June 26: A lifelong penfriend and the joy of letters

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From: Mrs Margaret W Whitaker, Harswell.

DR Johnson felt sorrowful when he realised “we shall receive no letters in the grave”. The best thing about life is our ability to communicate with others. When I was nine my sister married, and I was so lonely I began to keep journals. For 80 years I have written to anybody who would listen. I have written to Simone since 1945 when she lived in a flat in Algiers and kept chickens and rabbits on the balcony for food. We have never met but exchange photos and have confided in each other for 70 years.

I picked her at school because she loved music. She wrote in her best English and I in my faltering French. She could never understand how I could meet boys without a chaperone!

I still write to several school chums, one in Los Angeles and another in Florida aged 90 who addressed her last Christmas card to my old address in Liverpool (when we were girls living near each other); intercepted by her son and posted correctly, this caused many tears to be shed. Best of all, a chum aged 90 writes twice a week, a great comfort now we can no longer meet for lunch. I feel happiest with the intimacy of a pen and ink letter, now being deaf for phone calls; but I am thrilled I can text my daughter in Vancouver to tell her my latest news and also hear hers.