Sveti Valentin prinese ključe od korenin



“For this was on seynt Volantynys day – Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”
1382 Geoffrey Chaucer – 1382

“Sveti Valentin prinese ključe od korenin, zato so v nekaterih krajih na ta dan začeli z delom v vinogradih in vrtovih”


Despite the high cost of postage Britain was sending 60,000 valentine cards by post in 1835.  Fancy Mechanical Valentines (cards) were available for a price. Produced with real lace and ribbons they could be signed with one of the many sentimental verses found in the ‘Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ that had been published nearly 40 years before.

But it was by inventing the postage stamp and reducing the postal rate in 1840 that Britain gave birth to the popular practice of mailing a valentines card, often anonymously, that has lasted to this day.

With 400,000 cards sent the first year alone the Hallmark Holiday was born.

Today this mostly commercial celebration has expanded to include roses, chocolate, diamonds and almost any heart-shaped piece of plastic you can imagine. Not to mention the untold millions of e-greetings and animated gifs.

And so honour of the saint of good health, the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims, we wish you the warmest of Valentines Greetings.

InCoWriMo 2017 has a new site

Like the plucky little rooster that it is, it looks like International Correspondence Writing Month will be with us again for another year this coming February. While not yet complete, it appears the site is up, running and pretty much functional seeing that the whole deal is only about three and a half months away.

Given there’s a major holiday season and several other events happening between now and then, it isn’t too early to start thinking about this years flurry of mail. It appears some things are yet to be expanded on the site, but you can already leave your name and address and get on this years list. As always the FAQ, instructions and pledge are back, including a downloadable certificate. And it looks like an address book and planner are shortly on the way.

It’s good news for all. And if you haven’t participated before, or are wondering what all this is about click here and go have a look or copy and past their new address —  and be sure to share it with your friends. (I’ll be keeping the link on my sidebar until the spring).


incowrimo 2016 – some final thoughts

SnailMailFor a number of reasons, I decided to stick to the official Incowrimo site this year even though there were other ‘hidden’ ways to participate in this project. The fact that I’m still seeing traffic, searches and enquiries from India, Europe, and Australia halfway through March tells me that there is some real interest in a month of International Letter Writing.

Apparently a quite a few people poked about here and at Incowrimo after searching for it. In they end they didn’t take part in this years Incowrimo thinking it was cancelled.  There were others who were inspired to write but left very little trace on the site. And there were a significant number of posts and links recommending Incowrimo 2016 but unable to provide reliable information. Information was scarce.

Personally, I think Incowrimo is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever participated in and it would be sad to see it slip away. This year, I tried to keep tabs on things in hopes we can make 2017 another successful year.

Last year, there were over 400 participants spread all over the world.

Incowrimo 2015 participants

The first thing I noticed this year was the difference in participation. There were only 31 people who added their names to the Incowrimo site. This meant that very few letters were shared between participants. For the 40 odd letters I sent out only 6 came in; and not all of them from this years project.

In addition to several smaller individual projects, 2 online forums heartily supported Incowrimo 2016 with open invitations to participate. Many forum members involved in 2016  were already members, or had followed the project there from previous years. As a result it was pretty much hermetically sealed but yielded great results within.

Don’t get me wrong, both ‘Fountain Pen Geeks’ and ‘A World of Snailmail’ are fabulous forums for anyone interested in handwritten letters, writing and writing instruments. If you have even a passing interest in the subjects, I would highly recommend joining. But in the end neither is focused strictly on promoting Incowrimo, and quite rightly so.

There were 72 people who had clearly posted their addresses to other members on the 2 forums as was their preference. What I found really interesting was the fact that 80% of them were from the United States. This compares to 55% on the Incowrimo site. Given the additional number of people who popped in and left in confusion,frustration or dismay, it seems like the number of truly international participants would remain constant or drop slightly.


One of the things I liked most about an International correspondence project is the International part. Personally I would like to see this flourish and grow even more. Writing to individuals by hand and online has shown me that there’s a distinct difference between the two and the humanity involved in sending a physical letter is no small thing.

