Sunday 31 March 2013

Easter and its Symbols

2013: Easter Rooster (designer Katja Saario)
The Finnish Easter Rooster (påsktuppen) is celebrating the season by decorating himself with pussy willow and daffodils. With his feet he  plays with the golden chocolate egg, laid by himself.  Almost as strange as the Easter bunny carrying a basket of chocolate eggs, but I didn't have a stamp of that so

2006: Animal Tales
 perhaps a white rabbit with a watch would suffice.  Three symbols of Easter, the  renewal of the earth and the coming of Spring.  For some it may mean a visit to church
"Sunday in Church" 1994: International Year of the Family
or perhaps as George Bernard Shaw wrote "The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there"
1988: British Gardens
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme - Christian and Easter Symbols and flowers.

Saturday 23 March 2013

In the Pink

Its cherry blossom time even for postage stamps as this Japanese definitive shows its time to go cherry blossom watching and perhaps you might see
a trio of Manchurian (red crowned) cranes fly leisurely overhead, symbols of luck, longevity and fidelity.  They nest in wetlands and rivers and in wintertime on the coastal and freshwater marshes of Japan, China and the Korean peninsula.  The Chinese and Japanese have many legends about them including that they live 1,000 years.  Its a pity they don't for they are a threatened species due to habitat loss.
Gabon stamp of 1933 overprinted French Equatorial Africa 1936
Moving to a different continent here is the River Ogowe, the principal river of Gabon with a length of 750 miles, only a third of which is navigable and this part is used to ship goods, including lumber as log rafts down to coastal towns.   Aren't there a lot of different shades of pink;  although the catalogue describes this one as rose.  I have no roses to show but do have some
1980: Lotus Paintings by Yu Zhizhen
lotus whose colours have symbolic meanings in Hinduism and Buddhism, the pink lotus is considered the supreme lotus but how could I break up this set which show on the top row - the White lotus and the Rose-tipped snow lotus; bottom row - Buddha's Seat and Variable Charming Face
The miniature sheet of the set  is called "New Lotus on Rippling Water".  The lotus slowly rises in a pond over three days and then blooms on the surface. All the stamps feature the paintings of Yu Zhizhen (1915-95), she specialised in painting birds, flowers and insects.

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

Sunday 17 March 2013


The theme today in celebration of St Patrick's Day is Irish or green stamps, so with the first stamp of this set I've managed to combine the two themes. It looks as though our postman has a long road to ride. This set was issued in 1983 for the UN World Communication Year,  its theme the development of communication infrastructure but also communication between people.  I imagine the satellite dish portrayed was cutting edge in 1983.  The following year the Irish postal system was reorganised as a state owned limited company and  twenty five years later An Post celebrated its Silver Jubilee with ten stamps in a self adhesive booklets
unfortunately I only have one but maybe that long and winding road would seem shorter barrelling along in a green van.  I don't have many Irish stamps so I'll end with a postcard which fits the theme.
Valentia Island, one of the most westerly parts of Ireland was the point of the first commercially viable transatlantic telegraph cable which ran from Foilhommerun Bay to the wonderfully named Heart's Content in Newfoundland 1866.  The first transatlantic cable of 1858 had failed but it did carry the first official message across the Atlantic from Queen Victoria to the US President James Buchanan. 

So on this St Patrick's Day - Sláinte chugat (Good health to you).

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of Irish or Green stamps

Saturday 16 March 2013

Table Sitting

"Men smoking and drinking c1900", Harris Museum, Preston
 A smaller round table than the Sepia Saturday Postsdam Conference picture prompt but one of bonhomie and a lot less pressure at they drink what looks like mild bitter.  At first I thought this quartet may be drinking in a residential back garden but then read that it was common for a set of  the long churchwarden pipes to be kept drinking establishments and used by their customers.The photo is dated at circa 1900, the year that George Eastman made the $1 Brownie camera, cheap and easy to use, anyone could take photographs.  My grandmother had one of these and used to develop her own prints but unfortunately very few of her photos survive.  The quartet of our photo look to be of varying ages, you can tell the one in the best chair is not to be argued with.
Object A631342 Science Museum, London
 A tobacconist sign showing an officer smoking a churchwarden pipe 1801-1880, in an age of unnumbered houses distinct shop signs were used for easy location. The pipes were sometimes called Hussar pipes so the sign of a smoking soldier, almost gets me back on theme  
to that round table of the great and the good.  The three powers of  the UK, USA and USSR holding  the meeting at  Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Price Wilhelm Hohenzollen, the last crown price of Prussia.  Our smoking and drinking quartet would probably become more familiar with another conference and one that would create more problems than it would solve

