Monday, 28 January 2013

Would Anyone Like A Pen-Pal????

I wonder who else, like me, has an old shoebox (or in my case, several!) squirreled away at the bottom of the wardrobe or perhaps in the loft, containing your life's memories. It was very recently when I was unpacking from the move, that I had a quick look through one of my many boxes and found bundles of my childhood pen-pal letters, kept together in date order and many of them even contained a copy of my reply!

I've had lots of fun reading back through these letters, there are quite a few as I had pen-pals in the UK as well as abroad, but one thing which has struck me as being really sad is that children these days, or indeed adults (those that I know, anyway) just don't have these opportunities anymore, no one that I know has a pen-pal these days. Obviously social media has had a massive impact upon this, but an e-mail or a message via facebook just isn't the same, don't you agree, as coming downstairs in the morning to find a hand-written envelope in your letterbox, an update from the pen-pal you have gotten to know almost better than some of your friends through such detailed correspondence.

As a child I can well remember the excitement and anticipation to get home, when my mum would tell me on the walk back from school "you've had a letter from Inverness" which would be from my Scottish pen-pal; Alison.

There were so many opportunities back then to make it very easy to obtain a pen-pal, every club that I became a member of as a child seemed to offer the chance – I remember getting them through both the Stamp Bug Club (yes, I was a child stamp-collector) and the YOC (young ornithologists club, where I was paired with Alison from Inverness), and also recall a campaign via the Royal Mail in the late 80's which paired you with two pen-pal's from around the world – I had Marie-Louise from Denmark and Jo from Australia. There was also the French exchange student who I was paired with via the high school; Marie-Agnes, although we only exchanged a couple of letters before the language barrier become too much (we were only 12). I also had a boy pen-pal called Kristian (via the Stamp Bug Club!) and we kept in touch, and even met up a couple of times during our teenage years, and we remain "facebook friends" even now, 20 years on. The others, I'm sorry to say, gradually fizzled out as we grew up.

Of course, before e-mail and social networking sites, hand-written letters were the only way to keep in touch, and so much more fun, I think. When I was 13, I went on a horse-riding holiday for a week, and made two friends from Essex; Lucy and Terri. We became so close during that week, (it was the best, most fun holiday I ever had, and boy did I cry when my parents came to collect me!) and wrote to one another religiously week after week for the following 5 or 6 years. Terri and I finally drifted apart and I think we last wrote when we were 19 or 20, before we lost touch. Lucy, however, has become a very close friend and in our 20's we visited one another often, and she was even one of my bridesmaids at our wedding! Pretty amazing don't you think that we have stayed such great friends, despite the distance, all because we kept in touch via our weekly letters from the age of 13; it meant such a great deal to me to have her there on my wedding day, 16 years later!

I know that many people I have spoken to feel that it is such a shame that pen-pals have gone out of fashion, or rather been superseded by the social media. Therefore, I have decided to put the feelers out with this post to see if anyone would be interested in a "Pen-Pal Pairing"??? Basically, if enough of you comment or contact me to say that you would be interested in having a pen-pal, then I will put the names together in a hat and pair you up, then the rest is down to you. I know that having the time can be an issue these days so perhaps we could all agree to write once a month (or more often if you choose to). The Rules would be something like this, and if I decide to go ahead then I will create a "badge" for you to copy and post on your own blogs to spread the word;

1. Please comment below if you would like to be paired up; and state if you have any preference as to UK or abroad or whether you don't mind. Please spread the word and display the badge on your blog;

2. To correspond the good old-fashioned way with letters only!

3. To try to correspond at least once per month or as agreed with your pen-pal;

4. Obviously as with the usual "blog swaps" I will be unable to take any responsibility after I have announced partners. Once I have done so please contact your pen-pal via their blog in order to arrange to swap addresses, etc. Whether or not you and your pen-pal continue to correspond will be of course down to you both.

5. Pen-Pal pairing is only available to those of you with a current blog.

6. Please comment on this post by Friday 8th February and I will announce partners on Saturday 9th February.

As I say, this is just a post to see how many of you would be interested, depending on the response I will let you know if I've decided to go ahead in a couple of days time. Also if anyone has any ideas as to the rules or whatever, do let me know!

Marina xx

Friday, 25 January 2013


I thought I would share with you all these photos of our newly restored vintage rocking horse “Dapple”. He is very much at home here in our new house, having spent the last 20 years getting very damp in my mum and dads’ garden shed– a crime, I know!

He was mine as a child, my dad came home with him one day after coming across him in a local second-hand shop. I remember having lots of fun with him – I used to spend hours just plaiting his mane and tail. However as I grew up, it became “un-cool” to have a rocking horse in your bedroom, and he was replaced by a stars & moon sofa-bed for when friends came to stay! Poor old Dapple was relegated first to the garage, where he suffered some water damage and finally to a small outbuilding, covered with a blanket where he spent the last two decades being eaten by mice and getting very damp.

I’d often thought about finding him and seeing what condition he was in now, but like my parents, we had never had the room for him at any of our previous houses – until now! My parents therefore decided to finally resurrect him from the shed and restore him to his former glory as a Christmas present for Mia and Baby Boy.

It is fair to say that my mum and dad had a lovely time “doing him up”, they spent a lot of time - and money, his new mane and tail, being real horse hair,, the original hair being completely eaten away by mice. The result, I hope you’ll agree, has been worth it – he looks spectacular, and well at home in our Victorian house!
They were very proud to carry him together along our street on Christmas morning to be greeted at the front door by Mia – who had a surprise as she had NO idea!

Dapple is once again very much loved, and will stay in our family – he will certainly never be relegated to a garden shed ever again!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Little Things To Brighten Up A Cold Day....

Brrr although I love snow I have to admit that during the last few days i've found it really hard going to endure the freezing temperature in my office. You may or may not know that I work for a firm of solicitors, in a huge old Victorian building - very beautiful but also extremely cold at this time of year - the central heating packed up yonks ago and has never been fixed. Hence I am writing this with chilblained fingers and toes and very tired eyes from the electric heaters we keep on full blast all day long - which hardly take out the chil and any heat they produce is quickly dispersed through the old sash windows.

Despite this, I took some lovely photographs from my office window today, I braved the cold - and to be honest, I couldn't get much colder anyway! - and stepped out on to the balcony to take these pictures;

It's on days like today especially that it's always nice when something happens to brighten things up a little, no matter how small. Today two things happened which really cheered me up; the first being that I had to pop in to our local computer shop to purchase something for work, and while I was there I got chatting to the owner, a man who actually used to live in our house between the early 90's and 2004 and who sold it to the man we purchased it from. He was really pleased to hear that we bought it, and spent over 10 minutes telling me all about what he and his wife and done to the house and the condition it was in when they bought it, etc, including some really interesting facts which we hadn't known about. They did extensive renovation work and he has a lot of photographs which show it at various stages, including before and after and was more than happy for us borrow them sometime as I said that i'd be so interested to see them - he even asked if he and his wife might pop round with them as they would love to see the place again.

I really enjoyed the conversation, i'm so interested in the history of my house and i'm currently in the process of writing a blog post all about it - including some photographs i've unearthed of the occupants from 100 years ago! I just find stuff like that so interesting.

The second thing was at lunchtime when I popped in to my favourite vintage store and the owner said that she was glad i'd popped in as she'd been saving some old books for me as she knows I collect them and I always buy them from her whenever I find some in her shop. She sold me the Robinson Crusoe book for £1.00 and gave me the others for free! (These aren't the first "freebies" i've had in that shop either!)

The Last of the Mohicans has a hand-written inscription and date; 1890 - I do love it when the old books have something written inside! Another has the Award sticker inside dating it back to Christmas 1905;

The other two freebies have lovely illustrations; though they have been a bit difficult to photograph;

And finally I bought a sweet little wooden box of dominos circa 1900 - still in lovely condition and a bargain for £2, I love to put things like this in our playroom;

All of these things have made me smile today; it just shows that very often it can be the "little things" that really matter. I wonder what has made you smile today???

Marina xx

Sunday, 20 January 2013

First Snow...

This weekend Baby Boy experienced his First Snow!... (a little unsure to begin with);

But soon loving the sledge with his big sister!

It was also a time for "FIRST" wellies;

A truly Winter Wonderland..a month too late for Christmas, but just as magical;

It's been a lovely long-weekend, the husband and Mia both had a "snow-day" at home on Friday, and as well at the sledging and some snowy walks i've enjoyed endless cups of tea, candles lit and catching up on blogs. Mia has even decided to write her own blog about her favourite Sylvanian Families (I think in America you will know them as Calico Critters??). We've therefore had lots of fun creating her blog, which can be found on my blogger, and she is looking forward to writing stories and taking photos to accompany them. I've given her my old camera, and today she took some cute photographs of some of her beloved Sylvanian families out in the snow! I've obviously warned her of the dangers that can come with internet use such as this and that she should never share personal information, though saying that, anything she writes will always be checked and published by me, and any comments, etc, will come through to my blogger and I will approve them first of course.

We are still slowly unpacking the last few boxes from the move, and I am really enjoying our new home; it is still sometimes hard to believe that we are actually here!

Like many we are forecast yet more snow this week, I hope you are all staying safe and warm; Marina xx