Thursday 17 December 2015

What can you write about in letters?

One of the questions I have been asked by non-letter writers is, "What do you write about in letters?" My answer is almost anything and everything, although it depends on who it is you are writing to. Topics generally avoided are - Religion (faith can be personal, and may also be divisive), Politics (some politicians this year have said things I think are hurtful, racist, sexist or just plain silly), and Sex (yes please ;) - I actually have drafted this blog post on paper and drew the wink however my drawing looks evil). However, anything else is generally fine. Talk about roast turkey should be kept at a minimum with vegetarians, and should also avoid telling them about your child's dissection of a sheep's heart in science class at school (some brought in cooked or frozen hearts...). Make sure the letter is not all about you. This may be difficult for the first letter you send to a new penpal. 

Speaking of days, it doesn't matter if you can't finish a letter in a single sitting/day. I tend to write the new date when I continue on a different day, even if it is just after midnight. It is a good idea, especially if you write internationally, the name of the month and not its number - a date last week was 10/12/2015. In the UK, this means 10th December 2015, however it can be interpreted as 12th October 2015. 

You can talk about family - sometimes, they can be annoying. You can pick your friends, pick your nose but can't pick your family. Penpals can be great listeners - there's time to think and craft responses. Have we all, in speech, said something possibly hurtful without thinking? We may be able to offer advice and suggestions, or just provide a shoulder. It might not be good to keep things bottled up inside, however not every penpal would want to hear about your woes. There'll be close penpals, friendly penpals, acquaintances who are correspondents, akin to friendship in the 3D world (I didn't want to use "real world" because to me, penfriendship is still real friendship).

Some letters I've received have had me in fits of laughter. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine! You could admit to doing silly things - I once put sugar on my chips (fries) instead of into my cuppa (at least salt didn't go into the wrong place). Some people write diary letters but that's OK in moderation. What happens to you on a particular day can be of interest to your penpals but they don't need to know every detail of your day. The sometimes silly Five Questions.... challenge over on A World of Snail Mail can be cathartic, and maybe take you down memory lane. Now, which leg did I put in my trousers this morning?

Monday 30 November 2015


I occasionally get updates from Royal Mail via e-mail, at least it didn't start with, "Dear Customer"
We're introducing a new Large Letter format for our international services. Measuring a generous 35.3cm x 25cm x 2.5 cm, it means you can now benefit from a lower letter rate when sending larger, flat items abroad with Royal Mail.
The Large Letter format for international mail has been around for more than 6 months and was mentioned in the postal rates for April 2015 onwards.  So, I was wondering what "introducing" means.
Bring (something, especially a product, measure, or concept) into use or operation for the first time
.. is a definition from the OED for to introduce.  7 months too late! I already knew about this and had picked up the postal prices leaflets sticking them up on the wall.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

First Christmas Card + post boxes.

 Last week, I received my first Christmas Card for 2015 from Canada. The greeting is very apt. I will be sending out more Christmas cards soon (I have posted a few already) and to those who will not get one from me, I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and New Year, may your lives be full of joy and happiness.

Last month, I spent a few days in London. I also took my letter writing supplies and stamps. I did write some letters but I decided not to post them in this wide-mouthed post box by the steps up to Tower Bridge.

Instead, I went to the post office near the National Portrait Gallery and posted them inside. I was also low on airmail labels and some of the small value stamps so stocked up there. The postboxes outside though look very greedy. 

Another place I visited when in London was the Victoria & Albert Museum. I didn't see everything but I was a little disappointed not to see much about letter writing. There was a display of the Tom stamps from Finland but not much else in that theme. This bookcase has a table and I can just imagine myself sitting at it and referring to books to quote from in letters. 

The other week, I bought a book on Writing Antiques. The item in the top is a stationery box with a set of postal scales and weights! I currently use a set of digital scales meant for use in the kitchen.
The bottom item is a portable writing set. My current portable set consists of an Angry Birds Space pencil case full of pens, a plastic freezer bag with ~A5 writing pads in, and an A4 document box with A4 sized paper in. It does me well but doesn't quite have the romance about it compared to this set or a writing slope. 

Monday 2 November 2015

3rd month of 5 Questions 5 Letters challenge

Over at A World of Snail Mail forum, there is a monthly challenge 5 Questions 5 Letters. The first two months have been great, with quite a few people taking part. November has some questions up already, but I'm still thinking of what to ask - any suggestions? Or better still, ask your own.