perhaps they should have had a round table at the Treaty of Versailles, June 28, 1919.  The big three of this conference were David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson and Georges Clemenceau and I think the latter who had an exuberant moustache is the person leaning forward on the right had side of the table. This must be one of the sub-meetings at Versailles as it does not look like the famous photograph in the Hall of Mirrors. The caption on this photograph published in a book of 1935 says "With this official ending to the Great War, the world settled down to repair the damage that had been done, hoping that nations were weary of strife and would live amicably. But within a few months Europe was again the scene of international squabbles and intrigue". This caption reminded me of the famous and prescient Marshal Foch quote "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years".

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Japanese Girls

Kimonos don't have pockets but in ancient Japan the solution was the Netsuke, an ornately carved containers that hung from the kimono with a cord. In modern Japan it looks as though the mobile phone may have taken its place. Traditions ancient and new in one photo.

The kimono is traditionally made from a single bolt of fabric and sewn by hand. I listened to a programme last year about  how the art of making the fabric is in danger of dying out with the craftspeople reaching great ages and the kimono industry shrinking in size. 

The card came with
one of the flower definitives complete with Asiatic Honey Bee, its honeycomb as we know loved by bears. The little bear is Poskuma, the postal worker bear who loves flowers and eats honey toast for breakfast . Oh boy that bear is going to get chubby with Japanese Honey Toast which sounds like heaven (recipe here) and enough calories to keep you going for a week.  The stamps is from a set of 2012 Autumn Greetings stamps, the Teddy Bear was created by Machida Setsuko, the designer Nakamura Hitomi, love the bow peeking up at the top. I discovered that Japan Post has a whole raft of their newly created Poskuma collectables, perhaps to attach to ones mobile phone.

Thank you Noriko

Sunday 10 March 2013


Welcome to the world of abstract designs.   The Japanese produced many stamps for the 1970 World Fair in Osaka, some were issued to fund the construction of the central gates, I have conflicting information as to whether this was one of them.  The theme of the fair was "Progress and Harmony for Mankind" and was suitably futuristic, however the most popular exhibit was out of this world - a piece of moon rock brought back by Apollo 12 in 1969
I imagine it is difficult to produce a stamp for abstract concepts like the 50th Anniversary of the Flemish Economic Federation but you could make all sorts of connections and interpretations with this design.  For another spiky designs I turn to
the Australian artist Robert Jacks who started his 'Wedge' paintings of abstract geometric shapes in 1982.  This one, "Cord Long Drawn, Expectant" was painted in 1985, Australian Post say "the diagonal shards of textured colour create an illusion of three-dimensionality and competing forces".  The stamp is one of a set of four which features paintings since European settlement from the country's public art collections. The Maximum Card shows its home, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney where you can look from its windows over the famous harbour. The  Art Deco building was originally built for the Maritime Services Board but opened as a museum in 1991, it has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment.
2002: Birth Centenary of Ernst Wilhelm Nay
Lets experience the vivid colours of the German abstract artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902-1968) who was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate and whose works were displayed in the infamous "Degenerate Art Exhibition" in 1937.  He was then  forbidden to paint and denied materials. Conscripted into the German Army in 1940 as a cartographer his unit went to France where a French sculptor placed his studio at his disposal and he painted in secret. After the war his studio destroyed by bombing in Berlin, Nay resumed work to become one of Germany's most influential artist. Nay's exuberant colours are both the means and purpose for his continual development. The painting used on the stamp is 'Gelbfeder in Rot (Yellow Feather in Red)' and can be seen at Museum Ludwig, Köln.

Lastly as it is Mothering Sunday today of course one has to say it with flowers
1971: Postage Due
I must say that these postage due stamps are much better than having a postcard through your door and asked to collect the item from the main post office, charge £1 and not even a stamp in exchange.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme - Abstract Designs

Friday 8 March 2013

Piering Back in Time

This week's Sepia Saturday's prompt is a steamer on the water in the southern hemisphere and a photo with writing on it
"Going for a Sail, Morecambe"
 so I take you sailing in the northern hemisphere.  From the flags on Central Pier, the well wrapped spectators and the run of the tide I would guess you could get up a good few knots up skimming across Morecambe Bay on the day of the photograph.

