Tuesday 30 June 2015

Just Hangin'

Is this Lynx up here for a better view, looking for a snack or just chilling out?  
This little fellow is taking no chances.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Safe Harbour

A peaceful sunset at Bordeaux Harbour in Guernsey, one can almost hear the lapping of water against the bow. This is one of a series of coastal scenes featured on the island's definitive series 'Abstract Guernsey'.  It is only a short boat ride away to the smaller island of Alderney
here celebrating the founding of their harbour (the first of a series of stamps themed "Garrison Island").  There had been a harbour here since 1736 initiated by Henry Le Mesurier but it was not a very safe anchorage in storms so in the 19th Century an artificial harbour with  a 3000 ft breakwater was built.  The stamp on the right identifies a ship  "Ariadne at Anchor" and with a piece of luck (plus Google) I found the Priaulx Library on Guernsey had an article from the 19th century celebrating the fact that you could travel between Guernsey and London in three days, and mentioning the Ariadne, which it turns out was one of two steamers which ran from Southampton to Guernsey and Jersey. The Ariadne sailed on a Tuesday and the Beresford on a Friday but only from March to October and for a guinea and half the luxury of a main cabin could be obtained for the 12 to 15 hour journey.   For the tribulations of shipping, war with the French and privateers see the article here

Did you notice that railway line on the left stamp with crowds out on the hillside?  Today it would be Braye Harbour Station but back then the Victorians knew they needed a lot of rock to build the breakwater and also construct the forts along the coast to provide safe harbour.  How would they transport it from the quarry?   
Yes lets build a railway line!  This opened in 1847 to carry stone to the eastern end of the island on a 2 mile coastal route, which today is the only working railway on the Channel Islands (run by volunteers).
Queen Victoria landed in 1854 to see the progress of the forts and harbour accompanied by Prince Albert
both taking a tour of the islands.    

An entry to Sunday Stamps II on the theme of - Ports and Harbours - sail into more here

Tuesday 23 June 2015

The Sorting Office

War Illustrated, 19th December 1914
The caption reads  "The Postal Section is a thoroughly organised department of the British Field Force, and works with remarkable smoothness and promptness, so that the men in the fighting-line have little to complain about in the delivery of the letters sent to them by their friends or delay in their letters home".

There was no indication of what part of the western front this was but by coincidence I found the self same photograph on the British Postal Museum blog as one of their collection of lantern slide described thus  "A field post office established at the side of a road in France is typical of the makeshift facilities employed to run the service"  It looks as damp on the colourised version as it does in this black and white picture from the War Illustrated.  The colourised lantern slide is at -  'Mail to troops fighting the First World War'

See my post from 2010 for a little bit more about the postal services in World War One here

Sunday 21 June 2015

Loveable Characters

Bagpuss the  "saggy old cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams'" created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Fermin featured on one of the 'Classic Children's TV' stamps. The episodes always started with a sepia tinted introduction featuring Bagpuss's owner Emily who owned the 'lost and found' shop where she would display lost and broken things in the window, then say the magic words and Bagpuss and the other toys would wake up to mend the object.  Once mended Bagpuss would yawn and go back to sleep.  The mice were the main protagonists, working and singing songs to mend the objects and they are still busy on the first day cover. The other toys were the rag doll Madeleine, a banjo playing toad Gabriel and Professor Yaffle the woodpecker. Unbelievable only 13 episodes were made yet is it one of the most remembered characters of children's television.  Emily was played by Peter Fermin's daughter who famously received a bag of sweets as payment for her role in the films. The illustrations on the cover are by Peter Fermin and postmarked Canterbury which is the location of the barn that Postgate and Fermin's Smallfilms company brought Bagpuss to life.

On a topical note Royal Mail are currently rolling out a programme of attaching stamp plaques to mail boxes and a post box in Stour Street, Canterbury is featuring our stripy cat.  See the Twitter feed #yearofthestamp here.

