(Mem.: mail system undergoing change; write encouraging post )

I am delighted…

with my newly arrived  Persephone Books ;

In love with My Persephone Books

Delighted with My Persephone Books

with their dove grey  jackets,

their carefully  selected endpapers,



and matching bookmarks,

Designer Bookmarks

Designer Bookmarks

and I’m  smitten with the cute  Lil packets they came in.

(Mem.: Refrain from vigorous mail opening.  Reduces ability to decipher messages written on envelope.)

And I am also delighted to report that the happy Lil mailing pouches were able to land, safe and dry, in a new mail box.

And the mail person aka as the postie was most likely just as delighted to be able to  place the mail in a secure receptacle, at long last.

Prim,  Proper, Practical

Prim, Proper, Practical

However, I miss the  old mail pail. It was full of character

Will this start a new trend?

Will this start a new trend? (Query: it didn’t; possible design flaws? )

and gave me a laugh but, unhappily, it was also full of water whenever it rained; which was frequently, during March and April and the first part of May. So, it had to go, back to hibernation in my neighbour’s garage.

Because the shared mail pail worked out well for my neighbour and I, we decided we would continue with our joint mail box. It seemed the economical, practical thing to do. (Mem.: ponder that an incident of vandalism, which could have produced fearfulness and distrust and heightened security has led to an atmosphere of greater trust and openness. …)

( Query: What was the postal delivery system like for Delafield and Woolf circa 1930s, when people exchanged letters almost as frequently as current trend with text and tweets;  Answers possibly found here: “Robin’s letter arrives by second post, ”  and  here and here

W H Auden ” This is the Night Mail “

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door……..

Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides —

Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and printed and the spelt all wrong….

(Mem.: Consider consulting McCall Smith on  why  W H Auden still matters  ; and whether they can say if the post still matters. Suspect it jolly well does. )

© silkannthreades



107 thoughts on “(Mem.: mail system undergoing change; write encouraging post )

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    after a trip to the city of quito and back, i walked from the bus stop to the hostal last night and collapsed into deep sleep. (one that had been blessed thanks to long-ago poems of beauty!)…

    now this morning i am enjoying a catchup marathon on your site… after scrolling down and enjoying your writings while pondering which photo made me hungries, i returned to this one! i’m glad that you have a rain-free mailbox, though your old one will always be special!

    i am so very sorry that Life has put so many troubling things on your plate. At times you must feel so overwhelmed, especially when you cannot be there physically for your loved ones. As always, I’m sending you strong energy and hoping that the heavy clouds will soon let the sun shine on your gardens…. btw, i LOVE seeing the tangle of flowers outside your window, especially those cheerful nasturtiums!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      You are so sweet to catch up on all my blogs and send me strong energy. There have been some good moments since I last posted, and I am trying to simply do what I can and not worry about what I can’t. I thought of you yesterday when I saw this story on the BBC about the dazzle ships of World War One; it seemed to me that you could paint a boat like this http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/gallery-world-war-dazzle-ship-7246865

  2. Clanmother

    My dear friend! Letters can be felt, read, reread, saved in a special box for the next generation to discover what it was like to be part of our world. It is a way to connect with others, past and present. This was brought home to me this past week, when my computer had a meltdown in front of me, while I was writing a post. There I was, staring at a blank screen, profoundly aware that I had been cut off from the world. I had my iPhone, but even at its best, it cannot substitute for looking at photos and reading larger fonts. So up until two days ago, I was “computerless.”

    Digital communication is now ubiquitous, but we don’t have an address or location – simply mysterious IP addresses that have no meaning whatsoever to me. But there is no mistaking that we are writing letters to each other. Great to be back – looking forward to catching up on all of your posts! 🙂

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Glad you are back! I live in fear and dread of computer meltdowns. Not so much because I worry about losing data but because of the hassle of getting the computer repaired, or, heaven forbid, having to get another one. And, yes, letters are so much nicer to hold and pass on; handing someone a disc or a USB stick is not quite as satisfactory, and may eventually be indecipherable. 😉

  3. Mrs. P

    I do prefer the look of your new post box but your documentation of the old pail will certainly bring a smile to someone’s face in the future. 🙂

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Whilst out today I saw another wonderfully inventive makeshift mail box but, alas, I didn’t have my camera or my phone camera to record its existence.

  4. April

    Although I rather enjoyed your mail pail, it would be nice to receive items dry. I kind of miss receiving mail, other than junk advertisements.

  5. shoreacres

    Isn’t it strange? Here, there, everywhere — I come across people saying how they miss the old letters, the post cards, the greeting cards on special occasions. Perhaps this needs to be a next revolution. If everyone who says they miss the joy of writing were to write one letter each week — even a short one, just for practice! — soon there would be letters winging their way all around the world.

    It’s not an entirely lost art. I know a woman who writes to soldiers on a regular basis — not because she’s related to them, but only because she knows they need to hear from “home”. I admire her, and have said so. Have I taken the time to do the same? No. And the reason? I can’t think of any, except perhaps a touch of laziness.

    I’ve always loved Auden’s poem, and the memories it brings back of those wonderful matching sheets of beautiful paper and envelopes. I always was fond of cream, with an embossed edge. Do they even sell stationery any more? Surely they must. I believe I’ll find some and write a letter.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      All this talk of letters….and I received one today from a friend who hasn’t written in 2 years. How wonderful it was to hear from her. Will I write back? I hope so. But chances are I will phone first.
      And, yes, I do admire those good people who write to soldiers, or undertake card and letter ministry.
      Beautiful stationery is available. I know folk who order from MOO http://uk.moo.com/products/?gclid=CLDH8PD3yL4CFVgRvQodJYQAqw and I know folk who find beautiful stationery and cards in thrift stores. There really is no excuse not to write (stern reminder to self!)

  6. Su Leslie

    Wonderful post! I love the Auden poem and the film is such a classic. Benjamin Britten wrote the music and it was narrated by John Grierson who is a hero of mine. And as for your mailbox!!!! It rivals an early one of ours. When we first came back to NZ we didn’t have much money and for some reason the previous owners of the house took their mailbox away. Seeing the price of a new one, we bought a plastic kitchen pedal bin and nailed that to the post. It lasted for ages (despite our neighbours all hating it). I suspect that if we’d had a paint pail, the Big T would have loved to re-purpose that instead. 🙂

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Can you imagine our Post Office producing something similar to The Night Mail? Do you have a photo of your fabulous kitchen bin mail box? I would have loved it. I was also horrified by the price of mail boxes. They are still way too expensive in my opinion.

      1. Su Leslie

        I can’t even imagine Royal Mail producing anything so eloquent and beautiful these days! And no, we don’t have a photo of the bin sadly.

        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Oh well, some images are destined to be a part of our memories, only. Did you study Grierson, or are you a passionate follower in the way that some of us today are passionate about all things Attenborough?

        2. Su Leslie

          I studied film as part of my MA — last century. And I love documentary film-making!

  7. Miss Lou

    Yay for #SnailMail – and the new home for it as it arrives! I always feel so happy whenever I get personalised snail mail – though it is rare (unless I purchase stuff from ebay)

    Beautiful Books… and I loved ‘This is the Night Mail’

    and Yes.. it still matters 🙂


  8. Marylin Warner

    Wonderful post, but I was mesmerized by the end papers. How lovely!
    And the mail boxes are a delight! When I was a little girl, my brother and I wanted to send dandelions to our grandmother–she had shown us how to rub them on our noses and make yellow “paint”–but we were too young to understand the process. We picked all the dandelions we could find and put them in the big mailbox at the end of the street.
    I remember our mother making us sit and wait for the mailman. We had to apologize and help him carefully clean out our mess…

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      That is a sweet memory. I am sure the mailman was secretly amused. I imagine far worse things end up in mailboxes. Those dandelions were true love letters.

  9. Kate

    What a lovely posts and your books are so pretty. I love the Auden poem too 🙂 It’s always so nice to get something lovely in the mail x

  10. Steve Schwartzman

    I used to write letters, often long ones, and when I traveled I would squeeze as much onto a post card as many people put into a letter. All that is now mostly gone after the death of parents and other older relatives and the birth of the Internet.

    I’m reminded of the famous poem by Roaslía de Castro, which I’ll copy here and give a simple translation of:

    Hora tras hora, día tras día,
    entre el cielo y la tierra que quedan
    eternos vigía,
    como torrente que se despeña
    pasa la vida.

