Opinion: Time for a snail mail revival?


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23 March 2020
In the first opinion piece in our new 'Keeping you collecting' series, Ed Fletcher reflects on the current lockdown and suggests a tried and tested way to put a smile on a senior’s face.

The Postal Museum’s CEO, Laura Wright, recently experienced the sad duty of temporarily closing the museum during the corono-pandemic.

She sweetened the bitter pill somewhat with a suggestion that regular users of the museum’s facilities might spend their unexpected “free” time writing old-fashioned pen, paper and envelope style letters to senior family members and friends, to help those with no internet access, or perhaps with hearing problems when using telephones, to keep in touch in the manner in which Rowland Hill intended.

Keeping families in touch

I recently enjoyed getting a letter from a younger member of my family who now lives in Norway.

An image of her came into my mind as I opened the letter and recognised her neat handwriting. By word count, the epistle amounted to no more than a page; but she had embellished the other side of the sheet with amusing sketches of other family members as they adapted to the Norwegian way of life. The images brought the family vividly to mind and provided me with a truly enjoyable experience – from recognising the handwriting, to reading the family news updates, to enjoy the pictorial jokes.

I now treasure it as an entire, and as a family memento worth keeping.

By coincidence, an announcement that face-to-face contact aspects of Mother’s Day, enjoyed by huge numbers of families across Britain, would also suffer from virus devastation, came hot-on-the-heels of the Postal Museum closure.

No bunches of flowers, no chocs, and (most certainly) no loving embraces would pass from son-to-mother, from daughter-to-mother, from grandchildren to grandparents. Self-isolation has put paid to those traditions for the duration.

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A letter-writing revival?

But wait … can we take Laura Wright’s suggestion and apply it to the short notes many of us will be dropping through the letterboxes of our oldest family members throughout the summer of 2020 as we leave urgently needed groceries on old folk’s doorsteps and communicate through their letterboxes?

I want to suggest that we who are (or were) in the vanguard of handwritten communication – should take elements of FDCs and aspects of of home-made illustrated envelopes, and combine them to produce a (perhaps) weekly words-and-pictures newsletter delivered by standard GPO mail to our loved one’s address. Adults might write a page each on a topic they know the senior would enjoy.

Children (especially any with illustrating skills) could fill a sheet with caricatures, or pictures of their pets, or even of mum and dad, as seen by the kids. Receiving half a dozen sheets from different kith and kin would prove a real taste of happiness medicine for the person dealing with enforced isolation.

There’s more for philatelic readers. Here is a golden opportunity to create a piece of postal history. As well as creating a hand-illustrated cover to hold the correspondence, why not make a couple of embellishments for the envelope?

What about an etiquette pointing out that the envelope was posted during the historic lock-down of 2020 when the entire nation battled an unseen deadly enemy?

Send the entire package by first-class mail and you will eventually own a piece of postal history with intimate links to your family. You might even contribute to a rejuvenation of the dying art of letter writing.

Keep in touch and (if safe to do so) keep collecting…
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