Sunday, 14 September 2014

Ski and Microcars

"1923 Scania-Vabis Post Bus". Åland Exhibition Card 2013
My first thought on seeing this Swedish Post Bus was how I would love to get behind the wheel, although to be perfectly honest it was really my second thought because the first one was - whoa no way - what is that contraption?  What would have skis on the front. half track rear wheels and be topped it off with little curtains on the windows?  The answer was a 1923 Post Bus manufactured by  Scania-Vabis, a Swedish truck and car manufacturer from 1911 to 1968.  There was no way snowy conditions were going to stop the Swedish post getting through.

This is an  Åland Islands Exhibition Card from when they took part in the  October 2013 Norrtälje Stamp Fair in Sweden.  For each Stamp Fair Åland Post attend they produce a unique Maximum Card, which I think is normally on the Europa theme of the year, and of course last year it was the Postman's Van.  I seem to remember that this year they are doing clock towers which chimes nicely with this year's theme of musical instruments.
"2012 Ligier Be Sun". Åland Exhibition Card 2013

For the Paris Salon d'Automne Stamp Fair (which takes place every year in the first half of November) Åland Post featured a100% electric vehicle the 'Be Sun', manufactured by Ligier, one of whose specialities is microcars.  With a top speed of 45 km/h it means that in some parts of Europe the Be Sun can be driven without a licence. Costing about €10,000 it can carry 200 kg in its rear pod so plenty of room for post (they also do a pick up version). Ligier sold 110 of the ones portrayed on the post card to the French Post Office.

Going back in time to some early microcars -
these made their journey back to the Isle of Man this year, the place where they were originally manufactured by Peel Engineering. Their destination was the Manx Transport Heritage Museum based in the town of Peel hence the event name, 'Peels to Peel' Festival'.
Owners of the P50, Viking and Trident models travelled from the mainland to join up with those on the island and a full schedule of events took place over three days to commemorate fifty years since most of the Peel cars were made. (The stamps used on the cover were a set originally issued in 2006).  Peel Engineering were a boat builder who started to work with a 'new' material called glass-fibre in the 1950s.  Being based in the Isle of Man it is no surprise that as glass fibre developed they started to produce a successful line of  motor cycle fairings including ones for the motor bike legend Geoff Duke. After developing an unsuccessful three wheeler car prototype in 1955 Peels tried again in 1962 to target the city small car market and designed a single seater called the P50 (28p stamp above), the first production car ever manufactured on the Isle of Man which also currently holds the world record for the smallest automotive ever to go into production (54 inches (137 cm) long and 41 inches (104.1 cm) wide, weighing 130 lb (59 kg).  It is thought that about 28 of these survive today.  Encouraged by the sale of the P50 Peel Engineering developed a two-seater model known as the 'Trident' (31p stamp above) which had the same 50cc engine as the P50.  Those of us of a certain age would call these bubble cars.  Today about 30 Tridents still survive.      
Around 1966 Peel Engineering developed a fibre glass body shell aimed at the 'kit car' market and latched onto the fact that a large number of BMC Minis were starting to suffer badly from corrosion. The 'Viking Sport' (38p stamp) used the running gear and components from a standard Mini but had a Sports GT body.  Today the Viking Sport is a very rare car with only seven known surviving.  The 41p stamp shows a fibreglass mini built under licence in Chile for the manufacturer of the mini (BMC), who contracted with Peels for their expertise in fibreglass to provide production tooling for the plant.  
The early days are shown on the high value stamps - the 54p stamp shows the prototype that never went into production.  The doors were pivoted in the bottom rear corner, a third door gave access to a flat 16 cubic feet boot space which also had a trap door for access to the engine (a 322cc British Anzani twin cylinder two stroke), and that is not all for it had a foot well fitted to allow two children to be carried behind the main seats. The P1000 on the 94p stamp was Peels first production body shell, a 'kit car' designed for fitting to a Ford 8/10 or Morris 8 chassis, in all about 500 were sold.

