Monday 31 January 2011


The image of Emperor Penguins that stays with me from wildlife films is of them standing on the ice of Antarctica in temperatures well below freezing while the wind howls round them. A group of perhaps a thousand huddled together, protectting their young, still in their fluffy plumage.  What hardy and wonderful creatures.

The Emperor is the tallest and heaviest of the penguins and breeds during the Arctic winter, travelling from 30 to 75 miles to the breeding colonies.  I rather like this map of their year from Wikipedia
The card came with one of the pretty German flower definitives
this one is Ballonblume or Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus).

Günter in Bavaria hopes I like this extra large card he sent me. I certainly do. Thank you Günter.   

Sunday 30 January 2011

White Rabbit

Today in anticipation of the Lunar New Year on on the 3rd when we enter the year of the Rabbit, here is a Chinese Folk-tale concerning a white rabbit.  This is a set of stamps issued in June 1980 both as a sheets, and the ones that I have, in a booklet, with its themed cover.

Here is the the story,  "Gu Dong is Coming" in stamps (designed by Wan Weisheng):
White rabbit nibbled grass by the pond where the papaya tree grew.  A breeze came through the trees and he heard the sound, Gu Dong. He jumped, such a loud sound must come from a monster.  He ran and hopped away as fast as he could run shouting, "a monster is coming".  He ran into monkey and fox, "what is your hurry". "A big and scary monster is coming.  I am sure he has three big red eyes". "One will be in the middle of his forehead" said monkey. "If we stay together we will be safe from the Gu Dong".
They ran into more animals and warned them too, panic grew. Lion walked slowly through the deep grass and said "Who is Gu Dong"?  "He is a monster that will eat us all". "He likes deer best" squeaked deer. "He can find us anywhere" said fox. "Who has seen Gu Dong" said the lion. "I heard him by the pond" replied white rabbit. "Lets find who this Gu Dong is" said the lion and they followed him back to the pond. No one was there.  Only a ripe papaya floated on the water. "I know I heard him here" cried the white rabbit. Just then another papaya fell into the water. Splash, Gu Dong!  Rabbit screamed, and then laughed, "Its only a papaya".  Everyone laughed and Lion picked up the papaya, broke it open and they all enjoyed sharing it by the side of the pond.
 So, don't panic when you hear of monsters and always seek the truth behind rumours.  China is a land of many stories, which often appear on their stamps.

Sunday Stamps is hosted by Viridian Postcards

Saturday 29 January 2011


 Rye -Top of West Street

An unused Deacon's Series Rye postcard from the early 20th century. You could still look at this street now and nothing will have changed, the trees by the church have grown, some of the houses wooden slats have been painted white but the cobbled street and all the houses are still there.  The old town sits on sandstone heights so these streets have quite a slope. 

This place is the setting for E.F. Benson's  amusing Mapp and Lucia novels which he renamed Tilling. When I visited I was amazed, the description of the town had been so accurate I could almost imaging scenes from it actually happening.  I have since been told, by someone who lives nearby, that the character(s) of the town he describes could almost be how it is today.  Rye lies near the edge of Romney Marsh and Benson also wrote ghost stories set around the area which are deliciously spooky. This locality must provide much material for writers for Henry James lived here for the last 18 years of his life.

Rye in East Sussex was one of the Cinque Ports protecting the south coast from invasion from the channel but now this is only a ceremonial designation.   Today the town it is a popular tourist destination both for people arriving by road or yacht.

Friday 28 January 2011

Lucky Cats

 Here's a spot of good luck - A double dose for you!

It seems to vary across the world whether black cats are considered lucky. As can be seen we believe they are very lucky, especially if they cross your path. Stroking them three times can bring even more luck so no wonder this little girl is looking happy.  One D Tempest's drawings for Bamforth's Kiddy series.  The card was sent to a grandaughter
"Dear Alison, I hope you like this PC, Joyce brought it from Blackpool yesterday. I hope you are getting on alright. I do not think I shall be long before I see you, I will write to your mother this week. With Love from Grandma".  The postcard was sent from Bury, Lancashire in 1934.  The seaside town of Blackpool (about 45 miles from Bury) would have had racks of Bamford cards, whereas the then cotton mill town of Bury, not so many.

Beth of The Best Hearts Are Crunchy is the hostess of Postcard Friendship Friday

Monday 24 January 2011

Eckley, Pennsylvania

Eckley Miners Village, Pennsylvania

The reverse caption says "A restored mining community consisting of over 50 houses, a church, a company store, a coal breaker, and many artefacts of the era.  The village now maintained by the PA Historical and Museum Commission, was used in the filming of the motion picture The Molly Maguires.

