Letters have featured, one way or another, in a couple of recent posts. And the theme of letters is further reinforced by my starting, today, to read Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters - a special gift from DKM.
So, on the (almost) eve of my departure for Europe, I've decided to stay with letters for a little longer. When I lived and travelled in the UK, Europe and Israel in 1979/80 I wrote home as much as possible. For me it was a conversation with my family, a way of reflecting on the days' events and, ultimately, a tangible (if until now un-revisited) record of new experiences and adventures. The letters were written from all sorts of odd places and in sometimes difficult and trying circumstances ... but never did I consider not writing. My family kept the letters.
Thirty years before, in 1949, my 34 year-old mother had sailed from New Zealand to a Great Britain that was still rationed and still recovering from the devastation and privation of the Second World War. In 1950, she and her Australian friend Joan Darby hitch-hiked for six weeks in Europe, including in Germany and Austria, still at that time occupied by the allied forces. And in her two years away my mother wrote many letters home - letters which I still have.
The other night I started to read the letters sent at the beginning of the European oddysey - when my Mum and Joan were in Belgium and The Netherlands. The writing is difficult to read, the ink and pencil faded and I could only read so much at a time because I found them very moving in places ... but I thought what a wonderful privilege, to be able to share in these journeys 62 years later.
In many ways it is easier to document travels today, using facebook, blogs and other digital media. But these handwritten letters (both my mother's and mine), lovingly crafted for family and friends, enrich my pending journey with their slightly tatty but very tangible presence.