Sunday, March 25, 2012

Natures Poem


This weeks theme for Sunday Stamps is 'flowers, or Spring'.

Actually it is the end of summer here in South Africa. Where I live we will soon experience a short autumn period but it is hardly noticeable as most trees and shrubs are evergreen. Down the road in the park there are some plane trees which turn golden and look very pretty until the colder weather arrives. They are native to North America and I think they might be called Sycamores there.

Then there will be two or three months of cool, crisp days and chilly nights (by our standard, for example I hardly think a Canadian will be bothered to even think of putting on a long sleeved shirt). During this time is is usually very dry and then in August the rains come and summer is not far away.

When I lived in England, for the first time ever I experienced all the seasons. In London spring lasts a very short time, characterised by the wonderful flowering blossoms in many front gardens. I saw cherry blossoms for the first time and fell in love with them. Or perhaps I had seen them before in South Africa but taken them for granted in a country which is so full of wonderful plant life you can hardly look anywhere without your senses being overwhelmed. After the bleak miserable winter in London I saw cherry blossoms and I felt like Cinderella when her fairy Godmother turns up!

But before the blossoms, the first flower that I saw in early spring was the delicate daffodil. How astonished I was one day, trudging to Sainsbury's across a public field used by kids to play football, miserably hunched over by the cold to see three golden delights in the mud under a tree. I stopped and stared, just astonished that something so wonderful could grow in such a grey and sodden world. Suddenly there was hope!

Anyway this lovely daffodil stamp was part of a set of 4 released by USPS on March 15, 2005. The other flowers are a hyacinth, an iris and a tulip. The artist was Christopher Pullman.

I leave you now with a poem by William Wordsworth.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Sunday Stamps

Friday, March 23, 2012

Snow Soft

Snow Soft

I received this postcard from Kate in Russia for the February 50 Round Robin. It was in my favourites so I am very happy to have received it. Naturally I picked it because of the adorable sleeping cats ^_^

The artist is Anna Petrova and she appears to have quite a few postcards, all in this charming and whimsical style.

On the back of the card it says 'снежные-нежные' which according to Google translates as 'Snow-Soft'.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Saw a Ship a-sailing

Hong Kong | Chinese Junk

After seeing Fabienne's post showing traditional boats in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam I decided to post this lovely junk I received only yesterday.

Junks were first in use about 2000 years ago during the Han Dynasty and evolved over time to be used in long sea voyages. They are still in use today in their modern form.

The English word 'junk' comes originally from the Chinese word 'chuán' which means a boat or ship.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Old Tom Gin

Cordial Old Tom Gin

This is an advertisement poster circa 1880 for Cordial Old Tom Gin distilled by Boord & Son of London and apparently distributed in the USA by Du Vivier & Co of New York.

Gin is an alcoholic beverage whose flavour comes primarily from Juniper berries. The name 'Gin' comes from either the French 'genièvre' or the Dutch 'jenever' both of which mean Juniper. There have apparently been various forms of gin over the years and Old Tom Gin was a slightly sweetened version that was popular in the 1700's in England (so long before this advert). It was a cloudy drink back then and only became the clear liquid known today when distillation methods improved.

I love this postcard but remember dogs and cats should never drink alcohol! (And nor should humans in my opinion.)

Postcard Friendship Friday

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Splendeurs de Bretagne

Splendeurs de Bretagne

Splendors of Brittany
Back in Brittany again and I do not have much time except to say that this adorable bird is a Puffin. There are only 3 species of Puffin in the world whereas there are 17 species of Penguins! This is an Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), the other two species live in the Pacific Ocean.

In spring orange plates grow over the bill which are then shed later, after the breeding season. Puffins are monogamous and both incubate the one egg and care for the chick that they hatch out.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Admirable Women

March is Women's History month in the USA so this week the theme at Sunday Stamps is 'famous women, women's rights, International Women's Day, etc.'

I searched through my postcards and letters and found the following stamps featuring famous women.

USA | American Scientists | June 16, 2011

Maria Goeppert Mayer
A set of 4 stamps (the third to be released) honouring scientists in a variety of fields was issued on 16 June 2011.

Maria Goeppert Mayer was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who worked at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in the 1940's and '50s. She is one of only two women to have won the Nobel Prize for Physics - the other was Marie Curie in 1903.

USA | Distinguished Americans Issue (2000-2008)

Mary Lasker
From 2000 to 2008 the USPS released 12 stamps in the Distinguished Americans series, 6 of which were women. I have only two of these, Mary Lasker and Edna Ferber.

Lasker was an activist and philanthropist who raised funds for medical research and founded the Lasker Foundation which according to it's website is "dedicated to the support of biomedical research toward conquering disease, improving human health and extending life."

USA | Distinguished Americans Issue (2000-2008)

Edna Ferber
This definitive stamp is fourth in the Distinguished American series and honors Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edna Ferber.

Ferber was a novelist, short story writer and playwright whose works included the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel 'So Big' (1924), 'Show Boat' (which was made into the celebrated 1927 musical), and 'Giant' (made into the 1956 Hollywood movie starring James Dean).

USA | Latin Music Legends | March 16, 2011

Carmen Miranda
This stamp is from a set of 5 titled Latin Music Legends that was released by USPS on the 16th of March 2011.

Carmen Miranda was a samba singer, Broadway actress and Hollywood film star who recorded her first album in Brazil before the age of 21. In 1939 she went to Hollywood and by 1946 she was Hollywood's highest-paid entertainer. She died of a heart attack in 1955, only 46 years of age. Her body was flown back to Rio where 60,000 people attended her mourning ceremony and the government declared a period of national mourning. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

USA | Great Americans Issue

Alice Hamilton
Between 1980 and 1999 the USPS released 63 stamps in The Great Americans definitive series which includes writers, politicians, composers, physicians, educators etc.

