Monday, 19 October 2015

                   Today's the day!




The Royal Mail releases their Star Wars stamps today. No puns or “Yoda speak” here, just a very excited stamp/Star Wars fan who has been awaiting this stamp issue for a while now. Twelve first class stamps feature the characters from the original trilogy as well as the prequel trilogy and to whet your appetite for the upcoming film “The Force Awakens,” Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren are depicted. British artist Malcom Tween has done a fantastic job illustrating the Character stamps which are vivid and bursting with colour. And for those ultra fans out there, the 1st on the stamps is printed using that familiar Star Wars font.

There is also a sheet of stamps featuring the classic vehicles and spacecraft from the films, which includes the At-At and Han Solo's ship, The Millennium Falcon among others. I'm going into town today just to get my hands on these lovelies.  



PS  I got to the post office very early and made it just in time to get the last of the Star Wars stamps!

Friday, 9 October 2015

                           Happy World Post Day!


Since 1969, October 9th has been celebrated as World Post Day. This day was chosen as it coincides with the establishment of the Universal Postal Union or UPU in 1874.  The UPU is an agency of the United Nations and one of the first created. Its job is to help improve the quality of the postal service of the member countries as well as co-ordinating postal policies.


World Post Day is marked by at least 150 countries around the world, with an essay contest for young people, new stamps, commemorative postmarks and philatelic exhibitions among other events. Read more about the holiday






These are a few examples of the stamps issued commemorating World Post Day this year from Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong.  Hong Kong also has special postmarks for the day, have a look: 

How are you going to celebrate World Post Day?  I'm writing up a storm today, enjoying a cup of tea and the beautiful Autumn view out my window as I compose my letters.                                                                                                       

Friday, 11 September 2015


Buried Treasure




 When I'm not writing letters I'm reading. I love books and I don't mean a little. I worked in a book store for 13 years and that was fuel to the fire. These days I haunt the charity shops buying second-hand books to add to my hoard collection. One day when I'm no longer living on a building site, I'll have a small library. Until then, my latest treasures reside on my bedside table. I'm currently binge-reading classics. Titles next to my bed include The Queen's Necklace by Alexandre Dumas, War and Peace...in three volumes to make it easier reading and a brilliant little gem, beautifully bound in leather, of Bacon's Essays and a biography of Marie Antoinette.


To me, old books are like old friends. I get that kindle is handy, travels easily and holds volumes and I recognize the convenience it lends, but to me nothing can replace an old book, and especially a used one. I like the handwritten dedications some have or the notations in the margins by previous owners but what I like best are the forgotten little tuck-ins that are often used as bookmarks. These things give the book character and make it live. Pages with dog-eared corners mark things to re-read or remind someone where they left off, underlined passages highlight notes for later review and the odd doodle tells me someone is daydreaming instead of reading. All these things speak to me.

Dedication inside leather-bound book of Bacon's Essays


When I worked in the book store, I remember a conversation with another bibliophile whose bored five year old asked his mother why she had to buy so many books. She told him books were our friends and he piped in and quickly said “You must have a million friends!” That still makes me smile but it's so true. I read books more than once, enjoying them all over again and the notes and ephemera do make it seem like an old friend.




Yesterday when I made my weekly trip to town to do my letter posting and shopping I found a tatty old cookbook and started leafing through it. It was so old some of the pages were loose but it had some interesting recipes so I bought it. Later on when I looked at it more closely there were recipes marked, page corners turned down throughout and a handful of clippings and labels from cooking products with recipes, randomly placed in the book, probably to mark favourite recipes. There was also a card. It was a pretty floral thank you and when I read it I laughed out loud. It was from the dog of a neighbouring family thanking the cookbook owner for looking after it while its humans were away on holiday; lamenting it's inability to use the tin opener himself. It must have struck a note with the recipient too to have been saved in a place where it would be found often.

As a letter writer, I value these things most. It's this sort of forgotten treasure that gives you an insight into the person who once had that cookbook on their bookshelf. They are priceless little windows into lives. Everything from the handwriting to the style of their words tells you something. The Egyptians believe that to say the name of the deceased gives them immortality and I think reading a letter or card does the same thing. What memorial could be better than that?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

                                               Stamp Release


I couldn't wait to get to the post office today to get my hands on these new stamps.  Just out today, they show different species of bees and are nearly actual size so the images are very vivid.   The British Beekeepers Association worked with the Royal Mail to create this set of stamps and the images they chose show the bees at their best. There is also a miniature sheet which features four illustrations depicting different aspects of the bees' life  I bought way too many but I know they will all get used.  I just love them; they're bright and fresh and all about summer.


