Over the years, I have had many varied experiences with the postal services, some good, some quite amazingly bad. The French post office almost prevented my husband and I from getting married, as my birth certificate, that had arrived in plenty of time from the UK got lost in the post on the 3km trip to the local certified translator. It reappeared 3 months later, once we had ordered an emergency copy at great expense and delivered it by hand. In fact, by the time it appeared, we were married.
Recently, the post has become a much more minor part of pretty much everybody’s life. Emails and cell phones have made staying in contact so much easier, instant and hassle-free, not to mention cheap.
Back when I was at school, long ago in the last century, we used to use pens and paper. In fact, I spent 3 whole years learning to hand-draw typefaces and lay out text using rulers, pencils and a lot of rubbing out and starting again. Back then, teachers were scared of computers, they didn’t understand them, so they didn’t want us to use them. The minute I finished that course, most of what I had learned had become obsolete. Hey ho.
This being a boarding school (a state-run one, not some posh public school place), my classmates and I lived far and wide, so we used to write to each other a lot during the holidays, and sometimes even during the week for the fun of it. And because we were all learning art and design, those letters would be covered in doodles and stuff, in fact, some of them were proper works of art in their own right. Not mine, of course, but some of my friends produced some kick-ass missives. I still have quite a few of them gathered together in a big folder, and I treasure them. Back then, I would spend a good part of the holidays and weekends waiting for the post to come and eagerly anticipating the arrival of new letters.
Of course this also fed my terrible addiction to stationery of all kinds, providing an excuse to buy and use all manner of fancy papers, pens, stickers and so-on. To this day, I cannot be trusted in a stationery or art supplies shop with a credit card. The only difference is that nowadays I tend to buy the stuff and not use it, which is just sad.
So when, the other day, the very lovely and very wise Zena tweeted some advice for the day that included “send a random and unexpected letter”, I thought “what the hell, let’s do this!”. So I did. It may not have been a very interesting letter, and definitely not a patch on the fancy ones of my teenage years, but it did give me a bit of a thrill to actually use pen and paper again, hunt for a stamp and an envelope, and send it off.
And then it got lost in the post.
This kind of spoiled the unexpected side of the random and unexpected letter, as I did inquire after a couple of weeks if it had arrived. In fact once I had heard it hadn’t, I positively badgered poor Zena about whether it had arrived or not, because suddenly, unlike an email or a text, this object had an importance, precisely because I had put time and effort into it. It took a good couple of months for me to give up on it and consider it lost.
Then one day, among the bulk mail and the bills that seem to be the only things to grace our letterbox these days, was a hand-addressed envelope. Inside it was a lovely card written in the funkiest green ink ever, and a pack of badges from London’s swinging Portobello Road (one of my favouritest places ever). An unexpected letter! My long lost letter had finally arrived, 3 months later, and this was its unexpected answer!
You know what? Expected or not, letters are the best things EVER.