Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A Letter to the Future

As I've mentioned, we are restoring our Georgian house. It's hard work at times and yet other times the work is made light when we manage to connect with the former residents. It's been a fascinating journey exploring the lives of those who've dwelt here before us. They've become old friends in a sense. It got us wondering what the future house owners would find when they renovated and would our presence be felt.

That's when the little light bulb went on and a brilliant idea came about. Why leave our existence at the house a mystery when we could leave our own account of our time here? I decided right then and there we'd write a letter to the future and so the wheels began turning.

There were a lot of things to consider before we undertook this project. First, what should we write with and what should we write on? Finding the right medium to write on was not as simple as I thought it would be. It would have to be paper that wouldn't turn to dust; it had to be something that would endure the test of time. I found a thick, acid-free parchment kind of paper that seemed to fit that bill then I turned my attentions to what pen I would use. Ballpoint pen was out of the question since it fades after about ten years, as you've probably discovered when sorting through old photos. An archival pen would be perfect, the only trouble was no one knew what I was talking about when I asked for one. Finally, after a few weeks of fruitless searching, I made an executive decision and got out my dipping pen and the India ink. I'm not all that proficient with pen and ink writing but I persevered and soon got into the groove.

I wrote a letter introducing myself and talking about how we came to live at the house and what our intentions were. As a seasoned letter writer, I actually had to be careful not to write too much! We had chosen a Champagne bottle for its sturdiness to enclose our missive in and too many of those thick pages wouldn't fit down the neck of the bottle. So, I gave a brief history of us and added some photos to round out the letter.

We also wanted to include some things from “our moment in time” and that is when the fun began. What to include? Hmmm. Well, we started out slow and then found too many things and had to really think about what we were choosing, again, because of the vessel things were going to be sealed into. We chose bottles to house our time capsule because of all the things we have found, the bottles have been best preserved.

We ended up having two bottles one with all the papers and photos, which not only had our letter and photos of the house and of us but also came to include news items of the day, recent big events like the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics as well as our parish newsletter and a few other pertinent things. It doesn't sound like a lot but we had to roll everything very tightly in order to get it down into the bottle. We'd chosen these things very carefully and didn't want to omit any of them so there was a collective sigh of relief when we managed to fit it all into the Champagne bottle.

The second vessel, a Pimms bottle, held other aspects of our life. We were going to put a few coins in and some of the snippets of wallpaper from the house we'd saved, shards of pottery, glass and clay pipe we'd found but decided to include some other things. Quite a conversation ensued about things that may not be around when our letter was read. Some postage stamps were decided upon and from then, things started occurring to us that we couldn't omit. A pencil, traditional recipes, a paper clip, a safety pin and then we thought about it and added a bit of lego, some candy wrappers, though I'm not sure they will stand the test of time, a few playing cards, a couple of receipts, some business cards and because my husband is an electronics engineer, some electrical bits like circuits. Who knows where technology will get to in the future?

Those things fit into the bottle a little easier than the paper items, thankfully. Our next feat would be to close it up to keep things safe. We found corks for both bottles and then dipped them in wax to seal them and hopefully keep the cork from perishing. In addition to the two bottles, we added a few pieces of crystal and china that had been chipped during our house move. We find so many small pieces of china and pottery and keep hoping to find a whole plate or cup so the addition of these things seemed right in keeping with what we were trying to achieve. One of the bottles we found was also included for posterity.

It was quite exciting really, to be writing to the future. When it came time to bury our treasure we were a bit thoughtful and paused for a moment, then carefully arranged everything in the small space we made in the floor. We had left one small part of the floor unfilled and made a stone lined “Box” to put our things in and then we put a stone on top and covered it over as if it had never been there. Next the cement will go on top and we can only wonder how long it will be before someone comes along and finds our stash. I can't help but think about who will find it and hope they can appreciate our efforts. I would have loved to have found something like this, a picture of the lives of the tenants of the house before us, but the next best thing is to create something unique like this for someone else to discover.


  1. Fabulous!!
    When I was a school girl,at recess,I used to bury all sorts of things around the edge of the fence of the playground with a spoon borrowed from the cafeteria.
    Years later,when I had children,we went back to dig them up and could not find them.Can't do it now either,it's a parking lot.
    Such fun!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Patricia. It's a shame you couldn't find the things you buried, but maybe someone else did!

  3. You're quite clever! I want to wish I'd thought to leave little time capsules at all the places I have lived. Maybe one in the front flower bed will make up for missed opportunities. I'd leave a small Moleskine journal inside a mason jar for sure, along with . . . Hmm. I need to think. I have two letter in a bottle kits. I seriously doubt I'll ever get to launch one that stands a chance of traveling, I might use them as capsules instead.

    I like everything you've included in yours, especially the electrical bits. The photos are great. I'll print them for tonight's journal entry about what you've done.

  4. Every time we found something from one of the former residents we would always speculate about what people in the future would find from us. I'm glad we did the time capsule. Trying to come up with things that are of this time and perhaps not of the future was tricky. We thought long about adding the pencil but in the end put it in anyway. I put a perfume sample in too, just because of the perfume we seem to unleash every time we take wall paper down. We always wonder what perfume it is!
    I bet Alex would love to help you make a time capsule.