I talk with Annie, my ex-wife, maybe once a week and we chat about all the things best friends do. Of course, we have our children and now their children so there is never a shortage of catching up, but give her an opportunity and she can turn into a real ‘Grumpy Granny’.
All I need to do is ask her opinion on politics, the NHS, commuting, or a thousand other topics and she tells me what she thinks. As often she phones from her car, commuting home, I worry about her safety. As she speaks faster, and the volume rises I just hope that the emotion doesn’t transfer down to her right foot. So, over the weeks I’ve discovered that if I need help to find a topic to write about all I need to do is phone her and she can be a wonderful inspiration.
However, today I feel mellow and just a little tired, and although there a thousand and one possible issues to rail against I can’t raise either the energy or enthusiasm for a swipe at anyone or anything. I thought about phoning Annie, but she is at work and, in the way my mind works, it made think about the days we used to write to each other.
Our first letters were just before we married over thirty years ago when I was working in Malawi and she was in London. The letters were hand written on flimsy air mail paper and were a life line to my past and future. I remember the excitement when the mail arrived at the office in Blantyre and there was a letter from home. Intuitively I knew that it had passed through many hands, but I would still smell the outside to recognise her perfume. The thought that her lips had sealed the envelope added even more piquancy. The letters and my reply were no more than weekly, and we were always out of synch, but I never cared.
Now, I write to Sasha, but we use email, but that doesn’t matter. We write every day and my day does not start properly until I read what she has to say. I can read her love in the words and I don’t need an envelope with SWALK to know what we have is more than good. It is great.
I heard that my Grandfather, Joe, who lived in Huddersfield and his then fiancée (later my Grandmother, Grace) who lived in Selby would also write to each other. Though only thirty miles apart, for them, some days, it must have seemed as far away as Sasha is for me in Kiev. At the turn of the 20th century he would work five and half days every week and the trip to Selby, thirty miles away, must have seemed impossible.
Somewhere the letters between Annie and I are safely stored in an attic but, of course, those between Sasha and me are saved somewhere on an electronic cloud. Someday I may sort them all into one big file. It will very large. Each year between us we write approximately the equivalent of three novels. We have been together and writing to each other for over five years. Well you can do the calculations.
The letters shared between my Grandparents is family folk lore we do not have them. I do not know if they were ever saved. Learning that my Grandparent’s romance was based on love letters pleases me, but I am not sure I want to read all the thoughts they exchanged. Would my imagination of the love that must have shared in their romance be diminished if I had to read all the minutia of their letters?
I think the same of about Sasha and my letters. Would I want Bertie and other Grandchildren to find them in a couple of generations time?
Let’s be honest. They are not just love letters but cover everything that is in a normal relationship. We moan about the weather, complain about being apart, talk about love, reminisce about the days we have been together, and fantasise about all the different ways we would make love.
To a third party our words would mean nothing, and probably be mundane, but to family and friends they explain my life. They would add colour and interpretation. But, I might be a tad embarrassed by some of the racier and naughty thoughts Sasha and I share. However, they are safe for the moment and I will keep them under wraps and safe until I am long gone.
There is, however, one reason that I might want others to read them.
There is a perception (particularly among the young) that love is the preserve of the young and that by the time my age is reached I should have grown up, be thinking of hot water bottles, Zimmer frames and pureed food. Let me tell them all it is very different.
Earth shattering love, a tearing heart, roses, and night-time adventures are not just for the young. They are for everyone. Maybe the testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin don’t flow as fast as they used to, but they are still very much there.
The words written in love letters are the proof that love is there for everyone, forever.