December 2016 · Lonely days are gone
Marginalia: Notes written in the margins of a text. Rhymes with Australia!

A letter about letters

Good morning!

Today I have three wee stories for you about the joys of mail, spanning love to friendship to nerdy obsession.

I was set to send this on schedule for November, but was distracted by a bout of food poisoning, then holiday galavanting, then the grimness of the news. I hope wherever you are, and however you're feeling, that you're hanging in there.

Now on with the mail...


VR mailboxWay back in January my magic pal Sas posted a photo of a Victorian post box - the first she'd ever spotted.

The VR initials stand for Victoria Regina, indicating that it was installed under Queen Victoria's reign.

Whaaat. Thirteen years in this country and I'd never noticed that post boxes had monarch initials! 

That's the kind of dorky detail that sparks obsession.

Very soon a postal version of Eye Spy was adding spice and intrigue to car journeys short and long.

As well as our usual Fifeside haunts, this year we've been up the east coast of Scotland. We trekked way down west to the Mull of Kintyre. There was even a day trip to Ayrshire. I did not encounter any Queen Vic action. 

For months, all car trips went like this:


Lots of Georges in these parts.

Stop the car!

Bollocks. It's just another George V. Drive on!

But then. Finally. 

Right in the bloody middle of Dunfermline.

Where I live.

There it was, on the wall opposite the cottage where Andrew Carnegie was born. VR, baby!

Carnegie is pretty much Dunfermline's primary claim to fame. I pictured young Andy posting his letters before he chuffed off across the Atlantic:

Dear friend, I'm arf to America to make my fortune. Dinnae worry, I'll come back and build a library and a nice park. Love, Andrew.

But turns out AC was born in 1835, and emigrated in 1848 aged 13. While QV reigned from 1837-1901, this particular wall box style didn't start until 1881. So there's nae chance he posted his missives at this VR. Hmmph.

I fell into a Wikipedia rabbit hole of British postbox history.

The oldest VR box still in service lives on Guernsey. The rarest type is of course the Edward VIII. After various incarnations of elegant pillar boxes, wall boxes became the norm as they were cheaper to produce and maintain. They soon added the wee hood thing above the slot to keep the rain out. 

Fascinating, I know.

It's good to learn new useless facts, eh? I've actually had another Eye Spy project on the go for twelve years now, I'll spare you that 'til another time.

Anyway, thank you Sas for your inadvertent inspiration!

Answers on a postcard

If you're looking for an easy writing project to spread some joy amongst a group of far-flung friends, I wholeheartedly recommend a Postcard Swap.

We've had one going on the Up & Running Alumni forum since 2014. Each month you're assigned a person from the list and you send them a postcard and someone else sends you one back.

It's such a simple thing, but receiving a tangible object from a person you've only known over the interwaves is magic. The foreign stamp and postmark, their choice of postcard, their handwriting, the little greeting or story they choose to share...

Sending is equally fun - it's a chance to bust out your favourite pens, and the white space of a postcard is so approachable!

Top tip: Keep a bunch of domestic and international stamps and Airmail stickers in your wallet at all times. This way if you see a cool postcard while out and about, you can dash one off.

Our beloved original postmistress Clare passed away last year, and each month I marvel at the intricate spreadsheet she made to assign the swaps. I still can't figure out how you did it, my friend. I've resorted to a clunky Strip the Willow-esque system where I just move everyone up one place each month.

Most months I'm late getting the swap list up. And we're all usually at least a month behind with our cards. But it feels like a beautiful way to honour Clare, celebrate our wee community, and remember that behind the keyboards these brilliant women are real

Pictured above: Ziggy posing with her postcard likeness, as penned by Up & Runner, writer and pastry chef Frances.

Modern love

Gareth is not a love letters kind of bloke. He's not into date nights or romantic getaways. He doesn't buy flowers, "because if I did you'd know something was wrong".

He shows his love on a practical, everyday level. He takes the bins out, he fixes broken appliances, he brushes the cat, he does much of the housework, "because you're shite at it".

And he makes the best cup of tea. If I'm on the phone to Rhi or Mum or a client, he'll pop in and wordlessly hand over a fresh brew. That is love, that is life, in my book.

Awhile back after watching Stranger Things, he was absolutely appalled to find out I've never seen a bunch of classic 1980s movies, such as Alien, Gremlins, Goonies, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. What can I say? I never went to a cinema until I was 14. #farmlife

A couple of weeks later a parcel arrived in the post. It was a DVD copy of Ghostbusters.

Inside was a brief note:

Love, Gareth.

That was the most romantic thing ever! He had 1) remembered a conversation that happened weeks earlier and 2) actually spent money on something #tightarsescotsman. 

I will treasure it forever. Also, how good is Ghostbusters!?

(It was thirteen years on November 2 since we got together so forgive me, I'm feeling mushy!)


Not long after I wrote the above, my grandmother passed away. While tidying up Nanny's house, the Mothership discovered a cache of love letters that Poppy wrote to his young sweetheart while doing his national service in the late 1940s.

Mum read me a letter in which Poppy described in great detail how much it was raining in Sydney (for an Aussie farmer, precipitation is always a top topic). There was talk of a local dance. And he hoped Nanny was getting over her 'flu, but remember Daphne, these things take time to run their course.

The best bit was that he signed off with very enthusiastic declaration of love, followed by dozens of tiny hearts drawn into an inch-wide smiley-face shape. He did that on every letter.

So wonderful to find out my tough cookie grandparents were such lovebirds. Swoon.

Things of the Month



Lettery Links

From me, with love: the lost art of letter writingOne letter can change your life – or someone else’sThe next generation of stationery loversWrite To Them – letters to your MP made easy • Wall Of Us – four concerete actions of resistance in your inbox each week

There must be some word today

For your ears this month - a superb selection of songs about the post. Featuring Stevie Wonder, Britney Spears, The Proclaimers, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Nick Cave and more. Contains themes of longing. I love a bit of longing! I live to long.

Wishing you a dashing December. Thank you for reading and see you in 2017!


Forward to a comrade
Copyright © 2016 Shauna Reid Writes, All rights reserved.