Nun in card shop. From

Nun of these cards are any good.

Picture the scene. From my left to my right, the cards stretch out into the distance: an infinite mass of greetings, congratulations, salutations and commiserations. They are organised not by subject, but by intended recipient, or some abstract category such as "humour" or "flowers". Attached to every one is a cryptic label, designed to prevent you discovering the true, indecently high price of the card before it's too late. No card bears a simple message; instead, all are decorated with a monstrously elaborate string of bullshit which even Stephen Fry would regard as "gay". This is the face of modern card shopping, and it's an ugly face indeed.

I'm convinced that shopping for cards never used to be such a stressful and time consuming experience. I'd go into the newsagents, select a card with an appropriate design and a simple "Happy Birthday" message on the inside, pay my 80p and be on my way. Recently, however, I have found myself stood in front of arrays of overpriced, hideously designed pieces of crap, sifting frantically through in a desperate attempt to find the card that would least embarrass me to give to someone else. Yet every time I seem to fail in this quest, picking a card that looks innocuous on the outside, yet inside secretes a cringe-inducing message that makes my brain whack itself against my skull out of sheer disgust.

"To a dear Grandmother who makes my world go round". This was an actual message inside one of the cards I picked up in Smith's the other day (at least, an actual message that I am now paraphrasing because I couldn't bring myself to commit it to memory). This is the sort of message one might impart upon a partner or spouse. It's not the sort of romantic waffle that I want to tell my grandmother. I don't fancy my gran. She doesn't make my world go round. She bakes cakes and gives me money when I visit. Who would give their grandmother a card like this? Rather, who would give their grandmother this if they knew it said this inside before they bought it? OK, I got stung, and I've learnt my lesson. Thankfully my grandmother is quickly going blind and probably wasn't able to read the card anyway.

That sort of shit is only the tip of the iceberg nowadays. If you're emotionally dry like me, it's impossible to find a card that is sufficiently emotionless. "To my number one dad". That's crap. You only have at most one dad, so by the very virtues of biology and mathematics, he has to be "number one". My dad does not get ranked on any form of chart, but if he did he wouldn't even be breaking into the top forty. "To a really special dad". My dad doesn't send me enough money to be "really special". He's on "sub-par" at the moment. If he ups my direct debit to £50 a week I may graduate him to "average", but that's as far as he's going.

I had the same trouble at mother's day. Unlike father's day, this is a genuine festival which wasn't dreamt up by Clintons, so I sort of felt obliged to get my mother a card. However, this obligation was tested to its limits when I saw how much a card was going to set me back. Five pounds was the average price. Five pounds for a piece of cardboard, albeit one lavishly decorated with ornate bows and cut-out flowers, is too much. Far too much. I wouldn't say my mother isn't worth five pounds in total, but if you're dividing it up like that, then she's not worth five pounds for a card. In fact, if I'd have bought one of those, she would have been annoyed with me for wasting money. That's how fine the line is. The alternative was any card from the £1.49 "plebs selection", which were basically pieces of card folded in half with a picture of flowers by some failed art student sprayed on using an Epson desktop printer. Don't get me wrong, this is exactly what I wanted. Still the inside of the card bore some tacky message about how the recipient is "the best mum in the world and I love you so much", but I bought it and made the best of a bad situation. If she believes I genuinely think that, then good luck to her.

The solution, you may be thinking, is to make my own cards and be done with all the shopping nonsense. First off, if you make your own cards, you're a cheapskate. And whilst your loved ones may marvel at the time and effort you've spent on the preparation, I know the cynical truth. Most homemade cards are achieved in this simple three-step process:

  1. Open Publisher, chose a template.
  2. Google image search "flowers", copy and paste first result.
  3. Print off and scrawl something on the inside.
  4. Optional festive step: apply glitter glue liberally.

Total time: 10 minutes. It takes more effort and dedication to go to the fucking shop and subject yourself to the unadulterated misery that is selecting a suitable card. Making your own card is a soft option.

Card shopping has become a complete farce. The card business, once a cottage industry, has become an all-consuming embodiment of everything that is wrong with capitalism. Every year, thousands of monkeys and other endangered species are killed as the card companies deforest vast areas of the Amazon, all so people like you can buy a double-thickness card just to show your parents how much you love them. Furthermore, the horribly-written blurb inside merely serves to resonate a false message of hope and love, a message that carries no more weight than the flimsy cardboard it is written on. I hate cards and I hope Hallmark gets completely destroyed by an unlikely natural disaster.

Permalink || Posted 31/3/2006 by Pete


  1. Wakelin - 31/3/2006 - 10:41pm

    Ace, Nattress. Glad to see the old bitterness and hatred hasn't completely lost it's grasp on your soul.

    (Agree about the cards by the way. Trying to find a card for Mothering Sunday without hearts plastered over it head to foot was about as fruitful as a search for a piece of chicken in a Tesco Value chicken and leek pie.)

  2. tim - 1/4/2006 - 12:58am

    i took HALF AN HOUR making my card and i did it with my bear hands

  3. ray - 1/4/2006 - 10:22am

    BEAR hands? scary

  4. Phil - 1/4/2006 - 3:04pm

    See, I told you Pete. Rants are far better than blogs.

  5. Pete - 1/4/2006 - 3:07pm

    Oh, and you should have seen Pete in Clintonís earlier today. It literally took him about 50 minutes to pick a card out for his motherís birthday.

  6. Phizzy - 2/4/2006 - 2:12am

    I got a mother's day card free from connexions.

  7. matt - 2/4/2006 - 8:58pm

    I simply refuse to buy cards. My mum, dad, gf just accept I will never buy them a card ever. simply brilliant ranting. i say "more rants"

  8. famaf - 3/4/2006 - 2:27pm

    with all due respect cos I was there once, but you just sound like every other student out there. i write as well, happily I am now making a living from it, and used to write like you. You must remember: you dont know everything, not everybody is in the same position as you, millions have trodden this path before and dont over-write, it comes across as trying too hard to be unique.....
    ..just some friendly advice..

  9. famaf - 3/4/2006 - 3:05pm

    ps expecting cash off your parents and then slating them for not giving enough is just low....perfect example of when you should realise that we are NOT all the same, some people love and appreciate their parents even though they receive nothing off them..

  10. db - 4/4/2006 - 5:49pm

    right, first off, famaf, dont be a cunt. simple as.

    secondly, rants are good!! love em!

    thirdly, i can never see the point in cards. you shouldve seen the look on my then girlfriends face as she opened the 97p (price left on the front) happy birthday grandson christmas card i gave her.
    luckily i had pre-empted her disappointment and bought a proper one, but at a cost of like £4.50. what a waste that turned out to be.

  11. dave - 23/4/2006 - 12:23am

    famaf, surely a sense of sarcasm is a neccessity for a writer, unless you're a journalist or something. can't you detect that no one would actually moan about their dad's not giving them £50 a week?

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