Sunday, 23 August 2015

See the Light

2012: Norwegian Lighthouses III
The stillness of of a rolling mist coming in off the sea with perhaps the sound of fog horns and the gentle chime of buoys at sea is what these two stamps bring to mind.  The first is the wooden lighthouse near the harbour of Oslo by the whale shaped rock of Kvringen on the western seaward approach.  The island is now a protected nature reserve together with the surrounding area of shallow reefs. The tower dates from 1892.
A sunken rock in the middle of Oslo fjord is home to the 1876 Medfjordbåen light.  As might be imagined the Oslo fjord is Norway's busiest and the ferries and cargo ships are joined in the summer with all manner of recreational boats. One of the recommended experiences for the tourist is to go island hopping by ferry on the fjord.  Islands of course must mean lots of underwater hazards so there are a lot of lights on the fjord (map of them here) 
The self adhesive stamps come in a booklet of 10 and  are designed by Benjamin Stenmark.
Wooden lighthouses are unusual to me as ours tend to be sturdy stone structures but here is one at the top of Käsmu Cape in Estonia.  This is one of two preserved wooden lighthouses in Estonia and the maximum card celebrates its survival from 1892-2012.  In 2013 it opened as a museum.  This beacon was originally put in place to make sailing into the home port for the Maritime School pupils easier.
The stamp shows the position of the beacon and its latitude and longitude, then on the back of the card
is a map of it in its wider context.  The village of Käsmu sounds like an interesting place with its hiking and cycle trails, sea museum and even a replica Viking longship.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Lighthouses - for more sail into See It On a Postcard harbour here 

Sunday, 16 August 2015


An envelope plopped through my letter box on Friday and one of the things inside completely changed what I was going to show this week.  A bike bathed in sunlight by a lake, perhaps its owner is relaxing nearby with friends after a leisurely ride or even out sailing on the water. The card is called 'Summer Bike' and and has one of this year's 'Summer Feeling' stamps with whirling fluffy flowery suns. The card features a Jopo bike (a bit of a cult classic in Finland) which was first produced in 1965 and "designed for fun" by the company Helkama.  Still popular today it is handmade from Finnish steel with 24" wheels, pedal brakes and no gears which means there is not a lot that can go wrong.  
The stamp is one of five designed by Pietari Posti encapsulating a perfect dazzling summer's day with rowing, swimming, bike trips, ice cream and strawberries (full set shown here).  The appropriately named Posti graduated from Lahti Polytechnic in southern Finland but now lives in Barcelona, no doubt an excellent move if you want to guarantee perfect summer weather.  Finland seems to be having the same unreliable summer as us this year with cooler than usual temperature

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - That Summer Time Feeling - more sunny days here 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Unseasonable Feast

Jersey Christmas 2013
I have heard of a few families who gather mid year for their Christmas because of the logistics of the mid winter festival when it is impossible to be in two, three or even four places at one time.  An eminently sensible idea with no pressure and a calm shopping environment to gather the ingredients for a Christmas dinner.  I was rather lacking in stamps featuring food so I'm joining that mid year idea for Sunday Stamps and in fact would happily munch my way through most of the items shown at any time of year.  The stamps are by one of Jersey Post's favourite artists - Michael Pollard and he has captured the season perfectly with its dusting of white.

 We start on the top row with 40p Christmas Pudding (traditionally made five weeks before Christmas) and so stodgy could be a meal in its own right. 45p Mulled wine which I don't really like but those mince pies would go down a treat 50p Gingerbread shown here hung on a Christmas tree and of course the season would not be complete without 55p the Christmas Cake.
Bottom:  60p Stollen or Christollen a fruit cake which seems to have been adopted in recent years, we must have been thinking ah well we pinched that Christmas tree idea from Germany what else do they have. 68p Mixed Nuts and the time for the nutcracker to make an appearance 88p a Gingerbread House, another German import and lastly 95p the Yule Log cake.

All we need now is some alcohol 
This is some very old champagne found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in the Åland archipelago, July 2010.  The 145 bottles consisting of  Veuve Cliquot, Juglar and Heidsieck have been dated to 1840.  The stamp was issued on the day two of the bottles were auctioned off on 3rd June 2011.  Eeva wrote on the back of the card ""It is still drinkable, they say" 

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of - Food and Drink -see more to feast on here    

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Hot and Cold

2007 Endangered Species. Royal Penguins
The only place Royal Penguins breed is on Macquarie Island (which lies halfway between Australia and Antarctica) and nobody knows where they all go for the rest of the year but here is an all action group paddling up an island stream. I like collective nouns so technically this group of penguins being on land is called a waddle, in the water a group would be a raft and young chicks together are a crèche.

