Friday, 9 December 2016

Christmas Cards

It is the season to be jolly, so I bought Christmas cards from charity shops to send to my penpals around the world. For the greeting, I like the wording similar to either Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, or, Season's Greetings. However, many just have Christmas greetings so that means writing in Happy New Year.

Now, the weight of the cards can be an issue, with some really fancy ones over 20g. This then falls into the 20-100g postage band. No good. So, limited to smaller cards. I bought square cards, some bigger than others. The smaller ones are a good weight and even allow room for a sheet or two of paper for a letter. So, I write my letters and enclose  them with a smallish square Christmas card. I post it, having looked up at the pricing leaflet from Royal Mail I picked up in May, with correct postage. I head over to Twitter but am dismayed when one post office tweeted about a minimum size for international mail. I responded to Royal Mail wondering if my slightly shy of a minimum 14cm on one dimension on the envelopes (supplied with the cards) would still get to Germany and USA. The reply is yes, as long as enough postage has been used but also to check - this shows indeed a minimum size.

However, another current Royal Mail link mentions nothing about minimum size: (accessed 9th December 2016)

In the US, there may be a surcharge on square letters as the one dimension falls into non-machineable thingywhatsit (maybe a "which way is up" problem for the machines). I was wondering then whether Royal Mail will head down that route in the future and add a surcharge.

So, I have a bunch of under 140mm square Christmas cards to get through. There is no reported minimum size for domestic mail. So, I can use for them.

What a jolly scene. I have sneaked a few of the into 7 inch by 5 inch envelopes and this is under the 20g.

I bought also smaller cards to fit into the C6 (roughly 6 inch by 4 inch) envelopes. However, these ones I have to write in the New Year greeting. This size or even lightweight cards to fit into the C6 envelopes are rare.

So, I thought, if I have to write in Happy New Year, why not go for blank cards. I came across some nice folded gift tags and thought - they'd do for festive cards. I can then place more emphasis on the letter... size doesn't matter (it is the thought that counts?) and I can write my own greeting.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

My old letters

On a recent visit to my mother's to help her sort through boxes in the garage, I came across a couple of folders with my old correspondence in. After leaving university, I decided I wanted to make new friends and thought again about penpals (I had a few through the youth penpal service or whatever it was called, through my school). I came across a free ads paper and in it, there was a form for writing adverts to be shown in their sister papers overseas. There was a penpal section. I found the draft of my advert: 
Female, 21, wishing to make new friends. Loves photography, nature, travel, cacti and Star Trek.
I placed the ad, with my postal address (I'm not at the same address now) in various papers - New Zealand, some in Europe, some in the US and Canada. I had forgotten how many replies I had actually received. I am not sure I wrote to everyone who had sent a letter. I know most of that correspondence was not successful. I still have most of the letters, although most of the envelopes had the paper with stamps torn off. I also back then had drafted replies, some typewritten with many typos. One draft reply said:

I like nuts. Some people say I am a weirdo, or nutcase. I prefer to be a lunatic...
I am pondering why most of the correspondence had been unsuccessful. One comment I had attached to one letter was that it was from a religious nutcase (the letter contained only religion, nothing personal about the writer, no hobbies, no weather). Other letters asked for photos of myself. I think that this may have put me off - what does a person's appearance have to do with penpalling. OK, it may be good to put a face to a name, so some letters came with photos (no, the people were fully clothed). Another reason for failed correspondence - I think I had found a new boyfriend and didn't find much time for my postal pals of either gender. I did keep one correspondence going but the amount of letters exchanged slowed down when I had a toddler (now correspondence is just a note with a Christmas card), but I don't know what made that correspondence special to last so long. 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

To the Letter, and Remembrance

Now, almost 3 years later, I have finished To the Letter by Simon Garfield. I read the book slowly and marked many pages with highlighter tabs to note particularly interesting bits - some repeated below. 

I love the correspondence between Bessie Moore and Christopher Barker written while he was in the army during World War II. I will have to get Simon Garfield's book, My Dear Bessie which has more of the letters in than To the Letter. However, from To the Letter, I was able to garner wonder and emotion from these letters, for they contain humour, passion and concern:

"I am hanging on to the old old theory that no news is good news."

"Thanks for the letter, old-timer,I am sending this by Air Mail because it will have enough dull stuff in it to sink a Merchant ship." 

"How can I tell you I want to implant myself; how my lips need to meet your flesh everywhere, to kiss your hair, your ears, your lips......."

" 'How do I feel?' - such a large question sweetheart, oh such a large question! So difficult for me to tell you."

So, what do letters mean? More snippets from the book:

According to Emily Dickinson - "A letter always feels to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend." 

Katherine Mansfield wrote to a friend, "This is not a letter but my arms around you for a brief moment."

Ted Hughes describes letter-writing as "excellent training for conversation with the world."

"Without letters we risk losing sight of our history, or at least its nuance."

"Is a hand-held, ink-written letter more valuable to our sense of self and worth on the planet than something sent to a fortress of cables in the Midwest that likes to call itself a 'cloud'?"

A friend recommended The Why Factor, a radio programme broadcast on BBC World Service, and available online. One of the episodes was called Letters - broadcast a couple of years ago and had extracts of letters (including some between Bessie and Christopher). The programme spoke to John Steinbeck's son, Thomas about letters and letter-writing. From this episode, I do feel that letter-writing is a kind of armour against embarrassment for you can write words you may find difficulty in saying face-to-face. Also, I believe I am able to reveal myself more with ink on paper for I am a shy gal. 

We are coming up to 2 years shy for the centenary of the end of World War I. I have been to see the Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle. 

One of the things I came across from doing citizen science was a project on the War Diaries of the British Army on the Western Front. The handwriting of the soldiers was neat although I was not used to all the handwriting styles used so took me a little while for me to decipher. The soldiers would have also sent many many letters home.

Their families grateful for every little bit of news from afar, even if it is about the weather. I wonder how many of these soldiers' families have kept these letters from World War I or even World War II (such as the family of Bessie and Christopher). Would the children of today be able to read them for many schools have discouraged or not taught joined up or cursive handwriting. Social and family history risk being lost. Will emails written today be treasured by generations to come?

Monday, 10 October 2016

Attracting people to the world of snail mail

I expect that many who read my blog have an interest in snailmail, letters, or even stamps, so I may be preaching to the converted about the joys of letterwriting and snailmail. But if you are not amongst the converted, did you experience the joys of snailmail as a child, with penpals? I was talking a while back with someone about letters and was told it was a childish hobby - you probably wouldn't call Prince Charles childish for all those letters he wrote, the black spider memos. What can we do to persuade people to come (back) and experience the pleasure of letters? Do projects such as InCoWriMo and LetterMo help (although these both take place in February)? Does anyone have an ideas? Do you see other people writing letters?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Stamps on incoming mail.

 After showing some of the Royal Mail issues I use, I thought it would be time to show stamps on incoming mail.
I received this one earlier this month, the first I received with a Star Trek stamp. I watched the repeats of the original series as a child before going on to watch The Next Generation and then some of Deep Space 9 and Voyager.
Today, I received this huge envelope. I had to request redelivery as I was out when the postman tried to deliver last week. The sender had used both the stamps of Star Trek issued from the USA and Canada. I had not expected this and it was an extremely pleasant surprise.
These are just some of the envelopes containing letters needing replies. Although I no longer "postcross" I am still fond of Postcrossing and am pleased to see a stamp from the second issue of Postcrossing stamps issued by The Netherlands.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Stamps round-up.

Late July, saw the celebration of Beatrix Potter on Royal Mail stamps. This is a miniature sheet. There were also 6 other stamps for this issue, 2 x 1st class, 2 x £1.33 and 2 x £1.52.

These stamps are nice for use on letters to penfriends with children. Maybe they would like the stories of Peter Rabbit and friends, as they've been translated into many languages. We here have a set of the stories in the Welsh language. 

I do not actually remember many of the stories or even all the characters.

In August, the issue celebrating Landscape Gardens was released. 2016 marks the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown's birth. There are 8 stamps in this issue, 2 each for 2nd class, 1st class, £1.05 and £1.33

I have been to Alnwick castle but didn't have time to look around the extensive gardens. Maybe will get the chance someday.

Earlier this month, the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London was marked. A series of cartoons was released on the stamps, 6 in all, 2 each for 1st class, £1.05 and £1.52

I used to live in London and on the way to university, would pass Monument (OK, underground), where there is a column commemorating the Great Fire.

On the 15th September, Royal Mail issued stamps celebrating the works of Agatha Christie. However, many crown post offices were actually shut due to industrial action. I did manage to get some stamps from a small sub-post office. However, I was a little slow getting there as buses conspired against me so I didn't get as many as I wanted. I tried another post office branch in a convenience store to find that they do not get them. The manager was unaware of the special stamps and doesn't know if they'll have Christmas ones when they are released.

Here are just some of the stamps I managed to buy. I also bought some more today from my local crown post office as I needed to pick up more airmail labels (I couldn't find my secret stash). There are 2 other stamps but I didn't bother getting them as they are the £1.52 ones. I was actually surprised this post office still had some of the previous issues of stamps (Fire and Gardens) as quite often, they are sent back if not sold before the next issue

This issue has a bit of magic. There is microtext, illusions  (e.g. the skull is quite apparent!) and also thermochromatic ink (visible with heat or under ultraviolet light)

I put the stamp on my tablet which was warm so I could photograph the magic. 

I have not actually read any of the Agatha Christie books but have seen some of the TV and film adaptations with some Miss Marple and Poirot actors/actresses better than others.

OK, not stamps but money that could be used to buy stamps. The Bank of England issued new £5 notes this week - these are plastic and smaller than the paper notes. They feel different and will take a bit of getting used to. This isn't the first plastic fiver I've had. I have one somewhere from Northern Bank (operating in Northern Ireland). 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Time for a postbox post!

Due to some forum games elsewhere (not on my snailmail forum), the locations of these will be withheld until correct guesses have been made there
Two photos of the same postbox, apologies for the quality of the one, taken on a bus.

I was hoping to have caught a bus after finishing my walk, but just missed it, so had to walk even further.

This is a cheeky postbox, aboard the MV Balmoral. More information about this vessel can be found at