The science of breaking

(Posted by Mark)

Bones are brittle, hearts are fickle and promises are made to be broken. Whatever the act of severance, be it physical or emotional, the effects of breaking can be as hard to mend as years of yearning or as simple as a two week plastercast. Sticks and stones, if used with enough force and malevolent intent, may well break my bones, but sadly the playground wisdom requires correction when it comes to the part where words can never hurt me. I’ve had a few broken bones (leg, ankle twice, wrist) but they were healed far more speedily than the little scars which I believe we all bear from words. One of the worst sentences in the English language? Easy: “I don’t love you any more”.

Breaking the routine
Matt Bellamy (no relation to David or Craig) sings “Change everything you are, and everything you were, your number has been called” and I’m not about to disagree with him. Life can be a drudge unless you are very careful to perforate the tedium regularly with changes to the timetable or variances to the pre-established way of things. My own little train tracks of despair are easy to map: home, work, pub, home; in a little five-day cycle which is broken fewer times than I’d like. This isn’t a lament – it’s up to me to break the cycle and I know it.

Breaking a habit, whether it’s the usual series of events every day or an addiction like smoking, takes a measure of willpower; furthermore, most people have a habit of some kind or another, and yes, the less harmful habits count too: biting nails, ice cream, your favourite “can’t miss” TV show – they’re all habits and our acceptance of them in others varies, depending on our own particular vices.

How do we make the change? Well, that’s the prize question, without doubt. You can get patches or gum to combat your nicotine cravings, but unless Ben and Jerry are holding out on us, an ice cream obsession may not have such an obvious escape route. Perhaps if we are to break out of our patterns of living, it’s the smaller things we need to adjust first. Sound easy? Of course it isn’t. When I’ve finally quit smoking, I’ll let you know how it went.

Breaking the ice
Whether a social lacuna has opened up and is threatening to absorb the entire company into the black hole of dullness, or whether you have just arrived at a gathering and know absolutely no-one there, you will need to somehow introduce yourself, get a dialogue moving with some of the people around you and generally begin to integrate into the rest of the party; to adopt a rather overstretched and ridiculous metaphor, you need to break the ice of silence with the icepick of your wit to reveal the fresh-flowing pool of conversation which lies beneath. (I’ve just re-read that sentence. I might need psychiatric help.)

So, how can you go about relieving any awkwardness or discomfort when a silence has lasted just that little bit too long and the expectations of the next speaker have built up to levels where only Churchillian rhetoric would be able to fill the void? Try some of these and see what you think:

  • “I hear that the Pope is actually a woman.”


  • “Who here have I not told about my operation?”


  • “JFK isn’t dead, you know. Neither is Elvis. They live together in a bungalow in Kings Langley.”


  • “Did you know that the fastest land mammal is not the cheetah, as believed, but actually my mother-in-law?”


  • “Do you say ‘lattay’ or ‘lartay’, out of interest? I only ask because I read this piece …”

With any luck (and you’ll need luck), the response to any of these all-gold nuggets of ice-breaking will be either (a) open and ill-controlled laughter, or (b) some kind of considered and sincere response. If it is option (b), then you will be able to ridicule your respondent successfully for the rest of the evening and you stand a very good chance of being regarded by your peers as a god of comedy. Either that or a very mean-spirited and sarcastic person, but the difference between the two is very fine.

If surrealism or outright lies seem inappropriate for breaking the ice (a first date or a funeral are good examples), then you may be forced to sit back, concentrate fiercely, and fake some sincerity. Sincerity always plays well with other people as it gives the impression that you actually care what they are saying or whether they are breathing, and people like to feel cared about. Really the only trick here is the old husbands’ favourite: memorise the last five words the other person has said, then ask a question based on whatever information those five words have contained. The other person will be sufficiently enthused that you have bothered to do even that much that they will witter on for hours, like as not. You’re on a hiding to nothing if they don’t.

Breaking promises
Some promises don’t really count – we all know that, so it’s no use pretending that every single promise you ever make will be held fast and true for the rest of life and unto eternity. Just as there are big lies and little lies, so there are important promises and minor promises and we all have our own ways of distinguishing between them. I would suggest that there is a great difference between breaking a promise that you will be able to give someone a lift to the train station and breaking a promise that you will be faithful to your partner. There’s a sliding scale and although I or you or your partner or your best friend can choose a point at which you shouldn’t break promises of such-and-such level of importance, the only person who really knows what they would and would not do is you.

