Pen Pals

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pen Pals

The Royal Standard whips round in the wind above Buckingham Palace, signaling the presence of Her Majesty. Fighting back the childish urge to press my nose against the damp glass of the black taxi in which I am riding, I watch, unblinking, as we speed past all the old familiar landmarks, standing comfortably solid in the waxen light of an early morning sun. Out the right side window I glimpse white swans gliding lazily along the pond in St. James Park. To my left, four black lions nod a regal welcome from their perches in Trafalgar Square, while down the street to my right, Big Ben gives me a wink. Suddenly the taxi wheels round in front of my destination, The Wolseley, where I am scheduled to meet a new friend for breakfast. I step out onto the grey pavement, push open the doors and enter into the grand art deco interior. If it were not for the contemporary air of the diners inside, I could easily be Miss Lemon herself, meeting Hercule Poirot for tea. As it happens, I am to meet someone I have never even seen before.

Just as Julia Child and Avis DeVoto forged a fast friendship through letters - it was ten years before they actually met face to face - I feel I know Jeanne the moment we say hello, even though our friendship has been heretofore confined exclusively to the written word. For, unlikely as it may seem, we have become friends through this newfangled form of communication, blogging. A truly lovely lady with genuine charm, Jeanne has five blogs, a fact I find utterly exhausting even to consider, particularly since each one of them is so different from the other and each is so artfully done. We spend the next couple of hours discussing everything from books to travel, from skin care to family, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences as good friends are wont to do. After leaving The Wolseley, we wander through Hatchard's, the oldest bookshop in London and five floors of total literary enchantment, where Jeanne buys a cookbook and I, a book of ghost stories. As we say our goodbyes, I watch her leave in her gorgeous grey coat and lavender scarf, grateful for the introduction that this blog has allowed.

I would consider this wonderful meeting an anomaly were it not for my experience a couple of days later. When I let it be known that I was coming to London, I received a sweet letter from Jayne, the talented blogger from A Novice Novelist, inviting me to tea. I adore Jayne’s writing, and accepted immediately. (How could I not look forward to tea with someone who states in their blog profile that they had wanted to be a cat when they grew up?) We arranged to meet at a place we were both are curious about, a place rather mysterious that I shall write about later.
But for now, come along with me to the following Sunday......
it is a grey day and....

My cab driver is lost, something frankly unheard of in London. As a cold and rather determined mist falls, we hurtle down one street, then another in a very strange and unfamiliar part of the city. Finally I suggest he simply put me out where we are and the embarrassed, but defeated, man agrees. I ask directions of several people along the way and, after a few wonky starts, I finally arrive in the appointed cobblestoned street - late, damp, and more than a bit concerned that Jayne might have given me up as a lost cause. But then I hear my named called and turn to see a lovely red haired woman in a magical coat crossing the street to meet me with a grin on her face. And again, it is as though we had been friends for ages. We wander through Sunday markets, getting delightfully lost, and finally end up in a warm and cozy spot for lunch where we talk for hours about words and writing, subjects dear to both our hearts. We discuss the delight in working out the puzzles of plot and discover, not surprisingly, that we were both the type of child who always asked for books at Christmas. Not once is there a lull in the conversation - not once is there an awkward pause. It is almost dark when Jayne puts me on the correct underground train back to my hotel and, just as with Jeanne, I feel as if I am saying farewell to someone I have known for years.

I suppose there is a lot to lament in the current state of the culture and, Lord knows, I have occasionally participated in that lamentation with vigor. I have whinged over the feared demise of the written word and wrung my hands at the awful diminishment of the beautiful English language. But this past week gifted me with a brand new take on the subject of communication. For just as those who came before us treasured the arrival of the post, for it brought correspondence from those far away, providing a connection unique, and sometimes even deeper than face to face communion could afford, I find I wait eagerly for the next postings of my favourite blogs. Through my enjoyable encounters of this past week, I have found this modern communion to indeed be real and the friendships it affords most authentic.
We reveal ourselves in a different way when we write. Our thoughts float to the surface with a purity unsullied by shyness, free of the distraction of gesture or expression. Such is the power of words and it is delightful to discover that power untempered by the medium in which it is conveyed. I have no doubt that, had the opportunity been available when they were writing, Julia and Avis would have been bloggers extraordinaire, much like my new/old London friends Jeanne and Jayne.

Do stop by and say hello to them both.
I know you will be happy you did.

Jeanne’s blogs .....

Jayne’s blog, A Novice Novelist