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Nicole Elders dashes to join dots

Publisher aims for Morse code boost with tribute to flight lieutenant grandad


Greeting card publisher Nicole Elders has been dashing about joining the dots to bring her latest greeting card ranges to life, including a Morse code-based one that’s a tribute to her grandad.

And the family connections don’t end there, as Nicole has also worked with her cousin on a second collection, with both Long Live Morse Code and Message In A Bottle being officially launched at Giving & Living in Exeter over 14-16 January, and Spring Fair at the NEC over February 4-7.

Above: Two of the new Long Live Morse Code designs
Above: Two of the new Long Live Morse Code designs

Having collaborated with the International Morse Code Preservation Society Nicole said: “It’s the original text speak and would be great if greeting cards can help revive the language – and I’ve also done it in memory of my grandfather.”

Grandad was Dennis Simpson, who was a flight lieutenant in the RAF for 33 years from the end of the war through to the 70s “starting on Lancasters before moving on to Shackleton aircraft and then Nimrods,” explained a proud Nicole, who balances running her calligraphy-based cards and gifts business with her job as an aeronautical engineer with Rolls-Royce.

Her grandfather was also a member of the Goldfish Club – a club for airmen and airwomen who have survived air crashes in the sea “or ditching in the drink as he called it. He’d been flying in a Lancaster that crashed into the sea off Malta,” revealed Nicole.

Above: Nicole with her beloved grandad Dennis Simpson at her wedding
Above: Nicole with her beloved grandad Dennis Simpson at her wedding

“He walked me down the aisle at my wedding and I have a great photo of him with his flight crew in a Shackleton. I’m sorry to say he didn’t teach me Morse code – I wish I’d asked as it’s one of the regrets in life.

“We shared a love of engineering and aviation, my interest in Morse code started more as a way of remembering him.”

With vintage technology making something of a comeback of late, as shown by increased sales of polaroid cameras and vinyl records, Nicole recognised that Morse code is also seeing a small revival as several K-pop bands have used it to leak the names of upcoming songs.

“In fact, it’s still around,” added the publisher, showing her aerospace engineering knowledge. “All the aviation beacons still announce themselves in Morse code so if the systems fail they can still be heard. The modern technology converts the signal into recognisable letters but it’s transmitted as code.”

Above & top; Dennis served in the RAF for 33 years
Above & top; Dennis served in the RAF for 33 years

Created almost 180 years ago, around the same time as Sir Henry Cole was inventing the Christmas card, it’s fitting that Morse code is now making its way on to greeting cards as the simple dot and dash – officially known as dit for the short burst of sound or light and dah for the long one – language making up the 26 basic Latin letters, one accented letter, and the numbers 0-9 is easy to learn and understood worldwide.

Nicole is over the moon that her new range has caught the attention of the 2024 Gift Of The Year Awards judges who have shortlisted it in the heritage category even before its official release – and it really is the original text speak, with TU for thank you, BCNU for be seeing you, 88 is shorthand for love and kisses, 73 best wishes, and 99 get lost!

The launch collection comprises eight cards, each featuring a different shorthand phrase with info on the back about the inspiration and the Morse code used on the card.

Having been adopted for high-speed international communications Morse code was used in WWII, the Vietnam War, Korean War and throughout the Cold War with the shipping industry continuing its use in the 1990s, and there are still many clubs around the world including Summits On The Air (SOTA) which encourages usage for communication within mountainous areas.

Above: Cousin Adam in the dramatic landscape he photographs, and new Message In A Bottle cards
Above: Cousin Adam in the dramatic landscape he photographs, and new Message In A Bottle cards

“Grandad was a passionate radio operator throughout his lifetime and I hope with this card range that I’ve done him proud” Nicole said, adding that a proportion of profits from sales will go towards promoting and encouraging the use of Morse code.

The family connection continues with the publisher’s second new range, Message In A Bottle, that’s she’s created with her cousin Adam Guy.

“He’s a photographer based in Cornwall,” she explained, “and we wanted to collaborate on a range of cards using his photography and my calligraphy. Each one celebrates our beautiful coastline. Not all are beaches, some are photographs of coastal paths or waves.”

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