Saturday, 31 December 2011

By the Seaside

 Deirdre says this is the average Dutch beach and seaside.  I always imagine dunes when thinking of the Dutch coast but this looks the perfect place to build a sandcastle and splash through the water.  "From the most northern tip of Noord-Holland to the most southern stretch of beach in Zuid-Holland there are excellent cycling and walking paths" so this card came with the perfect mode of transport to take advantage of these paths:- 

Monday, 26 December 2011

Winter Tree

My sender, Edit, sent me this beautiful snowy tree in the diffused light of winter.  The magic of the season. She tells me it has not been snowing in Hungary.  We have only had a smattering here, the weather has been warm so the birds such as the one in the photo will be glad of soft ground and clear water.   

The card came with two of the Hungarian Antique Furniture definitives which they started to issue in 2001 and keep adding to
 Ornate Chair by Ignác Alpár 1896
Ornate couch by Vogel Sebestyen 1810. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Carol

Good King Wenceslas  looked out/ On the feast of Stephen/When the snow lay round about/ Deep and crisp and even/ Brightly shone the moon that night/Though the frost was cruel/ When a poor man came in sight gathering winter fuel
 "Hither, page, and stand by me/ If thou know'st it, telling/Yonder peasant, who is he?/Where and what his dwelling?"/ "Sire, he lives a good league hence/ Underneath the mountain/ Right against the forest fence/By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather
"Sire, the night is darker now/ And the wind blows stronger/ Fails my heart, I know not how,/I can go no longer."/ "Mark my footsteps, my good page/ Tread thou in them boldly/ Thou shalt find the winter's rage/ Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod/ Where the snow lay dinted/ Heat was in the very sod/ Which the Saint had printed/ Therefore, Christian men, be sure/ Wealth or rank possessing/ Ye who now will bless the poor/ Shall yourselves find blessing
Stamps designed by David Gentleman issued in 1973.  

Sing along with Nelson Eddy while the scenes of Prague and Wenceslas Square, the mausoleum at St Vitus Cathedral etc drift past. May you all have a blessed Christmas

 An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps

Friday, 23 December 2011

Wooden Church, Russia

My sender, Yulia, tells me this 17th Century wooden church stands in the Kargopol open-air museum.  When I looked this up I discovered that this museum (founded in 1919) was based on the private collection of Kapiton Kolpakov, someone the site described as a "local petty bourgeois", (as an old lefty I smiled at that description). Today the museum consists of 17 historic monuments from the 16th to 19th Century it also has large collections of icons, books, folk dress and art.   There are also music festivals and it is a centre for Russian chime art which here happens around a winter festival called "Crystal Ringings" based around the Christian celebration of Epiphany (6 January).  I'm not sure if chime art is the decoration or ringing of the bells or perhaps it is a combination of both.  I wonder if they ring them in this church's bell tower at any time.   The beautiful church is shown reflected in what I presume is the Onega River surrounded by the lush green of summer but must also look stunning in the snow of winter. Yulia gives the name of the church as Pokrovo Vlasyevsky  but on English language sites it is usually referred to as the Church of St John Chrysostom, the name means golden mouthed for he was reputed to be an eloquent speaker. 

The town of Kargopol near where this church is located is considered one of the treasures of the Russian north and has some remarkable architecture.  It stood on a strategic trading route along the Onega River to the White Sea so was prosperous from the 16th to 19th Century, until the coming of the railway bypassed it. Unfortunately in the Soviet era some historic church buildings were destroyed but much remains in what is now a quiet town in the north.

The card came with appropriately
a stamp from this years "Headdresses of the Russian North" and this one is from the Archangelsk province, the very location of the wooden church. This would have been worn at the end of the 19th Century.  The other stamp depicts something older a closed sleigh from Moscow in 1732 (from the 2002 Old Carriages issue).  How I would love to ride enclosed in this beautiful object through a snowy Russia, it looks so wonderfully romantic.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Ladies who Lunch

 I don't know what the Aunties are having to eat but they are doing the thing you can only do with friends, taste what is on the other persons plate (which somehow always seems more interesting than your own).

