In the olden days, boys, we actually used to write letters

Yesterday boys, I did a bit of sorting – this doesn’t happen very often. But yesterday’s sorting made me think that I really must tell you about what things were like back in what Peppa Pig would call ‘the olden days’.

You see, boys, I was sorting through boxes of correspondence – letters, postcards, good luck cards, well done cards, just-to-say-hello cards. A whole big plastic crate full of them. This, boys, was how I used to communicate with my friends – we used to write things down. With a pen.

I know – unbelievable.

Let’s go back to 1998 – the year I went to university.

Think about this for a minute, boys – I went off to university with no mobile phone and no laptop. There was no ‘Freshers 1998’ Facebook group. In fact, there was no Facebook. We didn’t know what anyone would look like or who we may, or may not, click with. We just rocked up, unpacked, and then our parents left us. There was no text home that evening to tell them how day 1 had been.

Yes, we could phone home boys, using the one telephone per corridor that was provided in my halls of residence – unsurprisingly in the evenings there would be a little queue of us lining up to use it.

If we needed to leave messages for each other, popping notes under doors was our version of sending a text. I kept many of these as well:

‘Going for breakfast at 8 – knock for me if you’re up’. / ‘See you for lunch at 1’. / ‘Your mum called – she’ll try you again tomorrow’.

Riveting stuff.

During term time I wrote letters to friends from school, and during holidays I wrote letters to friends from uni. And in our letters, we actually wrote news because we didn’t know what everyone had been up to via Facebook or Instagram.

Yes, we did have email back then boys; but sending an email usually meant going to use a computer lab. So we would take take the time to send a lengthy email about everything that had been happening that week, because we knew we wouldn’t be able to follow it up with a text or WhatsApp message 10 minutes later.

In 2000, I headed off on my year abroad and stocked up on international phone cards which I used in the phone box just outside my flat. No Instagram. no Skype. No Facetime.

It might not have been that long ago, boys, but it was a different time.

Today, boys, many of us are lost if we go out without our mobiles; but back then, no mobile phones just meant you had to rely on people to stick to an arrangement. Or use your initiative if someone didn’t turn up. Arrangements were made in advance and, in the main, people stuck to them. ‘I’ll text you when I’m on my way’ just wasn’t a thing.

While I was thinking about all of this, I remembered the time I went to stay with one of my old housemates over the holidays and my train was delayed. I did the obvious thing and phoned her at home to let her know I’d be late, but she had gone shopping and was then heading straight to the station to meet me. This is what her mum did, boys – she phoned round all the shops she thought her daughter might have gone to, and asked them to make an announcement for her to report to customer services, where there was a request for her to phone home.

Yes, her mum did manage to get hold of her in the end (clever mum), but can you imagine her panic when the announcement was made over the tanoy? Probably not, boys. It’s not the sort of situation you or any of your friends are ever likely to be in – it seems the average age for children to have a mobile phone now is 11. You’ll always be able to let us or anyone else know about any sudden changes of plan.

I was 21 when I got my first mobile phone.


That was correspondence back in the olden days boys, but let me tell you something about filmtaking photos, because that’s changed a bit too. Here’s how it worked – we used cameras (not phones), into which we had to put a roll of film. You’ve probably never seen one before – they look like this. Loading a film was a fiddly process. Photos were pretty precious because you’d only get 28 or 36 per film, and films were expensive. You couldn’t take a photo and then delete it if someone had their eyes shut – you were stuck with what you got. Once you’d finished your roll of film, you would take it to the chemists to be developed and then pick up your pack of pictures a few days later. Let me tell you boys, that was pretty exciting – finally finding out whether those photos you’d taken 3 weeks ago were actually any good.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is, boys. I’m not saying things were better or worse back then, just different. Now we have so many more opportunities to record our thoughts and share our photos and memories – any future great-grandchildren will know more about us than we can possibly know about previous generations. But at the same time, there will be a lot more inconsequential nonsense for them to sort through before coming across anything of any interest. I can read through old emails any time I like, but it’s not quite the same as coming across an old letter.

I have thousands upon thousands of photos stored on the computer, boys; but whereas I used to get photos developed and then put the good ones in albums and carefully label them, now there are just too many for me to contemplate doing anything with. If you ever want to sort through them, you will have your work cut out.

All the letters, postcards and notes from friends are now headed for the loft, to join all the old photo albums and other clutter we don’t know what to do with. If you ever want to see what real, hand-written letters (with stamps) look like, then one day we’ll have a look through my big plastic crate together – there are years worth of memories in there.


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