Tuesday 24 December 2013

Christmas Elves

Time for the Christmas elves to have fun as they skate in the Finnish archipelago.  Inge Löök draws the dog's little legs working double time and I imagine it is barking with excitement.

Happy Christmas
or as these elves would say
 God Jul

Sunday 22 December 2013

Mythical Creatures

GB-2009: Mythical Creatures 
What better time for the fantastical in the dark days of midwinter when in past times story tellers gathered around fires and told their tales. Perhaps in those times unicorns hid in the forests and dragons waited in their lairs and lit the nigh sky breathing fire and giants walked the earth. 

Meanwhile smaller creatures were abroad on land, sea and air.

I only occasionally purchase presentation packs but this one was irresistible. Not only had Dave McKean (illustrator, photographer, comic book artist, graphic designer) designed the stamps, but also the fold out presentation pack had more of his pen and ink drawings inside, and topped off by the fact that his long time collaborator, the author and fantasy genius Neil Gaiman, had done little stories to go with the stamps.  The one about fairies is only a few lines so here it is:
"Its not that they're small, the fair folk, especially not the queen of them all.  Mab of the flashing eyes and slow smile with lips that can conjure your heart under the hills for a hundred years.
It's not that they're are small.  It's that we're so far away".

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Sheltering from the Rain

"Musician in the Rain",  Paris 1957 photographed by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) who said "The marvels of daily life are so exciting, no movie director could arrange the unexpected found in a street".  In this case the photo may have been posed because it is of his friend the actor and virtuoso cellist Maurice Baquet who he extensively photographed.  Not that it matters for it is beautifully whimsical. 

Postcard sent from Mathilde in the South East of France which I always associate with sunshine.  This photo reminds me of when I visited Paris one January and it rained in buckets.

Sunday 15 December 2013


Angels have been a popular theme over the years and these divine messengers made an appearance for GBs 33rd year of Christmas stamp sets and were issued in 1998.
I like how the rich colours used are different palettes on each stamp. The designer, Irene von Treskow, born in Berlin in 1940, is a freelance artist and also an Anglican Priest.  I wondered how that improbable life journey from Berlin to a Church of England vicar was made and discovered, by chance, that she was interviewed for the British Library National Sound Archive (which holds millions of recordings).  Formats vary from cylinders made in the late 19th Century to the latest digital media of today (and the multifarious systems to play them). A recording of Irene von Treskow was made in 2002 as part of the "Oral History of the British Post Office" and yes it takes six sixty minute tapes to tell her story including her stamp designs both adopted and unadopted.

Royal Mail pushed the boat out for the presentation pack which involved a bit of paper engineering and calligraphy as you could cut out and fold an angel with biblical quotes
which would eventually look like the one on the top.  One of the stamp angels also appeared on the Christmas aerogramme that year.  Aerogrammes are now a piece of postal history, discontinued by Royal Mail in 2004.
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme - more Christmas or holiday stamps

Sunday 8 December 2013

Christmas Cornucopia

To celebrate 40 years of postal independence the Isle of Man sent out this Christmas card with a selection of the stamps they have issued over those decades. They look quite wonderful seen as a whole (the message on the card is Manx for Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year).   Now what if you had to choose six stamps from all the Christmas stamps issued over the years?
Well that is what they did for this year's issue of Manx stamps of the past.
The stamps feature today's postage, at the time of the 1990 stamp of a girl posting a letter it was 14p as opposed to 40p (which is still a whole lot less than GB postage).  The original set featured children doing Christmassy things in the snow.  They have cropped the original design which also featured a boy whizzing past on a toboggan on the road below the girl.  The 40p is from the 1991 'Paper Sculptures' set.  The 73p set of 2005 featured stained glass windows from Manx churches.  The always popular robin is one of 1988's Manx Birds. The church featured on the 119p is St Catherine, Port Erin from the 1995 set which sounds delightful as it included hedgehogs, robins and churches.  Lastly we have one of the many Christmas Trees featured on the 2006 stamp set.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Christmas or holidays

Sunday 1 December 2013

The Happy Wanderer

2013: "Moomin Favourites"
Here is Snufkin doing a happy dance. Best friend of Moomintroll he stays in Moomin Valley in the Spring and Summer but in November heads south for warmer weather.  He is a free spirit who never asks the names of places when he travels because he just enjoys the journey.  I've kept the self-adhesive stamp on a piece with its cute Moomin airmail sticker. Another reason to be envious of Finland Posti is they produce stamp booklets with airmail stickers included.  Way to go Posti.
2013: 150 Years of the Swiss Alpine Club
For my large stamp I've chosen what I consider to be a perfect miniature sheet consisting of four stamps which bleed to the edge and are a complete picture. At first I thought the climber to the left (100) was the largest stamp but the group wandering through the Alpine meadow on the bottom (140) just pips it by a few millimetres 77.5 x 28 mm (3" x 1"). The miniature sheet was designed by Fredy Trümpi and he has provided details to the Mountain Stamp website of the mountain's names, the hut has been placed there by his imagination.

