17 Jun 2012

The Vanishing Art of Letter Writing

Don't you miss a letter dropping on to the door mat with a handwritten envelope.  Do you think that emails will be saved for posterity?    No, neither do I. 
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The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written, remains (Proverb)

As a young girl I loved writing letters - I had a pen pal in South Africa and wrote to a soldier serving in Cyprus.  I used to write page after page - heaven knows what I found to write about.  Then there were love letters - lots of love letters.  One boyfriend and I wrote to each other every day, even though we saw each other every day.  The outpourings of a young couple madly in love - well, for a few weeks anyway.

I practised my handwriting a lot in those days, as being left-handed I tended to write sloping backwards - which my teachers hated.  Practice, practice until I managed to write upright letters and overcame the left-handed illegible writing.

My father was a beautiful handwriter.  I have some letters that he wrote to my Mum when they were courting - copperplate - I think you would call it.

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company (Lord Byron)
He used to do a thing with his hand before starting to write, a sort of releasing of energy so that his writing flowed freely. 
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I think it helped to write with a proper pen and ink - you couldn't really get the same flow with a biro.
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In an age like ours, which is not given to letter writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people's lives. (Anatole Broyard)

Letters certainly played an important role in people's lives when the Royal Mail was quick and efficient and there was more than one delivery.  But the computerised age has done away with all that and the only time we actually use handwriting is perhaps on greetings cards - we have become used to writing in the short form - no more long ramblings about our daily doings.
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I have kept a lot of letters from friends and family - friends I no longer see, family I no longer have.  They are precious and each letter holds a piece of history in its pages.  A letter from my father to me when I was on a school trip in Scotland evokes such memories of my childhood, that if I did not have it, would only be a hazy remembrance held in my mind.

We lay aside letters never to read them again and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others (Goethe)
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A couple of years ago, before I had a computer, an uncle and I used to correspond regularly by letter, now it is by email,- but it isn't quite the same.

8 Jun 2012

The Patterns of the Fields

As you may be aware by now I am very fond of good writing about nature and the countryside, and sometimes I find a good piece that I think you would enjoy as much as I do - this is one I have found that I would like to share with you.

The home of my childhood, eternal and green, appears before my inward eye, and I live again in the brightly-coloured circle of hills where I was born.  No matter where I am, I seek unconsciously for resemblances to that beloved spot.  A draught of spring water, an uncut hedgerow, a broken wall, these bring back visions so real that I cannot tell in which life I am living, the present, or the crystal-clear past, when as a child I ran with arms outstretched to catch the wind down the well-known grassy hillsides.

There are curling hedges which hold protecting arms round odd little fields, and dark lichened stone walls cutting and dividing the green, and everywhere there are woods, beech woods, a flaming fire in the back end of the year, soft as clouds in Spring, oak woods, rough and sturdy, plantations of dark fir and tender larch, and mixed woods of many colours and sounds, sheltering fox and badger, woods full of enchantment.

A portion of that land I know so well that I can see the contours of the hills, the patterns of the fields, the irregularities of the diverse landscape as plainly as if they were painted before me.  I know every flower-filled ditch, leafy hedge-bottom, and daisied bank, better than I know the lines of my own hand, for during all my earliest years my senses had no distractions from the daily scenes of wood and field and hillside.  They became part of me, like the cold air I breathed, and I had no conception of other lands beyond our own farm and its neighbourhood, the country side which filled the crumpled circle of England displayed before my infant eyes.

written by Alison Uttley from 'Ambush of Young Days'

4 Jun 2012

Natural Companions

It is enough to lie in the shadow of green boughs, to listen to the songs of summer, to drink in the sunlight, the air, the flowers, the sky, the beauty of it all.  Or upon the hilltops to watch the white clouds rising over the curved hill-lines, their shadows descending the slopes.  Or on the beach to listen to the sweet sigh as the smooth sea runs up and recedes.  It is lying beside the immortals, in-drawing the life of the ocean, the earth, and the sun.

I want always to be in company with these, with earth, and sun, and sea, and stars by night.  The pettiness of house-life - chairs and tables - and the pettiness of observances, the petty necessity of useless labour, useless because productive of nothing, chafe me the year through. I want to be always in comany with the sun, and sea, and earth.  These, and the stars by night, are my natural companions.

written by Richard Jefferies from 'The Story of My Heart'