Mornington-By-Mere is a small country village lying in the Finchbottom Vale nestled between the Ancient Dancingdean Forest and the rolling Pepperstock Hills.
It is a quaint picturesque village, a proper chocolate box picturesque idyll, with a Manor House, 12th Century Church, a Coaching Inn, Windmills, an Old Forge, a Schoolhouse, a River and a Mere.
But Mornington-By-Mere is not just a quaint chocolate box English Village it is the beating heart of the Finchbottom Vale and there were a number of cottages and small houses on the Purplemere road and Dulcets Lane which formed the part of Mornington Village known as Manorside and Mariana Harding was staying at number 1 Dulcet Mill Lane in the house she was raised in, along with her brother George, by their Aunt Julia.
She was a well-travelled woman in her mid-thirties who hadn’t put down roots anywhere but she had made lots of friends which became problematic at Christmas time when it came to sending Christmas cards because a considerable amount of strategic planning was required to ensure that maximum effect was gained from sending Christmas cards, because, design, timing, size and quality are of paramount importance.
There are all kinds of do’s and don’ts, one of them is sending Christmas cards too early, which is not only ineffective but can be humiliating for the sender because it is very revealing, by disclosing the size and quality of card, it exposes the sender to the possibility of a devastating counter-attack.
On the other hand, a very late Christmas card runs the risk of negating the recipient's ability to respond, and reduces one's total card count, and it can look like an afterthought.
Mariana thought it was better to be on the early, rather than late side, because the pre-emptive Christmas card sets the pace and compels the opposition to reply.
And it is a brave opponent who will respond with either a lesser card or better than card.
The second thing she considered was the value and size of cards. Important people, certainly people who think they are important, send big and important looking Christmas cards which was designed to make the recipient feel small.
It was a costly option but she thought it was worth it.
She didn’t consider herself a snob though and she thought there was definitely a place for cheap and nasty Christmas cards.
They could be used for a variety of reasons they didn’t just imply bad taste or poverty, they could be used to disrespect the recipient, and possibly lead to deletion from their Christmas card list.
She found cheap cards were particularly useful for terminating pointless Christmas card exchanges with people she met on holiday or business trips when she foolishly exchanged addresses on drunken night’s outs.
She tried to avoid First-time Christmas cards sent on impulse to recent acquaintances because they can have devastating consequences or disappointments.
But she didn’t follow her own protocols so when she was in Denver for a conference at the end of November and she met a man called Seelie Dawson, with whom she let her guard down, and one night after dinner, when alcohol had been taken, she gave him her address and phone number.
Following that breach she was overcome with regrets, firstly for the breach, second for not getting his details, thirdly for not giving him her email and finally for losing her phone on the journey home.
And ever since she got back to Mornington she had thought of nothing else but him and had abandoned her long standing and well-honed system and sent no cards at all and occupied her time examining the abundance of cards that arrived through her door every day hoping there would be one from him and each day she was disappointed.
But she never gave up hope and then on Christmas Eve she perused the pile of mail on the door mat once again and on that day with wonder in her eyes she received a Christmas card and the postmark was from Colorado, and she only knew one person there.
Her hand was shaking while she opened the envelope and withdrew the card, but before reading it she looked inside the envelope and saw a photo and it was a picture of her and Seelie, together and smiling, which recalled the evening to her mind with perfect clarity.
She turned her attention to the card, but she closed her eyes and took a breath before opening it, but when she did she read.
I hope you liked the photo, it was a very memorable evening.
I have tried several times to phone you on the mobile number you gave me.
I am going to be in England for the New Year, I would very much like to see you while I’m there, perhaps we could have dinner.
I’ve written my contact details on the back of the photo.
I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope very much that we can get together in the New Year.
Have a Happy Christmas
She flipped the photo over and saw the full gamut of details and her joy could not be contained so it was twenty minutes before she had calmed down enough for her start using them.
Despite the fact she didn’t send a single Christmas card that year she had her best Christmas in a decade and a very Happy New Year.