My Virtual School – letters

20 May 2020. A letter from my mother-in-law this morning. She has written to us at least twice a week for as long as I have known her. And not just us. She writes constantly to all her friends, sadly fewer now as she has reached her 90s. Always meticulous in spelling and grammar in a clear copper-plate learnt in the 1930s. She writes about her day, small doings of the dog or family, how they are managing to source fresh food to be delivered, annoyance at a plane in the sky, fretting about getting flour to bake cakes to give away, tired of lockdown.

Letter-writing has had an unexpected revival among the young as well. A need to connect in a more permanent and meaningful medium than texts or screen-time. Maybe a sense that the outside world has been delivered in a physical form through the letterbox. And that somebody cared enough about you to spend time over that communication. I wonder how anyone gets hold of stamps.

My friend Richard’s birthday this morning and his wife posted a photo of his birthday cards. Neatly arranged on a tray, still in their envelopes, with a thoughtfully arranged letter-opener and bottle of antibacterial, household cleaner. Definitely a set-up for a crime novel. Our letters go through much the same process. They sit on the side for a a few hours after delivery, waiting for the virus to get bored and go off somewhere more exciting. The letterbox, inside and out, gets sprayed with a rather pleasant pink grapefruit scented household cleaner. I do resent the few bits of junk-mail which still get through, particularly on behalf of the poor postman.

A colleague had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph today. Another relic of the past and, again, a sense that time and thought has gone into this communication, rather than the knee-jerk responses fired out on social media without concern for the sensitivity of writer or reader. He writes about the growing inequality in schooling. He is right. We are managing to provide so much to the boys, but we are aware that so many children are disadvantaged by online learning – there is no spare computer, no private space, no reliable internet. The gap is widening.

Really good news. At last my nephew has made it home after weeks in isolation in a solitary cabin on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. One very happy family.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent