Going postal


Last week I wrote a letter. Not a Dear John or a happy birthday or a please don’t fire me, just a normal, here’s-what-I’ve-been-up-to letter. Except, of course, there’s nothing normal about a ‘normal’ letter, because only old people and middle-class children write them any more.

In fact, I was so worried about causing a heart attack in the recipient that I had to scramble to explain in the first sentence that no, I didn’t have anything major to announce; I wasn’t going to list their shortcomings because my therapist told me it would help, or any arcane medical conditions with a poor prognosis, or the reasons why I should become a man. How weird is that? ‘Dear Conor, I haven’t got cancer, I don’t hate you and everything’s fine, how are you…’ Way tricky to make that opener work.

The letter was a long time in the making – about eight years, all told. I liked the thought of sitting with a blank sheet and a furrowed brow, but my handwriting is so appalling that biro makes it ugly and hard to read. Plus, letters, imo, are like books. They are artefacts and should try to look nice. Or at least legible.

This complicated the whole proposition considerably; it meant I had to buy a bottle of ink and assemble it, me, the pen and a lot of paper in the same room, with an hour to spare. See? Eight years looks like greased lightning now. But what is January for if not for doing some quiet and contemplative near a radiator?

Uncapping the pen, squeezing the balloon to suck up the ink, swearing softly as it got all over my hands – suddenly I was 12 again and double geography was just after lunch. No WAY am I going to stay awake through that.

Writing was lovely, with that soft shush of wrist over paper. And I’d forgotten how much easier it is to compose something when you’re actually having to form the letters. The process is far slower and the mind has time to untangle a thought as the words are created. There’s also a sense, and I might have imagined this, that the flowing action of writing makes the thoughts flow more calmly than the staccato banging at a keyboard. Is that true? Do keyboards make you write more irritably? I have no idea, but yeah, they do.

And how did Conor respond to his precious letter? A text a few days later: ‘Thks 4 ltr. It ws gd.’ I’m thinking those shortcomings might be up for review.

A postscript: Amazon sent me another set of recommendations. The Flat Belly Diet, Instant Confidence and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Bastards. 


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