With 140,000 members the Swiss Alpine Club is one of the largest Swiss sports club, the motto chosen for its 150th anniversary is "More than a Mountain Sport". Formed 15 years after the birth of the modern Federal Swiss state one of the first things it did was to improve the topographical maps of the Alps to make them more accurate and readable.  They also place panorama maps and observation towers in many areas to inform and intrigue both the citizen, walker or climber.  They also actively try to protect the landscape. The 111 Alpine Club sections manage 152 mountain huts (which make the Alps more accessible) containing 9,200 beds.  In 2012 this counted up to 310,000 overnight stays.   Things have altered a lot from 1863 but not the love of mountains. The black and white 19th Century photographs in the corners of the stamps are from the Swiss Alpine Club museum in Bern.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - unusually shaped or oversize stamps.

Friday 29 November 2013


The art photographer Alicia Bock took a picture of this flowery bike in a Michigan summer in the 'Old Town'.  The original photograph shows the whole bicycle but for the postcard we get a cropped view.  Its nice to see someone produce postcards when so often artists go for the folding card here. Yes I've browsed her designs on Lagom Design's site but I think it will have to be a after Christmas purchase. The card came from Anne who at the time was enjoying a "golden October" in Germany.  It had 
a Tagetes definitive stamp and a wonderful Till Eulenspiegel stamp, which in 2011 commemorated 500 years since the stories were printed for the first time.  Till Eulenspiegel (meaning 'owl glass)' is a peasant trickster whose jokes and pranks are told in Flemish folk tales, often depending on a pun, when he tricks or drives people mad by taking their words literally .  The stories show the stupid but cunning peasant demonstrate his superiority to the narrow dishonesty of townsmen, clergy and the nobility. The stamp illustrates various objects from his pranks and was designed by the Berlin illustrator Henning Wagenbreth.  There were some fun first day of issue cancels.  For these and more stamps designed by Wagenbreth see here

Sunday 24 November 2013

Sing Out

To celebrate their Cultural Heritage Year 2013 Estonia issued this souvenir sheet. It was also the 10th Anniversary of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage who had proclaimed the Seto singing tradition as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

The Seto people have been described as living on the borders of two worlds, living mostly in SW Estonia but also over the border in the Pechong district of Russia.   Their polyphonic singing tradition called leelo is one of a lead singer delivering the verse followed by the choir.  Lyrics are learned from former performers but the skill of composition is the mark of an true lead singer.  The majority of choirs are composed of women and the most notable singer is crowned on Seto Kingdom Day as the "Mother of Songs".  Song infuses everyday life and covers major events in lifetime as well as little things like picking berries.  I don't know which choir is shown on the souvenir sheet but I like how the FDC shows a group of young girls continuing the tradition of leelo singing.
2012: Britons of Distinction
Here is someone who sang everything from folk songs to classical and was also accomplished pianist, the contralto Kathleen Ferrier whose death from cancer came at the height of her fame.   A stunning voice that is probably mostly heard nowadays, sixty years after her death, in the rendition of "Blow the Wind Southerly".
 Lastly we have "La Stupenda", the Great One, Joan Sutherland (Luciano Pavarotti called her "the voice of the century").  Making her concert début in Sydney in 1947 and at London's Convent Garden in 1952 she became an international star after performing in Donizetti's 'Lucia di Lammermoor' in 1959.  This demanding role remained in her repertoire for over thirty years and the stamp shows her as Lucia in that opera  from a 1980 photograph by Branco Gaica.  The cover shows her in a lighter role of Anna Glawari in The Merry Wives. Dame Joan gave her final performance in 1990 but after death in 2010 the Sydney Opera House
2010: Marking the Occasion
changed the name of its Opera Theatre (home of Opera Australia) to the Joan Sutherland Theatre 

