Sunday 30 November 2014

Island Birds

Guernsey and its smaller islands (the bailiwick) has about 80 breeding species of birds but its location in the Gulf of St Malo means that it has many visitors and upwards of 200 species are recorded in the Channel Islands every year.

7p Firecrest of which it was discovered when they did a count that Guernsey has more breeding pairs than those in England.  This pretty little bird is popular with Guernsey post because it has made another appearance on a more recent issue.
5p Gannet, having a squawk on the stamp but sitting peacefully on the FDC
11p Dartford Warbler - a bird of heathland which is shown perched on a gorse bush
13p Spotted Redshank

With such a diversity of habitats in a small area and perhaps the prospect of a paddle in a sea kayak to spot the puffins I imagine the Bailiwick is the perfect place for a birding holiday.  The Fat Birder says of the Channel Islands visitors

"The Channel Islands are a huge motorway cafe for migrating and over wintering birds. Falls of birds occur during the spring and autumn migrations and during hard winter weather huge movements of birds pass through when they are escaping frozen conditions on mainland Europe and Britain".

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

Sunday 23 November 2014

Sit on It

2009: Design Classics
I imagine we have all sat on one of these because it is estimated that over 14 million (and counting) of them have been made since its launch in 1963.  Designed by Robin Day this polypropylene stacking chair was one of the first chairs manufactured by injection moulding.
As the winter nights lengthen perhaps a little light is required.  George Carwardine was a car designer specialising in vehicle suspension systems when he designed and patented the anglepoise lamp in 1932.  He manufactured it himself until demand became so great that he arranged for it to be made by the Terry Spring Company, who still make a version of it today.  Originally designed for the working environment Carwardine adapted it for use in the home in 1935 and in 1937 the patent was bought by the Norwegian lighting designer Jacob Jacobson who continued to develop different versions throughout Scandinavia.
2014: Sit Comfortably!
I like the imaginative double images of these booklet stamps which highlight five modern Swedish furniture designs.  The stamps were designed by Hans Cogne, professor of graphic design and engraved by Martin Mörck and Piotr Naszarkowski.  Hans Cogne also designed the FDC and cancel.
Top row left : A chair called 'Hug' designed by Anna von Schewen who wanted to give the feeling of sitting in someone's arms and received the Excellence in Swedish Design Award in 2002.  The chair design (top middle) by Carl Malmsten (1888-1972) was inspired by a pair of old lathe Windsor style chairs during a visit to Finström Church on Åland and has become one of the most popular pieces of furniture in Sweden. The church itself has also been featured on an Åland stamp with a suitably snowy landscape.

  Yngve Ekström's (1913-1988) beautifully curved piece of furniture (top right) was voted 'Swedish Furniture of the Century' at the turn of the millennium.  A comfortable chair is what Gunilla Allard (1957-) was aiming for, her goal to make a small armchair as compact as the seat in her English sports car (bottom left). Lastly, bottom right, is an aluminium chair which was the first in production for Mats Theselius.
1992: Antique Cape Furniture

As a contrast here are some South African stamps on antique furniture from the Cape area used by the Dutch settlers. The 17th Century furniture in Cape Town workshops were made using imported wood and influenced by the styles in Holland and are known by the term Cape Dutch.  The country districts of the Cape such as Stellenbosch had Dutch style homes which were furnished with pieces made from local workshops and wood.
The styles continued to change through time but were still influence by European designs and trends.

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

Sunday 16 November 2014

Look to the Skies

The European Space Agency landing the Philae craft on a comet this week gave me the the idea to show a couple of Maximum Cards with the "Europe in Space" stamps from 1991.  Philae has now gone to sleep and will need sunlight to wake it up, they have rotated the solar panels and left it to fate.  The craft was named after Philae a rocky island in the middle of the Nile, famous for its temple which was moved when the water of the Aswan dam was going to submerge it. Here are some other rocky outcrops but these are the mountains of the Faroe Islands with one of my favourite weather events in the high hills, a temperature inversion, when you float above the clouds with feet firmly on the ground.  The stamp
shows a weather satellite and a weather map, appropriate for a place whose weather can change dramatically more than once in a day.  Possibly not the best place to journey to for next year's total solar eclipse in March but then you can't look directly at it anyway, so a nice layer of cloud cover might be just the thing. That is how I viewed my last solar eclipse in the UK, through cloud. Interested in what the weather is like on the Faroes today? Go here
Next is a card with a map of the Faroe Islands overlaid on the night sky.  I imagine they have beautifully dark skies to star gaze. The stamp cancel
has just that activity. The stamp features a Viking ship with a star map showing the North Star by which these fine navigators would steer their ships at night.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps "Anything You Wish" theme here