Alice Hamilton was a medical doctor who earned her degree from the University of Michigan in 1893. Her work lead to improvements in factories and better lives and health for industrial workers. In 1919 she became the first woman appointed to the Harvard faculty.

USA | Barbara Jordan (Black Heritage) | September 16, 2011

Barbara Jordan
This is the 34th stamp in the Black Heritage series which started in 1978 with the release on 1st February of a stamp commemorating the amazing Harriet Tubman. Harriet was an abolitionist, humanitarian, suffragist, nurse, escaped slave, spy and the rescuer of more than 70 slaves along the Underground Railroad. Barbara Jordan was a lawyer and a politician which is not nearly so exciting but she did achieve a lot in her 60 years.

And that is the end of my collection of famous ladies on stamps. Check out Sunday Stamps to see more.

Sunday Stamps

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Chamber Opera

Puss in Boots - A Chamber Opera

I received this beautiful postcard from Russia when I took part in the Alphabetical tag on the Postcrossing Forum. Have you ever taken part in a tag? It can be lots of fun! The lovely person who tagged me checked my favourites ^_^

This is actually a poster, circa 1885 for a chamber opera. What is a chamber opera? I had no idea myself so I asked wikipedia who tells me:

Chamber opera is a designation for operas written to be performed with a chamber ensemble rather than a full orchestra.

The term and form were invented by Benjamin Britten in the 1940s, when the English Opera Group needed works that could easily be taken on tour and performed in a variety of small performance spaces.

So now I know! However I cannot imagine the story of Puss in Boots performed as an opera, even a small one.

Oddly enough I was just reading about Benjamin Britten the other day because he and WH Auden collaborated on an opera using the words of Auden's poem 'Stop all the clocks'. I happened to be looking it up because I took part in Emilie's 'Adopt Penguin Books Postcards' project. It will be interesting to see how long the cards take to travel back to the USA.

Postcard Friendship Friday

This was a post for Postcard Friendship Friday at "The Best Hearts are Crunchy". Check out the other participants to see more lovely postcards!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Sound that Isn't

I had never heard of Milford Sound until I received this postcard from New Zealand. I actually though the word 'Sound' was only used for bays in North America but it turns out there are 'Sounds' on every continent except Africa.

According to wikipedia:

In geography a sound or seaway is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord; or it may be defined as a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait).

This definition seems both pedantic and contradictory at the same time. You would have to measure the length, width, depth of the bay in order to determine if it was larger, deeper or wider than other bodies of water only to discover that it is allowed to be narrow as long as land is on either side.

Anyway it turns out that the usage of the word is inconsistent and although Milford is called a Sound it is too narrow and is actually a Fjord.

Milford Sound was a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature contest

Our Wonderful World Tuesday

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

To the End of the Line

Lithuania | Geležinkeliui Lietuvoje - 150 metų | Lithuania Railways - 150 years

The theme for this weeks Sunday Stamps is 'Streetcars or any kind of public transportation'.

I spent an enjoyable hour last night sitting in bed listening to the very welcome rain and looking at all the stamps on my postcard collection. I have received some amazing stamps! People are so considerate and usually send me animals (my favourite theme) which is wonderful but means there are very few trains, planes or automobiles.

Geležinkeliui Lietuvoje

However I finally found two. The one above is from Lithuania and was issued on 8th August 2009 to celebrate 150 years of Railways in the country.

From the Lithuania Postal site (translated by Google):

In February 1851 the czarist Russian government took the decision to build a railway line in St Petersburg-Warsaw, the Lithuanian territory which had spread through the towns as Ignalina, Vilnius, Lentvaris and Varena with a branch through Kaunas to Kybartai (Virbalis), and then reached the Prussian frontier.

According to Google maps if I were to drive from St Petersburg to Warsaw today (on existing roads) it would be a journey of 1,205 km and take approximately 16 hours and 55 mins. I would drive past Kaunas which is where the postcard came from. Marvelous!

Patrimonio de la Humanidad

This second stamp is from Chile and was issued on the 12th of July 2010. It quite clearly says 'Trolebús' on it which means 'Trolley' in English however I had no idea what 'Patrimonio de la Humanidad' meant. According to Google this Spanish term translates to 'Heritage'. In fact this stamp is part of a set of 4 that commemorates the heritage and culture of the city of Valparaíso in Chile, nicknamed 'The Jewel of the Pacific'.

Valparaíso Heritage

Sunday Stamps

This is the end of my post for Sunday Stamps #60 but before I go here is Judy Garland and the chorus of 'Meet me in St Louis' singing the Trolley Song.

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Friends

Germany | Munich

I received this lovely postcard today from Annett in Munich who found my address on

Annett writes that the main photo for this card is of the Christmas market taking place in Marienplatz, which is right in the city centre. Doesn't it look wonderful with all the lights and the gorgeous Christmas tree? That magnificent building is the New Town Hall which was built between 1867 and 1908 and contains 400 rooms! They really do things big!

The other three smaller pictures were also taken in winter and show the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower in English) which is actually a famous beer garden; the Friedensengel (Angel of Peace in English) located in Maximilian Park and the Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church of St. Cajetan in English) built between 1663 and 1690.

I have received two other pieces of mail through lettermo - one from Tish in the USA and one from Linzé who lives in Pretoria! I haven't received any mail from another South African for ages, even my own family! My attempts to convince them to send me postcards fail because they tell me they will be back from their holiday before the postcard arrives!

So A Month of Letters is over. I did not post any letters because I had enough postcards to write and I managed to post 101 of them! I am pretty pleased with myself ^_~

Postcard Friendship Friday