Saturday, 1 August 2015

Philately
 
 
 
 
some of my stamp albums

I think correspondence and stamp admiration pretty much go hand in hand. At least that is how it is for me. I began collecting stamps and then went on to writing letters. Most of the people I write to make an effort to get the latest commemoratives for their letters, some buy vintage postage to add that retro look, while others incorporate stamps into their mail art. It's a double treat when you get a letter.
 
When I was younger, even before I had pen pals, I helped my father to clip all the stamps off the Christmas cards we received during the holidays. The dining room table would be filled with stamps newly soaked off the paper. For me, that's a lovely memory, though we won't talk about the imp in me that urged me to gently blow the drying stamps sending a ripple of them across the table...
 
My first stamp
I carried my stamp in a purse like this
I got my first stamp when I was six. It was a space stamp and I carried it around with me in my coin purse. It makes me smile to think about it now but it was a treasure to me and is what got me started collecting. Since then stamps have been a constant in my life. It's a hobby my father and I shared and continued to share up until he passed away. I think of my dad when I'm sorting and soaking stamps and I'm glad we had that bond. My son has shown an interest in stamps now which I'm happy about. He has his own album and on rainy days we work on our collections and I hope he will remember it as fondly as I remember working with my father.
 
I suppose philately is considered old fashioned by some but I don't mind. While my son and I sort our stamps, we look up places we aren't familiar with, we become acquainted with world leaders past and present, prominent buildings and the flora and fauna of particular countries take our fancy and we begin to know different countries by the things and people they celebrate. It's opened the world up to us in a way.
 
Stamps are an important facet of our cultural history and collecting them is a great way to expose your child to the world around them. Even if you only spend an hour a week on your collection, it's something you can build on and pass on that will create fond memories for your family. The Queen of England continues to add to the stamp collection her father began. (What I wouldn’t give to see that collection!)
 
If you're looking for a hobby that really doesn't cost much to start, think about philately, but more importantly, introduce your child to it. Through stamp collecting they'll have a better grasp of geography, a subject that isn't dwelt on much at school. The culture and history of other places around the globe will become relevant, and your children may even begin to write letters to get more stamps.
 
Because stamp collection is dear to my heart, I always encourage people to give it a try, especially young people. I've made up ten packets of stamps to give to those of you who would like to introduce your children to this fun hobby. Just email me at billetdouxandlittlemercuries(at)gmail.com and I'll send one out to you.


Monday, 20 July 2015

A sympathetic view

While I was away, I learned something about letter writing...something I hadn't considered before. Letters of condolence matter more than we realize. Whether you are writing them or receiving them the weight of their impact is massive. I think we all struggle to find a card that is special and says something that resonates with the person you are choosing it for. Up until now, I had always been on the sending end of a sympathy expression. I repeatedly struggled to say something that would make a difference. At times I felt inadequate to the task, but once I began receiving cards and letters with sentiments aimed to comfort after the loss of my father my view changed dramatically. I felt cared for and consoled with each note that arrived. A letter from Dear Mrs. Duffy touched me very deeply, others were like balm for my soul. But the love didn't stop there, Limner, my hero, wrote, and wrote. She sent little gifts and words of inspiration. Even when I was too overcome to write anything in return still she wrote and I shall be forever grateful for her unerring kindness. Each and every piece of mail I received from her gave reassurance in knowing that I was not alone and that mattered so much to me.

Losing a parent is never an easy thing but having friends who rally around you and give of themselves, is heartwarming and gives such comfort to someone who is grieving. Grief is a sad thing and not too many want to dwell upon it but I wanted to write this so that others would know how very appreciated their words of sympathy are, even when you feel helpless to do anything to take the pain away. These cards and letters matter more than you can ever know and I thank all my dear friends for extending their hands and hearts in friendship to me when my world was falling apart.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Getting back in the swing of things



Well, it's been a little while, hasn't it? Time to start to get back into the swing of things, or so I thought. I started to write this blog post several weeks ago but things just kept getting in the way of it getting posted. For some reason, I couldn't log onto my blog which was very annoying. I'm not particularly computer literate so this was a real challenge for me. I managed to sort it out, only to catch a cold that turned into a very nasty respiratory infection and that really kept me down. Even the smallest of things made me tired and out of breath. But, thankfully that is a thing of the past and I'm getting better every day.

