Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The majority of people, who are used to receiving my annual letter, were upset, they said, when one year I did not send one. It was a year when there was too much emotional turmoil to cope with, and the last thing I wanted to do was to think about writing letters.

   I used to make a point of writing a brief note in a card.  Sometimes I wrote an individual letter.  As the years moved on the  card list extended enormously, and demands at home had grown too.  I found myself either speed-writing something virtually unreadable, even by me, or signing with a quick flourish.  I know that the keeping in touch is a very important thing, yet it was becoming burdensome. I wanted to say that special word or two,  and explain a little of what had been happening with us. 

Admittedly, I did not enthuse over the majority of letters I received. Mostly, they broke down in to the gushing type, or, letters that detailed every nuance of the children's stages of development.  There was never that special snippet about the writer.  Another type of letter named their family members, uncle Tom Cobbly and all.  Who were these people?  There was no introduction to the   characters in the play. 

The letters I liked were chatty, they gave you some insight into the   difficulties and the good times. Those letters were in the minority.  One correspondent, a widow, loyal to her father-in-law, wrote how she championed his care needs and how tough it had been dealing with bureaucracy.  However, on balance, this annual letter writing thing, I decided, was not for me. 

So, what changed my mind about writing an annual letter?  I was being asked similar questions of friends, many of which, could be answered in one template letter, sent with individual variations.  I guess my first annual letters were probably unrelaxed and stilted.  I found it was a writing form you grew into, in which, a writing persona developed.   Writing two or three sides of A4 paper was just too much.  Who would want to read all that!   Aunty Pam might, but not everybody else in my address book would. Words on one side of A4 paper is good rule of thumb to work to, I decided.

Now, with economies in mind, you also need to think about the new postal arrangements, like keeping your envelope a thin and small letter size, up to 100gm; wadded slightly too much,  it won't go through the template, and you have to send it as the more expensive 'large letter'.  If you don't put the correct  price stamp on the envelope, the recipient ends up paying a penalty fee; not a good idea if you want to maintain happy relationships with your annual correspondents.  The costs of sending numerous greetings cards have got out of hand.

   Imaginative economy greetings are becoming popular. The electronic greetings cards are quite good fun.  Last year, decorated email letters became the new kid on the block; one writer even gave me permission in the first paragraph not to read hers!  Doubtless, festive e-correspondence will replace the seasonal cards and personally signed letters. From now on, I expect i-greetings, (mostly from my U.K friends) to increase annually.


Anonymous said...

I used to write such a letter myself, and that is one of the reasons I started writing my blog. But as you say, different people are looking for different things, and it is hard to write a letter that's one size fits all. But like you, the list got too long. I don't think I'll ever get back to pen and paper again, as much as I liked it for many years...

Anonymous said...

I send a mix of cards, letters and e-cards but keep the number within reason. I like writing but arthritis in my hand is making it more difficult
The post Office tells me that all this palaver with sizing, etc. is thanks to the EU! xx

ZACL said...

Hello Shimon,

I, too, wonder how much pen and paper will be used, apart from signing official papers and typed letters. I have written two letters this year, neither very long; nevertheless, they were composed with pen and paper!

ZACL said...

Hi Mr F,

The Eu gets blamed for everything doesn't it. Cards can cost a bomb to send from Switzerland, both the buying and the posting. My friends there don't send greetings because of it. Switzerland is not in the EU.

We found it cheaper to send packages from Spain than from the UK. There is not complete European standardisation with post; the main motive for the changes in the UK is called "modernisation," followed by "Profit," then "competition". Even if you changed the order of these points, they would add up to the same picture.


Anonymous said...

I sympathise. I've had to send out regular newsletters over many years as part of the work we've been involved in, and there is an art to creating a correspondence that is suitable for everyone. These days of course we don't have to do that any more, and it's easier to picture one's friends and to work on something one hopes will interest them. I agree with you about the tedious annual letters we receive, full of endless details about their numerous holidays and/or offspring. I think I'd prefer a bit less 'news' and a few more opinions!

ZACL said...

I have started to include photos of an event, not me, I add, more like images in a blog, and always one or two opinions. I think that comes with confidence in oneself as a writer, a correspondent, GillyK, and security in the friendships one has. It is, I believe, creating a personal signature in writing style.

I was a little put out one year when an uncle thanked me for my round-robin letter. I think the comment was evoked by my sending a typed letter, not a handwritten one. It was a very personalised letter with contents not for other eyes.

Snowbird said...

Y'know I really love getting hand written letters but hardly ever do now.
I'm the same as you, I used to write a letter in the card but found it took longer and longer every year and the price of a stamp is plain silly these days so I do mix it up a little with cards, e cards and sometimes email. I do think hand written cards are becoming a thing of the past, it's rather sad though.xxxxx

Davoh said...

Forgive me - but arrived here from "Wayfarers notes".

Handwritten letters - apparently a fascinating ancient concept these days. I used to, once upon a time - take pride in using what was known as a 'fountain pen'. The 'newest technology'. Yer, not old enough to know 'chalk and slate' - but old enough to be trained in 'nib and ink'.

Am also fascinated by the notion of "cost" or "price". How much does a handwritten letter cost?

From my point of view - a few pieces of paper (5 cents), an envelope (less than one cent), postage (60 cents) .... compared with (or to) ...

Computer ($1,000.00 at least), internet access (plus or minus $30.00 per month .. increasing).

So, self wonders, about the 'cost' of communication these days - when can (mostly) "walk" up the road and say 'hello' to those nearby.

While yes, may well be reverting into the local "village" mentality - really DO have to wonder about what this "electronic" 'global village' really "costs".

ZACL said...

Hi Snowbird,

I get the feeling a tradition is changing rather than passing. What is passing is what our generation did and the ones before us too. That said, finances had a strong part to play in who did what and how often, or how much. Plus ca change.

ZACL said...

Hello Davoh,

Thank you for calling in, no forgiveness is needed for the pleasure of your comments.

Your postage costs seem to be very economically priced.

As to what does a handwritten letter cost? It depends on what you use for your correspondence; a notelet, a reasonable letter writing pad, envelopes of course, a stamp and time. How does one cost ones time? Time is not always plentiful unless you are fortunate to have few calls on it and lots of leisure time at your disposal. At festive periods demands can be great nowadays, and expectations a pressure in their own right. It is difficult to step back from them without hurting or offending people you do not wish to. The annual written chat, be it a letter or an email, does have a place. It is an interesting evolution in communications.

My personal business post is another story, much improved, imho, by the use of word processing and email technology.

Regards computers, correspondence is not their only use. For instance, hobbyists can hold worldwide court exchanging their ideas and skills.

Video calls and VOIP - absolutely wonderful! Standard telephone calls alone could cost a fortune.

All that said, I do sometimes write using pen and paper, but, not usually when there is a large volume of personal mail to organise.