 The other characters on the cover are, top left to right
  • Andy Pandy and Teddy (pity there was no room in that basket for Looby Lou) first broadcast in 1950 and repeated often.  It can no longer be broadcast because those original episodes are too damaged.
  • Michael Bond's marmalade loving Peruvian bear, Paddington
  • Bob the Builder "Can he fix it. Yes he Can!"
  • Dougal from The Magic Roundabout who started life in France, as creation of Serge Danot with the English animator Ivor Wood called 'Le Manège Enchanté featuring a dog called Pollux and his friends in a magic park. When the BBC bought the series they brought in Eric Thompson to narrate and he created entirely new stories to go with the animation.  
The bottom two stamps are Mr Benn (created by David McKee) shown just before he enters the fancy dress shop, changes into a costume and exits by the magic door for another adventure and lastly of course - Bagpuss.

The stamps issue date (2014) was the 40th Anniversary of Bagpuss and the 50th Anniversary of the Magic Roundabout.
Peter Fermin, Bagpuss and his postbox in Canterbury
 An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - 'Cartoons or Children's Drawing's - more to see here


Sunday 14 June 2015

Making Music

Time to party. Here we are at the wonderfully named 'I Never Went South' music festival in Ísafjörður, a small fishing town in Iceland.  The name is a wry reflection on the dwindling population of the settlement and is from a song which tells of people moving away. The festival is free and held in an engineering workshop cleared of its machinery and with an eclectic line up of musical styles, but the musicians only have a 20 minutes set so there is something for everyone.

The stamp is from the 2013 'Town Festivals' series celebrating the many small festivals held in Iceland (there must be lots to choose from because there was another set issued in 2014 which I do not have).  Here is the FDC whose postal cancel shows the location of all the venues on a map of Iceland. 

The festivals all  involve food and music which must be quite perfect in those long days of summer in the north.
  • Top left Gay Pride's six day festival first held in Reykjavik in 2000, concerts, events and a Pride Parade. 
  • Top right is 'The Great Fish Day' held in the tiny village of Dalvik in the north of Iceland when thousands of people turn up on the harbour in August and visit the local houses for free fish soup but not only the soup is free so are the rides, live music and folk dancing.
  • Bottom left - Smelter Music Festival, so called because it takes place in an old fish smelting plant (called in Icelandic a "Bræðsla") in Borgarfjörður Eystri on the south west of Iceland.
  • Bottom right - unlike the other festivals on the stamps this is not one is of recent origin but dates back to 1874 and the proud boast is that it has "never been cancelled due to weather or natural disasters";  a hardy lot these Icelanders.  Held at the beginning of August when the Monday is a national holiday this is a long weekender in the Westman Islands and is described as "the most epic outdoor festival in the country". It sounds a bit like Glastonbury (but hopefully without the mud), everyone stays in tents and sings along to the music on the stage, the huge bonfire shown on the stamp is lit on the Friday night. The festival site and history here
The stamps were designed by the illustrator Linda Olafsdottir and not only does she have some lovely art on her blog here she also might be a fun companion for a music festival.  On release of her stamps in May 2013 she enjoined the reader to "forget email and start writing letters". Something that mail lovers everywhere would agree.

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme of - Making Music - more music makers here

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Beach Life

Its summer so lets go to the beach.  Every space of this beach is filled with activity and the artist calls it "Resort 'Energetik'".  I keep smiling at all the little stories going on although I have never seen anyone frying eggs on a beach before, however if you are lucky enough to have a beach hut it is always a possibility. The artist is Angela Djerih who comes from Donetsk but the card came from Ukraine's neighbour Belarus and Natalya who says she lives in one of the beautiful cities of that country, Minsk.

The card came with
one of the 'Architectural Monuments' definitives.  This shows the Church Fortress in Muravanka. I'd never heard of church fortresses before but I learn that there are lot of them in middle and eastern Europe and as the name implies were built both as a church and also a retreat and defensive position for the local population.  As can be seen on the stamp they consist of defensive towers and curtain walls;  no wonder Belarus was called the 'Land of Castles' in the middle ages.

The Church Fortress in Muravanka has certainly had a turbulent history.  Described as Belarusian Gothic with renaissance elements it was built in 1524 and damaged in the Russian-Poland war (middle of the 17th Century) and reconstructed only to be shelled and ruined in 1706.  At the beginning of the 19th Century it was restored and reconstructed.  Described as one of the seven wonders of the Schuchin district I believe it is being restored once again in the hopes it will be given UNESCO recognition.  

