The man sitting next to me on the metro takes out a notepad on which he has written (dated yesterday) a letter. While not wishing to sit there and read the entire thing over his shoulder, I glance occasionally, while pretending to read my book. He skims it fairly quickly, presumably one last check before he sends it. Five or six pages are covered with small, neat handwriting in a light blue ink, with the occasional hand-drawn smiley face. From the little I manage to surreptitiously read, it’s a love letter from a German man to a British woman he visited back in Germany. He recalls the fun things they did and saw, and looks forward to the next time they’ll see each other. The letter begins and ends with declarations of his affections in German.

I can’t remember that last time I handwrote a letter to someone rather than emailed them. It was probably to my wife during the year we spent living at opposite ends of Europe (yes, we’ve kept all that correspondence in a box upstairs). I used to write regular letters to a friend (this was in the pre-Internet days, kids) who lived on the other side of the same town. For some reason we were just more comfortable communicating that way.

Postcards and birthday cards are the only time I write to anyone by hand these days.