I have previously mentioned on this blog about how much I like to send handwritten letters. Using a lovely fountain pen given to me as a gift by Julie, and investing in quality paper and envelopes too. My regular letter recipients are few these days, as many have decided that email is good enough. I now only send letters to a select few; those who reply in kind, bothering to put pen to paper. The price of stamps is a consideration of course. And they are due to increase soon, making the mailing of a physical letter something of a luxury in the 21st century. Rowland Hill would turn in his grave.
Of course, all of the above should have been in the past tense, as I can no longer write properly. The cause of this problem is one of those small things. Something you don’t think twice about at the time, but has lasting repercussions that you would never have imagined.
Late last summer, our new neighbours had decided to start to store their wheelie bins against the side of our house. I presume this made life a little easier for them, as it meant they would have to only move them a short distance on collection day, and they could also get out of their side gate more easily, without having to negotiate the three bins in the process. At first, I didn’t bother about them. They were not in the way, and caused us no obstruction, despite being on the narrow strip of grass that marks the boundary of our property.
However, as the summer drew to a close, we had a hot spell. Despite having secure lids, the bins began to attract flies and wasps. If we had our windows open on that side, then they would of course come into our house too. Then I noticed that they were killing off a fair bit of the grass that they were stood on, so it was time for them to go. I went next door to ask the neighbour to move them permanently, but there was no reply. I wrote a note to put through the door, explaining why I would be moving the bins back to their wall, and asking them not to put them back there in the future. I wheeled two of the bins across the driveway, and went back for the third.
As I casually grabbed the handle to tip it prior to wheeling, I got something of a shock. I can only conclude that it must have been filled with Plutonium or Uranium, as I had never moved anything as heavy as this bin on my own, in my entire life. I chose not to examine the contents, just in case. After dragging it the few feet, I put the note through the door. As I did so, the door opened and the young man appeared. I explained about the bins, and asked him not to do it again. He was profusely apologetic, and assured me that he had not realised it would be an issue, before promising never to do anything like that again. I was happy to have resolved the situation so amicably, and returned home.
I soon realised that my right wrist was hurting. Within a few hours, it was hurting a great deal more, and slightly swollen too. By bedtime, I had to take pain killers to get to sleep, and the next morning, it was worse than the day before. I could still use it though, and nothing seemed to be broken. I concluded that I had sprained my wrist, and that it would get better eventually. And it did, but it took much longer than I expected. Once the pain had gone, the wrist never felt quite right. Trying to open jars was harder than ever, and rotating it around, as in elevating a lever-action door handle for instance, was surprisingly tricky.
Then one day, I sat down to reply to a letter I had received. As soon as I took hold of my pen, I was aware that something was strange. I couldn’t hold it properly and was not able to maintain the correct angle for the nib to make contact with the paper. I changed to a ballpoint pen which was easier to grasp, but then found that the flow of my normal handwriting was impossible to achieve. I had to keep stopping, change my grasp on the pen, and try again. After one paragraph, I gave up. Two days later, I tried again. Still no good. It was as if I had forgotten how to write with a pen, and no matter how many times I tried, it took forever to complete one long sentence.
Since then , I have typed my letters, sending apologies, and the reason for doing so. But it just isn’t the same. The whole point of personal correspondence is the handwriting, or it might as well be an email. That simple incident last summer has changed something forever. Even my signature is hard to do now, and I have to think carefully before signing a cheque. I can manage block capitals, and a couple of lines on a card. I still write out a shopping list every week, but that’s hardly a five-page letter, with all the news from Norfolk.
I miss handwriting, more than I ever thought I would.
(I presumed that you all know who Rowland Hill was. Perhaps you don’t. Why should you?)