The digital gate across memory lane

I am moving house in two weeks’ time and I have started sorting through my life. Yesterday I was sorting through some old photos and letters. I meandered down memory lane.  

There were no recent photos or letters. My recent photos and emails are stored on the internet and in ‘clouds’. How do we make sure that the digital age doesn’t take away our memories?  How do we keep the digital gate across memory lane open?

memory lane

I found bundles of letters from old boyfriends.  I found letters from a holiday romance which started on a caravan site in Newquay when I was 18.  For about three weeks after the end of the holiday we sent each other passionate letters. He sent me rose petals (which in the intervening 15 or so years have disintegrated and have turned the paper a  greeny grey). The Royal Mail romance faded as quickly as my rather pathetic UK suntan, but it made me laugh sorting the letters last night.    

Then, a year or so later came my 18 month relationship with a cartoonist and graphic designer. He wrote me some beautiful letters whilst we were apart during my first year of university.  Every letter was a work of art. His handwriting was exquisitely crafted and each page was decorated with hand drawn cartoon images. 

A few years later came another boyfriend and a bunch of letters from the start of our relationship when he was in Nigeria. The fact that he was in Nigeria was relevant.  Email had taken hold by this time, but he was in the middle of the Nigerian jungle where phones and IT couldn’t reach.  My letters were transported to Abuja (the capital) and then driven on a weekly basis to the closest village.  It took about three weeks for each letter to arrive.  This ex wrote long and interesting letters about his jungle experiences. He sent me a porcupine spine he had found in the jungle (it looks like a Chinese chopstick). 

I should probably give these letters back to him at some point – I doubt he has his early Nigeria memories captured anywhere, but I don’t know that I want to; they are a vital part of my memory lane collection. 

I have no letters from my most recent ex, the father of my son. I guess because neither of us ever went to the inches of the world that the internet has not conquered.

I remember how this letter writing made me feel. I remember the excitement of receiving a new letter, the enjoyment of taking time out to write a letter.  It makes me a bit sad that good old fashioned letter writing, putting pen to paper, is something that my son may never do. In fact technology will have moved on and he may never even post on Facebook or tweet, or even send an email.

I also found two old laptop computers: laptops that I don’t use anymore but which I don’t want to throw away because they have important things stored on them, like the dissertation for my masters degree and a heap of unprinted photographs.  One of these laptops doesn’t connect to the internet, so I have got to work out how to transfer the important stuff that I want to keep onto my mac book. I should probably print some of the photos.

A lot of us are writing blogs and taking photos to preserve memories for our children and grandchildren.  We store them on the internet and in ‘clouds’?  Will the internet of 2015 be accessible in 2035 or will our captured moments be lost in the ether?

We need to make sure that we protect these memories from technological change. We need to keep the digital gate across memory lane open.


  1. June 15, 2015 / 10:01 pm

    Very thought provoking post. I totally agree. We keep letters yet emails are often deleted as soon as we respond. And it’s just not the same looking back over digital images as it is flicking through the old photo albums. This post makes me so nostalgic. I used to have several pen pals when I was around 9 or 10. I haven’t thought of them in at least 20 years.
    Thank you for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂
    Random Musings recently posted…Thought Of The Day – Week 5My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 16, 2015 / 6:56 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      thanks for your comment. I enjoy nostalgia, although there is no future in it! Tell us more about your pen pals in a future blog post.

  2. June 16, 2015 / 6:30 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Although so many of my memories are stored in my head there area a lot of pictures and physical memoirs that I have lost along the way through moving and theft …and jealous new boyfriends who didn’t want pictures of old boyfriends lingering even in a box in the garage. Lame. I am visiting you today from #AnythingGoes
    Trista, Domesticated Momster recently posted…Green Eggs And HairMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 16, 2015 / 6:54 pm

      You are right. Our heads are by far the best place to store our memories and the best bit is we can change the memories in our head as we get older;-) I am sorry to hear that your memories were stolen. I have always hidden memories of previous boyfriends from whoever is in the role at the time. Everyone has a history and a past. Thanks for your comment. xx

  3. June 17, 2015 / 11:44 am

    Great point – there’s definitely a danger that all our memories that are electronic will get lost somewhere… we’ve started regularly printing out our digital pics and keeping photo albums again. Feels a bit retro but it’s more permanent.
    Enjoyed connecting with your blog via #AnythingGoes!

    • thesingleswan
      June 17, 2015 / 8:26 pm

      Hi Luke,

      Well done you for printing out your pics and putting them in photo albums. It is something always on my ‘to do’ list but that never gets done. thank you for your comment.

  4. June 17, 2015 / 10:30 pm

    While I’m a great believer in living in the ‘now’, I’m all for nostalgia too, whether it is music or photos. Although I must admit that I have fallen way behind printing out my photos. I still have an ambition to create ‘yearbooks’ that tell the story of our family life over 12-month periods. One day, one day …
    Tim recently posted…Wednesday Words of Wisdom: Success through failureMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 18, 2015 / 8:54 pm

      Yearbooks are a great idea. But you are right, so much to do, so little time. I know that I need to do more to preserve my memories and my son’s memories. I might set this as a task for when ‘Baby Goes to Daddy’.

    • thesingleswan
      June 18, 2015 / 8:53 pm

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks very much for your comment. It is ironic when you think about it; the internet is a great repository of information, photos, documents, advice and guidance, but at the same time, because of the pace of technological change, it takes away that information, those photos and documents. I am glad you enjoyed the post. x

  5. June 22, 2015 / 7:37 pm

    I often think about this as well. I loved letter writing before the age of msn, ICQ and hotmail. My best friend moved to the States and I was in boarding school in Dublin and we’d write 12-14 page letters to each other. It’d take us 10 days to write them but they were so detailed and so full of memories. I do feel sad that S won’t have that although it’s something I’d love to establish with maybe children of friends in Hong Kong or other parts of the world.
    Natasha recently posted…24/52My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 23, 2015 / 9:13 pm

      Hi Natasha,

      Do you have friends in Hong Kong or other parts of the world? If so, I think you should do it. I think I am right in thinking that you have a little boy. Boys I think struggle more than girls when it comes to hand-writing. A Royal Mail pen pal would be an excellent and fun way to get him practising his hand-writing – when he’s a bit older of course…this is probably too much to expect of a toddler. x

  6. November 4, 2015 / 10:08 pm

    I love this. I still print out photos and put them in albums. I update my children’s baby books by hand. Plus I write cards and post them. I’ve never really thought about the stuff we put online being inaccessible later on but you are so right! Great post – thanks for referring me here.
    Kyles @ Pickles and Pords recently posted…Childish HappinessMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      November 5, 2015 / 8:45 pm


      I am glad you liked it. I am never sure whether it is a good thing to post a blog post link into a comment on someone else’s blog, but it felt like we were thinking along the same lines. Thanks for popping by. x

  7. February 17, 2016 / 6:14 pm

    You’re too good! I’ve written a very similar post on this (from a different perspective) and now I feel I’m playing catch up!

    My wife still has some of the letters I wrote to her although as they are written in pencil some of them have faded into illegiblity.


    • thesingleswan
      February 17, 2016 / 8:24 pm

      Ah, that’s lovely. Letter writing is dying. It is really nice to keep them.

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