So you line them up. Three here, four there. Two of them are holding hands.

They’re spruced up and looking at their best. They are absolutely clean. They’ve never been out before. Well, that’s not quite true. Two of them went on a trip when they were young. But since then they’ve matured. They’re different now.

You feel proud. The tall thin one sprang from practically nowhere and Jack says he’s amazing. You have the little fat one by heart.

It’s time.

You have no intention of folding them. You ease them one by one into an A4 manila envelope.

Which is ‘manila’ because of manila hemp. Manila folders were once made of ‘manila hemp’. But manila hemp isn’t even hemp. It’s a fibre made from musa textilis, a type of banana plant. At one time they used it mainly for rope. Manila rope. They called the envelopes after the rope.

Envelope. Rope. Musa textilis. This strengthens everything.

You queue in the Post Office but the queue is very long. So you buy large-letter Christmas stamps in the paper shop instead. First class. You get more for your money with a Christmas stamp. You get a seasonal picture. This year it’s a cute cartoon of three children posting mail in a big red postbox topped with snow.

It’s 12 degrees and no sign of snow. Still – one large stamp for the boys in their musa textilis. Another one for the return envelope with your own address on.

You slip the (folded) return envelope inside the other envelope with the poems. You remove the self-sealing strip. You seal the musa textilis carefully.

You pop your darlings into the red post box. It’s good that post boxes are still red (apart from the one in Dunblane they painted gold after Andy Murray won at Wimbledon) because it means you trust them more. You have to have trust.

Only after you walk away, do you realise

a) you’ve been feeling nervous all morning

b) you’re lighter. They’ve gone. They’re away. They’re out on their own, cock-a-whoop and crazy.

But what about when they come back? They’ll be slightly creased round the edges, won’t they? The paper will be limp. Most of them will be sheepish.

Still, they have to do their best without you. That’s what you made them for.

They’re a communication and they need a reply. So send them.


The HappenStance reading window starts tomorrow. Between December 1 and December 30 your poems are welcome, and will get a reply. But do read the guidelines first.