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of  - Singers

Saturday 23 November 2013


When I received this card from Daire who lives in a small town by the sea I thought it was a coastal view of perhaps cockle pickers, how wrong could I be.  It is actually a view of the ancient Portuguese city of Coimbra which lives well inland, sitting on the Mondego River.  The National Library of Portugal describes the people in the painting as washerwomen and there certainly seem to be a lot of them.  I love the dash of colour of the basket in the foreground which curls like a shell . The painting is by James Holland (1799-1870) who is probably most famous for his watercolours.  He was born in Burslem, Staffordshire so it is no surprise that the Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent own quite a few of both his oil and watercolour paintings.  He also produced drawings for illustrated annuals, travelling throughout Europe, first visiting Portugal in 1837 but making more than one trip.  There seem to be quite a few interpretations of this view by him, one coming up for auction at Christies as recently as 2011.  This version however is one engraved by Edward Goodall (1794-1870) for the publication "The Tourist in Portugal".  (Goodall was the foremost metal engraver of his day and was used extensively by GMW Turner).

I seem to be receiving a lot of postcards recently that are sent from an entirely different country than the view they show and this one is not exception because it came from
Estonia with one of the post horn definitives and the 2013 Estonian Fauna stamp of a weasel in  the summer grass (in winter it coat will turn white).  Thank you Daire for including the sheet margin complete with little miniature weasel.    

Sunday 17 November 2013

In the Frama

For this week's Sunday Stamp theme of boring stamps I could have nominated the GB Queens definitive that we have had to endure for decades.  I would love something more interesting than a change of colour printing house or number, enough already.   I'll also add to that any country that has a royal portrait not doing anything and for people that don't rely on heredity I'll include Lenin stamps when he is just sitting.  But I'm not going to give space to any of those things here so I give you
the Frama label. Since the introduction of the adhesive postage stamp in the 19th Century thoughts turned to machines that could produce stamps rather than people behind a counter handing them over. It took a while but in 1984 a trial was undertaken in vending machines in five UK locations and they were quickly named Frama, after the Swiss owned manufacturer of the machines which dispensed them.  The trial only lasted a year and the experiment was ended in April 1985,  however they did become used in other European countries and Australasia as this cover shows
although the Australians have given it a bit of a tszuj, to use the fashion makeover expression (I had to look that spelling up I thought it may be something like zush, but you've gotta love a word that has both a z and a j in it).  In 1999 Sophie Byass of the Australia Post Graphic Design Studio gave this one geometric shapes and bright colours to make it festive and "inserted a fireworks display".  Nope its not working for me but an A star for effort and  I do like the cheery envelope by Ron Ryan/Coo-ee Picture Library which would look nice with a proper stamp on it.  

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - boring stamps

Sunday 10 November 2013

Steaming Ahead

I was spoilt for choice for this week's theme of ships as not only was last month's GB stamps issue on the Merchant Navy but I was surprised to discover I had more ship stamps than I thought. In the end I decided on a set of stamps from the Irish Sea.  In the early 19th Century sailing connections were mainly confined to the summer months and come wintertime were poor and unreliable. The expanding population of the Isle of Man demanded something more permanent and as a result the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company was formed and runs to this day.
Their first ship in 1830 with its spacious cabin accommodation  was Mona's Isle I (7p) and remained in service until 1851.  Next is the 8p stamp and Douglas I (built in 1858), which was then the fastest ship afloat and had the unusual distinction of serving on both sides of the American Civil War; under the name 'Margaret and Jessie' for the Confederates and then captured and sold to the Federal Navy where she became the USS Gettysburg.  The 11½p shows Mona's Queen II which was involved in dramatic action in World War I, as the stamp shows.  In February 1917 on passage from Le Havre to Southampton the crew spotted a U-Boat surfaced. In spite of a torpedo attack the captain decided to ram, and succeeded in smashing its hull with a paddle-wheel.  Mona's Queen returned to conventional duties after the war and served as the last paddle-steamer in the company's fleet until 1929.  The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is fond of certain ship names so a later Mona's Queen saw equally dramatic action in World War II.

This takes us to the bottom line of stamps and the 12p value King Orry III built in 1913 and the first with geared turbines driving twin screws. During the First World War she was used as an armed boarding vessel and was present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet.  Between wars she returned to the Company but resumed war duty in 1939 and was sunk at the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940.
13p stamp is the Ben-my-Chree IV (Manx for woman of my heart) a twin-screw turbine steamer. Launched in 1927 she served as troop transport during the Second World War and rescued 4,045 troops from the beaches at Dunkirk. On D Day she was part of the invasion fleet to Normandy. After the war she remained in service until 1965. 
Lastly the 15p value is the Lady of Man II which at the time of the FDC in 1980 was the latest ship to join the fleet.  Today their latest ship, bought in 2009, is a wave-piercing high-speed catamaran, the Manannan which looks suitably futuristic however I always have a soft spot for paddle steamers.

