Mary Kenny: Postcards from the past
The written format is in decline but will selfies give us the same delights of memory?
It's pleasing to see shops in Ireland still display and sell pretty picture postcards. I hope that visitors are buying and sending them, but the postcard is not a thriving business, worldwide. The American postal service has been charting a progressive decline in postcard sending since 2010. Last month, in Britain, the oldest postcard publisher, J Salmon of Sevenoaks, announced its closure - put out of business by changing holiday habits and the instant gratification of social media. It's reckoned there's been a 60pc decline in the picture postcard over the past 20 years. People are taking more holidays but sending fewer cards.
A picture postcard from abroad was once not only a greeting, but perhaps a subtle, if harmless, form of boasting. "Here I am at the Grand Canyon! Amazing!" A trip abroad is no big deal for most people now and a postcard, which may take weeks to arrive, seems hardly worth the money, the stamp and the trouble - especially when you can send an instant selfie via Facebook or Instagram.
Some postal services have always treated postcards as non-urgent mail and they could take ages. ("Wine fine, but weather could be better," a pithy, yet informative, card message from my brother at Le Touquet). It wasn't unusual to receive a postcard - especially from Italy - weeks after the sender had arrived back home.