Wednesday 5 December 2018

'Tis the season

December has arrived, and Christmas cards have been coming in the mail. I have also been sending cards too, still more than a few yet to write and post. I am having some trouble finding Christmas cards I actually want to send. I still have some from previous years and I was able to buy more this year, but the problems I have are:

1) Many of the cards I come across are square. Not a problem for postage within the UK, but the smaller square cards suitable for posting domestically, fall foul of the minimum sizing for international mail.

I had posted in this blog in December 2016  about this, after I had sent a small square card out internationally.
The US has a non-machinable surcharge for square items of mail. I did wonder if Royal Mail would go down that route, but so far, they haven't....

2) Many cards also have glitter on. After the big fuss of Sir David Attenborough's nature series showing the amount of plastic in the ocean and killing off some creatures - even poisoning milk and killing little baby sea mammals.
Not all of the cards have glitter, and my camera hasn't made it easy for you to tell which cards here have glitter.
The designs look nice and I have bought glittery cards in the past before Blue Planet II. I still like the way glitter shines in the light and it would be very hard for me not to go Ooo about it. However, when buying new cards, I think I can restrain myself from getting glittery ones now.

3) Some of the sentiments inside are not what I want. I need both the wishes for Christmas and for the New Year. However, some just have Christmas wishes in. I do also like Season's Greetings as that can mean time-appropriate greetings. Although it can be a bit strange to send a winter scene to someone in the southern hemisphere. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all. 

Friday 19 October 2018

Ooops, gone down the wax seal rabbit hole

This year, I have been using wax seals more often than less to put the finishing touches to my outgoing post. These are just a selection.

 The one above and below are of the Ironbridge. 

I have a few more wax seals on order, and have also received a few new ones not yet used. In addition, I have ordered different colours of wax to use. 

Sunday 2 September 2018

Yesterday was World Letter Writing Day

Yesterday, 1st September, was World Letter Writing Day. Did I participate? Did I write letters? The answers - NO! I do not need a special day to write letters. I write letters most days of the week, so gave myself a day off. I do though participate in a February letter writing project as a means to reach out to new people.

Letter writing is relaxing, calms the brain, but also allows me to think about the person I am writing to, and craft measured replies. I'm pretty sure at some point in our lives, we've all opened our mouths and said something without thinking. I know I have done and could well have ruined friendships if I hadn't realised straight away what I had said. Letters also allow me to communicate with someone while they are otherwise busy (work, chores, enjoying entertainment or socialising) or are asleep. Sending email would also allow for this but the ping (or other sound notification) on a mobile phone can be distracting at inconvenient moments. I found email social correspondence too demanding. "I know you have read my email, why haven't you replied?" was one follow up after not replying the same day. 

I write or start a lot of letters out in public, in cafes. I even take with me some washi tape and a means to cut it to size.

Although I have more than enough stationery to last a lifetime, I do look for more stationery. I couldn't resist this set, Emily's Cats originally sold at WHSmith, found in a charity shop for £1. The box had never been opened. 

Monday 27 August 2018

Follow up on last post.

Since my last post about used stamp re-usage, the person still didn't stop. She blocked me in July after she put an image of yet another used stamp being used for postage. I have had a friend send me screenshots.
This was posted in mid July. I have no idea why she uses By Air Mail labels on her mail from Northern Ireland to England or Wales. For a different but used Mr Men stamp (shown in last post), she said that it was brand new! 
My friend shared with me a screenshot of another re-used used stamp image after I was blocked from seeing this person's post. I don't know what the "No it was a sticker that got stuck by mistake" comment means but was it an excuse/explanation for the mark on the right on the potato stamp? That mark is a postmark. She must think we were born yesterday. 

Monday 11 June 2018

Postally used stamp re-usage is fraud.

One of the things about penpalling/snail mail is that it can be an expensive hobby: postage is not cheap. However, in one penpal group on Facebook, someone is showing off her outgoing mail with postally used stamps as postage. She claims Mr Grumpy, shown below, is a brand new stamp.
 She is very much mistaken as the mark on the top left corner of the stamp is from a first day issue postmark (Mr. Tickle).

