Another postcard from my World War One collection:
It’s a rather faded image but we can see that it shows a man standing outside a gate to what looks like the back yard of a house. Like the previous image (see Part 3) the man is dressed in his uniform, ready to head off to war. Or perhaps he’s returned, on leave maybe, about to go back to the Front? We’ll never know, but looking at his face, there’s something about his expression which looks weary at the very least. Of course this is probably reading too much into the picture, but there is something about his face which makes me wonder. To make it easier to see, I’ve enhanced the image a little:
Detail of the soldier’s face:
Like the previous postcard, I can well imagine the scene without the soldier standing there; the feel and the colour of the ivy, the bricks and the old, rather battered door. My imagination colours the image, and through this colouring, the textures of the bricks and the door become apparent. And like the other postcard, it is in itself a tactile object which speaks of the soldier’s absence more than his presence – after all, a postcard is a form of communication sent by someone who is, at the moment, absent from the life of the receiver. Turning it over and looking at the reverse, I could see that it had been addressed to a Miss V. J. Edwards. I wondered if she was the man’s fiancee, but looking at his hands, I could see that he was wearing what appears to be a wedding ring. And again the hands are like those I’ve discussed previously (see Part 1 and Part 3).
Could Miss Edwards be his sister? As I hold the postcard, and turn it over in my hand, I find myself performing an action she herself would have performed. What would she have thought as she read the rather enigmatic text?
1919 16.Puzzle BLA.
I’m assuming that the number at the top is the date (1919) which means we can perhaps also assume the soldier on the front survived the war. Was the photograph itself taken when the war was over? Would that account for his rather tired expression? It seems unlikely, and given the rest of the text, it might be that this isn’t the date at all. Sadly, the franking mark on the stamp isn’t clear enough to tell. What does 16.Puzzle BLA mean? Is it No.16 in a series of puzzles? Is BLA itself the puzzle – a secret code shared between the two; between the soldier and Miss Edwards? Interestingly, in the image itself, we can see in the bottom left hand corner, a notebook on a wooden bench. Did the soldier conceive his puzzles within its pages?
A hand rolled cigarette lays next to it, and the two together serve to animate the image – or rather the soldier in the image; I can picture him smoking, writing in his notebook, in a hand like that on the reverse. Holding the postcard and reading it, I can also ‘animate’ the person to whom it was sent.
With this single image then, a relationship long forgotten has been re-established.