Hope you don’t think I’m Mr Scrooge

CHRISTMAS is fast approaching and many of you will still be rushing to get your cards in the post in time to be delivered before Christmas Day.

This year, of course, things haven’t been helped by the bout of bad weather which caused backlogs in deliveries.

I started thinking about Christmas cards some time ago as it’s quite a task organising the many hundreds I usually send. I had heard that the new head teacher at Shipley School – where my wife, Christina is chair of governors – had asked the staff last year to agree that instead of receiving presents and cards from children and parents, they would invite them to contribute to a collection for each class to choose things from the Christian Aid catalogue such as a goat or a few chickens, for some of the poorest communities in the world. This was a great success and is continuing this year.

The reasoning was that in their future lives, the pupils will have choices to make, each and every day and this was good preparation for taking responsibility and deciding how money – however small or large the amount – can best be spent to maximum effect.

It helped me make a decision that I have been considering for a while – that this year, I won’t be sending Christmas cards. Instead, Christina and I have decided to send e-cards as far as possible and make donations to several charities.

My choice was similar to that of the Shipley School children and I decided to spend my money in the most directly beneficial way possible, rather than on House of Commons (or even charity) Christmas cards and postage stamps.

There will be environmental benefits too and I very much hope that people reading this - who might have expected to receive a card - will understand the reasoning behind our decision and not think I have suddenly become Mr Scrooge.

On the subject of Christmas celebrations, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to an event that is taking place this Friday evening – it’s the annual evening of carols at Wakehurst Place, Ardingly – which became part of the Horsham Parliamentary constituency at this year’s general election.

Free entry to the gardens starts at 4.30pm and there are shopping opportunities, not to mention food and drink and children’s workshops. The carols are led by the Salvation Army Band and several local choirs will sing, against the backdrop of what is believed to be the largest growing Christmas tree in England.

I’ll be attending and it promises to be a wonderful event – perfect for getting everyone in the Christmas mood (for more information call 01444 894067).

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham