The Special Delight of Old Letters


Thin, almost transparent airmail paper, aerogrammes, thick pale blue Basildon Bond paper, birthday cards, Christmas cards, cards of sympathy, of congratulations.

Old blotched typeface (my father’s big typewriter), elegant penmanship (my grandfather and my godmother), easy-to-read rounded script (teacher aunt). Upright but fast-flowing writing (my mother). Indecipherable squiggles (my father). Letters of the alphabet slanting forward, slanting back, flattened, rounded…IMG_4633

A bundle of letters written in code by Continue reading


Finding Old Letters: The Afghan Coat

I’ve been doing a massive spring clean (yes, I know it’s November!) and have just found a very dusty and faded blue folder crammed with old letters.

These are my own letters that I wrote to my parents through the early ’70s as I worked my way around the world. Bogotà, back home, then to Durban, across Australia, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Delhi, Lahore, Peshawar, Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Tehran, Istanbul…

My mother gave me the folder when I moved to Canada. “In case you want to write a book,” she’d said.

The letter I pull out describes how my travel-buddies and I hardly spoke above a whisper as we drove through the recently opened Khyber Pass under the – to us – menacing gaze of clusters of men with rifles, how we pushed on without stopping in order to get through before sundown. Under no circumstances, we’d been told, were we to Continue reading