There is a thread on the board about laconic penpals, those who barely say anything of consequence or personal - I don't think the ones I've received from knew what to write. What can you write about in letters? Almost anything within reason, for example - the weather, what you've been up to, books read, music listened to, television / films watched, gone somewhere nice, food (although try to be considerate if your penpal is a vegetarian or vegan) or perhaps, mentioning overhearing on the bus a conversation about dunking biscuits - to dunk or not to dunk...

Friday 23 October 2015

Five Questions Five Letters - October

I was pleased the Five Questions Five Letters Challenge had participants in its first month. This month, still not over, has some new forum members taking part in this challenge. The questions perhaps are better, more varied, mostly light-hearted, with some needing to be thought about. Last month, I still had to think about which leg I put in my trousers first! These ice-breakers have given first letters more life and excitement.

To Dunk or Not to Dunk, that is the question!
Is it nobler to have a softened biscuit
Flavoured with coffee, tea or chocolate
Or to have it full of crunchy integrity..........?

There is still plenty of time to sign up and take part this month, or perhaps wait for the next...

Monday 5 October 2015

How do you find penpals? - updated.

Back in 2012, I wrote a blog post called How do you find penpals? Although the details there are still valid, I would like to add a few more details. I'll repeat most of that post here.

So, how did I find penpals?

Well, in school, I filled out a form for a youth penpal service, though I can't remember which organisation it was. I paid for some penpals and received some letters. However, as a teenager, I found myself busy with other things, such as homework and being with friends. So, unfortunately, penfriendship dwindled.

Then, as after leaving university, I wanted penpals again. I bought a free ads paper and saw that there was a form to place an ad internationally through their sister papers. I placed an ad in 10 international papers and received some letters. I still write to one of them.

Then, when I got my first computer, I wanted some penpals, but only found people who wanted email friendship. One even got worried if I did not write daily. I gave up for a few years.

Then, in 2008, I decided to try again for snailmail penpals. First port of call was PenPal International and had  found a few people to write to. However, the letters stopped (maybe lost in the post, or they stopped writing). I also tried Interpals and found more people that way. However, it was the same old story, the letters stopped. Also, some who said they would write the first letter, never did (or it was lost in the mail). One thing good about Interpals was that I discovered Postcrossing and this satisfied my hunger for nice mail, with postcards to and from all over the world. I discovered their forums (fora?) and found penpals through that, although not everyone continued their correspondence with me. I have tried other penpal websites but ...

Some penfriends started sending me Friendship Books (FBs). These are little booklets, sent with letters for people to write their name and address in, perhaps a bit about themselves and abbreviations such as NPW (new penpals welcome), NNSP (no new swap pals). I haven't received any letters via this route. I had started to make my own, first sending them around Spring 2009, but none have made their way back home, even 6 years later.
These are a few I have made. I sew the paper into the cover, rather than using staples. I haven't sent many new ones recently. Comments received on the original post had concerns of where these friendship books go, some could be sent to prisoners, or to those who are not really interested in letters.

Another site I found for penpalling, well, is mainly a craft and swap site called Swap-Bot. Almost anyone, over the age of 18, can create a swap, people then join and when the deadline for joining is over, the host of the swap checks through the profiles of the people, and if all is well, tells the computer to assign partners. I have joined postcard, letter and Christmas card swaps. I haven't hosted my own swap (I would automatically join the swap). As I write this blog entry, popular swaps include various ones for Artistic Trading Cards (ATC), postcard swaps and pocket letters (in a 9-section trading card sleeve).

In 2012, there was The Month of Letters Challenge (LetterMo) for the month of February. The challenge was to send an item of post (postcard, letter, ...) every "postal" day, so this was 24 days for USA. I had mail ready to go out every day, but missed the last postal collection on one Saturday, so instead of letting the item be lonely in the postbox, I kept it at home until Monday. I wrote to new people who were doing this challenge, and have developed a penfriendship with some of them. I also took part in 2013. However, outside of just before February and a couple of weeks after, the site's forum was neglected. 

In 2014, I joined my first InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month) signing up on the fpgeeks forum. This is similar to the LetterMo challenge and I wrote/received letters to/from a range of different people. I might not have written to them if they had instead a profile up on Interpals. It was quite a freeing experience, not constrained by gender, age, preconceptions - just correspondence. I am still writing to some people from the 2014 InCoWriMo. I signed up again in 2015 but didn't take part in LetterMo. 