No rust and 100 miles to the gallon what do you think? See a Trident and a P50 being driven here

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of Automobiles and Motor Transport here

Sunday, 7 September 2014

North America

2004: Arts and Crafts
The only jewellery stamp I could think  in my collection was this Navajo silver and turquoise necklace and I imagine it is a stamp that might be owned by many others. A 2 cent increase of  postage in 2006 meant the US Post, in anticipation of demand, reprinted this 2004 2c stamp as a 'make up' stamp and then, another 2 cent increase occurred the following year in 2007 so demand remained.  For all you would ever need, or perhaps want to know, here is a whole page on it and its variations from Philatelic Mineralogy.

The fact that this is Navajo jewellery got me thinking that perhaps I might have some cultural artefacts from North America and thanks to a series of Canadian stamps, which started in 1972 and continued until 1976 about various indigenous tribes I did.  The series started with the theme of
the 'Indians of the Plains'.  By coincidence I saw a exhibition in the Manchester Museum last year called Warriors of the Plains where I lusted after the soft moccasins and boots displayed. Only one piece of footwear makes an appearance on this stamp of artefacts photographed by Ray Webber of objects from the Royal Ontario Museum and the National Museum of Man.  L to R a club, feather headdress, woman's saddle, beaded saddle bag, a moccasin, decorated bison skull, a parflèche bag and a calumet or pipe.
The stamp series were issued se-tenant and another continuing theme was the Thunderbird  a symbol of divinity and the spirit guides of sun and thunder.  We travel further north with these and a harsher life with the 'Indians of the Subarctic' and portrayed is an Ojibwa Thunderbird with a decorative strip from the coat of a Naskapi.  The stamp on the right is of the Kutchin Tribe (painted by Lewis Parker) well wrapped up against the cold.
L to R drum, scorched caribou scapula bone, a mitishi (beaded charm), woman's hat, decorated bear skull, toy bear and a model canoe.  The canoe is Chipewyan and all the other objects are Montagnais-Naskapi.

Next is 'The Algonquins' a family of languages spoken over a wide area of Canada
and the stamp shows the Miemac painted by an unknown person as they fish and live by the water where in common with other Algonquins birch bark was used extensively for all sorts of objects such as canoes, wigwams and containers.
L to R Tête-de-Boule birchbark basket, Ojibwa wooden papoose carrier, a pair of snowshoes for a Montagnais child, a Malecite birch bark basket, a Montagnais birch bark box, Montagnais knife and a Micmac birch bark basket decorated with porcupine quill work.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of Cultural Artifacts especially jewellery here

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Into the Blue Yonder with Sigyn

Sometimes a year takes on an unintentional theme and this one for me has been maritime paintings which started earlier this year with a visit to the National Maritime Museum's stunning exhibition "Turner and the Sea" and may have ended with the most recent trip to a smaller but interesting Harris Museum's current exhibition "Making Waves" so contrariwise I'm about to go on holiday nowhere near the sea. 

The ship with full sails speeding through the waves is the Sigyn built  in Göteborg (1887) and one of the last sailing barques built for worldwide trade before steam took over (Wikipedia ship history here)  Considered fast and beautiful the Sigyn is now a museum ship moored in Turku on the south west coast of Finland.

The artist is Håkan Sjöström,, born in 1937 many years after this ship first set sail but he would have lots of opportunities to study the Sigyn as he worked at a shipyard in Turku until his retirement and is considered the foremost marine painter in Scandinavia.  He has painted ships from many eras and also produced paintings for Åland Post's six year series on passenger ferries which concluded earlier this year.  Appropriately one of the last stamps included a ship built  by a Turku shipbuilder, the STX-shipyard (FDC here).  Not as romantic as a sailing ship but to arrive by sea is always a wonderful way to arrive in a place or country.  


Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Deep

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)  is the world's oldest scientific intergovernmental organisation and its objective is the sustainable use of the oceans and increase of scientific knowledge. Founded in 1902 to study and advise on marine science in the Atlantic, Baltic and North Sea, it now includes the Arctic in its remit. Three countries of the founding members of ICES commemorated its 100 years by jointly issuing the same miniature sheet but each taking two different sections to make the whole scene.
The Faroe Islands two stamps appear in the middle of the miniature sheet.  On the left -  Blue Whiting (a member of the cod family) who swim near the surface at night and migrate to the bottom during the day.  The stamp on the right features Atlantic Cod and a marine research ship named after Magnus Heinason, a 16th Century Faroese naval hero and privateer.  The ship's home port is Torshavn and at the moment it is at sea just to the north of the Faroe Islands.  
  The Greenland section of the sheet on the left  show a Greenland Shark and Deepwater Redfish.  On the right is where Denmark's two stamps would appear and show Atlantic Cod with the rays of the Hirtshals lighthouse and the marine research ship Dana whose home port is the town of Hirtshals on the Jutland peninsula. Curious to know where it is at the moment?  Looking on the Marine Traffic site it seems to be slap bang in the middle of the North Sea in-between North East England and Denmark.

ICES requests countries to reduce or stop fish catches for certain species based on its research and statistics, whether they do so is another matter.  Spain issued a "Marine Species in Danger of Extinction" in 2013 featuring species on the edge

Top left - Basque Whale who live in shallow coastal waters and in the summer move to the colder water of the North Atlantic.
Top right - Bluefin Tuna, native to the Atlantic and Mediterranean and whose numbers have been decimated by overfishing
Bottom left - Monk Seal, lives in the Mediterranean and at great risk of extinction. The world would be a poorer place without the chance of seeing a seal. 
Bottom right - Sea Lamprey - an anadromous species like the salmon which spawns in rivers and migrates to the sea.  It did freak me out as a child when I saw a picture of its suction cup mouth and the result of it attaching to skin and rasping away at tissue with its sharp tongue and teeth.  I have since seen one in reality coiling out of a rock but happily there was a sheet of glass between us and it looked rather languid. 

I will finish with the more curious sea creatures on Albania's 1968 Marine Fauna series
 the Squid, Lobster and Northern Whelk
Spiny Lobster and Green Crab

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Undersea Life here

Sunday, 3 August 2014


1969 Paintings in the National Gallery, Budapest ('"Black Pigs")

Gauguin famously travelled to faraway places but it was the journey to French Polynesia that changed his art.  This scene shows a Tahiti village and its harmony with the natural world and is the point at which his painting started to change, stimulated by the islands exotic culture.  The palm fringed and sandy beaches of the islands of Tahiti are the sort of places I might dream about in the middle of winter and palm trees make an appearance on
one of the China definitives of the 1980s featuring the scenery of China.  These are the palm trees of Hainan, a tropical island in the South China Sea which has no winter although in January and February the cold winter air from the north comes into contact with the warm sea causing continual fog and creating extreme moisture in the air. The island is a popular tourist destination and one of its big events is the Coconut Festival in late March and early April and for the local Li people March is also the time associated with love when traditionally weddings takes place,
I have shown a couple of my Chinese prepaid postcard of 'Landscapes of Guilin' before and this week's Sunday Stamps theme gives me an excuse to show another one.
Nine Horse Fresco Hill

 Here we are cruising down the Li River and passing by the cliff face of Nine Horse Hill.  How many horses can you count?  The legend is that the Monkey King brought his horses to the Li River and an artist wished to paint them but the horses were spooked and galloped into the cliff face and still can be seen in various poses today.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Faraway Places

