Life­long pen pals to meet

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - PET­RICE TAR­RANT

Diane Sey­mour still re­mem­bers pen­ning her first let­ter to an English stranger named Ju­lia as an ea­ger 10 year old.

Now, 61 years and hun­dreds of let­ters later, the Wal­ton res­i­dent is gear­ing up to fly to Europe to spend qual­ity time with her pen­pal.

The pair have spent less than one full day to­gether in the six decades they have been writ­ing to each other, Sey­mour said.

‘‘When Al­bert [my hus­band] passed away she [Ju­lia] emailed me to say your room’s wait­ing when­ever you’re ready.

‘‘So I booked my flights the other day!’’

Sey­mour, who started her own choco­late fac­tory three years ago, said she had no idea that re­quest­ing a pen­pal in an Enid Bly­ton novel 60 odd years ago would be the rea­son she would travel to other side of the world.

‘‘She rang me back in the 60s. She said ‘Ju­lia here, I’m sup­posed to be land­ing in Aus­tralia but we’ve de­toured to Auck­land and I’m only go­ing to be at the air­port for a cou­ple of hours’.

‘‘She didn’t re­alise how far away we lived with those old roads but I said ‘I’ll be there’.’’ It was friend­ship at first sight. ‘‘We looked at each other and cud­dled as if we’d known each other for­ever and a day.’’

The thought of spend­ing six weeks with Ju­lia is not daunting at all.

‘‘I said put me on a lead and take me wher­ever you want to go ... For six weeks I’m just go­ing to do what I’ve been told.’’

Form­ing a re­la­tion­ship through let­ters came nat­u­rally to the born and raised farm girl from up North.

‘‘I only went to pri­mary school and then I did cor­re­spon­dence so you never saw other peo­ple.

‘‘It was quite nat­u­ral for peo­ple to have a pen friend.’’

The 71-year-old, who only man­aged to re­tire for three weeks be­fore pur­chas­ing a sweets shop in Ti­rau six years ago, has a knack for main­tain­ing friend­ships, hav­ing just re­turned from Aus­tralia where she went with a friend she’d known since she was 4 to visit a 75 year old they had worked with in Motueka pick­ing ap­ples at the age of 18. ‘‘It’s all so crazy,’’ she said. ‘‘I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to my new ad­ven­ture in life.

‘‘Re­mem­ber it’s never too late to ful­fil that bucket list.’’

Diane Sey­mour is packed and ready to meet up with her pen pal of 61 years.

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