Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Has the snail mail revival failed?

I wonder, has the attempted revival of snail mail come to an end? At least one penpal mourns the closure of the Letter Writers Alliance, but other societies have sprung up on the web, and then there's groups on various social media platforms. The more the merrier perhaps, but maybe also is a disadvantage, with enthusiasm/effort being fractured all over the place. I live somewhere it is not feasible to have monthly meetups like at least a couple of societies in the US have. 

Due to history/circumstance, I do not want to put my face out there, and I also dislike my accent; the sound of my voice. I have my own little snail mail forum, and has been up for over 8 years now, but maybe it is a lost cause. Someone commented before I started the forum that for a forum to do well, it needs at least 100 very active members, but sadly, my forum doesn't get a fifth of that visiting daily, and not even 50 members have logged on in the last month. I know... snail mail is an offline hobby. However, those I do postally know who have logged in, I could describe as lovely. I can't use that word for some people on reddit as various groups there seem cliquey and at times, downright unpleasant, but that was a while ago. I've heard about others being bullied there too.

I'm still having problems with Instagram on my computer. It only shows my 9 top posts for a hashtag, and I'm missing out on what my friends post unless I grab my mobile. The mobile screen's keyboard is not as nice as my computer's keyboard. 

And then there's Royal Fail Mail who refuse to go to the Stampex this autumn. They seem to have no clue what stamps are valid for postage and what is fake/reused. 

Then, there's the post offices where it is an inconvenience to them for you to buy stamps, and most won't have the commemorative stamps plus can't be arsed to order even though you could become a regular customer. However, one lovely little post office I visit is bothered, and on a couple of occasions they've not had the miniature sheet on day of issue when I arrive (within 30 minutes of opening), they have ordered them in for me to buy on my next visit. I usually spend in exess of £50* on a stamp issue I (or even my penfriends) like. It might only be a few pennies a post office makes from their sale, but it all adds up.

*If I want stamps for letter postage, it costs the same to use commemorative nice one(s) as ordinary one(s).

A bit late as we are coming to the end of the summer holiday season, but if you do go away for even a short break, do consider sending postcards. Be careful though of stamps offered by tourist shops/attractions, as they might be ones supplied by Universal Mail - their International Postcard stamps, and will only be valid to use for postcards going abroad (and they'll go the long way). I have no idea how much they are charging for them, maybe even more than Royal Mail's. They are not valid for domestic postage, although I did see some postcards with them on in a London postbox, but their destinations were somewhere in England. 

Sunday, 28 May 2023


It is one of those things, the lull in enthusiasm for hobbies. I know it is silly, but if feels somewhat like a competition with a primary school football team against a premiership team. My passion for allotment gardening is starting to return, and while there are competitions such as for the biggest pumpkin, longest leek, I'm not interested in showing produce as it seems such a waste - I've been to garden shows and the vegetables exhibited are not stored in optimal conditions (keep cool). For me, the killer of enthusiasm was a combination of weather and various critters/diseases attacking my plants.

But, it is my passion for snail mail that is at risk. One small aspect of this I put squarely on Royal Mail: the incompetence at the helm, the bullying of the posties… If I lived on the Isle of Mull, I'd barely get any post the last couple of months because the vans RM use don't seem to be all that roadworthy and this then puts the lives of the posties who drive them at risk. Postage has gone up, more than quadrupled for international postage since I started Postcrossing. Postage is the main reason I'm a lapsed postcrosser, but I do send postcards occasionally. Postage is the last straw for many UK postcrossers. For the current postage rate, I do prefer quality letters. Comparatively though, it is still quite reasonable. For £2.20, I can send a postcard or letter up to 100g all over the world, and this is far less than a coffee at the chain coffee shops. While the postage rate has diminished the number of postcards I send during the year, it isn't directly affecting the number of letters I send.

