Pen to paper

I know it’s a bit of a novelty to receive a handwritten letter nowadays – even more of a novelty to write one I can assure you.


The following piece was highly commended in the OU Students Association Wellbeing Writing Competition for Freshers Fortnight 2021. The author, Sara, is from Haslemere in Surrey and is studying for a BA (Hons) English Language and Literature.

13th February 21 

Hi Sis 

I thought I’d go all retro on you and put pen to paper! I know it’s a bit of a novelty to receive a handwritten letter nowadays – even more of a novelty to write one I can assure you. I also thought I’d go the whole hogg and do things properly hence the posh paper and purple ink (nobody should receive a letter written on a sheet of A4 lined). Apparently, the colour of the ink you use says a lot about your personality, so I had a Google and purple means links with royalty, literature, and poetry. Do we have royal blood in the family I wonder? 

It feels nice to hold a fountain pen. I spend my life in front of the screen at work and the endless bloody Teams meetings drive me mad. Probably everyone else too I expect. Then I’m on my own laptop studying and, of course, we’re always on our phones and I’m getting addicted to Words with Friends. The optician just told me that my prescription is, and I quote, “considerably worse” since my last eye test. Apparently due to excess screen time and age. To be honest, I’d have been fine if he’d ended that sentence at screen time especially as he looked about 12!! 

Anyway, I’ve read some fascinating articles recently about how putting pen to paper is therapeutic and great for our wellbeing, so I’m committed to doing a lot more of it in the coming weeks. People say they only ever receive brown envelopes in the post now but who does? Utility bills come online so it’s either junk mail or birthday cards that drop on the mat, I think. I hope this handwritten note, sent with love, will cheer you up and I really hope you write back. I know you’ll say you’re too busy, but I worry for your wellbeing too – working on the frontline in lockdown isn’t easy and I know your red wine levels have increased! 

Katy wrote to dad because she’s at that age; all stickers, glue and coloured pens so she just loved another opportunity to get creative. Jamie’s not having any of it as you can imagine – what 15-year-old wants to write with a pen and on paper?! They have been working on a wellbeing project at school but of course, that’s all delivered online so yet more screen time for him and he’s never off his phone – wonder what the optician will be saying about his eyesight before he hits twenty-one? Anyway, his school project focuses on sleep, healthy eating and talking to other people, especially older people. I’m not sure he sleeps much even though we try and impose the 10pm phone amnesty. As for healthy eating, left to his own devices he’d go to pot but I’m like the food police so, mostly, that’s taken care of. 

I like this speaking to elderly people idea that they’ve instigated tho’. He’s taken to calling mum and dad every Sunday now and has even got them using Zoom! I think they all benefit from it to be honest although he wouldn’t admit to that; he thinks he’s doing a public service! Whatever, it is, mum says that she really looks forward to his calls so, as we’re on the topic of wellbeing here, that’s another great outcome – long may it continue. 

This is just me rambling away here, in purple ink, but it’s done me so much good to write rather than type. I think I’ll make it a bit of a habit so check the mat for more of these coming your way! Lockdown can’t go on forever can it? Who knows, we may just continue the trend after lockdown is finally lifted. Anyway, I’m off to walk the dog. In all fairness to him, he’s probably hiding. He’s never had so many walks – they might be good for our wellbeing but I’m not so sure that he’d agree. Poor Benji! 

Anyway, write back won’t you sis? Please? 

Love you. Sair xx 

26th Feb 

Hi Sair! 

I can’t tell you how much I loved getting your letter – what a surprise, it really made my day. It’s so long since we’ve written to each other, but I remember how we used to do it all the time when I first went away to Uni – and left you at home! Thanks for the purple ink too. In keeping with the gesture, I’ve gone for green which apparently means that I’m down to earth and grounded. That’s me! I think purple ink probably means you’re a bit of a luvvie rather than being related to the Queen but nice try. 

Joking apart, your letter was waiting on the table when I got in last night. An 11-hour shift that I hope never to repeat so it was definitely the best part of my day. And yes, it helped massively with my wellbeing – like a little shot of serotonin being delivered to the door. 

I don’t have time to write much but Mum did tell me how much she and dad are loving Jamie’s weekly calls. It’s really given them something to look forward to. Think mum even brushes her hair and sticks on some lippy for the occasion. Like you say, long may it last. 

This is so weird, writing to you with a pen, on paper, which I will then fold and put into an envelope, and then stick on a stamp before I drop it into the letterbox on my way to work. But I quite like the ritual, it seems to mean something more than a quick WhatsApp although let’s not ever get rid of that please! 

Love you too and more letters would be perfect. 

Here’s to our joint wellbeing Sis. 

Jayne xx


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