National Pen Pal Day


It’s National Pen Pal Day, a time to send special letters to your pen pals.

Now, it’s quite possible that you’ve never heard of a pen pal (that’s Pen Pal, not PayPal!). After all, why would anybody write a letter when we live in the world of instant communication? Quite, you may say, but when I was young – and yes, I’ve been around for quite some time now – unless it was a short telephone conversation (ten pence worth at the phone box) – you wrote a letter.

Communication was a considered affair. It took time and effort and you really thought about what you wanted to say rather than firing off a text, WhatsApp or email in the heat of the moment. There was practically zero chance that you were going to address it to the wrong person – imagine sending a love letter to your boss by mistake! Never happened. And there was something magical, poetic and romantic about it.

I remember writing letters to my teenage pen pal somewhere in France and eagerly awaiting a letter, and then writing to my boyfriend, spending hours thinking of what to say, writing it, screwing it up, writing it again, ending up with piles of paper on the floor and then going to the post box to wait, and wait and wait… yes, some things never change girls – you waited for a letter just as now you wait for a text! But those letters did eventually arrive and I still have a tin of love letters in my loft, just waiting for my children to discover them one day and realise that I was special to somebody once.

We go to museums and read letters of famous historical figures and sometime those letters end up being auctioned because they give a fascinating insight into the past; I sometimes wonder what the museums of tomorrow will look like and what will be missing as electronic communication is so disposable.

Letters used to be opened at the start of the day. You dealt with the post whether at home or work, decided how to action it – file or reply – and then got on with your day. We weren’t constantly checking our phones and mobile devices. Communication was generally via telephone or post and was less stressful – not worrying about checking several different emails accounts, the spam folder, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn messages, tagged comments….. no, you dealt with your post it in the morning and the rest of the time we had to – well – talk to one another!

I work in tech. I know how important electronic communication is for your business and of course there are benefits with a global outreach and quick communications that can be hugely beneficial, but this bank holiday what about switching off?

You could even create your very own piece of history, and write somebody that you care about a letter!