Sunday 29 January 2012

Enter the Dragon

The dragon roars on these stamps although the dragon dance pictured looks more benign, as it should, because the element of this years dragon is water, which has a calming effect on the dragon's nature.  Sometimes it is called the Rain Dragon in China implying the promise of good crops. The picture is of the corner of a miniature sheet issued this month, consisting of the generic celebration stamp attached to scenes from around the UK of Chinatown celebrations and dragons of the 5 elements. I don't usually get these special issue sheets but couldn't resist purchasing to put on postcards. But  lets leave our modern dragon to travel back in time

to 1885 when the dragon was the obvious choice to use on stamps of China because it was the symbol of the Emperor of China
In 1897 the currency changed from candarins to cents and so too did the dragon design.  Turbulent times were upon China with rebellions and the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95).  The Imperial Chinese Post became
the Chinese Imperial Post in 1898 which was the year of a power struggle between the Guangxu Emperor and his aunt the Empress-Dowager Cixi.  These were the last stamps to feature a dragon for some time, China would become a republic in 1912.

As this year's dragon's element is water here is a Lunar New Year postcard with the watery theme of a fish
which is traditionally served on New Year's Eve (the word for fish is Yu and can sounds like the words for wish and abundance). It is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.  The card had a prepaid second class stamp on the back
also featuring fish ,which could be a double carp.  The carp is closely associated with the dragon because the story goes it was so strong it could swim against the current of the Yellow River and through the "Dragon Gate" and so be transformed into a dragon. 
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps where we are celebrating Lunar New Year with dragons.

Friday 27 January 2012

On With the Show

I've chosen the 'performance' part of Theatre for this week's Sepia Saturday theme. I have two copies of this photographic postcard so imagine Atherton Photographers in Barrow who took the picture  found the large cast a profitable venture.  My connection to the production is my father who stands on the back row in the clown costume, (he is the one on the left) and seems to have really gone to town on the make-up as Pete the clown.  I think this is probably the Emmanuel Church group, they put on many stage performances but this must have been significant because it had a programme which my father has clipped and pasted the cast list onto the back of the card  
and I recognise another two names, Cyril Pratt, my fathers lifelong friend playing the Dutch Boy and Tom Butcher who plays the Indian Chief, which fitted his flamboyant character (his nickname was 'The Count').

I wondered what Mrs Jarley's Waxworks was and discovered its name comes from the character in Charles Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop, proprietor of a travelling waxworks who employs Nell and her Grandfather.  This name was taken when theatrical groups, mainly amateur, dressed up and performed as waxworks with one of them appearing as Mrs Jarley, and others appearing as her assistants.  I notice on this photo that Mrs Jarley was played in the great British dame tradition by a man and imagine the clowns were her assistants. The 'waxworks' appeared on stage in groups. Each one was described in a humorous way by Mrs Jarley and was then wound up and oiled by the assistants to perform words and/or music. Such 'waxwork' shows were popular in late Victorian and the early 20th Century in both Britain and America, where we will journey to a smaller cast appearing on 
an artotype made by Albert Bierstadt from one of his many Adirondack photographs which I found on the Adirondack Museum site. 
"The image shows men and women posed on a makeshift stage in the parlour of the Prospect House in Blue Mountain Lake, New York.  A number of well-dressed men and women sit in chairs facing the stage. The hotel's chandelier hangs in front of the valance curtain.  Prospect House was situated at the foot of Blue Mountain, on a point of land jutting out into Blue Mountain Lake". The six-story, 300-room Prospect House opened in 1882. It had many modern conveniences that other hotels in the area did not have, such as a steam-powered elevator".
An entry to Sepia Saturday

Monday 23 January 2012

Year of the Dragon

"Detail from silk Chinese dragon robe, c1900-30"

A fearsome dragon featured on a card from the Harris Museum, an item from the  Costume and Textile collection.  The blue is an appropriate colour for this year it is the year of the Male Water Dragon in the Chinese Calendar.  The element of water has a calming effect on the Dragon's fearless temperament. Here is a description of what to expect in the coming year:

"The Dragon represents powerful leadership, change and creation. It is an icon of individuality and of ambition, of charisma and adventure, of grand generosity and confidence".
Wishing Kung hei fat choi (Congratulations and wishing you prosperity) for the year ahead.

