The Lively Letter


I have to admit that I have struggled to begin writing my next post. An idea has been with me throughout the month of June. However, as all high school teachers know, June is the busiest and hardest month. With many exams to write, supervise and then mark, it can be a gruelling few weeks. Assessment needs to be finalised and often chased up together with the obligatory feedback. Reports then must be written or rather electronically generated, checked, corrected and finally posted.

Yes, I am making excuses! Writing for me, like cooking, is a form of relaxation. So why didn’t I make the time to develop this brewing idea? I guess it goes back to the difficulty that is writing, today.

Even ten years ago, the art of penmanship was common. More recently a dear friend took the time to write us a thank you note.

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It is still on the fridge nearly a year later. When I look at her letter, I see her familiar cursive script which I recognised immediately. The private, personal and intimate nature of the letter is less evident today.

Even our school reports, as I alluded to earlier, are merely signed, and sent on their way to letter boxes or worse still, Post Office boxes. So here then is the segue to my idea for this post – yes, the operative word then is “post”! This blog requires me to post my latest instalment but not to a letterbox. The virtual letterbox that is the World Wide Web is our new mail centre.

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Last month as we walked the Streets of Your Town, I became quite interested in the variety of letter boxes which adorned the houses and flats of the old town. I took some photos, hoping that the residents were not too bemused by this weird woman zooming in on their private mail boxes.

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City letter boxes are very different to country letterboxes. In the country these are often large, multi coloured, homemade edifices ready to receive large items, newspapers and even milk! They must be wind, rain and highway resistant. They can be constructed of recycled tyres, tin, wood, plastic, Ned Kelly icons and even animal shapes – I’ll show you some in a future post – there’s that word again!

However, the city letterbox must be steel. It must withstand the prying eyes of others. It should be lockable with the house number boldly exhibited! Many of the ones I photographed I remembered as a child walking up the hills to primary school and back.

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This door swung open as I took this shot – much to the bemusement of the young tenant!

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In our technology rich world, where our words can speed across continents in seconds; convey our fears, hopes and pleasures faster than a speeding bullet, who really needs a letterbox? I can’t help but think of the spectrum of letters which must have been received over time, by the variety of occupants of each of these residences. Letters announcing births, deaths, achievements, marriages, pen pal adventures and invitations. Then there were the stamp collectors eagerly awaiting that letter from aunty Mabel in Manchester or Zia Sofia in Sicily just to rip off that stamp!

Moreover, the hand written letter seems to be a thing of the past. But it can be resurrected. Just scan some of the interesting stationery boutiques around today. Surely, paper products are not on the decline.

If the letter is to be alive and aerodynamic it needs the letter box as its corporeal friend.

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I leave you with the thoughts of the American poet, W.H. Auden

And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten.

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Do you miss running down to the letter box to check for that much awaited letter and not that bill?

About crabandfish

The everyday and the extraordinary loves of life. We have a one acre cold zone garden in the mountains of rural Victoria, Australia. This blog chronicles its ever changing nature. We also love traveling and writing, our cats, our chickens, the sea, cooking, and of course, our garden.
This entry was posted in letter boxes, memories, philosophy, photography, poetry, travel, W.H.Auden and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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