How do I explain the main reason? There's an element of one-upmanship on/via social media, e.g. "look how many letters/postcards I'm sending!" or showing off the mail-art or extras enclosed. I do like mail-art, but I have zero talent for it. Art soothes the soul, helps with mental health, but for me, words do a better job. I get the feeling I'm not good enough; I can't do more to promote snail mail correspondence. The more someone shows off, the more someone begs, the more someone drones on about something, the more I'm put off. For reasons I will not go into, I do not want to put my face out there, nor my voice. Even though I do manage a small snail mail discussion board, I can't be an ambassador for the hobby (and I think that realisation is also affecting me). Am I writing enough letters? I see via social media a few others writing gazillion letters each evening and showing off. It somewhat detracts from the specialness I feel about snail mail, quantity diluting quality. There was an element of quantity over quality in some previous Incowrimo/LetterMo years. Then, there's those who see no problem about revealing other people's addresses without permission and would they be the type of person to reveal secrets, break confidences? One such person a couple of years ago got into my head during an Incowrimo and slightly spoiled that year's writing madness for me. I feel a little lost; I have so much invested in letters. I don't want to give up penfriendships; I must not give up; where I live would be a much lonelier place without penfriends. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Blackadder stamps..

Today, Royal Mail issued stamps celebrating the TV series Blackadder. So, forth I went to a little post office to buy the stamps and the miniature sheet. There was however a problem - they didn't have any of the Blackadder miniature sheets for me to buy, so I will have to be patient, and wait until next month as the post office will order in the miniature sheet for me to buy when I go for the next issue of stamps. Fine! 

But what about the other stamps?  I bought 8 first class stamps, and 8 £2.20 stamps, although there were also 2nd class stamps, and £2.00 which is the current international surface mail rate for letters/postcards outside Europe, but didn't buy these values. I can't see many people using the £2.00 rate. Before the postage rate change in April, airmail first rate was £1.85 but that covered 20g worldwide, whereas the surface mail/international economy rate was £1.60 for 100g. 100g airmail was £2.55 so quite a difference.

What did surprise me was that they still had 6 miniature sheets of A New Reign issue. My local main post office was only sent 2 miniature sheets and they sold out within the first hour. The little post office had been sent over a dozen. So, I bought 2 sheets. Maybe I'll buy the rest if they have any left next month when Warhammer comes out. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

My Postcrossing anniversary

Earlier this month, I celebrated my Postcrossing anniversary. I hadn't sent any Postcrossing postcards out this year, so thought I should request a few addresses on my anniversary. I was not disappointed with who the system paired me up with. I went down a rabbit hole of looking up the writres mentioned on a couple of the profiles, out of curiosity leaving me with books to add to my wish-list. At least one of the writers is one I hope to mention in a future blog post. 

The first class "two penny blue" stamp next to a stamp with buses

I had somewhat forgotten how much space (or lack of space) there is on a postcard for the postage. Lucky that the postage rate for international airmail is also 2 x 1st class, so I have a wealth of choice for making up the postage. 

A seahorse postage stamp next to a stamp of the comic character - Storm

Where possible, I try to match the stamps to the interests mentioned on the profile. Sometimes, it takes me longer to choose the postage than it is to write the postcard. 

A comic Batman postage stamp next to a stamp of the Star Wars character, Jannah.

I am still very fond of Postcrossing, but the postage rate to send just a mere postcard overseas does seem to be a bit on the extortionate side. What else can I get for that price? A cup of dishwater one coffee chain purports to be tea costs more, and isn't as nice as the feeling you get when you get the Hurrah email from Postcrossing informing you a postcard has arrived, plus the recipient's message! 

Saturday, 8 April 2023

Size matters. Thickness.

Last week, I received a To Pay card in the post, for underpaid postage. The front of the card has the local delivery office address and space stamps to be affixed to pay what was due. The fee can be paid online, but I wanted to see who sent it/what it was, so I visited the delivery office one morning (hours are shorter than they used to be, as I'm pretty sure I headed there one afternoon a few years back to collect a parcel that did not fit through the letterbox) and found a polite RM person. He showed me what came, and demonstrated that it would not fit through the 5mm slot (the size thickness for standard letters). I knew who it was from and paid with 2 second class stamps (as they are now 75p each).

Bilingual Welsh/English "Fee To Pay" card from Royal Mail 

I got the item home and tried my own letter template ruler. The letter did get through it, but then I noticed the slot has rounded corners and that takes the gap to almost 6mm. I had not noticed that my 5mm measuring slot was just a fraction bigger than it should have been. I do hope any mail for overseas I have sent, has not fallen foul of the thickness. 

