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. 


  1. Finding the motivation for hobbies like this is very difficult. As someone who writes very few letters - you know how much time I spend at the keyboard daily! - i have no tips.

    What do you write about? Do you write the same thing (generally) to all new people? Holiday postcards are still a tradition but what to write? It's OK if the people you're writing to aren't going to see each other and compare reports - you can then write the same thing to everyone!

    And cost is a big factor when everything else is increasing in price as well, which is why the ready availability of cheaper older stamps must be useful. When I have finished with this time-consuming swap system I'll get back to selling the other stuff - some of it cheap.

    Decades ago I joined and international cover exchange group, which was a bit like postcrossing except that it predated the internet and was done by written list. But I got covers from countries I was not interested in, and whereas many people wanted letters covered with a variety of old and new 'pretty' stamps, I would have preferred modern single stamps, preferably from countries I collected. What to do with the rest? And whereas the Indian writer would pay only a few rupees UK writers would spend much more. I gave up, it wasn't worth the effort.

    Perhaps if you write to young people in different countries, tell them about Wales?

    1. It varies. Letters are conversations interrupted by time & space; they can be like everyday conversations with people you meet at an event, in the great outdoors, in the supermarket. I write about hobbies, especially shared ones, life, the universe, almost everything. Weather is also mentioned, the region I'm in, or perhaps somewhere I've visited. I did manage to write a couple of letters while on a short break. Letters should be different, even ones to new people, though for some circumstances, the same thing could be sent (e.g. the round robin Christmas letter, or the death of a family member (pets included)) - generic one-size-fits-all computer printed letters are frowned upon - they don't continue the conversation from the letters they've received.

  2. If you are doing something, that is enough. Don't give up on penfriendships.