Not only do we break the promises we make, sometimes we also make promises which from the outset we have no possible way of keeping. Herein lies an unbreakable: optimism. You hold your lover’s hand, stare intently at the face which makes you want to be a better person, slide the back of your hand down their cheek, brush away a tiny fleck of hair back over their ear and say to them: “I will never hurt you”. And you mean it. At the point, at that frozen moment, you mean it with every sinew straining, every nerve tingling, every excitable heartbeat. But one day, you will hurt them. You may not wish to, but you will; it’s unavoidable, but it won’t stop you promising.

Breaking your heart
Breaking your heart invariably involves the breaking of promises; some important promises and some less important. I’m sitting at the keyboard thinking about what I can write about heartbreak and I have just realised that my stomach is churning a little bit, I’ve stared into space now for a good few minutes, and I’m thinking about tidying up a few things. I don’t want to write about heartbreak, because that means I’m going to have to relive it, doesn’t it? And that’s the last thing anyone wants to do; however happy and settled you may be right now, however in love with your current partner, however comfortable in your current stage of life, you don’t want to think about the time when you had committed so much and then had it all destroyed.

Perhaps that’s why, in serious break-ups, both people cry. The breaker and the broken both cry for themselves and for each other, for the pain they have caused and the pain they are feeling. Amid the tears, there are justifications, counter-arguments, pleadings, denials, arguments, old ground retrodden, infidelities relived, memories burnished and then sullied – but there are definitely tears. I wonder whether it would be possible to go around the world and let each person visit places they have lived or seen and allow them to place a small red plaque at every appropriate place, with the plaque reading: “A part of me broke here”. And if we could do that, would there be any other colour than red anywhere?

But we bounce back from our disappointments and from the aching. Although the science of breaking is generally a negative one, there’s always the possibility that whatever has been broken may one day be fixed, good as new.



Diet Tips For Girls

(posted by Zena)

I’ve spent my whole life on a diet. Well, a series of diets. I’ve probably lost and gained my entire body weight two or three times.

Motivation’s always been an issue: the latent-ardent-feminist within abhors the get-thin-for-men school, and I’ve just never had the willpower to get by on two lettuce leaves and half a stick of celery (which I have just realised will surely be the name of my Spike-alike production company).

But something happened.

It’s a long story, but I’ll try and give the seven-inch version.

On March 7th I went to stay with some friends for the weekend. No big deal; friends from church who’d been inviting me to hang out for a while. D, I’d known since I was about fifteen, and M, his wife, I’d met in the last few years since they’d been together. While we weren’t best friends, it felt like we had a hippy-searching-style understanding of the world, and I was looking forward to a relaxed, chilled weekend. Also, I’d heard she was a good cook, which is always great. I’d had a crazy day at work, running around, and was starving when I got there, as I hadn’t eaten all day.

When I got there on Friday night, D was already a little stoned – which in itself doesn’t bother me that much – and M had taken the kids somewhere and would be back shortly. D told me he liked to chill at the weekend, and I thought, that’s cool, so do I. I’ve smoked a small-to-middling amount of dope in my life, and don’t really have a problem with it. Just, like most women, I get slightly morose rather than giggling at the cracks in the pavement.

D offered me some hash cake. I said I’d never had it before. He said it was better than smoking: smoother, faster, no munchies. Sure, I made an error of judgement, I could have said no, blah blah blah, but I trusted him, and I’m an experimental type of person. I get off on new experiences, and I figured this would be one. And it was.

Later, I found out that putting a hundred quid of stuff in one little cake is not so smart. And about the vagaries of cooking, and you don’t know how much you’re having, and all that jazz.

After ten minutes, when I wasn’t bouncing off the ceiling, D offered me a second piece, which I sensibly declined. After half an hour, the room started spinning a little, and everything felt slightly muzzy. By the time M got back with the kids, I couldn’t really focus. We sat down for dinner, and at 9pm – about an hour and a half after I’d eaten it – I was overcome with the most death-defying paranoia ever.

I was convinced that I was going to die. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, and shaking it so violently that the plates broke. I remember trying to put my hand through their glass kitchen cabinets. I remember my heart beating so fast I thought I was having a heart attack. I remember feeling that I couldn’t control my bodily functions.

