Sunday, 26 May 2013

History in Black and White

Temporary Sergeant P. M. O'Connell reading a letter from home, France, 1918
Australia issued some evocative stamps of scenes from the past 200 years of their post office in 2009 and I thought this one would fit perfectly with this week's Sunday Stamp theme inspired by the US Memorial Day. Although the Australian War Memorial provides the name of our letter reader, the soldier relaxing behind him is not mentioned.  What a happy scene amongst the destruction of World War 1 and a nice memorial for the "poor bloody infantry".  Of course this war and the great loss of Australian and New Zealand lives at Gallipoli gave rise to Australia's own memorial day - ANZAC Day on 25th April.
The 2009 set also used a painting recreating this above event but I prefer the engraved 1959 stamp for the 150th anniversary of the Post Office showing Postmaster Isaac Nichols boarding the brig 'Experiment' to collect mail. Isaac's was the archetypal Australian immigrant, arriving as a convict and becoming a successful businessman and credited with running the first post office.
2011: Remembrance Day (1 of 2 stamps/maximum cards)
Lastly lets play the Last Post, the final farewell.  Although Australia has in the past issued stamps for the Gallipoli landings and ANZAC Day I think this set is the first done for Armistice Day which of course in 2011 fell in a unique set of number of all the 11s (11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).  Perhaps they will do another one in 2111.  The stamp design is by the Melbourne artist Tim Hancock who's maternal Grandmother, Doreen Neale, transcribed the poem "In Flanders Fields" for him so the handwriting would look authentic for the period.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme - stamps commemorating or memorialising people or events.  

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Finland on Land and Sea

Sent a postcard to Finland?  Here are two postman, one from the early 20th century and the other in modern uniform who may be delivering your card right now .  The stamp was issued in 2006 as the Postal Officials Union and the Postal Union merged in June 2005 to form the Postal and Logistics Union (P its 30,000 members celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Postal Union (PAU) with this stamp in 2006.
An even older anniversary took place in 2012, that of the 150th anniversary of the  VR Finnish Railways. The stamps shape is to give the effect of motion, I love the driver leaning out and looking ahead.  The steam locomotive is a VR Class Hr1, a passenger express of which 27 were built, a few of which still survive as heritage trains. Their nickname was Ukko-Pekka which translates as either  Grandpa Pekka or Old Man Pekka after Pehr Evind Svinhufvud,  the first head of state of an independent Finland.  Built of course to burn coal but due to a shortage in 1945 birch wood was used which meant a larger chimney was needed to extinguish the wood sparks so one was fitted temporarily.
From the land to the sea. These stamps were part of a Joint Nordic Publication theme of "Life at Sea" and all maritime Scandinavia celebrated the theme with different stamps. The stamp on the left shows the Finnish Border Guard Patrol Vessel 'Merikarhu'  which also helps the Institute of Marine Research to monitor the water in the Gulf of Finland. The the on the right is the Finnish lifeboat 'Jenny Wihuri' for those in peril on the sea.   If you were sailing past the  Åland Islands, an autonomous region of Finland,
these large buoys may be spotted. This was the third, and last, part of a series on buoys. The artist, Allan Palmer, has featured the buoys in winter when ice makes for difficult shipping. The stamps show cardinal buoys which are used in maritime pilotage to indicate possible hazards and the direction of safe water. As can be seen on the cover, Cardinal marks indicate the direction of safety by points of a compass relative to the type of mark, a ship is making safe passage on the stamps.

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

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Children's Day is on the 1st June and China celebrates this by giving their children a day off school just to have fun.  This is what they are doing on these stamps issued for the occasion.  The first is a child and a top in what looks like a jaunty nautical attire.  The middle one is eating candied haw-berries, which are called 'tanghulu'. These are sugar coated haw (hawthorn) berries on a skewer and are a popular winter treat. Their taste is described as a combination of sweet and sour. For a photo of this treat see here.   Lastly a child plays a traffic policeman directing his toy car.
Who does not love a toy windmill and this one looks the business. Next a child listens to caged cricket. Sometimes in China these short lived creatures have elaborate cages to amplify their sound. I'd prefer to listen to them lying in the long grass. Lastly an impressively large sword is being marched across the stamp.
A moment of concentration on embroidery. I think the next one is my favourite, it has so much detail on it. Has he taken off his shoes to jump in a puddle or is the wind in danger of blowing him up in the air?  Lastly a bucket and sand can provide many hours of entertainment.

