The Lively Letter

I have to admit that I have struggled to begin writing my next post. An idea has been with me throughout the month of June. However, as all high school teachers know, June is the busiest and hardest month. With many exams to write, supervise and then mark, it can be a gruelling few weeks. Assessment needs to be finalised and often chased up together with the obligatory feedback. Reports then must be written or rather electronically generated, checked, corrected and finally posted.

Yes, I am making excuses! Writing for me, like cooking, is a form of relaxation. So why didn’t I make the time to develop this brewing idea? I guess it goes back to the difficulty that is writing, today.

Even ten years ago, the art of penmanship was common. More recently a dear friend took the time to write us a thank you note.

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It is still on the fridge nearly a year later. When I look at her letter, I see her familiar cursive script which I recognised immediately. The private, personal and intimate nature of the letter is less evident today.

Even our school reports, as I alluded to earlier, are merely signed, and sent on their way to letter boxes or worse still, Post Office boxes. So here then is the segue to my idea for this post – yes, the operative word then is “post”! This blog requires me to post my latest instalment but not to a letterbox. The virtual letterbox that is the World Wide Web is our new mail centre.

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Last month as we walked the Streets of Your Town, I became quite interested in the variety of letter boxes which adorned the houses and flats of the old town. I took some photos, hoping that the residents were not too bemused by this weird woman zooming in on their private mail boxes.

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City letter boxes are very different to country letterboxes. In the country these are often large, multi coloured, homemade edifices ready to receive large items, newspapers and even milk! They must be wind, rain and highway resistant. They can be constructed of recycled tyres, tin, wood, plastic, Ned Kelly icons and even animal shapes – I’ll show you some in a future post – there’s that word again!

However, the city letterbox must be steel. It must withstand the prying eyes of others. It should be lockable with the house number boldly exhibited! Many of the ones I photographed I remembered as a child walking up the hills to primary school and back.

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This door swung open as I took this shot – much to the bemusement of the young tenant!

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In our technology rich world, where our words can speed across continents in seconds; convey our fears, hopes and pleasures faster than a speeding bullet, who really needs a letterbox? I can’t help but think of the spectrum of letters which must have been received over time, by the variety of occupants of each of these residences. Letters announcing births, deaths, achievements, marriages, pen pal adventures and invitations. Then there were the stamp collectors eagerly awaiting that letter from aunty Mabel in Manchester or Zia Sofia in Sicily just to rip off that stamp!

Moreover, the hand written letter seems to be a thing of the past. But it can be resurrected. Just scan some of the interesting stationery boutiques around today. Surely, paper products are not on the decline.

If the letter is to be alive and aerodynamic it needs the letter box as its corporeal friend.

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I leave you with the thoughts of the American poet, W.H. Auden

And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten.

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Do you miss running down to the letter box to check for that much awaited letter and not that bill?

School in Trento

For three days our group spent a delightful time in Trento. Located in the Trentino Alto Adige northern region of Italy, Trento is skirted by the majestic Dolomites. For Church history buffs, Trento or Trent in English, is also home of the Council of Trent which saw the Church’s Bishops come together to address social impacts and reforms in 1545, especially rising Protestantism.Trento had a strong Roman influence and its Roman name, Tridentum, depicted of course by Neptune, is a strong symbol for the town.

Our main aim in Trento was to attend school. Our sister school adjoins the building which hosted the Council of Trent. The group attended classes as part of a gemellaggio or sister school reciprocal visit. We, as teachers, also went to class – Latin and Ancient Greek at 7:45am which was extremely stimulating and very enlightening. All enjoyed the hospitality and genuine good humor of the Profs. We were even more privileged to have met the dirigente and be invited into her magnificent office for coffee. Later she joined our group for a farewell dinner. The young members of our group responded to her very positively and engaged in much polite conversation in Italian!

While meeting with the dirigente we viewed the school’s remarkable collection of ancient manuscripts. A volume of Petrach’s poetry dated 1554 was exhibited before us in all its delicate and ancient state. The text was completely in tact and quite robust for its age. It was quite amazing to be touching this manuscript which was as old as the discovery of the Americas. It was gently returned to its grand 1812 bookcase!

Trento is a Medieval town, of course. One of the highlights is the Castello del Buonconsiglio. A magnificent fortified castle built in the 13th century and later extended to include a palazzo in 1530. The castle was the defense of the town which stood on the main road linking Italy to northern Europe. It is the repository for many religious icons and works of art as well as housing an extensive exhibition of Medieval Knights. However, it was the Aquila Tower and its wondrous depiction of the twelve months of the year (March is missing) which really impacted on me. These charming frescoes were painted in the 14 century and depict the cycle of the seasons. Today they remain a wonderful and romantic depiction of life in the Middle Ages under the feudal system. A definite must see if you are in Trento!

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