Putting Pen to Paper

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Is there anything in the world better value than a first class stamp?

They’re outrageously expensive these days, of course. 65p. Used to be a third of the price. However, even though the country must’ve gone to the dogs somewhere along the line, if one were to guess how much it would cost to get someone to pick up your envelope from a box at the end of the road in London, say, and deliver it to an address in Edinburgh the next day, one would probably start the bidding at £30 or thereabouts. Astonishing.

Kurt Vonnegut was once asked to name his favourite technology and he didn’t hesitate for a second before nominating the post box. And not to put too fine a point on it, our bright red pillar boxes are even more wonderful than those blue US Mail pedal bins that Mr Vonnegut and his fellow Americans are forced to use. What’s more, there’s something rather reassuring about the knowledge that the UK is the only country in the world that doesn’t have to have its name printed on its stamps because having the monarch’s visage on there is – quite rightly – deemed more than satisfactory. Makes those blue ‘par avion’ stickers seem positively exotic, too.

But one digresses.

Given this incomparable value for money, given the extraordinary service and proud tradition, it seems a shame that little hits the doormat these days that isn’t demanding one’s time, one’s money or – in the case of wedding invitations – both. By way of remedy, we would entreat our readers to pop a book of stamps in their purses or wallets and, having equipped themselves with the necessary, to spend that post-bath, pre-drink half hour to put pen to paper next time they find themselves on holiday. Fortunately, ‘the necessary’ couldn’t be easier to find:

The plain white Basildon Bond has an intrinsic honesty and workmanlike dependability about it. A pad plus a pack of envelopes can be had for less than a tenner on Amazon.

The same firm’s airmail paper is similarly iconic. The unmistakable blue and red border signifies twin-prop aeroplanes, steamships and ‘travel’ in the truest, purest sense of the word.

If one has something particularly important to say, however, or if one has someone particularly important to whom one wishes to say it, then we can’t think of anything we’d rather use than Smythson. They have a website, of course, but if one happens to be passing and one wants to reacquaint oneself with the smell of fine leather, then one can find Smythson of Bond Street on Sloane Street, Westbourne Grove or Brompton Road, too.