Most disturbing this year, was the 75% drop in participation. Whether it was because the insanely great 2015 site had gone missing in action this year I’m not sure.  How or why it wasn’t updated remains a mystery, but I am committed to seeing that the project moves forward into 2017 with community support. I’m a big believer in Open Source and know it is a way of making amazing things possible.

To this end, I posted a survey about maintaining a list of addresses or database for Incowrimo. The results are interesting and I’m planning a separate post for them. If you haven’t taken the survey, I’d encourage you to take a minute or two now. It will be up til the end of the month. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone that made this year what it was!

incowrimo 2016 – address list

Incowrimo – feb 26


There’s only a couple of days left and already a couple of letters have come back. Yes come back :(  So far this has been a rare occurance for me. Letters soaked and unreadable, lost and shredded in transit yes. But returned to sender without even leaving the country is more than disappointing. The really frustrating part is that I reposted them at the local letterbox and they were returned the very next day. The postal carrier refused to pick them up to be delivered, only one of them had any signs of the stamps being cancelled.

I don’t know why and am slightly disturbed. To make sending out mail easier this year I made up a whole batch of these and guess that I’ve sent out at least 25 or more by now. Some I know have arrived, but after 9 days of circulating without leaving the country these two came back at my expense. I hope they are the only ones.




Incowrimo – feb 19 (part 3)


In case it means something to you, those are Caterpillar-D8’s on that hill. On a good day there can be 7 or 8 of them up there plus a Komatsu or two for good measure. And yes it’s all snow.

I managed to write several letters today and have managed to close the gap that opened at the beginning of the week. Clear blue skies brightened things up for a bit and I had time to think about snow. Weather for Canadians is like a hardened crust of bread. It can be a topic of conversation, but it’s often the only thing on the table and not very good if you don’t know how to deal with it. The weather that is.

After posting about snow a couple of days ago, fondness had me looking at a lot of footage of snow clearing in Montreal. Living there for fifteen years never dulled the thrill of hearing the towtruck horns announcing the coming parade. Like a circus complete with trained seals and clowns, the whole shebang rolled down the street in a foundation rattling thunder. Rushing out to move a car and then huddling inside to watch the procession never once seemed like privation. It made me understand what we could attain as a high mark in civilization in a harsh, northern, snow-filled land. Inhabiting Mars isn’t going to happen just by sitting around playing with our cell-phones.

Montreal is only two hours drive from here, but in approach it could be a different planet. The more I watched, the more I knew this topic deserved more than a just a passing glance. A city with more than 6,500 kms of road that gets roughly 225cm of snow every year. And doesn’t shirk it’s civic responsibility. They’re building a culture. Happily. And snow removal plays a big part.

If the above didn’t make complete sense, it translates to 4,000 miles of road that get nearly 7½ feet of snow on an average year. Often in 5 or 6 major snow ‘events’.  And event would be the proper term.

It unleashes an immense tactical operation that may go on for more than a week. 2,200 dedicated vehicles manned by 3,000 specialized employees. They take to the streets in precision, skill and training with a certain celebration of life that even in the middle of the night when I hear that massive rumble it still makes me ‘tax-dollar proud’.

Imagine if it helps, that each major event has enough snow to completely fill the Houston Astrodome to the lid. Twice. And that hill at the top of this post? More than once it’s been declared an aviation hazard and officials have demanded it lit. There are now 10 piles around the city mixed in with a dozen other sites.

It’s impressive if not just entertaining, but more important are the implications to civic life. And that’s what has caught my attention and I want to continue to write about. So along with my daily letters I’m preparing a little summation about civics and snow. Alarming and fascinating I can’t wait til my research is done.

*note: the clip above is provincial highway clearing and doesn’t represent municipal efforts but is equally amazing non the less :)

Incowrimo – feb 16 part 2


If you’re Canadianfrom Winnipeg, Edmonton or anywhere outside of the GTA; a sight like this isn’t going to be special or even something to write home about. **

It means that although I did get to stick some new pins in the map; I didn’t get take as much time to write.

I grew up in what is known as a snow belt, so this snow isn’t a shocker by any means. But for people living in places like Singapore, Quezon City and Delray Beach this would be the picture to represent at least a couple of hundred words.

