Christine Rogers

ZL3 November Hotel

I embroidered my father’s QSL card for his birthday.

ZL3 November hotel. These words are deeply familiar to me. As a child I spent many hours in Dad’s radio room, listening to him talk to people on the other side of the world. I remember the sound of the static and strange high-pitched electronic sounds that would emerge from the handsome blue-enamelled radio set my father had built. I remember the static resolving into a human voice, often rich with accent, voices distant with the miles, speaking from Australia, American, Canada, Israel, Europe. Before the internet this was a small miracle.

My father is an amateur radio operator, commonly called ham radio operator, and ZL3NH is his call sign. ZL for Aotearoa New Zealand, 3 for the South Island, and NH, his personal signature. For his recent 90th birthday I decided to embroider his QSL card.

My father, Peter J Rogers, ham radio operator for over 70 years.

A QSL card is a confirmation of contact. Ham radio operators would send them to each other after speaking on the radio. My father has a box full of them from all around the world, confirmations of moments of contact, voices meeting across vast distances.

Dad’s QSL card, designed by himself. It’s postcard size.

A birthday card is also a confirmation of contact, or confirmation of connection. I have one of dad’s QSL card in my office in Belfast. When I was a child I took little notice of the cards, they were part of the landscape of my childhood. Now it is a powerful reminder of not only my childhood but a pastime that has almost vanished. I was deciding what to make for my father’s birthday and recalled the card. I knew its elegant, bold lines and colours would translate well into stitch. But I decided to leave off the technical codes, the writing too fine to execute on a plane.

I began stitching on the plane on the way back to NZ from Europe, flying home for dad’s birthday celebration.

Stitching is slow. You enter into the work itself—the call sign, the shape of the country I was born in, my father’s name, our former address and the place I called home. It is work rich with memory and meaning.

There was a particular poignancy in stitching our home address, as my parents moved out in 2021.