Eckley was an anthracite mine in north east Pennsylvania.  In 1853 a saw mill was constructed to provide lumber for stables, mine and buildings to house the colliery workers who would move into the town. Looking at the photo it seems as though the town is surrounded by forests. Mining began in 1854 and was employment for waves of immigrants, starting with the English, Welsh and Germans in the mid 19th century. At its peak this town would have a population of 1000 but by the end of mining a mere 20. Today most of the properties are privately owned but a number are open to the public. There is a historic walk around the town which must give a feel of what it was like to live and work there in this past times.

My sender says Eckley is on here 'to do' list but there are other living museums of 19th Century life in the USA that are also worth a visit such as logging towns in West Virginia and Tenement museum in New York.  

The card came with, amongst others, a Julia De Burgos stamp

the Puerto Rican poet and independence/civil right activist. She died at the age of 39 on the streets of East Harlem with no ID and was buried in a nameless grave. How sad to die alone and nameless, she now has a named grave and a cultural centre named after her. Sometimes poets predict their life in verse for the beginning lines of her poem 'Intimate' begining 

Life straightened up to watch me past
I began getting lost atom by atom of my flesh
And slipping little by little to the soul  

The blue water in the background of the stamp represents the Rio Grande de Loiza, the theme of her most famous poem, an ode to the river where she was raised.  For that and her history see this page

Thank you Bonnie Jeanne, a fascinating card

Sunday 23 January 2011

Robert Burns

 Robert Burns 1759-1796
As it is Burns night on Tuesday what other stamp could I show for Sunday Stamps than two commemoratives issued on the 25th January 1966.

Designed by the Scottish artist Gordon Huntley the One Shilling and Threepenny stamp shows the Nasmyth portrait against a background design that contains symbols of Burns' life (they take a lot of squinting to see) - the plough, a scroll and a quill, the rose, a stook of barley, the thistle and the gable end of his home Mossgeil Farmhouse. The script lettering is based on calligraphic forms in Burns' signature on letters.  The 4d stamp is a more simple design Burns' portrait with the cross of St Andrew - the national flag of Scotland, in the background.

Burns night is on the poets birthday, 25th January, and  is a celebration of his short but full life. The supper starts with the Selkirk grace:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thank it.
but the high points of the evening is the entrance of the haggis which will be proceeded by a piper playing some of Burns' songs on a bagpipes. The haggis which will be laid on the top table where a chosen person will recite the eight verses of 'To A Haggis' which starts:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,    (sonsie=good natured, comely)
Great Chieften o' the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,  (aboon=above)
Paich, tripe or thairm;                    (paich=paunch or stomach) (thairm=intestine)
Weel are ye wordy of a grace        (wordy=worthy)
As lang's my arm.

The haggis will then be cut (with a toast proposed in whisky) and eaten with mashed tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnip). After the meal and various toasts, and poems the evening will end, with of course, a singing of  Auld Lang Syne, the poem written by Burns and set to the tune of an old folk song, still sung all over the world at New Year.
The Sunday Stamps meme is created and hosted at Viridian Postcard

Friday 21 January 2011

Wedding Party

I've shown the first love, the arguments and now things are running smoothly with a marriage.  The picture is of a wedding in Brittany near the coastal town of Auray. The wedding couple, their maids of honour and grooms-men gazing into the camera as we gaze back across time to the turn of the 20th Century.  I like the man with the jauntily angled hat and the variety of expressions of the wedding party.

This is not a card I own but a publicity leaflet in the form of a card which I picked up last year in France. It was advertising an exhibition that had taken place in 2009 on the theme of marriage (seems not many people had picked up this card!).  I then discovered there was a museum of postcards in the town of Baud, yippee, but I was due to go back to England and would not have time to visit, groan.  But on the back of the card,
apart from saying that they have 60,000 regional cards, it also gives the address of their website, happy days, they are running a weekly theme at the moment (if your French is a bit iffy, I may mean mine there) put the name Cartopole in a search and let Google translate). The collection consists of mainly postcards of life in Brittany before the 1920s, but they are also involved in putting cards not owned by the museum on the web.  It is still not quite the same as seeing them for in the museum for they also are interested in correspondence, the other side of the card. This year's special exhibition is 'Farming' and the life of local people in Brittany at the turn of the 20th Century.  But after brief thought of going to northern Spain for our holidays we are returning to France this year and may not be too far from the town of Baud and Cartopole with, as my new guide book puts it, their 'petits trésors' (small treasures). I can think of no better description of postcards that that term.

Beth of The Best Hearts Are Crunchy is the hostess of Postcard Friendship Friday


Wednesday 19 January 2011

Sharp Edge

Sharp Edge, Saddleback

The classic Lake District ridge walk is up Sharp Edge on to the mountain of Saddleback. It is indeed a sharp edge which people fall off on a regular basis, but the majority live to enjoy the challenge.  This is one of Mayson's Keswick Series of Real Photo cards, unused. Even if I did not know it was an old card the name Saddleback would have given me a clue for this is the descriptive English name.  Its local, and original name, and the one that it has now reverted to, is Blencathra.  Probably from blaen (a bare hill top) and cathrach (a chair) which put together is a bare hill shaped like a chair. 

The lone walker stands looking at Scales Tarn in the hollow. On a clear day it stands out an intense blue surrounded by grey rocks.  I thought I had posted a picture of this on my other blog but I had been on the theme of 'edge' so no tarn here only blue skies.
As you see modern maps use both the mountains name, I wonder if like a cat it has a third name, no human will discover. (TS Eliots The Naming of Cats here)

Sunday 16 January 2011

Fairies from Finland

Glitter and fairies who could resist that combination. Unfortunately the glitter does not show up very well on the scan but it sparkles nicely on the postcard that Leena sent me in March 2010.  This is the Star Fairy.  A set of five was issued in January in time for Valentine's Day.  Imagine my delight at the end of 2010 when I received
another fairy which Jassica had surprised me with, along with other pretty stamps. Finland have an attractive and imaginative stamp programme which often finds me thinking it would be a wonderful country to specialise in, but I have never got any further than the thought.  If I was specialising then the full miniature sheet of stamps would be a must.
I might frame this rather than putting it in an album. The fairies are the work the young illustrator Minni Havas from Helsinki who works with coloured pencils, usually in fashion design.

The concept of Sunday Stamps, which started last week, is Viridian's Postcards who is hosting here and this week a badge as well....

Friday 14 January 2011

The Lovers Quarrel

My Postcard Friendship Friday last week was about first love, but as the saying goes, true love never runs smooth so here is "The Lover's Quarrel". Is that single apostrophe S significant.  He just looks fed up, she is sobbing.  Perhaps he took her to the wrong place, such as a hillside full of bracken. This postcard must have been sent in an envelope early in the 20th century, perhaps emotion was too raw for the Postie to read.
"Sorry this has happened but hope you will forgive and forget will try and get up as far before Sunday. If not there Gt. A".  The Gt A refers the the small village of Great Asby which is close by the even smaller village of Low Asby where this card's recipient lived. There are still quite a few Jacksons, possibly her descendants, still living in the village. Possibly not the card senders descendants though for there is a line drawn under the message and,  in another hand (or is it my imagination) , says "never again, busy at present".  Can't beat that for a put down.

Beth of The Best Hearts Are Crunchy is the hostess of Postcard Friendship Friday.

Monday 10 January 2011

St Ives, Cornwall

Buying Fish at the Quayside, 1904

For centuries fishing was the main industry in St Ives and the  principal fishing port of the north coast of Cornwall. At the time of the photograph the quayside would be busy with people buying and selling fish fresh from the sea.  (I always try to spot if there is anyone not wearing a hat in old photograph but as can be seen, as usual, everyone is wearing one). There is still a small fleet of fishing boats here but now its main industry is tourism. The narrow streets, quaint alleyways, galleries and restaurants are busy all summer long.

The card is one of the Nostalgia Postcards series published in 1992 which was exactly a year before the Tate Gallery opening its branch gallery here.  St Ives is a popular retreat for artists, the most famous in the past being Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. The Tate also now also owns Hepworth's house and sculpture garden. The garden is said to hold her favourite pieces.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Liverpool & Manchester Railway

Viridian's Postcards blog is hosting a celebration of stamps the "small works of art" by the start of a new Sunday stamps meme.  To share that love go here.

I thought I would start with one of my favourite GB sets of stamps issued in 1980 as a 5 se-tenant set, to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of  the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830.  To appreciate the wonderful detail click on the stamps to enlarge. The artist was David Gentleman, who has had a huge influence on British stamp design over the years, and created 103 different issues from 1962-2000.

