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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, December 10, 2003
    Strategies for avoiding licking
    Well, I've done it. It was a hard slog but I've written 130 cards and envelopes today. Tried spending a few moments thinking about each person in a holy sort of way as I put their card into the envelope, but at times I admit distractions set in. Various vanities. Like re-reading my annual Christmas letter for the umpteenth time, searching high and low for any scraps of paper which might tell me the names of folks' children I've failed to remember, and working on alternative gumming methods which would be easier on the digestive system.

    When I worked as a casual in the DHSS (as it was then known) me and my mates had to gum down hundreds of envelopes each afternoon. Needless to say we soon came up with strategies for avoiding licking because otherwise we'd have been like walking gluepots by payday. My favourite method - which was speedy, too - was to cover my desk entirely with envelopes set out in layers so that each gummed flap was uppermost and adjacent to the next. In other words the desk was a sea of gum, to which I took a one-inch paintbrush dipped into water, moistening the whole lot in a series of swift moves and then, swifter still, sticking them all down before they dried off.

    This was a high-risk strategy. If it went wrong I was left with a hundred envelopes either ruined by excess water or having lost their gum, in which case I'd have to start all over again. Or sometimes in my haste I'd stick two envelopes together by mistake, or send some tumbling to the floor where various unspeakable objects (of a fluffy or foody nature) would attach themselves to the moistened gum.

    But when it worked, it was wonderful. The concentration, the energy rush, the emotion. I considered doing it today but was listening to a Yaconelli talk saying basically, church leader - take it easy on yourself [download here], which made me think I should approach the whole thing slowly and simply, one envelope at a time. Now, I'm sure there's a curious taste in my mouth. Which I feel only a shot or two of Talisker may expel...