We never meant to introduce 1,500 strangers to each other. We just thought a swap project would be good fun, and a way to cheer the grey skies of November. Here's how we got on, including the results of our post-swap survery.
Step 1: Swap begins; panic does too
We began to feel a little queasy as the numbers of swappers raced through the hundreds. We would have do the matching at random by computer, and this was a little worrying. What if the person who wrote, "Please don't send me mushrooms, even the sight of them makes me queasy," accidentally got matched with a fungus-lover?
Step 2: Excitement
On posting day, the office was filled with over-excited people preparing packages.
Des "no presents, please" Tan had signed up for no less than four different swaps, which called for an industrial production line and much ordering of gloomy poetry books. At least he also sent chocolate.
Des writes an explanation his favourite poet's melancholy verses.
Rosanna secretively sketches some garden-inspired packaging.
Step 4: Waiting for packages
Oooohh... look what arrived in the office.
Photos of the artistic, the elegant and the fantastically over-the-top (oh yes, this box lights up when you open it) began appearing on Facebook and Twitter.
Fairy-lights festooned by Ron McQuade.
Step 5: Getting feedback
We decided to do a survey. Here's the results: 75% of people got a box back in the post, and 22% didn't. (The other 3% are still waiting and hopeful.) 82% said they'd take part again, 16% said maybe and 2% said no.
Why the un-posted boxes? Well, we know of one potential swapper who went into labour early, another who had to move abroad in a hurry, and quite a few people who had an inbox malfunction. There are plenty of things life can throw at you that mean you forget even your mother's birthday. (Not that that's ever happened to me. Definitely not.)
Step 6: Swap-box stories
When you match up 1,500 strangers, you have to be prepared for 1,500 strange things to happen. In a spirit of sharing other stories, it's over to you.
Some people who blogged about the project:
Oh My, I'm Inspired is a "maker, baker, wannabe world-changer."
Elk & Me make handmade bouquets.
A Couple of Smiles experiments with shrink-plastic accessories.
Lisa Marie blogs in Swedish, but the pictures are pretty.
Reckless and Gorgeous write, "Words, Ideas, Art. And the occasional Shite Haiku."
Amy's Imaginarium has the tagline: "She believed she could, so she did."
Vickie is an eclectic writer (with a colour-coded posting plan!).
Something I Noticed is a collector of unfinished stories.
Some thoughts and comments:
"It was lovely to take part even though I never heard from my swap partner. I'd do it again, but it would be lovely to encourage people to share more creatively. Friends that live in foreign lands and I often post each other local ingredients. From here in Scotland I posted chanterelles, homemade flavoured vodkas & gins and smoked game. I love the idea that they could be sitting in their kitchen eating a meal that my family and I may also be enjoying. That idea of sending a sense of the place I live with love to another far away. Thank you."
"I was sceptical, but pleasantly surprised. Nice to take a gamble and find a new friend."
"As someone who is pretty much stuck in the house from chronic pain this project reminded me that there is life outside the front door. It also reminded me of the loveliness of other people. It has genuinely been really good 'medicine' for me. Thank you for organising it and for sharing everyone's boxes. Thank you."
"Thank you for organising it all, it could have been great. I am a little sad that mine never arrived after putting a lot of thought into what I sent. Ah, well."
"It was so excellent and now me and my swap box partners are Facebook friends and keep in touch, which is lovely. I received some wonderful things and felt like I was opening a little treasure chest when I received my box."
A huge thank you to everyone who took part. We'll be doing this again in the Spring, so watch this space.
Maureen Du Preez's package for Rachel.