    Devolvedle a la flor su perfume
    después de marchita;
    de las ondas que besan la playa
    y que una tras otra besándola expiran,
    recoged los rumores, las quejas,
    y en planchas de bronce grabad su armonía.

    Tiempos que fueron llantos y risas,
    negros tormentos, dulces mentiras,
    ¡ay!, ¿en dónde su rastro dejaron,
    en dónde, alma mía?


    Hour after hour, day after day,
    Between the heavens and the earth
    That keep up their eternal vigil,
    Like a torrent plunging off a cliff,
    Passes life.

    Give the flower back its fragrance
    After it has dried out;
    Of the waves that kiss the beach
    And that one after another expire while kissing it,
    Gather up the murmurs, the complaints,
    And record their harmony on bronze tablets.

    Times that once were, weeping and laughing,
    Dark torments, sweet lies:
    Oh! Where have they left a trace,
    Where, o my soul?

      1. Steve Schwartzman

        A good article, that. It mentions the Indian state of Orissa, a name I coincidentally encountered for the first time last week in an early part of the book The Righteous Mind:


        A psychologist whose work influenced the book’s author had spent some time in Orissa and documented differences between the prevailing moral codes in Orissa and the United States.

      2. Steve Schwartzman

        I haven’t yet listened to any of Haidt’s TED talks, but his book makes clear that there are indeed differences: Schweder [a psychological anthropologist] “had found large differences in how Oriyans (residents of Orissa) and Americans thought about personality and individuality, and these differences led to corresponding differences in how they thought about morality.”

      3. Steve Schwartzman

        A couple of examples of things that Indians said were wrong but Americans said were acceptable:

        A woman cooked rice and wanted to eat with her husband and his elder brother. Then she ate with them.

        A widow in your community eats fish two or three times a week.

  11. Tiny

    Happy your beautiful books arrived dry and colorful in your new mail box! It’s a pity that letter writing is all but gone now, I still get some cards but my dad has been the only one to write letters in years…

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It has almost gone. Occasionally I will sit down to hand write a letter or card but the words don’t flow as smoothly as before because I am so used to typing out emails now.

      1. Tiny

        It’s the same with me. I wrote a card this morning and it took such a long time because I knew it had to be right from the get go, there was no back button.

  12. Alexander Lautsyus

    These books look nice and for sure interesting to read. It is even pleasure to hold it in the hands I think. I like the poem. As usual your post informative and interesting. Thank you.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The Diary of a Provincial Lady is actually available free online but I wasn’t enjoying the online reading experience; I really wanted to hold a nice book in my hand. These Persephone books are a perfect weight and size for that. The poem is fun and poignant, too.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I will be reading Flush for the first time and I am looking forward to it. In the meantime I am simply admiring the look of the book!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Heather. The time must be drawing near to when you will be communicating face to face with your family. No mail boxes, virtual or real, required. 🙂

      1. Heather in Arles

        I leave next Wednesday! I am so excited that I can hardly think about anything else – including responding at length to a gorgeous post!! 😮

  13. sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.

    Terrific post. I also miss hand written letters. I miss the warmth, the love and caring sent along with the letter. Picking up the mail simply isn’t the same any longer. I loved you were ‘allowed’ to use the bucket for your mail. Our postal system is broke but not for anything would they deliver mail to a depository as quaint and charming as your bucket. I loved reading this post.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      We do have requirements for letter boxes here but postal delivery services are very accommodating, especially in Christchurch, where we have had to make do after the earthquakes. Glad you enjoyed my ‘post’; not hand written but it was put together with love and care. 🙂

  14. Juliet

    What a delightful post! The books are beautiful, but why are they called Persephone Books? Is that the publisher’s name. Love the Auden poem. Letters: how precious they are, and how rare they are becoming.

  15. Travelling Kiwi

    Your new books are gorgeous, especially the endpapers and matching bookmarks. I adore beautiful endpapers. What a treat to christen your new mail box. But I loved your old mailbox too; it was very quirky. Couldn’t a few little holes drilled in the bottom have resolved your watery dilemma?
    Talking of snail mail – we get this quite literally in our mail box, as we often have snails make their way into our mailbox and start to chew on the letters. Fortunately they like the bills the most.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      In normal circumstances I think the old pail would have been okay but it couldn’t cope with the deluges we’ve been having. And I know the snail problem well. I don’t think they will like the new mail box but one never knows; some of the mail just might prove too tempting!!!

