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.