A Letter To You …

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In the days before social media made it possible to be in constant contact with friends and family, ISmash Hits Five Star cover 230486 used to keep in touch with people the old school way … writing. A prolific letter writer since I was in single figures, when I would regularly correspond with my great, great aunt in Eastbourne, I was delighted when my penpal profile appeared in an issue of Smash Hits.

I was 15 years old when my request for a penfriend was published in the magazine in April 1986. Within days I was inundated with replies, which resulted in me having penpals in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Alaska and all over the UK, and school friends replying to some of the remaining hundreds of letters.

I continued to write to a number of my Smash Hits buddies for several years, writing at least one letter every SHday, and some went on to become very good friends in reality, not just on paper. In fact, my son’s Scouse godfather is one of those friends I met because of this listing. Who would have thought it back then? Over thirty years of friendship due to a few lines in a magazine.

Now, like many people, we use Facebook rather than letters to keep in touch across the miles and, although a nostalgic part of me misses the excitement of a letter dropping through the letterbox, I cannot deny the advantages of our online updates. Social Media has also been responsible for bringing some wonderful new friends into my life, and had it not been for a friend and fellow 80s fan I met via Twitter, I would not have the images included in this post. I can’t imagine how our communications will develop over the next three decades. I doubt very much that today’s teenagers will look back on Snapchat messages with the same fondness I feel when I look at the shoeboxes full of letters I have kept, and I am certain none of them will be sending rhymes like “Postman, postman don’t be slow. Be like Elvis, go man go!”, which I recently discovered on the envelope of one of those letters.

Whatever the future holds, nothing will ever top my 80’s letter-writing days and the memories they made. Maybe I will even get around to publishing the letters one day.

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Too Good To Be Forgotten 80s

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Some people may not look forward to Sunday evening, knowing that the start to the working week is not far away. For me, 7 o’clock on a Sunday evening is the start of two hours of music from my favourite decade, accompanied by online conversations with some of the loveliest 80s enthusiasts you could ever hope to encounter. I am referring to Matthew Rudd’s “Forgotten 80s” show on Absolute 80s, which is also repeated on Thursdays from 9 to 11pm.

During the show, fellow 80s enthusiasts communicate via Absolute 80s’ Facebook page, and/or on Twitter, under the hashtag #forgotten80s. Despite Mr. Rudd’s observation that some people do use both platforms, I believe the majority of listeners choose one or the other. This was evident a few weeks ago, when he mentioned how welcoming the Facebook listeners were, but neglected to mention us Tweeps in a similar vein. Suddenly, my Twitter feed was full of comments from the Forgotten 80s Twitterati, protesting at Matthew’s lack of acknowledgement for his loyal tweeters. One notable comment likened the Tweeps to Grange Hill pupils, and those using Facebook to Rodney Bennett! Having never used Facebook during the show, I can’t comment on the second half of that statement, but given the range of characters of my fellow Tweeps, I reckon the Grange Hill tag is pretty accurate, and one which we should wear with pride. We have that same sense of camaraderie and banter, there is lots of fun, and everyone has an opinion (and isn’t afraid to share it!).

Of course, you can always listen to the show without any social media interaction, as I did when I first started listening. However, I wouldn’t be without Twitter now, when tuning in. There is nothing quite like sharing memories and trivia with other fans of the decade that subtlety forgot, inspired by a fantastic soundtrack of the era. Even when the music isn’t to my taste (Karel Fialka’s “Hey Matthew” springs to mind), it is still a vibrant blast from the past, which I wholeheartedly embrace. So, come join us and, as Wham! once sang “let me take you to the place where membership’s a smiling face” 🙂

Facebooking Up To The Future

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Despite its shortcomings (don’t get me started, I’ve not got my soapbox handy!), one thing I do love about the internet is how small it can make the big, wide world. Throw social media sites into the mix, and you have communication possibilities most of us could have never even imagined during the Eighties. Add a touch of serendipity, and you’re in  a  coffee shop, meeting an old school friend you haven’t seen for 25 years…

When I uploaded a couple of old, group photos, I had no idea it would bring an old school friend back into my life. Yet yesterday saw the two of us catching up on each other’s lives, and chatting as if the last two and a half decades had never happened.Our teenage years were made up of a series of events which may have held no real significance at the time, but are now remembered with huge affection. Our first hangovers, a school trip to London which we took as an opportunity to go celebrity spotting (Judith Chalmers and Tommy Boyd!), a road trip to Wales in my old Austin Allegro, the list goes on. Life may have taken us on different paths, although there were also some uncanny similarities, but we have now found ourselves living a few miles apart. So when we hugged goodbye, I knew it wouldn’t be long before we meet up again. In fact, I’ve got to go now because I’ve just had a message come through from her on Facebook!