Sunday, 30 June 2013

Treasures in the letterbox

There was a lovely story in Saturday's paper about a woman who lived in Japan for a while and was given a letter by a Japanese friend when she left - the sort of letter that you would want to treasure forever.

It made me think of all the letters I used to write, and so seldom do nowadays. When we were travelling, there was no email or Internet of course - let alone cellphones or GPS - so we wrote letters, or postcards (and often used to get lost), and most of the time nobody knew where we were until a week or so later when the letter arrived.

And years before that, when I was young, we had penpals - what a quaint idea that seems now! I was probably quite an annoying penpal because I would reply much quicker than the other person did, so they would always be owing me a letter.

I do still have one faithful corespondent, who writes from the other side of the world, usually on the same sort of blue envelopes and paper (whereas mine in return are scribbled on scraps, because I no longer buy writing paper) and it's always a treat to find a real letter in the letterbox.

We talk a lot about how the publishing world is changing, less (unless you're a biographer) about how letters are vanishing from our lives. One of the things I love about them is that they are such a straightforward and uncomplicated way of writing. You're not worrying about how much or whether you'll get paid. Unless you're already rich and famous, you don't have an eye on possible publication. Your attention is on the person you're writing to, or perhaps on the scene in front of you, and you're writing out of (often) affection, or maybe another emotion like awe or wonder at some new sight you're encountering for the first time.

Sigh. No use fighting the tide, though. Letters, posties, even letterboxes probably won't be around for much longer.

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