Sunday 22 January 2012


 The theme for this week's Sunday Stamps is the standard issues of your country, the everyday,  I know some people avidly collect the everyday Machin designed stamps of the queen,, but we have had the same design since 1967 ( at least the post office in the age of Queen Victoria varied the borders). But there is a (limited) alternatives of of buying a same queen stamp year on year from the post office counter, the regionals, 

Regional stamps have been issued for decades but the newer issues reflect the growing self-government of the countries that make up the United Kingdom.  I like the three dimensional effect of the design.  I'll show the higher values.  The first are those of the my home country England featuring the oak tree which in legend King Charles II hid to escape capture, its symbolism in heraldry is strength and endurance. Next we have the Tudor rose which combined the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster with the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and has become one of the symbols of England.

The theme of all these stamps are national symbols and heraldry but Northern Ireland is  politically sensitive so the Post Office has to perform a bit of a juggling act here so they have gone for on the 60p - a linen slip originally used to carry small personal items (The embroidery techniques is drawn threadwork). The 97p may look like a woven basket but it is a Belleek Pottery patterned porcelain. The vase portrayed is in the Belfast Museum. 
Nothing could be more Scottish than the thistle which legend has it became the national emblem of Scotland when barefooted invaders stepped on it, screamed with pain, and so alerted the Scots to where they were, who, when they charged down on them, no doubt were wearing tartan but possibly not the one shown on the stamp.

Lastly is the 60p Welsh flower, the daffodil, this one created in Welsh slate by Ieuan Rees, 97p is the Prince of Wales feather in Welsh gold and silver by Rhiannon Evans.

I believe the stamps have a limited colour pallet to save costs.  As far as the stamps are concerned they can cross all borders as they can be all used in any part of the UK.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps

Saturday 21 January 2012

Sepia Saturday

 "A French doll in porcelain and kid leather dressed by Simone of Paris in the 1870s".

Ooh La La. This doll looks as though she is about to go travelling, depending on the season she will be able to keep warm with the fur stoles as she takes the train from Paris, the porter loading her trunk, or perhaps she will  hoist the parasol as she strolls down a boulevard.  What amazes me about this card is the pristine appearance of both clothes and dolls.  I suspect my dolls were not as well cared for and there was no trunk for their clothing, although I did have a shoe box which performed the same function.

Here I am on my 5th birthday complete with  party dress and a selection  of dolls
me on the left with the doll that my mother made copious quantities of clothes for, my friend Roger holding my favourite, Twizzle the Koala Bear brought back from Australia by my aunt and Marion with a doll that appears to be participating in the photo by waving at the camera.

An Entry to Sepia Saturday

Friday 20 January 2012

Its A Wonderful Whorl

Snail shells are so pretty, the front one is from the Helicadae family, I wonder if it is Helicalla itala which comes in a variety of colours, if it is it would be appropriate for it lives in Western Europe and this card is from Germany. The pink one I think may be artistic license, or it is a little girl snail who loves the colour. My sender, Alexandra, says the quote means that it is important to see the beauty in everything.  I wondered what the  direct translation was because German has those wonderfully long words that encapsulate a whole concept, I was not disappointed. Lebenskunst means the "art of life" and Alltäglichen means the "ordinary experience", so I suppose the quote in direct rough translation is "The true art of life is to see the wonder in the ordinary".  The numerous variety of snails would certainly cover that, though ones view may change when they are chomping on a favourite flower.

The card came wiht
last years UNESCO World Heritage German/Japan joint issue. This is the Cathedral of  St Peter in the medieval part of Regensburg, Bavaria.  I've had one of these before here but the postmark hid a lot of the detail unlike this one.