Jane Austen themed letter from Lady Pamela
I've been home for a few weeks now and after slowly making my way through the nice stack of mail that was awaiting me when I arrived, I feel blessed to have so many nice letter friends. What an assortment of letters, pocket letters, cards and an especially nicely crafted letter from the lovely Lady Pamela from The Lost Art of Letter Writing...Revived   Opening this letter was such a treat. It was beautifully packaged with so much attention to detail that I took great care in opening it and just savouring the goodness. Getting a letter from a fellow Janeite is always nice but what a delight to receive something that is more like a gift. I just simply adored everything about this packet, and especially the letter it contained which was a crossed letter written in pen and ink. Thank you Lady Pamela for a truly extraordinary missive!

Inside the Jane Austen letter



It took me a few days to get through all the mail...these things cannot be rushed, they must be savoured. I just meandered my way though all the mail goodness and enjoyed the process of catching up with all my pen pals.  I also received two pocket letters, one which was from a swap I entered before I left to go home and the other from the lovely Tina whom I know from Swap-bot  Both letters were pretty to look at and held such treasures.  I think pocket letters are a very fun way to send a letter. I like the versatility and the element of surprise that each little pocket contains.  You can use a theme or just do something random and it always looks pretty and colourful.  I would like to do a lot more pocket letters once I answer all my mail.  There are always several themed swaps over on swap-bot to choose from for inspiration, or you can just wing it and do your own thing.  Whatever you do, it's sure to be a hit with your pen pals.

Now comes the pleasant process of replying to all my lovely letters. Time to put the kettle on, this will take a while, I know, and I hope my pen friends will be patient with me. Being ill has made for slow progress, but I am trying to write at least one letter a day.  See you in the mail!



Thursday, 23 April 2015

Time Out

A week ago I had to travel home unexpectedly to see my father as he was very ill.  He has since passed away so it will be a little while before a new post appears here as I'll be with my family for another month.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Stamp Release
 
 
 

Just in time for April Fools Day, the Royal Mail put out these Comedy Greats stamps.  The ten first class stamps feature renowned comedians including the cast of Monty Python, French and Saunders as well as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.  I dare you not to smile as you look at them and remember something they did that was hilarious. The first thing I thought of was the unforgettable sketch by the two Ronnies of the hardware shop, when one requested "fork 'andles" but was mistakenly given four candles and on it goes through other language mishaps.   These stamps will certainly make for happy mail. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

 
Pocket Letters
 
 
 
 
It's been a while since I last blogged, due to a cold and a bad back, but I'm back this morning to share something interesting.
 
I kept hearing about pocket letters and curiosity got the better of me so I went and found out what they are. Basically it is a letter made by using a 9-pocket trading card holder. To create the letter you fill each section with something different, using a theme or just being creative and going with the flow. One pouch holds your letter and the other eight are filled with things like ACT's, quotes, tags, little gifts like paper clips or stickers and you get the idea. The plastic case protects your little treasures too which is nice but what is even better is that it folds into three and fits nicely into a business-size envelope. 
 
Janette Lane is the creator of the pocket letter concept and I think it is visual and fun. Here is a link to a video of Jeanette describing the letters. I like that there are 9 pockets for you to explore so it's like opening 9 envelopes. It's great that you can put the letters you receive in a binder for easy storage so you can keep them handy when you want to page through.
 
I think there are so many possibilities for decorating and filling this type of letter. The only difficulty I'm having is finding the pages at a price that won't break the bank! At the moment no luck so I've had to resort to drastic measures since I really wanted to try out this concept. I have a few 3-pocket planner pages for holding business cards and have used them to make some mini pocket letters. Because these smaller pages only have three pockets I used front and back which gave me six pouches to fill and even better, it will be less expensive to send out which is nice since I've been practising economy. I also have the option of crafting them either vertically or horizontally which allows me to be as creative as I like.
 
