Monday 24 September 2018

Mary Kenny: Postcards from the past

The written format is in decline but will selfies give us the same delights of memory?

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

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.

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