D and M handled it badly. He was so stoned that he couldn’t really deal with it. M kept saying “D, she’s your friend, you sort her out.” All I wanted was for someone to hold my hand or give me a hug and tell me everything would be alright. D kept telling me to sleep it off and it would be fine, but I knew I would die if I went to sleep. I clearly remember M saying “D, this is the third time this has happened, you have to stop giving this to your friends.”

The kids – 5 and 7 – seemed pretty freaked out, and who wouldn’t be, a strange woman coming over and trying to wreck your house. I wanted them to call an ambulance, and remember them having a huge row, as they didn’t want to get the authorities involved. Later, I found out that I was lucky not to be hospitalised from the amount of dope in my system, and lucky I didn’t end up cowering in the corner of some small room for three months.

When I really lost it, and started shouting and smashing things up again, they pushed me outside – it was raining heavily – “to walk it off”. I didn’t have a coat, and I was freezing, and scared. After about ten minutes, I begged to come back in and said I would “behave”. They put me in their spare room with a couple of litres of water (D had said early on to keep drinking or I would dehydrate, and I was paranoid I would die).

It was about 11pm – the room was overtaken by Aztecs who wearing my skin inside up, which was pretty unpleasant. (I’d just seen the show at the Royal Academy that week). I remember thinking to stay calm, and it’s only the drugs, but I couldn’t. I tried to go to the toilet, but couldn’t co-ordinate myself to get up. Around 11.30, I remembered that I had some friends. Called my boyfriend, his phone was switched off. Then I called a good friend, S, and she realised straight away that something wasn’t right, and I told her as best I could what had happened and how scared I was.

S got the address, and came over to collect me. By this time, D and M were in bed, and I just walked out of their house in my pajamas, and S gave me a hug, and took me home, and cosied me up in her spare room. She stayed up all night with me, talked to me when I got scared again, and was a better friend than I could ever imagine.

By Saturday, the paranoia was coming in waves, and so I had periods of lucidity which was good, but I was petrified I was changed forever in some way. My boyfriend came round and hung out, and on Saturday night he took me home. I was weird for at least a week, couldn’t really go out, and he stayed with me and looked after me. Usually I’m the looker-after and needing things from people, feeling incapable and delicate was a scary, new feeling.

That week, the handful of friends I told were amazing. People came over and cooked me vegetables (I was petrified of putting anything unhealthy in my body), and were just nice to me. It took about a month to realise I was completely back to “normal” – whatever that is.

D and M? They woke up on Saturday morning to find me gone. The last they’d seen of me I was trying to kill myself, and D finally called my mobile about 5pm. I couldn’t really talk to him. He said it was my fault, as I should have told him I was on anti-depressants (which I’m not), as that’s why I had a bad trip. He wasn’t at all apologetic. I decided that I didn’t like how he behaved and didn’t want to talk to him again. For a few months I was angry: I wanted to call Social Services because I didn’t think living with stoners was good for the kids (he told me they come home from school and say “are you stoned today, Daddy?”). After about three weeks I told him that if I ever heard that something like this had happened to anyone else, I would have no problem calling the police. And also, that I never wanted to be in contact with him again.

I learned things, though. One: always have breakfast. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had eaten something that day. And – related – that you only have one body, and you really need to look after it. It’s within your control, you have choices, and I felt like I was so near to death (all paranoia, I’m sure, but real scary nonetheless) that I wanted to make the most of the time I have left. Two: what good friends I have. Like lots of people, I occasionally feel friendless and insecure, and this experience showed me how much my friends really value me.

For two weeks, I only wanted to eat steamed broccoli (strange, I know), and lost some weight. Then I thought, I could eat in a way that looks after my body all the time. And that, folks, is how it all started…

3. Do you like the things that life is showing you? (still Diana Ross)

(posted by Buni)

Oh god Mike, you do ask them don’t you?

Do I like the things that life is showing me? Hmmmmm. >>rubs chin<<

Have you ever seen that scene in The Fifth Element where Leeloo, the Supreme Being is watching visuals about war, genocide, poverty etc etc. It feels something like that sometimes. I’m not saying I’m like ‘The supreme Being’, (that’s far too modest) I’m saying I would watch the TV or catch something on the internet and it just cuts me up inside how awful things can be. Last May the tube went on my TV and I just couldn’t be bloody bothered to go get a new one. I don’t miss the TV either; I am able to filter things through the internet.