She also says she buys stamps off ebay. Shown below, this was the first picture of hers I noticed on the group.
You can clearly see postmarks. Nice for a stamp collection or for decorating letters/scrapbooking, but no, she uses them for postage. One of the group's moderators agreed they were postmarked and that it would be fraud to reuse them for postage.

She didn't listen.
The pear from the tasty stamp issue is on the top envelope and could well be the same stamp in that all used stamps picture. The same first day issue postmark is also visible on the two Mr Men stamps. In the thread discussion, she says:

Further investigation into her posts in the group reveal another visibly, but faintly, postmarked stamp across the bottom part of the neck by the 1st indicator..
I can perhaps forgive a one-off mistake, but this is ongoing. 

The black scrub-out is mine as I don't want to show the names of the unfortunate recipients who may have to pay the surcharge for the sender's criminal behaviour.

Royal Mail's postal fraud online form isn't particularly helpful in this instance.

On the incoming front, yesterday, I received a letter from the US - the stamp had sticky tape on. You might just be able to see the different colour paper underneath the stamp on top of the envelope.
 I peeled the tape from the envelope and revealed this - it had been used. The angle of the photo doesn't do the gold paper justice - looks like it is from an envelope to go with a greetings card.

Friday 1 June 2018

Friday the First. Thought for the month.

I grew up in London, experiencing racism and bullying in school. I was called Paki more often than British. As far as I know, I have no Pakistani ancestry. I am not a Paki; Hercule Poirot isn't French. 

I have moved on from London and away. I am still seen as foreign but this time, I am either seen as an Italian or Greek woman. I don't feel as cross or feel this is as hurtful as being called Paki.

Being different, some people do not know what to say. Some, on seeing people of colour or different ethnicity would ignore them, at worst cross the road to the other side, refuse to make eye contact if on public transport with no escape until the next station or bus stop. If words are spoke, these are sometimes questions asking, "where are you from?" or, "when are you going home?" I had to pay a bill and did so over the counter at my bank. The bank teller was a lovely lady just like me, of mixed race. Her parents met at university as foreign students in the next town. She was born there. She has been asked those questions, and on one occasion, her manager heard and intervened. "OK, she's from the next town," the manager said in a jokey voice as there can be a bit of local rivalry, before admonishing the customer's attitude. 

I like letter writing because you don't start with stereotypes and prejudice from seeing someone's face. Some people can be put off by what they see (tattoos and even piercings, as well as colour). I think perhaps we all do to some extent but letter writing allows me to get over that hurdle, to allow words with thoughtfulness to come flowing out of the pen, in my own time. It doesn't matter if my written conversation partner is at work, asleep or doing other things, for I will not be disturbing them. They will read the letter when they are ready to, perhaps when I am asleep myself. 

Wednesday 9 May 2018

My Postcrossing anniversary - my 10th.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of me joining Postcrossing. I joined because I wasn't getting replies from people I had written to via various penpalling sites. Many profiles there mentioned Postcrossing so I got curious. I sent postcards, always trying to keep my full allowance going. I joined their forums and participated in many Round Robins, as well as starting a couple of my own RRs. I was sending loads of postcards every month. I even joined the big monthly RR. I think what got me was when Royal Mail hiked up postage from 68p to 87p. I felt betrayed, I still do, and postage is now £1.25. When I started, I think postage was 50p to Europe.  I was in the top 10 UK Postcrossers, however, with last actively sending about 4 years ago, I slipped down the rankings. I did send a few postcards out last year, not many.

So, in celebration, I wrote 24 postcards (not my full allowance) yesterday. Some caught yesterday's collection, and some went today.
 I will always be fond of this site, the idea to connect people around the world via the simple postcard, in a time of digital communication. However, I still prefer correspondence via letter than postcards, although I do like postcards. 

Saturday 28 April 2018

On letterwriting, etiquette

I have so far been using the initial of my first name, M, wax seal to close my envelopes. However, is it proper? Should I be using my surname (my married name)? This question has led me to etiquette, tradition, good form written in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  The answer is that I should use the initial of his surname. The initial of my first name never changes, but the surname might and already has. So, I am content to use M. How many of you when telephoning someone, say, "It's me!" ? 

