As a practical art form the exercise of writing and sending letters is all but dead. Despite that after more than five years in the newspaper column writing game I often receive stamped envelopes containing correspondence from all sorts of people who probably still live with their mothers.
One of those that comes to mind arrived six months ago in a beautiful blue envelope from Mr George S Bailey. His handwriting was that of the 1930s school of cursive which favoured ridiculous squiggles over actual words, so it was some time before I figured out what he wrote. I wish I hadn't as Mr Bailey was quite out of line. The presumably flaky- skinned octogenarian accused me of either owning a not altogether minor shareholding in gravity or having invented the thing myself.
"Because everything you do seems to be about bringing people down to your own subterranean level," he wrote.
He was quite mistaken. As a reporter I am completely without the financial ability to buy shares and neither did I discover gravity. That was done centuries ago by Sir Isaac Newton. In truth he didn't really discover it but realised it was there in the same way you don't discover dog poo on your shoe but rather suddenly realise why people have been avoiding you.
Even though he is a busy man I regularly receive written notes from Prime Minister John Key, albeit from his alter-ego Muriel.
Our most recent exchange was in regards to Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley.
"I know you've never liked Kate and frequently laughed at her ineffectiveness. And I agree that Phil's gushing performance at that oil and gas conference last year was totally sickening," Muriel wrote.
"So I am thinking of getting rid of them both. Do you concur?"
My suggestion was he create two new ministries to give his ministers a chance to play to their strengths. I am not the first to say Kate should be head of the Country Women's Institute Flower Arranging Sub- Committee Ministry and Phil would be perfect for the Ministry of Let's Stand Around and Congratulate Each Other On Being Rich Middle Class White Men.
Unfortunately, my letter did not make it on time, leaving Muriel no choice but to sack the pair.
Our Prime Minister is not the only politician to drop me a line now and then. About three months ago I received a letter from one Mr David Shearer asking me for advice on lifting his profile. This resulted in what I believe is my shortest letter ever.
"And you are?" I wrote, because I genuinely wanted to know.
There is no such problem with a Sir Peter Jackson. You can't help but know who he is and, in fact, since nuclear-busting former prime minister David "I can smell the uranium on your breath" Lange died, he is the most famous New Zealander in America, even if they do think the two men are one and the same.
Sir P recently wrote to me accusing me of implying his moving pictures were overly long and dull. I had done nothing of the sort and explained I had merely suggested he was a master without compare at stretching material out to its full potential.
However, I thought this letter also presented an opportunity to forward Jackson my physiotherapist bills from the last decade. Coincidentally or not, it was while watching Return of the King in 2003 that my left buttock cheek developed an annoying numbness no level of treatment has so far been able to relieve.
I eagerly wait a reply.
A Susan Rogers wrote to me asking, quite politely, how I came up with ideas for this column "because it's not working".
Damian S sent a letter asking why my column seemed to move around the paper so much.
"But it doesn't move enough because I can still find the blimmin thing," he said.
Then there was a woman who signed off simply as Phyllis.
"Dear Matt. As a frequent reader of your column I would love you to meet my granddaughter," Phyllis wrote. "I believe you would have a lot in common. She is also an imbecile."
It isn't all spiteful, and a letter I received just three days ago from a Mr Matthew Rintoff was a true rose among the thorns.
"You're fresh and original Saturday writing is the highlight of my morning. I regularly read it aloud to my obese middle-aged daughter Arthur and her younger sister Molly. Were it not they had the intelligence of a grapefruit I am sure they would find your words most amusing," Mr Rintoff kindly wrote.
Another letter from a Mr Max Wilcox recently suggested if I worked hard and ate less I could one day be good enough to work as an assistant to TV One's walking and talking genius reporter, Jack Tame.
"And he will be king one day," Mr Wilcox wrote. "So may I suggest the tiring frequency with which you try to disparage him with your infantile humour is not in your best interests."
Thanks, Max. I'll keep that in mind.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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