2nd December

A Lorra Crazy Letters

Crazy Letters

If you read my post of 4th November on the launch of Grub’s Pups, you may have noticed that I referred to a letter that I read out to everyone.  In fact, there were two of these – The Sunflower letter, and The Mushy Peas letter – and they form just a small dint (I love that word) in the crazy letter pile that formed the bulk of my early writing.  Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not being hard on myself here.  I had a whappy imagination as a youngster and my crazy letters are the result of this.  I also wrote some crazy odes, and, as an angst-ridden teenager, wrote more serious stuff – woeful poems, which (dear god!) I hope will never see the light of day… hmm… but the way these blogettes go, you never know do you?

I also wrote a diary, every day, from around the age

The Mushy Peas letter

of fourteen, but this was more an account of my day and a way of venting my woes, and whittering on about whichever boy I fancied at the time, than an escape route for my rather overactive imagination.  Thus, the trips to my dad’s office in the spare room, the unclasping of my dark green typewriter case, and the clicketty click of the keys that could be heard resounding around the house, as I constructed yet another crazy letter, were (although I didn’t know this at the time) the beginnings of my life as a writer.  I’m sure you’d love to see one of my crazy letters wouldn’t you? Of course you would.  Here’s the one that I read out at the Grub’s Pups launch, typed out below, as close as possible to how it appears in the original… and yes, I KNOW there are typos AND punctuation errors AND spelling mistakes!

Dear Sir
Last week I bought 6 packets of seeds;I packet of Daffodils,Dalias,Pansies,Clamaters,Geraniums,and
finally Sunflower seeds.
I found that most of your seeds,after 6 days,have not grown
an inch.But however,your Sunflower seeds have persivered in
growing taller than my house.I cannot find a way to stop
Can you help me.If you can,please call at No:8,Crabtree
Lane.You may not beable to get through the tangle of roots,
but don’t tell me off it’s your own stupid Sunflower seeds.
Mr P.A.Butterworth

What I am particularly impressed with, and slightly amazed at, is my correct use of commas for parenthesis (around ‘ after six days’) and my knowledge of plant names.  I think that more than makes up for the other errors… don’t you?  Yes, of course it does!

The letters were nearly always from disgruntled customers to people and places that didn’t exist about random things that never happened – but that was the fun of it!  Coincidentally, around the same time that I dug out these letters to take to the launch, I picked up on a typewriter tweet from writer, Jon McGregor.  There began a conversation amid a burst of nostalgia and  reminiscences (on my part) about the wonderful typewriter I used to own, all of which resulted in my purchase of this…

The Abi No.2

The Abi No.2 does all the things the Abi No.1 did… it clicketty-clicks, it dings when the carriage needs to be returned, the keys do that jammy-uppy thing.  It can never be the same for me as it once was, but it brings back memories of those early days, and makes me realise how important they were.  And, the most wonderful thing of all, my daughter absolutely loves it and has begun writing letters and songs on it… a pile has gathered in the centre of our dining room table that fills me with joy and brings tears to my eyes.  You see, that’s all it takes!

What are your ealiest writing memories, and do you still have any of the evidence?

About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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16 Responses to 2nd December

  1. I love this post so much! What an incredible imagination, and as you say, clearly indicating the beginning of your life as a writer! I’m afraid that most of my typewriter memories are more utilitarian, but I love typewriters nonetheless–and your description of the mechanical sounds is perfect. And I’m so glad that you found Abi No. 2 for a second generation of letters. (p.s. I also see the “roots” of your gardening interests too 🙂

    • Hi Julia, so glad you liked the post. That’s an interesting point about the gardening theme . I don’t remember knowing much about flowers at that age, but I guess I must have done… the proof is in the pudding as they say! Yes, isn’t it great that dort is using the Abi No.2 to be creative? Thumbs up to that eh?

  2. I did write when I was younger. Pen and paper were my medium. I’m sad to say that none of it is still in existence. With the aid of computers and memory sticks now, my current writing should always stay with me.

