Saturday 30 December 2023

A couple of little rants....

I have been using the festive period to sort through old but not-continuing correspondence from over the last 16 years. One InCoWriMo, I received an introductory/generic letter, but it was from someone I had previously received an introductory/generic letter 3 years prior - am I that forgettable? As I was going through the letters, I realised I was also forgetful of some of the names I'd sent letters to, but also many I do remember. There was Katy in Israel in 2015 I had written to: one letter I wrote was being composed in a McDonald's and I had put sugar on my fries, instead of salt - at least edible; I doubt salt in a cuppa tea would be delicious! 

Many of the failed correspondences have come via the February letter writing projects. The idea is to write a letter every (postal) day that month. One of the projects says also to reply each letter/postcard you receive through the project. And that is where it falls down. So many letters - they can't have all gotten lost to/from me? There is a forum associated with that project and Disqus comments for one of the other February letter writing projects, so if you really don't want to write back, letter acknowledgement is possible. 

I do know I can't get on well with everyone, and penfriendship would not work with some people. Maybe there's also a time/moment issue -  you'll probably have a day here/there where you don't want to speak to a particular friend, but would be willing to catch up another time. 

Another little rant is postage... It ain't cheap, I get that. But I am less likely to respond / acknowledge a letter if it has insufficient postage from overseas. I don't know all the postal rates from overseas, but do know that ONE domestic FOREVER stamp from the US is not sufficient postage to pay for a letter INTERNATIONALLY. Do you really expect me to think that it costs the same to send something regardless of whether domestically (within your country) or internationally? 

Domestic forever valued postage stamp, of a volleyball

OK, perhaps one or two people new to snail mail or Postcrossing might not know any better, but there was one letter I received I  haven't acknowledged (not even in my correspondence diary, incoming mail list) with a postage label (presumably bought from a machine in the post office) for one cent (0.01 euro). Definitely am not surprised the sender decided not to use a return address on the envelope nor even in the letter itself (email address was provided). 

Deutsche Post postage label, for 1 euro cent

That is definitely wrong, and not a genuine mistake. Postage rate then I think was 1 Euro and 10 cents, DEFINITELY NOT ONE CENT ONLY, not mixed up in a postal rate change (as was the case this month, I received something with stamps adding up to 68p, which was the second class rate at the start of the year but now is 75p). Surprised Deutsche Post let this one through and postmarked it.

Sunday 24 December 2023

2023 almost at an end

Incowrimo - someone wrote in their address post about wanting long-term penpals, but although received a fair few letters, and replied, however none of the replies were responded to. The Feb projects do seem to have more participants only wanting a one-off letters. OK, there’s no contract to continue correspondence, nor to respond by the next day. Life/events do happen, and snail mail is a hobby, not a full time job with wages based on how many letters get written. This month, I received a letter in reply to an incowrimo missive I sent this February. Although it may be nice to receive letters sooner rather than later, late is better than even later/never!

I did throw my hat in the ring for the Feb letter projects but haven’t decided if I will participate in 2024. Early days. I am possibly at my limit of penfriendships I can manage in a timely manner (yes, I know what I wrote above, but I still would prefer to get replies out within a month of receipt). 

There were 2 postage rate rises. 1st class was 95p, then up to £1.10 and has finished the year on £1.25. 2nd class was 68p, now 75p but there’s rumours of it increasing more than by a few pennies next time. I am sending domestic post mostly by 2nd class post. International rates also increased, from £1.85 to £2.20 for airmail, and economy from £1.60 to £2 for letters outside of Europe. Royal Mail say that it is still offers good value, but putting £1.25 into a currency exchange, brings it out as more than the price of a global forever stamp from the USPS. 

On the stamps front, Royal Mail changed the silhouettes over in March for the Flowers issue. QEII’s last silhouette was on The Flying Scotsman issue. I like the flowers, and am finding it psychologically difficult to use them for postage, and same also for Discworld. There have been some curious values of stamps issued. £2 is OK, as that is the international surface mail rate, but £1… what is that? Half-way between 2nd and 1st class! The stamps celebrating the coronation were uninspiring. I don’t really know what Royal Mail is playing at. 

