In Mélisande Fitzsimons’ latest publication, thirty-nine characters give us brief, tantalising glimpses into their lives through the cryptic messages they write on the back of postcards. The voices are of different ages, social backgrounds and ethnicities, from people holidaying in Britain and overseas. Each text is paired with an image of the front of the card, witty juxtapositions which are very much part of the work’s appeal.
The vagaries of British weather feature in a number of the messages: pouring rain, wind, freezing temperatures, a few days of sunshine celebrated as a rare treat. One writer, staying in Torbay, records ‘happily watching people’s tents blow away…it’s great fun’. Another, writing from Ironbridge, complains of having to buy a hot water bottle and about the lack of tea cosies at the guest house. This message is matched with an image of a satirical nineteenth-century cartoon depicting the hazards of rail travel.
Those voyaging further afield include a young clubber writing from Mallorca about getting wasted with her friends, including one of the boys getting his ‘knob’ (‘you should see the size’) stuck in the toilet door. A teacher with a group of art students on a trip to Charleville Mézières complains of Google bringing up Peppa Pig’s little brother when she searches for Georges Perec. The students are ‘philistines’, but at least she and her colleague get to see Rimbaud’s house.
The opaqueness of many of the communications creates a delicious sense of the absurd, often heightened by the disconnect between text and image. A card from Tenerife showing a young woman in a bikini waving at the camera is paired with a message about a dream of crochet unravelling. The last sentence reads: ‘I think it might have something to do with that article you sent me.’
One of my favourites is from a woman staying at a hotel on ‘a cliff just 12 miles from the sea’, who says she’s ‘not that great at cliff heights.’ The message begins: ‘Had your potatoes yesterday. Hope they crack the murder case soon, what a shock for your entire community.’ The place she is staying is extremely hot, forcing the writer to ‘sit in the fishing village melting in my bra’. The card shows a painting of a distant, lone figure on the top of a cliff overlooking a sea inlet or lake.
A postcard from Eden Valley, is equally mysterious. ‘I can’t explain why I am here or where I am from,’ the writer says. He or she seems to be trying to flee the workaday world. The message ends with: ‘Sometimes, I feel like a tree in the middle of the A38. Not everything is black and white, not everywhere a calculation, but thank you again for your indifference.’ The card shows a wide river in the foreground, animals grazing beyond, and mountains in the distance.
Life Here is Full of Tomorrows was inspired by Tom Jackson’s Postcards from the Past. Fitzsimons’ texts cleverly mirror the clichés, disjunctions, and elliptical references of actual cards, transforming commonplace banalities into amusing, touching, at times surreal vignettes of people’s lives. This is a very entertaining pamphlet.
Simon Collings 23rd November 2021