Write me a letter...
Isn’t it nice to receive a letter? I mean a real letter, written by a friend or relative in real ink, on real paper? I have three old school friends who, like me, refuse to switch to e-mails for our personal correspondence.
I love the long, flowing letters and the peculiar way one of my friends crosses her t’s and underlines important statements followed by several exclamation marks.
I am something of a philatelist, so the envelopes are always covered with the latest issued stamps. You may have a flash banner or a moving icon on your e-mail, but you cannot beat the beautifully coloured stamps, engraved lovingly by an esteemed artist or produced by a photographer like the latest Charles and Camilla engraved engagement stamps.
Some of my friends use beautifully-engraved note paper, others hotel writing paper or whatever is at hand. The weirdest writing paper I ever received came from my oldest friend, when years ago she was an economically-strapped apprentice designer at a famous Paris fashion house. She used to write to me in a spidery hand on the then crisp French toilet paper.
Another friend was in the habit of reusing letters sent to her from companies or lawyers. Although her letters were written on the back of these missives, I was often momentarily confused trying to locate pages two or three. I am aware that letter writing is a dying art, though my nephew does surprise me occasionally by sending me postcards from places like the Czech Republic. For the most part, the young travellers today head for the nearest internet cafe to chat to their friends, when travelling to London, New York or Sydney. A number of airlines are now offering e-mail facilities on board their flights such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates.
In the not-too-distant future the next-generation telephones will provide text messaging and internet connections so sophisticated that a visual image and message will be sent instantaneously. No more waiting for holiday snaps, walking to the post office to send your letters home, waiting for the postman to deliver the replies.
The ‘now’ generation has arrived. And how will this affect travel agencies and travellers? It heralds a paperless age. Last week, I returned from Ireland to Dubai using an e-ticket, which I guess saves the airlines money, though I could not quite see any advantage for the passenger.
The films on board the flights were Hollywood’s latest – no more waiting as in the old days for the producers to allow top films onto airlines. There was a telephone in the seat for me to use to keep in touch with family or office. And we flew in a 300-seater wide-body jet at almost the same speed, which broke the air speed record for fighter jets 40 years ago.
Travel agents today need to be able to present a vacation package with insights into the hotels and tours in their own offices through DVDs and videos, so the traveller can make an intelligent decision on the most cost-effective and attractive holidays.
Travellers expect to be in touch with everybody on the way to and at the destination itself. Perhaps this headlong rush into speedy travel is why the cruise ships in the Caribbean, horse trekking in Iceland, gypsy caravanning in Ireland and boating on English and French canals are now all the rage representing a desire to recapture the age of leisurely travel.
The advent of the internet will probably spell the end of an era.
No more love letters in perfumed envelopes initialled SWALK (sealed with a little kiss) – this age of innocence is practically already gone today. No more Dear John letters (sorry I have found someone else), no more congratulatory letters on the start of a new job or a well-deserved promotion.
For me it will mean being unable to buy the smallest and possibly cheapest souvenirs in the world – postage stamps from countries around the globe, which somehow always seem to symbolise the spirit of a nation.
No more photographs of cute letter boxes – yellow in Cyprus, blue in Dubai, green in Ireland and red in the UK and Denmark. The internet means speed. The mobile telephone represents the ultimate in speedy communications.
But for some people, the internet is too impersonal and when we want to share our new experiences, it is just a sheer delight to return to the hotel, pull out a crisp and clean letter-headed sheet of paper from the desk and with a fountain pen (never a ballpoint), write down our impressions, savouring every word, as we shape the letters into a personal message such as: “Dear reader, isn’t it nice to receive a letter…”