Saturday, 10 March 2018

Unlettered - Karen Bush

Actually, the real reason the postman never visits is 
because we ate him. Very nice he was too.
Although we passed on the Chianti. And the fava beans.

And here's another thing - where's my post gone?
I love my computer, I really do. It makes writing books and articles so much quicker and easier - no more cutting out sections of text and taping them together again, no more blotty scribblings in margins never quite wide enough, and no more carbon paper, usually inserted the wrong way round and only discovered at the end of the page. My partner once gave me a present of a box of Sellotape, scissors, Pritt Stick and Tipp-Ex: he meant it as a joke, but I got good use out of it.
But my computer and the internet has robbed me of my post- most of it nowadays seems to arrive via my email inbox. Gone is the pleasure of receiving letters: proper letters, not just brief communiques usually written in haste. Oh, email has its place - but as brief communiques, not a feeble substitute for proper letters exchanged between friends.


I miss that delicious anticipation as you pick up the envelope: identifying the sender by the handwriting and the post code (the postage stamps saved for Good Causes - nowadays stamps are almost more of a rarity than proper post) ... or maybe a typed envelope: would it be a royalty cheque, another rejection slip or a letter accepting your latest book proposal?
Or maybe a letter from a friend - Basildon Bond from sensible adults, de-headed business paper from my Dad, foolscap from friends my own age. I once even had a letter from someone written on toilet paper when the foolscap pad had run out. All of them complete with crossings out, doodles, inserted afterthoughts and occasionally almost indecipherable handwriting: all part of the fun and making it personal in a way that email never can.
Real thought went into them, unlike much of the digital stuff cluttering up the ether nowadays: considered opinions, not just knee jerk reactions. With a letter, you choose your words with more care and are more precise in what you say. And you can never SWALK an email: it will never be scented, or blotted with tears (or ketchup, hoof oil or other interesting and less easily identifiable substances): it will never contain a four-leaved clover carefully wrapped in its folds, or a few carefully pressed flower petals. An email will never be kept over the years, to be cherished, read and re-read: you can't tie emails in bundles with satin ribbon, and you won't find them acting as a bookmark a decade or two later, a voice from the past of someone no longer here and invoking memories as sharply if not better than any snapshot: for a brief but precious moment that person is restored to you and speaks to you once more.
And if writing a humble letter seems like a lesser art than knocking out books, let us not forget that best-selling, never-out-of-print author Beatrix Potter's first books started life as letters ...

7 comments:

janedwards said...

Yes on all counts.

Lynne Garner said...

With you all the way. I miss the motelets that you could then put on display for a while.

Bill Kirton said...

Yes, Karen. I receive them so rarely nowadays that each one feels like a real treasure - for all the reasons you give.

Umberto Tosi said...

Yes! Letters were sweet! Occasionally one of my daughters sends me an actual greeting card with a handwritten note inside that brings back that feeling, along with x's and o's. I'm going to sit right now and write myself a letter now, Karen. Thanks!

Dipika Mukherjee said...

Yes, yes, yes!!

Anonymous said...

And what about researchers in 50 or 100 years’ time, putting together the lives of eminent people - instead of collections of correspondence deposited in libraries or discovered in attics, there’ll be inboxes full of 100,000 emails to go through.... aargh. Letter-writing has become more or less redundant, which must make it even harder for parents to engineer their squirming children into writing proper, hand- written Christmas and birthday thank you letters. And goodness knows it was hard enough before.
Am I right in thinking this is your last post? We'll miss you - and the whippets!

madwippitt said...

Yes it is - thank you Griselda