Opinion: I salute all those who wield a pen in the name of letter writing
I am not the first to remark that the art and practice of personal letter writing are fast fading. More immediate and cost-effective methods like text, email and a variety of electronic chats, snaps and apps have replaced the handwritten epistle.
The beauty and the tragedy of these new communication mechanisms is that they require little time, care and reflection. Spelling, punctuation, layout and logical order don't matter - just get the message across and that will do.
Rather than sit and bemoan the looming demise of the handwritten letter, I suppose it is better to celebrate it and remember it for what it was while enjoying the occasional gem that finds its way through the post box.
In the last number of months, since I started writing this column and following the passing of my father, I received more personal letters in the post than I had for a long time.
Like everybody, most letters I get nowadays are business missives of one kind or another, giving me hard information on the soft nature of my finances. There is also the constant stream of glossy booklets offering once-in-a-lifetime deals on everything from gas and electricity to special meal deals from the local burger and chip emporium. At least once a week the staid and sterile bundle of post will have in its midst a warm handwritten envelope with a real stamp.
It is lovely to get a handwritten letter or even a typed personal letter. When the post includes such an epistle, it excites both curiosity and anticipation. I will open it last knowing it contains something of a more personal nature than "Dear Householder". In a rare fit of delayed gratification, I wait to savour the contents.
A handwritten letter tells you that someone has taken the time to sit and consider and write. It represents a real personal investment in terms of effort, energy and time.
I'm reminded of my secondary school days and the Dean going from table to table distributing the post. The tall Corkman would glide around the refectory calling out names and, without even looking up from the bundle of envelopes, would send the relevant letter flying towards each recipient with deadly accuracy.