The stamps were designed by the Manx artist John Hobson Nicholson (1911-1988) who also designed Manx banknotes.. 

As I have mentioned twin screws twice in the descriptions above I thought this would be a great opportunity to show an unusual stamp I received from Slovenia.  Because it was stuck on the envelope on its side at first I thought it was a cork screw, wine being foremost in my mind,  but the right way up 

it celebrates the patenting of the screw propeller by Josef Ressel Twin screws have two propellers, one on either side of the keel, that usually revolve in opposite directions.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme - Ships

Wednesday 6 November 2013

White Out

One of the postcards from the set showing Vogue's 100 Iconic Covers.  The imagine is by the fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier and show the supermodels of the 1990s who look as though they are about to decorate a room. Helpfully I found a list of the full details of the cover
US Vogue April 1992 : 100th Anniversary Cover by Patrick Demarchelier
Styled by Grace Coddington
Models Clockwise From Top: Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford,
Karen Mulder, Elaine Irwin, Niki Taylor, Yasmeen Ghauri, Claudia Schiffer,
Naomi Campbell & center, Tatjana Patitz
Shirts & Jeans by The Gap
Hair by Oribe
Makeup by Mary Greenwell
Photographed by Patrick Demarchelier
The card came with
 one of this year's 'forever' stamps from the USA, a composite view of the earth from NASA photographs by the Italian artist Leonello Calvetti.  My senders Olga and Pavel biggest passion is travelling so this must be the ideal stamp for them to check off the places they have visited and dream about those to come. 

Sunday 3 November 2013

On Ice

1972: Sir Ernest Shackleton 50th Death Anniversary
The last expedition of what  is termed the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration was Shackleton's 'Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition' which set sail from Buenos Aires in August 1914. It was an attempt to make the first land crossing of Antarctica but it turned out to be an epic test of grit and pluck.  It is appropriate that the ship that sailed them all to the Weddell Sea was called 'Endurance' and here the stamp shows it beset in the ice (which they encountered much earlier and harsher than was anticipated).   Stuck fast in  ice they were moving in  northerly direction and by the 24 February realised that they would be held in the ice over winter. As the sun set in May for dark days of mid winter they continued to drift north. Still optimistic that eventually come summer they would drift free however when August came Shackleton described what happened as,  the "worse squeeze". On 27th October they abandoned ship and set up camp on the ice flow.
Designated Ocean Camp, and shown here as photographed by the Australian photographer Frank Hurley (1885-1962), I especially like the man on the high lookout. Lancaster Maritime Museum had a temporary exhibition of Hurley's wonderful photographs from the Royal Geographical Society Picture Library a couple of years ago and they produced a few postcards for the occasion of which I show two. The next is one of the two attempts to march to land, loading supplies into the lifeboats which made them weight a ton each.
This proved a futile attempt but the lifeboat shown here, the James Caird, would prove a lifesaver. On 30th October Shackleton decided to try to make for Paulet Island which he knew had a food deposit on it, they then set up camp on a solid ice flow, they called this Patience Camp. 
 "It is beyond conception, even to us, that we are dwelling on a colossal ice raft, with but five feet of water separating us from 2,000 fathoms of ocean and drifting along under the caprices of wind and tides, to heaven knows where." Diary of Frank Hurley.  
By the summer (21st December) the food shortage became acute and in February 1916 the dogs that had survived were shotThe ice flow began to split on 8th April forcing departure and the 28 men piled into the three lifeboats and set off for the 100 mile journey to the remote and uninhabited Elephant Island
On reaching the island the decision was made to adapt the largest boat James Caird (22½t ft)  for a 800 mile journey to try to get help from the whaling station on South Georgia.   Shackleton chose five of the toughest and and best sailors for his journey, Worsley (the Endurance captain and for this journey the navigator), Crean, McNish (the carpenter who adapted the boat), McCarthy, and Vincent.
The journey encountered gales, ice and the highest wave that Shackleton had ever seen in his time at sea. On 8th May 1916 with a miracle of navigation and seamanship the James Caird landed on the uninhabited west shore of South Georgia. Pausing to recover from the journey suffering from frostbite and ever deteriorating health on May 19th Shackleton, Worsley and Crean set out on foot for the whaling stations, a journey of 22 miles over unmapped mountains.
"The final stage of the journey had still to be attempted.... Over on Elephant Island 22 men were waiting for the relief that we alone could secure for them. Their plight was worse than ours. We must push on somehow."- Sir Ernest Shackleton, South
 Marching for 36 hours they arrived at Stomness station, unrecognisable to the station manager who had met them two years earlier. On reuniting with the men on the other side of the island Shackleton made plans to rescue those left behind on Elephant Island which grew ever more frantic as they were thwarted by ice and weather. Eventually with his fourth attempt in the tug, Yelcho (loaned by the Chilean government) on 30th August 1916  the castaways ran onto the beach, Shackleton, straining through binoculars, counted anxiously. "They are all there!" Worsley reported him crying.
The last stamp of the set shows the schooner rigged steamship Quest in in South Georgia aboard which Shackled died of a heart attack on 5 January 1922. He now lies buried in the Grytviken cemetery on South Georgia,  In 2011 after the ashes of Frank Wild (second in command and  in charge on Elephant Island), were discovered in a vault in Johannesburg they were interred by Shackleton's side with the inscription "Frank Wild 1873–1939, Shackleton's right-hand man".  The occasion was also commemorated by a South Georgia stamp set but unfortunately one I don't have.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps  theme of - Arctic or Antarctic

