This time next week we will be making the absolutely final preparations for Christmas. Despite the vagaries of the Spanish postal system, we already have a respectable display of Christmas cards with more expected. Several include letters bringing us up to date on news of the past year from friends around the world and our own cards went out with a similar letter enclosed. British television, which we can watch here, is already getting into the annual liturgy of looking back and pointing up the year’s highlights, and we can look forward to a spate of such items between now and the end of the year. All of which set me thinking about the importance attached to “keeping in touch”.
A couple of weeks ago I read a news item which suggested that, a mere twenty years after its arrival in our lives, the email is on the way out. Apparently it is being supplanted by subsequent developments like SMS, Instant Messaging, Facebook and other social media, and Twitter. My immediate reaction was to think, “That’s ridiculous!”. True, I’m on Facebook and often ‘like’ status updates and links posted by my friends, as well as feeling a warm glow when something I’ve posted gets a positive reaction. But though I’ve dabbled in Twitter, I’ve never really taken to it, and IM does not form part of my communication repertoire. Texting is something I use sparingly to convey bits of information along the lines of “Won’t be at the class tonight.” - and yes, I spell it out in full; with predictive text it’s faster than trying to think of the appropriate (?) abbreviations. Email on the way out? Pull the other one!
On reflection though, I can see that it could be true. Since discovering Skype, especially combined with a webcam, it has become the main line of communication with family back in the UK, as well as with far-flung friends. I have a regular appointment on a Monday morning with a Spanish friend in Madrid, when we chat for an hour on anything under the sun, part of the time in Spanish and part in English, to our mutual benefit. There is another friend who lives in New Zealand, and with an approximately twelve hour time difference it’s quite convenient to chat over Skype - and of course, it’s free. With a third friend who lives in Lima it’s more problematic. At the moment there is a six or seven hour time difference between us (part of the problem being that I can never quite remember whether it’s six hours or seven hours), so that finding a mutually convenient time is more difficult, especially as she works full-time and has a busy schedule. The answer in this case, of course, is email; except that mostly I don’t get around to emailing her either!
All this led me to think back further. As a child I had pen friends, which I what I guess Ana is today. I used to take great pleasure in the ritual of writing letters, posting them and awaiting the reply. I wrote thank you letters to everyone at birthdays and Christmas time. I wrote and sent picture postcards whenever I was away on holiday. This habit continued on into and through adulthood; writing to people was a part of knowing them and having them as friends. Since we moved to Spain nearly four years ago my circle of active friends has shrunk dramatically, I now realise. If I don’t have an email address for someone, and they are not on Facebook, then apart from a Christmas card, they get no communication from me from one year’s end to the next. You, the readers of this blog know more about my life in Spain than the great majority of people around the globe whom I know by name and think of as friends.
I think a New Year’s Resolution may be called for!.