Sunday, 30 September 2012

Birds of Air and Water

Charles Tunnicliffe RA (1901-1979) artist, engraver and book illustrator was the perfect choice for the 1996 stamp issue celebrating the founding of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.  He observed and sketched directly from nature and then when back in his studio spent hours creating a wonderful set of sketchbooks, works of art in themselves. Considered one of the greatest bird artists his collection now is now held at the Oriel Ynys Môn gallery, Anglesey an island where he had lived at 'Shorelands' on a river estuary from 1947 to his death.

His lapwing looks as though he has flown alongside it as it lazily beats its wings across the land.  
Lucky indeed  if you spot a bittern in the reeds it is camouflaged so well, if alarmed it freezes making it even more difficult to see. It famous booming heard in the spring it an attraction to the birding visitors in the nature reserve of Leighton Moss just across the bay from where I live.
Peter Scott who founded the Wildfowl Trust in 1946 (later to become the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust) was also a fine artist but I always associate his works with large skies with wild birds flying across them, possibly too large a scale for stamps.  Scott's original founding of the Slimbridge reserve on the River Seven has grown to a total nine reserves.  He was also a great communicator of his love of nature and its protection, one of his aims to galvanise a worldwide movement to protect the wetlands, marshes, bogs, flood plains - anywhere in those magical places where water meets land.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Victorian Shadow

Post Box CH1 436, Chester Town Hall
I've been to Chester quite a few times but never noticed this Victorian post box outside the Town Hall before, perhaps because the concourse is usually thronged with people or maybe I am distracted by the large sculpture outside. However at the weekend I passed by in the quiet of early morning with the light slanting on the building
Post Box Number CH1 436, Town Hall, Chester.
 which means this is a indistinct, but in mitigation shapely, photo of a post box as I was beguiled by the shadow.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Before the Printing Press

For the 600th anniversary of Froissart's Chronicles Belgium celebrated with this stamp of him finishing off volume 1, or at least I presume that it the significance of the date.  Jean Froissart wrote about the major events in the turbulent 14th century and Volume 1 starts with Edward II and rattles through battles, kings and the black death.  Travelling around England, Scotland, Wales, France, Flanders and Spain he was present, researched or interviewed those that were there as history unfolded and is one of the important sources for historians of the first half of the 100 years war, although he is not totally reliable.  The Chronicles survive in 100 beautifully illuminated manuscripts and run to 3 million words, the whole has never been published, SteveReads translates a paragraph of his style.  The chair on the stamp looks remarkably uncomfortable, hope there are some cushions in there.

From the 14th Century I'm going further back to a time unknown anywhere from 12th to 7th century BC to a work that lies at the heart of western literature. 

The epics of Homer.  Not written but memorised and spoken, the hexameter verse acting as a memory aid.   Exactly when the poems took on a written form is unknown but the process is thought to begin about the 8th Century BC.  The stamp on the left illustrates Homer's Odyssey and shows Odysseus (Ulysses) escaping from Polyphemus's cave. Polyphemus was one of the Cyclops who ruled over Sicily. When Odysseus landed on the island during his journey from home from the Trojan Wars the monster made him and twelve of his crew captives; six of them he ate, and then Odysseus contrives to blind him and escapes with the rest of the crew when they tie themselves underneath the sheep, the blind Polyphemus only feels the top of the sheep as he lets them out to graze. Odysseus leaves last, undetected, underneath the belly of of the largest ram.

The other stamp is when Odysseus arrives home to Ithica and wreaks revenge on Penelope's suitors.  The scene shows the archery competition when only he is strong enough to string the bow and  shoot it through a dozen axe heads.
1966: National Scientific Institutes
 Lastly a scholar at the Royal Library of Belgium, the stamp commemorates its scientific library and its international collection, available to all readers.  Founded in 1837 its history really started with the Library of Burgundy, a collection of 900 manuscripts acquired in the 15th Century by the Dukes of Burgundy (when today's Belgium was part of the Burgundian Netherlands). Its other role is as a national library, to acquire all Belgium publications.  As well as books it also holds manuscripts, maps, coins, medals, sheet music and of course - stamps.  

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of "Music, Literature or Books"

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Postal Day

 Lets pop into the post office and buy some stamps. 

