Wednesday 30 November 2011


 Charing Cross, Glasgow
It is St Andrew's Day today, the patron saint of Scotland, so here is a suitably Scottish card from the early 20th century. The post office still stands here but unfortunately the tram system that was once one of the largest urban systems in Europe is no more. The machine in the road to the left intrigues me, I have no idea what it is. I like to think it is roasting chestnuts although the two women passing the post office seem dressed for summer so possibly not.

The tartan is Dress Stewart, whose clan claim their descent from Banquo, familiar as the character that appears in Shakespeare's Macbeth.  I think Dress Stewart implies this is the one to wear at celebrations, looking good swirling around in a country dance.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Anyone for Hockey?

The Sports Complex, Platinum Arena.  My sender tells me is the biggest sports complex in the city of Khabarovsk.  It is also the home of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team Amur Khabarovsk.  Yes that is continental spelt with a K so that the initials are not the same as the CHL (Canadian Hockey League).  There is also a hockey school here and ordinary skating rink so all things icy are catered for.  There are fountains outside the stadium, I'm guessing they may freeze in winter.

The card shows an aerial view of the ciry of Khabarovsk and my sender Ksenia says it is situated very close to the Chinese border. The Trans-Siberian railway runs here, (5,296 miles from Moscow and 500 miles north of Vladivostock). What an amazing journey that would be. The city was once the capital of the Soviet Far East (1926-1938).  Not only is this a border town but it also sits on the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri River and looking at the tourist pages for the city it seems there are cruises on the Amur River (and city beaches).  All appears here on these video stills,  and very brief view of the stadium.


Sunday 27 November 2011

Group of Seven

Mist Fantasy 

The Group of Seven, also known as the Algonquin School were a collection of painters from 1920-1933 inspired by the Canadian landscape and are considered the first truly Canadian art movement.  I start with JEH MacDonald who in 1918 travelled to Algoma, Ontario in a specially outfitted rail-road car that functioned as a mobile studio, he was to return many times in Autumn in this carriage.
 Isles of Spruce
Arthur Lismer (1885-1969) was born in England but studied art in Antwerp, Belgium emigrating to Canada in 1911 where the wilderness of the country took hold of him and he painted it for the rest of his life.
 Big Raven
The Group of Seven were definitely a male club so Emily Carr was never a member but as Groucho Marx said "I don't care to belong to any club that would have me as a member" she is always closely associated with them. Like all great artists her work continually changed and developed into this post impressionist style.

These are all stamps issued in the 1970s but this was not the first time the Group of Seven appeared on Canadian stamps for the 1967 definitive series encompassed scenes from paintings issued in a mono colour rather than the vibrant originals
Left to right, Alaska Highway by AY Jackson, The Jack Pine by Tom Thompson (which has left Canada briefly to be displayed in the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London until January).  He died in 1917 but the Group considered him a founder. Lastly Bylot Island by Lawren Harris who favourite subject was the Canadian north and Arctic.  He painted this scene many times continually simplifying, he stopped signing and dating his works wanting to be judged only on merit.  He probably epitomises the Group of Seven and their meaning to Canadian.  As Christianne Wilhelmson says    
“If you grow up in Ontario, as I did, the Group of Seven are simply a part of your being – I think they put something in the water! In fact, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who they were, their importance to the development of Canadian identity and been able to list many of the members. It wasn’t just that names and dates were pounded into our heads in history or art classes, but rather that what  they  managed to capture could be seen out the window of our car as my family made its way north to visit relatives. More than once I heard someone say, ‘it feels like we’re in a Group of Seven painting.’
Bylot Island in colour and the rest of this short meditation here .  Lastly I finish as I started with McDonald painting away in his railroad car the mountain landscapes of Canada.
including his acclaimed "The Solemn Land"

An entry to Sunday Stamps whose theme this week is Art

Saturday 26 November 2011

Edge of the Forest

Edge of the Wood (The Flight into Egypt) by Jan Breughel the Elder known as 'Velvet Breughel' (1568-1625)

I think Breughel must have been fascinated by the Christian story of the flight into Egypt portraying the holy family fleeing after the massacre of the innocents (baby boys) quite often. One interpretation is in the Coutauld Gallery in London which is very different from the one above from The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

Although the card says 'edge of the wood' I think it should translate as 'edge of the forest',  trees dominate the landscape, the three refugees are heading towards us while everyone else is heading in a different direction, apart from the birds in flight.   

