Letterless in Cardiff

Letterless in Cardiff

My theory of the interconnectedness  of relationships and the customary communication  encompases the mechanical and its technological bedfellows –  but what happens when pen gives up, the paperclip becomes too loose, the envelope won’t seal, the Post Office is closed…?  Thoughts about this have occurred while I’ve been travelling to Cardiff and back for a conference, ‘After Paul Atkinson’, who has just retired from Sociology at Cardiff University. My fully charged Blackberry had fully discharged itself by the time I got to Birmingham on Wednesday morning when en route; my iPad Simcard wouldn’t make a connection; I’d forgotten to bring my usually ever-present notebook; and to cap it all my iPad charger also wouldn’t work. So I’ve spent nearly 3 days without email and text – aka reading – and a bit longer without putting pencil to notebook or finger to keyboard – aka writing. Getting to Chester for an overnight stay when returning home, the charger and Simcard when I got up today, Sunday morning, are now working… Very odd.

And, yes, there is a letters connection here. On one of his trading trips of around six or more months away in the late 1860s, David Forbes in his ox-waggon travelled slowly, fretting if he would find the non-arrival of posts from home when he got to a place and worrying that his own letters had perhaps not arrived either. The posts were amazingly efficient given the circumstances, but every now and then there was one of those breakdowns of interconnected things – the waggon was damaged, no post had arrived, someone who said he would take David’s letter home to somewhere with a post office didn’t turn up, then a letter from home arrived but was opened and damaged… I fret after two or three days – but poor old David, he was adrift on the seas of letterness for weeks and sometimes months. He experienced this as a kind of ontological damage – he became less than fully himself. His letters were, among other things, ways of repairing this, by reconstituting on paper the filaments of his most meaningful and loving bonds, writing and in turn reading in letters from home about the cherished fabric of the shared life.

Last updated: 20 September 2015


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