Musings of ordinary life

A Pen, Paper and my Imagination

Currently in Athens, and I won’t be writing up about our trip until we leave, so in the meantime here is a post about something different.

Do you remember the excitement of receiving a letter in the post with foreign stamps attached to it and that thrill of hearing once again from a friend that lived far away?

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It was for me.  Up there as one of the highlights of my teenage years.

How it all began.

I always looked forward to Nana, [my first penpal in N.Z.] coming across from Gisborne sometimes on the bus, or with other family members who would drive her over.  She would always bring with her a bundle of magazines and papers which would be carefully placed in a square wicker basket [which I still have safely in storage].

Then there was the search for a particular magazine, not while Nana was visiting, as I was too interested in what she and Mum were chatting about.  Though within minutes of the door closing behind her a particular magazine would hold the key to more connections outside of the small town we lived in.  Nothing much happened here during the early seventies, unless it was summer, then we had the beach, the sun and with less emphasis on Jelly Tip ice-creams with more on how the body looked in the new bikini.

The magazine that had been in Nana’s basket was finally in my hands.Cover photo of the NZ Womens Weekly

The magazine in question was called The New Zealand Women’s Weekly, which is not the exciting part of my search, it was on an individual page titled; “Penpals from Abroad”.  This page had my imagination on full throttle into an orbit that seemed so far away.  At this point, I am referring to Australia, that country which we now refer to as just a hop and skip away and a smallish ditch to cross.

My first foreign pen-pal lived on the outskirts of Melbourne with her family and many huskies as pets.  We wrote letters, sometimes with fancy paper and envelope or on an aerogramme angsting about our lives and our dreams for many years until I turned 17 years of age.

Things changed as I had the opportunity to head over that ditch.  No passport required, just a return air ticket and travels checks [no credit card!].  Having shifted into too many flatting positions and countries in my twenties, things were discarded or lost with many photo albums not surviving the changes.  Which was a pity for the older me, though back then it was too much living in the now with not much thought of the future.

Now for most of us, we have a different way of communicating.  That is of course through the internet, email, facebook, facetime, skype to name just a few.  One that is new to me which I am enjoying participating in is blogging, and the bloggers that I am interacting with remind me of my years of having a penpal.

Penpals and bloggers to me are very similar, we are connecting and sharing our thoughts on a personal level, though with blogging, of course, it has an instant gratification, using a less personal way and of course a much larger audience, than just one person.

Back to the present, it would seem that some things have remained the same as I still have a passion for both writing and travelling.  I wonder how many of you bloggers were once pen-pals to others who lived overseas or even in the same country?

Wouldn’t you love for a young child you know, to experience that same excitement of using a pen, paper and their imagination to write letters, as we did?  I do hope that the art of letter writing does not die completely away.

A big shout out to Daphne from VintageTreasureNZ for sending me the photos of the NZ Women’s Weekly magazine covers:

http://www.vintagetreasurenz.com/2011/08/vintage-new-zealand-womans-weekly.html

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77 thoughts on “A Pen, Paper and my Imagination”

  1. I searched wordpress for “pen pals” and your post came up. I started writing postal pen pals as a teen back in the 1980’s and I have never stopped. Yes, I still write letters by post to pen friends. We still exist! : )

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    1. That’s interesting that my post came up, thanks for letting me Laura. Yes, I will check your post out. Well done for keeping up with your penpals, not as easy task. Postal services have become very inefficient and costly. Though it is always lovely to receive something other than a bill in the letterbox 🙂

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      1. Thanks Suzanne. I still find the postal service quite efficient, except for certain countries like Russia and India – where lost mail seems the norm. I’m in the US, and currently write people in the US, Australia, Tasmania, and Europe – and our letters go back and forth quickly.

        The US still has reasonable postal rates, but I know in certain countries it is getting rather pricey! My pen pal in Finland is paying more and more to post letters, and mail delivery days has decreased. (We still get mail delivered 6 days a week in the US.)

        But then again, is it really that costly? Think about what some people spend monthly on their cellphone service, internet service, computer gadgets, etc – it can ad up to a lot. Maybe postage stamps aren’t so expensive after all? : )

        Liked by 1 person

  2. God I remember penpal letters. I would wait for the mailman and be so excited to receive 2-3 letters then disappointed on days I never got any. Now I don’t even go to the mailbox for days, knowing it’s going to be just bills.

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  3. I used to love both postcards and pen-pals!
    I’d be really happy if any friend went on holiday as it was so exciting to receive a card with a photo of wherever they were!

    I had pen pals in France and Ireland. I think I still have their letters in a shoebox.

