I have always firmly believed that if my house caught fire, and my family were safe, I would not hesitate in saving my batch of personal letters. Let my other personal possessions burn, another guitar can be found, books can be sourced and CD’s can be hunted down, but personal letters are one of a kind. A written statement from one individual to another, never read by anyone else, containing all the thoughts that that person felt at that one time, particular only to them and them alone; they are irreplaceable and irrevocable. The two packet stuffed envelops, tape wrapped for safety, sitting in a drawer near my bed, are the collected letters I have received from family, friends and lovers, over a decade or so, sitting comfortably close to me. I hold them dear to my heart. Letters from friends I have not spoken to in some time, letters from lovers in different countries, and letters from friends in different continents.
The night before major surgery I sit and compose letters to my dear friends, a final farewell if the worst were to happen. Solace found in the hand written word. I often wonder what world my letters find themselves in, letters sent to Brazil, France and Germany, where the language the letters are written in is not the mother tongue. I imagine my friends opening the letters, sent perhaps unexpected for arrival, their hands and eyes scanning the page, the pearl of a grin beginning on their lips. For me the sound of the postman in the early afternoon and the sight caught of a personal letter is one of sheer joy.
There are a few hauntingly brilliant songs about letters and their contents, but for me the stand out is the song ‘Famous Blue Raincoat‘ by Leonard Cohen. I will always remember composing a letter to a dear friend at 2am on a quiet winter night in my university flat whilst listening to Leonard. It is a memory I will treasure always, of the little academic holed up in his cold flat.