Journey through stamps to a radically different environment, the Australian rainforest 
This is the vast wet tropical rainforests of North Queensland on the north-east of Australia. The Post have chosen an important habitat for flora and fauna, Daintree National Park, where some of the species here are found nowhere else on the earth.
The fauna chosen are top - Orange-thighed tree frog which dwells in the rain forest canopy and the fast flying Green-spotted triangle butterfly
Bottom - the rare nocturnal Striped possum and the small nectar-feeding Yellow-bellied sunbird

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - "Animals in the Wild" - to see more roam over here

Friday, 31 July 2015

Palace Bridge

St Petersburg must be the ultimate destination for bridge lovers for there are an amazing 342 inside the city limits and this one, Palace Bridge, provides the perfect frame for the spire of Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral when open. Part of the original design criteria was that the height of the bridge would not obstruct the views of the monuments in this, the oldest part of the city.

The reverse of the card is the type I like because it provides all the essential details of the scene:
Neva River. Palace Bridge. 1912-1916
engineer: A Pshenitsky
architect: R Meltser
1939, architect: L Noskov 
As can be seen from the 1912-1916 dates this was a time when bridges were being blown up rather than built in World War One. When the Palace Bridge was opened just before Christmas in 1916 it was a low key affair and the decorative elements envisioned were incomplete.  After the Russian revolution the bridge was renamed Republican Bridge and in 1939 cast iron railings, lamp-posts and lion sculptures added.  Yes that is another badly timed date.  Europe was descending into war and St Petersburg, or Leningrad as it was then, in two years time was about to come under siege from 1941-44.  So our bridges next key date is in fact 1944 when it reverted to its original name of Palace Bridge.   At one time the trams crossed the bridge but now it is only cars, pedestrians and tourists taking in the view. One of the quirks of St Petersburg is that the majority of its drawbridges bridges are lifted at night to allow navigation along the Neva River and this provides a spectacle for those night owls enjoying the white nights of summers.

My sender, Galina, dreams of travelling around the world but as she can't afford to lives the dream through postcards.    
The card came with two definitive stamps showing the Ryazan and Astrakhan Kremlins. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Say It With Flowers

The wonderfully vibrant stamps of South Africa's seventh definitive series which started in 2000 encompasses butterflies, fish, birds and flowers with 27 different designs and 23 values.  Joan van Gogh was the designer of the flower stamps and they remind me of pressed flowers or how a botanical artist would lay them out on a table before painting them.  I've pinched their descriptions from an old South Africa Post release which describes the flowers L to R

Karoo violet (Aptosimum procumbens) -  "A densely tufted perennial found mainly in dry areas, especially the Karoo and Namaqualand. The plant is an excellent ground cover and because it is so well-adapted to dry conditions, the deep blue flowers often adorn the bare veld during periods of drought"
Tree pelargonium (Pelargonium cucullatum) -  "This attractive indigenous pelargonium with its brightly coloured pinkish-purple flowers, is well-suited to coastal gardens. They occur naturally along the south-western Cape coast, from Gordon's Bay in the west to Gans Bay in the east, with a few isolated populations on the Cape Peninsula"
Black-eyed Suzy (or Susan) (Thunbergia alata) -  "Described as a "cheerful, happy-go-lucky indigenous climber", the black-eyed suzy with its small bright flowers and distinctive black "eye", is a very popular garden flower. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Swaziland".
Botterblom (Gazania krebsiana) -  "This sun-loving, fast growing flower occurs in a variety of bright warm colours mainly in the red, orange and yellow range. It is hardy and drought resistant, which makes it a popular garden flower. The botterblom occurs naturally in the Karoo, Namaqualand, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the northern regions of the country, as well as in Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana"
The last in the set (right) is the Blue marguerite (Felicia amelloides) -   "This delightful indigenous flower, also known as the blue daisy or bush felicia, bears sky-blue daisy-like flowers with prominent yellow centres. They are happy in almost any setting and the name felicia is aptly derived from the Latin word "felix" meaning "happy". They occur naturally and abundantly from Namaqualand to Caledon in the Northern and Western Cape".