    Kids are still writing to each other sometimes. I volunteered a while ago to translate letters from Japanese school kids to UK kids. (I even have a bunch of them to translate next week!) I always look forward to them as they are sooo sweet! Although I often have to google things as they watch TV programs and play video games that I have never heard of!

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      1. It’s not really a job, I just do it as a volunteer (the Japanese kids are from the region of Japan that was affected by the massive tsunami a few years ago, so the project was started for them!)

        It IS really interesting though! It gives me some idea about what little’uns care about!

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  4. Women’s Weekly I believe my mother still has it delivered and penpals I had forgotten so many years ago and we lost touch …I used to love the feel of that airmail paper so thin 🙂

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  5. I love those magazine covers!
    I remember having a Pen Pal at school and looking forward to reading her letters. Also, my Dad used to travel a lot when he retired. I always enjoyed receiving postcards from him from the various places he visited, and trying to decipher his spidery handwriting! I still have them on a corkboard in my kitchen.
    I hope the art of letter (and postcard) writing never dies too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mrs Bryntin, even in this age of the electronic and on just a day out, still dives into a gift shop, grabs a handful of postcards and writes and sends them by post from where we are. (I wrote that out in case somebody really young didn’t know how it worked.)
    I must admit, it is lovely to get them from others who have caught this old-fashioned custom from her as well.

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    1. I used to do it, then the old budget and expensive mailing systems around the world stopped me in my tracks. Funny thing is I still love buying cards and will give them to people when I see them. Lovely to hear that Mrs Bryntin still does it, good on her 🙂

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  7. I had a pen pal in Edinburgh for a few years…not that far away but he was from an British Indian family – so I was fascinated to learn so much about a different culture from him, although in a lot of ways we shared a lot of the same passions, mainly music. I unfortunately got a little freaked out when he started pushing to meet in person and got a male friend to pretend to be my dad and tell him I couldn’t meet up 😂 typical teen way of handling things. So that ended that one. Still, happy memories. He had the loveliest handwriting I had ever seen too!

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    1. Em, it was a safe way of doing it, wish more kids learnt from you!! Some people have beautiful handwriting. With a few years at university and mine went awol. Funny l try to slow down so it looks more legible not working so far!! Never had a male penpal, 3 brothers put me off having male contact for a few years. 🙂

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  8. You’ve reminded me Suzanne about how my most reliable penpal was my Dad, and I didn’t reflect on that until long after he died. He always wrote to any of us kids when we were away every Sunday evening and had it in the postbox up the street by 9pm. When I was picking fruit in Earnscleugh his letter would be there by morning tea time the next day – the Post Office was much more efficient 40 years ago! His letters took longer to reach the Single Men’s Camp in North West Australia, but were just as regular. Long after he died his brother mentioned that their Dad used to write to them every Sunday when they were away from home. These men were from a time when men weren’t much into emotions and I can see that his reliable correspondence was as much a message of love. It took me 25 years to read between the lines. It’s a nice thought to hold and thanks for reminding me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ross for sharing that information about your Dad. Yes, you didn’t talk much about your Dad, your Mum was mentioned more, which seems to be the case for many of us. You are right, it was his way of passing down the love. Maybe he had a moment when he thought of his Dad, and he wanted the same connection with his children. I still have letters, goodness knows which box they are located, written by myself thanking Nana for my gift of a hanky and a coin, I was around 8 years old. Every week she sent letters and unfortunately, I too appreciate them more now than I did when I was younger!! Thanks for commenting Ross, it was a surprise!. Having a siesta, until it cools down a wee bit 🙂

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  9. I always loved getting post cards from abroad and I sent many during my travels before the internet age. Even now, I make it a habit of sending a real postcard (usually with a foreign stamp, at least for the Belgian part of the family) to my three nieces and one nephew. I plan to keep that habit up forever, and I hope these kids will enjoy the foreign mail as much as I did, but I tend to doubt it. Suz, you keep amazing me with all those memories. I would never remember all those sentiments, visits and pen pals from my youth!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you Liesbet for that comment. Might have something to do with ageing 🙂 Memories are funny things, some things I remember quite clearly and others I can’t remember at all!! Thank goodness for recording such as blogging and notebooks 🙂 Time to go and check out another museum! Suz

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I never had a pen pal growing up. I always wanted one after watching tv shows that had them. However, growing up in the age of email and instant messaging, I was never able to get one. It’s always nice to hear stories like this. Even more so, it is really cool to see those old magazine covers!

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  11. I do see and appreciate the comparison between blogging and penpal writing! I didn’t have a penpal but had friends who moved overseas and made plenty of use of aerogrammes 🙂 While I like the idea of letter-writing, I find the use of the postal system burdensome and wasteful. I prefer to use email, and I think we can apply the same skills there. Technology should make it easier for us to spend more time on the part that matters, the content!

