Friday, 10 February 2012

All Around the World

My dad was a big fan of the American "crooner" Bing Crosby. I can remember my childhood sunday mornings being filled with the resonance of his warbling, forced through the speakers of our "Dansette" record player. An element of "Bing" trivia that is etched in my memory is that his song Around the World was top of the charts on the day that I was born. So what has this got to do with stamp collecting, you ask. Well.. it links to a cover that I received a few days ago as a result of my ventures into the Postcrossing Forum.

Round the World Cover UK > Canada > Hong Kong > UK

There is a thread on the forum that links together three members from different countries into a group. Each member sends a cover to another member of the group who then applies stamps over the address, readdresses the cover to the next member and posts it on. The same process is applied by the next member and it is returned to the original sender. This makes for an interesting cover with stamps from three different countries. If the members are strategically placed, the cover effectively travels a complete circumnavigation of the globe, or ...Around the World!

Another recent addition to my postcard collection is a super reproduction of a patriotic poster from 1920's Poland. I think that this period of art history is particularly exciting. Many European countries, inspired from their liberation from the chains of imperialism, needed to demonstrate their new identity using the contemporary styles of art nouveau and art deco. It has given birth to some of my favourite stamp designs emanating from the studio's of artists such as the Czech, Alfons Mucha, and the enigmatic Ivan Vavpotic in Yugoslavia. All contain huge amounts of nationalist and patriotic symbolism together with images and details of landscapes and landmarks. Very powerful designs, but still presenting a degree of homage to the cultural dominance of their former Austrian masters. Sadly the crude and limited printing processes, often resulting from wartime damage and destruction, do little to enhance the superb quality of these designs.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

High with her head!

Contrary to the information given, I was able to get a set of the "House of Windsor" stamps by asking a work colleague to buy some when they visited another post office. However feelings were still running high so I made a visit to the Royal Mail Opinion Forum, an online feedback facility operated by the Royal Mail, to offer my thoughts on improving the quality of service. Whilst there I checked out a few other threads and came across a comment that suggested that to use the Machin definitive stamps upside down was an insult to the Queen and therefore an act of treason. Although we have abolished the death penalty in the UK, High Treason is still a just cause for the abolition to be revoked. I felt an urgent need to explore this, just in case I become distracted when franking letters and inadvertantly sign my own death warrant! Fact or myth?

I have a couple of postcards in my collection which portray "The Language of Stamps". This is a proposal that the placement of stamps on a postal item can be used to convey amorous messages to the recipient. These cards portray a stamp image which clearly shows the monarch upturned on their head with a caption "I am not free" - not, "off with your head". I did a few google searches to find out more and discovered ( on a football supporters site) the comment "...placing a postage stamp that bears a picture of the monarch upside down indicates treason and carries a life sentence..."  So, at least the death sentence has been commuted. I must get legal advice. 

Today we have our first really heavy snowfall of the season. As I write this blog, the snow has stopped falling but there are a several inches of fluffy white stuff on the ground. Some airports have been closed and cars have been abandoned at the side of the road - the traditional British response to snowy weather.  Last year when we had persistent heavy snow, I went three days without a delivery of mail - fingers crossed that the temperature rises tomorrow. By some strange (if not "spooky") coincidence, as the snow began to fall this morning, I received a beautiful postcard from Japan depicting a woman walking in the snow. It is titled "Kunisada: Evening Snow" from the series of eight scenes of Edo. Having had to make a short trip to the shops in the snow, I can appreciate and sympathise with the woman in the illustration.

Another little project I started a short while ago, obtaining postmarks from non UK countries, has met with more success. I have now received a cover from the USA with a pictorial postmark commemorating a pioneering airmail flight. I had sent a self addressed cover to the postmaster at Wilmington N.C. requesting the illustrated handstamp. Not only did the postmaster oblige, and apply a clear merk, but the envelope was sent under seperate protective cover provided and paid for by the Wilmington Philatelic Society. Three cheers for them!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Ups...and Downs... of Stamp Collecting

Despite the wide ranging publicity from the Royal Mail for the forthcoming stamp issues, their colleagues in the Post Office fail to rise to the occasion with what is now becoming their regular response of apathy and ignorance. Today's experience at Dudley Post Office was to be told that the set of six "House of Windsor" stamps was only available by purchasing a presentation pack with a 50p premium on the face value. When challenged I am told that "they" had not delivered any sheets of stamps! I suspect they were still in the storeroom and couldn't be bothered to take them out for the last hour of "service". The counter clerk would have happily sold me as many copies of the Diamond jubilee sheet - not issued until next week - until his manager intervened. I was just seconds away from a pre release cover!!! Another letter of complaint is on its way to the customer care team. I only hope they read the contents of this one before sending out the standard letter of apology (with no promise of action).

Better news on the postmark front. This week's bulletin lists a forthcoming Dudley pictorial postmark for the Briton's of Distinction issue - the first Dudley postmark for a couple of years. It will be associated with the Thomas Newcomen stamp. There is a working replica of a Newcomen steam engine at the local Black Country Living Museum. These engines were used to pump water from the mines during the eighteenth and nineteenth century and were once a familiar part of the landscape. If this sort of thing "floats your boat" then you might want to have a look at the BCLM website:  It will mean a trip down to the museum shop in the the next week to buy up any postcards they have of the engine. I think it will make anice maximum card.

The Newcomen Engine at BCLM & Dudley postmark

My GB postal stationery collection is about to experience a severe examination and assessment, at the hands of by my recent 99p bargain acquisition from eBay entitled "Postal Stationery of Great Britain" by T. Brightmore. It is a 74 page listing of all stationery envelopes, cards, aerogrammes, letter cards, and letter sheets. My initial enthusiasm will no doubt suffer deflation when I come to realise how little I have in relation to what has been produced!