Friday 30 May 2014

414. More First World War And Shakespeare Stamps.

  Two new sets on the subject of the centenary of the start of the First World War from the Pobjoy Stamps stable will be released on 4 August 2014 - from Ascension and Tristan Da Cunha. Both sets were designed by the veteran stamp designer, Derek Miller, and lithographed by BDT International.

  Continuing with the First World War centenary issues, in Blog 391 I mentioned 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet which were issued on 24 March 2014 by the IGPC philatelic agency in the name of St. Vincent And The Grenadines to commemorate the anniversary but it appears that there is a further sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet which contains 2 different stamps which recall the novel, play and film "War Horse" by depicting the role of horses in the conflict. The miniature sheet is rather unsettling with the depiction of both horses and riders wearing gas masks:-

  I repeat the illustrations of the other St. Vincent sheetlet and miniature sheet for convenience of reference:-

  Gibraltar will issue a set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet on 2 June 2014 on the subject of another important anniversary of 2014 (so important that Royal Mail has chosen to ignore it) which is the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. The stamps were designed by Stephen Perera and lithographed by Cartor:-

  Each stamp features a Shakespearean quotation - all very familiar - what a pity some less well-known but equally clever quotations were not used. The designs are interesting however because of the use of different portraits of the writer that feature in them but I wish that the stamps were a little more colourful.

  Stamperija has announced its first items produced in the name of Mozambique for 2014. The "date of issue" is 25 February and numerous subjects are featured on the total of 16 sheetlets, each of 4 different stamps, and 16 miniature sheets. The vast outpouring is mainly distinguished by the lack of direct relevance any of the featured subjects have to Mozambique itself. For the record, the 14 sub-issues commemorate the FIFA Football World Cup Competition to be held in Brazil in June 2014:-

  Commemoration of the Portuguese football player, Eusebio:-

  The 80th birth anniversary of Yuri Gargarin, Alphose Mucha, Mohammed Ali, Ayrton Senna, 20th anniversary of the Channel Tunnel (between England and France),  25th anniversary of the death of Emperor Hirohito of Japan:-

  Charles Lindbergh, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Christoph Willibald Gluck, 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, "The Flying Scotsman" (British railway locomotive) and the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' USA tour:-

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Monday 26 May 2014

275. Timor Leste To Join The Commonwealth?

  At the end of June 2013, the President of the small state of Timor Leste, Taur Matan Rusk, paid a visit to Australia and subsequent to that, in the early days of July, the government of Timor Leste announced that the country wished to join The Commonwealth and sought support from the Australian and New Zealand governments to this end. The two governments responded positively to the approaches of Timor Leste and so we may well see this previous Portuguese colony soon join the English-speaking organisation and collectors of Commonwealth stamps may have a new country to add to their collection. 

  East Timor was first colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century and remained a colony of that country when, in December 1975, Indonesian troops invaded and occupied the territory in the wake of the chaos that followed the Portuguese revolution.. The year before - 1974 - Fretelin, a liberation movement had commenced action to establish an independent state in East Timor and in 1978, Xanana Gusmao took over the leadership of Fretelin. He was eventually captured and imprisoned by the Indonesians but international pressure led to the Indonesians agreeing to the establishment of a United Nations-led administration in the territory from October 1999 and the holding of elections in East Timor in 2000 which led to Gusmao becoming the leader of East Timor's first freely elected government on 7 September 2001 and the granting of independence as Timor Leste on 20 May 2002. During the administration of the United Nations, two stamps, for local and international postage, were issued on 29 April 2000 (depicted above) and these continued in use after the granting of independence.
  Australian troops provided a peace-keeping force in the territory from 1999 and they were joined by troops from other countries including New Zealand and it was from this time that Timor Leste formed close relations with these two regional powers. Australia Post provided the nascent Timor Leste Post Office with a gift of 2 million stamps in 4 values which were issued on independence day. The stamps were designed by Janet Boschen, an established designer of Australian stamps, and printed in lithography by Sprintpak:-

  Two other stamps were also issued on 20 May 2002 which portrayed President Gusmao and a map of Timor Leste:-

  No further stamps were issued until 28 November 2005 when 4 definitives were released which depicted the national flag of Timor Leste along with portraits of local inhabitants and coinage:-

  New issue policy has remained pleasingly ultra-conservative since then with 2 stamps being issued on 20 May 2008 which depict Nobel prize-winners:-

  and a splendid set of 6 stamps (2 values depicted below) on the theme of the International Year of Biodiversity which was issued on 30 August 2010. The stamps, designed by Ivo Schneider, all depicted different species of amphibians and reptiles and there was an accompanying miniature sheet which is very scarce:-

  The most recent issue was released on 14 February 2011 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Portuguese-speaking equivalent of The Commonwealth, AICEP of which Timor Leste is a member. Similar stamps were issued by the other members of the Organisation:-

  If Timor Leste is admiited to Commonwealth membership in the near future then the little country will be another territory to be included in the Commonwealth section of stamp catalogues. When Cameroun, Mozambique and Rwanda all joined The Commonwealth, only stamp issues which were released after the countries joined the organisation were included in the catalogues but so few stamps have been issued by Timor Leste that it seems sensible to include all its stamps together in the Commonwealth section if only for convenience to collectors. Collectors of Commonwealth stamps may wish to start obtaining past issues now in anticipation of events but be warned - the few stamps that have been produced so far are not cheap. But they are interesting.
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373. Shakespeare In Jersey And Vikings Do Battle In Ireland.

