Sunday, 11 October 2015

Blooming Marvelous

Last year Guernsey celebrated 50 years of the Royal Horticultural Society's Britain in Bloom competition with this stamp set featuring some of the Channel Island's recent Gold Award winners.  From small village to city throughout the British Isles there are flowers blooming in every imaginable size and shape of container and patch of ground, bringing colour and nature into the built environment and perhaps hoping for a prize.
Top L to R we have the capital of Guernsey, St Peter Port and its marina and then two views from the island of Hern, White House View and the Mermaid Tavern.
They have not announced the winners for 2015 but the place featured on the bottom left stamp, St Pierre du Bois, is in the running for the coastal prize. The bottom middle stamp is St Martin's Church and lastly the Albion Tavern in St Peter Port whose claim to fame is that it is the closest Public House to a church in the British Isles. A perfect example of  how to locate a pub, head for the church spire and you will find a pub nearby.  I suspect your eye will be more taken by the postbox.  The stamp images were photographed by the clematis nurseryman and breeder Raymond Evison  (his clematis display won a gold medal at this year's Chelsea Flower Show).

Nature can put on a show without any human intervention, I have my own favourite place for the next flower which bloom in abundance around a pond in a hollow on a local fellside,
the Flag Iris or to give it its sunday name of Siberian Sword Lilly. This is one of Liechtenstein's 2014 definitive series featuring Bog Flowers. in German, a word that rolls off the tongue, Moorblumen

An entry to Sunday Stamps II, this weeks theme - Flowers - see more growing here   

Sunday, 4 October 2015

New Zealand

Let me take you to the Land of the Long White Cloud.  It was the first country that popped into my head for this week's Sunday Stamps scenery theme.  New Zealand's continuing definitive series has an infinite choice of subjects in the country's stunning landscape.  My love of mountain scenery means the first stamp is a tranquil scene featuring Mitre Peak
This stamp was issued for what must be a rare occasion in any country - a reduction in price for standard letter post - but only within New Zealand from 45c to 40c.  Mitre Peak (1695m) rises out of the water of Milford Sound at the heart of the Fiordland National Park on the south west corner of South Island.   The Maori name for it is Aorangi - Cloud Piercer
I like the borders of the 1995 set and this has Kea feathers surrounding a view of the alpine area of South Island with the many peaked Mount Cook in the background.  I wish New Zealand still issued stamps of this larger size for their scenery definitives but from 1996 they went for a smaller size and self adhesive
They were first issued in booklets of 10 and the first country in the world to use dot screen technology on the stamps for a sharper image.  Top is Mt Egmont on the flat land of central west coast of North Island.  The Maori call it Barren Mountain (Taranaki) and the legend tells how it was banished here after a quarrel with a big volcano.  It is estimated that the last time Mt Egmont erupted was in 1775.
The bottom stamp above is Piercy Island at the eastern entrance of the Bay of Islands on the NE coast of North Island. The hole you see goes right through the island and small boats in calm seas will sail through it.  A popular tourist destination and
2009: New Zealand Scenery definitive
many people will stay here in Russell taking trips from its seaport on the Bay of Islands.
1996: Scenery definitives
Another popular tourist destination is the Fox Glacier which runs with its companion Franz Josef from a high alpine level down to within a few hundred feet of sea level.
Once again Mount Cook is featured but this time reflected in the waters of Lake Matheson together with Mt Tansman.
The second largest lake on South Island is Wakatipu and this shows the vintage steamer Earnslaw (built 1912) cruising on its way to Queenstown in Central Ortago.
The last one I have of this set is of Tory Channel which is always calm (in contrasts to the wild seas of the Cook Straight which divides the two islands) and is named after the survey ship which manoeuvred and mapped its way through this tricky and winding passage in 1838.
2000: Tourism
Cape Kidnappers (which sounds like it should be a film title) is on Hawke's Bay and has a large gannet colony.
2007: definitive
Here in Central Otago we are in the most inland region of New Zealand and the driest, hottest and coldest place in the country.  A beautiful winter view.  
 Lastly lets take to the water and do some whale watching at Kaikoura on the south islands eastern coastline and then relax 'while sheep do safely graze' by Lake Coleridge at the foot of the southern alps, Auckland and their dormant volcanoes.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Scenery - take in the more views here

Friday, 2 October 2015

Porvoo Archipelago

The town of Porvoo on the south coast of Finland is surrounded by water and forests and their summer boats travel to the islands of the Porvoo Archipelago.   The archipelago is described as idyllic and this postcard showing light glistening on the water certainly gives that impression.  One of the famous residents of the Torvoo Archipelago was Tove Jansson of Moomin fame.  This view speaks of the long lazy days of summer, which we have now left behind us as the first colours of Autumn appear and the light starts to shift and the days shorten.   