We approach the end of the year and we are none the wiser for next year’s stamp calendar. Deutsche Post’s was up by the end of May. USPS end of October with more issues announced later. Stamp dealers get advanced news but they can’t say have agreements with embargo dates perhaps lifted just under a week before the stamps’ issue. Less than a week, well, how can I plan which stamps I want to buy? As a stamp user, I need to know what values the stamps are, as well as the themes. 

Then there’s been the debacle over non-barcoded ordinary stamps. Those just with the Queen’s head, or country icons for the country definitives. Stamps Royal Mail have supplied in their exchange scheme, when used, some have been marked as counterfeit/fake, and others that are fake/counterfeit/used have been let through as OK. A right Royal (!) Fail. 

Sunday 17 December 2023

Christmas wind down.

A week now until Christmas Day, and as a snail-mailer, I am starting to wind down. I still have a few domestic letters and cards to send out, so will try to get those out in the next day or two, via second class. A headline in today’s Sunday Times newspaper reads, “Undercover footage shows Royal Mail leaving letters on the shelf” and this includes letters marked NHS, various governmental post, bills; so there is no point in using first class stamps domestically. A first class stamp costs £1.25, and a second class stamp is only (!) 75p. Maybe I will use a combination of older but still valid stamps to make up that second class postage rate.

3 stamps adding up to 75p, the second class rate.

After the mad rush, I expect by Tuesday, I’ll have finished all my festive mail. I may still write a letter or two especially if able to post by Friday afternoon. Although there should be a postal collection on the Saturday: the collection time is early morning from my local postboxes (no earlier than 7am says one), I think it is better to assume nothing will be collected until Wednesday, the next postal day.

5 days seems a long time then to be able to post a letter (I don’t like leaving post for long periods all alone and cold in the box), or receive any. Perhaps for the letter writer who communicates with friends mostly through snailmail, it could feel quite lonely. There’s nothing wrong with writing a letter and holding onto it for days before posting, but then, maybe I’d change my mind about what I wrote, or maybe a cup of tea will get spilled across.. I had been about to start a Christmas card when my hot cup of tea spilled across, drowning the card, the cover of a notebook I had the card on, some loose stickers, stamp sheet selvage, and the tail end of a roll of washi. Desk tidy still in progress.

I have a few localish friends I see in town who travel by bus, who live alone. Their villages might as well be in the middle of nowhere;  there’s no social gathering place nor shop. No or poor Sunday bus service, and again same for bank holidays. A long time to be isolated. At least I will have some family with me. 

I shall still be thinking about letters. I am planning to reorganise my stored letters. Maybe even those where correspondence has not continued. I can’t remember the names of everyone I have corresponded with since I restarted snailmailing in 2007. 16+ years of letters, some stored in fancy “shoe” boxes. 

I will finish tidying my desks, and drawers/boxes of stationery. I have become a bit of a stationery hoarder (also books too). 

I do have a used stamp collection I could organise some into a new stockbook. Stamp hinges are horrid things!  No idea how many of those I licked and affixed stamps to my worldbuilder album over 35 years ago! However, most of the more recently acquired stamps have brought letters to me and remain on the envelopes. 

Monday 4 December 2023

Christmas cards

It is early December, a time when many a Christmas decoration has appeared in the home; trees bought and transported on the car roof or even by bus; lights adorn the outside walls of some houses, and illuminated net curtains in the windows. It is also a time Christmas card lists are drawn up and acted upon. I am an atheist but I still like sending/receiving Christmas cards at this  time of year; my preferred pre-printed sentiment inside being either Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, or, Season’s Greetings. The latter perhaps being more apt, with the delays/mishaps in the postal system delivering some cards well after the event. 

To my blog readers

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

From CorrespondenceFan 

However, cards with to/from and nothing much more may not mean as much as, say, a phone call wishing you the same sentiments, and then going on to chat about life, the universe, everything. Most of my cards will be going to penpals, so they’ll get the life, universe, everything throughout the year. But for those not going to regular correspondents, maybe I should write a little more than wishing you all the best over the holidays and the new year. Perhaps I could do a printed round robin letter, with a summary of my year. I do receive a few of these, even from penpals, and they do make a nice little reminder of their year. 

