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The written word!

Letter writing is a dying art!

It has to be thrilling seeing a plain, patterned or coloured envelope addressed to you, in your friend’s bold writing in the letterbox! I practically skip all the way to my door and head for the kitchen to make a cup of coffee before sitting down to read a letter from a friend. This is an occasion or an interlude and it demands the ritual of said coffee and hmmm, perhaps a biscuit or slice as well.

I’m also always delighted to receive a post card from my pals travelling the globe and they, true to their promises, fill me in on their ventures, out there wherever they are. I think I’ve gained a reputation for coaxing my friends to send me postcards. I can shamelessly say that it makes me feel like I’m with them on their vacation, and why not!

Although I don’t keep many, I do still have a few letters or cards from special friends and relatives and those who have passed on. I will admit the sentimental side of me cannot bear to throw away these precious reminders of our friendship.

Most of my friends correspond via email and I appreciate hearing from them, irrespective of the communication medium they use.  I do however, have a few friends who refuse to use the computer and categorically avow they will only correspond via snail mail. They also put me to shame as they physically handwrite with a pen whereas, yours truly puts finger to keyboard before printing out the letter. To make amends for my laziness, all my letters go out on beautiful stationery and I’m sure my friends enjoy receiving their letters on eye-catching or embossed paper.

My first foray into letter writing began when an acquaintance of my mother suggested I correspond with peers from overseas and gave me a few names and addresses of girls around my age, from France, the USA and New Zealand. The former two wrote initially but their letters petered out in due course. We were only about eight or nine years old so it was hardly surprising. The New Zealand pen-pal however, who was about three years older, wrote regularly but we lost touch after a few years. If by chance, you are reading this Jennifer Richardson from Dunedin, please renew contact. I would love to hear from you.

A friend, whom I have maintained contact with for over 20 years, resides in a rural area and I find all her letters of country life interesting and entertaining. She once described a hilarious scenario of winching a cow that had fallen into the river near her property. The hapless animal was quite plaintive about its predicament but could not readily be coaxed back onto the riverbank. A neighbour had to manoeuvre his 4 wheel drive over the embankment and shine the headlights on the scene, while her husband waded in to tie ropes around the panic-stricken animal. It took them until dawn to pull it out.

We only managed to visit them once but it was a most-memorable occasion as I saw a sight I had never seen in my city-born life.

While admiring her generous-sized vegetable garden on a beautiful, sunny day, I looked up and spied a strange and unusual sight. Way up, as far as the eye could see, were strands of what appeared to be silken threads floating gracefully along with the breeze. The sky was crowded with the swirling, rolling, dancing, flimsy and delicate materials, which reminded me of a Harry Potter or an Arabian night’s fantasy scene.

I gasped in sheer delight when my friend told me that they were large bunches of cobwebs that had lifted from acres of fields, bushes and trees and would float through the sky, creating a fairy-land of gliding, delicate, silvery strands of web. Needless to say, it was mesmerising and memorable.

I have digressed and will return to ‘letter-writing,’ and make a plea for the return to this old-fashioned method of communication simply because it is an art in itself and in my humble opinion, there is no comparison between the two mediums.

Most emails are short, succinct and to the point and are not meant to be saved or archived. They don’t give rise to profound thought, beautiful prose, witty repartee, deep and emotional recall of events, humorous or satirical phrases and nor are they meant to move anyone. Written letters on the other hand, can do all of the above and more, so much so that letters from well-known public figures and even notorious people, can be found preserved and treated with respect and care in museums, libraries and historical houses.

If you want to get a taste for letters written by notable personalities and infamous characters, and thereby get a glimpse into their psyche, try reading the ‘Letters of Note,’ book/tome, compiled by Shaun Usher. It is fascinating and will give you an insight into their thinking and behaviour. The tome presents photocopies of the original letters, including printed versions of them as some handwritten communiqués can be indecipherable.

Letters written by the inimitable Katharine Hepburn; brilliant composer Ludwig Van Beethoven; one from our reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in which she magnanimously shares her scone recipe with President Dwight D Eisenhower; a terse, one-sentence formal letter from Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley in which he exhorts white supremacist and leading clansman of the Ku Klux Klan, Dr Edward R Fields to, ‘kiss my ass’; and an admirable and well written letter from William Patrick Hitler, nephew of Adolph Hitler, to President F. D Roosevelt, pleading to be allowed to register for the US military service.

Perhaps I should resort to ‘hand writing,’ my letters, in the event that I attain recognition as a writer and the letters be considered ‘national treasures,’ in the not-too-distant future.

© Wendy Robinson 2014

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside of you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~ Arthur Plotnik


Comments on: "The written word!" (2)

  1. Gerry OConnor said:

    Wendy, this article is interesting.  Yes, letter writing seem to be put on the back burner as folks now resort to the tech gadgets ie, Ipads, etc. to communicate – because it is quick and free – whereas to send a letter by postal service, with rising postal rates, it is expensive to mail many letters out – sad this is the case.  I am also guilty of this as I email most of the friends – only the few who do not have computers or interested in this system, I pen them a letter – but not regularly – only for big events, ie birthdays, Christmas and Easter .  Living on a small Social Security income, pay my rent and bills, etc, leaves me little to indulge in buyng stamps.  Cost of living keeps going up and up, but income is fixed – hence difficult to survive ! I enjoy your articles – you are so clever to put pen to paper – email.

    Take care Aunty Gerry



  2. It’s sad to think that letter writing is disappearing. It always used to be such an exciting thing to receive a letter. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I received anything in the mail that wasn’t from my bank manager.


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