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Regional Costumes

A place of windmills, thatched houses and home made beer, ruled over in the past by Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Russia.  This is Estonia's largest island, Saaremaa. One of the 2013 Folk Costume set features the Karja who live in the north east of that island.  The Maximum card shows a young married woman wearing one of the typical hats of the area which can be of floral or geometric design.  The stamp itself
shows an elderly couple wearing the long coats originating in the 19th Century, the mittens are an essential part of the attire which are stuck in the belt when not keeping hands warm.  I imagine those mittens are an essential in a Baltic winter.

The next stamp shows the detail of a costume possibly most recognisably Portuguese on the left
2007: Regional Costumes
the bright colours of the Lavradeira  The elaborate embroidery and gold necklaces of the stamp on the right is the equivalent for a wedding.

Next we have costumes mostly associated with places of work starting

on the left with the Capa de Honras (Cloak of Honours) worn by cattle keepers and shepherds in the coldest months in the north of Portugal.  The next stamp is the Pauliteiro from the north east of the country worn by men performing a warrior dance to bagpipes. The origin of the skirt is unknown but some think it may have a Greek influence.  The embroidered ships on the next item give a clue to its origin for this is a Camisola de Pescador, a Fisherman's Shirt.  Lastly a most unusual item of clothing, the Cape of Reeds worn by shepherds (usually accompanied with a straw hat).

Heading to the seaside for the next stamp on the left

it is a costume from Nazare consists of seven skirts.  In the past the women would sit on the beach waiting for the men to return from fishing, perhaps they were counting the waves in skirt numbers (the seventh wave is always the largest). The red waistcoat on the next stamp is that of a campino, a horse backed cattle herder who manages and directs the cattle with long poles.  The next costume is from the Algarve camponesa (where there is a museum dedicated to regional costumes).  Lastly we have the Alentejo Capote, a winter coat which has a deep opening at the back to make it easier for horse riding.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of - Folk or National Costumes - travel the world in costume here    

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Industrial Power

Germany celebrated the world's first long distance transmission and the 'Centenary of Three-Phase Energy Transmission' in 1991 with this rather pretty stamp.  The 175k (109 miles) of overhead cable ran from Lauffen am Neckar to Frankfurt am Main and marked the end of the "War of Currents" with the system that would span the world. The event was part of the International Electro-Technical Exhibition which took place from May to October in 1891 on the site of three former railway stations.  Lit with a 1000 lights, illuminated signs and an artificial waterfall powered by electric current (rather ironically as the whole system was hydro-powered) the crowds came to marvel.  Lauffen castle (shown on the stamp) has information boards telling the story of this great occasion but here is the story in photographs.  As they say a picture tells a thousand words so here is a drawing of the entrance to the exhibition complete with waterfall on the right.
For another of those light-bulb moments this set of stamps
was  issued for 'Industry Year' in 1986 showing a light bulb and a north sea drilling rig (energy), A thermometer and pharmaceutical lab (health)
A garden hoe and steelworks (steel) and lastly a loaf of bread and cornfields (agriculture). 

The stamps were designed by Keith Bassford (1949-) a graphic designer who was actually employed by the British Post Office in 1976, first for the corporate section and then later moving into stamps and philatelic products. I can't see that happening nowadays when their first thought seems to be to go to the photographic library and stick it on a stamp with the minimum of design effort. Bassford's expertise in stamps and philatelic products meant he used to be a popular speaker to specialist organisations.  Moving to Denmark in 1986 he continued to produce stamps for Royal Mail but also for the Danish Post Office and his work is exhibited in Denmark's Graphic Museum located in Odense (birth place of Hans Christian Andersen) who from their publicity photograph seem to have some cracking old printing presses.  The city is also home to Keith Bassford and his wife's studio where he continues with graphic design and letterpress printing.  He also has some interesting old typefaces featured on his Flickr account here although sadly his enthusiasm must have run out at that point because there is nothing else on his account.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of  - Technology/Industry - for more bright sparks go here

