When we first moved to Brighton we began collecting vintage seaside postcards. I liked the cute ones, my husband like the “saucy” – i.e. rude – ones.
Over Easter we were tidying up a storage room to turn it back into a useable space, and came across the box of long-forgotten postcards. In the 1920s and 30s people often used postcards just as we’d make a phone call or text someone – to make arrangements for later or the next day. The postal service must have been very quick and reliable back then. Some of the cards had never been used, but many had handwritten messages, stamps and postmarks. Lots were signed with an x or xxxx.
My next book, Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection, is set in the early 1920s and features diary entries, letters and postcards. I’ve just been doing the final editing job on it. Where my heroine signs off a letter home ‘with a great big X’, my editor had asked in her notes whether people actually signed with kisses back then. Yay! Here was the answer, from primary sources, not just a quick – and, I have to say, sometimes frustrating – trawl of the internet.
Editors are great like that – they ask you stuff you’d never think of asking yourself when you are deep in the business of writing a book. For this story I had researched early aeroplanes, cars, and 1920s clothing, but exactly when people started putting Xs at the end of their letters had never occurred to me.
So I really ought to sign off this piece with a big X for my editor!