Wednesday 3 October 2018

Lost communications

These days, with phones, texts, skype, etc, etc ... it's difficult to avoid your nearest and dearest, and the not so nearest ...

But even in the relatively recent past, things were not so easy. Then it was just the post  - letters, or maybe newspapers ...

I had the idea for this post from a post on Elizabeth Hawksley's fabulous blog which is often a mine of historical quirkiness. This one is about entries in the personal column in The Times for 1870.

I can remember a time when the personal columns were a fascinating, if mysterious read (Come on, I'm not that old - alright, yes, I am ...) Spies were said to use them to communicate and as Elizabeth points out apparently lovers did too.

From my own use of contemporary newspapers from WW2 for the day job, it came as a shock when I first encountered the hospital lists - coded lists on the condition of patients in the isolation hospital for relatives who would be unable to visit because of the nature of the illness and the distance - and some of those patients might have been children with Scarlett Fever ... We take easy communication so much for granted now.

Of course it's not all progress - everyone who has ever read a Sherlock Holmes novel knows that it was possible to send an invitation to dine or make an evening appointment by post on the same day, at least in London. With three or four deliveries, why not? Now you'd send a text or an e-mail, but the idea of a letter is a lot more romantic somehow.

Lack of communication can be a blessing for a novelist - I can't count the times I have had to interfere with a piece of modern kit so hero/heroine doesn't get a vital piece of information. On one level writing before technology is very alluring. But then, if you have to summon help in an emergency and you're left looking for a working pay phone ...

It's all swings and round-abouts. I'm looking forword to writing contemporary and putting a foot in the past, when the day job is over. 

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