    • Ah, it’s a shame you don’t have any of your early writing Rebecca, but I guess the main thing is that you were being creative and that that’s continued. As you say, with current technology, hopefully your writing now will be around for a long time. Thanks for commenting Rebecca!

  3. I love this post too! Brings back my early days of learning to type on a manual machine. Love how the story comes full circle too with your daughter taking up the practice.

    Letters to people who don’t exist about things that never happened? You weirdo! 😉

  4. Martin Day says:


    It’s fascinating to see how your early inclinations were so different from mine. I had access to a typewriter but progress was so slow and the results so littered with mistakes that I didn’t ever seem to produce anything of value from it.

    My early writing wasn’t self-initiated but a product of English lessons and Homework (They made me do it!). I think I have the evidence in a ‘specials’ box in the loft. My earliest efforts were a limerick about my dog and an amusing poem called ‘I am a tennis ball’ (which I still think is genius). Creative writing homeworks that stand out are ‘The Knife’ (a title that we were given, but that I turned into an adventure about a dangerous species of tree) and ‘The January Sales’. The latter I got a 19 and a half out of 20 for (dropping a half mark for the inevitable poor spelling and handwriting). I remember it was read out in class and two girls rounded on me and accused me of copying it out of a magazine – They didn’t think I was capable of it myself. That was the moment that I realised that not everyone could write like I could. What followed was decades of writing lyrics rather than anything else. I think becasue of the dyslexia a song seemed manageable, whereas anything longer just seemed like too much like hard work.

    I can still remember the limerick if you are interested, I must have been about 11…

    I have a young basset called Fred,
    Who walks with his sock full of lead.
    His ears are so floppy
    They make him look soppy
    And his skin is too big for his head.

  5. Brilliant! I love the limerick. Thanks so much for your lovely comments. It’s fascinating to hear your beginnings too. I think English classes were the spark for a lot of writers. I had an amazing English teacher who was very inspiring – English should be about creativity shouldn’t it, not just about spellings and where to put an apostrophe? It’s great that you had a ‘specials box’. I too had a ‘special box’ and my kids do too!

  6. nettiewriter says:

    Brilliant post!
    I used to write the most mournful and morbid poetry when I was a teenager – and trust me, you wouldn’t want me to share that! I had a typewriter too and loved the inkiness of the ribbon and the ‘ding’ of the carriage return. Happy memories.
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thanks Nettie. So lovely that you had a typewriter too. Yes, that morbid poetry stuff – sounds very familiar! At least we were being creative eh, instead of getting up to mischief… well, maybe a tinsy bit of mischief 😉

  8. Emma Pass says:

    Another awesome Abi blog!

    I was lucky enough to hear you read the sunflower letter at the launch, and it’s even funnier out loud. And I love that you have ‘Abi 2’ now, and that your daughter is writing her own letters on it, too! Who knows, perhaps she’ll follow in the footsteps of her incredibly talented mum? 😉

  9. Ah, thank you! It’d be amazing if Emma decided to take up writing. She’s got such a good understanding on language and such a wonderful imagination. I have booked her in to be my PA first though – I need her to do my book-keeping – her maths skills are ace!

  10. Lovely! I remember writing very dark, angst ridden stories on loosed sheets of lined A4 when I was a young teenager. When my Dad bought his first PC (loaded with a massive 4mb of RAM) he handed down his old Amstrad PCW, and I’d spend hours typing bright green letters onto a dark green screen. How my eyes survived it, I’ll never know. Still . . . it made me feel like a real writer.

  11. Fab! Do you still have the stories Dan, or have any of the ideas cropped up in your books? It really does make you feel like a real writer having your own ‘mean machine’ doesn’t it? I love the idea of the bright green letters on the dark green screen – not sure how your eyes coped with it either though!

  12. I love that letter – straight to the point, lol. I used to have a typewriter very similar to yours until my dad bought me a really posh one with an eraser key! I thought I was the bee’s knees!!!

    CJ x

  13. Hi CJ, glad you like the letter – yes, I didn’t beat around the bush did I? (no pun intended!) So many of us used to have typewriters didn’t we? Blimey, you were posh – it was the old tippex paper for me 😀 … eee, those were the days!

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