  "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
   Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and give not hurt..." - Caliban from The Tempest.

  Jersey Post is to issue a £3 miniature sheet on 23 April 2013 to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the birth of the greatest English playwright and poet, William Shakespeare, who brought so many new phrases now in day-to-day use to the English language. I can find no connection between Shakespeare and Jersey and so I really ought to be omitting this item from my collection but for once I think that any English speaking country has the right to celebrate this great figure so I will be happily adding this particular miniature sheet to my Jersey album. I would have been even happier if the issue had been given a lower face value.
  In my search for any quote from Shakespeare which could be linked to Jersey I came up with the above quote from The Tempest which could be applied to any island and might be applied to Jersey but when we think about Jersey's stamps the quote could be amended so that it reads: 
  "Be very afeard; the isle is full of stamps,
   Miniature sheets, and Post and Go's that do not delight and give hurt..."
  At least Jersey has seen fit to commemorate this important anniversary which is more than can be said for Royal Mail, the postal administration of the land of Shakespeare's birth, where it is more important to feature Bob The Builder and Peppa Pig on stamps than it is to commemorate the birth of this great Englishman (see Blog 326).
  In Blog 361 I mentioned that the Isle of Man Post Office was planning to issue a set of 6 stamps to commemorate the millenium anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. The date of issue will also be 23 April  2014, Shakespeare's birthday. The battle arose out of resistance to King Brian Boru (see £1.60p stamp depicted below) when the king of Leinster, Mael Morda, and the leader of the Vikings in Dublin,Sigtrygg  Silkbeard, formed an alliance against Brian who retaliated by raiding around Dublin and imprisoning his own wife, Gormflaith, who was the mother of Mael Morda. Gormflaith contacted Sigurd Lodvesson, the Viking Earl of Orkney, who agreed to come to her aid and he persuaded Brodir, the king of The Isle Of Man, (see illustration of the 2p value below) to join him in the venture. Brodir and Sigurd both planned secretly to kill each other after the fight against Brian Boru and take the High King's throne themselves.
  In 1014 Brian Boru marched on Dublin and when he arrived he heard that Sigtrygg's Viking allies had abandoned him and embarked in their ships and set sail. This was a ruse as during the night the Viking ships changed direction and headed back for shore in order to surprise Brian. The Vikings landed safely and formed up into 5 divisions while Sigtrygg remained in Dublin. 

   At first the battle went the Vikings' way and the Manx king, Brodir, led the charge against Brian Boru's forces but after making ground, he ran up against Brian's brother, the splendidly named Wolf The Quarrelsome (really,Tolkien could not have come up with anything better than this!) and after being knocked to the ground by the fearsome warrior, Brodir fled the battlefield to hide himself. 
  By the afternoon, the Manx Vikings were fleeing to their ships to escape (perhaps this inglorious performance by the Manx suggests that the Manx Post Office would have been better not issuing a set to commemorate this battle).
  The Irish next slew Sigurd who was said to have carried a "magical banner" (90p and £2.30p values above) and with Sigurd dead the Vikings fled back to their ships while the Dublin Vikings tried to return to the town but the Irish cut them off from the bridge back to Dublin. Meanwhile the cowardly Manx king, Brodir, who had been hiding in the woods near Dublin, spotted Brian Boru praying in his tent and he led a force into the camp and slew the king and his retainers. Brodir boasted "now let man tell man that Brodir felled Brian". However, the Manxman got his comeuppance as the Irish tracked him down, captured him and had him killed gruesomely by none other than his nemesis, Wolf The Quarrelsome (I repeat what I have written above, why is The Isle Of Man commemorating this appalling king and the dreadful defeat of the Manx? - it's rather like the French issuing stamps to commemorate the Battle of Agincourt).
  Six thousand Vikings were slain in the battle including all of their leaders and the Irish lost 4000 warriors including King Brian Boru and most of his sons and a king whom Brian had deposed returned to take the throne. The only winner was Sigtrygg who remained ruler in Dublin until his death in 1042. Ireland entered a period of bloody factional fighting.
  The 6 excellent stamps being released in this set feature the artwork of the wonderful illustrator, Victor Ambrus, and were lithographed by BDT International and despite the fact that the Manx hardly covered themselves in glory at the Battle of Clontarf the set does make for an interesting issue and I shall be happy to add them to my collection.
  I have previously mentioned the issue from The Isle Of Man which will be released on 15 April 2014 on the subject of rare breeds of domestic animals. The 6 stamp miniature sheet is based on art by Jeremy Paul who provided the art for last year's excellent, if unnecessary, "Big Cats and A Journey Through Africa" issue and this latest set is equally attractive but pleasingly much more locally relevant. The miniature sheet is illustrated below:-

