The Journal is an online collection of articles and essays written and curated by Thomas W Coombs, published bi-annually.

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Issue 47; Twelve Months of Letters

Like gin and a good steak, writing is a must in my life.  Whether I am scribbling some nonsensical idea for a novel or article in a notebook or really spilling my heart on why I love brogues, it has to be in my life in a form. I find my writing far out ways the way I talk, and not just my mixed London Kentish accent but sometimes I think back and wonder what on earth I was talking about. Constantly wishing I should have listened to many of my teachers and elders in my life that we should all think before we speak.  As I am now in my 40s this is unlikely to change. However the written word that sits before me, can be deleted and changed before read by the recipient.

In January of 2022 I wrote my first letter, since being forced to at school I should add, it was a letter to a friend, someone I admire. True friends.  But this was no email or text, or some scribbled mess on a post-it.  It was on high quality paper, personalised with my name.  It then was nicely placed in a very green envelope and posted out with my usual wax stamp (pompous yes, but fun no less). Then a stamp was placed and I took my smug self out into the cold January air to the post box a mere twenty yards from my front door. The feeling that in a day or two my friend would receive this and it arrived a few days just before his birthday. The joy of receiving a letter is something I can’t really explain. It is so nice, receiving mail is such an outdated thing, everything is emails and apps, but where is the joy and what better way to slow your life down by reading a letter.

To spread the joy I get, to people I know, each month I wrote a letter to a friend, mostly these were people who attended my wedding the year before as I had their addresses. Something I realised was that these days we do not know addresses. Why would we? We don’t send anything posted, we email. I thought of sending to people I admire but have no acquaintance with but you have to email, no PO Box anymore, just a soulless email address or WhatsApp number to an automated service. Shudder with the scary thought of the complete loss of human interaction and making the point of the correspondence a pointless act.  So I picked twelve people I know and a single letter was sent each month, with some simple words of why then some general updates and light hearted words.

We have lost an art form due to technology, and as I look at my handwriting, you can see how we are losing other arts.  My handwriting has gotten worse as the years have gone by, I am sure due to the fact that I am typing ninety percent of the time.  Even when I check notes for articles, I can’t understand some words I have written down, hoping that it wasn’t the most prolific thing I have ever written, it could be but I can’t work out what it was.  With writing twelve letters I really had to slow it down and take care in my style of writing.  There were a few balls of note paper for each letter as I rushed a word which made it a non-word, unreadable to even me. But this meant I spent time on the task, it was not a quick rushed message on WhatsApp or the sending of a meme, however funny or amusing, still less than true words.

I never expected any letters back, which was a bit of luck as I got none.  However not many people will think of picking up a pen and paper and do they even own letter paper, I sure didn’t when I came up with the idea.  But for some reason I did own stamps, a habit of a bygone time.  After twelve months, I was done, the project I thought of, after lockdowns the year before, was complete.  I hope it brought something to the recipients and my nudge into an older form of communication is possibly passed on.

I will not, however, hold my breath.