The pilot and the poet. The pen pals.

At 13.45pm today BBC Radio 4 will broadcast Pen Pals. It’s a series celebrating the phenomenon of the international pen pal.  When the producer approached me a year ago I chose my penpal, a pilot from Ethiopian Airlines. My father was a pilot for Ethiopian Airlines. He died in a plane crash in the  early 1970’s. I love Ethiopian Airlines.  I flew with Ethiopian only last week. 

It was a kind of miracle that my pen pal would be the pilot of this plane crash in 1996.  His name is  Captain Yonas Mekuria

Incredible. Right?   With all the permissions from Ethiopian Airlines in place   I wrote my first Airmail letter (yes I know “Airmail” to a pilot.  an air male). And then I waited and waited… and waited.  Nothing.  Meanwhile  I was visiting Addis for some work unconnected to this.    I received a message from the concierge. “Captain Yonas  is here to see you.”   I called my producer to let her know the bizarre situation of watiing for a letter and yet getting a call to meet the person.Meeting was not on the cards.  I took the lift and met Captain Yonas Mekuria for a coffee in the bar of The Hilton Hotel.

After a long conversation it became obvious to me that this (our pen pal relationship)  wasn’t going to happen.  I realised that our pilots (he is a national treasure after all) have a busy workload.  What a fascinating man he is though!  I returned to England dejected. My dream was dashed, hijacked and then crashed into the sea.  The deadlines had all passed too.  So without a pilot and without Ethiopian Airlines I turned to another favourite country of mine and a boy who saved the day: A hero. To find out more  listen on BBC Radio four in  minutes.  . It will be available to listen online for the next seven days. 

8 thoughts on “The pilot and the poet. The pen pals.

  1. Heard your wonderful programme about penpals the Irish young man was so grounded and listening to his letters and how he blossomed over the months was heartwarming ..i have had my American pen friend for 55 years we have been through school, exams music , love death loss divorce birth and fledging of our families and now retirement a worldy wealth indeed

  2. Caught most of it …. sounds like a great young man …. Hope you’re able to stay in touch longterm. Here’s the problem …. it’s like you have a relationship with him, a kind of responsibility. How can you spread yourself so much to so many people, without letting anyone down? I guess this is the point about having family and close lifelong friends and community, they’re always there. Hope you find peace and a safe secure home in the New Year.

  3. I just love writing letters and as was to be expected found yours and the young Irish boy’s letters fascinating .So wonderful to put pen to paper .Also enjoyed your chat on Radio Manchester 26th Dec.Never a dull moment.Take carex

  4. Hi Lemn
    I just heard your radio 4 programme
    With the Clergy
    Very moving to hear you talking about Being in Care..
    Carrying the cross and the need to burn the wood and get warmth
    I can totally relate to your Story
    And admire you immensely for going back into the tunnel of self loathing to help those who are have fallen and cannot move… xx

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