house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Friday, 11 December 2015


I consider myself ‘lucky-in-letters’. A few months ago M. sent a loving note scribbled on an (unused) airplane vomit bag. A more recent one, hand-delivered, was written on the back of a xeroxed map. How remarkable, I thought, that someone should be thinking of me while passing through places like Futh Dengain, Waat Malwal, Limkwanchek, Lung, Riyr and Thol. 

But apart from these romantic field-dispatches, all I get these days is bills, forms, publicity and the bin collection schedule.

When did we stop writing letters to each other? Please don’t say the words ‘email’ or ‘internet’; and if I hear ‘social media’ I might have to find you and chase you with a wooden spoon. It’s not what I’m talking about and it is. Not. The same.

Also, we may have stopped writing letters, but I suspect that we have never stopped longing to receive them.

A letter -paper and ink, buy a stamp, walk to the post box, wait weeks for a reply- in fact says: ‘I am giving you a portion of my day. While I am writing this, you have all my attention, my best stories and my love.’

I remember a friend drawing -instead of buying- stamps on the backs of envelopes, in black ink. ‘National Pelican Day’, these fakes proclaimed, and ‘Long Live Comrade Saul’. The letters arrived without fail. 

I remember a few letters written in such small script, they looked like a convention of leggy, microscopic bugs. I see fantastic drawings weaving between words. And I still have a handful of old telegrams daring to describe the world in a dozen words.

I have all my letters from home, in dad's beautiful hand-writing. I see him sit down at his desk, to write to me, I see him smile. His smile still there, on every line he wrote. Never stingy, my dad, with his time or words, stamps or smiles. Best friends with the entire post-office personnel. The postman would have taken his letters to the moon. 

After that there were typed letters stuffed in envelopes, personalised perhaps by a picture or a dried daffodil. 

Then we started typing and - clever us! - faxing our missives. We hoped that the right person was standing there, by the machine, and patted ourselves on the back because look, there was no wait.  

You know what came next. Instead of whinging about it, I think I'll pick up the pen and write some real letters. 

7th of December - National Letter-Writing Day - found me writing (purple ink on a Pakistani postcard) to the woman who changed her mind at the last minute and didn’t buy our house after all. This late and severe case of cold feet translates all sorts of stress and loss: time, money, tears, efforts and possibilities - and yet, surprisingly, the letter was all I was not that evening: understanding, warm, wise. Only one way to explain the paradox: like Sunday clothes, the written letter forced me to put on paper only the best of myself...

Today I am writing another letter, although no postal service can reach that destination. Still, as in the case of the painted stamps, I believe my message will be received and read. With that smile I know so well.


At 11 December 2015 at 17:18 , Anonymous Marina Sofia said...

Beautiful - I too used to love sending and receiving letters. NOT, I hasten to add, the obligatory, not saying much at all Christmas cards.

At 11 December 2015 at 20:59 , Blogger PetraTestBlog said...

you are such an inspiration Monica... thanks for being my teacher and friend !

At 14 December 2015 at 19:44 , Blogger Magnus said...

You write about those places in the letter, as if I see them for the first time. You bring them to life, in another kind of field. One that we imagine the field really can or should be, where we lop along for whole sun-arcs of days on camels or stranger exotic creatures. And we see the stars rise like like sparks from the fire in the black sky.


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