Friday 19 April 2024

Coming partially off (un)social media.

For a few years, this blog had a page on Facebook, but I've since deleted it. Also, my forum had a page and group on FB, and now, they are both gone from there. FB/Insta/Meta/whatever have changed for the worse over the years, and even Twitter (whatever) seems a little better as you can choose to see posts from people you follow. Yes, on the Insta app, you can see the posts from people you are following, but not hashtags. Can't browse recent/latest posts of a hashtag, so I've given up trying. Mastodon seems better, though quiet. 

I prefer the set up of a forum, the sections that can be created, the different boards within, and proper thread titles. Much easier to navigate. But, oh so many people happy to allow algorithms to show them what the platform wants to show you (top posts in reddit, most "relevant" on FB, "top" posts on Insta). Insta - I want to see hashtag WriteMoreLetters,  not more crafting/painting posts, cats reels (OK a few won't hurt), posts telling me I should change my looks/body/be someone else... 

There used to be a time where there were loads of blogs to read about snailmail, penpalling, letter writing. Can easily dip in and read. Sad though, so many don't get updated. But now, it is all social media, pictures here, pictures there, full of oneupmanship, ner ner ner ner ner, begging/wanting freebies, and [redacted]. Whatever I do, just doesn't seem to be good enough.

I'm just so tired... so tired of it all. I'm worn down. I had to quit another hobby/interest because of the burnout, and I feel I've lost many years of my life and money and brain cells. Time for something new. Time to let go.     

Sunday 10 March 2024

March thoughts

InCoWriMo and LetterMo are over for another year, and March is a month of replies. However, with the announcement at the start of the month from Royal Mail raising postage rates in April, I have found my enthusiasm for all things postal has diminished (including for the snail mail forum I run). I knew the postage rate increase was coming, but didn’t think it would be an extra 10p domestically, an extra 20p international economy (can't use for letters to Europe), and 30p extra for international standard: huge increases. I know it isn’t much in the great scheme of things, and can afford it financially, but even so… How much money do you spend a month on hobbies?  Some people like to fishing, hillwalking - may have a largish outlay at the start; good quality board games can cost quite a bit (£50 or more, e.g. Power Grid, Agricola, Talisman, and then there’s the expansions); a weekly or even daily cup of fancy coffee from a large coffee shop chain costs (£3+)…. so snail mail doesn’t seem that expensive, and if it comes to it, can buy postage only when it is needed, and no need for expensive stationery (£30 letter writing set with 10 sheets of A5 + 10 C6 envelopes one stationer's sells is taking the biscuit).

It is heart-breaking what Royal Mail are doing to a long-time appreciated institution with its micromanagement of the posties, tracking them, complaining when they are idle (perhaps on the mandated breaks). The regular posties were almost social workers during the pandemic on rural routes may have been the only face some folks would have seen. La Poste even offered a service to check in on people, albeit for a fee. A regular postie is very much part of the community. A while back, had someone’s pet rabbit escape into my garden, and the postie knew whose bunny it was. Perhaps I feel betrayed by Royal Mail, yet I am reliant on them for this hobby - no choice is available; I will not do email. 

Picture of a bunny rabbit

I haven’t kept up the pace of daily letter writing I managed in February. I will respond to all the surprise letters I received through the February projects, and will probably have replied to all the letters received in February before the postage rate rise immediately after the Easter bank holiday.

As for the forum, it is still quiet. This July will have been running for 9 years, but it hasn't turned out how I imagined: I wanted a forum full of discussions on all-sorts of snail mail issues, plus it is something off Facebook (can't read my "feed" most days without some sort of scam/fake but paid-for accounts posting things) and Instagram (the one-upmanship, look how fancy "this" is, and the disregard for other people's privacy by not-covering/obscuring the other person's address). I want the forum to remain free (money complicates things), and available to "all" (in quotation marks, because there are those who post forum spam, and those accounts get deleted). I know it is somewhat ironic to have all this online, for an offline hobby.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Well, yesterday wasn’t a quite so happy St. David’s Day. Royal Mail had chosen that date to announce postage rate rises to come into force on the 2nd April 2024. Knew in advance that the details were coming then. The rise is not just a penny here and there. Both 1st and 2nd class goes up 10p apiece.

International standard is up 30p. International economy up 20p. First + second still adds up to the first international economy/surface mail rate and can be used for post outside Europe. Some postcrossers have been using this economy rate and haven’t noticed longer delivery times. 

I haven’t watched the BBC Panorama programme on Royal Mail, about deliveries, lack of them coming daily for some, letters coming bundled up once or twice a week, or less frequently. I must be lucky my regular postie makes it to me mostly daily. He is a great postie, and would have been the only person some people saw during the pandemic. I don’t live that remotely, but I can imagine living up a country lane, neighbours out of sight, a postie delivering mail and making sure I’m OK. A regular postie is a wonderful thing; almost a community service, a Postman Pat!, a community “warden” of sorts. 

I managed to speak to my postie this week. He had so many parcels to deliver first, before doing the letters. I’ve noticed he can deliver about 1100-1130 if he doesn’t have much in the way of parcels to do first, otherwise anytime after 12 to about 1pm. 

Royal Mail have said that most don’t spend more than £7 a year on stamped mail. I think some of my relatives are among those who don’t even spend that much… as they prefer to wish Happy Birthday to relatives on Facebook whether or not the birthday person is on Facebook. “Happy Birthday to my great-grandson who is 11” and even those relatives who live nearby don’t even get a physical card. Christmas cards are all e-cards and I can’t stand these. An in-law prefers to phone and chat for a while instead of a card (the cards don’t say much, no words of news/encouragement/stories). 