Eeva tells me this is the latest Inge Löök card, oh happy days. Thank you Eeva

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A Merry Yule

I changed what I was going to post for Sunday Stamps this week when I received a wonderful Christmas parcel of stamps and cards from my postcrossing friend Eeva which included these two contrasting Åland Islands stamps.  I'll start with the 2010 Inge Löök one on the right. "Christmas with the Merry Aunties".  Our merry old ladies have sawn down a Christmas tree to carry home and are dressed in Lucia gowns. Now when I looked up what Lucia gowns were it brought a whole lot of more humour to the stamp. They are usually worn by young girls (that is not going to stop the aunties) with a row of electric lights in there hair, a procession takes place on the saints day of 13th December.   Lucia is the bearer of light in the dark mid winter.  The Nordic Lucia tradition started in the 18th Century in Sweden and then spread to the Åland Islands and other Swedish speaking regions in Finland in the 1900s, now I believe most of the Nordic countries celebrate.  For the full legend, celebration and pictures see here  But lets talk of food "The Lucia celebrations also include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter) shaped like curled-up cats and with raisin eyes. You eat them with glögg or coffee".  Mmm.

This year's Åland stamp on the left is called "A Flower for Christmas" a picture of a hyacinth by the photographer Helene Schmitz who is famous from her close-up pictures of flowers.

Next, as the package came from Finland here are the profusion of Christmas stamps Eeva used:
This years theme - Elves, designed by the postcard artist Kaarina Toivanen, the "cuddly Christmas smiling boy elf" surrounded by balls of wool and soft toys and the "Swinging girl elf", swinging on a straw mobile. Kaarina Toivanen says "Elves are happy, contemplative, mysterious and hard-working. They love hay barns and forest creatures they appreciate tradition and are loyal. Elves are also peace-loving and they perform tasks properly"

Under the boy elf is the 2010 Christmas stamp showing the kind of darkness at this time of the year in Lapland which they call kaamos (Finnish for the polar night).  Designed by Tommi Vallisto the three reindeer draw Santa in his sleigh under the red glow of a full moon.  Maybe the stamp next to it, the 2001 Santa Claus, is a close up.


this year's winter greeting stamp showing a frosty rosehip. This is a stamp which the post office says is "perfect for winter greetings after Christmas".   Isn't that a marvellous idea.

An entry to Viridian Postcards Sunday Stamps Christmas theme.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Cool Dude

Our pooch looks ready for relaxing on the beach, certainly no balls will be chased wearing that hat. This card has a nice summery feel which is a nice thought because today we had our first significant snow fall. I suspect that as my sender lives in Canada she will have had lots of snow by now as well.

It is a large card so Denise did her utmost to fill it with as many stamps as possible, three featuring the journey of a letter in Canada
from the postmaster and his customer, the mail handler and eventually
the bit we all love, the postman delivering. These stamps are from the 1974 "Centenary of the Canadian Letter Carrier Delivery".  Next
the 1980 stamp for the International Flower Show in Montreal. The men in uniform are members of the Royal Military College and the stamps celebrate its centenary (1876-1976).  This college was founded by the Canadian Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie.  The lone soldier is featured on Wing Parade in front of the Mackenzie Building. The Canadian flag is held aloft by the Colour Party with Memorial Arch. The emphasis when the college was started was on engineering, a skill which, at the time the nation had a great need; it is said that in the 1900s that there was hardly a bridge, road or railway line in the country whose construction had not had some assistance from an engineering graduate of  Royal Military College.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


What could typify the Greenland coast better than the two 50 ore stamps above?  This is a lower denomination stamp from a set commemorating Greenland Mail Transport.  The mail kayaks shown were used in the transporting of post to remote locations. For safety reasons they were always sent in pairs, the letters were stowed in waterproof bags behind the paddler.  Appropriately the other stamp is of Frederik IX of Denmark, sometimes called the Sailor King. He ruled from 1947 to 14 January 1972, his death the very year this postcard was sent. Not only did he have an active naval service where in the manner of sailors everywhere he gained many tattoos, he also trained as a conductor of classical music.   The Danish monarch is Greenland's head of state,

From 1969 Greenland stamps also bear the name Kalatdut Nunat which means "Our Country" (that is the Greenlanders' land or country) although it was not until 1979 that they gained home rule.

