Category Archives: LETTERS & BILLET-DOUX


The Finnish commemorative Postcrossing postage stamp

The Finnish commemorative Postcrossing postage stamp


It’s a new phenomenon – postcards whizzing round the world, sent by nearly half a million people in over 200 countries – people who don’t know each other, but are linked by one common factor: they like to get mail! Old fashioned snail mail, stuff in the letterbox mail – for once, not e-mai!

It costs you nothing to join Postcrossing ( but there’s the cost of buying postcards – although some folk make their own. Plus the cost of postage, which in South Africa is quite high, R5-75 per card for airmail  delivery. Apparently the Brits are not big members of Postcrossing, due to the high cost of postage in their country.

Nearly every country in the world has Postcrossing members, barring some miniscule, obscure islands that are not even dots on the map – Cocos & Keeling Islands? – and some countries in West Africa, and on the horn of Africa. Other than this, worldwide, somebody is sending or receiving a postcard this very second. Yes: NOW, right now.

The most enthusiastic joiners are the Russians, followed by the Americans, and then the Chinese.  Male members number 63,539 ; 311,178 females. There are 465,078 registered users in 223 different countries. These stats are from the Postcrossing website, but they change on an almost hourly basis. When I joined last year, South African had just over 400 members, but now, since an article on the phenomenon in Ideas Magazine, the number has more than tripled.

Apparently one of the attractions of Postcrossing is that there’s an entire generation  – electronically connected 24/7, of course – who have never received an item of snailmail! I find this fact quite staggering, but I suppose the cohort  aged 15 – 25 probably falls into this category. So for the electronic generation, a postcard in the mailbox is a brand new experience.

I joined Postcrossing in October last year, and now I’m a complete addict – it’s a lot of fun! I’ve been a letter-writer all my life, but with my increasing eyesight problems, postcards are the perfect solution. I still get mail in my box and the thrill of a card from the most diverse places: from Turkey to the Ukraine, from the USA to Malaysia – who knows where the next card will come from? The only downside to Postcrossing is our very erratic and irregular postal deliveries, but hey! getting seven cards in a bundle from all over the world is okay too.

Finland even issued an official postage stamp in honour of Postcrossing – see my very poor pic up top.

Join: I promise you won’t regret doing so.






Recently a friend reported that it is no long possible to buy a Writing Pad.  In this electronic age they appear to have become obsolete.  Sure, you can buy packs of dinky little notelets, in supermarkets and chain stores. You can buy pre-printed invitations to weddings, parties, christenings, and there’s a wildly expensive greeting card for every occasion under the sun. But a pad of ruled writing paper? Nah. Not going to happen.

Croxley Writing pads were a big feature of my school days – back in the Olden Days, when we had zero access to the telephone; cellphones hadn’t even been dreamed of (incredible, I know, but there was a time), and communications were limited to writing a letter. Quaint, but true.  Emergencies were dealt with via telegram. Arrival of a telegram always meant big drama of some sort.

But Croxley writing pads were regular features of life. They  provided a whole world of possibilities: blue or white paper for letters home, to your parents; maybe yellow – or even green – to friends or penfriends; and if you had a boyfriend, then pink or mauve … a whole pastel world of promise.

Your wealthy friends scorned commercial writing pads, and wrote on thick sheets – unlined, of course! – of creamy Basildon Bond, which also came in a sky blue colour, but that was it. No vulgar pinks and greens.

Your overseas relatives used flimsy blue aerogrammes, which offered limited writing  space and un-co-operative gummed flaps to close the letter, which always tore in the wrong place when you tried – no matter how carefully – to open the wretched things.

So: I have to say that texting and e-mailing, while quick, convenient and cheap, offer none of the excitement of opening a real letter, which arrives in a sealed envelope, bearing a stamp. A postage stamp – you’ve seen those, surely?  I learnt the other day, of a young lady in the Ukraine, who collects stamps, but she scans them in, and has a Virtual Collection of postage stamps. Stanley Gibbons must be revolving in his grave like a threshing machine …

P.S. I’ve just spent a fruitless half-hour searching the free Clip Art sites on the web, hoping to find a graphic to illustrate this post – no way José, nada, nix. Writing pads have been well and truly obliterated. 




Do you remember the song  from that old ring game : I sent a letter to my love, & on the way I dropped it. One of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket.

I remember sitting on the floor, part of the ring, praying I would not be touched on the shoulder, have to leap to my feet and chase after the girl running away from me like the wind.  If I touched her before she claimed my vacant spot, then she remained “It”. If she was quicker than me, and plonked down into my vacant spot, that left me as “It” for quite a while.  My fat little legs weren’t much use to me on  these occasions.

So not all letters bring joy and pleasure to the recipients. As can be seen from the following imaginary ‘Dear John’ letter.  I wonder if people  still send ‘Dear John’ letters or whether they give rejected lovers the old  heave-ho via a brisk text message on their Blackberrys? Or maybe the public humiliation of a few lines on Facebook? Or perhaps a chilly e-mail and addition of the exe’s name to their Blocked Send list on Outlook Express?  Whatever the means, the message remains the  same : get lost, it’s over !



AD 32

Dear John

I’m very disappointed  that you won’t come to the Palace to see me dance before the King at his formal birthday banquet. Anyway, the Lord Chamberlain told me they would send you an invitation you couldn’t refuse – it was a bit strange, I didn’t really understand what he meant.

I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss about my dancing with the veils, there are seven of them as you know perfectly well, and the last one is not completely see-through, like you said. Maybe it is a little bit, but not completely see-through : you always exaggerate! I wish you could support me in my artistic career, but you never even want to discuss it, you always just start shouting and waving your arms and running back to that silly old desert.

And while we’re on the subject of the desert, I must be honest and tell you I just hated  that picnic you took me on last week.  I don’t think you have any idea what a picnic is supposed to be. It certainly does not include a whole  day under the boiling sun trekking through  the desert to the river.  Why couldn’t we have spent a day relaxing in the shade in the date groves? And as for eating honey and wild locusts for lunch!  (They were disgusting, by the way). I still can’t fathom out why you dragged me into  the river and kept dunking me under the water – you completely ruined my new blue robe and it took me a week to get all the yucky river stuff out of my hair. Really John, what were you thinking? Not to mention all that strange stuff you were ranting on about  – I had water in  my ears at the time, so I didn’t hear much of it, but I blame it all on that  weird cousin of yours from Nazareth. I wish you wouldn’t listen to him.  Mum says he’s dangerous and should have stayed at home and helped his dad with the carpentry.  And for once I must say I agree with her.

So John, I think you will agree, we are simply not suited to one another, we have very different ideas about life and what we want to do.
I’m sorry!