Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Art of Letter Writing

This morning, I got one of the most pleasant surprises I could have had: a letter from Fingernail I, telling me about what she'd been up to in Frogland while I cavorted with Wagnerians. Letter writing was still the communication of preference in my student days (only the 1980's, so calm down), at least during the holidays, as it was a lot cheaper than phoning. Seeing as we all stayed with our parents in the holidays, their word was law when it came to British Telecom, and the word was invariably 'No'. Understandable, considering what interminable crap teenagers spout when among their own kind.

So I was delighted when I got this letter from Fingernail I this morning. Fingernail II's is still in the post, I gather. They seem to enjoy writing them as much as I do reading them, so the pleasure is mutual. In order to start a real Letter Writing Retrofest, I bought some writing paper, some envelopes and some stamps and have just finished writing letters to them, too. And I can't wait to post them. Focusing on the few important things that happen in our daily lives is somehow more substantial in a letter compared with how quickly the information is processed over the phone. It also means more; you have to invest more time and effort in a letter than a phone call. Actually, that's not always true: I find writing letters - or writing, full stop - a real pleasure, whereas picking up the phone to make even the simplest of calls requires a supreme effort of will on my part. I've never really been one for the phone and as you get older, you just become more of what you always have been.

I wish letter writing would come back wholesale. It won't, of course, but e-mail is not a bad substitute. At least it got people writing again - no matter how badly most of them do it - after years of phone hegemony, and that needs to be applauded. That's another thing about getting older: nostalgia. Even if it's not what it used to be, of course…

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