Ksenia who sent this card lives in St Petersburg, how wonderful, a ready supply of cards and thousands of  wonderful paintings. Breughel always puts lots of little details in his paintings so the original will hold many surprises.

The card came appropriately with the 5th definitive series of stamps which show

creatures that might be found in this landscape, Lynx, two Bears and a Hare. She also managed to fit the Astrakhan Kremlin on the card within the dividing line without obscuring the description. Neat job Ksenia.


Thursday 24 November 2011

Åland Granite

The wonderful pink granite of the Åland Islands worn smooth by glaciers millions of years ago but still vibrant today with that wonderful line of green algae. The card is one by the Posten Åland and at first I didn't notice that down the divide it said it was of  "natural environment of Åland, Föglö"   Of course once I saw that I knew we were talking stamps here and off I went to The Top of The World site and found the answer.  This is one of the series of scenery stamps issued over a number of years by the Åland post.

"With its 600 inhabitants Föglö is the largest archipelago municipality in Åland. In summer the population increases almost threefold when some 600 summer cottages come alive....Kjell Söderlund took the photo from Algersö, Föglö, showing a rock by the sea, smooth as a mirror" 

It sounds a wonderful place to spend a summer for there are hiking and cycling trails and of course sea paddling where one could glide round these rocks.


Monday 14 November 2011

Fuji & Cherry Blossom

 Mt Fuji and Cherry Flower, Yamanashi
The iconic Mount Fuji, highest mountain in Japan (12,389 ft) its volcanic cone covered with snow as the cherry blossom flowers.  The delicate surrounding the monumental.  What a wonderful sight.  The mountain has been an inspiration to poets and painters through the ages, the most famous of which is Hokusai and his '36 views of Mount Fuji'. Noriko who sent this card says the name of Cherry Blossom in Japanese is Sakura.

The card came with
on the right one of the June 2011 set of Hello Kitty stamps and look Kitty has some cherry blossom in her hair, this stamp is called Hello Kitty in Yoshinoyama.  A mountain in Japan famous for viewing cherry blossom, people have been coming here for centuries to see the 30,000 cherry trees bloom.  The stamp with the honey bee, who I would imagine also like cherry blossom, is a 1997 definitive.   

Sunday 13 November 2011

Sporting Life

The Royal Mail is gearing up for the 2012 Olympics in London, I've lost count of how many sets of stamps have been issued so far but think this latest issue is the most successful, the others were rather uninspiring. These seem to capture movement, wind in the sails, leaping over bars, blocking balls, crashing into each other and wrestling to the ground. One of the fastest selling tickets for the paralympic games was wheelchair rugby, when it was first invented in Canada it used to be called murderball, a game not for the faint-hearted.
The rest of the set. The gymnast designer was Kathy Wyatt whose speciality is anatomical drawings and Adam Smith who designed the triathlon stamp also has a 60 ft mural of the stamp in his home town of Leicester. Each stamp is illustrated by a different person and I think this has been rather successful.  The Olympics is for athletes at the peak of their game but sport is for all and what better country to celebrate this than Australia
who issued an extensive set of sporting stamps in 1989.  As we imagine the sun shines all day long in Australia those of us in the northern hemisphere thoughts turn to winter and maybe winter sports, which
in Albania it appears to be ice hockey. The event was the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck,  And finally, as requested by our hostess Viridian Postcard
the stained glass artist and illustrator Richard King's design showing the sport of hurling. The video of this fast and furious game is on my original post to Sunday Stamps here

An entry to Sunday Stamps whose theme this week is Sport, Sporting Events and Venues

Friday 11 November 2011

Paddling in Lapland

Somewhere in Lapland this canoeing duo is enjoying the white water. No indication on the card of where in Lapland this is but I read that this part of Finland is a most famous canoeing destination. The area of Muonio  contains Europe's coolest (the area has longest snow season in Finland) and most free running rivers.  One of the main stages of the Arctic Canoe Race which is considered the toughest canoeing competition of the world is held here.

My sender, Auli, says white water rafting is fun, or at least she has heard so. Like me she has never ventured into the frothing foam.