For those who aren’t postal… is the postage worth it, especially when you can send a text message, email, or e-card? For 75p, 2nd class domestic postage within the UK, maybe, especially if you make it memorable, a keepsake. I have family connected through Facebook, and they only seem to wish each other happy birthday, etc, on Facebook, even for the younger members of the family who aren’t on FB, or living in the same house. Digital greetings and maybe even then only reminded by FB. Sad, considering grandparents may have exchanged love letters, and kept letters & postcards from family; current history, the connections will be lost. E-messages don’t have the same romance.

Saturday 30 September 2023

September round-up

Tomorrow is World Postcard Day, a celebration for the anniversary of the postcard. This year’s theme from Postcrossing for it is Postal Hugs. A lovely thought as a postcard can feel like a hug from a stranger. I am a Postcrosser but due to postage costs, am not as active as I used to be. Postage then was 50p to Europe but now that rate is £2.20. I will still send a few postcards now and again, and will write some tomorrow. 

Postcard designed by Christina Liew Jia Hui

Nowadays, I prefer to send letters, and getting to know strangers around the world. I am generally not looking for new penpals but sometimes it is hard to say no to a quality letter. A letter I am partway through replying to was written in August but for InCoWriMo (life got in the way sometime during February for the correspondent). 

3 stamp combination for postage from 2nd October

For the first rate of international postage, Monday will feel somewhat like a postage rate decrease, because the domestic first class stamp price will increase from £1,10 to £1.25. I have used mostly first class stamps, the current rate of airmail being 2 x 1st, but that will overpay on Monday. Domestic mail, what with all the woes Royal Mail have, especially overwhelmed with parcels they neglect to deliver letters daily quite often, I will be using 2nd class mostly - this remains at 75p (for now!). I know that Covid is doing the rounds again, and some posties call in sick, but there’s no cover available to do those rounds. 

Some stamps issued September 2023

September saw 2 stamp issues, one celebrating Paddington, and the other Dame Shirley Bassey. I wasn’t intending to buy that many Paddington stamps, but in the end, I bought a few, ahead of the price rise. Next up will be a stamp issue celebrating Harry Potter (yet again). All first class stamps. I will buy a few stamps, but not as many, perhaps, due to the price rise. The stamps are all 1st class. 

Today is also the last day of Stampex, a stamp exhibition in London. I have never attended, but have seen pictures and heard stories. I’ve imagined it to have been a grand affair, with stamp dealers selling old stamps, auction houses promoting upcoming sales, and Royal Mail selling modern stamps. However, the latter hasn’t happened this year because Royal Mail, in their wisdom (or lack of it), have not attended this year. A shame, not only because there are still some people collecting modern Royal Mail offerings, but also because there was a Postcrossing meet up with many postcards being written & signed needing postage to be sent on their way. 

Elsewhere, I find it a little sad someone with a stamp collection has never actually used a stamp, and has no interest at all in correcting that. Still, there are some people out there who will use stamps. I guess many of the postal authorities will have stamps for sale on their websites, and offer a decent choice of stamps available to use for postage. Surely there is at least one “adequate” issue they would be happy to use for postage… I know I buy more stamps from the issues I really like, and not so many of issues I’m not keen on. 

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. 

Tuesday 21 February 2023


Picture printing machine found in some shopping centres, and shops.

One of the more popular things enclosed with letters is photographs. The photos may be of the letter writer or even of their family. Or, it could be a picture taken on holiday or in the surrounding area. Maybe it is something funny they've come across. But, perhaps the 6 x 4 (inch) format is too big for letters and may make the letters too heavy or thick. I don't have a working colour printer at the moment, but if I did, I could print some small pictures on the paper I use for letter writing. However, most of the paper I use is A5, and is perhaps not all that printer friendly. 

So, I was pleased to see a photo printing machine in a local supermarket that would allow pictures submitted on various digital media (USB, memory card, plug your device into the machine for image transfer....) to be printed. I can be stingy, so rather than get a small amount printed for a higher cost each, I go for gazillions (well) for the cheaper cost per print. But they come out 6 x 4 or can go for the larger size of 7 x 5. 

Selection of small pictures arranged on a 6 x 4 inch background.

The answer to that lies in making collages. I can select the dimensions, I use 3:2 or 2:3, and in the website I use for making the collages, I can specify how many pictures take up that space. Then, find and insert the images I want printed, save to USB drive... and head to the photo printing machine. The quality comes out quite well. I then have fun cutting/trimming the pictures and then putting double-sided sticky tape so they can be stuck onto the letter paper. 
A piece of paper with a small picture in one corner, and the back of another showing double-sided sticky tape.