 
Overall, I think this is a great new way of sending a letter. It's fun and very addictive.




Thursday, 12 March 2015

 
                                       Stamp Release 
The Royal Mail released it's stamp offering for March which highlights bridges, on the 5th .  They didn't have any left by the time I got into town on the following Tuesday so I'll have to order mine from Royal Mail. I can see why they were a sell-out design. I'm particulary interested in the Pultney Bridge over the River Avon which is in Bath for you other Jane Austen enthusiasts. I've been there and the Bridge is different from the others because there are shops lined across the bridge on both sides to give the illusion of walking down a street. I took this photo when I was there several years ago, and I'm not sure why I didn't take a snap looking down the “street” of the bridge. Next time I go I will do that!
 
 
Pultney Bridge

The stamps feature bridges that show "the leaps in engineering" of these structures from the modest stone spans to the more complicated feats of engineering. Each of the stamps represents a a new milestone in bridge building beginning with  A 15th or 16th century gritstone clapper- bridge and ending with the Peace Bridge, River Foyle. A 235-metre causeway for pedestrians and cyclists constructed in 2011.



Monday, 2 March 2015


                               Crossed Letters Part 2

 
Just after I made the last post about writing a crossed letter, I received the letter from my partner in the Crossed Letter a la Jane Austen swap. Nathan in Thailand sent a fabulous letter, three pages long, written on both sides and crossed on every page.  He used two contrasting colours which made reading easy. For you fountain pen enthusiasts out there he used a dip pen with Noodler's 54th ink and for the opposing lines he used a Lamy 2000 fountain pen with Stipula Saffron ink. I didn't have any trouble at all seeing the script, and what a nice script it was too. The difficult thing was to remember to turn the paper on it's side to read the next “page” rather than turning the paper over. Okay, I did that a lot. I was very happy with this swap and have since written two more crossed letters which will go in the post when I visit the post office this week. Now that postage is going up here, I may just have to adopt this method of writing to save on stamps....

If you are a fan of the Regency Era, a follower of Jane Austen or an avid letter writer and just want a challenge, why not have a go at writing a crossed letter? The swap was so popular, a new crossed letter swap has just been listed on Swap-Bot. I've joined, how about you? Psst, Patricia, now's your chance.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

               Crossed Letter a la Jane Austen



 
I'm a confessed Janeite---otherwise known as a Jane Austen devotee. The Regency Period is such a beautiful era with empire gowns, fine furnishings and literary wonders such as Jane Austen. I've been to the town of Bath, the “in” place of the Regency A-listers, several times and it's a place filled with history, culture and atmosphere. If I could go back in time I would love to visit Bath during the Regency hayday, but since I cannot, I live vicariously through Jane Austen's novels and more specifically, her characters.
 
One of the challenges for  Lettermo is to write a Jane Austen Letter, which dictates you write your letter with ink and pen or a quill if you dare! I'm getting more proficient with my dipping pen and have recently written several letters in this fashion. Then I saw a swap on  Swap-Bot to write a crossed letter a la Jane Austen. A crossed letter is a frugal way of saving on postage by writing your letter and then rotating the paper 90 degrees and writing again across what you have just written. I've seen crossed letters and they look a bit confusing so I was curious how difficult it would be to actually write one and found myself joining the swap.
 
This past weekend I set out my pen and ink...I'm not brave enough to cut a quill...and began composing my letter. Writing the first “page” was easy enough, though when I turned my paper I have to admit I was very nervous of ruining what I'd just written and creating a mess. And for good cause as I dripped ink once I turned the paper and there was no help but to start anew. Sigh. I began again and sailed through the first page, turned my paper, held my breath and wrote my first line across the existing lines. Once I had gotten a few lines on the paper it became easier, then disaster struck as my sleeve brushed across the page smearing one entire side to oblivion which was very vexing. I had forgotten to move the ink to a more strategic position and had begun reaching across the letter to dip my pen. Sigh.
 
I felt sure after all the experience I was getting that my third attempt would be the charm as they say. I'd already written this letter a couple of times so I had quite a flow going after I pushed up my sleeves, repositioned my ink and forged ahead. When I finished, I thought it looked respectable, but the final test would be presenting it to my husband for approval. He is a lifetime member of the Brontë Society and was involved in original research which allowed him to see letters written in this manner. I was pleased when he told me my missive was quite authentic looking.
 
