Do people still send postcards these days…?
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A bizarre postcard today from a Russian Postcrosser. It bears no publisher information or any clue as to what it means but sometimes a mystery is better than not. It may be a homemade or web-designed card which are quite popular with Postcrossers who live in less touristy places. It’s a seemingly random juxtaposition of a wooden shed (with Japanese typography) overlaid with stencilled silhouettes of a ship’s wheel, a gemstone, an anchor, a fish, an antler-laden trophy, a bird, a crusty bloomer, a chicken thigh and a lump of cheese. Helpfully there’s the word ‘postcard’; and the international symbol for a message, the envelope, just in case we were confused. We are.
I realise I’ve posed quite a few Postcrossing postcards on this blog without going into an explanation of what it means. The Postcrossing community is made up of hundreds of thousands of people the world over who communicate with one another by way of the humble postcard. It’s free to join up and set up a profile, then, when you fancy sending a postcard to someone you click on the button and receive an address to write to. Its as simple as that. Each time you send a postcard you should then subsequently receive a postcard from someone else, somewhere.
The appeal is obvious for those of us who either collect or enjoy writing postcards and the joy is that you really never know what you’re going to get or from whom. You can be as involved or uninvolved as you like sending a postcard as often as you like; once a week, once a month, once a year, the frequency is entirely up to you. If you’re a collector of a certain subject its a great way to add rarer postcards to your collection (although bear in mind you can only suggest on your profile what cards you like to receive – no-one is obliged to send what you want) or if, like me, you just like the randomness of it all you can simply sit back and wait to see what comes through your letterbox. In larger cities there are regular meet-ups, or you can get involved from the comfort of your own home, in the middle of nowhere.
With such arbitrary senders and receivers the variety of people, places and things I’ve received is vast. From the boring and inane to the fascinating and weird. I am particuarly interested in hearing about local events that I may not know about in my cossetted English world, or about global events from a different point of view. In the former category is my new knowledge of the Finnish general election and in the latter the political view from within Russia has been eye-opening. I especially remember receiving a card from Kiev in the Ukraine last year which was a moving account of being caught in the crossfire of a conflict beyond the control of those affected. The chance to engage with this global community on a personal, non-virtual level is unique and the sharing of information, images. thoughts and ideas is endless.
I started over eight years ago and am a fairweather Postcrosser, with just under 500 postcards sent/received. A few weeks ago the project saw it’s 31 millionth postcard sent (yes, 31 MILLION). There are now over half a million registered users and Postcrossing got the ‘official’ stamp of approval, literally, in 2011 when the Dutch Postal Service, PostNL, produced the world’s first Postcrossing themed stamps, designed by The Stone Twins. Since then Finland, Belarus, Guernsey and Russia have followed suit with their own Postcrossing stamps.
Its always an interesting way to see the world. One of my profile requests, aside from filling me on current affairs, is a request for the sender’s favourite music. I’m a voracious listener and always looking for new tunes – thanks to Natalya I’m going to check out some Russian rock courtesy of DDT who I hadn’t heard of until now.
Get involved: you can join up for free on the website at www.postcrossing.com, set up your profile and start sending and receiving!