When was the last time you wrote a letter – pen to paper? Me? I cannot recall the last time I ‘wrote’ – not typed, a letter complete with paragraphs and punctuation on paper. On the flip side, I also cannot recall the last time I received one. I don’t, of course, mean a bill or invoice. I mean a fully fledged letter written by hand.
Now I love technology and have embraced instant messaging. A short text I’m all over, the shorter the better. As you may recall I’m a huge fan of the humble Post-it note.
However I kind of lament the passing of the process of writing a letter. The choosing of the pen and paper. The obligatory wastepaper basket overflowing with your previous failed attempts. The search for an envelope. The realisation that you did not have a stamp. The joy at finding an envelope with an old stamp that could still be used and the art of heating off said stamp. Now you were all set and it was a quick walk to the nearest post box and you were met with that lovely sound as your letter fell on top of a full post box.
Now you had to contend with the double-headed monster: would your letter arrive at its destination and when would you receive a reply? Some weeks hence joy upon joy a return letter landed on your mat. You certainly had to work with this form of communication.
However, as with all work, there is the payoff. You had something tangible. Something to hold on to and revisit. Wouldn’t it be great to unearth letters from a long gone relative or loved one? Are we embarrassed to remember love letters written a bygone age ago?
I recently came across a collection of emotive letters in a book of letters written from the front line of various wars. Laced with heartbreaking descriptions of the horrors of war, of regrets, deep intensity, and poignantly the expectation of their death, it made for an engrossing and thought-provoking read. What was also apparent was how the letter from home would improve morale and lift spirits.
Perhaps the most striking thing is the wonderful eloquence. Faced with long separations it is though the letter writer has turned on a tap and what would be deemed as a sign of weakness, particularly for men I’m sure in peacetime, has allowed for a tide of emotions and thoughts to be expressed, which otherwise would have been suppressed.
One line, in particular, struck me: ‘Lest I should not be able to write to you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.’
In an age when we can send a thought across the world in seconds via electronic communications spare a thought to the snail mail letter. RIP
Until next time…