Monday, September 21, 2009

Penpal of the Week #15

This time, let's welcome the wonderful Rachel from the UK!

1. Please tell us about you!

Firstly, thanks Julie for asking me to be "Penpal of the Week"! I've loved reading the interviews and I'm excited about mine!

My name is Rachel Miller and I'm 31 years old (32 on October 6th, which makes me a Libra I believe!). I'd say I'm a fairly typical Libran - artistic, sensitive, diplomatic...

I live in a village called Brough (you pronounce it Bruff!) in East Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. It started life as a Roman ferry port at the south end of the northern road to Newcastle and has grown a bit since then! Our nearest city is Kingston upon Hull, 12 miles to the east, and we have everything you could ask for in the village, including a direct train service to London.

I am married to my lovely husband Ian, who is 40 and works as a Health and Safety Officer for an American company that makes air filters for trucks and planes. We met through a mutual friend (it's a very long story) and were "just good friends" for over a year until my relationship broke down and I needed somewhere to stay. Ian offered me the use of his spare room as a stop gap and it wasn't long after I moved into my own place that we got together. We were married in 2005 and don't have any children at the moment, although it's on the cards for the future.

Ian and I on our wedding day, April 2005.

I'm a children's dentist by trade and I apologise to anyone who reads this and runs away screaming! I am aware that we dentists don't have the best press in the world! :-) I work with children and also with the homeless, which is eye opening and very rewarding. One day a week I also teach dental students so I have a varied job and I love it.

As far as interests go, I am generally a busy person! Ian and I both play in a brass band (he plays cornet, I play flugelhorn) and I also play quite a few other instruments. I'm also in a drama group in Brough and have ballroom and latin dancing lessons. I may never appear on Strictly Come Dancing (our version of Dancing With The Stars) but I love it! I'm also a bookworm and love most types of literature (it has been said of me that I would read a cereal box if I ran out of books), and my other interests apart from penpalling are scrapbooking, cross stitch and going on long walks with Ian.

Another (slightly better) wedding one.

You can find me on Facebook as Rachel Miller and on Interpals as flugella (a nickname derived from my love of my flugel!).

2. Describe your personality in 10 words!

This could be fun!

I'll start with CARING. I guess that would make sense given my profession, but I do genuinely care about people and how they are. My family and friends are very important to me, and I'd like to think I am a good listener and a good friend.

Ulp, this is hard and I'm only on word two! I'll go for LUCKY - not in the "winning the lottery" sense, but I have been fortunate to meet some amazing people in my life, and to have some fantastic opportunities to pursue my love of music and my career. I'm aware that not everyone maybe has that chance and I want to make sure that I don't waste it!

Despite this I am actually a little SHY (which not many people believe!) - I come across as quite confident but inside I'm usually feeling sick and terrified. I'm definitely UNCONVENTIONAL, I don't follow the crowd and I'm happy to be a FREE SPIRIT.

I would also say that I'm STUDIOUS - I am a strange person in that I love to learn things and if there's an opportunity to learn something I take it. CREATIVE would definitely apply to me, certainly musically, and I would also say that I am DEDICATED to things and people that I love, OPEN-MINDED and REALISTIC.

Ian and I in band uniform!

3. How long have you been penpalling? How did you first start? Tell us about your first penpal!

I started penpalling when I was 8. I got a letter one Christmas, out of the blue, from Manuelle, the daughter of my mother's French penfriend from her school days. We weren't too good at keeping in touch initially but we managed to begin a very regular correspondence when we were about 12 years old. Since then I have always had at least a couple of penpals. I found IYS (the International Youth Service) very useful when I was in my teens as well. Sadly, Manuelle and I aren't in touch any more but I am very tempted to write to her and resurrect our correspondence.

4. How many penpals do you have now and where are they from?

At the moment I have 12 regular pals plus a handful of new penfriendships that are just starting out and I'm waiting to receive a few introductory letters. I have pals from the UK, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France and Ireland. Everyone is different but we all have things in common and they have become very dear friends to me through our letters.

Some recent mail that I've received.

5. What are your favorite topics to discuss in letters?

I think a letter is a "living" thing - I don't really have set topics that I discuss, although work, family life and what's going on at band and drama do feature fairly regularly. I'll happily discuss anything and everything that comes up! I'm particularly interested in the little things in life - silly things that make people laugh, finding a really excellent author by accident, discovering a new coffee shop, that sort of thing.

