I wonder who else, like me, has an old shoebox (or in my case, several!) squirreled away at the bottom of the wardrobe or perhaps in the loft, containing your life's memories. It was very recently when I was unpacking from the move, that I had a quick look through one of my many boxes and found bundles of my childhood pen-pal letters, kept together in date order and many of them even contained a copy of my reply!
I've had lots of fun reading back through these letters, there are quite a few as I had pen-pals in the UK as well as abroad, but one thing which has struck me as being really sad is that children these days, or indeed adults (those that I know, anyway) just don't have these opportunities anymore, no one that I know has a pen-pal these days. Obviously social media has had a massive impact upon this, but an e-mail or a message via facebook just isn't the same, don't you agree, as coming downstairs in the morning to find a hand-written envelope in your letterbox, an update from the pen-pal you have gotten to know almost better than some of your friends through such detailed correspondence.
As a child I can well remember the excitement and anticipation to get home, when my mum would tell me on the walk back from school "you've had a letter from Inverness" which would be from my Scottish pen-pal; Alison.
There were so many opportunities back then to make it very easy to obtain a pen-pal, every club that I became a member of as a child seemed to offer the chance – I remember getting them through both the Stamp Bug Club (yes, I was a child stamp-collector) and the YOC (young ornithologists club, where I was paired with Alison from Inverness), and also recall a campaign via the Royal Mail in the late 80's which paired you with two pen-pal's from around the world – I had Marie-Louise from Denmark and Jo from Australia. There was also the French exchange student who I was paired with via the high school; Marie-Agnes, although we only exchanged a couple of letters before the language barrier become too much (we were only 12). I also had a boy pen-pal called Kristian (via the Stamp Bug Club!) and we kept in touch, and even met up a couple of times during our teenage years, and we remain "facebook friends" even now, 20 years on. The others, I'm sorry to say, gradually fizzled out as we grew up.
Of course, before e-mail and social networking sites, hand-written letters were the only way to keep in touch, and so much more fun, I think. When I was 13, I went on a horse-riding holiday for a week, and made two friends from Essex; Lucy and Terri. We became so close during that week, (it was the best, most fun holiday I ever had, and boy did I cry when my parents came to collect me!) and wrote to one another religiously week after week for the following 5 or 6 years. Terri and I finally drifted apart and I think we last wrote when we were 19 or 20, before we lost touch. Lucy, however, has become a very close friend and in our 20's we visited one another often, and she was even one of my bridesmaids at our wedding! Pretty amazing don't you think that we have stayed such great friends, despite the distance, all because we kept in touch via our weekly letters from the age of 13; it meant such a great deal to me to have her there on my wedding day, 16 years later!
I know that many people I have spoken to feel that it is such a shame that pen-pals have gone out of fashion, or rather been superseded by the social media. Therefore, I have decided to put the feelers out with this post to see if anyone would be interested in a "Pen-Pal Pairing"??? Basically, if enough of you comment or contact me to say that you would be interested in having a pen-pal, then I will put the names together in a hat and pair you up, then the rest is down to you. I know that having the time can be an issue these days so perhaps we could all agree to write once a month (or more often if you choose to). The Rules would be something like this, and if I decide to go ahead then I will create a "badge" for you to copy and post on your own blogs to spread the word;
1. Please comment below if you would like to be paired up; and state if you have any preference as to UK or abroad or whether you don't mind. Please spread the word and display the badge on your blog;
2. To correspond the good old-fashioned way with letters only!
3. To try to correspond at least once per month or as agreed with your pen-pal;
4. Obviously as with the usual "blog swaps" I will be unable to take any responsibility after I have announced partners. Once I have done so please contact your pen-pal via their blog in order to arrange to swap addresses, etc. Whether or not you and your pen-pal continue to correspond will be of course down to you both.
5. Pen-Pal pairing is only available to those of you with a current blog.
6. Please comment on this post by Friday 8th February and I will announce partners on Saturday 9th February.
As I say, this is just a post to see how many of you would be interested, depending on the response I will let you know if I've decided to go ahead in a couple of days time. Also if anyone has any ideas as to the rules or whatever, do let me know!