Celebrate World Post Day

Not-Another-Bill celebrating  World Post Day

Not-Another-Bill celebrating World Post Day

Today is World Post Day. As keen letter writers, we don't really need the excuse to put pent to paper, but we were interested to discover the history behind the day. The first World Post Day actually took place in the 1960s to mark the anniversary of the creation of the Universal Postal Union back in 1874. The Union was a way of getting different country's postal systems to work together. Today, with 192 member countries, it means that the stamp you put on the letter to your friend in Australia will be accepted and delivered once it arrives down under.

So let's get posting to celebrating this wonderful achievement! Should you need inspiration, we've got an entire issue of Oh Comely devoted to the joy of Letters.  Or we've got ten ideas for letters to write here. And we love this initiative from our friends at Not-Another-Bill

As a company whose aim to make letterboxes a more magical place they want to give everyone the chance to receive something good. 

To celebrate World Post Day, their pop-up post box will be appearing at various London locations (accompanied by helpful postmen) offering you the chance to send a free postcard. They'll be at The Other Art Fair at Truman Brewery today, 9 October, or you can send one from anywhere in the UK through their website. Check out their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more information and postal fun. 

Oh Comely issue 32 celebrates Letters. Order your copy (with free postage in the UK) here.



Gobbles Loves You

Photo: Andrea Allan, from Gobbles Loves You

Photo: Andrea Allan, from Gobbles Loves You

Artist Andrea Allan introduces us to her photographic project, Gobbles Loves You, inspired by the written correspondence between two lovers. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m an artist working with photography, text, sound, installation and artists’ book. Through my work I like to explore the real and the imaginary, in an attempt to better understand the links between our past, present and future. Combining photography with the written word, I weave past narratives into the fabric of present places, casting old social and political understandings in a contemporary light.

And could you introduce us to Chambre and Margaret? 

Edward Chambre Hardman was a Liverpool portrait photographer who documented many of the city’s most prominent figures from 1930s through to the 1950s.  It was during the mid-twenties that he employed 17-year-old Margaret Mills as an assistant. After a few years she decided to train as a photographer in Scotland, thus leaving Hardman, and the point at which their letter writing began.  They had pet names for each other – Gobbles for Hardman and Pearl for Margaret.

How did you discover these letters? 

I was studying for my MA at Manchester School of Art at the time. One of the modules was to work with archives, specifically looking at Hardman’s legacy. The most natural place people started was with their house, which has been kept the same since they died. I wanted to delve a little bit more into their relationship, and to find out what type of people they were – what better way than personal letters.

Was there anything unexpected about these letters?

One of the first things that struck me about the letters, and why I spent so much time reading through them all, was the way in which they wrote to each other. Business was nearly always discussed, a shared passion, that they could discuss in detail. Then the narrative would switch entirely, sometimes mid sentence, to how they missed each other. These parts were always written in the third person, and they referred to each other by their pet names.

There were some pressed flowers between some of the pages; the pollen had stained the coarse paper yellow after all these years. Telegrams had also been kept, these more than anything show how technology can never replace the value of analogue. Text cut into strips, pasted onto starched white sheets, stamped with the telegram office details, draw entirely away from the intimacy that a letter can hold. Even pet names became confused – instead of Gobbles someone mistyped and put “Gopples”.

How did you select what line of each letter you’d reveal? 

I’ve worked as a document controller and thought that I would draw on my experiences of working with and organising copious amounts of information by imposing guidelines on the way that I photographed the letters. I decided to show only one line of text (although I broke this rule a few times), to only use the back of the envelope so that you couldn’t see the postage stamp for date or location. The text had to be either on the top, bottom or either side of the crease in the middle of the letter so that I didn’t damage the letters in anyway. In the end it turned out a lot of Margaret’s letters were in plastic dividers and could not be removed, making the narrative biased towards him. 

What was it like to read through correspondence originally intended for each other’s eyes only?