Earlier on in the year, I went on a stag weekend to climb Mount Snowdon in North Wales. I had my reservations about the weekend; after all it was my first stag. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the summit either. That weekend was really very special for me in many ways.

Firstly, we were all there because a very good friend was getting happily married to a wonderful lady. It just goes to show that love and happiness is out there, you just have to find it. That’s the fun part.

Secondly, for years I had struggled hopelessly with vertigo. I would avoid heights at any cost and break out into the most terrible sweats. I thought I’d managed it by bungee jumping, which scared the living crap out of me, but that failed as well. When we began the ascent of the mountain, I could feel the bile rise slowly at the back of my throat, my heart and stomach were being pounded by a herd of elephants and to top it all, I had no bloody cigarettes. I was up a mountain with vertigo and no bleeding baccie. Nightmare. But I managed it.

The third and final part of this is that when we got to the summit, it was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. Miles and miles of some of England’s Wales’ finest countryside; an eagle flying close to the summit soared past us and I just thought, this is it, this is beautiful.

Of all the things that life is showing me, those are the things that I take notice of now. Everything else can go whistle in the wind for all I care. The past, the present, it’s all miniscule compared to events like that. We are tiny.

How to annoy your girlfriend/ partner unit/ wife at midnight

(Posted by Melodrama)

Before I begin my list, let me clear up some misconceptions that I fear a few of you might be harbouring. I get to post early because I am on another continent, a continent that is more to the east than your piddly (adjective not applicable if you’re an OOSAn) continent and hence rise and shine and check email/ get to work/ blog earlier than most of you. Now that my geographical coordinates have been well-established, I can proceed with my post.

(i) Use a camera film container as an ashtray. Shut it tightly and leave it sitting innocently where it originally was and let your girlfriend/ partner unit/ wife open it at midnight on the bed to have cigarette ash and gunk cascade all over her nice, white, clean sheets.
(ii) Tell her exactly at the stroke of midnight when she’s about to sleep, how much you have accomplished today and how organized you’ve been all through the day.
(iii) Remember that you’ve forgotten to book her tickets for her trip the next day.
(iv) Tell her that your sister has invited you for the weekend and you have accepted and that you are extremely sorry you can not make it to see her parents this weekend despite the fact that their invitation is more than a month old.
(v) Remind her that she has to wake up early to go jogging because she is beginning to put on an awful amount of weight.

Families And How Not To Survive Them

(whoops: posted by Zena)

I grew up in an industrial city outside of London, and arrived in the smoke about twenty seconds after I graduated. Anxious for the fun and frolics of urban/urbane life, I left my close-knit family behind. We’ve been through our ups and downs – whose hasn’t? – and they’ve never quite got over my leaving our six-digit postcode area.

But life moves on.

My brother and sister-in-law are about to have their umpteenth child, and as a result of a host of medical complications, it’s arriving tomorrow, by cesearean. For my other nieces and nephews, I hopped straight on a train, laden with gifts, to share in the big day and greet them personally. I would count holding my first nephew in my arms as among the top five most emotional experiences of my life: the miracle of new life blew me away.

Originally, my brother said don’t bother coming, we’ve had so many kids. But I thought that in the future, this kid’ll ask me if I was there when they arrived, and I’ll say “naaah, hardly worth coming up for you.” And the advantage of planned ceasars, is I could book a relatively inexpensive ticket weeks ago.

I was kinda planning on it being a surprise – they thought I wasn’t coming, and then I’d appear, laden with gifts for all the other kids (you know those books that say the other kids have to get gifts so they don’t feel left out? I got my own – Freudian – carry cot and baby doll when my little sister arrived. She was good at shopping, even in the womb.)

But I’m not great at surprises, and when I talked to my brother this afternoon, and he said he’d call me in the morning, I couldn’t help myself, and said, “I’ll be there. I’m on the ten o’clock train.” He was cool about it in a slightly reserved way, but called me back tonight and said that R, my sister-in-law “isn’t accepting visitors” tomorrow at all, and I shouldn’t come.

I feel a mixture of emotions: over-ridingly, that it’s her baby, and I obviously don’t want to create any extra stress or tension during what can be a difficult time anyway. My other siblings have apparently already been told they can’t go tomorrow, but because no-one was expecting me, I wasn’t in on all that. I was only going to go for five minutes with my mum (grandparents are allowed, apparently).

So now I’ve got a zillion large gifts from the Early Learning Centre sitting in my hall, and a ticket I’m not going to use, and a terrible feeling that somewhere on the worthless-stupid-unwanted continuum.