  16. lagottocattleya

    As i was working in post offices for 22 years, I love snail mail. It’s the hand writing, the effort and the love of making letters by hand…I keep sending Christmas cards…If I were young and had a love to write to, I would send hand written letters. Nowadays people have almost lost sense of writing/using a pencil. I liked the locust thing…and I’ll use the expression if I may!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The locust mail is a great expression isn’t it? I think the locust mail may be one reason that we will eventually see a return to handwritten mail, just as our distaste for our fast food culture has brought about the slow food movement. By the way, your Christmas card is my bookmark for my daily poetry book. I greet you every day. 😀

  17. thecontentedcrafter

    Your old mail box quite tickled my fancy – and I love the idea of sharing with a neighbour too! [Good neighbour relationshjps are tending to go the same way as snail mail I fear]. I used that poem once only in all my years of teaching – shame on me! It is so evocative………

    As a new follower I do not have the back story and am intrigued with your new books – they do look lovely! I am enjoying reading your posts very much!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      No shame at all, considering I only discovered the poem the other day…that is probably more shameful! It takes a while to catch up with our ‘back stories’, but I see from your Etsy store that you live in one of my favourite places, Dunedin. I have much family history in Dunedin, and for many of my forbears it became their final resting place.

  18. Just Add Attitude

    I love the ‘chug-chug’ of Auden’s poem. And I also love your new Persephone books with their simple but striking dove grey jackets and beautiful end pieces. Congratulations on the new mail box and it’s great that it stands proud as a symbol of trust. 😉

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh, for the long lost days of excess mail! But, yes, that would be fun, although we might find it filled with junk mail. The Persephone books are works of art. You would probably enjoy a visit to their bookstore and the surrounding shops if you haven’t already been. I haven’t. I just drool at the photos on their website!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It is indeed a kind of celebration. Is it too late to have a street party, I wonder? Signed #@$&R)(*& Anne. ( You are quite right that all letters must be properly signed. :D)


    If snail mail is snail mail, is email then locust mail? because it comes in swarms and swallows all of my time it was supposed to save.

    a very sunny kinda post, dear gallivanta 😉

  20. lensandpensbysally

    Enjoyed every word and image. It’s wonderful to get these snippets about your world, especially the recovery from such a life event. Mostly, I adore your passion about books, which we share.

  21. leapingtracks

    Lovely post (excuse the pun!) thank you. I think the former post box looked such fun too – no wonder you came to think of him as a fond friend. Such character! The Auden poem is fab, isn’t it. There is a YouTube link to the whole 20 min film within the Wiki site that you have referenced for the poem – well worth a watch! My husband is a steam-railway enthusiast and we often find ourselves on one of the UK’s many preservation lines. Sadly, I don’t think they carry post any more, but perhaps they should for extra authenticity!! 🙂

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The entire film is a gem, although my little laptop didn’t do it justice. I watched it in fits and starts so I must have another look. It would be fun to have a night mail run once a year, or so, just for the memory. It’s a fascinating piece of mail and rail history.

        1. leapingtracks

          Perfect timing. Of course it is terrible not to use such an Eco-friendly way of transporting the mail these days. There are depots and sidings all round the UK in disuse because we fly our mail around these days.

        2. leapingtracks

          Thank you, that’s really interesting. I did not know about the Postal Heritage archive. Mr Tracks has also asked me to pass on his thanks. He has also mentioned that the Great Central Heritage Railway do carry out demonstrations of travelling post offices sometimes so we were on the right lines (ha, ha!). 😄

  22. gpcox

    Great post, Gallivanta! Yes, snail mail, to me, shows an effort on the part of the sender. I only have a few friends who continue to use it, but that’s because they “get” me. Just old fashioned, I guess.

        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Sometimes, when there is a problem we retreat and retrench when the best solution is to do the opposite; to dare to be open and embrace change. Go Bigger, be more flexible, not meaner and leaner.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      As you can see, I still get some snail mail! We used to find real snails in our old brick mail box. I wonder if snails will find a way in to this new one? 😀


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