Friday 17 February 2023

Mid-incowrimo musings.

 We are just over half way through the month and I've received over a dozen surprises, but have only surprised about half-a-dozen so far. It can be hard to pick people to write to. Sometimes in past years, I have picked people by their address - perhaps part of it sounds a little amusing, or raises questions - is the view from North Scenic Highway picturesque? I hope life in Bland isn't bland or dull. 

But then, what to write? LetterMo and Incowrimo do not have long term correspondence as their main aim, though these letters can yield long lasting penfriendship. So, if the aim more one-off/occasional correspondence, why send introduction / CV-style letters that just focus on the writer? You are not applying for a job / business arrangement, but could be looking for penfriendship. 

The artist author Susan Branch said that she remembers being told to never use the word I in the first sentence. Occasionally, I have forgotten that and started with, "I'm writing to you from [not my usual writing place]," instead of a, "Thank you for your letter," if I'm writing a reply, or, "Hello, how are you?" Sounds easy to put the other person first. 

The Eastgate Clock in Chester, England.

So, what now? On the Incowrimo site, I posted 5 not-all-that-serious questions (one about clocks, one about ducks) and I've already received some answers with stories to them that warm the heart. Little snippets and insights to life, funny tales. So please, just jump write right in and write, perhaps use the kind of prompts in guided journals to convey who you are. No letter should be the same in LetterMo / Incowrimo but perhaps should elicit joy, laughter, mindfulness. You want to brighten the recipient's day. 


Thursday 19 January 2023

February Letters - 2023 Edition

Want to take part in Incowrimo but can't manage a whole letter-a-day to send? Maybe you could compromise and do this challenge instead. It doesn't matter if you can't do it every day. The main thing is to enjoy writing letters/postcards.

28 challenges for this month, one for each day. When writing a letter, please answer the question or use the writing prompt or do the task for that day, or just pick one you fancy doing (or at random).

  • 1st: What was the last fiction book you read?
  • 2nd: Doodle the weather
  • 3rd: What was the last game/sport you played?
  • 4th: What book(s) are you currently reading?
  • 5th: What was the last film/play you saw in the cinema/theatre?
  • 6th: What is your favourite hot beverage?
  • 7th: Do you have any houseplants?
  • 8th: Do you collect anything?
  • 9th: What has made you smile recently?
  • 10th: What was the strangest/oddest thing to happen to you in 2022?
  • 11th: Write a sentence with your non-dominant hand
  • 12th: Writing prompt: local geography
  • 13th: What languages have you learned (including ones you've learned in school)?
  • 14th: What sort of picture(s) do you have hanging on your walls?
  • 15th: What was the last decision you made with a coin toss (or via random number generator)?
  • 16th: Share an interesting quote.
  • 17th: What outdoor activities do you enjoy?
  • 18th: Do you do any arts and crafts?
  • 19th: What was the last museum you visited?
  • 20th: Write a sentence backwards
  • 21st: What sport(s) do you like to watch?
  • 22nd: Do you belong to any clubs/societies for your hobbies?
  • 23rd: Where did you go for family holidays when you were young?
  • 24th: What are the closest orange, red, and yellow items to you?
  • 25th: When was the last time you got wet in the rain and where were you going?
  • 26th: What was the last music album on vinyl/cd/cassette you bought?
  • 27th: Have you played bar billiards, pool, billiards, snooker or darts?
  • 28th: Do you send postcards while you're on vacation or from somewhere on a day out?

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Royal Mail hit by ransomware - international outgoing affected

 It has been a week since Royal Mail reported a cyber incident affecting their International Export Services. For me, I thought this would only mean parcels, as due to Brexit, all parcels heading out of the UK would need a CN22 or CN23 customs declaration form affixed, and postcards & letters don't require customs declarations. So, I posted a letter to a penpal in the US on 12th January bearing a new postage stamp celebrating Iron Maiden - sorry R.C., it'll be a while before my letter should arrive. International outgoing mail problems started on the 10th (and public notified on the 11th). So, everything is affected - no outgoing letters, postcards (bah humbug for UK-based Postcrossers), parcels... for the time being. The cause wasn't reported in their service updates, but elsewhere, it was announced as ransomware. It doesn't look like a ransom has been paid, but I wouldn't expect them to confirm if they've paid one if they decide to pay. 