6. What are you looking for in a penpal?

Someone who I can communicate with (although I guess that's a bit obvious!). I like people to ask me questions about anything, no matter how bizarre, as it makes me think more about myself and my life, and people who will share things with me. I love writing long letters but I don't think being specific about it helps in any way. Ads that say "you must write 5 sheets of A4 every 3rd week" tend to make me run away. One page letters don't tend to do it for me though!

I don't mind if my pals type or write their letters. I always handwrite mine because my brain goes to mush in front of the computer but I won't be offended if my pals would rather type!

A sample of my handwriting!

7. What do you like the most about penpalling?

Everything, really. There is something so magical about seeing an envelope with your name on and knowing it's from a friend that you've maybe never even met but you feel you know so well. Ian is resigned to the fact that he will get no conversation out of me if I have a letter waiting to be read! I also love sitting down writing a letter, knowing that you're sending a snapshot of your life to someone for them to share with you. I always describe it as spending time in my penpal's company. We may not be in the same room but we are sharing time together.

8. In what language(s) do you correspond?

Mainly English, although I am desperate to resurrect my French and German. I finished lessons in these languages aged 16 and I still have a decent grasp of them, although I now realise that the English exam system equips you for getting around and asking for the nearest bus station and a bag of crisps, but teaches you very little about grammar! Anyone who is willing to accept a few paragraphs of grammatically terrible French or German within a letter is very welcome. My ultimate aim is to write and speak these languages to a level where my letters in them are more like my English writing style, if that makes sense.

Actually my Gran's Diamond Wedding celebration (60 years of marriage!) - Gran , Mum, my cousin Debbie and me.

9. What are some of your habits in regards to letter writing?

You can usually find me sat on the sofa in my living room to write my letters. Sometimes, if I'm writing in French or German I'll be upstairs at my desk so I can get to my dictionary easily, but that's rare. I use a clipboard to rest on that I designed myself, and usually use a black pen apart from when my fountain pen comes out.

I usually design my own writing paper - I blame my mother-in-law for this as she is a very talented card maker and thanks to her I got the idea of using rubber stamps to decorate plain paper and make it more personal. The stamp collection has now taken over the spare room... I do have a decent stock of bought paper too, which I tend to use for introductory letters if I'm not sure of someone's interests. After that though, out come the stamps and patterned papers!

I like to reply within a month if I can. I appreciate that we all lead busy lives (and I have a busier life than most!) and if I am delayed then I try and email people to let them know. However, I am pretty flexible about things.

My homemade clipboard!

10. Has anything strange/funny ever happened to you since you've been penpalling?

Hmmm... I'm thinking about this here and I can't really think of anything particularly weird. I do get the usual influx of mail from African women thinking I could be their new husband or wanting to give me their inheritance but other than that I've had a fairly uneventful penpalling life in that respect. I think I'd like it to stay that way thanks!

11. Have you met any of your penpals?

I have! I met a Jamaican pal in my teens which wasn't overly successful as we had very little in common, but then 3 years ago I met my German penpal, Danni, for the first time when she came over to the UK with her fiancé. We had an amazing time together and we made a return trip to Bavaria that summer, when we were invited to their wedding. I was honoured to be asked to play the trumpet during the service - you can imagine the faces of the airport security staff when my hand luggage went through the scanner. I was actually asked NOT to play it on the plane!

Rachel and Danni enjoying a coffee in York!

We had a lovely week with Danni and Franz prior to their wedding day and after the service itself we were guests of the happy couple and Danni's parents for the night. That was a HUGE party, to say there were only half a dozen of us. By the end of it we were trying to teach our hosts the Yorkshire dialect and I have never seen so much food in my life! Being offered beer and cake at breakfast the next morning was less welcome though!

In Germany with Danni and Franz.

12. Are you currently looking for more penpals?

I am looking for a handful of new penpals - so feel free to get in touch with me! I'd love to make some new friends!

Thank you, Rachel! Hopefully some wonderful people will get in touch with you after reading your interview so that you can make a few new friends!

As usual, if you're interested in being featured on my blog as Penpal of the Week, just leave a comment with your email address. Thanks!

Julie xox


  1. Hi there! I love reading your penpal of the week article every week. :-) My name is Jessie and I'm 22. You can find me at, I would love to be featured if you're interested :-) My email is chasingredbird78 [at] yahoo [dot] com :-)

  2. hi there! we seem to have a bit in common and i'd love to be pen pals! my name is sarah and i'm 30 years old and live in janesville, wisconsin.

    feel free to email me at digitalodonata at yahoo dot com.