Sunday 7 June 2015

Putting on the Style

2012: Great British Fashion
This was the set of stamps that immediately sprang to mind for this week's Sunday Stamps II theme, they are both a striking design and, more importantly for my short term memory, reasonably recent. They start out in 1945 with two designers that were famously linked with clothing the Queen, especially in the case of Hardy Amies (1909-2003) and his classic tailoring. Norman Hartnell also dressed the Queen Mother who I remember liked a flouncy style.
Fashion changed radically in the 1960s and designers chosen to represent this are John Pearce co-owner of Granny Takes a Trip who created this jacket from a Morris and Co furniture fabric and probably displayed it in his Chelsea boutique. In the middle is an outfit that is definitely 'swinging London' and created by Ozzie Clark with a print by his partner at the time the textile designer Celia Birtwell.  On the right is a suit made for Ringo Starr by Tommy Nutter who operated as Nutters of Saville Row.
Next we come to Jean Muir who is credited with breaking the barrier between couture and ready-to-wear and liked to call herself a dressmaker rather than a designer, and was described as making clothes that were "both radical and classic". On the right is a creation by Zandra Rhodes who combines being a textile and fashion designer.  The gold dress was borrowed from her personal collection for the fashion shoot but interestingly the 'fushia haired grand dame' has also put together a digital study collection of 500 couture dresses and drawings here
Lastly is the distinctive Vivienne Westwood who continually changes her inspiration and styles here represented by the 1993 Harlequin dress when she was being influenced by Scottish tartans.  In the middle is a name synonymous with the suit, Paul Smith.  The Victoria and Albert Museum exhibited a retrospective of Vivienne Westwood's work in 2004-5 and is currently showing a retrospective of the last designer featured in the set, the late Alexander McQueen entitled A Savage Beauty.

About the Stamps:
The Norwegian fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø was commissioned by the Graphic Design company Johnson Banks to photograph the chosen outfits which were obtained from both public and personal collections.  He used live models to give the sense of movement and "embody the ideal silhouette of the various fashion eras" and of course the models chosen would have to fit perfectly into the garments.   The stamps were issued in sheets that consisted of a vertical strip of each design which as you can imagine was very striking at the post office counter. 

Are you thinking Wot No Mary Quant?
Ah well she got her own stamp as part of the 2009 British Design Classics set photographed by Jason Tozer 

An entry to Violet Sky's Sunday Stamps II theme - 'Stylish Clothing' - more dressing up here

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Dreaming Towers

A wonderfully moody photograph of Prague's skyline.  Is the sun going down or coming up? In my imagination it is rising with the quiet of the early morning mist in the distance.  I've just noticed the clock tower on the left reads 6 O'Clock, does that give any clues? The card came with greetings from the "proverbial Heart of Europe" and "The City of a Hundred Towers" although Petr informs me there are in fact 109 of them in his beloved home town of Prague.  I imagine the photographer was on top of one of those 109 taking this photograph for many of them are open to take in the view of the city.   

There were also towers on the the stamps he used but from other parts of the Czech Republic in their ongoing stamp series "Beauties of Our Country" and they are both attractive compositions of the essence of a place. 
On the left is the 2010 stamp of Klatovy famous for its "baroque pharmacy, catacombs and the Renaissance Town Hall Black Tower". The stamp shows a representation of a corner of the square with the Black Tower on the left which was built in 1547 as a watch tower to help defend the town and also give early warning of fires. Today one can climb the tower for a panoramic view of the town and the nearby mountains. The other building is the snappily titled Church of the Virgin's Immaculate Conception and St Ignatius.  The carnation which completes the trio is the symbol of the city and was first introduced by Baron Volšansky who brought it from the French city of Nancy when he returned home from the Napoleonic Wars. Thus began the love affair with the flower which is celebrated every year with a festival in June/July with hundreds of different types and colours of carnations which must be a perfect match with the baroque architecture.  Stamp Designer: Jan Maget /Engraver: Bohumil Sneider

On the right is the 2009 stamp of the  Cistercian Monastry at Vyssi Brod founded in 1259.  The Cistercians always seemed to build their monasteries in the most delightful places and this one is on the banks of the Vitava River. Stamp Design: Jan Kavan / Engraver: Vaclav Fajt
2007: Flowers
The other stamp on the card was a pretty little cyclamen.  Stamp Designer: A Khunova /Engraver: Bohumil Sneider