I’ve always loved postcards. Since I was a little girl they have entranced me – I’m not sure quite why. It might be because they are so personal at the same time as being public. You wouldn’t write on a postcard just anything (who knows who may read it at the sorting office!) but you still take time to write something applicable to the person you are sending it to. Postcards have a very set tradition around them as well. They are primarily only sent by someone on holiday to someone back home. A ‘wish you were here’ moment, they bring a sense of the exotic and foreign into our lives briefly. You know when you get a postcard it isn’t going to be bad news – they are so comforting, whilst letters and emails are always slightly suspect in that regard. And no-one was ever thankful for a telegram. The pictures on them are (invariably) bright, cheerful and generic, but unique all at the same time. Postcard art is like no other art, constrained to a standard size, with conventions to the images and framing used, but within those conventions anything goes.
And let’s not forget PostSecret.
As I said, I just love them. When a postcard used to arrive in our house Dad would read it, then Mum (my brother and me were too young to have mail of our own), then we were allowed to read it, before it got stuck in the bottom of the picture frame on the fireplace. There it would stay, a moment of colour and magic, for a week or two, till Mum would take it down and store it in the bureau upstairs. I always wanted to keep them but she wouldn’t let me.
As I got older I started to receive postcards of my own from friends and family. Those I was allowed to keep myself and I started a collection. When my brother went off to University I bullied him into sending me postcards and promotional cards. I told him it was for an art project, whilst really it was for me so I could escape briefly from a life I hated and pretend I was a cool university student actually going to these clubs.
When I went off to Uni myself I made a point of making sure all my family and friends knew to send me postcards from wherever they went. Each one that came I read, cherished, and stuck on the wall of my dreary accommodation. I also started to collect the free advertising postcards they handed out around campus – I must have been one of the few people who put them in her bag instead of dumping them! Flagrantly breaking every rule in the book about blue-tack, I papered my room with these free cards. The ones that had actually been sent to me were always special however – they got pride of place on my pinboard above my desk. I could look at them and dream.
By the time I moved down to Southampton, I had enough cards that had been sent to me to make a decent display of just them. The blank cards were in turn used to send to other people when the moment deserved it. Every room I have ever moved into in the past five years, the first thing I think of is “where can I put the postcards?” In Meadow Towers, for the first time, I can’t paper the room with them – I have a feeling the landlord really wouldn’t appreciate his pristine paint work being trashed, and this time round it’s MY money as the security deposit!
I’m still collecting them – friends and family still follow the standing order to send me a postcard from wherever they go. In fact it’s become something of a running joke. Whenever Mum goes off somewhere, she will always ring me before she departs and go “I’ll let you know when I get back, and yes! I will send a postcard!” In this age of instant, disposable communication from everywhere on the globe, a postcard, something tangible, is even more special to me. You have to take the time to choose a card, write a message, buy a stamp, then find a mail-box and actually post it. I have great memories of one time in New York where to buy a stamp Mum used a $20 bill, expecting to get change from the machine in notes… Out popped $19.50 in quarters and dollar coins. Her wallet didn’t shut till she offloaded the whole lot on a poor chap who sold us an ice cream in Bryant Park. Then there was the palaver involved when I tried to send a postcard from Singapore…
Postcards are special. People denigrate them horribly but I still forgive them everything. As soon as I find someone is going somewhere I ask them to send me a postcard – most people don’t bother, but some do, so my collection is slowly growing. The one sadness is that no one gets to see them any more, stuck away as they are in a neat elastic-banded bundle on my desk. Before people would walk into my room, see the cards, and start talking. “I’ve been there… Oh! I always wanted to go there… That looks beautiful, where is it? Why do you have postcards stuck to your wall?” I could lie back and look at the images from around the world and dream, think happy thoughts, wander through happy memories and connections. Yes, it’s a piece of coloured cardboard, six inches by four, but it’s also more than that.
So I decided to share my postcards online. Some of them have great stories attached I want to share. If it prompts you to send someone a postcard, brilliant. If it prompts you to send me one, even better 😉
Oh, and the postcard used as the picture for this post was sent to me by my father from Scotland in 2002. The sun had been shining all week till the moment he arrived in Scotland. It rained for the entire week he was there, and stopped as soon as he crossed back over the border. Not for nothing was my father referred to as the Rain God during my childhood – wherever we went on holiday, the rain would invariably follow. If you wanted a dry bank holiday weekend, you paid my family to be elsewhere.