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  12. I never had a pen pal, but I think you are right about blogging being a similar way to communicate – except on a much larger scale.

    Those old magazine covers are a hoot. I guess finding a husband (and then keeping him satisfied by cooking amazing meals) was THE most important goal in a young woman’s life.

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    1. What do you mean it WAS the most important goal of a young woman’s life 🙂 Just joking. I love the vintage posters and magazine covers. By the way, your new blog page looks great!! I enjoy connecting with you and others who leave comments, just like penpals. 🙂

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  13. How this post touched my heart. Oddly, I commented to another blogger the other day that making friends in this place (or indeed on other social media platforms) is akin to having pen pals and that I consider my friends made this way to be just as valuable, just as precious as those made by living in the same street or working together or sharing school memories. Letters are so precious. My mother (85 last birthday) still writes to me and to her grandchildren and to many others. I know that they all keep her letters and I keep the odd selection of things she thinks I might like … clippings from newspapers, photos and shampoo samples. She used to send magazines but the ‘printed papers’ rate was abolished in Britain making it expensive for her to send them. But every week I write to her. And I will miss that sorely and the letters I receive the day she isn’t on earth any more. Thank you for this lovely lovely post ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Osyth and you are welcome 🙂 I am very happy that this post has brought back happy memories for so many. Yes, the postage is so expensive it makes sending ‘stuff’ overseas harder. I enjoy the dialogue with other bloggers and you get a gut instinct about people even through messages. It has done us well listening to our gut instinct when applying for housesits.

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  14. I love this post at such a deep and personal level, as you reminded me of years and years of letter writing, which started out writing to my grandparents and I had a penfriend who lived around Mildura in South Australia. In year 6, I filled out a penpal form and because I could count to ten in German and say a few phrases, I tick a box saying that I could speak German. Within a short time, I received letters in German from 3 German girls. I freaked out. Fortunately, my mum and grandfather speak and write German (I have German heritage), and they helped me.
    I live in Europe in 1992 and I have all my letters and started looking through them to put that time down on paper, particularly to share with my kids. I also have all my letters from school. I have the lot…and photos. Everyone knows there’s incriminating evidence filed up in my roof.
    I have a second blog where I’m retracing my travels in 1992. While doing the research, I found a letter in a book about London from the 1950s. Thought you’d enjoy it; https://wordpress.com/view/couchwanderings.wordpress.com
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

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  15. I love this post! As a child and teenager I had penpals from around the world. Nothing excited me more than receiving a letter from them, and I would hunt for stationary and colorful ink for my fountain pen to write my letters with.

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  16. What a nostalgic post and so loving to have had a pen pal for so many years. I never did that but knew people who did and saw them make life long friends from long distances. It is a thrill to get a hand written letter today from anyone, let alone a pen pal! No one writes letters any more it seems.

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  17. I really miss letters and still love getting them. One of my friends used to write amazing missives from New York when he moved there but stopped as soon as we began emailing and then stopped even emailing when social media kicked in…such a pity.

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    1. My sister and I email our Mum every day, well I try to do it every day 🙂 Yes, hopefully the next generations keep the art of letter writing going. The poetry of some letters written from England to distant relations in NZ was wonderful to read. Like the men who had gone to war!
      Suz

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      1. People in some ways were more adept at language I think…though they didn’t share their feelings like we do now they did it through their prose and poetry I guess…some of my friends still write and I try to send things off by posts, cards and stuff…always nice to get something.

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  18. I used to love my pen pals! I had one in America that I regularly wrote to from the age of 9yrs until about 18! I often wonder what happened to her. I also regularly used to write to my French exchange friends. I loved the excitement of receiving a letter from the USA or France land on my doormat. Such a great idea for kids. Love your comparison between penpals & blogging pals too!

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    1. Thanks Hayley, I think I would’ve been overjoyed to have a French one 🙂 Having an Australian penpal seemed so exotic back in the day!! Holding a letter that someone you enjoy hearing from is magic! My Nana wrote and sent a letter once a week to Mum and my Auntie [when she lived away] for many years, actually it must’ve been near 50 years or more!
      Suz

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  19. I had pen pals in Germany, France and the US when I was a teenager. I have no idea where any of them are now. However, one of my friends recently went to New York for the first time and met up with her penfriend of 50 years!

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    1. Anabel you certainly had a good selection of penpals to learn all about their culture and country. My Mum still correspondences with her Scottish penpal, though less so in the last few years. Their penpal relationship has being going for many years!
      Suz

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    1. Unfortunately many places we have been have not had reliable postal services and others way to expensive. Sending postcards on short holidays a great idea, very expensive on a long term basis. Yes, I too love writing letters though now it’s mostly in a notebook. 🙂
      Suz

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