Handwritten notes have been a common theme throughout my life, probably less so in the last five years due to the internet and my own attempts at distancing myself from people I was previously very close to. When I was wee my ‘Mum’  would lock herself away in her bedroom a lot, and so my big sister and I had to write notes and put them underneath the door to ask for things. Mostly for our dinner and things like that because she’d forget to feed us. Sometimes we’d draw pictures to go with the notes too, in an attempt to butter her up. We’d ask her to rate the drawings and choose whose was better. That sounds so pathetic now admitting that we did that, but we did.  It rarely brought about the result that we were hoping for, which was for her to acknowledge us. I guess that’s where my inability to speak or voice my feelings aloud was borne from.

I'm nothing like you

After my ‘Mum’ left us, notes again were something that my Dad and I used, but in a less depressing way. I was kinda allowed to do whatever I wanted when I was a teenager, as long as I left him a note saying where I was and who I was with. Funnily, he would write me them too with the same kind of details. My friends found that very endearing, that’s the type of man that my Dad is. I kept some of the notes around that time because I really liked his hand-writing and the way that pretty much everyone from his generation would write certain letters the exact same way.

I’ve never been very good at telling people about things that have happened to me, particularly in my childhood, so notes were my way of doing so with my best friends too. I feel pretty guilty about having chosen to tell them about horrible events via notes, it must have been such a burden. I couldn’t physically find the words in person to do it and writing was something I excelled at in school, so it seemed the best method at the time. There’s a certain level of shame or confusion that I felt in having friends who came from a completely different background than I did, and I was always trying to explain why I was the person I was. Even though they never for a second cared or judged me. I spent years trying to comprehend why they were ever friends with me in the first place. It’s essentially what ruined my longest friendship in the end. It’s the chip on my shoulder that stopped me from taking my work seriously for a long time. It’s only this year that it’s truly become my fuel rather than my foe.

'We see things they'll never see.'

This week I found myself writing a note, or rather a letter, for the first time in many years. And to my Dad of all people. This time however, I was writing to share some good news. I’ve been putting-off telling him about my photography for a while because I felt like I hadn’t achieved anything with it yet and so what would be the purpose? Then the book thing happened, and most recently my exhibition in Oxford, so I have finally achieved things. Still the fear though of telling him was great. The amount of times we’d be speaking via text and I’d think about how I should just do it but haven’t. I’ve felt like the second I do, that’s when everything will go wrong.

So yesterday I wrote him a letter and I told him about how some pictures I took have been published in a book – And that last weekend I was in Oxford visiting an exhibition where my work is being shown – I never went to art school and became a painter like he thought I would, but I am finally doing something for a living which he can be proud of. It’s taken me over ten years to find it, but I don’t lock myself away in my room anymore like my ‘Mum’ did, and I didn’t stay in Scotland my whole life like he always told me not to. I’ve been more terrified about writing these words than anything else. Sometimes saying things out loud can give them a power, which can be frightening. For so long it’s always been such a negative force in my life, but I’m learning that it can also be positive and liberating.

I put in some prints of my work (my Dad doesn’t use/have the internet) and tomorrow I’ll post the letter. Scared? Happy? Both probably! I’m secretly hoping that he’ll write me a letter back,  just so that I can see and own some of his hand-writing again.

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A blog post by The Impossible Project on ‘Chemistry’ launch party –


(Polaroid by Ashley R. Good –



About elegia

I like cats and cake and tea.

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