For me, times like this are family times: a whole brand-new person joining our family. And wanting to share that with my brother and sister in law, and nieces and nephews and parents and unles and aunts. R calls the shots, obviously, and if she doesn’t want me there, I’m not going to go (my Mum said I should just visit for the day anyhow, and not see the baby, but that’s just stupid).

I feel hurt. And rejected. And times like this make me realise quite how alone in the world I really am.

2. Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? (Bryan Adams)

(posted by Buni)


Of course I have you silly boy, I’ve loved many women, just never shagged any of them that’s all. All that fanny batter and lips and stuff, jeeeeeess.

One of my first loves was a girl called Dawn, I think. She had a dark, bobbed haircut and dressed like a boy (perhaps an early indication of something to come?) She also had the most enormous collection of gingham shirts. It was summer of, oooh let me think, 1975 or 6 (when was that heatwave?) and I don’t think the girl wore the same shirts twice. Though she did climb the same trees twice, that much I do remember. I remember her most of all because I have a scar on my head as testimony to her amazing female strength.

Do you remember when you were kids – or you may even still be doing this as adults – where you stand back to back and link arms, then one of you stoops forward so that the other person is going backwards? Well, as we didn’t have computer games in those days, that’s what we did and I think Dawn forgot her amazing female strength and pulled me straight over her head. I went flying backwards, arms flailing and all I could see was the teacher’s desk coming over the sunset, whereby I cracked my own head on the corner of said desk and cut my head open. At first I thought nothing of it and then a girl called Zoe started screaming and pointing frantically at me. I just stood there like, “Chill girl, all I did was have a flying lesson”. Then the teacher piped up, which had the rest of the class screaming and there was I, looking at everyone in my class looking at me and pointing and screaming.

Then I felt it. A very slow warm substance was running down the side of my head. I lifted my hand to the part of my head where the feeling was coming from and all I could see was red.

At that moment and no other, the panic set in and I can still remember now thinking to myself, “Just…….to….get….to….nurse” like out of a cartoon where they can’t……..quite…….reach….something. The school where this all happened wasn’t a particularly large school. Along one side of the building was a corridor and all the classrooms and offices fed off of this main corridor. To get to nurse I had to walk down the corridor, passed all the classrooms to the end near where Mr. Matthews the Head, had his office.

There I am, walking ever so slowly (as I didn’t want to mess up the shiny floor) down the corridor, arms held out like Jesus Christ, palms up, horrified look on my face and blood absolutely running down my head like its going out of fashion. I swear it was like a dominoe effect going down that corridor; past one class, the screams started, past another, more screams, then another, past the games hall where I recall all of a sudden the pupils just stopping and their balls just slowly stopped bouncing, they just stood there staring and screaming while I walked past them.

I call this my Carrie moment.

In the end it was just a little gash, but very deep and it turns out that at the top of your head is like a reservoir of blood. I needed a couple of stitches.

The science of corresponding

(Posted by Mark)

cor•re•spond•ing adj. 1. similar in character, form or function; able to be matched, joined or interlocked; 2. dealing with written communication; having this responsibility; having an honorary association with a group, esp. at a distance (from the group’s headquarters).

What an arid description; I’m not sure that I’ll continue reading this dictionary (I have a sneaking suspicion that the zebra did it in Zurich with the zucchini). The science of corresponding is about much more than a simple match – most matches I know (other than the ‘strike well away from the body’ kind) are complex and intricate things, demanding subtle interpretation and an appreciation of nuance. Readers who have actually met me are allowed to begin laughing with derision at the previous sentence … 3, 2, 1, now.

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch.” Well, quite. Often a third party interceder is the best way of securing some form of romantic relations between two people who are apparently unable to manufacture such unions by themselves. In other words, some of us need a meddling interloper to come in, rearrange our lives a little bit, serve up a potential partner on a plate (not literally) and then nudge us towards the happy ever after ending. Others of us prefer to take the bull by the horns (again not literally) and make our own matches. It’s not so much the process whereby people correspond to each other in a relationship that interests me as much as the way that friends view couples; especially if/when their loyalty conflicts with their honest opinion.

