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‘What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.’ Liz Carpenter.

I got a letter from my Mum this week.  Not a long letter.  Not a fancy letter.  It didn’t really even tell me much that I didn’t already know, but it was still a lovely surprise because, quite honestly, I can’t remember the last time I received an actual letter in the post (not just from Mum—from anyone).  Come to think of itI can’t remember the last time I wrote one either . . .

I guess it’s not all that surprising.  Time and technology wait for no man.  Why write a letter when you can contact someone in a nano-second by phone, email, text or tweet?  There must be a whole generation of people out there who have never even thought about hand-writing a letter to a friend or relative.  In a world where ‘google’ is a verb, Wikipedia is the new Encyclopedia Britannica, Android is no longer only a character in a sci-fi movie and texting has created its own language one could begin to believe that social media has become the only acceptable way to connect.

I know I am showing my age here but I do remember a time when I wrote, and received, letters all the time.  When I left home at the age of 17 (centuries ago) to go and work in another country my mother had only one rule for me (or at least only one rule she voiced out loud)—I had to write a letter home every week.  It didn’t matter if I had nothing remotely interesting to say, whether I been out gallivanting around the town, whether I had been working flat out, or had been in bed all week with the flu.  One letter every weekthat was the rule.  And I wrote them.  For years and years.  And, truth be told, once I got into the swing of it I quite enjoyed writing them (but don’t tell my Mum that).  I must have written hundreds.

How interesting would it be now (and a tad freaky) to reread some of those letters written by my much younger self?  I reckon it would be a bit like time travelling backwards.  I wonder if I would even recognise the girl I was then?  I must ask Mum whether she kept any of them . . .

Because people do keep letters, don’t they?  Letters from childhood penpals, or school friends, or family, or old lovers.  They are precious to them.  The paper they are written on, the ink they are written with, the individual handwriting whether neatly scripted or quickly scrawled.  Some letters come with doodles or drawings and odd little inserts.  They have special a way of evoking memories and emotions.  They say you are worth the time and effort (and extra expense) of receiving a letter.  I guess that is why so many handwritten letters have survived throughout history.  They are so personal.  A bit like diaries.  People are loathe to destroy them.

Today of course people still have vast correspondences, but most of it is entirely electronic.  I wonder how many people out there feel compelled to save (all tied up with pretty string in a box in the wardrobe) sentimental printouts of emails, phone texts or microbursts from the twitterverse?  Not so very many I would guess.  And how much easier now to get rid of it all.  Highlight.  Delete.  Gone.

There.  I’ve gone and made myself all nostalgic.  Not nostalgic enough to stop writing emails or using my phone of course (I’m not entirely silly) but nostalgic enough to think about maybe writing back to Mum, instead of giving her a quick phone call.

I have to go into town this weekend anyway.  Maybe I’ll spend some extra time looking for some pretty stationery . . .

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is when you have two, opulence is when you have three—and paradise is when you have none.’ Doug Larson.

Alexander Graham Bell’s notebook entry of March 10, 1876, describes his first successful experiment with the telephone, in which he spoke through the new instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, who was in the next room.  Mr Bell writes, “I then shouted into M (the mouthpiece) the following sentence: ‘Mr. Watsoncome hereI want to see you.’  To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said.”

My first thought on reading that statement was that if Mr Bell had ‘shouted’ into the mouthpiece, Mr Watson might well have heard him from the next room without the help of the new invention anywaybut then I realised that was probably a tad mean-spirited. There is no doubt the invention of the telephone has had a massive impact on the world as we know it and unless you are living an extremely isolated existence (or are over 141 years of age) it seems almost impossible to imagine life without one.

Recently, however, by circumstance rather than choice, I was given a taste of experiencing just what that might be like.

Just before last Christmas I discovered my home phone was not working.  No static, no funny clicks on the line . . . just . . . nothing.  As you might imagine, an inordinate amount of time was spent to-ing and fro-ing with the phone company before the problem was eventually correctedthree weeks later.  Then, barely two months along the track, the line went dead again.  And then again another month after that.

The first time I felt quite anxious and agitated.  It really bothered me.  I felt ‘cut off’ and that feeling didn’t really go away until the phone came back on line.  The second time it happened I was irritated, to say the least.  Now I would have to go through the whole telephone company rigmarole again . . .  this is so annoying . . . and I really don’t have time for this . . . and it’ll probably take another three weeks and  . . . then . . . somehow . . . I kind of forgot all about ituntil one day the phone rang again and I realised it was fixed.

They say ‘third time’s the charm’ but I guess I will have to wait and see whether the phone company’s ‘fix’ will stick this time.  Surprisingly, I now find myself quite unconcerned.  I have come to realise that it is actually quite pleasant to not have my evenings and weekends constantly interrupted by people wanting to leave messages for the local aged care facility (my number is one digit different from theirs) or having someone insisting I buy funeral insurance (bastards) or hit me up for donations for dying pot-plants in Bolivia . . .

Maybe, just maybe, I don’t actually need a home phone at all . . .

And then my mobile died.  Sigh.

There seems nothing I can do to resurrect it.  (As John Cleese  would say ‘It is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker.’)  I admit I felt a little panicky.  No home phone and no mobile phone.  I at least need a mobile phone.  Don’t I?  What if I need to contact someone urgently?  What about emergencies?  What if?  What ifwhat?  Well, I can’t think of anything right here and now but somehow I still seem fairly certain that I really should get a replacement.  I’ll make it a priority.  I’ll do that.  Soon.

Maybe next week.

Or the week after that . . .

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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