I have also found friendship via SendSomething. There are other sites available, e.g.  The Letter Exchange  (something I haven't tried yet, but they have a magazine, and is a subscription service), and Letter Writers Alliance (I am a member).  Instagram and Tumblr are other sites becoming popular to find penpals. You can get ideas there too about snailmail. There are groups on Facebook but caution is needed there too (I recognise some names from other sites where they haven't been reliable senders)

New up though is a forum and monthly project Five Questions 5 Letters. I have some new correspondence from that and it is looking promising.  

Saturday 12 September 2015

more - A World of Snail Mail.

All of my last post's photos were the originals taken before getting the Instagram treatment for A World of Snail Mail and may have also been reposted to Tumblr 

One of my correspondents this week wrote to say they had been stressed out by the sheer challenge of InCoWriMo. Some correspondence via InCoWriMo and LetterMo in the past haven't had much substance to it. Another correspondent enjoyed the 5 Questions 5 Letters format of the new montly challenge set up on A World of Snail Mail as it helps have something to write. I myself have received dreary letters from "letter swaps" saying nothing more than what they had written on their profile. InCoWriMo was great in that there was no profile to copy out, and in some ways, I felt more freedom than via some of the penpalling sites over the years, mainly Interpals. So, if you are fancying a new way to find penpals/correspondents, try the Five Questions Five Letters challenge.

Instead of the 20+ for InCoWriMo / LetterMo, try to answer 5 sets of questions - write five letters.

Friday 11 September 2015

forum has kept me busy

 A different post box I posted a letter in on a nice afternoon.
 Some incoming post. I love the Tom and Jerry stamp. One of these letters has answers to my Five Questions, for this month's challenge.
 Some outgoing post, including a birthday card for my mother.
 Post received from a penpal in the US. I love the stamps she used. .
 Look at all those stamps on that one envelope! Wow! I just love getting letters!
 I love the flower stamps from Germany  but I also like the other stamp too.
 I found the town the sender of this letter lives in, in my atlas. My knowledge of US geography is poor to say the least!
Well, congratulations to the Queen in becoming the longest reigning monarch. Royal Mail issued a miniature sheet and I was able to get my hands on one!

Saturday 5 September 2015

Five Questions, Five Letters September 2015

I have already received a response to my 5 questions for September. There are at least a dozen (I know, not a lot but this is a new project...) people with questions posted. The more the merrier though.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Five Questions, Five Letters monthly challenges

I had been contemplating an easier (!) postal project than InCoWriMo/LetterMo, one that should be easier to complete. I came up with 5 Questions (you want answered), 5 Letters (you'd at least send answering their questions) in a month. I had initially thought to have the challenge for one month only, but there were people coming to InCoWriMo/LetterMo late so why should they miss out. You don't need to take part every month, and existing correspondents could ask/answer questions too. The challenge is being hosted by a new penpalling/correspondence forum called A World of Snail Mail

So far, the wording I have for the challenge is:

Have you ever wanted to write to someone but found it difficult to know what to write in yours letter? Well, this project could be for you. You could leave your address (or request people to ask via private message) in a thread plus 5 questions you would like answered. Then, you can pick (at least) 5 people (you can include current penpals & correspondents in that number) to write to and answer their questions. It would be nice if letters could be replied to, or at least acknowledged.


Q. Who can see my address if I put it in the thread?

A. Only those who are logged in to the forum can see the Five Questions, Five Letters thread for the month.

Q. What sort of questions can I ask?

A. Anything. They can be trivial, e.g. “Which way do you stir the tea in your cup?” to things more ‘serious’, e.g. “Do you live near where you spent your childhood?”

Q. Can I write more than the answers to the questions provided?

A. Of course. You can even ask questions of your own.

Q. Can I ignore questions?

A. Well, you can say that you do not want to answer the question. Answers can also be brief, even one word Yes (or No) answers.

Q. What should I do when I receive a letter?

A. Read it. Then acknowledge the letter. You do not have to write back, but it is a courtesy to thank the sender.

The challenge for September is open and someone has already put their address and 5 questions up for answering.

Monday 24 August 2015

Does age matter?

Over on A World of Snail Mail, someone posted a question about whether age matters for penpal compatibility. I've noticed while browsing penpal ads on a number of sites that people ask for penpals near their age, +/- a few years difference, no one over 50 (because they couldn't possibly write to an old person), or to young people (what would they have in common?), etc.... Personally, I have no problem with age, or even gender (another can of worms for some) for penfriendship.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

A World of Snail Mail - forum

The new forum at A World of Snail Mail is gaining new members and discussions. There is talk of making envelopes, a new project for October, paper and ink, what to enclose with letters.....