People have asked about winter, what it’s like and the snow, so I thought I would take time to share a brief post.

For the most part, winter can be like this. Large storm systems blowing in much like thunder or tropical storms. Today it began in the morning and this picture was taken at the end of the afternoon.  About 35cm fell by then (about 14″) and as it’s wrapping up to be a total of 50cm (or 19.5″) by the time it’s over tonight.

What this means is that in order to go to work, or even the store, you have consider that you have to shovel out. The car you parked outside work this morning, yes you’ll have to shovel it too because this is most likely what it’ll look like.  You never get used to it, you wont like it and it’s not something you ever look forward too. Especially if it’s bitterly cold. And dark.

In fact we’ve been pretty lucky today in that it’s been a very cold week. We woke up on Saturday to see our thermometer at -40C the magic number where farenheit and celsius meet. Cold weather like this is generally dry and makes the snow light and fluffy. Closer to freezing, it becomes waterlogged and heavy; weighs a ton and is real hard to move. The bright side is these storms rarely last long and the snowfall will end by tonite. That leaves only a relatively light shovelling tommorrow.

If you can imagine, there are winters and places in Canada that can get nearly this much snow every day. Say maybe 30cm (about 12″) for several days in a row. And occasionally this will go on for a week or two. It’s unusual for it to snow like this for more than three or four days a couple of times during the winter and would only be considered unusually heavy if a bunch of these storms followed one another for the better part of a month. One or two storms do not a bad winter make.

Lately the media in search of attention has made a great deal out of these storms. The fact is that municipalities in this country have relinquished their desire to clear snow.

As far as I know, Montreal and many parts of Quebec are the only places that still take clearing roads seriously. In Ottawa, a city with a moderate snow, plowing may not even start on many roads until 10cm (4″) or more has accumulated or 10-16 hours AFTER the storm has started depending on which one is worse. This can be read both ways and is, and the majority of roadways may not be plowed for 24-36 hours. It’s a bit of a disgrace, but makes great news. And everyone has something to twitter about.

I hope one day to post pictures of a heavy winter, but for now this snapshot will do. Sorry for those who find this pedestrian and boring. I’ve only become aware through corresponding this past year just how much daily life we take for granted. And how it could be fascinating for someone else. Meanwhile I hope it’s more pins and letters tomorrow and the postbox will be filled.

And in case no one has mentioned it, snow clearing in Montreal should be on everyone’s bucket list.  After a storm it’s all done in 36 hours.With regular swipes every couple of weeks.

The link below for those who are interested, is a residential street close to where I used to live. Filmed just 3 weeks ago. Although it’s longish and I didn’t add the commentary (bad language alert) it is worth watching to the end. Especially if you’ve never seen this kind of thing.

** (note)  I’m not being unkind to people west of the Rockies. It’s already complicated to explain Canada’s regions. That we’re so big and really diverse. It isn’t personal, and I don’t pretend to ignore you, it’s just you’re so different and I know you’re big kids and able to speak for yourself.

Incowrimo 2016: these 20 plus people would love to recieve your correspondence


I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes my brain is not the fastest thing on two wheels and some things can take time before properly muddling themselves out. But it still isn’t halfway through the month (barely) and this means it’s far from being too late.

I have added a link to the column to the right that redirects to both the official Incowrimo site (here) and one to the people who have signed up for this year. And get this – under the list left over from last year – which is I admit, a real vote of confidence and pretty tricky thing in itself.  (that would be here)

If you visit the second of these two links and scroll on down to the bottom..  just above the comments section is a ‘Sort by Best’ option that can be changed to ‘Newest’. Scroll down a ways and you will find the following post.




If you choose ‘see more’ at the bottom.. you’ll find the list of people signed up for this year.

Just above the comments it says, “If your name is not on the above list but you would also love to receive InCoWriMo 2015 correspondence, feel free to use the comment section below to add your name and mailing address (for all the world to see).”   Change this to 2016 and it means that if you too would like to recieve letters, putting your address in the comments will add it to this years list and you can get started on your own correspondence right away.