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Linking Bridges

Here is the Clifton Suspension bridge airily spanning the Avon river gorge in Bristol and one of the iconic bridges of Britain.  It was Isambard Kingdom Brunel's first major commission when he won the competition to design a bridge over the gorge at just 24 years old and he was appointed project engineer.  Construction was delayed for decades (1831-1864) and on his death in 1859 after a glorious engineering career it was felt by the Institute of Civil Engineers that the completion of the bridge would be a fitting tribute to their colleague.  Designed for pedestrians and horse drawn traffic the structure today carries traffic that Brunel would never have envisaged.   The cover celebrates its 150 years in 2014
with one of the bicentenary of the birth of Brunel stamps issued in 2006.  In fact this was a set I nearly went with this week as it includes three of his bridges but then I found this autumnal FDC which I thought was much more attractive and also so appropriate for the time of year. (The stamp shows a lithograph from 1834 of the bridge).  Now let us take a train trip
This set is called "The Baltic Railway Bridges" and was a joint issue between the three Baltic states. The Estonian cover features a black and white photo of the concrete Sindi rail and road bridge over the River Pärnu which opened , as they say "festively" in February 1928, the traffic regulated by a bridge guard.  I like the double header stream trains.  The cancel is of the Ahja Railway Bridge on the Tartu-Petseri Railway completed in 1931.  But lets look at the stamps left to right.
The first shows Estonia's Narva Bridge, the first built to span the river was in 1869, a stronger one had to be built next to it in 1902 but was destroyed in World War I. A new rail bridge, and the last iron bridge built in Estonia, was opened in December 1923 (162 metres) but destroyed in World War II as indeed was most of the city of Narva by either the Russians or the Germans. (I can't work out whether they have rebuilt this bridge or replaced it as all the photos I've found seem to show a different shape). However I am sure about the sparklingly new Swiss built Stadler FLIRT passenger train shown on the stamp which Estonia had ordered to replace their old trains and expected to be in use soon after the stamp issue but they eventually all came into service in 2013.
The middle stamp is Latvia's Carnikava Bridge, a metal bridge over the Gauja built in 1950 (220.8 metres). A rather nice picture showing it in context appears on Panoramio here
Lastly is Lithuania's longest and highest bridge, the Lyduvinai shown with an equally long goods train.   This stamp issue links three countries but the next stamp shows a bridge directly linking two countries
Liechtenstein with Switzerland ,and is part of the second issue of "Bridges Bring Together" featuring foot and cycle bridges. To journey between the two countries over the Rhine (which marks the border) at one time required a ferry and it was not until 1868 that a bridge was built but it burned down in 1894, the next wooden bridge built in 1896 collapsed with a fire. No wonder they turned to concrete for the present one.
The stamps and maximum cards show two view  of the Rhine Bridge
which links Bendern (Liechtenstein) and Haag (Switzerland).  Guess we are in high summer when the photo on the card was taken, which would be the ideal time to take a cycle ride.
Buchs to Schaan Bridge
This 132 metre bridge is a happy spin off from a large construction project and is the visible part of 6 kilometres of  an underground steam pipeline which brings process steam from a refuse incineration plant in Buchs (Switzerland) to industry in Liechtenstein.
Who would guess that from this peaceful view?. 

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Bridges to Anywhere - cross over here to see more.           

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Underground Overground

For this week's Sunday Stamps theme I'm going with the mining aspect mainly because I think I've shown most of my mineral stamps before.  Where better to start than South Africa who over the years have issued a lot on this theme, although I only have some early examples such as this definitive stamp from the 1930s of a Gold Mine.
Here comes the next process of heating and pouring the gold. If the tourist heads to Gold Reef City, Johannesburg you can take a ride on a miniature railway, and go underground to see the gold and then watch a gold pour.  Not sure that it will be on the same scale as that shown on the stamp.   South African mines hold 50% of the world's gold reserves but of course the other thing the country is famous for is
diamonds and one makes an appearance on the 1965 set for the 5th Anniversary of the Republic

1986: Rock Formations
But lets head for the light and journey above ground amongst the granite of the Paarl Mountains in the Western Cape, their name means pearl rock. 
Staying in Africa here are the tin mines of Nigeria.  When this definitive stamp was first issued in 1953 that was the year the country exported 11,942 tons of tin and earned £8.55M but with fluctuating tin prices and the discovery of oil today it is a past industry.  There is still informal mining by the locals who dig holes in the ground to access the tin but it can be a dangerous business with collapsing tunnels.  In the olden days they used to call these type of people prospectors which is where the next Australian stamp comes in
and the Broken Hill Silver Mine first prospected in 1883, the reason for its name no longer exists the hill having been mined away.  The aborigines name for the hills was the more romantic Leaping Crest.  Broken Hill (nickname Silver City) is located in the outback of New South Wales and is Australia's longest lived mining city although mining is no longer the main industry it contains the world's largest silver-lead-zinc deposits.
1955: Five Year Plan
In China here is some sort of underground machinery grinding its way along a tunnel and lastly
1954: Industrial Development
is how it all might start with the geological survey team arriving at a rock face. 

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of - Rocks, Gems and Minerals - discover more here