Tuesday, 3 November 2009

I was given a small box yesterday.

It was filled with some of the letters that I have written to the press over the past few years. I am sometimes asked if I am related to 'the person who writes to the papers'. Other people know I do and will even introduce me as such. There is, almost invariably, an assumption that, because I use my initials, I am male.
It is a curious assumption. I know a number of females who use their initials. There is nothing sinister about this. We are not trying to hide our sex or pretending to be something we are not. It just happens to be the way we sign our names.
There are also other curious reactions to my letter writing activity. "Oh, I don't know how you do it" and "I sometimes think I should" and "I couldn't be bothered" and "How do you get so many letters published?" (Answer to the last one, keep them short and to the point. I might get an occasional longer letter in but only because the editorial staff know my name.) More amusing however is the, "Cat, I need to write a letter to the 'Tiser about and I can't get the damn thing right." So, in the middle of the supermarket aisle, on the back of envelope or across the shopping list, someone takes down some suggestions from me. The following day I see my words under their name in the paper. That does not bother me. The ideas are theirs. They just need to licked into a shape that could be used. The good thing is that, seeing themselves in print, they will try and express their opinion again at some time. I am all for stirring up discussion and encouraging people to think.
The letters given back to me were collected by a 94yr old. She is an inveterate collect of all sorts of things. Letters by former students and staff are just one thing. There are press cuttings from her days running a special school for physically disabled children, there are press cuttings about former students and staff of the school and their achievements. There are comments on special education. There are volumes of documents about her working life and her holidays. It is all curiously impersonal. It gives no sense of what she is like as a person. Nobody really knows who she is. We never will.
I have never bothered to save copies of my letters. Looking at those which she has saved however I wonder who people really think I am.

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