenal shirt wishing me a wonderful day but I’m definitely willing to give it a try.

“Happy birthday to someone now old enough to be asked by younger people to buy beer.” HAhcurkfuf oh Jesus I think I just swallowed a lung. The amount of thought that goes into these things would shame a Prime Minister’s resignation honours list but please, let me be the guinea pig to see if we all die of insularity without sending each other cards. Wish me well if you see me, trust that I don’t think any less of you if I receive or hear nothing from you on my big day, and if you must buy me a pint at some point in the future I won’t be offended.

“It’s a boy!” Oh thank the Lord, I knew someone would tell us eventually. “Congratulations on your wedding day. Forever together!” And literally never happier than on the day itself. “Get well soon!” Also known as ‘You owe me a tenner and I know I’m not in the will.’

A scowling Victor Meldrew in a flat cap, with the words “Birthday? I don’t believe it!” I know, Victor, I know.

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