I always thought the Blades family lit up The Stair-they were great fun and always seemed to be very go-ahead. One of their innovations was writing to pen-pals in the United States, which must have gone beyond just writing, but actually meeting up. On Saturday, 5 August, 1972 Liz introduced me to her American pen-pal, Lisa. They soon had me doing the same and introduced me to a girl called Peggy Burbank from New York; over the next year or two I was exchanging letters with her.
Receiving letters through the post was a thrill, particularly with the foreign stamps. These were the days before mobile phones were even a dream, never mind the internet, Twitter, Facebook or blogging.
On balance the world's much better for the improvement and speed of communication. Waiting on tenterhooks for the postman to drop a letter through the door from a girlfriend or boyfriend was a wonderful thrill-however if it didn't arrive one had to wait a whole twenty four hours; it was agony and one had to be patient and endure.
Writing a letter did mean that one was perhaps a little more considered and there was a delay before the finality of posting the letter through the post box down from Dr Motley's surgery. And, because there wouldn't be an uplift until the following morning one could delay sending the missive. Today it's too easy and immediate to press the send button or the publish button on the blog. Even now I feel that slight hesitation-what are the ramifications?
Whilst in the short term the immediacy of communication is wonderful, in the long view having letters from forty years ago opens a window on the past-people can speak to you from beyond the grave, so to speak.
My father Ken Hoffmann was a wonderful letter writer. My grandmother was always encouraging him to write about his adventures across the seven seas. He wrote to me from America, Japan, China, Australia, Argentina and Romania to name a few.
And, as the saying goes, When I was sixteen I thought my father knew nothing; by the age of twenty one (or fifty six) I was surprised at how much the old man had learned!