Reading the letter was not as daunting as I imagined. Once you fix your line of vision on the specific lines, which ever way they have been written, the writing done in the other direction seems to fade into the background amazingly.
 
The next challenge was to fold and seal my letter. This should have been the easy part! I folded the letter relatively easily but the wax seal was not so forgiving even though I practised beforehand. I got the wax seal affixed in the end but I concede a bit more practice is needed in that area!

It was an interesting experiment, though I don't know if I'd want to write all my letters in that fashion, although I do have an unopened pack of aerograms...hmmm







Thursday, 19 February 2015


                        New Stamp Release February 19th






Out today in a post office near you are these eye catching Inventive Stamps. I really like the colour and patterns and can't wait to use them on my outgoing envelopes. I've pre-ordered mine from the Royal Mail and I know they will probably look even better in hand than on the photos shown on the website, which is usually the case. I'm still writing mail for A month of letters, and these will compliment my efforts nicely. 

Monday, 16 February 2015



 
                       Balance and Harmony




My husband and I share a common interest...The Post Office.  Though our hobbies go back to the same source, they are quite different.  I love letters and stamps and go to the post office happily to post my letters, while my husband is a telephone enthusiast.  Yes, I said telephone.


My husband's telephone exchange
In England, the telephone system was part of the post office for many years. Those lovely old exchanges that went clickety-clack as they connected calls became a thing of the past when fibre optics came along and proved more efficient. Most of the old exchanges were scrapped but there are those, like my husband, whose love of old telephony have kept some of them in tact and working still.

Even though our hobbies are different, there are times when they meet in a nice way.  For Christmas, my husband presented me with a genuine post office scale. I'd been struggling for a while with a digital scale that was so temperamental I put it out of it's misery and got a more traditional scale.  Getting everything ready for the post before hand to avoid standing in line for ages every week when I go to town is a bonus, but it was not to be.  I thought I was all set to weigh my letters with confidence , but the new scale didn't balance quite right and I ended up getting the postage wrong on some of my letters. Frustration ensued, and  I resigned myself to a long wait at the post office each week.
 
But, on Christmas morning I opened my husband's gift to me and was thrilled with this bit of postal history.  These days the post office employs digital scales for ease and convenience so my scale was retired.  Thank goodness someone saved it from the scrap heap!  It's old-fashioned, but who cares?  It works!  I like using the little brass disks to determine the weight of my letters.  There is something calming about using a manual scale. Even better, I'll never have to worry about the batteries running low and I can see at a glance if the scale is in balance.  I couldn't be more pleased with my new toy scale.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

                               Today's the Day!

This evening The Letter Writer's Alliance is having its second Virtual letter writing social. Kathy and Donovan, the brains behind the LWA, are hosting another virtual social today with live video commencing at 3pm CST...that's 9pm GMT for those of us in the UK. Mary Robinette Kowal, author and founder of A Month of Letters will be joining them and it's looking like THE place to be this evening. As a bonus, Donovan has created some awesome stationery that will complement the
event perfectly.

I live rurally, so this is a stellar way for me to connect with other letter writers. I longingly look at all the letter writing socials and events happening but I'm so far removed I can only attend in spirit. Today I'll be able to join in, not with a small group, but with the whole world and I'm loving that.

Since I'm doing Lettermo this year, it'll be a great time to write my letters while I'm
participating in the social. So far, I've done pretty well sending out my letters and cards for Lettermo, (even though I forgot to log my letters for the first day! ugh) and I have to say, it is helping me to set time aside to write which is why I joined in the first place. I like that I have a routine now of getting my son off to school and then sitting at my desk and writing and not worrying about the laundry or if the rubbish was collected! I don't know how it happens but I get off the track sometimes and end up writing sporadically when I can find a moment, and that always leads to bedlam. My desk turns into a mountain and I get backlogged because I can't find anything and as a result no letters get written because I get overwhelmed by everything. Participating in Lettermo has helped me to order my desk and my thoughts and get myself straightened out.


I'm all set to go for this evening, how about you?


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

 
Thank You Very Much!
 
 


I'm sitting in front of the fire today, writing and keeping warm.  It's so cold outside
and it's hard to get anything done around the house when you can't feel your fingers,
so this is the best place to be just now.  I've been sick with a bad cold and now that
I'm feeling better, I want to get back into my writing and try to catch up a little. 

