Postcards from my mother

Every Saturday for the last few weeks I have been trying to unclutter my flat with a bit of spring cleaning. It’s really rather amazing just how much ‘stuff’ we can accumulate over time and tuck away with that unrealistic hope of needing it again one day. Today I focussed on the dresser in the living room that’s covered in pads, pens, papers, pottery, pictures and a couple of dozen postcards sent by friends and family. I’ll be honest and say that a lot of the time postcards are always appreciated but it isn’t very long before they’re slipped into the paper and cardboard recycling bin. As I sifted through the thick pile of correspondence, it dawned on me that my late great mother was an incredibly prolific postcard writer. In fact anyone who knew my mother knew that her social skills ran a lot deeper than a single glass of wine. Elaine was forever writing to family and friends, or on the phone for hours to chat and cheer about anything and everything. To be honest, I took some of these conversations and cards for granted and really didn’t pay too much attention to recording them or filing them away. So, it was a pleasant surprise to find a stack of letters from her this morning. Here are her words which will hopefully reflect a little bit of the incredibly bright and warm spirit she had and shared equally with everyone she knew.

Dear Ralph & Pauline
Birthday fun in freeeezing Paris – at least it isn’t raining and metro strikes etc. force us to stay in St. Germain and shop.
Ralph now I see what you used to get up to in Paris with Bertrand!
Much love to you both
Elaine xx
Americans have become ruder that Parisians! D. x”

“Dear Ralph & Pauline
Great exhibition [Exposition Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso… L’Aventure des Stein. Grand Palais, Galeries Nationales, Paris 1ère October 2011 – Janvier 2012 – Ed.]! Like the idea of this ‘mature student’ – who would smoke a pipe nowadays!?
Paris as great as ever – lots of eating, drinking, shopping (for David (& ELD. D. )), walking and culture – what more could one ask.
Much love to you both
Elaine xx”

Dear Ralph & Pauline
A Big Hi from sunny South Africa, where we haven’t actually seen anyone looking like this [Postcard of traditional Ndebele People of Africa – Ed.], although we did get a few ‘bikers’ this morning.
Now in the Winelands, where naturally we have been tasting the whites and the reds – all very good!
Much love to you both
Elaine xx
It reminds us a lot of Florida but with much better wine & food. we are gradually eating our way thru the indigenous animals. D. x”

“Dear Pauline & Ralph
Little pressies from South Africa
I think you can work out what is for who and what is for both of you!
Political correctness doesn’t exist there. the zebra probably fed a family for a week!
Much love to you both
Elaine & David xx”

“Darling Pauline & Ralph
Thank you so very much for your lovely present. When I stop doing washing and ironing I shall sit down and read it!
Thank you too for all the manual help – you were both stars!
A bientôt j’éspère
Love & kisses
Elaine xx”

“Dear Ralph & Pauline
Another possible solution to David’s bridge aspirations! [Photo of stone bridge over rushing gorge – Ed.] Yet more serious jardinage tomorrow. i just bought so many couvre-sol plants those weeds won’t know what hit them!
Love to you both
Elaine xx
I look such a wigger in my Independent sweat shirt! D.”

“Dear Pauline
Thank you so much for lending us Ralph. It was great fun and he worked very hard. I feel we might be sending him back a bit worse for wear – sorry!!
Next time you must come too – promise you no hard work.
Much love Elaine & David”

“My darlings
Absolutely Nothing to buy in Cuba except cigars and rhum unless you go for serious tat – so genuine Ché t-shirts it is. Sizes are vague – tiny or large – so I imagined pauline will have a nightdress and Ralph whatever. I’ll leave you to choose who has which!
Much love to you both
Elaine xx David x”

“Dear Ralph & Pauline
Beautiful girls everywhere, big cigars and mojitos – David is happy! Cuba is full of contrasts – the haves and the have-nots.
Much love to you both
Elaine x
We miss French food. they only have 5 or 6 dishes and most involve black beans and rice. We have  found the simplest restaurants the best so far. Smoking cigars is great here not only because of the taste, but the fact that you are expected to smoke everywhere – you don’t have to go outside in the street.
D. x”

“Darling Ralph
So so sorry to hear about your job. Life is hard sometimes, but I’m sure you will get through this.
I prefer cards to emails, so hopefully Che [Postcard photo – Ed.] will help you keep positive.
Much love to you and to Pauline.
Elaine x”

Darling Ralph
Clearly this card has absolutely nothing to do with Kung Fu [Cartoon of Joseph and Mary watching a young boy building a bed ‘Well, let’s hope he get’s into something soon Mary, because, let’s face it, he’ll never make a carpenter’ – Ed.] – unless there was something in JC’s background that never made it into the Gospels. So a very BIG congratulations for getting so far. Only one more belt to go and you will be on the super plane!
Can’t wait to have you here.
Much love Elaine x David x”


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