An Iron Maiden postage stamp, £1.85 value

Royal Mail's parcel competitors must be laughing and rubbing their hands with glee at all the extra business that could come their way.. So much is exported from the UK and quite a bit of that in small packages was sent via Royal Mail. Royal Mail's parent group rebranded themselves last year as International Distributions Services. How's that working out?!  L.O.L. !!! 

Royal Mail have no competition on the ordinary letter / postcard delivery front. They are required by law for 6 days delivery a week, and cover all UK addresses (I suppose weather/tide exceptions happen in the highlands, and islands). My hobby relies solely on Royal Mail being able to do their job. Without a postal service, this snail mail hobby of mine cannot survive. The only other choice is to quit snail mail and correspond directly with people only through electronic means - that is not a prospect I would relish: I love the texture and feel of paper; the flow of ink writing words across the page; the stickers & washi tape I use to decorate the missives; the postage stamps I use for postage and see on replies; the offline-ness of the hobby; a few moments of calm while I write.....

When that Icelandic volcano erupted a few years back bringing to a halt practically all air traffic in the northern part of the globe, Royal Mail sought other means to get post overseas. There's ferries from quite a few locations on the UK coast, and then there's the Channel Tunnel. Mail to continental Europe didn't seem to be delayed much. They made the effort to get capacity for shipping across the Atlantic. This time, with the cyber incident, they don't seem to be a in a particular hurry to sort it out (from what I can see).

I do hope post will be moving again abroad before February starts, when there are the letter postal projects of INternational COrrespondence WRIting MOnth (InCoWriMo), and A Month of Letters (LetterMo). I'm signed up and all on the latter, but am undecided about InCoWriMo as I write this. 

Mail is still making its way to the UK. This week, I've had letters from Canada, and from MN/USA. 

[edit 18th January 2023 - letters and postcards, those that don't need customs declarations, can be sent abroad, from 7pm today]

Sunday 1 January 2023

Musings for the new year, 2023

Snail Mail, the sending of letters through the post may seem outdated in the digital & internet age, but there are people finding doing this offline activity enjoyable, and stress-reducing. The analogue nature, the wait for the response adds to the relaxing nature of the hobby. Letters can demand to be answered but usually there is not the urgency that emails command. 

How do we attract new people to the hobby, when there is a cost of living crisis? As I type, to send a regular letter within the UK costs 68p with a second class stamp. What else can you get for 68p? The cost of stationery used for a letter can be mere pennies. You don’t need expensive paper, nor costly pens to write a letter. You don’t need to use papers specifically designed for letters, though when I have bought such sets (paper with matching envelopes), the ratio of sheets to envelopes is wrong for my requirements (2 pages of A5 is not enough, and these writing set sheets are mostly decorated on one side, and/or perhaps the other side is not suitable for writing on). Then, there are notecards, but for longer missives, paper needs to be added in. 

Maybe letter writing is an excuse for some people to use their fountain pens. It was someone associated with the fountain pen industry who started the February letter writing project called InCoWriMo, where participants write a letter every day in the month. A way to practise penmanship, cursive handwriting, or even calligraphy. The latter is more of an art form rather than a flow of words. 

But this can give the impression letter writing is a snobby hobby! I have received letters written with fountain pens worth over £1000. Does that make those letters worth more than ones written with cheap ballpoint or gel pens? No. It is the words / content of the letter that matters to me, but if writing with a nice pen brings joy to the writer… I’m all for that. 

How do you find penpals? There are various penpalling sites out there, both more traditional sites, and places on social media. I have tried a few, with very much a mixed success. One size does not fit all. My way of snailmailing may not suit everyone. It may also take you time to find your style as well. Friendships take time, and may not work for everyone. How many people in your classes at school would you refer to as good friends then, and how many of them now? 

When I started this blog, there were several more snailmail blogs. Now, there aren't that many regularly updated. A shame. Everything seems to be on Instagram, with pretty pictures, rather than words and something to read & engage the mind. I'm tired of the algorithms social media use making it harder to see what I want to see and so I missed out on many posts by penfriends & other snailmail people I was following. Pictures, images, instant gratification. And as for the birdplace, well... that is another kettle of fish.

Snailmail is not an elite hobby.