The postal mark is Sondre Stromfjord (Inuit name - Kangerlussuaq)  on the south west Greenland coast where a 100 mile fjord cuts a straight path into the interior of Greenland.  It is an area of diverse wildlife and I think the indistinct creature on the bottom is a musk ox.  Stromfjord also has  largest airfield in Greenland which is the main staging area for scientific personnel manning the research facilities, seismic stations and base camps.  I wonder if the person who sent this card to England was one of the scientific personnel
He sent a cute fabric card, the clothing of the girl with the ball is long stitched.  It must be a first call for Father Christmas to the white north, his sledge is still full.

Originally I scanned the full back of the card then discovered that the Cragg family still live at the same address so I have hastily cropped. 

 Our sender, Willy, sends Christmas greetings to the family (familien) Cragg. "Just a little Christmas greeting and a good new year".  As it is in Danish that is all I can make out.

An entry to Sunday Stamps theme 'The Great White North'


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Louvre Light

The last time I visited Paris and the Louvre it was a rainy day in January so no time was spent strolling outside. It was straight into the pyramid and down into the interior hall. The architect Pei's pyramid solved the problem of the old entrance not being able to handle the number of visitors wishing to visit the Louvre each day.  All I can remember of the old entrance is the flight of steps and the statue at the top of the next set of stairs up to the first floor (we are going back a whole lot of years here).  Indistinguishable from many other art galleries but the pyramid in its setting is unforgettable.  This postcard shows it and the beautiful Louvre buildings to perfection in the sharp light of a sunny day.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Bridges of Ancient China

One of the things said about China is that it has four million bridges, whether that is true or not they must have the most elegant. The first stamp shows the most famous stone bridge in China, Anji Bridge sometimes called Zhaozhou or safe crossing bridge. It was constructed in the years 595-605 and is the oldest (standing) bridge in China. It has survived wars, floods and earthquakes yet it is still in use.
Precious Belt Bridge near the city of Suzhou, legend has it that the local prefect Wang Zhongshu sold his "precious belt" to help finance the construction in 816 AD. The three central arches are larger than the rest to allow river vessels through.
This bridge started life in ancient times as the Zhupu Bridge then it was rebuilt as Pingshi but burned down during the wars that ended the Ming dynasty, today it is the Anlan Bridge, a suspension bridge that was rebuilt in 1803 by He Xiande and his wife (I could not find her name, guess we will have to call her Mrs He).  The name of Anlam means couple so sometimes it is called the Husband and Wife Bridge. Today it is a popular tourist destination and when this stamp was issued in 1962 it was still constructed of bamboo but in recent times because of the numbers of people crossing, the bamboo ropes are now steel and the wooden pegs supporting cables are ferro-concrete. The span also now crosses a greater distance of the Minjiang River.

So there you have three ways of crossing a river, I am missing the last in this set so include this view of a bridge connecting two countries
a postcard of a "Bridge between Burma and China". I can't make out the name of the bridge because it has been printed over the dark of the trees. The river may be the Mekong, other candidates could be the Nanka or Sheweli.  No indication on the back just that it is Postcard No 40 issued by the American Baptist Mission Press, Rangoon, Burma.   I just wonder what the person on the bridge is wearing. 

An entry to Viridian Postcards' Sunday Stamps

Friday, 2 December 2011

Sesshuji garden

Sesshuji at Tofuku-ji temple.

