Airmail letters to home
There's something wonderful about airmail letters. The image to the left shows the outside of some of the airmail letters I sent home from Europe and Africa between 1991 and 1992. When you hear that in the UK alone, there were 400 million less letters sent through the Royal Mail in 2010 compared to 2009 that you can quickly see how email has taken over as the main form of written communication in the UK, at least.
And yet, looking over those letters I sent home, they invoke a lot of nostalgia because of their sheer physical presence. They are battered from their journey from Morocco, Algeria, Spain, Ghana, Zimbabwe or France, usually by way of stains and greasy finger marks.
They have the stamps from the country, such as the King of Morocco, or Arabic lettering from Algeria, or the black star and national airline of Ghana on them. All have red and blue edging to distinguish them as airmail too. Airmail letters are light and flimsy but they have character. They have travelled as hard as you have to get back to the recipient. They are exciting to open and, as so well illustrated, they keep well, unlike their digital equivalent.
I do like email. It's efficient and cheap. And yet, at the risk of sounding like an old fart, airmail is more romantic than email. It is special because someone has taken the effort not only to write the letter but also to find the airmail and take it to the post office. It brings back a little bit of the spirit of the country you sent it from and people have waited patiently to receive it. And that is the essence of airmail for me. Airmail is slow in our fast paced world. It captures something intangible which an email can never deliver which is the time you have lived through and experienced to be able to sit down and share your journey.
Do they still print airmail letters or 'blueys', as we called them in the Army?
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family and is now a magazine editor and occasional adventure cyclist.
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