Saturday, 16 July 2016

Love letters

The art of letter writing in this day and age of computers, smart phones and i everything seems to be long out of fashion.
I've always loved to write. As a child I wrote reems of imaginative stories and letters. I wrote back and forth to my cousin Alison in Durham, I wrote to a friend in India and I had pen pals in France and Germany. But it was in young adulthood that I began to exchange letters with my Grandmother.

As a teenager I used to hop on the bus to Gypsy Corner and visit Grandma and Alec. I loved that house, I have the fondest memories of staying over in the school holidays with my sister. 
Grandma cooking, always cooking (it's no wonder Jo and I are such foodies, she was a superb cook) while Alec watched cricket in the front room. 
I vividly remember the garden and the magnificent greenhouse where I was permitted to pluck juicy ripe tomatoes which were then ritually cut into quarters, sprinkled liberally with salt and I would sit out on the lawn in the summer sunshine and enjoy. 
I had a very happy childhood they were halcyon days.

They were avid gardeners and in their quest for green fingered perfection ( clearly not a gene I inherited as I kill every plant I own) they found a beautiful bungalow in Dorset with a huge surrounding plot of land and re located in the late  80s which is when our correspondence really got started.
We always wrote the customary thank you letters at Christmas and birthdays but they progressed into newsy letters about school, first jobs, aspirations,  first loves, relationship advice, She often called me a ninny! Holiday plans when I went to visit them and do the touristy Thomas Hardy stuff, berations when I forgot to call. 
As I married and had children there was advice and recipes. She was always so proud of us all and loved to hear about her Great Grandchildren. As she got older it became a lifeline to the outside world as visits from us were not that frequent as far away.

I have kept lots of them, I wish I'd kept them all. I didn't realise how much they would become to mean to me. 
A record of the past, of the young girl I was and the woman I've become, shaped by the love of my family. 

A few years ago, Grandma had a fall and ended up in hospital. Alec, feeling alone and vulnerable and knowing time was quickly running out wrote a love letter to her. A poem. It is very touching.
He never gave it to her, we found it on his computer after he passed away. She is now 103yrs 7 months and in the words of my friend Minal "a legend" and is still with us but her time is also running out. 
I am so glad I have them, a time capsule in a shoe box.

No one writes love letters any more....Burton and Taylor, Churchill and Clemintine,......and now I can add Alec and Millicent to that list. The world needs more love letters I think.

Millie has been blessed with a long life, happily without major illness & I feel fortunate to have known her and shared so many years with her. But now I know that if the day comes when I should  lose her, my heart would be so full of memories, not just of what she did or tried to do for me, but of her companionship and love, that I should not be able to speak my thoughts at that final time so I put some pen to paper while I could.

My Millie

The many years I shared with you
Are ones I'll always treasure,
For they were the happiest, 
And gave the most pleasure

But time will never be the same
Without you here beside me,
Without your ever-loving hand
To point the way and guide me

The days to come will be without
Your sun to light my days,
Without the care you always showed
In - oh! so many ways

In life I loved you dearly,
In death I love you still;
For you still hold that special place 
That no one else can fill

We always knew the day would come
When we must be apart.
When one must go & one must stay
With just a heavy heart

So now we all must let you go
And seek somewhere to find,
Some way - but what- to fill the gap
Your going leaves behind