Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I suddenly started writing letters in December 1985. I was on holiday in Sydney with my family, and I really felt the urge to keep in touch with all my schoolmates from Grade 12 in Burnie, who were just then scattering to all points. Well, mostly Launceston and Hobart. When I got back from Sydney and moved to Hobart myself, I kept writing, even to the people who were just across town. I had discovered an outlet for feelings and ideas that, for me, speech didn't ever provide.

This was a time when most of my close mates were girls, and I was busily trying to work out how to make that a plus. I was not a wimp exactly, but pretty unthreatening I guess. I had a long term crush on one of the girls, and was massively in denial of the obvious - that we would always be just good friends. It appears, from decoding the replies, that many of my letters to girls were attempts to work out what made them tick. Must have been very wearing for the girls, some of whom are (incredibly) still friends. I was (and still am) pretty phone-phobic. One girl lived out in the country. I walked 17 kilometres to visit her one day and she wasn't there. I hadn't been prepared to phone ahead and check.

Yesterday after 25 years I finally threw out most of the big bag of the letters I got back. I skimmed the letters before chucking them out.

A few of the keepers.
I am keeping the ones from my family and from blokes. [And a few with really great handwriting, for an art thing I have in mind]. The blokes' letters have actual information about stuff going on, music, sport, things that were happening. And as a bonus, they don't make me cringe. The ones from Mum are very funny to read now. In my first few months living away from home, it seems like we wrote each other every week. I spent the year living at a residential college, and I must have reported on the fairly dissolute ways of the inmates. After the annual College Ball, Mum's next letter says "you can probably get the shirt clean if you bleach it carefully", and "how did your chair get burnt in the first place? You must have been sitting awfully close to the bonfire!"

Once I had grown up a bit and given up on ever understanding girls, I used to write letters as a sort of substitute diary. Writing stuff down gave me a chance to analyse it and think about what was happening in my life. The letters were a sort of proto blog in a way. I will feel I have got better at blogging when I can make it somehow a bit more like a letter - one with bits and pieces thrown in at the last minute before the walk down to the letterbox. Stuff that might not make sense in any way other than "this was here and now I have sent it to you there".

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