Recently, I met the new boyfriend of a good friend. I chatted with new bloke Peregrine and my friend Drusilla (names changed to protect everyone) for a little while before we all circulated and I saw him occasionally during the evening. The next day, a mutual friend Constance (name again changed etc) asked me what I thought of him. Aware that Constance and Drusilla were friends, I ummed and aahed for a little bit, offering up the usual platitudes, “He seemed very pleasant”, “I liked his shirt”, “A nice speaking voice”, etc, etc. Constance then asked me the same question again, having realised that I was attempting to sidestep it. I fell back on the slightly pathetic but nevertheless heartfelt “She seems happy”.

Friends are simultaneously the best and worst people to ask about your relationship, or to have commenting on someone else’s. They are the best because they will be able to recognise similarities, correspondences, reasons why you are with somebody which you might not even realise yourself; they can see personality points in the other person which you find endearing and confirm your own opinions, they can provide examples of things your partner has said or done which you didn’t know but which reinforces your thoughts about them. All good positive, life-affirming stuff.

Your friends are also the worst people because they will, assuming you have good friends, be honest with you and there are times when it’s a lot more convenient to fool yourself that the current relationship is perfect for you when it patently isn’t. Such denial, though undoubtedly convenient (and I feel sure that most people have fallen prey to it at some point or another), might be acceptable to you but, to your friends who have either to listen to you try and put a brave face on things or watch as you construct and maintain your façade, denial is not an option. The brutality or care with which they take you aside and chat to you is, of course, entirely up to them, provided it graduates beyond the “What is she wearing?” stage.

This is a question which could never be asked of Drusilla herself, who is always beautifully well co-ordinated. She is very much aware of corresponding one item of clothing to another; colour, shape, texture and shade all interwoven together to splendid effect. Mixing and matching one’s wardrobe may often be the subject of as much gossip as the matches one makes with partners. I will confess immediately that I am hopeless with fashion and clothes. I know what I should be wearing, but somehow it never quite works; whereas my father could wear virtually anything and make it look stylish, I am keenly aware that I make an Agnès B pullover look like secondhand M&S: I’m just more Lada than Prada.

There’s a world of difference between sending or receiving a letter/email commencing “Dear Sir” and any form of correspondence starting “Oi, Sparky”. The conventions we follow when communicating through the written word are intriguing, as they explain a lot about us before we have even started the real purpose of the message. The former example indicates to me that my bank are wondering about my overdraft (again), whereas the latter signals that my friend Alex has got back into contact with me and is wondering whether I’m going to his birthday bash this year. Especially in the case of the bank letter, there’s often no need to read further.

What else do letters tell us? Quite a lot, though there is often ambiguity in the meaning. A long letter may mean that the correspondent leads life in the social fast lane with a hectic evening calendar, and thus has plenty of rip-roaring tales to relate, or simply that they are a less-than-frequent writer, saving up several days’/weeks’/months’ worth of news before sending a message of epic length. A scrawled and poorly spelled missive may demonstrate that the sender prizes the content over the style or they may simply not have taken very much care over the letter, regarding it as a duty rather than a pleasure to compose. An email with plenty of acronyms and abbreviations may refer to a shared familiarity with the concepts within the body or it may show that the writer has tried to get their chore completed as quickly as is possible. To confirm or deny these varying interpretations, the recipient will read the content and apply their own prejudices and foreknowledge of the sender (not necessarily in that order).

Regardless of the content of the epistle, there is still something exciting about receiving an email or a letter from someone close. It means they are thinking about you, and however much of an egotist you may or may not be, it’s somehow exciting and affirming to receive a message, however correctly spelled, detailed or frequent the messages are. Often at the beginning of a relationship, there is a certain sense of nervousness about the sending and receiving of text messages, emails, postcards or letters. There is perhaps a certain freedom in the written word which is constricted when speaking to them, either directly or by phone. Apposite sentences constructed from the perfect word choices may express your feelings or your thoughts in a more elegant, direct or poetic way than a stumbling half-conversation conducted over a crackly mobile phone line.

And then there are the decisions. How much can I write without giving too much away? Will this message be kept for posterity or will it be deleted immediately and never considered again? Will the other person realise what I am hinting at? For all that written correspondence can manage, a subtle undertone and feeling is probably the hardest to achieve. Sincerity and sarcasm alike are finely balanced on the page whereas they are evident in a person’s voice and demeanour. It’s a lot more difficult in writing than in speaking to get the perfect juxtaposition between what you want to write and how you want the other person to read it. But therein lies more the art than the science of corresponding.