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Painting the World

2002: Birth Centenary Albert Namatjira
The 1920s were a period of severe drought in central Australia and to raise money to help the local population the area mission established a craft industry where aborigines made boomerangs with burnt pokerwork designs and wooden plaques decorated with plants, animals and the landscape of Central Australia.  Albert Namatjira was one of these and would received his first commission at this time which was for five wooden plaques.  He continued to work in these mediums but the need to earn money to support his family meant that he also worked on cattle stations.  In the winter of 1934 the watercolourist Rex Batterbee and fellow artist John Gardner put on an exhibition of their paintings of the MacDonnell Ranges at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission where Albert Namatjira saw and studied them, showing such interest that the Pastor at the mission gave him a set of watercolour paints.  In the winter of 1936 Batterbee returned to the area and Namatjira acted as his guide to the scenic areas of the tribal lands of Western Aranda offering his services as "camel boy in return for painting lessons".  Batterbee was amazed at his rapid progress and understanding of a medium that would take some people many years to learn.
He would go on to produce about 2000 paintings which he would always paint plein air on his many walkabouts with his family but only in the winter or dry season due to the famously severe Australian sun in the summer.  The ochre tones not only represent the landscape in western artist style but also are influenced by Aboriginal tradition. These were not easy times for the indigenous population as the aboriginal people lived under restrictive legislation that made them wards of state and were not given Australian citizenship until 1968 (Namatjira died in 1959) but Namatjira would become the first named Australian aborigine to have his portrait appear on a postage stamp.  The Hermannsburg School of Artists website shows how Albert was the first of many indigenous artists who would portray their love of the landscape in this way here.

Someone else who was always travelling (but in Europe) and painted landscape watercolours was Edward Lear but he is probably better know for his illustrations and verse
1988: Death Centenary of Edward Lear
The 20th of a family of 21 children and rejected by this mother he was brought up by his sister Ann. Due to illness he did not go to school and started to earn his living as a painter in the yards of coaching inns. By the time he was 16 he was working as an ornithological draughtsman and it was while working at the Zoological Gardens in London that he was introduced to the Earl of Derby who at the time was looking for an artist to make drawings of his extensive menagerie at his family home. It was during his six years at Knowsley that he wrote the first of his limericks which were for the children of the household and illustrated with the birds and animals he knew so well. The damp climate of north west England made his asthma and bronchitis worse so with Lord Derby's help he went to live in Rome and would spend most of the rest of his life abroad traveling, painting and drawing.  Lear depended upon letters to keep him in touch with family and friends and the 27p stamp above shows one of his signatures portraying himself as a bird.  The 32p stamp below is from an alphabet book. For a small taste of his whimsy and other works see this blog post here
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Artists and Illustrators here

Sunday, 13 July 2014


2010: Shangrila
When the China Daily newspaper published its list of "Top 10 Fairylands in Yunnan Province" saying that Yunnan has some of the most magical and diverse scenery in all of China, the Meri Snow Mountains came in at Number 8.   The view shown on the Commemorative Sheet is possibly the most famous with the peaks bathed in the golden light of sunrise. Also known as the Prince of Snow Mountain or the 13 Prince Peaks by the locals, these are the highest (over 6,000 metres) of the mountains in the range. Lying on the boundary between Yunnan and Tibet they are also a place of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists. The China Daily describes the area thus
"The crystal glacier extreme from the peak all the way to the forest area an altitude of 2700 metres which forms the most spectacular low latitude monsoonal oceanic glacier in the world. A streak of scarlet light pierced the dark clouds, revealing over 50 steep snowcapped summits, shining, dazzling and thrusting into the clouds like golden swords"
2004: "Frontier Scenes of China"

   Covering a land area of 9.6 million square kilometre stretching from the Pamirs in Central Asia to the western part of the Pacific, temperate zones and tropical, what a diversity of scenery is China. This sheet's theme is areas on the frontiers of China but slap bang in the middle is The Gate of Heavenly Peace, the south entrance to the Forbidden City which although tourists throng the area today in past times it was indeed a forbidden frontier for the majority of the population.  The stamps show (and the Chinese always helpfully number their stamps), going clockwise from the top right
12.1 - Forest of Xing'an Mountain
12.2 - Lake in the Yalu River Basin
12.3 - Reefs in the Yellow Sea
12.4 - Zhoushan Archipelago
12.5 - The coastline of Taiwan
12.6 - Xisha Islands
12.7 - Karst Landscape in Southern Yunnan
12.8 - Rain Forest in Southern Yunnan
12.9 - Mount Qomolangma
12.10 - The Pamirs
12.11 - The Badain Jaran Desert
12.12 - Hulun Buir Steppe

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - "Beautiful Landscapes" here