I know this is all pretty pedestrian, but it’s all there is, and until the site undergoes a revision so far it seems a reasonable and convivial way to make it work :)

Incowrimo and the new world

AntiqueWorldMap1587-long goodbye

So along with International Correspondence Writing Month (Ink-a-Rhino for some) maps have suddenly regained prominence in my life. I’ve always enjoyed maps. Including people who use them, make and find pleasure in them.

I had a long-time friend who, when he felt the need to relax, would follow the course of rivers in an old and detailed atlas he inherited. He told me he had been doing this ever since he was a child. It provided hours of inspired contemplation and deeply enriched his life. It also made him great at trivia games focused on geography.

Until I left primary school, every classroom I ever entered had at least one or two immense pull-down maps rolled onto brackets and attached to the blackboards. Unfurled they offered unlimited distraction. A place for daydreaming and exploration and adventure as well as introducing us to the wider world.  And much like handwriting, maps like these offered a glimpse into ourselves. A springboard for pensive inner conversation about where we saw our place in the world.  And while the modern era tried endlessly to replace this with every sort of electro-mechanical advance in technology. Slides and film strips, always in darkened rooms, 16mm and overhead projectors and those atrocious VCR towers. For years I secretly yearned for the simplicity of a large map of my own on the wall. At times I considered ginormous wallpaper editions, but could never decide how serious this map commitment was. That was until last year.

With my participation in Incowrimo set and the decision to continue writing well past the end of the month; a not unreasonable set of circumstances had me purchase a small laminated world map. It fit nicely under our shelving and right next to the dining table where I wrote. I tacked it up, rustled some decorative pins and took out my bundle of letters and began to identify where all of this correspondence was going to and coming from.

Pretty soon I began to notice many ‘new’ things about the world. Most of it my ignorance. For some of you this may be easy; but could you point out with confidence Suriname or the Seychelles or Estonia? Which is bigger Madagascar or Japan? Or which is closer to Seoul, Manilla or Hanoi? Where exactly is Idaho or Wales. And is Kazakhstan really the same size as Central Europe?  There are answers to these questions funny enough, and most of them can be found on a map.

Over the past several months, this map that I purchased has been a companion piece to my life. And while it’s definitely not the superbly drawn pull down version of the world produced by DENOYER-GEPPERT * in the middle of the last century; it has done the job.

But alas the world I knew has changed, and the signals have been there for a long time.

In part it was a letter I sent last week. My correspondent had mentioned their unfamiliarity with Canada and I on my ignorance of their corner of the Pacific. It wasn’t just that the country in question was at the other side of the table and I rarely changed seats.  I was becoming uncomfortably aware of how Eurocentric and ‘western’ we presented the world and how it has come unreasonably to dominate most other views.

While travelling in Norway a number of years ago, I had the fortune to see maps where the North Pole was placed at the centre. Even for a Canadian this was a chilling shock but it did make incredible sense. It was clear who your neighbours were, and how your country was positioned in the world in important and overlooked ways.  And I realized while writing this letter that my idea of the world, especially the picture I carried around in my head, placed me a little to the left but still, essentially, smack dab in the centre of things when in reality the centre of things is more likely closer to the Bay of Bengal.

I sensed right away that something had to be done; and a map by Arno Peters wasn’t enough. The world that I knew through correspondence, stories and news, the one I carried around in my head, just didn’t match the one stuck on the wall. It seems the sun has finally set on European colonization and we’re all overdue to find a new map. To that end, I figured I’d do it myself and what I found, while still not the wallpaper edition, might fit the bill. I have real map pins this time, and look forward to discovering new places and friends.

I’ve come to understand while corresponding this past year, just how deeply coloured our concept of the world is by what we are exposed to, what we read, and what we say. And it’s why I welcome International Correspondence Month. The thoughtful, handwritten conversations. The friendly introduction of new stories and perspectives. The exchanges of insight, joy and inspiration. The marked passing of time from posting to delivery. The patient and steadfast reply. The preparation. The space it takes. The paper. The ink. The pens, the stamps and yes the glue.

It’s why we co-respond.

The New Map – I’ll yet post a few pics of the old one before retiring and putting it away.



*(you probably know them today for those plastic body part models in your doctor’s office)