However, what is good form way back when seems to me to be artificial and inequal. There are rules. Who came up with them? There are ways to address the envelope. It is not etiquette to use Mr for a gentleman, but for tradesmen & mechanics. I rarely use titles, though if I am writing to someone who has a PhD, or is a doctor of medicine, I have used the form Dr to them. I won't address the envelope to a married woman as Mrs [her husbands's initial] [husband's surname]. There are still a few people around who say that the woman is property of the husband. Although I have taken my husband's surname, I still identify with my first name, and its initial. Forum posts sometimes have me signing off with this initial. 

Perhaps these rules constrain the feeling of the word/letter, the individuality and uniqueness of each correspondence, the creativity; emotions weren't to be shown, stiff upper lip. I hope my written letters have character and soul to them. I want them to bring a smile upon the recipient's face, and joy. 

Some of rules of antiquated social letter writing, taken from Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton's book in the Good Form series, "Letter-Writing Its Ethics and Etiquette with Remarks on the Proper Use of Monograms, Crests, and Seals" (1890) I break are:

  • Lined papers must never be used for social correspondence, they are extremely bad form.
  • There was a local fashion, some time ago, to use violet ink, but colored inks are never correct

  • Using papers other than cream or white in colour

  • Using anything other than the initial of my husband's surname (or crest if he had one) as a wax seal. 
  • The use of wax in colours other than red or black.

Thursday 12 April 2018


 I wanted to say something but lost my train of thought. Distractions at the moment are more frequent than before, so I am behind on replying to letters. Oh well, part of life having to deal with surprises and things you hope will be later rather than sooner.

Anyway, back to the letter writing I must go.

Sunday 18 March 2018

InCoWriMo-2018 roundup

InCoWriMo-2018 has been a success in my eyes. I managed to write at least one letter a day. I wrote to 30 new victims, receiving 3 replies before the month was out and a further 11 replies in the first half of March. February saw me being chosen as a victim by 13 people. A further 2 surprises arrived in the first half of March. I also continued to correspond with existing penpals, writing 20 replies and receiving 23 letters (excluding postcards). I was able to use wax seals for most of my outgoing mail too. 

It was a successful month although I was unexpectedly away from home for almost all of the month (I was expecting to be away for only a week or so). I did miss receiving post on a daily basis, but my family at home kept me informed of my incoming mail.

Now I play catch up as I will reply to all the InCoWriMo-2018 post I received, as well as replying to my existing penpals. I have almost 40 letters in my to-reply-to pile.

Saturday 24 February 2018

Final week of InCoWriMo

InCoWriMo-2018 is in full swing and the surprise letters are coming in. Some have made me laugh out loud; some give insights into other people's lives.

I have been chosen because I live in Wales (the sender has connections with Wales) or because I mentioned a shared hobby in the comments.

I have chosen a few by keyword search as well as via hobbies and interests mentioned in the comments or Instagram profile.

I have received my first reply from a surprise, but I have also received a surprise from someone I wrote to however the letters crossed each other on their postal journey.

I have visited family this month so I have had the opportunity to feed different postboxes, much to the neglect of my local boxes. However, I have been using some Post Awyr / Post Brenhinol / Par Avion labels on my overseas letters from England!

I bought more letter writing supplies, including paper and wax seals. I need to write more letters then I can allow myself to buy more paper!

Saturday 3 February 2018

InCoWriMo, Altered Carbon

I watched the first episode of the Netflix series, Altered Carbon. I haven't made up my mind on it yet, but there was one scene of particular interest to me. I put the subtitles on and I will quote below.

There's something about the simplicity of holding the written  word in your hand.
The very heft of it.
True, there is something to be said about the written word. Electronically written words do not have the same aura about them, little mystery.

I am a self-confessed snail mail addict. I seek out connections via the handwritten word. Some are ephemeral, only lasting for InCoWriMo; others last for years.

I have written my first surprise letter to a new person via incowrimo-2018. It has postage stamps and is raring to go. 