Sunday 9 November 2014

Berry Nice

2005: Cloudberries
If I hear the words Lingonberries or Cloudberries it conjurers up an image in my mind of Scandinavians sitting down together outdoors to eat the spoils of the wild, I suppose there would have to be roll mops on the menu and of course potatoes with dill, or perhaps I have watched too many Scandi dramas.  The stamps, or more accurately frama labels, were from a series on berries but I only have the cloudberry, a plant that grows in bogs and marshes and can tolerate extreme cold and despite its demand in Scandinavia is still primarily a wild plant.  The artist is Emilie Hage who also produced the theme that followed the berries, that of garden flowers.
2014: "Amongst Berries and Leaves"

     Staying in Scandinavia is a pretty set issued this year by Sweden which in fact only plopped through my door on Friday, oh happy day.  The artist, Jesús Verona (originally from Madrid but living in Stockholm) picked berries, flowers and leaves in gardens and forests and built a composite picture.  He has included some elements to surprise the viewer, a few porcelain mushrooms on a branch and small balloon berries plus a little balloon bird. The text is deliberately positioned at different angles so the user can rotate the stamp and place it anyway they like. I imagine the Swedish Mail Art fraternity will have fun with these.
Humans are not the only lovers of berries and they appear on some on the long running Birds definitive stamps of Belgium.  The nuthatch is from one of the first series of 1985, all illustrated by André Buzin.  They are so loved that there is even a special website dedicated to them - De Vogels van Buzin.
Fieldfare (from the 3rd series)
The fieldfare journeys from Scandinavia in search of warmer winter weather and the flocks start arriving in October, hawthorn hedges with berries are a particular favourite with them.
1995: Christmas Robins
The bird that always has a place in our hearts and stays all year long and who will brighten up any winter day is here portrayed by the wildlife artist Kenneth Lilly (1929-1996).  I am slightly amused by the fact that the only word of the cancel I can read is 'cheap', perhaps it should say cheep.  Ken Lilly specialised in portraying birds but he was a prolific illustrator and is famous for his contribution to the children's Look and Learn magazine which was published from 1962 to 1982 and  I remember mostly for its use of vivid colours.  Holly berries shine red amongst the glistening green leaves on a winters day when I wonder how it is possible that fragile birds survive the cold so don't forget to feed them,  for who knows an angel may come to your table.  
1985: Christmas Angels
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme - Fruits of the Forest, nuts and berries here

Sunday 2 November 2014


"The king was unable to wait
The earth trembled, the sun rose - 
and only the nine islands of the Azores
and the Seven Cities remained,
later divided in two, one green and the other blue"
 For the Europa 2010 theme of Children's Books Portugal and its autonomous regions decided to go way back in time to traditional tales, rimances and  legends..  Rimances is a word I've never heard of before but I learn that they are short epic poems. This miniature sheet contains part of one such rimance from the Azores called the Lake of the Seven Cities (Lagoa das Sete Cidades).

In present times the two lakes inside a massive extinct volcano crater is a must see tourist destination in the Azores but the story which the miniature sheet shows tells the tale of the two lakes, one green and one blue, whose colours were caused by a princess and shepherd weeping when their love was thwarted by the King and the lakes took on the colours of their eyes. (The full legend is here).  The Legend of the Seven Cities is similar story to the lost cities of Atlantis.  Perhaps these were the seven cities created by Portuguese seamen fleeing from the Moors who went west into the Atlantic and were never seen again.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps which this week is "anything you wish"