Thursday 31 October 2013


Instantly recognisable is the map of Greece and her islands. I enjoyed picking out all the places I have been to and remembering the marvellous time spent there. On looking at the map I realised that I have never visited the east coast of the mainland. Then again, although I've been to some amazing classical sites, I  have not been to the famous ones shown down the left side of the card - Knossos in Crete, the Thasos at Delphi and the Parthenon.  You've got to leave something for the next visit!  The card did not come from Greece but from Kathrin in
Germany so instead of floating on the iridescent Aegean sea with the islands drifting past in the distance here is the 2004 stamp of SS Bremen with the Manhattan skyline in the background. With its high speed engines and streamline profile this ship was the holder of the Blue Ribbon for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic in both directions. The card also came with one of the pretty German flower definitives

As previously mentioned I've never been to Crete but I do have a card of Knossos which I picked up at a charity shop
which shows a more expanded version of the Watch-room of the Palace than the map card and came with a stamp
from the 1970 'Labours of Hercules' series and features the Centaur Nessus (from a vase illustration).

Tuesday 22 October 2013

A Windy Day

In one of the coincidences of life this card arrived on an especially windy day, but not a day that would freeze water, although as I write this the umbrella might come in handy for the downpour of rain outside.   My sender, Lisa, sent the card from "a grey and windy Helsinki" so maybe we experienced the same wind.  Nothing stops Inge Löök's aunties from enjoying themselves and I like to imagine them skating out into the Gulf of Finland and round the islands, whoosh.

The card came with one of this year's
postcrossing stamps.  There are four in total and this message on this one says it all. 

Sunday 20 October 2013

Uruguay Postal Services

To celebrate the 185th anniversary of the Uruguay National Post Office in 2012 this souvenir sheet, designed by Daniel Pereyra, was issued on the very day it started all those years ago (21st December 1827).  I love how it could resemble a writing desks shelves or even perhaps letter  pigeon holes. Let me take you on a journey through the sheet, the stamp itself of course is in the upper middle and the artist has used the 185 as a letter holder and an outline of Uruguay and below is what it is all about, post being delivered.

To the left of the stamp are PO boxes and parcel post being transported, to the right of the stamp someone is collecting their old age pension from the post office and a blue post office van setting out on its journey below.

The lower half of the sheet features a globe with South America centre stage and Uruguay marked,  below that are all the accoutrements needed for philately.  But look at the man posting a letter, here is a little bit of Britain in Uruguay, a Penfold hexagonal Postbox. Designed by the architect John Penfold in the 1860s and (depending on which source read),  it was either exported after the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition or the result of an direct export order in 1869.  Whichever it was it was an instant success and today there are still six extant in Uruguay, one of which is in Montevideo, but differing from UK ones in that they are  painted blue and black. 

Lastly on the bottom right is something that spans the eras, that is a hand holding a pen to make a signature as it would have done in 1827 and facing it a hand holding a key which signifies cryptography and the use of digital signatures using special hardware and software, very much the 21st century.   There is a more in depth look at this sheet with lots more Uruguayan knowledge than me on DJBM's Philatelic blog

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps