I’ve become a little bit of a podcast fan over the past year. As with most things I am slow to catch on but now any spare moment I get, I’m donning my headphones and falling into the new worlds my phone can offer me. I visit Ambridge to catch up on the Archers, dip my toes in the warm sand as I work out my own Desert Island Discs or keep up to date with the latest environmental news with Sustainababble boys. Podcast are now a firm favourite of mine for whiling away my spare hours and whilst searching through the other week for some WW2 listening that wasn’t talk about tank sizes or battle boasts, I came across Letters of Love in WW2 from History and was instantly fascinated.
It is an 8 part series, dramatising the beautiful letters sent by newly weds Cyril and Olga throughout the Second World War. Having only been wed 3 months before they were separated, the first six years of their marriage life was conducted near completely by hand written correspondence. They sent over 1000 letter and postcards to each other in that time, each packed full of all the emotions that war and separation brings and allowed me a change to peak into the every day of the Home Front.
As I listened to their lives unfolding, hearing Olga’s worry of no news and frustration of going over weight limits, it hit home how precious letters were back then. It hadn’t really dawned before that not only are you apart from your loved ones but the contact you are able to snatch together was incredibly limited. With pencils hard to come by, paper being precious and phone calls near impossbile, the space you had on a letter was so meaningful. Each one was written on both sides to cram in as much of your thoughts and feelings as you possibly could, handwriting small and always to the edge, but all the while desperate for more space and conscious even a 100 pages wouldn’t be enough for you to be able to share it all.
Because that was what they were missing, the little intimate moments of each others lives. In one of the letters Olga writes about missing conversations, not day to day but the ones you have before you go to sleep. Those tit bits of information you can only share with the person that gets you the most and it made my heart ache with them. Being able to talk over your fears or theories with somebody who understands you completely is something beautiful and being unable to share that connection must have been unimaginably difficult. It also made me ponder about how we conduct our relationships now and I wonder if we might be missing something.
We are very lucky with today’s technology. Whether you are home or abroad, the technology we have means you are only ever a few clicks away from your friends and family. There is no need to wait 3 or 4 anxious weeks for a letter to appear on your mat or scrambled phone calls which are cut short before anything meaninful is said, we can send messages in even the most remotest places and nearly everyone has a device to receive them. All this wonderful, brilliant, useful technology has meant we are more connected than ever.
But for all it’s ease, and speed, it lacks a little of the love a physical message can bring. Whether it is someone taking time to call, or pop in to visit, whether they are picking up a pen to write that little note or taking a moment out of their day to pick a card that reminded them so much of you, knowing for that brief moment their thoughts are on you can fill you with warmth. There is a lot of love in all these little actions and we shouldn’t underestimate how much more real it feels when you can actually physically hold the sentiment someone feels for you.
My day to day job involves house clearances and it never fails to touch me when I find those piles of notes and badly drawn pictures, faded cards and crumpled letter that people saved because it meant that much to them. We are tactile beings with forgetful minds and those solid reminders are so important in making us feel loved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning sending cards out willy nilly, I never quite understand the need to give our a birthday or Christmas card out just because you “should” with no special sentiment or extra note inside. Adding a little bit of you, your personalisation is where the soul and love is, that small token of your time pended on to paper should never be undervalued.
Your thoughtfulness can also have more wide reaching effects than just the person intended. A card made or designed by a local artist or brought in that little independent shop can make all the difference to that business. In these struggling times for the little guys, there is a wonderful campaign running called Just a Card, whose aim is to get across the idea that all purchases, however small or insignificant they seem to you, are so vital to keeping independents going.
So even though I am trying to reduce my waste as much as possible and it might feel sometimes that a text or email is a justifiable exchange for a card or handwritten note, I am going to remember Cyril and Olga and keep in mind how those little tactile actions can have a wide reaching warmth and that some moments, a pixel can’t quite cut it.
I am a pink haired, list lover with a silver lining outlook on life and a passion for reviving history.