Wednesday 31 January 2018

The night before InCoWriMo-2018

I have signed up to take part in InCoWriMo-2018, a handwritten letter every day, in February. 

In preparation, I am making sure I have enough return address labels printed. I have my own design now, to print at home. I still have a few other labels printed commercially I had forgotten about / misplaced!

I also bought more letter writing paper in the Paperchase sales. I will not run out of paper (I have for a few years at least).

I bought another fountain pen too in the Paperchase sale.

I will need to rinse and refill some fountain pens.

I have bought postage stamps. Many of my letters will need £1.40 postage, and I can make this up with 2 first class stamps plus 10p. There are so many wonderful designs for first class stamps, including the latest issue - Game of Thrones.

Thursday 25 January 2018

How to write the first letter

One size does not fit all and you must find your own way. However, I can tell you about my experiences.

Some people like to talk all about themselves. I started doing this when I came back to snail mail in 2008. I didn't receive many replies to those intro letters. A huge disappointment. Then, I thought about it - the all about me me me me letters could be selfish and one sided. 

Letters should be ongoing conversations. Questions should be asked but not too many - you do not want it to be an interrogation or inquisition.

I changed the way I approached first letters. Everyone is individual, and I would write different things to different people. I imagine we are already friends, or at the very lest, friendly acquaintances. I introduce myself through the conversation, even if it is through the mundane. E.g. the weather can affect many hobbies, and what you choose to do for the day: you wouldn't go swimming in the sea during a thunderstorm. 

Others have said that they like humour and stories in letters, and the letters to have personality. A letter is a gift of time and energy. Letters should reveal enthusiasm, sincerity, and passion.

Where you write could be of interest. Part of the draft for this blog post was written on a train. That then begs questions - where have I been, and where am I going? 

The original InCoWriMo was started by a fountain pen geek, and many participants were fountain pen users. Now, there are more participants who might not be into fountain pens, the colour of the ink (draft partially written with a Parker Reflex, Diamine Rustic Brown) and specific types of paper. Although I had fountain pens for use in 2008, I was using gel pens to write many of my letters.

What to write on doesn't really matter: a nice postcard; lined refill paper; or proper letter writing paper or notecards... Postcrossing expects you to send postcards of the same quality you'd be happy to receive yourself. There are some reasonable quality but not expensive letter writing paper out there. Paperchase may still have some writing sets in their sale!

Sunday 21 January 2018

Why write letters?

I am a self-confessed snail mail addict. Why do I edit letters in a digital age? Why not send email?

Writing on paper I find is cathartic, be it letters, journal of even blog post drafts. Writing by hand soles time to think, to be creative, a chance to slow down, to concentrate with fewer distractions perhaps. I read somewhere that students who handwrite (or at least who do handwritten drafts for) essays had better structure of arguments and reasoning. Perhaps the writing process cements memories and improve recall otherwise why would students take notes in lectures?

I have tried email correspondence by found the almost instant nature of it (back in the days of dial up) rather demanding with, “Why haven’t you replied to my email?” The instant gratification doesn’t last long.
The time it takes for letters to arrive allows for stories to develop so there is something to write in addition to direct responses to the letter received.

A childhood hobby of mine was stamp collecting by although I do not collect stamps at the moment, I still love them as they are used to send letters and postcards around the world. I seek out new issues to use for postage. Some become talking points in letters. Next issue celebrates Game of Thrones.

February is around the corner and from the last few years, I have been participating in some letter writing madness in he shortest month! As I write, the two updated projects, A Month of Letters and InCoWriMo-2018 where you write (by hand or typewriter) letters every day (or postal day) of the month. Both projects have their merits. Both are enjoyable.

For these projects, out can choose to write to strangers, or even to friends and family. But what should you write? This is a good question. When I started this session of letter writing in 2008, I initially wrote all about me.. me this, me that.  I didn’t try to connect with the other person. You don’t want to send a letter that looks like a CV.

So, what should be written?

Letters should be dialogues, and can be conversations spread over more than one letter, or stories that develop too. Every letter should be different. You must find your own way.