An assumed casualness bordering on intimacy could be construed as the norm when I receive emails in my official duties a priest starting ‘Hi Kev’ from people I have never met. I have recently introduced myself to, been taken on and represented by, an agent with whom I have had no conversation other than on screen and by keyboard. This arguably remote exchange was all that it should be even if, sadly for me, it meant that a novel was knocked back more efficiently and quickly than would have been the case without her work. It was a pleasure.
It is temptingly easy to be a grumpy old man so it was something of a surprise I found myself genuinely moved by what would have been a routine expression of courtesy from only a few years ago. I have recently, perhaps foolishly, started a campaign to get some new material before producers and publishers.
Each has its own story but one surprised me with an email which simply thanked me for my submission and gave an indication of the length of time before a decision would be made on it. It came from a named person, who provided her position in the publishing house and the postal address.
Strange, as I said, that something so simple could be unsettling. It is no doubt no more than a standard email generated by a machine, the equivalent of the postcard once returned to you because you had included a stamp or the ubiquitous stamped addressed envelope. For all that, it was a memory of times past.
When my wife and I bought our first house the garden wall was missing a gate. We decided to do a quirky thing in getting a gate that highlighted the difference in height between our fence and our neighbours’. One important feature was a large post box, with a wide and high slit to accommodate various scripts that would be making their way back to me from agents, publishers, theatres and friends.
I don’t need that facility nowadays. The inbox of the email programme serves just as well. But even new technology, so it seems, can be enhanced by light touches.