The stamps take us on a journey and passes various points of interest. The railway is pulled by
  • Stephenson's Rocket approaching the Moorish Arch in Liverpool. (In 1829 the Stephensons had run this at the famous Rainhill Trials competition to choose the best design of locomotive for the railway company). 
  • The 1st and 2nd class carriages pass through the Olive Mount Cutting (one of the major problems that George Stephenson had to overcome on the line, rock had to be blasted out along a 2 mile cutting)
  • 3rd Class carriage lives up to the nickname of 'cattle trucks' and is followed by a sheep truck crossing Chat Moss (a peat bog that almost threatened the completion of the railway until Stephenson 'floated' the line across on wood and stone foundations)
  • Horsebox and Carriage Truck near the Bridgewater Canal. (Two things the railway would replace as a mode of transport for goods and people)
  • Goods Truck and Mail Coach at Manchester (the chimneys of the industrial revolution in the background)
Royal Mail has continued to celebrate the railway and this year will be no different when they will be issuing classic locomotives stamps next month.

Friday 7 January 2011

Under The Lilacs

In the garden of love under the lilacs, our maiden is being swept of her feet by a handsome suitor. In the language of flowers the purple lilac means the 'first emotions of love'. If the card had portrayed white lilac that would have had a different meaning of youthful innocence.  I think the card may have been sent in the first flush of love on 10th September 1908, not only has it lots of kisses at the end
 it has the angled stamp over the surname.  The message reads
"My dear Ein, Thank you so much for the pretty card. Its just the sort I am very fond of. What I can see of it you insist upon sending me more cards so that I shall have to have another album beside the two I have already. Don't forget 9 O'clock tonight. Bring your ½d with you. With best love. Yours affectionately, Edie"

I wonder how many albums she eventually filled?  Philco Publishing, based in London,  issued view and artist cards from 1906-1934 so plenty of opportunity for more pretty cards.

Beth at The Best Hearts Are Crunchy is the hostess of Postcard Friendship Friday

Wednesday 5 January 2011


"Childhood on Loess Plateau"

In China by the upper and middle Yellow River, a place once passed through by the ancient northern Silk Road, is an area called the Loess Plateau.  Loess takes its the name from the yellowish silty sediment that covers the area.  Or perhaps it is the other way round.  One theory by scientists about this soil is that over hundreds of thousand of years it was blown over by north winds from Mongolia.  In past times the area was very fertile, unfortunately this silty soil is susceptible to erosion and the impact of rain and deforestation has led to a degraded environment. In the 1990s a project to reverse the effect of erosion by planting trees, grass and reducing grazing was started to help soil retention.

Xu, who sent me the card, says that the people that live in the Loess Plateau have a hard life because of the poor transport, bad environment and bad weather. The children who live there get up early and walk long distances to school. After school and homework, children like this little boy, help with chores and the sheep.  She hopes as China develops and with government help the people on the Plateau will have a better life in the future.

The little boy does not look as though he is too keen on having his photograph taken by a stranger, or maybe he is puzzled by the attention or is a little shy.

Monday 3 January 2011

Snow Fortress, Siberia

The Taking of A Snow Fortress painted by Vasily Surikov (1891)

Vasily Surikov (1848-1916) is famous for his historical paintings and portraits of ordinary Russian people. Always fascinating. This particular painting came after a sad period of his life. In 1887 his wife Elizabeth died and caused him to descend into a deep depression, he stopped painting, writing,
"the meaning of life has been destroyed; I am struggling with the present and do not doubt with the future also".   
He left Moscow with his children for his home town Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.  This place of childhood memories and his caring friends eventually rescued him from his debilitating depression.  In 1891 he decided to paint the Siberian Cossack game in which a horseman must jump over a snow wall, defended by young people with twigs, brooms, whips and rattles.  This cheerful painting is an exception to his usual oeuvre, possibly he saw the lifting of a dark cloud, which he thought would never end, and the beginning of life again.

The scene portrayed is centred around the annual week long pancake festival in February. A small town is constructed of ice and snow with many figures and buildings and the fortress of that town is attacked. Surikov's scene was not part of an actual festival but one constructed specially for him to paint by the residents of Krasnoyarsk. They built the fortress of ice and snow with towers and spires. He populated the painting with his friends, fortress builders and relations. The sleigh covered by a Tyumen carpet depicts his brother Alexander in a musquash cap. 

The card came with fortresses of a more sturdy kind
the definitives 10 Moscow Kremlin and 1.00 Astrakhan Kremlin together with the 2010 definitive of a hare. The stamp in the corners is the emblem of the Population Census issued on 14 October 2010, the day that the census started in Russia. There were 616,000 census takers employed across all of Russia.  Our census will take place on the 27 March this year, but as the UK could probably fit into a tiny corner of Russia there will only be 35,000 census takers needed.

Thank you Tatyana for this wonderful card.