Nowadays, I seldom put pen to paper. When I do, however, it is with the fountain pen pictured above. That pen is the most expensive object I have ever bought when you look at ROI. It also tends to leak and leave blue marks on my index finger, but I do enjoy the result. Or I use a pencil.
My earliest correspondence outside the family was with Sir Roy Welensky, Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (dating myself, I know). My father was CEO of the largest printing and publishing company in Southern Africa, including newspapers in Rhodesia. Somehow he met Sir Roy and they became very good friends.
Sir Roy personally invited Mum and Dad to attend the opening of Kariba, a dam on the Zambezi which created what was then (1959) the largest man-made lake in the world. He added a note to the effect of "bring the kids". So, while Mum and Dad met the Queen Mother, who officiated at the opening ceremony, my brother and I sat with the workers and their families. But, what a thrill.
Mum encouraged me to write a thank you note to Sir Roy and thank him. I did, and he replied thanking me for thanking him. Then I wrote back thanking him for thanking me for thanking him.
Corresponding with a Head of State was not the only memorable thing about that trip. I was 11 years old and "became a woman" as the coy expression went, at my aunt's house in Bulawayo.
Nowadays, I correspond with a variety of people via the utterly wonderful medium of email, and the unbelievably time-wasting medium of Disqus. The latter usually takes the form of trying to persuade climate change deniers that they are not doing the world - or themselves - a favor by defending the position that our not-much-loved President takes, namely that the whole idea of climate change is a hoax.
But I have made some unexpected friends.
Absolutely the best correspondence came about because of something my brother said: CO2 can't be good for plants because it is not down here; it is up there.
That got me thinking. Was he right? Does CO2 actually form a blanket over the earth? Is it like the ozone layer? Google was not much help. Probably I was phrasing the question badly.
Eventually, I decided to consult the experts: NOAA. If someone at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could not tell me, no one could. I went to their website and picked a name with an email at random. Twenty minutes after I sent off my question, I got a reply explaining that with winds and all, the CO2 was pretty much mixed through all the levels of the atmosphere.
I was so stunned by the speed of the reply that I wrote: "Wow, I'm impressed! Twenty minutes to reply and on a Saturday afternoon." Quick as a flash, the answer came back: Well. we're pretty responsive when the address line says Whitehouse.
Thanks Deke for giving me something to smile about for the next 20 years.
Another wonderful correspondence came about as a result of the Jumble that I enjoy doing every day (except Sundays - too difficult). This one mentioned the Steuben County landfill, which really aught my attention as I live in Steuben County and have an interest in landfills. So I tracked down Mr. Hoyt's email address and asked him how it had come about that a little-known waste facility had caught his attention. After a bit of back and forth, he actually called me and we had a great conversation. It seems that he was in our area for some reason and had read in a local paper that Steuben County had begun collecting methane from the landfill and using it to power a large number of houses in the vicinity.
The upshot was that he sent me the PDF shown at the right. I forwarded it to the Commissioner of Public Works. A printout now has pride of place on the wall of his office.
The solution, by the way, is waste of energy. Most unfortunately, the scheme has now been abandoned and the gas is flared.
I guess that letters to the editor
count as correspondence. See some here, including the one from July 2012 that really launched my career as an "activist".
Also notable is one about Memorial Day which the Leader declined to publish -twice.