Yesterday I received a letter, not the usual sort that appears on the door mat every day from people wanting to sell me cheaper electricity or gas, or a new car, and not even one of those from a charity, telling me that for £1 per week I could save a child in Africa, or help prevent cancer.

No, this was a proper, newsy, hand written letter. I found it on the door mat as I left the house to go shopping, and my first reaction was to rip it open and read it straight away. I resisted, and put it in my handbag, where it waited , like a present that I wanted to open, but at the same time wanted to save. When I got into town, I bought a coffee and sat down to read.

It made me think about how things have changed in my lifetime, and of the letters my parents kept, which I now have, and the letters I myself have kept. Read in the right order, they probably tell a lot about our lives and people we have known and loved.

The first letter in my story is from my grandmother, written on her birthday in 1949, in response to the telegram she had just received, telling her of my birth that day. Her excitement jumps out from the page, as she tells my Dad that my Mum will be able to travel from Bristol to Darlington soon, if she gets a “Karri-Kot”.

The next letter is from my little brother Leslie, telling me about the choir outing he’d been on. He was 12, and I was 17, and I was working in a Barnardo’s home. During the three years that I worked there, I went on holiday to the Isle of Wight, for two weeks, and during that time I wrote to the staff in my nursery, and received a reply, telling me how the children were, and that my days off had been changed for the week I was due back. I can’t imagine writing more than a postcard from my holidays now, let alone receiving a reply!

My next letters are to and from Mick, my first husband, when we were engaged. They make us sound exactly what we were, too young to be thinking about marriage, and desperately trying to be grown up!

There’s a letter from me, that my mother kept, telling her how much I loved the wedding invitations she’d chosen…I sound a bit prissy, if I’m honest!

When Dad died, I inherited all the letters he and my Mum had written to each other when they were young. especially fascinating are those where Mum is telling him how Derek and I are progressing. More than that, they give an insight into what sort of young people they were, just starting out on life, and full of hope after the war.

There are letters in that box too, from other relatives. My Auntie Cis’s voice rings out from one of them, as she relates a story and takes the mickey out of another relative.

In with those letters, there are also letters from my Granny, my Dad’s mum. I cried as I read one, written after the death of my dad’s sister, Hilda. She died of tuberculosis, aged 28. Granny’s pain is terrible. You can feel it in every word.

The final letters in my collection are to and from my husband Mike. They will be there for my family to read in years to come.

They will tell the last part of my story.


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