The designer is Wan Weisheng (b 1932) who produced his first stamps featuring children in 1957 (which are his own favourite issue)  by just going out and watching them play. He went on to produce many other sets including the ones I show in 1963.  There are another 3 in the set but I don't possess them.

Wan Weisheng has produced many stamp sets and one  from the "whole country is red"   issue is famous for selling at a record price in 2009.  Today he has retired and spends his time painting but his stamp designs are so popular that a popular museum is dedicated to his career in stamps, postcards and first day covers. He says that "stamps connect the artist with people around the world"   And I would say with each other too. Happy Sunday Stamps.
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Children's Toys and Games

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

In the Forest

This pretty handmade card came from Cynthia in Sabah and it seems to go just right with the fresh green leaves that are, at last, unfurling from the trees in England. Sabah has the three highest mountains in Malaysia and their jungles are tropical rainforests, just the place for the bird on the stamps that came with the card
2005 Birds of Malaysia definitives
The Green Winged Pigeon also known as the Common Emerald Dove.  These little birds feed on fallen fruit and seeds mostly foraging on the ground under tree cover. They are nomadic and follow the fruit season in the lowlands, mountains and forest.
possibly in places like this. Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Sabah whose surroundings are considered one of the most important biological sites in the world with 326 species of birds.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

"It is a general truism of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide", 
 So starts the 14th Century epic the 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' telling the story of the turbulent period from AD220-280 when the Han dynasty struggled to unite the kingdom.  This epic, part legend part myth, by Luo Guanzhong is one of the most popular stories in China and even in the present day has inspired films, art and video games.

Its 120 chapters and thousands of characters starts with the government attempt to suppress a rebellion by the peasants called Yellow Turbans.  Personally I'd be with the peasants but this is a story of the perennial Chinese objective to keep the country together. We find Liu Bei who has fallen on hard times looking at a poster asking for brave men to join the government, he sighs. The man beside him Zhang Fei, a butcher, chastises him for not doing anything about it so the two go for a drink in a tavern and come across a bearded Guan Yu wearing a battle gown, I imagine lots of alcohol later they  
 swear an oath of eternal brotherhood in the peach orchard and set about trying to save the Han Dynasty (stamp left). The stamp (right) shows Diao Chen, one of the four beauties of ancient China pretending to commit suicide by throwing herself off the Fengyi Pavilion as part of a plot and intrigue.
 Next (left) our three heroes are fighting against the warlord Lu Bu and afterwards (right)  they drink wine and talk about heroes.  This set of stamps was issued in 1988 and were given the 'Best Stamps' award in 1989 and so no wonder in 1990 a second set appeared
The 20 fen stamp shows Cao Coa leading a night attack on Wuchao, a turning part of the unification war. Next the 30 fen shows General Zhao rescuing A Dou single handed.  A Dou actual name is Liu Shan but his childhood name is used because he is incompetent.  General Zhou is portrayed as just and virtuous with great loyalty and after his death was lauded as one of the Tiger Generals.
 Lui Bei makes three separate visits to the great strategist and chancellor Zhuge Liang's Thatch Cottage, this is portrayed as patience rewarded.  Lastly the 50 fen shows Zhang Fei with only 100 men holding off the army of 10,000 at Changban Bridge which he destroys so that Liu Bei and his people can escape.

The stamp designer is Chen Quansheng (b1950) who went on to produce a third issue in 1996 which I do not have.  He is an artist and also a visiting professor at the College of Art, his brushwork on figure painting is considered unique. He also produces landscape paintings and comic books as well as other Chinese stamps on subjects such as Confucius, the Art of War and the 2001 'Strange Tales'.

An entry to Virdian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Stamps from China or Taiwan.