A glimpse of early summer through one of the elegant door of Susshuji, a sub-temple of the massive Tofuku-ji temple complex in Kyoto. People who visit say it is one of the most peaceful of the temples.  Sesshuji is famous for its rock garden designed by the painter Sesshu and called the crane and tortoise garden. We can just catch sight of the Zen garden rocks below the trees .   
When Noriko sent this card the city was having a very hot autumn which is also the time of year when the beautiful autumn colours of the maples would be seen in the many garden of Tofuku-ji.
The card came with

the Great Rocks at Keya (1963 Genka Quasi-National Park issue) and a detail from a 1800 painting the "Three Beauties" by Toyokuni Utagawa.  The beauty must be busy calculating because she holds an abacus, the Japanese soroban.  The perfect image for the 1987 stamp issued for the International Certified Public Accountants Congress, Tokyo.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


 Charing Cross, Glasgow
It is St Andrew's Day today, the patron saint of Scotland, so here is a suitably Scottish card from the early 20th century. The post office still stands here but unfortunately the tram system that was once one of the largest urban systems in Europe is no more. The machine in the road to the left intrigues me, I have no idea what it is. I like to think it is roasting chestnuts although the two women passing the post office seem dressed for summer so possibly not.

The tartan is Dress Stewart, whose clan claim their descent from Banquo, familiar as the character that appears in Shakespeare's Macbeth.  I think Dress Stewart implies this is the one to wear at celebrations, looking good swirling around in a country dance.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Anyone for Hockey?

The Sports Complex, Platinum Arena.  My sender tells me is the biggest sports complex in the city of Khabarovsk.  It is also the home of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team Amur Khabarovsk.  Yes that is continental spelt with a K so that the initials are not the same as the CHL (Canadian Hockey League).  There is also a hockey school here and ordinary skating rink so all things icy are catered for.  There are fountains outside the stadium, I'm guessing they may freeze in winter.

The card shows an aerial view of the ciry of Khabarovsk and my sender Ksenia says it is situated very close to the Chinese border. The Trans-Siberian railway runs here, (5,296 miles from Moscow and 500 miles north of Vladivostock). What an amazing journey that would be. The city was once the capital of the Soviet Far East (1926-1938).  Not only is this a border town but it also sits on the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri River and looking at the tourist pages for the city it seems there are cruises on the Amur River (and city beaches).  All appears here on these video stills,  and very brief view of the stadium.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Group of Seven

Mist Fantasy 

The Group of Seven, also known as the Algonquin School were a collection of painters from 1920-1933 inspired by the Canadian landscape and are considered the first truly Canadian art movement.  I start with JEH MacDonald who in 1918 travelled to Algoma, Ontario in a specially outfitted rail-road car that functioned as a mobile studio, he was to return many times in Autumn in this carriage.
 Isles of Spruce
Arthur Lismer (1885-1969) was born in England but studied art in Antwerp, Belgium emigrating to Canada in 1911 where the wilderness of the country took hold of him and he painted it for the rest of his life.
 Big Raven
The Group of Seven were definitely a male club so Emily Carr was never a member but as Groucho Marx said "I don't care to belong to any club that would have me as a member" she is always closely associated with them. Like all great artists her work continually changed and developed into this post impressionist style.

These are all stamps issued in the 1970s but this was not the first time the Group of Seven appeared on Canadian stamps for the 1967 definitive series encompassed scenes from paintings issued in a mono colour rather than the vibrant originals
Left to right, Alaska Highway by AY Jackson, The Jack Pine by Tom Thompson (which has left Canada briefly to be displayed in the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London until January).  He died in 1917 but the Group considered him a founder. Lastly Bylot Island by Lawren Harris who favourite subject was the Canadian north and Arctic.  He painted this scene many times continually simplifying, he stopped signing and dating his works wanting to be judged only on merit.  He probably epitomises the Group of Seven and their meaning to Canadian.  As Christianne Wilhelmson says    
“If you grow up in Ontario, as I did, the Group of Seven are simply a part of your being – I think they put something in the water! In fact, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who they were, their importance to the development of Canadian identity and been able to list many of the members. It wasn’t just that names and dates were pounded into our heads in history or art classes, but rather that what  they  managed to capture could be seen out the window of our car as my family made its way north to visit relatives. More than once I heard someone say, ‘it feels like we’re in a Group of Seven painting.’
Bylot Island in colour and the rest of this short meditation here .  Lastly I finish as I started with McDonald painting away in his railroad car the mountain landscapes of Canada.
including his acclaimed "The Solemn Land"

An entry to Sunday Stamps whose theme this week is Art

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Edge of the Forest

Edge of the Wood (The Flight into Egypt) by Jan Breughel the Elder known as 'Velvet Breughel' (1568-1625)

I think Breughel must have been fascinated by the Christian story of the flight into Egypt portraying the holy family fleeing after the massacre of the innocents (baby boys) quite often. One interpretation is in the Coutauld Gallery in London which is very different from the one above from The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

Although the card says 'edge of the wood' I think it should translate as 'edge of the forest',  trees dominate the landscape, the three refugees are heading towards us while everyone else is heading in a different direction, apart from the birds in flight.   

