Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Letter 15

This week was the turn of writing to somone not quite so familiar/unfamiliar as myself. A few years ago I set myself the task of remembering everyone's birthday and sending them a card. I failed after February, but with that haunting me like a tiny wimpy ghost, I wrote to a friend I've not seen for a while, who has just had a birthday. Enough clues though!

What struck me with this writings is the details that you choose to put in whether consciously or unconsciously. I'm rubbish at thinking about what people would actually like to know, so jabber about stuff so it mostly becomes a "did you know I did this?" list. My list included tuba, ape language and colonic irrigation. Make of that what you will ...

In a recent letter exchange with a friend, we discussed how sometimes when you write to people you can feel much closer to them than you do if you see them everyday locally. I don't think that sense of written closeness goes away, and like old slippers, friends slip into old jokes.

I've talked before about intensity in war letters. A while ago I read Bomber Boys which quotes a couple of letters from one bomber crew member to his girl. He'd met her once at a dance and then they wrote, then they met and he proposed. She declined. The lady in question then spoke about how she felt like a crutch to him and fancied someone else, but couldn't not reply. I gave my copy away else I'd tell you the pages to look at. The point I'm trying to question is whether the relationships you create with the written word feel more real than they are. Does distance make you closer? (I understand my unrequited WW2 love story is perhaps not the best starting point.) Nowadays - how old does that sound - I guess we have a much greater reliance on the written word than we realise. How many people text rather than phone? Those competitions that Stephen Fry judges about the most beautiful tweet.

Hidden behind new technology, we're all just writing letters all the time.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Letter 14

This week, I wrote a letter to myself.

The people at More Love Letters are creating a love letter time capsule to yourself. You write off with your letter to you, enclose a stamp and then in a year's time it will wing it's way back to you. So you can judge the waffle for yourself.

Seriously, though, it was really interesting to sit and think about what encouragement I wanted to give back to myself. This year I am going to achieve a lot. I feel excited and focused, but ambitions can not succeed and I know that I tend to beat myself up if I don't manage all the things I strive for. So hopefully next year, a bit of condolence from me, won't be necessary - but if it is it's there.

It's also exciting to think about all the other things I'm doing: my offal eating, this letter writing, my numismatics, my herbal studies, my running, my tuba playing. Hopefully I'll realise all my ambitions with all these different things. It was really good to look ahead and think, yes, I'm on my way. Well I hope so.

The guess to take away is that it's good to take some time and really think about what you want to achieve. And also to think about how it's OK if all those tings don't happen. You are still special and wonderful, just very very busy.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Letter 13

This week I have mostly been writing ... THANK YOU LETTERS!
I had a fantastic day on Monday, which I took (in my mind) as a DAY OFF. So I ensconced myself with a pot of Wild Rose tea off of Lahloo, some Tunnocks snacks (och aye) and my lovely Emma Bridgewater spotty cup! I used a variety of notepapers and notecards and envelopes and pens and stickers and stamps. I indulged myself with every stationary vice known to man.

I also wrote to all the people who gave me lovely Christmas presents, caught them up with what's been going on in the past year and tried to make future plans to see people that I love. It was a brilliant way to spend a day, really consolidating relationships and giving out a lot of positive energy through writing. Last year I sent photos with all of my thank you letters, but I wasn't that organised this year for everyone. Also I have spent so much money of postage this year I feel like I'm keeping Royal Mail afloat.
I also used the day to catch up with things I promised to send in the post and not managed. I sent some insomnia herbal remedies to ladies I know, a bit of the old Postcrossing and a couple of letters to do with my work at Neals Yard. Unfortunately I've now used up all my letter paper with herbs on. Oh, what shall I do now? Luckily I have some suitable cards with roses on.

I love taking the time out to say thank you for people, but on Monday I felt like I was the lucky one. It was great to lollygag around in my pyjamas drink tea, eat biscuits and write to all the people. However, now I've done my thank you letters, Christmas is officially over ...

Luckily my birthday is soon - top gift tip: STAMPS!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Letter 12

Post-Christmas, driving, working, Dazmas, meant that again the letter writing time slipped through my fingers. Sunday arrived and I didn't even have a thought of anyone to write to. However, one of my Postcrossing cards had a return address on, so I though "ah-ha FATE" and spent a lovely hour writing to a person called Christina from Dresden, Germany.

I enjoyed the return of writing to a stranger. I explained about the 52 Weeks project and talked about Christmas and New Year. I find that by writing about things that have happened to me, I can definitely remember them better. I wish I was, but know I am not, a human google. Nothing, however, would make me forget the bed and breakfast we stayed in on New Year's Eve - Myrtle Grove -  the lady who ran it was interesting, but her dog did wee in front of us at breakfast, but she gave us a blackcurrant bush as an apology. Who can say fairer than that? I sent Christina the card, just in case she'd like to stay in Hebden Bridge one day. I also taught her the phrase "mad as a box of frogs".

This coming week, my letters are mostly going to be thank you letters - I got amazing Christmas presents. I'm going to try and make time to write a special letter too.

Lately, as a background to all the letter-writing, I've been reading two very different collections of letters. The first I found at my Mum's house on Christmas Day is called Letters from Two World Wars (you can buy it here) and aims to record all the different attitudes to war. I studied war poetry at A-Level and so many of these letters are just as affecting. I hope they are used to teach literature and history in schools now!

One that is hearbreakingly beautiful* goes:

"... when we marched done it [the thunderstorm] cleared away for a warm still summer night; still that, except for the sniper's rifles, and the rattle of machine guns ...a sweet smell of wet earth and wet grass after the rain, and since I could not sleep I wandered out among the ghostly cherry trees all in white and watched the ghostly star-shells falling north and south ... a nightingale began to sing ... it was so strange to stand there and listen, for the song seemed to come even more clearly and sweetly in the quiet intervals between the bursts of firing ... you felt that the nightingale's song were the only real thing which would remain when all the rest was long past and forgotten. It is such an old song too ... I stood there and thought of all the men and women who had listened to that song, just as ... after Tom was killed I found myself thinking perpetually of all the men who had been killed in battle - Hector and Achilles and all the heroes long ago, who were once so strong and active and are now so quiet. Gradually the night wore on, until the day began to break, and I could see clearly the daisies and buttercups in the long grass about my feet. Then I gathered my platoon together, and marched back past the silent farms to our billets. There was a beautiful sunrise and I went to sleep content ..."

I'll wrote about some more at a later date. Others are not as haunting, but no less affecting. The other collection I am reading is The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters (you can buy it here), but I'll leave discussion of that for another post ...

Happy New Year!

*p.28, written 5th May 1915 by Second Lieutenant A. D. Gillespie