Welcome to new friends and old!

I’ve been handing out my new business card to old penpals and new, with my new address. Of course, I quite failed to realise that I had included the wrong postcode. One eagle-eyed penpal of mine pointed it out. And then I thought to myself, well, I’ve included my url on the card, but it has been a while since I posted. If anyone took a look, they would wonder where I had gone to. Well, the short answer is, writing letters of course!

I have been writing to a fair number of new penpals lately. I made a raid on a batch of friendship books and sent off a lot of spec letters. And a lot of them were replied to. Also, I’ve recently renewed my membership of International Pen Friends. I was not going to do that; the reply rate of IFP is, in my experience, very poor. Out of a list of 15, I am safe to get replies from less than half. And of the list I received last year, I am still writing to just five of them. But always the optimist, I thought I would try again.

When a Penpal dies

It’s happened to me perhaps twice, possibly three times. The first time was a lovely German lady, who sadly died of breast cancer. Her daughter wrote to me and told me. It was terribly sad, but I was touched and humbled by her daughter taking the time to write to me, a stranger to her. I cannot begin to express how grateful I was for that.

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Angry Mail

Should one send an angry letter, especially to a penpal? I once got a letter from a penpal informing that I am boring, and that she did not want to write to me any more. I was terribly angry and dreadfully hurt. But I calmed myself down and did not reply to her letter, except to return photographs she had sent me. After all, she was entitled to her opinion and if she had decided that I was too boring to write to, then okay. Actually, she was pretty boring too, but I would never have said so. I would have gone on writing for as long as she wanted to. But then I’m funny that way.

A while ago I received an angry letter from a penpal, who is also, of course, no longer a penpal of mine now. I remember taking it out of the mail box and being so excited, for letters from this person were few and far between. I was delighted to receive a letter from her; even one a year would have been a joy. But when I got into the house and opened the envelope, and read the short, terse note, I cried. I am not ashamed to say that, I actually wept.

I was confused, not able to remember if I had written anything that would have merited such horrible, bitter words. I know I have a Swiss cheese brain, but I could not think of anything. I am still sure that she completely misunderstood something I had written. It is true that the UK and US are two nations divided by a common language., as someone wise once said. Sometimes I can say, and write, something which is a throw-away comment, not meant to be serious, and find that I am, indeed, taken seriously.

But whatever it was, I wish to goodness that the lady in question had either not replied at all, ever, or had taken a while longer to think about what she was writing. Did she ever know how much hurt, confusion and how many tears her words caused? Did she care? Probably not. For if she had then she would have remembered the saying, that if you cannot say anything nice, then it is better to say nothing at all. Honesty? Sometimes it is overrated, if the result of one’s proud honesty to make someone else cry.

three letters today!

Only three letters today and all from the UK. I’m trying to increase the number of people I write to in the UK as I think that, while it is lovely and all to learn about other countries through overseas penpals, I should also learn more about the country I live in. Mostly, I find UK penpals in friendship books. I had a list of all the counties of England and my ambition is to get one penpal from each. And to do the same with Wales and Scotland. I have a similar list of all the countries in the world, subdivided into continents. Yes, I know, it sounds most peculiar!

Of my current penpals, the largest number are from Germany. Partly because I was once a member of a penpal club, Letternet, run by the German Post Office. Membership was free and they would send out a magazine three or four times a year, in German and English. After a few years that was too expensive, so they stopped the magazine. But one could still get lots of German penpals for no charge. Sadly, the club closed down last year. But I still write to lots of very nice German ladies and I kept the magazines.