Technology has served us well this year, but I'm still hoping for lots of cards and letters in the post. There something special about having something to open, to touch and to hold and, with Christmas cards, to decorate the mantelpiece, particularly this year when we can't be together.

There's something different, too, about handwritten messages compared to an email or printed letter. I do enjoy catching up with distant friends in their Round Robins (I've just read one family's letter listing twenty things to be positive about in 2020, which seemed a valiant effort!), but I prefer a handwritten note.

A personal and individual letter indicates a close connection, of course, not least by acknowledging the time and trouble that has been taken in keeping in touch.

The sender can benefit from writing, too, though. Researchers say that putting ink on paper stimulates an area of the brain associated with learning. Students who completed essays with a pen rather than a keyboard wrote more, faster and in more complete sentences than those who used a computer and some scientists believe that the act of writing with pen and paper exercises the memory and key skills which keep us sharp as we age.

Many novelists prefer longhand, even prolific writers like Stephen King and James Patterson. The physicality, sense of space, and the opportunity to think harder about one sentence forming it as you're writing it, means it's crafted better, it's said. There's also a freedom - being able to write wherever you are - on a train, in a cafe, at an airport.

If you came along to hear Patrick Gale talk about his novel a couple of years ago, you may remember him showing us his work in progress in Moleskine notebooks in which he wrote with caramel ink. He'd develop the story in the front of the book and would jot down ideas at the back.

Simon Edge, who this year published the comic novel 'Anyone for Edmund?' says that because his day job involves sitting at a computer, he likes to have the distinction of writing with pen and paper for his novels, unleashing the creativity. 

After composing your messages to friends and family at this time, though, you might like to pause and ponder as you address the envelope...

'The Address Book' by Deirdre Mask is a remarkable and fascinating social history which explains how addresses present and reflect identity, class, race, and power. There are wonderful stories showing the often bizarre progress of how addresses have been developed. There are also stark reminders of historic events and how these have influenced so much of what we take for granted today. Your house number, street name and postcode has never been more intriguing!