There’s no getting around the fact that e-mail (and the internet in general) has revolutionised the way we communicate. This being a blog is kind of a case in point.
But there is one thing about old-timey letters that we’re missing. The paper.
I’m a notepaper fiend: it stretches far beyond the typical notebook fare, and into the realms of stupidity. Take, for instance, the gorgeous decorated & die-cut writing paper I was given one Christmas when I was around 7 or 8. There were two sets: one was illustrated with a swashbuckling swordsman, complete with domino mask and lightning-struck castle perched over a stormy sea. The other had a circus, and was mostly pink.
There were two of each, plus plainer lined paper to act as continuation pages. I think the idea was that I used them to write my thank-you notes (ever practical, my mother) but I couldn’t bear to. The first time I opened the cellophane on the swashbuckler was when my eldest cousin was little (which would have meant I was in my mid-teens) to write her a letter. I opened the circus one two weeks ago, to write an RSVP to a birthday party my son had been invited to.
It struck me that I’ve been hanging on to this paper for my entire adult life (and then some) without knowing quite why. Saving it for something “special”, I suppose – but what qualifies as special enough?
Perhaps if we wrote more letters on lovely paper – and in proper ink (I went to a school where writing in biro was right up there with spitting in your great-grandma’s dinner in terms of Things We Don’t Do: from the age of 6, it was fountain pens all the way…) – then all letters would feel special.
I’m not actually sure I remember the last time I received an actual letter – not a card, not an email, although I’m always delighted to get any of those – but a letter, through the post. I know I’m not alone in this: I can’t remember the last time I wrote one, either. We’re all so pushed for time, busy rushing around and barely running off a quick e-mail or text message that the idea of sitting down to read (let alone write) a letter has become an alien impossibility.
Perhaps if we had paper like this, though, that might change: Famous Letterheads, 1900 – 1997. (There’s also a whole Tumblr site devoted to them: Letterheady, a sister site of the brilliant Letters of Note)
Our e-mails can’t be bundled up & tied up with ribbons, packed in a trunk in an attic for our grandchildren to find, and wonder that there was more to us than the self they knew.
The texts we send our friends, our lovers; the messages of congratulation or condolence – the confirmation of affection – can’t be revisited.
And while for most of our daily drudge of correspondence: the spam, the receipts, the work mails… it’s a relief not to have to sort and file – what about the special ones? The ones to and from the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves: the ones who actually matter?
I rather like the idea of finding myself some beautiful paper and a new pen..
Anyone with me?