Monday, 19 September 2011
There was a nostalgic program on the radio today mourning the loss of the art of letter-writing. E-mail and tweets and Facebook are all very well but how can you compare the pleasure of opening an old stamped and franked envelope and re-reading a handwritten letter from a dear friend or lover? I have all the letters anyone precious has ever sent me since the 1960s. Recently, I decided to re-read them all and discard the bulk once I had committed their contents to memory. Guess what? Correct - I can't bear to throw any away, largely because I had forgotten so many critical details and I see no chance of remembering them in the future.... when I write my book. Thus, I poured over the accounts of my New Zealand friend's first adventure into the world of work, when she left our parochial town and went off to share a flat in London with strangers in order to join the national airline - then BOAC, as a ground hostess. I was then off to Scotland to Aberdeen University - also alone and in need of contact. We have shared most of our subsequent lives, our loves, successes and failures as we separately travelled the world - on closely written airmail letters or on paper-thin airmail paper. In latter years, of course, e-mail has taken over, and although I do print these out - it's not the same. I ponder the wisdom of keeping the personal letters forever though: my children might be a little shocked by the contents of some. When a great aunt died, I recall with some shame how we, the female members of the family, read her wartime love letters with giggling and voyeuristic eyes. In our defence, I might add that she had led a selfish life, never married because she swore she would never wash a man's socks and she was very wealthy, leaving all her money to cats, dogs and donkeys. We really weren't disappointed that there was no inheritance for us as she had always said this was her intention and we believed her. The point is - should I destroy my letters now or 'later'? Perhaps I'll copy them post haste to encrypted discs! Then all I need to do is forget the password.