Besides writing, I'm awaiting the postman so I can tell him Thank you. Why?  Because
today is National Thank a Mailman Day.  No one seems to know where this unofficial
holiday originated, but who cares?  It's a day to say thank you to the person who brings you letters, postcards and packages filled with good cheer.  A lot of people take their postman/woman for granted, but not me. I usually tell him thank you at Christmas and give him a gift, but I'm sure everyone does that, at least I hope they do.  Today, I want to let him know I truly am thankful for the thoughtful way he delivers my mail.

Living rurally, a good deal of my conversation arrives via the post so I am ever so
grateful for the mail delivery service.  My mailman is a nice guy who takes care with
my mail and I appreciate that.  If something doesn't fit through the slot, he won't
just crease it and shove it home, he'll knock on the door and hand it to me.  When
packages arrive and I'm not home, he puts them in a safe spot and leaves me a note. 
That, to me, is dedication and I do appreciate it, more than he can know.  I hope that
the bright colourful mail I receive brightens his day too; something eye-catching in
amongst the junk mail and bills is hopefully a perk for him...I know it certainly is
for me. 

On a rural delivery route, the mail carrier has to drive up to the house, get out and
put the mail in the door slot, so it's a laborious thing delivering around here and
yet, he never drops his standard of exemplary service.

So on this day, Thank You Very Much Adrian!

Friday, 30 January 2015

                                    It's That Time Again




February 1st marks the onset of the A Month of Letters challenge, created by author Mary Robinette Kowal. (Read about Mary here.)  Lettermo, as we veterans refer to it, is a month long love affair with letter writing. 

In September of 2010 Mary made a bold decision to take a break from the internet for an
entire month.  She informed everyone that they could contact her via the postal service, which some of her friends did.  Mary says "When I write back, I find that I slow down and write differently than I do with an email. Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later to the person to whom I am writing. In some ways it forces me to think about time more because postal mail is slower. “By the time you get this…” It is relaxing. It is intimate. It is both lasting and ephemeral.  How so? I find that I will often read the letters that I receive twice. Once when I get them and again as I write back. So, that makes it more lasting. It is more ephemeral because I don’t have copies of the letters that I write and I am the only one who has copies of the letters that my correspondents write. So, more ephemeral." 

Why not check out the Lettermo site, sign up and give it a try this year?  The challenge is to write a letter every day during the month of February, excepting Sundays and holidays which amounts to 23 letters, cards or postcards.  Mary has created prompts to give you something to shoot for and badges to collect once you have completed each task she has set which include things like completing each week of post and becoming a postal explorer by searching out new mail boxes to post your letters.  It's a fun way to get into the thick of letter writing and the enthusiasm shown by all makes it a delightful experience.  I have made some lovely friends by participating in Lettermo, and a surprise or two have also presented themselves. 

One of the people I wrote to is a singer whose music I listen to.  I had read in an interview she was a big fan of letter writing and wrote to her friends and family (I knew I liked her for a good reason!)  So, I wrote a letter to Paloma Faith and long after Lettermo finished, I got a little brown envelope in the post.  I never would have guessed in a million years I would be getting a reply from Paloma in the form of an autographed photo and a sticker, but that is just what I found inside that non-descript brown envelope.  So, you never know what may happen when you join the fun at the lettermo site this February. 

Go on, you know you want to.  See you there!

Friday, 23 January 2015


                                 National Handwriting Day


It's been very wintery here with low temperatures, forecasts of “thunder snow” and icy patches that catch you off guard when you least expect it. The Tea kettle beckons and all I want to do is sit listening to the crackle and pop of the fire, reading or writing but we live in an unheated Georgian house (think Jane Austen) and so wood must be chopped and brought in and the fireplace swept first before I can indulge, safe from the whipping winds and biting cold. I wonder if Jane Austen had “house gloves” like I do? They are crucial when it's genuinely cold. The fireplaces keep the rooms warm, but not the corridors so I have to be creative. Living here has made me understand why food was served on covered dishes and why people wore bed caps at night. These were just common sense things to keep the warmth in.