I was looking at an antiques guide book and came across some strange looking things. Among them, are...
Antique novelty inkwells. The one on the right is part of a writing compendium. 
Can you imagine putting ink in the owl-well to dip your pen in and write wise words?

Thursday 6 August 2015

Stamps and seal

Recently, I received a lovely letter sealed with....
 a dragon serpenty thing.
 I like these stamps from the Netherlands.
I've not seen a non-machineable surcharge stamp before

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Postage paid envelope

I don't see many envelopes with postage pre-paid. I did like one I received earlier this summer from Australia.

Monday 20 July 2015

A new penpal discussion forum

There is a new forum up called A World of Snail Mail over here. It is very new so there is not much happening but give it time, I hope there will be a thriving community of epistologists discussing the virtues (and other issues) of snailmail.

Friday 17 July 2015

New stamps

Yesterday, the love of my life treated me to lunch at a nice bistro on the Isle of Anglesey. Afterwards, I popped to the post office to chance my luck for the new stamps. The post office is just a small branch in a little town. Yes, they had some of the miniature sheets. I also mentioned to the postmistress that the person I used to buy stamps from had retired and he could not find the Penny Black miniature sheet in Gwynedd. She still had some left so I bought  couple more sheets of that too (I had ordered and received some from Royal Mail). 

As I put the stamps safely away, the next customers came in asking for the new miniature sheet! This is the first time I've heard other people asking for the special issue stamps..
I posted this at the beginning of the month. A little heavier than my "usual" letters, it required the next postage rate up. I spent a little time pondering which stamps to use for postage and settled on these two with the selvedge.

Monday 22 June 2015

Happy Monday

Post arrived early today, just one letter. I haven't opened it yet, as I'm waiting for my cup of tea to brew. I also can't drink tea while it is boiling hot.

Those Doll stamps look good, but they do take a lot of room up on the envelope.

While on large sized stamps, Royal Mail have issued some large stamps recently. This issue marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta - Foundation of Liberty. The stamp I used here has a section of the Bill of Rights, 1689.  
Most of the special / commemorative issues Royal Mail produce are on the large size, bigger than the Machin stamps, however, the stamps issued for the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black and Twopenny Blue, are small. I did however have to order online from Royal Mail for these stamps issued in a miniature sheet. The post office I now buy the commemorative stamps hadn't been sent any of this issue.
Norvic Philatelics blog asks: Are modern British commemorative stamps 'generally available' ? For the Penny Black commemoration - NO, but for the other issues, I no longer have trouble.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Poor postbox

Royal Mail in their wisdom, have decided to put plasticky plaques on postboxes depicting a stamp associated with that location. 
 This one features Llandudno Pier (from a miniature sheet for the Piers, Proms and Pavilions issue marking seaside architecture). This postbox is on the land side end of the pier.
 It looks a bit shoddily attached, reminding me of ill-fitting blouses with the gaps between the buttons gaping.
The postbox is to the left of the blue building. The pier stretches far to the right.

Friday 12 June 2015

Some pics

One of my homemade seals. Upside down on the envelope... 
 I had gotten bored(!) one evening and made lots of envelopes.
A letter for me arrived wrapped in this paper. I do like my cups of tea, and flowers.
A very kind correspondent sent some used stamps for my son. I like the value given for the letter (opinion!)

Thursday 28 May 2015

Very naughty having not written a letter for almost a week.

Title says it all! Very naughty indeed, even though I have a pile building up for replying to... 

Wednesday 13 May 2015


Recent letters I have received have mentioned the lack of places to discuss penpalling and correspondence matters on the web. There may be threads or small sections on various other hobby boards to find penpals, such as InCoWriMo board over on the Fountain Pen Geeks (fpgeeks) forum, or Pen-friendship/Penpals board over on the Postcrossing forum.

The former already has boards to discuss and review inks, fountain pens, and paper. However, I don't think there has been any discussion on cute Diddl or other pictured / patterned letter writing paper / pads. I find the Diddl paper quite fountain pen friendly. 

What about other places? There are groups on Facebook. Have you ever tried finding old threads, or topics you are interested in on a Facebook group? What if you take a break, even if it is only a week or so, it is difficult to see what you've missed.

