When I was a child, I used to go on vacation with my family to a little place on the coast in south-east England.
I tend to look back on that time with rose-tinted spectacles. I could swear the summers were longer and warmer, the rain less frequent, the ice-creams more flavoursome.
What I am sure about is that two communication activities I used to enjoy have all but disappeared in this age of text, mobile and World Wide Web. I’m talking about sending messages in bottles and on holiday postcards.
To a child, the message-in-a-bottle has always seemed a romantic concept, imagining as he does that it will turn up on the secluded shore of some remote desert island when in reality it usually comes back on the next tide to be smashed on the sea wall.
When I was researching this subject a few years ago, I was intrigued to read the story of a lonely British teenager called Beryl Edwards who propelled her message-in-a-bottle into the English Channel in 1954. Thirty-three years later, a family in Holland found the note and wrote to her. I imagine that if you were looking for a pen-friend nowadays, you’d go to findapenfriend.com and all correspondence would be conducted through a PC.
And who sends a holiday postcard now that you can upload pictures and text by mobile phone and e-mail? Gone is the delight of trying to think up something witty to say in the limited space available and of receiving a card from Italy or Spain when the sender has already been back at work for a fortnight.
I recently discovered that writing on a holiday postcard is a science. I kid you not, dear reader, an eminent professor wrote a thesis on it. I quote: “The holiday postcard is an important genre in tourist culture and the language used in postcard texts reveals significant information about the attitude of senders and recipients towards each other and towards the activities they engage in and the events they experience. I have suggested that positive evaluation is the motivation underlying the creation of the text for reasons of power and politeness and that evaluation is centred around a contrast between the holiday as an ideal and the reality of everyday life.”
Wow! All that in ‘Wish You Were Here.’
by Andy Moreton