Such a lovely surprise on our doormat yesterday - a fluorescent green envelope addressed in the unmistakable handwriting of granddaughter Hazel. Inside the envelope a sheet of bright orange notepaper - I can’t remember
when we have ever had such colourful mail.
You can’t imagine the pleasure of having a new pen-pal! Especially one with so much going on in her young life,
so many experiences to share, and who writes so regularly and so lovingly. It’s even better that she writes in English, unlike two of my pen-pals from my schooldays.
To be fair, Sandy from Iowa, USA, did write in English. We corresponded somewhat fitfully until she married at the age of eighteen after which I never heard from her again. Somewhere I do have the wedding photograph she sent me and, through the mists
of time, I have an inkling that her married name was Mullins. Where are you now, Sandy Mullins, I wonder?
Then there was Michelle, who lived on the outskirts
of Paris. In the French capital, while on a touring holiday of Europe with my brother when I was about 13, we tried to find her address but our combined attempts to speak the lingo were not up to the task and we weren’t staying long enough to expend
precious time on a Search For A Pen-Pal. Finally there was Otmar from Germany who didn’t last too long through absolutely no fault of his own. I fear my O Level German simply wasn’t up to the task of meaningful correspondence.
The Eldest and the Youngest of the Darling Daughters both enjoyed much greater success in matters Pen-Pal Related. The Eldest enjoyed a fruitful friendship with Tina from Denmark,
the highlight being an exchange of visits, enabling my daughter to sample the delights of the original Legoland while we did our level best to give her Danish friend a Welcome to Britain that she would always remember. It is safe to say that Tina’s English
was vastly superior to our (non-existent) command of the Danish language, to the extent that she could tell jokes in English. Since that time I have always considered the telling of jokes (including an sensible punchline) to be a fair test of someone’s
fluency in a language other than their own.
The Youngest of the Darling Daughters looked even further afield for a pen-pal, happening on Sarah from Australia who,
after some years of writing to and fro, helped my youngest daughter fulfil a long-held ambition to travel Down Under. We, in turn, opened house and home to Sarah and two of her friends - and I believe the pen-pals are still in touch to this day which is pretty
good going, seeing the number of years that have passed since their schooldays.
Hazel, being the daughter of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, therefore has
the advantage of an excellent role model - and not only, I might add, in Pen-Pal Etiquette. As a pen-pal, indeed, she is par excellence. This week’s letter, she tells us, was written in her favourite coffee shop; it seems she likes to spread her favours
across any number of shops but this is The One. Writing back, I congratulate her on being just like me and wonder if her coffee shops offer loyalty cards. My purse, I tell her, is bursting with loyalty cards, so much so that there’s no room for money…
I have decided that I will carefully save all the letters my Multi-Coloured Pen-Pal sends me. In years to come, I will produce them for her to read because her young heart
is written large in every line. The challenges and the triumphs of following her dream of a life on stage; confiding the times when she wept with homesickness; but then the joys of finding her feet and growing in confidence, of feeling independent - but realising,
at the same time, how much Home means to her.
Writing straight from the heart - she is, indeed, the very best of pen-pals. In glorious technicolour, too!