The Letter I Wish I’d Written

Every year, Elle magazine runs a talent writing competition; this year, the theme was ‘the letter I wish I’d written’, and for the first time ever, I thought I’d enter. Well, I didn’t get very far (or at least, I’m assuming I didn’t as I never heard anything!) but I still thought I’d share it on here. I’d love to get any comments…


Oh, for Pete’s sake. I’ve only written a word and I’ve hit a speed bump. Who are you? I don’t know what to call you, and despite asking my mum (helpful but ultimately useless in this particular issue), and my dad (steadfastly taciturn), and my dad’s cousin (eager, but also useless), apart from an address I’m no further than I was when I first found nan’s letter. 

Were you a Roger or a Dave? Or, heaven forbid, a Randy? I hope you weren’t a Randy. Wait; you could still be Randy. If you see what I mean. I know you’d be well into your 90s by now, so perhaps not so randy, but still Randy…

Oh, crap. Scratch that. I can’t go around accusing pensioners of being randy. Let’s start again.

Hi there.

I believe you served in the air force during the Second World War, and when you were stationed over here, you met a young woman called Josephine Kendall. She would have been in the land army. She was very striking looking – perfectly coiffed hair, despite the rationing on hairspray – she used cornstarch. Did you know you could do that? I didn’t. Anyway- stop. Just stop. He doesn’t care, Lizzie. Start again.

Ok, where was I?

So, Josie Kendall: striking, legs up to her armpits, very glam, and a dead shot with a rifle; the whole package. This would have been sometime in 1944, Birmingham-way.

Ringing any bells?

How would you ask someone if they shagged your nan? Erm, remember that land girl you knocked up 70 years ago? A night of passion in the cloakroom of the local disco perhaps? I don’t want to know the details. 

Right. Avoid all and any allusions to sex.

Here’s the thing, Randy (?); can I call you Randy? I think you might be my grandfather. You see, Josie, she had a son – Steve – my dad. And he grew up thinking that this other man was his dad for the longest time, but Tim (that’s him), he was flying over Italy in a bomber in 1944, so you see the problem we have here, Randy.

I didn’t know anything about this until I found Tim’s flying logs. That was an eye-opener; Dad cried, Mum cried, everyone cried. Dad found out a while ago apparently, but he’s happy with things the way they are. Let’s skip over the fact that Dad doesn’t want to know if he was abandoned or not. In fact, avoid mentioning Dad altogether.

I’d love to get to know you. Who are you? What’s my ‘real’ surname? Do I have cousins? I only have two now; well, three since Katie got married I suppose, if you count husbands, I don’t tend to; and only a single set of aunt and uncles. It makes for a small Christmas gathering, and I’ve always seen myself as part of large clan.

You also have a grandson – my brother, Charlie. You’d be pretty impressed if you knew him. He’s an incredibly talented photographer. And you’ve a daughter-in-law – my mum, Mandy. My dad- no, don’t mention Dad. Your son- even worse. Erm, Steve – better – did well for himself when he snagged her. I know I’m biased, but she’s the real deal.

Nan died. I don’t know any better way of saying it, but I guess you weren’t that close anyway, apart from that one time, seventy years ago. I try not to blame her for not telling us about you but I do, or you about us, but apparently, she was a right ‘go-er’ in those days, and she never had a clue she could get pregnant. Some doctor had got it wrong before. And then, you’d gone back to Canada, and it was too late.

So what I’m trying to say is, do you think you’re my granddad? Because I think there’s a pretty good chance that you are. And I really want to know where I got my dreadful feet from.

I hope you get this letter; I hope that you (are still alive to) get this letter and want to write back. I’ve enclosed a SAE. I promise I’m not a psycho.


Lizzie Peterson (?)


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