A tale of three letters, for Susan

A letter posted from the trenches in Flanders in 1915 was delivered to its correct destination last week. The letter, from Private Walter Butler to his sweetheart Amy Hicks,  turned up in a sack of letters being carried by Martin Kay, the village postman in Colerne, Wiltshire. Mr Kay sought help from the local history society, and between them they found that the couple had gone on to marry and, although they are both now dead, have a daughter, aged 86, still living in the village. Joyce Hulbert, the daughter, was said to be "over the moon" to have received the letter.

A postcard from Poland addressed "Khumi, Yellow Door, Wilmslow, England" has turned up at its correct destination.  Paul Gardiner, a postman in the town, knew of only one Khumi in Wilmslow, and also knew she has a yellow door.  Khumi Burton praised the postman, who said: "We always do our best to deliver".

Stuart Conway of Hove, Sussex, set up a website offering to take people’s messages and throw them, in bottles, into the sea off Brighton pier. He has so far "delivered" more than 7,000 letters. Most of the letters are lonelyhearts notices, appeals for advice, and attempts to find former lovers. Mr Conway said that about 20 of the messages had been found, but only one had found its way to the correct recipient. "It was to a Swedish language student in Brighton, from her boyfriend", Mr Conway said. "I put it on her doorstep. It seemed stupid to throw it in the sea". Mr Conway has been warned by Brighton and Hove council that he is causing an environmental hazard because of the risk of bottles being washed up on the beach. I think this is unnecessary, as the opportunity for recycling is obvious.

(Sources for these stories: The Times over the past few days.)

5 thoughts on “A tale of three letters, for Susan

  1. Delightful stories, Maxine! Regarding the ‘post office’ items, it’s lovely to hear of incidents like those. We tend to be very quick to criticize, so it’s quite heartwarming to be reminded about what a fine service most of our posties perform. (No, there are no postmen in my circle – I’ve just developed a genuine fondness for the always congenial ones we have in Canada. )

  2. Yes, Susan, the postmen come out of these stories very well, don’t they? Our postman is an extremely congenial man, too — he is very patient with my Amazon addiction and obligingly hides the parcels in our agreed secret place, as I’m usually at work when they arrive, even though he is not strictly supposed to as the rules require a signature. If he applied the rules, I’d have to spend my weekends going to the sorting office to collect them, through the traffic. Nice man. (Scottish, not Canadian, though.)

  3. I’m another Susan who likes the notion of that WW I letter surviving through time (where? with whom?) to finally arrive at its destination. As you know, Maxine, I’m currently on a Stoppard kick and letters, drawings, other documents figure importantly in both “Arcadia” and “Indian Ink.” Got to reread “Invention of Love,” because I’m sure they matter there, too. I think one reason I love Tom Stoppard is that we’re fascinated by the same century: The nineteenth.
    Hey, here’s a question for you, or for Dave Lull, if he drops by. Yesterday I read an old mag. article about Tom S. that details his years as a young journalist (age 17-25), when he worked at a paper in Bristol doing theatre reviews. Since the essay I’m writing now is comparing him to David Hare, I am wondering if he reviewed some of Hare’s earliest plays. That would be very interesting, if so. They are certainly very aware of each other; though I think Hare must be far more conscious of Stoppard in the last 20 years than vice-versa.
    How, I wonder, would I find out such a thing? Bristol newspaper archives? It’s strange to me that I haven’t yet found an article doing an extended comparison of the two playwrights. If mine is going to be the first, it’s odd indeed. (Of course, that’s how I wound up writing the first biography of Flannery O’Connor– albeit one for Young Adults — *mirabile dictu*, no one had yet done one.)

  4. Hi Maxine, did you see you were cited at the back of the Guardian books section yesterday (in the ‘from the blogs’ bit)? Fame at last! Unless you’ve been mentioned before of course, in which case you might not be that impressed…

  5. Blimey, no I didn’t see that, thanks for letting me know, Jonathan. I’ll have to try and find a copy of the G. now — hope they weren’t rude about me.

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