Ryoma and I were talking today about the letters that we wrote when we were children, and I began thinking about the first formal letter I ever wrote. When I was eleven years old, I persuaded my mother to buy me a book called 'The Dracula Collection: Selected paintings from the Unique Gallery of the Prince of Darkness'. I was obsessed with vampires back then; I wanted to be a vampire hunter and learn the trade from Professor Abraham Van Helsing, the greatest vampire hunter of them all. And you know what they say about knowing your enemy, so I read everything I could get my hands on. I'd already spent the previous six years watching Hammer Horror movies, so I was quite the expert. I was fearless (aside from the times when I hid under the bed), and what I lacked in height I more than made up for in stakes and holy water.
Anyway, getting back to the book. I was fascinated by it, but there was one image inside it that gave me cause for concern. At the back there was a picture of what the writer/publisher claimed were Dracula's bones. Well, as everyone knows, vampires turn to dust when they're staked to death... I smelled a rat! So, I wrote to the publisher, Octopus Books, and asked about those bones. I wrote to them on my best writing paper; I'd received a writing set for Christmas and Octopus received the first sheets to be taken from it. I wrote in my best handwriting, and even licked the stamp myself, and off the letter went.
Much to my delight, I received a response shortly afterwards... A genuine bona fide letter from a publisher. And a confession... the bones were fake! It was the first type-written letter that I'd ever received, addressed to me... by name no less! I whipped it out every time we had company for months (perhaps years) after that, to highlight my superior vampiric knowledge and my connections in high publishing places.
Having developed a taste for letter writing, I began writing to anyone who'd got a letterbox. And much to my surprise, people wrote back. I wrote to a cheese manufacturer, several museums, the BBC... I was unstoppable. And I stored the responses I received in a decorated wooden box. I carried it everywhere.
These days, emails seem to have replaced physical letters. If computers had been as commonplace when I was eleven years old as they are now, would I have written an email about Dracula's bones instead of a letter on my best notepaper? Would an electronic response stored on my laptop ever have been the same as that type-written, lengthy response on thick, cream-coloured, headed letter paper? Somehow I doubt it.
I don't know what happened to my letter or the box it was kept in. I imagine that one house move too many separated me from my treasured correspondence. But I have the memory of it all. So, Octopus Books... fangs for that.
Causes Gina Collia-Suzuki Supports
The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK