When I first moved away from home at the age of 18 I stayed in a hostel in Knightsbridge, a wonderful location which I never took advantage of but at that age I wasn't interested in history or culture. I've made up for it since.
I had two options for contacting my family, a telephone box in front of the Albert Memorial or writing letters. As my parents didn't have a home phone at that time it was always the latter but I'd use the phone box to call my boyfriend back in Suffolk. The first time I did this I'd splashed out on false nails earlier that evening (clearly I was going for the sophisticated look) and as I settled into the phone box and put my fingers in the dial I realised I couldn't actually move the dial as I had only nail in the hole. I had to rip the false nails off before I could call him. End of sophistication.
The weekly letters I used to receive from my Mum were a joy. It was like having a chat with her, she wrote about exactly the things she'd have said to me if I was sitting in the kitchen with her. I still have those letters and occasionally I read them, they're a great way to keep her memory alive for me.
Now 40 years later and living away from my family, technology means instant communication and this is what makes the distance away from them so much easier. I dread to think now how my Mum must've felt when I moved away. Now it would be awful for me if I didn't have the ease of communication with family.
The joy of receiving a WhatsApp message or a video call is wonderful. The ping of the incoming message must the the equivalent of my Mum hearing the thump on the doormat of a letter arriving. Now instead of eagerly ripping open the envelope to devour the latest news from home it's a quick swipe of the phone screen to reveal the full message before I reply.
Occasionally I still send snail mail to my daughters, just a few silly words in a card and sometimes I receive the same from them, there still is nothing quite like a handwritten note, however short.
I hope the art of writing notes or letters never dies, re-reading them gives a thrill that re-reading WhatsApps could never recreate, although trust me I do keep all my electronic communications with my family.
Today so far I've chatted with one daughter in Vietnam, the other daughter in London, a nephew and two of my sisters in Suffolk and lovely friends in Northumberland and Bristol. All from the sunlounger on my terrace in France.
Technology is pretty good isn't it?