I also haven’t finished watching the Horizon Post Office scandal docu-drama. Llandudno is up near me!

Sunday 18 February 2024

Just over halfway

Half way into February and it feels like any other month. It shouldn’t as February is A Month of Letters & International Correspondence Writing Month. I have been doing both since year dot, yet this is the first time I am not shouting from the rooftops about these projects. Maybe I am burned out from having very little acknowledgement to all the surprise letters I have sent out through the February projects. Maybe also I am at my limit for the number of penpals I feel I can handle. I know Incowrimo and LetterMo aren’t necessarily about finding long-term correspondence, and there is joy to receiving great one-off missives however most of those seem to go unthanked. However, this year, there seems to be more people looking for penpal, but I’m not one of them, which makes a change as I’ve previously always hoped to find penfriends through these February projects.  I have written a few surprises though.

With the revamp of the LetterMo site, I’m having to remember who my friends are! I have stressed I’m not seeking new long-term penpals (but perhaps there can be exceptions), however have accepted a few perhaps one-off requests. Indeed have received a couple of letters I am very much looking forward tor replying. One of the letters received is a reconnect after a break of so many years, connection started way back during my first LetterMo of 2012! One reconnection this year through Incowrimo after a few years is due to illness/stuff.

So, I shall be heading up to my archives to look for the letters from these 2 "old" correspondents and putting those letters into my active letter storage.

I had been thinking about culling some of the early one-letter wonders; those received over 10 years ago, but haven’t led to anything. I know correspondence can peter out even after a few letters but there was something in them that kept it going a little while. I am not one to always follow up after months of expecting a reply to come. I know life/events get in the way and maybe a follow-up missive can put pressure on them/make them feel guilty about “being a bad penpal.”

It can feel somewhat odd: to connect not only via letters, but also to follow on social media, online groups/messageboards, and online live events possibly via Zoom! I keep missing (forgetting/not realising) the online letter socials. I do quite like seeing penpals’ posts on social media/messageboards, even if it is just to say that they are still kicking, or say something that would explain why they might be slower than usual in replying to letters.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

It is nearly February, and yet...

I am not as enthusiastic as I usually am at this time of year for the February letter writing "madness" - the letter writing projects A Month of Letters (LetterMo), and International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo). Maybe as I've been taking part in these from 2012, and am, I dunno, a little disappointed that out of so many of the 300+ people I've written to through these February projects, just shy of 50 have led to longer more meaningful correspondence (although some of those have faded away - one through moving, another through a not-great-postal service...), with over half of that 300+ having not responded at all.

Perhaps I should stop putting my heart & soul into these surprise letter. Should I do the equivalent of the bare minimum seen over at Postcrossing where the sender has, other than the address & postcard ID, only written, "Happy Postcrossing" and write nothing else? NO - because I wouldn't be "happy" to receive that outside of Postcrossing. Send the sort of thing you are happy to receive! It doesn't have to be much... e.g.

Seeing as you wrote that you like cats, I saw this cat card and thought you might like it. I hope you are well. Take care...

Even something as brief as that says something. 

And then there are those who write their entire biography/family history, with names of pets, siblings, parents, aunts/uncles, children, work history: all about them, perhaps even all printed out with very little to hook you into replying, or with generic questions you've already given answers to in an incowrimo disqus comment they'd have seen to get your address. I know, I'll send some of my favourite meat recipes to everyone I choose to write to, even if they've stated in their address/profile post that they are vegan!! 

So, I have not put my address up this time. However, it is up on LetterMo (restricted access), but I'm having to decline a few requests. I'm not sure if everyone actually reads the profiles of those requesting friendship (access for the postal address) as I've noticed one profile seeking addresses for someone incarcerated (written backwards and in background colour so to read, you need to highlight, for the crimes of: yhpargonrop dlihc, esuba xes dlihc according to a prisoner penpal site he has a profile on) has over 60 "friends" on the LM site.

Saturday 6 January 2024

2024 starts with no Old Spice!

So, Royal Mail have finally announced their 2024 stamp programme, although images of the Spice Girls stamps appeared on ebay last month. 

11 Jan - Spice Girls

1 Feb - Weather Forecasting (170th anniversary of the Meteorological Office, and also the centenary of the Shipping Forecast)

20 Feb - Viking Britain (Jorvik Centre in York opened 40 years ago this year)

12 March - Age of the Dinosaurs

16 April - 100 Years of Commemorative Stamps

16 May - Peppa Pig (20 years of Peppa Pig!)

6 June - Dogs

20 June - Red Arrows-60th anniversary.

25 July - Dungeons & Dragons (wonder which will be better, RM's stamps or USPS's)

13 Aug - Tower of London

3 Sep - Porridge (the TV series, first aired in 1974)

26 Sep - Spiders

17 Oct - The Who

5 Nov - Christmas 2024

30 Nov - Winston Churchill

A mix of themes, but missing is a stamp set commemorating 200th anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI), but other postal authorities are.

It is also the 200th anniversary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), so wonder if that can be bundled in with the Dogs. 

Another 200th anniversary that could be celebrated is one for The National Gallery. 

I hoped there would be a nature/environmental theme, but hadn't expected Spiders. Also, the Europa theme this year is Underwater Flora & Fauna, so nothing here (though there is a diving bell spider).

I was hoping for Bagpuss, first aired in 1974. 

Friday 5 January 2024

New Year, New Leaf

I'm feeling I need a change... a change of name for this blog. But what? Something with Missive, or Postal, or keep Letter, or Snail Mail...