Sunday, 2 April 2023

Inco 2023 round up.

Well, April has come marking the end of March, the month informally named InCoReMo - International Correspondence Replying Month coming after February which was International Correspondence Writing Month. For this year, I put my address up on the exchange page alone with 5 not-all-that-serious questions to give the letter writers something to write about if they were stuck. It can be difficult to know what to write especially for InCoWriMo where long-term correspondence may not be a participant's aim from the challenge, so no need for a letter intro CV. I know I can't write to everyone, but am a little disappointed in myself because I did not surprise as many people this year as I thought I would. I drew up a shortlist but ended up concentrating on replying to existing penfriends where many of the connections started due to earlier InCoWriMos. It is a little disappointing also that not every letter gets replied to. I reckon I've sent over 50 letters in the last 10 years of InCoWriMo that have not yielded a response. Even though in theory, I have intended to reply to all the InCo mail I've received over the years, some items do not warrant nor deserve responses. However, all those that do deserve a reply, I do write and send. I still have a few surprise letters received in March to respond to.

Tomorrow sees a postage rate rise. Although I can afford it, I wish RM would encourage letter writing and card sending rather than totally neglecting delivering letters which is part of their 6-day a week service obligation, though the CEO has said on record that they do not prioritise parcels instead. 

I do hope a satisfactory conclusion will be forthcoming, and RM will be able to be great again.

Friday, 3 March 2023

Another Royal Mail betrayal

Well, it appears Royal Fail do not want people to send letters, yet, Royal Mail have the Universal Service Obligation to deliver mail 6 days a week to every address in the UK for the same cost (1st class to arrive next working day, 2nd class within 3 working days). However, there have been days that letters have not been delivered, and a penfriend reported that she hadn't had a postal delivery for over 2 weeks in January, which is no good for her weekly subscription to a television listings magazine with delivery days after the start of the listings. 

There have been postal strikes affecting Royal Mail. I have been supporting these strikes as Royal Mail seems to want to dehumanise the posties, to track them, to perhaps rank them. Royal Mail has the technology to know how long a postie has been in the same place, to see where the postie goes... 

There have been select committee meetings with Royal Mail's CEO. First impression, answers to the questions put to the CEO was akin to trying to get blood out of a stone. From the first meeting in January, it appears RM wants to cut sick pay to the postie, RM has introduced owner-driver posties (are they self-employed? and on insecure contracts), they deny prioritising parcels over letters (b*llocks). From the second meeting in February, there was evidence presented that there was a list of postal workers at a delivery office ranked in terms of speed of their deliveries. The CEO claimed that the PDAs the posties have do not track in real time and claim the PDA data is not being used to discipline staff (but a message from a delivery office manager submitted to the committee disputes this). The Chair of the committee is wonderful! Shame not all politicians are as well-spoken/well-meaning/etc. as him. Below is quoted from the transcript for the February meeting, and links to both meetings can be found at

Q197 Chair: I have to say that I’m not particularly persuaded. There’s a theme to your answers today, gentlemen, which is that we have rogue posters, we have rogue managers, we have isolated incidences, we have got a global pandemic, we have industrial action—it’s everyone else’s fault that there are all of these problems. “Nothing to do with me, guv!” Can you see, based on all of the information we’ve had, why it’s difficult for me to agree with the way you’re presenting your cases today?

So, Royal Fail needs to increase postage prices. Well, the rise is due on the 3rd April 2023. I shall cry, as will other UK-based snailmailers.

1st class. 95p now, will cost £1.10

2nd class. 68p now, will cost 75p

International Standard, aka airmail, first rate is £1.85 but will cost £2.20 (though the weight allowance for worldwide goes up from 20g to 100g, but the 20g-100g rate currently is £2.55, so silver lining perhaps).

International Economy, aka surface mail £1.60 now, goes up to a whopping £2, and all for letters outside of Europe. 

I don't send large letters, but there are large letter rates for domestic mail, and for international mail (both tariffs). 

Silver lining, perhaps, is that international airmail will be again 2 x 1st class. So, less of a need to faff around trying to make up from first class to the international postage rate. 

Read and weep via where you can download the prices.