Ode (or elegy?) to letter-writing

Calvinia blomposbus
I could fill this up! The blomposbus/flower post box
in Calvinia.
Click here to enlarge

‘‘Indeed I may be superstitious,’’ said Mrs Micawber, ‘‘but it appears to me that Mr Micawber is destined never to receive any answers whatever to the great majority of the communications he writes.’’

Mr Micawber never missed any possible opportunity of writing a letter [...]. ~ David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

Like Mr Micawber, I have a great (and seemingly rather lone) fondness for writing letters. Like him, I never miss any possible opportunity to write a letter.

However. Scorn for material letters, showing a person's hand, has crept into almost everyone's mind. As if even those old enough to remember the allure of handwritten letters, have hastened to forget it.

Almost everyone: ‘‘The post office was the COOLEST thing of the time,’’ writes Convy Baloyi, Unisa's Student Dean, in his column. ‘‘I became one of the family writers. I would listen to the dictates of my elders and pen down their emotions on paper.’’

As a child I wrote to school friends I saw every day. When I met my best friend at the Afrikaans Week in 1992 (where the top achievers in the national Afrikaans Olympiad were brought together), we started a correspondence that continues until this day.

I had close to thirty penfriends during my child- and teenagehood, from Vanuatu to Ghana. Three of them lived under a communist regime (Poland, Czechoslovakia, China). The Pole was the only one to match me in prolific letter-writing. There was an Italian who addressed my letters to the Republic of North Africa, a Finn who kept asking whether my summer was as great as her summer (ditto for winter), a Japanese who drew me a darling sketch of her school uniform and below it told me she was too busy for letters. There was a French girl who wrote that, if I couldn't reply in French, there'd be no more letters (my brother translated that for me).

And so one got to know the world.

I was eager to share the joys of foreign correspondents with my school mates, and regularly took them application forms for overseas addresses provided by an agency. Perhaps they still remember.

So, my postal address at the bottom of the page is no mere etiquette. My post box is a living, breathing post box.