I like living in an old house; I like that the old meets the new and we exist happily together. I also love that something as simple and essential as handwriting is highlighted with its own special day, even when technology makes it a snap to instantly send a message anywhere in the world.

Created in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, National Handwriting Day is celebrated on January 23rd each year. As Executive director of WIMA explains “Throughout history, handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace, freed slaves, created movements and declared independence. No email will ever have quite the impact of words written in pen or pencil on a crisp piece of paper. With National Handwriting Day on Jan. 23, WIMA is celebrating the importance of handwriting not just in American History, but in today's fast-paced world as well.”


Portrait of John Hancock by John Singleton
c.1765
from Wikipedia
January 23rd was chosen to mark this holiday as it coincides with the birth date of John Hancock, born January 23, 1737 in Braintree, Massachusetts. John Hancock was a businessman, statesman, a devoted patriot of the American Revolution and was touted an “essential character” of that era by contemporary John Adams. John Hancock's roll in the Revolution is noteworthy, but as president of the Continental Congress and first signer of the Declaration of Independence he is most remembered for his iconic signature on that very historic document in which he very publicly became a traitor to England. And so putting his name on the Declaration of Independence was not just an act of signing a statement so much as making a statement, and in doing so the name John Hancock has become synonymous with the term signature.
 
His stylish autograph was writ bold and large across the centre of the Declaration of Independence and legend has it he quipped “The British Ministry can read that name without spectacles; let them double their reward.” This in response to the bounty the British had placed on the heads of all Revolutionaries.

John Hancock was a colourful, flamboyant character of his time, dressing in the latest fashions indulging in good food and living in a grand home. Some criticized his lifestyle during a time when many had none, but he helped his fellow man and stood proudly to defend their beliefs. His patriotism as well as that auspicious signature are reason enough to justify using John Hancock's birth date to mark such a unique holiday but what many people are not aware of is the fact the he was an advocate of fine handwriting. The signature of this founding father was not just a random thing. As with every other aspect of his life, he devoted himself to developing a fine hand. Not only did he encourage others to refine their writing, he himself practised every day to perfect his own style. So diligent was John Hancock in his quest for beautiful script, he employed a writing master to further his efforts. A noted textbook author and teacher of writing at the Boston School of writing, Abiah Holbrook attended John every week to oversee his progress in maintaining his fine standard of handwriting, and improve upon any weaknesses. 

These days handwriting is a subject for debate, whether we need it or not due to the technical venues that allow us to write faster and produce letters and documents that are legible. There is evidence to suggest that practising cursive writing produces relief from tension and has a therapeutic value. There are those who would argue these points and even another point of view from Lewis Carrol who said “Here is a golden Rule...write legibly. The average temper of the human race would be perceptibly sweetened, if everyone obeyed this Rule!” Whatever your thoughts on handwriting, on January 23rd, why not pick up your pen in honour of John Hancock and National Handwriting Day and make a bold statement of your own.

I leave you with the immortal name that changed America's destiny.



Friday, 16 January 2015

 
 
 
New Stamp Release!
 
 
 
“You're thinking about something, and it makes you forget to talk.”   (or in my case write!)
                                           --Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland.
 
 
Large image of the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Stamp Set


Life has been busy here so my blog has suffered.  I just had to stop for a moment and settle down to write...okay the vacuum broke and I couldn't clean anymore.  Cleaning and clearing has become my occupation these past few weeks. I don't know where all the "stuff" comes from but I amass mountains in very short periods of time.  Probably because I can "see" something in everything and hate to waste anything.  If I can upcycle it, I save it, but it just got a bit out of hand somewhere along the line.  I had to clear a space on my desk so I could actually sit down and write. 

I found my stamp calendar among the wreckage of my desk and realized I totally missed the ball on January 6th when the Royal Mail released these lovelies to commemorate the publishing of Lewis Caroll's book Alice in Wonderland 150 years ago this year.  Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite themes and these stamps look so bright and happy.  I ordered way to many of them but I know I will use them all up. 

Since the onset of the reorganization of everything, I have found a few things I had forgotten about, cool stationery I got for pennies at the charity shop, labels a swapper sent me and gulp, letters.  I'm working on those now.  I've already taken one short stack of outgoing letters to the post office this week and am working on assembling the next passel of post for tomorrow when I go into town.  Hopefully I will get caught up and cleared out and will be set to write more on the blog.