I was watching the breakfast news yesterday. This doesn’t happen often. normally I am making breakfasts for 2 cats, a dog, 3 children (yes, usually in that order. The cats are louder…) and, of course, putting the all important, freshly ground, coffee perculator on. (By the time I actually get around to drinking some though it’s almost all gone because DH has already sat down and had two cups while scanning his phone.)
On the breakfast news (remember…?) they had a section on postcards. Remember them? Funny old things you’d buy when you went on holiday, and write in your hotel room, usually on the first night before you’d actually done anything to write home about; then frantically try to find (in your best pidgeon-French-or-Spanish) the nearest ‘Postale’, and try to explain you needed a stamp for this card and ask for the nearest post-box.
And it STILL wouldn’t arrive before you got home. Even if you were there for 6 months as a foreign student.
The breakfast news was, kind of, lamenting the loss of the postcard. They interviewed a ‘holiday historian’ I think. Or a ‘seaside resort historian’. Come on, it was yesterday. I don’t remember his exact speciality. He was a historian. His specialisation was relevant in part to postcards. So he was on the red sofa. He was the ‘we should save the postcard’ representative I suppose.
Next to him was a travel blogger. Of which there are many. Many many many. This one was young-ish and pretty so she was the poster-child of the ‘we no longer need postcards’ side of the debate.
There was a vox-pop. Of course. There’s always a vox-pop. In some regional accent near some regional seaside resort, you know, to make it relevant. In general, older people still sent postcards. The slightly younger people who remembered the days pre-internet wished postcards were still as popular; and still send them to older relatives; and the “how did you suvive before the internet” youngsters, well, no…they just instagram or snapchat themselves on a beach to their jealous friends back home.
I recently had the pleasure of re-organising my study. It’s the box-room-come-spare-bedroom. There’s barely room for the single bed in there and the door doesn’t open fully, because the bed is blocking it. But it makes us sound posh, having a spare bedroom. It’s also where the computer desk is. You know, with the ancient desktop computer that’s so slow because it’s from the dark ages. It’s at least 7 years old. That makes it from the dark ages in computer speak. It’s also where the sort-of filing is kept. I say sort-of; because it’s not filed, exactly. I still have to re-arrange a few years worth of paperwork in order to find what I’m looking for.
I have to do a tax-return. Soon. Sometime. When I can stop putting off. (mental note: Do the bloody tax-return!). So the other day I got around to digging out the relevant paperwork and invoices and payslips and receipts for the period for which I have to to the tax return. I got sidetracked while sorting the paperwork. Of course I did. Getting sidetracked is kind of one of my things. In fact, I’m doing it right now.
I got sidetracked because I found an old writing case I was given by one of my grandmothers. She gave it to me back in the days when having pen-pals was all teh rage in school. A friend of mine was an advocate for some pen-pal company she’d found in a magazine, that matched up school children in different countries with children in other countries of their choice around their own age. It’s lovely, the writing case. It’s black leather. The zip is old and almost seizes up from lack of use. I blew off the dust and opened it and found a lovely selection of writing paper, and…(and we’re finally back on point…) a selection of postcards. Amongst the writing paper were some pretty floral papers with matching envelopes; some official looking airmail paper and airmail envelopes (for the uninitiated, ‘airmail’ paper was always lighter and thinner, so the end result weighed less and so could be posted for less postage paid); some black writing paper – which I thought was funky and cool at the time of purchase because I would write on it with gel-pens. And then, the one that really got to me.
Some powder blue writing paper with matching envelopes adorned with cartoon kiwis. I bought it when I lived in New Zealand. It’s poignant because that’s the last time I really wrote letters and postcards. It wasn’t frivolous to buy letter-writing paper and envelopes then. When I moved abroad, the internet existed; but it was in it’s infancy. Facebook was relatively new. I had about 15 friends on there, and most of them were relatives. Facebook I wouldn’t have had an interest in except for the fact I had moved abroad. It was an easy tool for keeping in touch with relative and friends who used it.
My grandparents didn’t. Grampy had once signed up and bought a laptop but the interest soon fizzled out and it fell into disuse so the internet account was cancelled and the laptop rehomed.
It’s a funny thing, emigrating. Whatever your reason, whatever your future plans for relocating there forever; for visits home and people visiting you…whatever you leave behind seems sort of frozen in time. Places don’t change, civil engineering in your home town doesn’t happen, people don’t age.
I took to writing to Grandma & Grampy regularly. I’d write letters, include postcards and photos. I sent scan pictures and photos when I had children. I even hand-drew a plan of our house so they could imagine the layout. I imagined some day they would come and visit anyway so they would then be able to visualise it. Relatives may have already shown them on their phones or told them the news; but having the photos and the correspondence in their hands would have made more sense to them I think.
Except, while we lived away, people *did* get older. A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of the last person I received a hand-written letter from. And even that was a few years ago.
Finding the writing case, containing a few postcards I’d saved from trips to the cinema, (where free ‘Boomerang’ postcards were available on a stand near the entrance, along with ‘Flix’ magazine; just in case they came in handy for those ‘answers on a postcard please’-type competitions on TV. Which I never entered anyway. But you never knew…) and then seeing a TV report on the decline of the postcard, did actually bring a tear to my eye. Not for the loss of a piece of card, or the designs and photos. I could take photos of places, some nicer than the postcards I could buy from there.
I don’t really feel bad that a major postcard-producing company is closing down or reducing production (which was what had prompted the TV discussion) -I’m all for saving paper and being environmental. I’m impressed that within an instant from the other side of the world we can make people ‘back home’ jealous (because that’s what it’s all about these days, isn’t it? none of your ‘Wish you were here…’ rubbish!). And entering competitions online seems more like the chance to win something with little to no effort; rather than having to pay for a stamp and post off your ‘answer on a postcard’ and then wait for weeks on end to find out if you won…if you ever did find out; and if you didn’t win, constantly wondering whether the reason your postcard wasn’t fished out of the bucket was because it got lost in the post and never made it into the bucket in the first place…
What I do miss is writing. With an ACTUAL pen. A Parker fountain pen, no less. I feel sad that my beautiful, well-loved, well-travelled and well-looked-after writing case, full of perfect stock, which it kept pristine and ready for me, now has no purpose. I feel a little bit done out of the opportunity to use all those postcards that I’d lovingly stored and saved just in case one day a competition I actually wanted to win came up, and the only way to enter was to send your answer, in the mail, on a postcard. Or, (in the voice of your favourite Blue Peter presenter,) ‘the back of a stuck-down envelope’. I feel sad that people only receive bills in the mail these days, that the excitement of receiving a colourful envelope that feels like it has something fun and interesting in it along with a letter explaining the photos or the newspaper clipping will never be understood be whole generations. I feel sad that the fact that a whole generation of people I used to write to is all but gone.
And it’s a sign of the times that, when I ‘Googled’ “Answers on a postcard please” in the hope of finding a fun image to accompany this post, over 2million returns were listed of pages EXPLAINING “What does the phrase ‘Answers on a postcard’ mean?”