This set was issued for the centenary year of the National Association of Sub-Postmasters, formed to better their working conditions. The stamps from left to right show the timber frontage of Britain's most northerly post office on the island of Unst in the Shetlands.  The Cotswold stone and timber Painswick PO, the oldest building of any post office in the country. The Beddgelert post office in north Wales built of Snowdonia stone, and lastly Ballyroney PO, County Down in Northern Ireland, a building that has remained unchanged since the 1900s.

Having now bought the stamps, chatted to my local postmistress and returned home.
2008 Europa - Letter Writing
Now is the time to write a letter or send some postcards.  This little girl is thinking hard before starting her first sentence.
2010:  Christmas
My local post box is like this, unfortunately I have never spotted Gromit posting letters there and of course we are too early for snow here, although I have snapped it in the snow, by coincidence the same year as this postcard.  You may think it a bit early for showing Christmas stamps, and are correct,  but I spotted my first mince pies in the supermarket last week.  Back to the post, its been collected
1974: Centenary of Canadian Letter Carrier Delivery Service
taken to the central post office and now its time to sort ready to to go to all corners of the country and the world, by land, sea and air or is that Éire.
2008: An Post's Silver Jubilee
To eventually be taken by postal van.  Next year's Europa theme is the postman's van so I'm already excited by the thought of those stamps.
9 Oct 2010: World Post Day
I love getting post and here are some Polish postmen about to deliver it on World Post Day. 
2001 "Porky Pig delivering letter"
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of "The Post"

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Aunties Abroad

The Aunties are on the move, just taking time to tie down their furniture with a good strong rope. The tea set, books and champagne must be going on the front seat of the van, along with the piggy bank.  Wise women. I hope they are going to pick those carrots before they move. From the leaves it looks like autumn, maybe they are heading south with the sun.  They may have passed through the Netherlands on their way
for that is where I was surprised to see this Inge Löök card had come from.  My sender Tamara was going to head south on holiday too. Rather appropriately she has used one of this year's Europa stamp on the "Visit" theme, its idea to tempt us to visit another country in Europe. The Dutch have been more specific and chosen the city of Amsterdam and say "Bezoek Amsterdam" (visit Amsterdam). The graphic designer Michael Snitker's studio looks out over the waters of the Het Singel Canal and all the stamps in the set celebrate the rivers and canals of the Netherlands. This one shows the River Amstel.

I read on Europa Stamp's blog that if the stamps are scanned with a smart phone you'll hear the  Dutch song "Aan de Amsterdam se grachten" which I think translates as On the canals of Amsterdam.  Or what about a taking a relaxing ride:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Dog Days

 An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamp theme of "cats, dogs and other pets" so what did I find 

Well there were clipped dogs

Akita dog
Mountain dogs

Rescue dogs

Rescued dogs

Year of the dog
1965 Stamp Day "19th Century Postmaster"
and a post dog, who may be keeping its eye open for cats.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

On the Green

Post Box IP17 4671 at The Green, Snape
Not fairies, but a post box at the bottom of this garden in Suffolk 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Where Music Dwells

1969: "Paintings and Music"
I was going to cover the continents with Viridian Postcard's  Sunday Stamps theme of 'Art, Music and Dance' but alas too many gaps so I'll go to the other end of the spectrum and feature just one country - Rwanda.  The first stamp is the Van Eyck's "Musical Angels",  which could covers all three themes if  including the medieval theological question of how many angels could dance on a pin head. This painting is only a fraction of the whole Ghent Altarpiece also known as 'Adoration of the Mystic Lamb' considered one of the world's greatest paintings. If only I had known that it still resides in Ghent when I visited briefly earlier this year, doh.  Happily during recent restoration of the work the Getty Foundation photographed every inch and  turned it into a "100 billion pixels" and launched its own website to the world.
1973: "Musical Instruments"
The wonders of the internet did not however lead me to any description, or sound, of this arched harp which is described as a Longombe but Africa possesses an amazing variety of of stringed instruments. 
1970: African National Costumes
Here I think are griots (praise singers, storytellers, poets and musicians) from Niger, one playing a flute.
1967 World Fair (Africa Place)
 At last here are some dancers on their way to the Montreal Expo of 1967 the site of which remained open as a theme park until 1981.    
166 UNESCO 20th Anniversary (Cultural Emblems)
Rwanda jointed UNESCO in 1962 and this year was awarded a prize for its adult literacy programme. The  Intore "Dance of Heroes" is I think the one portrayed on the Expo stamp and is traditionally a dance that all three ethnic groups, Hutu, Tutsi and Twa danced together.  The UNESCO constitution says "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed".  So lets dance...