Monday 16 January 2012

Irresistible Ice

The first frosty weather of the winter has arrived but not yet like this frozen view of the crowds enjoying sliding on Mockerkin Tarn.  Legend has it that the palace of the Celtic king Mocken was by the side of this tarn in lush pastures.  In the summer instead of this icy view there will be water lilies floating on the water.  

Sunday 15 January 2012

Fruit and Blossom

I love the time of year when trees are full of blossom and these two stamps show both the blossom and then natures annual magic of the fruit.  I only have the cherry and apricot of this 1969 set and like to imagination picking these fruits off the trees in the warmth of the southern Mediterranean. I'd have to be good with my timing for the apricot has a very short season.   Albania just creeps into the top thirty cherry producers of the world but the country has great plans to increase all fruit production. The other stamps in the set (which I don't have) are plum, lemon, apple and pomegranate.  

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps. This week's theme, the raw materials of Food

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Drinking Tea

 Drinking Tea by Konstantin Makovsky
Once brewed the tea has to be drunk but, oh no it is too hot.  The look on this young girls face is one of concentration and anticipation as she blows across the saucer.  I love this painting I can imagine a cold winter's day and sitting down inside to drink tea. My sender, Yulia, says the girl is dressed in Russian national clothes and is painted by the famous Russian painter Konstantin Makovsky (1839-1915).

Makovsky painted this in 1914, a year before he was to die in an accident between his carriage and an electric tram in St Petersburg. He was affiliated with the Wanderers group of painters who portrayed an idealised view of Russian life but in later years he came to concentrate more on artistic ideals of colours and shapes.

The card thoughtfully came with

(on the left) a samovar no doubt full of boiling water for that cup of tea. It looks a good spread, pancakes, honey, red and black caviar and a string of bagels.  I'd plump for the pancakes and honey.  The stamp is on the 2005 Europa theme of Gastronomy.

Next comes one of August 2011's "History of Russian Cossacks", this is the 'Cossacks Army of Amur'.  The Amur River forms the border between the Russian Far East and China.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Down on the Farm

Two stamps from the 1981  "International Decade for Women" set which show Mongolian women in everyday life.  (The skipping girl bouncing from stamp to stamp) They are details from a larger gauche painting  by Ts. Davaakhuu (1944-2000) entitled 'Collective Farms' which today hangs in the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery in Ulan Bator.  Here you can see just a detail of the whole painting which features the scene on the stamps and compare how the stamp designer has incorporated the colour green as a design choice.
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps

Thursday 5 January 2012


Marianna sent greetings from St Petersburgh and says I will like the Hermitage Museum. She is right I adored it but it is a long time ago since I visited and never purchased any cards of the interior, in fact I don't remember seeing any, so what a treat when I received her card.  The little marble angel or putto looks as though it could come to life at any moment.

The card came with one of the Kremlin definitives
this one is Ryazan part of the historic centre of the city, sometimes called the pearl of Ryazan and in a link to the postcard the Ryazan Tourist site says. " If you are interested in the glitter and power of Russia, visit Moscow or St. Petersburg, but if you are interested in its soul, visit Ryazan. All guests are greeted here with the special Ryazan hospitality."

Sunday 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

A snowy calendar celebrates New Year and wishes the world a Happy New Year.  In 1963 the Hungarian post issued a set of New Year stamps for the Postal and Philatelic Museum Fund.
There were six stamps in the set with piglets, pierrot, four leaved clovers, horseshoes and in fact anything that might bring good luck for the coming year. This one features a young chimney sweep wearing the traditional costume, a wire brush over his shoulder and raising a glass to toast good health while carrying his four leaf clover. Touching a chimney sweeps button is believed to guarantee good fortune but the presence alone at New Year brings good luck.  They are thin on the ground nowadays so maybe it is a case of first find your chimney sweep.   Wishing you all  health, wealth and happiness in the New Year.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps New Year theme.