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Nothing to Write Home About by Michelle Abadie and Susan Beale

20 Jun


I have always loved postcards.

I have collected postcards for years. Every time someone is travelling somewhere, I always ask them to bring me back a postcard. They’re cheap, light, take up no room whatsoever and give me a glimpse of somewhere far away.

To me they represent places that I long to see, that I long to visit. More than that, they’re really pieces of time caught on cardstock, thin little time capsules that can hold all manner of things: music, laughter, conversation.

Postcards manage to capture the imagination with a picture and then retain something of the moment they were bought; perhaps a holiday or a business trip or a wedding. The postcard becomes marked with secrets when it is bought and when it is written upon.

In reality, postcards are markers of time. They are an instant in our past and present, a second of time or the few minutes one has spent scribbling away on the back. Postcards are magic; they let us see into the lives of others, just for a second, and see things we may not have seen.

In Nothing to Write Home About, Michelle Abadie and Susan Beale have compiled a collection of John Hinde postcards. From the sixties to the eighties, John Hinde postcards flourished in popularity, their dream like images transporting you to somewhere different, somewhere magical.

The pictures on the front of the cards are many and varied and Abadie and Beale have collected what must be every John Hinde card known to mankind. The images are colourful, bright, and incredible. The pictures sing to you and you want to breathe in the fresh air, the blue sky.

What’s more, they showcase the talents of a photographer who is widely unknown because he chose to focus on postcards. This collection of postcards is an amazing tribute to an incredible photographer and an amazing artist.

But, really, what Abadie and Beale have collected are pieces of time. They have created the ultimate time capsule, the ultimate look at other lives, other moments. Along with each full colour reproduction, they’ve also included the message that has been written of each of the post cards.

How can we not read? How can we not peek at words written by someone else? I loved the images but was utterly fascinated at the words, the emotions on the backs of these postcards.

I have a lots of favourites, but there were a few that stuck with me :

23 May 1967, sent to Porthcawl, Glamorgan

Dear E., Just a P.C. of a place you may remember. Had 2 letters from your solicitors, will let you know my requirements. Hope you are O.K. Walter

12 Sept 1974, sent to Wifeliscombe, Somerset

Dear Mr. Greedy, just a note to say that I shall be in London in time to discuss a letter I had from a Mar. Capon from Budapest. See you soon. Ben.

1 July 1966, sent to Malvern, Worcestershire

Tried to call you. It was a last minute decision…best wishes Gordon

1988, sent to St. Martins Infant School, Bedfordshire

Tell Jesus You Love him.

29 Jan 1971, sent to Cockermouth, Cumberland

This is a very nice hospital and everybody is kind but I’ll be glad to see the back of it soon. Love mother.

The more I read, the more I was struck silent. What must have been happening during the lives of these people? What mysterious thing were they writing about? Who did they send their postcard to?

My brain was filled with gorgeous images but hundreds of questions. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about each person that wrote each of the postcards. All the cryptic writing reminded me of spies or perhaps star crossed lovers communicating? Or maybe a separated husband and wife going through a divorce?

My questions will never be answered. That, I think is the beauty behind Nothing to Write Home About. Each page is a piece of time, a snapshot of a moment. A glimpse into a second that has passed us by. But Abadie and Beale have gathered them up for us and compiled them into minutes, hours, days and weeks. They have given us a magic book and I was spellbound with every page.

There is one last postcard I would like to share with you if I may and here it is:

Date unknown, sent to Bolton-by-Bowland, Yorkshire

Snowing like man, skiing not bad altho’ I think I’m taking it too seriously – must laugh when all over. Nothing to write home about. Love Kate and Keith

Indeed, it is something to write home about.

Michelle Abadie and Susan Beale have shown us that, while we may think our words worthless, our memories unimportant, what they really are is magic.

One postcard at a time.