Last week, Pip's mum alerted me to an offering on Gumtree - a collection of books and magazines about PNG, free to a good home. The family had spent a few years in PNG at around the same time as we did, in Madang and Rabaul*, and this was what was left of their father's collection, after the rest of the family had taken what they wanted.
There was one box of books, travel guides and coffee table books full of gorgeous pictures, and copies of the PNG national airline's in-flight magazine from the 1980s, all of which I was very happy to have. And there was also a box of odds and ends: 'I'm not sure if you'll want this,' said the mother doubtfully, but it was raining and the kids were waiting out in the car, so I said, no, no, I'll take the lot.
I'm really glad I did. There was a nice big map, an album of newspaper cuttings, and some files of odd letters and memos from the father's time working for one of the big trading companies: a job application from a local student, written on butterfly notepaper; a list of pay rates for local workers; a letter explaining why a policeman was late paying his bill (because all his 'gears' had been lost when he was transferred to a different post); complaints about late shipments and incorrect bills.
There could be nothing so evocative of the low-tech world of the 1970s -- letters that are scrawled in biro or typed on a clunky typewriter, carbon copied and filed in a manila folder. I wonder where the writers of those letters are now.
* a town that no longer exists - wiped out by a volcano, just like Pompeii