Day 299 of 366 Blog Challenge 2012

Hello all

All of us present at the Book Club meeting yesterday wondered if we had lost the art of letter writing. Can emails ever hold a candle to actually writing – by hand – a letter in beautiful handwriting?

Philip and Monica enjoying a holiday together

I had been telling the Book Club about the book called “Letters to Monica” edited by Anthony Thwaite. This book contained the letters that Philip Larkin (the English poet) wrote to his long-term girlfriend (lover?) Monica Jones, over a period of 40 years.

All of us Book Club members wondered what will be left behind if there are no letters, after we are all dead and gone. I must say that this book (which I came across on the shelf by chance while waiting in line at the library) has resurrected my belief in the lost art of letter writing.

Philip Larkin’s funny, revealing, literary and intimate letters to Monica Jones had me intrigued. I wondered about my own attempts at letter writing in the past. How well I remember writing a letter to a boyfriend who lived away and with whom I had been “stepping out” as we used to say in those days.

I really would like to forget the last letter I wrote to break up with him. It is almost too embarrassing to dwell on, but I must be honest here and tell all. Still, in my defense I was only 22 years old at the time. It began like this:

“Dear Steve, this is a “Dear John” letter.”  It was written after a song that went “Dear John, oh how I hate to write” saying that her love for him had died!

Who would be so thoughtless to send a letter of this kind? I am mortified!  I only hope that they don’t find this letter in Steve’s belongings after his death and come and confront me with it!

This brings back memories …

I also remember writing to my father’s sister-in-law Auntie Win, who lived in Southend-on Sea in England. As a 12-year-old I loved writing to this warm and loving woman who sent me back chatty letters, taking an interest in me and treating me as if I was a real grown-up. How I looked forward to her blue sheeted “Aerograms” that we used to write in those days on special paper. Does anyone remember these?

Here is the dictionary explanation of an aerogram:

An airmail letter in the form of a lightweight sheet of stationery that folds into its own envelope for mailing at a low postage rate. Also called air letter.

Later in my life (when I was in my thirties) Auntie Win and my Uncle John came out for a visit to Australia and I finally got to meet the woman I wrote to for about three years. She was just as wonderful and loving in person as she was in her letters. I feel grateful that I had this wonderful woman in my life at such a vulnerable age.

Another person who I corresponded with for about five years from the age of 15 was a Japanese girls who lived in Kyoto. I was given Toyoko’s name through my school. Japanese girls at that time were wanting to practice their English and wrote looking for ‘penpals’ as we called ourselves in those days.

I remember coming home from school hoping there might just be a letter waiting for me written on the fine crisp pink paper that Toyoko always used. I remember well her rather strange English and the discussions we had about life in Japan compared to life in Australia. I will never forget the exquisite pink fan, covered in cherry blossoms, she sent me for my birthday one year.

Of course, my writing these days is usually limited to emails and I have been known to print out any of significance to me and keep them in a folder for posterity. You see, I just cannot help myself. I still like that piece of paper that I can hold in my hand and read!

Now, to help you along with all this, I will share this Brief History about letters but you can read more here at

  • The first recorded handwritten letter (epistle) was by Persian Queen Atossa around 500 BC.
  • The stamped  letter we know today came into being in the reign of Queen Victoria in 1840.
  • Before this date letters did not have stamps or  envelopes and the receiver of the letter had to pay on its receipt.
  • Letters were folded and sealed by wax with ring or hand seal.

It would appear that I have always had a love affair with writing and sending letters but as I love to write, does this come as any surprise to all of you? I think not. But I realise as I go along that there is so much that I would like to tell you about my foray into letter writing that I will have to give you a second post on this subject in the near future. Wait for it!

But in the meantime friends, let us take the time to write an actual handwritten letter to someone in the next week and make their day for I believe that people still love to receive mail delivered by hand, to their house. This is the reason why I love to send postcards to my grandchildren when I am away.

They get so excited about receiving them and Alice (11) has hers tied up in a bundle and just loves to go through them. I like to think that when I am dead and gone, they will always have these postcards as a reminder of a grandmother who loved them all very much indeed.

So folks, let’s do it! Let’s get writing … even if it is only one letter to a friend to tell them how much you appreciate their friendship. Oh, I know exactly the letter I am going to write! Have fun folks and I will tell you about mine next time as I have a great idea …

Until tomorrow