I was walking along London’s South Bank recently and stopped by the open-air second-hand bookshop under Waterloo Bridge. I usually stop to see if there are any great travel book bargains to be had (an old copy of Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, perhaps) On this occasion, a box of postcards caught my eye, as I realised that some of them were used, and I spent a good 20 minutes reading the messages from places as far and wide as Hong Kong to Ilfracombe.
MR AND MRS GRAINGER
My favourite was dated 1968. It had a picture of St Ives on the front and was both addressed and written to a Mr and Mrs Grainger. It read, “Dear Mr & Mrs Grainger, I’ve arrived safely in Cornwall. The setting is beautiful. Warmest, Susan”. It made me wonder who these people were, whether they were still alive, why it was written so formally, and how there is always so much story behind a simple postcard.
I’ve always enjoyed looking at postcards, writing them and receiving them, most probably instilled in me by my Nanna, who would always say, “Don’t forget to send me a postcard,” every time I left for a trip or holiday. Nanna collected postcards that were sent to her from family and friends, and recently, I got to sift through a biscuit tin of them. There were ones dating back years, each one capturing a particular moment in time, both by what was written, who had written it, and the style of postcard itself. Memories came flooding back when I read ones that I had sent her, from when I was a small child on holiday on the South Wales coast, to more recent adventures. They would sit on her mantlepiece for whoever was visiting to read and look at – my Nanna’s house was never empty.
ON THE DOORMAT
I don’t really collect souvenirs when I travel but I can’t help picking up pretty or completely tacky-looking postcards and I still enjoy hunting good ones out to send to friends and family. I usually get a message at how excited the person was to receive it. There’s something about a postcard landing on your doormat by surprise and sharing a moment with someone, perhaps on the other side of the world. I just don’t think instant messages have the same sentiment, and you certainly can’t collect them!
If you’re also a fan of postcards, you might like to check out @pastpostcard, an account that tweets old postcards and snippets of the messages written on them, or even buy the book Postcard From The Past by Tom Jackson.