What about the forum over at Interpals? Well, I have never found a long-lasting reliable penfriend there. Instead, I've had people with explicit profile pictures post messages to my profile, some marriage proposals, and comments/messages from people who have not actually read properly my profile. As for the forum, there doesn't seem to actually be a specific section for discussing letters and associated topics.

Surely there must be other places? Well, yes. One I did join last year but have had no success with is aimed mainly for females only (judging by the site's name), and although there are boards for specific age groups, the one for the oldies starts at 30!

I haven't looked at the number of female and male correspondents I have...

Another correspondence project has a forum but outside the time of the project, the site is not maintained and administered. I've just been over to check what has been happening and there have been lots of spam accounts opened, yet again. Letters are for life, not just for February.

So, where does that leave us? I don't know. Is there appetite for a forum with sections where you can discuss correspondence matter, maybe find new people to write to, et cetera? Maybe I should start my own?

Friday 24 April 2015

Proof of concept

Today, I posted 3 letters to different corners of the world. One of the envelopes is sealed with wax (below). 
Last year, I had the idea of making my own seals. I bought some modelling stuff and made this. I had left it to dry and forgot about it. I found it last night and thought I would try it on a letter to the US. I had surfed online for ideas about them and one suggested using an oil to prevent the wax from sticking. I lightly covered this with vegetable oil and took the plunge. OK, one of the petals stuck but otherwise, it looks to have turned out rather well. I hope it arrives safely.
Also on the subject of wax, I usually use a ballpoint pen for fear of the address running in the rain if I use a fountain pen. Sometimes I protected the address with sticky tape. A couple of correspondents have suggested/used candle (not lit) rubbed over the address - looks like it works nicely. 

Thursday 23 April 2015

Cheerful post.

 Today, I came home to 2 letters. I just love these stamps used for postage. One of the letters was sealed with wax, and came from a correspondent who has used other seals on letters to me.
The bottom seal is the latest one I have received. Which seal is your favourite out of these?
Earlier in the week, I received this letter also with fab stamps. I hope to reply by May the Fourth!
I have finished writing a reply to this letter, and will post it tomorrow. I love the Valentine's stamp.
The letter I replied to had this little pretty drawing in. My talents for drawing are limited!
I celebrated my birthday this month and my mother used this stamp on her card to me. Eastbourne is somewhere I have visited.
While on the subject of places visited being on stamps, I didn't realise Kedlestone Hall was on a stamp. I went there earlier in the year and only just discovered I had the stamp in my for-postage collection.

Monday 13 April 2015

I am annoyed

With the postage rates rise at the end of March, I thought I had already memorised the prices and a few combinations to make up those rates. For some reason I thought First Class stamps were 64p! On some of the letters I posted last week and maybe the week before, I put 2 firsts and a 5p. 64p x 2 plus 5p would be £1.33. However, those first class stamps are only valued at 63p. So, I have put insufficient postage on for the airmail rate. The letters should still get to their destinations as the postage is more than sufficient to cover surface mail rate....

Friday 10 April 2015

New correspondence comes of age...

InCoWriMo has been a success and some of the correspondence has been back and forth enough for me to justify allowing some correspondents to have their own little file (or plastic resealable food bag) for letter storage, and for being included in my address book. Congratulations to those lucky correspondents !!

For InCoWriMo, you don't know who is writing to you until you receive their letter. Sometimes, you have written to them too and your letters have crossed waving to each other on their travels in opposite directions. This has happened for a second time with one correspondent! Soon, we'll have this sorted so letters do not cross.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Paper, again

I have been away for the Easter holidays but have also been busy writing letters. More were posted today than I received on my return today.

 I just love this Diddl paper, although my fountain pens do not splodge ink everywhere.
When I receive a letter, I am on cloud nine, though the occasional letter could see me roll off the cloud in laughter!
 The other week, I came across some new writing sets. I love the back of the boxes with sample letters.
The designs are fantastic too. I bought a new set by the same people yesterday but I haven't yet taken a photo of it.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Non-plain papers

I have already reported receiving a letter on paper with rather strange printed wording/quotes. 
 "Being relieved will improve human relations."
Well, the latest strange paper has "Space Bonjour Will experience in a mysterious universe mustache" whatever that is supposed to mean. Lost in translation perhaps? 
At least the Diddl paper has just drawings and no silly wording (any silly wording then is down to me).