For most of the letters it was interesting to see how being a photographer has changed over the decades, and how some elements are very much the same. The only moments when I got embarrassed was when reading through lines like “he wants to whisper something into her ear...” and I won’t finish that sentence!

The tongue twister makes me laugh, and there’s a section where Hardman is off walking in Scotland with friends and complains that a woman in the group can’t manage the mountains, but he has no doubt that his Pearl would have been straight up without any fuss at all.

Are you a letter writer yourself? Did this project shift your ideas about them at all?

In my early 20s I used to write all the time, and then I’m ashamed to say, I seemed to lapse. After doing this project I started reading up on letter writing and came across a TED talk given by Hannah Brencher. Brencher wrote love letters and left them all over the city for strangers to find, eventually turning it into a global initiative ‘The World Needs More Love Letters’, which posts handwritten letters to those in need of human kindness. After creating these photographs and reading up about this initiative, I’ve felt the need to get to know people's handwriting again, to know that someone’s mused over what paper to use, to create that very personal, intimate connection, something technology will never be able to replicate.  

You can see more of Andrea's work on her website, and for more Letters written from the heart, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 32


10 ideas for letters to write

Few surprises are as heartwarming as a handwritten envelope amongst your post. Hidden between junk mail, catalogues, bills, there it sits: slow, considered, sentimental. We often know exactly who it's from before prising the envelope open, recognising the curve of the 'a', the way the 'y' loops; invoking a memory from a childhood birthday card perhaps or a funny note left by an old housemate. They're a bit of a relic really to most. A treasure in today's quickfire-text talk. Carrying sentiments across distances, in no great hurry, just for you. To read at your leisure, and hold on to forever.

We think it's time we wrote more – what about you? Take one of these letter ideas as your cue for a trip to the postbox this weekend.

Photo: Lara Watson

Photo: Lara Watson

1. To the confidence boosters
Teachers, friends or colleagues, there are those special souls who know exactly what to say at the right time. They may not even know how important that conversation was to you. Tell them in a letter.

2. To distant relatives
If your family's separated over the country or over continents, drop a line. For kin feeling cut-off, even lonely, a letter is a wonderful gift. 

3. To your childhood penpal
You never know – their family may still be at the same address. Strike up the conversation again. Do you still like the same boyband? What's your favourite film? Have a little search for them online if they've likely moved on. Facebook stalking come good.

4. To the person who hurt you
If enough time has past and a bit of perspective would help you both, pen a gentle, kind note. Post, and move on. 

5. To your bestie
So you text every other day, no matter – there's always more to say to your soulmate. Fill the envelope with bits and pieces that remind you of them for a confetti-like smattering of extra love.

6. To your crush
Go on, say it. Love favours the brave. Avoid tongue-twisted real-time confessions and unveil your feelings exactly as you want to via the written word. Then savour the next meeting knowing you've said your piece.
If you've coupled up with your crush, leave them a note telling them they still make your insides go funny, somewhere they'll find it by accident – a sports bag, rucksack, lunch box...

7. To the youth
Littles love grown-up things. Address fancy correspondence to nieces, nephews, friend's kids. Give the next generation the letter-loving bug too.

8. To your hero
Fan mail can make it. Go through their book publishers or management agency, keep it cool and enjoy the rather wonderful wait, checking your mailbox for a response worthy of inclusion in a future edition of Letters of Note. Heroes don't have to be famous of course. If you've got a favourite blogger or inspiring person in your community, tell them so on paper.

9. To your local MP
Angry or proud, write with passion for what you believe in or have been affected by – bad and good – and encourage others to, too.

10. To a stranger
Write a general note of encouragement. Leave it on a bus seat, inside a library book or on a park bench. Feel good for the rest of the week.

You can always write to Oh Comely too, naturally. We feature our pick of the postbag each issue. You can reach us at: Oh Comely, 40 Bowling Green Lane, London, EC1R 0NE. Get more letter-writing ideas in issue 32, dedicated to type, mail and the creation of mighty words.