Real post. Analogue. Things touched by human hands.
We neglect so many senses. Sight has become primary, but touch, smell, taste – they are much more primal. We can see in the womb, I guess, but there’s nothing to see. I can’t imagine even light penetrates all those layers. But we can hear, we can taste, we can feel.
Anyway, post. When my parents had a clear out a few years ago, they gave me a bag full of old letters. We used to write letters! Because when I was at college, you had to queue for the phone, and you had to collect up a load of 10p pieces to make a meaningful phone call. And you might not have a phone number, but you did have an address. And nobody had a computer. So there were letters there from friends, from admirers, from boyfriends. And it was lovely to read them, and to relive the thrill of getting them.
I have a friend in Germany who I correspond with. I’m much better at having a penfriend now than I was as a child (I was rubbish. Sorry). It’s so exciting to get an envelope with foreign stamps on it – and she decorates things beautifully. It feels like a real connection (and you know I love Twitter, but this is an extra dimension).
I like getting Christmas cards. I know it’s not ecologically friendly, but I think it’s psychologically friendly. It’s a tangible connection. We send a lot of Christmas cards, we write personal notes in them. I don’t even mind a round robin letter – even though my kids are obviously much more wonderful than yours, but I don’t need to let you know. Birthday cards – I collect them up and hide them behind a noticeboard in the kitchen so that the birthday person has a nice little surprise pile on the actual day. I throw out cards regretfully, but I’m a bit of a hoarder, and I know that if you keep something for any length of time it acquires some kind of crazy value just from being around. But I have a lot of “bookmarks” that fold down the middle.
I even love mail order. I’m such a child – it’s a thrill to get a parcel, even when it’s something you’ve ordered. Through lockdown, it managed to be a luxury AND a necessity.
I send things, too. I send my daughter postcards. I’m doing a long slow poetry postcard project. I like the idea that someone else gets a little boost from their post, gets to hold something in their hands, gets to open it. Maybe if it’s a parcel they turn it over to see if there’s a clue. If it’s an envelope, they have to choose how to tear it. They can save it for later, or open it right now by the front door. It’s a tiny thrill, and everybody needs one of those from time to time.