“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way” –– Ernest Hemingway
“The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters” –– Lewis Carroll
It’s a rare treat to receive a postcard, especially one from home when you’re on the other side of the world. On the front: a snapshot from somewhere either familiar or foreign; on the back, a handwritten note, scrawled in haste with a tired hand after repeated phrases or written neatly with the anticipation and dignity of doing something for the first time and therefore with all of ones concentration.
I recently received a postcard from my grandmother who, at 83, had taken herself on a short solo trip from Penzance in Cornwall to Keswick in The Lake District.
“The pretty little fell on the left is Catbells – a favourite, but I can’t get to the top anymore now. The lake is Derwentwater.”
In my grandmother’s familiar handwriting, a brief but poetic impression of a place containing, as well, all the love in her heart. In 25 words, a deep impression of her feelings is somehow carried and contained for as long as the card is read. I can see her creased hands holding the pen, her beautiful face poised, perhaps looking out of the window through foggy raindrop paths before she furrows her brow, puts pen to paper and scratches the words into the card where they will rest and be carried 10,500 miles across the world for me to read.
“Having a lovely (quiet) time. Violent thunder and lightening storm two days ago + hail and torrential rain.”
The contrast between the lovely quiet time she is having and the violence of the storm she describes is exquisite, encapsulating not only the British tradition of relaying in as much detail as possible (but as few words so as not to waste space) the weather experienced by one on their travels, but also a stark contradiction so quaint when compressed onto the back of a postcard that it brought a huge smile to my face when I read it far away in sunny Sydney.
The contrast between the lovely quiet time she is having and the violence of the storm she describes is exquisite.
What a joy.
There’s a fear that, with social media and the ease with which we can flick holiday snaps onto the Gram, sending postcards will no longer be seen as necessary. So far, be it out of nostalgia, sentiment or habit – or a combination of all three – it seems people still take the time to write to loved ones from far flung places, though.
May the art of postcard writing never cease.
–– Rosie Pentreath, January 2018.
SOUNDTRACK TO THIS POST: ‘BIG JET PLANE’ BY ANGUS & JULIA STONE