Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Wouldn't it be marvellous to live at The Shrubbery?
Keeping up with my correspondence has been a little trying of late. I have little excuse other than I am lacking in words. Perhaps it's the premature change in Season. Or the dark days with their grey suit skies. 
I found these letters in a charity shop folded up with some embroidery patterns. Correspondence from a time when the words Google, Gmail and Bing would have sounded alien, when using a first name was deemed poor manners and when mail order was the order of the day. The postmark on the envelope is dated 1940 - the stamp long gone, hopefully pasted into an album somewhere. All rather apt as my book club book for this month is - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I must confess that the idea of reading a book of letters sounded utterly tedious but I am absolutely enthralled and reluctant to put it down.
Letter writing and its demise is oft-lamented. And I agree. There's nothing nicer than receiving a note in the post. Although I am always quite astounded at just how expensive it is for a first class stamp. My letter writing skills are far from top notch. Some of my friends are marvellous letter writers. I am always envious at the ease with which they find exactly the right words. An old acquaintance recently got in touch to say that she had unearthed our teenage letters from one heady summer spent discovering boys. I have no idea what they contain but it's most likely an early version of Dawson's Creek complete with lake and jetty but minus the vocabulary, clear skin and designs on Tom Cruise. I would have included over-analysis as well, but we were teenagers and we read into every gesture, look, spoken word, song lyric - it was actually exhausting when I think about it. Thank goodness those days are well and truly behind us.
The loops are such a generational style.
The etiquette of letter writing is one that I have never quite grasped. I always try to send some form of message to say thank you - be it a phone call, text message* or note. Each case is unique. I made a major faux pas with our wedding thank you notes. I got completely tied up with hand printing each card and writing war and peace to each guest. Which meant that it took far longer than it should have done, resulting in a 3 month delay. Topped off with friends moving during that time so some of the addresses were incorrect and one or two going walkies in the postal system. The thank you notes and everything to do with them is the only thing that I would change about our wedding. I wish I had done them sooner. It was such a shambles and I'm so embarrassed. Three years on and the guilt remains. Utterly ridiculous, particularly when it's no longer expected to send a thank you note these days.

We're having a Modern Day Etiquette speaker at our next WI meeting. I'm looking forward to finding out all the things I've been doing wrong. It could explain so much!

Gosh - this post has turned into an essay. If you've made it this far - well done. I'm off to make a cup of green tea. It never tastes as nice at home as it does out, but today I'm going to try it in the teapot. 

p.s. I promise to write a post about the WI - I've been asked quite a few questions about them so will hopefully be able to cover them all off in one go.

*This sounds like a dreadful option but it goes hand in hand with letting the other know that one has arrived home safe. Two birds, one stone and all that jazz.


  1. I did enjoy that potato peel book, even though I swore I wouldn't.

  2. What a great find! Have you done any further investigations to try and find out who Mrs Cox was?

    I love old fashioned letters and cards too, even personal emails work for me! I entered into a big discussion with my friends over the weekend about how to keep in touch. I'm toying with deleting myself from Facebook after the wedding and just keeping in touch by phone, text, email, blog and Flickr. I think it is much more personal to get a note directly aimed at you rather than just a statement out there for all to see. My friends think otherwise, they like the ease of Facebook. I'm just hoping to convince them that we can still keep in touch without social networking sites! x

  3. As virtually all my correspondence is typed these days, my handwriting has really deteriorated and since chip-and-pin came in, my signature is erratic too! Receiving handwritten post is such a thrill, I hope it never dies.

  4. What an amazing find! I wonder who sent them to the charity shop. Every year I resolve I'm going to write proper letters but somehow always end up emailing instead. Sigh.

    And enjoy Guernsey. Such a fab book!

    K x

  5. Ah, letter writing, such a fine, artistic craft that sadly has been lost in a world of e-mail and text messaging. Just last week, a co-worker directed me to The Things Unsaid Project ( and I loved that the creators insisted on letter writing, where words have to be thought out and there's no delete button.

  6. Wow!!! That is amazing Wooton Fitzpaine is just down the road from here. How great to find that. I wonder if the person who wrote the letter still lives there or if her family do!!

    Good old Dorset!

  7. Wow, can't believe that was in a charity shop! I do love to write and receive proper letters, there's nothing else like it. Can't say much for my letter-writing though, it's more chatty than literary! I hope you'll do a post summing up the main points of the modern etiquette talk, would love to hear it! And I do think it's still expected to send thank you notes, I've been a bit miffed in the past when I've attended a wedding and bought a present and not received any acknowledgement. Oh and glad you're enjoying the book, that's one of the next ones on my reading list!

    Sorry for the essay, I guess this post struck a chord with me :S

  8. What a great find!! I've read the Potato Pie Club book and like you didn't think that I was going to enjoy it - couldn't put it down in the end. Enjoy!

  9. I used to love writing letters and had a host of penpals (in Germany, Australia and the US) when I was a schoolgirl. I still like to buy top quality writing paper and envelopes. Can't think why.

  10. Oh thank goodness I'm not the only one who's wedding thank you's arrived three months after the event!! I made ours and it resulted in similar delays to yours.

    What fantastic letters. I wonder what was going on in the life of the writers in 1940? I'm a little too fascinated with the 40s and have been absorbed by the Battle fo Britain memorial coverage this summer.

    I have a letter to write myself tonight to some dear friends who we should have been spending the Bank Holiday weekend catching up with but sadly they are all laid low with a dreadful virusy thing. A cheery card and a little something to cheer them up is called for I think. Thanks for the inspiration.

    P.S. Looking forward to hearing about the WI.

  11. I've just found your blog. It's lovely!

    Your letter were a great find. Well done! When I was little, an old friend gave me some of her letters from the 1930s. They sat collecting dust in a cupboard until last week, whne I FINALLY got round to putting some of them in frames.

    You can see them on my blog,if you fancy a peek.

    I read Guernsey Literary potato wotsit book a while ago and thought it was great. I love reading letters, real or made up! I must be very nosy indeed!

  12. Yes i would agree with you. every thing is changed in these IT days.. I have read few of my letters written by my great grand father and feel the same, anyways thanks for sharing! Hope you share this in facebook!