South Africa has 11 official languages and from my small collection I observe that the smaller stamps bear the name South Africa in English together with the indigenous language. I wonder if these are booklet stamps as some have straight edges. The stamp on the left says Afrika Dzongam which is Tsonga, a language I've never heard of but there are the other more familiar ones such as Zulu (iNingizimu Afrika) spoken by 24% of the country and the 'clicking' language Xhosa (uMzantsi Afrika) familiar by being one sung by Miriam Mekeba (singer, civil rights activist and anti apartheid campaigner).     
Here is where art and flowers combine with the French artist Daniel Buren who planted 11,000 tulips in the Keukenhof, which might seem a lot but pales into insignificance in comparison to the 7 million flower bulbs planted annually in the park itself (which is open from March to May).  Daniel Buren is sometimes referred to as "the stripe guy" with his site specific installations of coloured stripes and has even been arrested in pursuit of his public art.

As this week's Sunday Stamps theme is "Say it With Flowers" I'll mention that in the language of flowers red tulips are a declaration of love, a fact that lets me segue into 
symbolic flowers and a set of machine stamps, or 'Post and Go', issued in 2014 as part of the British Flora series. The forget-me-not and poppy signifying remembrance, the rose England's national flower, the thistle for Scotland, the heather for luck (although I remember in the days when gypsies used to sell this plant it was always "lucky white heather") and lastly a floral symbol of northern Ireland, cultivated flax (of importance historically in the linen industry).   Wales did not miss out with their national flower, the daffodil, as it had already appeared earlier in 2014 as part of the Spring Flowers set which I showed back in 2014 here

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of - Say It With Flowers - for a bunch more see here 

Sunday, 19 July 2015


One of the wonderful points of each year is seeing the first bee, the first swallow and of course the first butterfly and knowing that summer is on the way. I will also add hearing the first cuckoo call because how else can one make a wish!  Although the above cover is called the "Butterflies of the Bailiwick" it shows common species for the British Isles.  The Wall butterfly is mainly confined to the coasts (but once found throughout England) it likes to bask on paths and walls. Although nettles are a pest when walking on overgrown paths, for the red admiral visiting these shores and the small tortoiseshell they are a favoured plant. The Common Blue portrayed is a showy male whose female companion can vary in colour from brown to blue but both can be spotted in grassy habitats.

The number of UK butterfly species hovers around 56 or 59 and a few migrants but travelling further afield they are in profusion with over 2,000 species in China and Taiwan
This is part of the China's  'Butterflies' set of 1963 which was voted one of the five classic sets issued between 1960 and 1965 as "Best Stamps in the Years of New China" in 1980.  Interestingly all the sets were of the natural world and included goldfish, chrysanthemums, landscapes of Huangshan Mountain and Peonies. I do not have a full 20 of the  'Butterflies' set and am unlikely to complete it as apparently used and in good condition stamps are hard to find, indeed some values have never been seen.   Information on the designer Liu Shuoren  is equally as elusive.

The common names of the butterflies are written underneath the stamps above however some can fly under different local  names and are from both China and also rare examples from other parts of Asia. It was while looking at their Latin designation I noticed in brackets the name - Matsumura and wondered what it meant.  Thanks to the internet I discovered the world of the "father of Japanese entomology" -Dr Shonen Matsumura (1872-1960), a pioneer of entomological research in East Asia who wrote the first entomology book in the Japanese language, named 1,200 species and published hundreds of scientific papers.    

A lot of his work on butterflies was carried out in Taiwan or as it was called at the time Formosa (when it was under Japanese rule)  finding species and subspecies.  Matsumura lived at a time when most of the research was being carried out by Europeans (mainly British and German) which is maybe why the one on the top right has a confusion of names. I have it as Hainan Violet Boat (although recent stamp directories call it a Beck Butterfly) and some entomologies call it Purple Beak.  Its scientific name is also a mix - Libythea geoffroy philippina Staudinger (named in 1889).  The bottom stamp is the iridescent Philippines Birdwing a subspecies (named by Matsumura as Troides magellanus sonani) of the Magellan Birdwing which was in turn named in honour of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan who was killed in the Philippines in 1521.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II whose theme this week is - Float Like A Butterfly - take wing for more here