It's just a small address book, and I have to rifle through a pile of old bills, used train-tickets and Indian take-away menus before I find it, tucked away behind some tissue-paper at the back of the green wooden cupboard. On the outside it still looks new, the smooth red leather is barely scratched and the band of black elastic holds it tightly closed.
I hardly ever use it now. New contacts are so much easier to store in the phone that's always with me, and a number for texting serves better than the full address and post code for a letter that never quite gets written. But once a year, after I've lined up the cards on the table, set out the different designs in separate piles, with the right-sized envelopes stacked beside them, I search for a pen that's nice to hold and has smooth-flowing ink, and then I reach for the old address book.
I write the cards in alphabetical order, filling in the names as I go through the book, and as I do, I find myself slowing down, pausing to think about the people who sit behind these names on a page. The aunt in Bristol, who's lived at the same address as long as I can remember, and who I've always called Auntie Tupp, although her name is Beryl. My ex mother-in-law, who used to play such a large part in my life, but who now lives in a flat I've never seen.
There are the friends I used to work with, whose company I valued so much "it would be great to see you in the New Year" I scribble in the corner of their cards; all the people I used to see every day, but never quite found time to see last year. I hesitate as I turn the page to a work-colleague from many years ago. Her husband is very much older than her, and for the last few years I've waited to receive her card, and the long round-robin letter that always comes with it, dreading the year when it will be just her name at the bottom.
As I leaf through the book, I see names crossed out; a sad reminder of relationships and marriages that didn't last. Other names remain, the friends and family I couldn't delete, the ones I thought would always be around.
On several pages there are old addresses scribbled through, with new ones added underneath. I remember all the excitement of friends and family as they moved to new homes and I think about the places I once visited, the houses that felt so familiar then, but that I'll never set foot in again. Suddenly I picture another address book from long ago, where Claire had added our own address and the bold claim "The Longworths - that's us!" with each of our names listed separately. Today, I still can't quite get over the feeling of surprise when I find my children's names next to houses that aren't mine.
The very last entry in the book is my Mum's, her surname for more than thirty-odd years is that of my step-father Albert, who'll be eighty years old this week. I'll see them both on Christmas day, at my daughter's house, with two of my other children and my two delightful grandchildren. No doubt when I see them all, I'll stop to reflect on how some things have changed and moved on, how others have stayed just the same, I'll smile at the people who are there, and think for a moment of those who are not.
It's odd that I hadn't realised until today, how much of all that change is caught in the pages of my small red address book.