As you see I liked this view so much I bought it twice however this looks like a beautiful summer's day, warm enough to encourage paddling. The Central Pier was opened in 1869 and enlarged in the 1870s which made it  ideal for steamers to call in (this part of the coast was a popular with people sailing on pleasure steamers calling in at various destinations).  The pavilion shown was added in 1897/8 and its ornate nature gained it the nickname "the Taj Mahal of the North", it would be destroyed by fire on 31st July 1933 and even that was quite a draw - the crowds came to watch its demise. A new 2000 seat pavilion was built, a café and an open air roller skating park. All those things that seaside resorts were popular for, ballroom dancing, music, classical concerts and comedy were offered here at the new pavilion . The pier was closed in 1986 after decking collapsed at the seaward end and a fire in 1987 damaged the shore end.  The owner was told to upgrade in 1989 but the council condemned and demolished it in 1992.  All this would be long in the future when the card was sent
 on 27th July 1908 saying "The weather is lovely send Annie and Fred by the next train".  The weather that July was especially warm so I imagine that Annie and Fred would enjoy receiving the message. The addressee Mrs Hilton's husband Samuel's  job is registered as 'Herald Varnisher', I have no idea what that is but is sounds a niche occupation. The Annie mentioned in the postcard would become a cotton weaver and marry in 1921.

[Update thanks to  Scriptor Senex's information in the comments.  The job is not varnishing a passing herald as he carries his message but a Heald Varnisher an occupation of the textile mills.  It is part of a weaving loom, after knitting the healds were varnished and put in a special oven.  See here ]

I have a soft spot for Morecambe because I spent some happy times at the seaside there as a child and I too arrived by train.  I don't remember the piers, either this central one or the West End Pier which was washed away after a storm in 1978 but a vividly remember the donkeys and riding them up and down the beach.  There is one water structure that survives which probably enforces that biblical admonition to build upon rock
The Stone Jetty with the paddle steamer TSS Minden departing for Blackpool in the mid 1930s.  The Minden was operated for five seasons starting in 1933 by the newly formed Blackpool Pleasure Steamers,  in 1938 she was sold for breaking up in Preston, the golden era of pleasure steamers on the Lancashire coast was at an end.

The Stone Jetty is the remains of the original harbour that was built around 1853 the reason for the original goods railway line being built which later that century would eventually bring the pleasure seekers..  I think boating pools are quite rare today although I did spend a happy time licking my ice cream and watching small yachts being sailed on one in Suffolk last year.  Today the Stone Jetty is still popular, there is a café by the lighthouse and of course it is THE place to lean against the railings at the end and gaze at the Lakeland hills across the water. Instead of the boating pool and an anchor there are a series of artist inspired pavement games, a inset compass and stone cormorants sitting on the railings.    

Sunday 3 March 2013

Legends of Island Names

Lets go to the Pacific islands of the Gilbert and Ellice as they were in at the time of this stamp issue in 1973.  Three years later they would be divided into two independent nations, the island of Funafuti would become the capital of Tuvalu.  Its Polynesian name as can be seen is "land of bananas" although a visiting American soldier during World War 2 thought there were more bananas in his fridge, although what he was doing keeping bananas in a fridge I don't know.  Funafuti consists of 30 islands or 'motu' surrounding a lagoon.  Legend has it that the people originated from Samoa, arriving by canoe 
The rest of the islands on the stamps are the Gilbert Islands which became Kiribati.  One atoll,  Butaritari has an abundance of rain and is a lush tropical island which exports bananas and pumpkins from its harbour opening into a deep lagoon.
Tarawa is the capital of Kiribati and almost 50% of the population live there, it is also one of the few atolls that can accommodate a runway and scheduled airline service, most island are only reachable by a small ship.  I would guess the stamp portrays a creation myth
Lastly a remote island on a blue lagoon with pristine beaches, for a brief time the home of Robert Louis Stevenson and which he wrote about in his posthumously published book "In the South Seas"

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps - this week is the free and easy "anything you like"