One of my favourite encounters in the Sherlock Holmes stories is when the famous detective follows accurately, as only he knows how, Dr. Watson’s train of thought.
Strange, isn’t it, how one thought can follow another till you end up at a wholly unexpected destination!
I love writing letters and I have penned quite a few in my middle-distance life. Not quite literary standard, they were still heartfelt communications. More than writing letters, I love receiving letters or reading letters written for others, which is why I pounced on the title Dear Girl, Dear Boy when it was offered by the library. It is a collection of letters written to children by their parents or siblings, most of them famous people. My favourite in the collection has to be the letter by James Thurber written in his trademark humour and the one by Virginia Woolf (yes!!) to a child from the child in the adult. The children of earlier times must have been extraordinarily precocious considering the expectations of their parents and the fact that some of the recipients ranged in age from 3 to 10!
The urge to communicate, for whatever reason, spreads across all species. Yes, even plants. Talk to them, ignore them and notice the difference. For us, humans, speech across the miles translated into letters (now sms and email!) which in turn gave rise to that mammoth enterprise, the postal system. Postage meant stamps which in turn gave birth to the world of Philately.
Little bits of colourful, sticky paper with serrated edges, stamps are magical things. They are the first step that sets in train the journey which sees your letters on their way. But more than that, they hold clues to history, natural history, geography, currency, culture, craft, music, the seasons and festivals (this list is very likely incomplete). Anyone who has collected stamps will know how to ‘read’ them. A friend, who is an enthusiast, has created a commentary around the sets in his collection, tracing the monuments in India , among other topics. Then there is also the story behind the creation of the stamp and the creator/artist. Sadly, a few generations down the line, stamps may soon go the way of dinosaurs.
My husband started collecting somewhat late in life. Christmas being his favourite time of year, it falls to his lot to open the cards and so he started noticing the stamps: each one with a different message on a theme, depending on the country of origin. He started preserving them. Word got round and friends and family helped to add to his collection. And what a pretty collection it is too: pictures of Christmas in tiny square or rectangle reminding us of good tidings and great joy. Of no particular value other than sentiment, we look at the stamps together and remember the cards to which they were attached and also their senders.
I wonder if Sherlock would have unraveled this train of thought!