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Coastal Clocks

An entry to Sepia Saturday "Using old images for new reflections"

"The Floral Clock, Southsea Castle Gardens"
I was surprised when I noticed how many clocks appear in small parts of my postcards but here is one which takes centre stage, a wonderful floral clock.  This was a card sent to my mother from Margaret who used to work for her when she ran a wool shop. My mother was a keen gardener and had a wonderful eye for shapes and colour so no wonder she kept this card. It is obligatory to mention the weather on postcards and Margaret did not disappoint saying it was very hot and crowded in Southsea. It was neither when I visited a few years ago, torrential rain and a gale blowing off the channel so a cosy coffee shop with the windows steaming up was our destination rather than a floral clock, if they still plant it. We were just marking time while waiting to go into Portsmouth to board the ferry to France so my next view of Southsea was from the sea as we arrived back in English waters and the sun was shining and the crowds were out
Southsea Seafront
as in this card of Southsea.  Today there is a small funfair but it looks as though the only ride c1905 is the one on the cannon. The Victorian seafront still consists of a long promenade, open green spaces and a shingle beach so ideal for a constitution walk so beloved of the Victorians whatever the weather.
"Ramsden Square & Duke Street, Barrow-in-Furness"
Heading north is the town of  Barrow in Furness which is where I set off from when travelling the 330 miles down to Portsmouth/Southsea.  The tower in the distance houses the town hall clock which chimes across the town.  The view as shown has not altered much over the years, apart from the introduction of zebra crossings, the floral display on the roundabout is bigger and brighter, and it would be unlikely there was not a car in sight. It looks rather peaceful there. The card was produced by Millar and Lang of Glasgow who published from 1903-1941 and in latter years hand coloured their black and white photographs like this. The senders (Ethel and Bob) sent the card from the seaside resort of Blackpool to the Ellis family in Nelson in Lancashire saying "Pleased to get your letter and that you enjoyed your holiday. Well we shall be pleased to see you both on Wednesday hope the weather keeps up".  The puzzle is that the card was sent in 1966, bears no relation to Blackpool (apart from the fact on a exceptionally clear day we may be able to see Blackpool Tower from Barrow which is on the other side of the bay).  Perhaps Ethel just used an old card she possessed, like a homing pigeon, it has now arrived back at the place it portrays.
I could not resist showing the postmark because by coincidence this weekend is  Blackpool illuminations big switch on (6 miles of lights) and the people who will be pulling the switch are 6 of Team GB's Olympic medal winners .
"Town Hall, Barrow in Furness"
The Town Hall tower complete with clock glimpsed hazily in the previous card takes centre stage in this card published around 1900.  Barrow's first library, on the left, was in what was described as an iron building, to me it looks more  like a tin shed.  The Town Hall itself is built of red sandstone but during the build in February 1885, with the tower three feet short of being finished,  disaster, there was subsidence and cracks in the masonry. The Borough Surveyor hoped it was no more than "natural settling" but he was too optimistic.  The builders had cut corners to save money, their tender to build had been the  lowest but the council had insisted on the local, and more expensive, red sandstone be used .  The tower had to be rebuilt (after many stormy council meetings and enquiries) but to reduce the weight it was built 13 feet shorter and came in at 164 feet, despite the delay it still retains its 1885 date stone.  When it was finished, for the second time, it dominated the centre of Barrow its only rivals being the shipyard cranes. From the top of its 156 steps a panorama of the town appears with views taking in (on that exceptionally clear day), Wales, the Isle of Man, the Lake District hills and of course Blackpool Tower, which was opened seven years after Barrow's, and is considerably more famous,
Photo Stephen Middlemiss - Creative Commons
but it does not have a clock on it.  This is the view never shown on postcards and is always referred to locally as the back, but is actually the front.