Wish you were here

Celebrating the good old fashioned postcard

With hopes of Europe opening its borders for a belated ‘save the summer’ tourist season edging ever closer, yet still uncertain, worry not, you can still send someone a postcard from home or a more odds-on staycation setting.

Ah yes, the humble postcard. When was the last time you sent a nice glossy postcard from holiday? Or, better, received one? For many, what used to be a travel mainstay — as much a part of your big summer break as sunburned shoulders, sandy pants and sibling squabbles — is now long forgotten, superseded by the ease of a simple text, email, or social media post.

Yes, it’s so much easier to dash off an Instagram post or a Whatsapp message than go to the trouble of tracking down a card, a stamp, and then of course, a postbox. But where’s the joy in that? Don’t you think your nan or pre-smartphone nephew would appreciate the tangible delights of a lovingly scribbled snapshot from your travels?

Before social media and smartphones, postcards were the only way to let your friends and family know that you were sunning it on some faraway patch of sand. Last year, we revealed a study, which found that six in 10 people would like to see more postcards being sent and received, and seven in 10 Brits would prefer to receive a postcard from a holidaying friend or family member over a social media message. When asked why this is the case, respondents overwhelmingly said that it makes them feel special and cited their sentimental appeal.

The earliest known picture postcard sent in the UK was a hand-painted design on card, posted in Fulham in London by the writer and practical joker, Theodore Hook, to himself in 1840, and bearing a Penny Black stamp. It was sold at auction in 2002 for £31,750. At their height between 1905 and 1915, more than 750 million postcards were sent each year. But a century later, figures have dropped to around 150 million. Nowadays, receiving post mostly means bills or junk, neither of which spark much joy. But now, while we’re still in lockdown, sending postcards and letters is a welcome, more thoughtful way to keep in touch.

For those feeling slightly too apprehensive of digging out their passport or sharing a campsite in Norfolk with 10,000 other not so happy campers, you can always send a postcard from the comfort of your own home. Sending a card to someone remains a way of sharing and of giving them the undeniable thrill of finding that their post isn’t all bills. Even if that someone is a stranger.

Postcards of Kindness

In 2018, Your Health Limited, a care company based in South Derbyshire with care homes around the UK launched their ‘Postcards of Kindness’ campaign asking anyone heading off on a day trip or holiday to write and send postcards to residents of care homes.

While it's a small gesture, the resulting deliveries bring a great deal of joy to the older people who receive them. Help combat loneliness today by sending a care home resident a postcard from your travels (or home). To find a care home to send your postcard to, join the Facebook group - Postcards Of Kindness.

30 Jun 2020