The card came with
appropriately one of three stamps issued in 2008 depicting rings on water.  Designed by Timo Berry they show that there is lots of watery activity to be had in Finland, not only in rivers but on its 187,888 lakes.  The other stamp is one of this year's Mailboxes set, showing wonderfully individual mailboxes. Like water they too are part of the landscape.  Love the little bird on the top.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Panda Gathering

I wondered what the collective noun for Pandas was, wikipedia says it is a spoonful or for even numbers cupboard. Neither seemed to ring true. Looking elsewhere I discovered another two, a sleuth or a sloth which are commonly used for bears (and pandas are true bears). I like the sound of those especially looking this adorable group of five. They look as though they are having a powwow maybe these are panda detectives sleuthing to where the bamboo has been taken or maybe they are just relaxing sloth like.

This card of Giant Pandas, came from Claudia in China.  I wonder if this group is in the Sichuan Sanctuary, an area of China where they also live wild in the mountains. As is well known they are an endangered species, just one step behind the mountain gorilla which is critically endangered. Both species have problems because of habitat loss and things do not seem to be getting better in this world of ours.

The card came with
not only the pretty 2002 Asian redstarts stamp but one of the "Protecting the Common Homeland" set of stamps from the same year. At first I thought it was a man's face in the word
and puzzled about its significance.  Flipping it the right way round it all became clear when I looked up its theme - 'Mining resource utilization and management', yes its a lump of rock/ore.

Thank you Claudia, yes I think the pandas are pretty cute too

Sunday 6 November 2011

Struve's Arc

I think this must be my favourite miniature sheet; it portrays scientific endeavour but in the stunning setting of the forests and lakes of Finland. I love all the activity going on, including sitting down.   The sheet contains 2 se-tenant stamps with the marvellous Finnish philatelic imagination of one consisting of the large circle surrounding the map and the other the map itself. (the circle does not show up too well on this scan but you can see the two denominations)   But back to the scene and the horizon curving in the distance which is appropriate for this is a commemoration of the measuring of the Struve Geodic Arc. An internationally organised meridian arc survey which influenced the future development of science and helped establish the precise shape and size of the Earth.  The 2,822 kilometre arc stretches from the Arctic coast in Norway to the mouth of the River Danube at the Black Sea.  The measurements were carried out from 1816-1855 under the leadership of the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve from the Dorpat (Tartu) University in present day Estonia.  Today the line passes through 10 countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine).  Just imagine all that triangulation measurement, there were 258 main triangles with 265 main station points.
Latvia's miniature sheet features the measuring instrument as well as a portrait of Struve, part of the large endeavour can be imagined by the tower on the left of the sheet. The other stamp is a concrete marker post which I think must be a nod to 2005 when the measurement chain was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 34 commemorative plaques or built obelisks out of the original 265 main station points which are marked by drilled holes in rocks, iron crosses, cairns etc. 

When Eeva sent me the Finnish miniature sheet she also enclosed a postcard of one of the
Struve points with the Finland map stamp. Start walking now?

 An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps

Friday 4 November 2011

Prize Day

I laughed when I read the list on the blackboard of this card. Three things definitely to be avoided by any young rabbit, this one has learnt well and deserves a prize.  I don't know how the fox has sneaked in, he is looking rather shifty. This drawing has so much detail, I could, and have, look at it for a long time. How wonderful it must have been for Racey Helps daughter when she was evacuated during the war and he sent her hand made books of  drawings with their story. He went on to write many illustrated children's books but unfortunately died in his 50s but these wonderful drawings live on.

Denise, as she usually does, attached a nice variety of stamps
A 2010 permanent stamp of the queen waving on a recent visit to Canada. What I missed at first was the nice design touch in the background, a close up of a blue sedum flower.  Next in contrast the August 2011 commemorative stamp of the 50 year anniversary of the hydroplane Miss Supertest III as it won the Harmsworth Cup.  The races were started in 1902 to develop motor launch racing and from that time until 1956 the US always won the cup. Enter Bob Hayward, a chicken farmer from Embro, Ontario whose winning of the cup broke that run and brought the cup to Canada. The boat became the only one to win the cup three times in a row.

Lastly a journey off the planet

One of the 2011 definitives called 'Canadian Pride' featuring all the place you might see the iconic maple leaf of Canada. The stylised O surrounding the symbol stands for O in  "O Canada!' first line of the national anthem.  The designers who came up with this neat idea are Lionel Gadoury and Terry Popik of Context Creative. I wondered where in space we were with this photo and the Collect Space forum gave me the answer. It was the space shuttle's remote manipulator, the Canadarm.