Ksenia who sent this card lives in St Petersburg, how wonderful, a ready supply of cards and thousands of  wonderful paintings. Breughel always puts lots of little details in his paintings so the original will hold many surprises.

The card came appropriately with the 5th definitive series of stamps which show

creatures that might be found in this landscape, Lynx, two Bears and a Hare. She also managed to fit the Astrakhan Kremlin on the card within the dividing line without obscuring the description. Neat job Ksenia.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Åland Granite

The wonderful pink granite of the Åland Islands worn smooth by glaciers millions of years ago but still vibrant today with that wonderful line of green algae. The card is one by the Posten Åland and at first I didn't notice that down the divide it said it was of  "natural environment of Åland, Föglö"   Of course once I saw that I knew we were talking stamps here and off I went to The Top of The World site and found the answer.  This is one of the series of scenery stamps issued over a number of years by the Åland post.

"With its 600 inhabitants Föglö is the largest archipelago municipality in Åland. In summer the population increases almost threefold when some 600 summer cottages come alive....Kjell Söderlund took the photo from Algersö, Föglö, showing a rock by the sea, smooth as a mirror" 

It sounds a wonderful place to spend a summer for there are hiking and cycling trails and of course sea paddling where one could glide round these rocks.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Fuji & Cherry Blossom

 Mt Fuji and Cherry Flower, Yamanashi
The iconic Mount Fuji, highest mountain in Japan (12,389 ft) its volcanic cone covered with snow as the cherry blossom flowers.  The delicate surrounding the monumental.  What a wonderful sight.  The mountain has been an inspiration to poets and painters through the ages, the most famous of which is Hokusai and his '36 views of Mount Fuji'. Noriko who sent this card says the name of Cherry Blossom in Japanese is Sakura.

The card came with
on the right one of the June 2011 set of Hello Kitty stamps and look Kitty has some cherry blossom in her hair, this stamp is called Hello Kitty in Yoshinoyama.  A mountain in Japan famous for viewing cherry blossom, people have been coming here for centuries to see the 30,000 cherry trees bloom.  The stamp with the honey bee, who I would imagine also like cherry blossom, is a 1997 definitive.   

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sporting Life

The Royal Mail is gearing up for the 2012 Olympics in London, I've lost count of how many sets of stamps have been issued so far but think this latest issue is the most successful, the others were rather uninspiring. These seem to capture movement, wind in the sails, leaping over bars, blocking balls, crashing into each other and wrestling to the ground. One of the fastest selling tickets for the paralympic games was wheelchair rugby, when it was first invented in Canada it used to be called murderball, a game not for the faint-hearted.
The rest of the set. The gymnast designer was Kathy Wyatt whose speciality is anatomical drawings and Adam Smith who designed the triathlon stamp also has a 60 ft mural of the stamp in his home town of Leicester. Each stamp is illustrated by a different person and I think this has been rather successful.  The Olympics is for athletes at the peak of their game but sport is for all and what better country to celebrate this than Australia
who issued an extensive set of sporting stamps in 1989.  As we imagine the sun shines all day long in Australia those of us in the northern hemisphere thoughts turn to winter and maybe winter sports, which
in Albania it appears to be ice hockey. The event was the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck,  And finally, as requested by our hostess Viridian Postcard
the stained glass artist and illustrator Richard King's design showing the sport of hurling. The video of this fast and furious game is on my original post to Sunday Stamps here

An entry to Sunday Stamps whose theme this week is Sport, Sporting Events and Venues