Re­liv­ing the joy of the post­card

Post­cards find their place, while spark­ing memories of tele­grams for Alan Carl­ton

Mercury (Hobart) - - OPINION - Ho­bart’s Alan Carl­ton runs, plays ten­nis and gar­dens.

ON a re­cent hol­i­day I saw some­thing strange. Post­cards for sale. I couldn’t re­sist buy­ing some. My memory told me post­cards need stamps. I was then told we don’t sell stamps. You have to buy stamps else­where. She told me where to buy stamps.

I re­turned to my hol­i­day room. The post­cards gave me a stan­dard pic­ture, the same pic­ture as ev­ery­body else. They gave me a space which told me how many words I could write. I won­dered how to ad­dress them. What are the ad­dresses of these grand­kids? I could send them an email and ask them their ad­dress.

I find a shop sell­ing stamps. The stamps have very tiny, beau­ti­ful pic­tures on them and I man­age to fix them to the cards, in the right place and up the right way. The lady says, “To post them you have to exit the front door, turn right and you will see a post box.”

Af­ter send­ing the post­cards I send a group email to my grand­kids. I in­clude a photo of grandma. I tell them in the email they will re­ceive a post­card. Watch out for it ar­riv­ing in your let­ter box. I re­ceive an in­stan­ta­neous re­ply.

Ev­ery day I send group emails to my grand­kids. The amount of words varies. Most days I add a photo. A photo I have taken. Grandma FaceTimes the kids. She talks to them. Some­how I have to ex­plain to them what a post­card is and how pop­u­lar they used to be. I can’t imag­ine them see­ing nu­mer­ous ad­van­tages in post­cards. I can’t imag­ine post­cards be­com­ing the lat­est craze.

Loi­ter­ing in a souvenir shop the ad­van­tages man­i­fest. We now see a souvenir we can buy that they will use. A fridge mag­net for af­fix­ing post­cards.

When we re­turn my grand­kids ex­cit­edly greet us and say, “Look what I got.”

They love their post­cards. They show me their fridge and its adorn­ments. They all want their post­card to be the high­est. Even bet­ter is the day af­ter we ar­rive back in Ho­bart. More post­cards mys­te­ri­ously ar­rive. We watch them re­trieve the post­cards from the let­ter­box. They love them and love dis­play­ing them. I sus­pect one of them took a post­card to school for show and tell.

As I watch them use their fridge mag­nets my thoughts move to tele­grams. I could tell them the story of when I first worked over­seas 40 years ago. In­ter­na­tional phone calls were very ex­pen­sive and in­volved a lot of plan­ning. They were spe­cial. They were not spon­ta­neous and rou­tine.

One day I re­turned to my place of res­i­dence. A tele­gram was wait­ing. I thought I’m not open­ing that. Tele­grams are al­ways bad news. I put the tele­gram on the man­tel­piece and stared at it. I left it there for at least a day. Even­tu­ally I thought I had bet­ter open it. Must know the truth.

The tele­gram said, “Happy birth­day.” Even though it was a day late I was might­ily re­lieved. Not all tele­grams are bad news. I never thought that one day tele­grams would cease to ex­ist. A more ef­fec­tive way to com­mu­ni­cate with other dis­tant peo­ple will ex­ist.

Slide nights have gone the same way. When young a few of my cousins made the trip by boat back to the “Mother Coun­try.” They re­turned a few years later with a box of slides. A slide night was ar­ranged.

A slide pro­jec­tor was fid­dled with, a screen hung and ev­ery­body seated suit­ably.

And then it be­gan. Ev­ery slide had a story. Some­times the story was told by my un­cle who had re­mained home. That didn’t stop him. Slide nights have gone the way of tele­grams. It’s as­sumed ev­ery­body has al­ready seen every­thing on Face­book.

My turn to travel ar­rived. Be­ing a den­tist I didn’t go to Eng­land. I lis­tened to older den­tists and they said don’t go. If you go to Eng­land, work on the NHS, your work will go downhill. I went else­where. And I found wher­ever I went they sold post­cards.

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