  Returning to Ireland, a single stamp will be released on 20 February 2014 to commemorate St. Patrick's Day. The stamp was designed by Oonagh Young and Edward Coady and lithographed by Irish Security Printers:-

  Elsewhere in Europe, Cyprus will issue 4 stamps on 12 March 2014 on the subject of "The Four Seasons". The 4 stamps were designed by Melanie Eliopoulis and lithographed by Giesecke and Devrient Matsoukis of Greece:-

  Malta Post is attending the "ECC Torremolinos 2014 European Collectors' Convention" to be held in Spain from 27 February to 2nd March 2014 and has produced a new exhibition souvenir in the form of the Map of Malta greetings stamp with an appropriate label attached to it:-

  Finally, in Britain, something astounding has happened:-  Royal Mail has used one of its own postage stamps on a letter I received recently from the Philatelic Bureau! A few days ago I received some items from the Philatelic Bureau in Edinburgh (I wonder what will happen to that if Scotland chooses to separate from The United Kingdom) and they were enclosed in an envelope which had had one of the 60p 2013 Butterflies stamps attached to it. I contrast this with an envelope received from the Philatelic Bureau on the very same day which simply had a postage paid indicator printed on the envelope. 
  I do hope that this is the beginning of a new approach to its customers and that instead of using pre-paid printed envelopes Royal Mail will in future go the extra mile of actually using postage stamps on its envelopes - if nothing else it's a form of advertising its own product - if potential customers see these attractive items being used on any post they receive from Royal Mail they may want to actually buy a mint set. 
  However, I have one question - why does Royal Mail charge £1.45p for postage "and handling" when only a 60p stamp is needed for postage? 85p for "handling" - really?

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400. Well At Least I Commemorated Shakespeare's Birthday.

  Royal Mail may have felt that it was not necessary to commemorate the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare (Blog 326) but I at least have my own personal philatelic souvenir of the important anniversary. 
  I passed a very enjoyable day in Stratford-upon-Avon, the lovely Warwickshire town where Shakespeare was born in 1564, and visited the Stratford post office, situated a very short distance from the house where Shakespeare came into the world so that I could send a cover by recorded mail to myself with the Stratford-upon-Avon post mark dated 23 April 2014. I placed the 6 stamps which Royal Mail issued on 12 April 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company on my cover and handed it over to the very pleasant lady counter clerk. I think she thought I was a little mad in using such a high total value of stamps for an ordinary recorded letter and on the whole I suppose philatelists probably are eccentric to say the least when you consider how we spend our money on these little pieces of paper - eccentric squirrels who buy the strangest philately-related things, why some people even buy "stamps" produced by Stamperija.

   The date of 23 April is generally accepted as Shakespeare's birthday although there are no records to confirm the date but the record of his baptism on 26 April 1564 is on display in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford and because children were baptised almost immediately after being born in those days when infant mortality was extremely high in England, 23 April is generally accepted as the date when the genius was born. Hence I visited Stratford on that day and posted my souvenir cover. A close up of the 6 stamps with their "STRATFORD UPON AVON Post Office" postmark with the date "23 Ap 14" is depicted below:-

   In a previous blog I pointed out that the actor David Tennant, who was depicted on a stamp last year in his role of Doctor Who, is shown on the 1st class value playing Hamlet holding the skull of Yorick in his hand. Tennant played another well received role as recently as the autumn of last year when he appeared as King Richard II in the play of that name at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford (the Tennant stamp is shown at the head of this piece) and another actor who was featured on the 66p value of this set, Anthony Sher, (depicted below) is currently appearing at Stratford in the role of Falstaff in Henry IV Part 1:-

Anthony Sher, currently Falstaff

  There is much to see in Stratford that is linked to Shakespeare. Recently, as detailed in Blog 395, Universal Mail United Kingdom issued a booklet of 5 different postcard airmail stamps showing scenes around Stratford including the house where Shakespeare was born, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, a statue of Shakespeare and Holy Trinity Church. Sadly, I could find nowhere in Stratford that was yet selling these stamps but hope to track them down on my next visit. For anyone who has never visited Stratford, here are some photographs taken last autumn around the town:-

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

  Most relevant, I suppose, is the house where William Shakespeare was born. There were many tourists of many nationalities there on the date of the birthday - what a pity there was no philatelic souvenir for them to buy. Perhaps Royal Mail ought to copy Universal Mail and have stamps for sale at important tourist sites so that visitors can mail their postcards home with a souvenir stamp stuck on them.

Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

   If we walk along the river from the theatre we eventually arrive at Holy Trinity Church. The photograph  shows the glorious view of the church from across the river (with a certain dog in the foreground who is probably dreaming of landing the role of Crab, the only dog to appear in a Shakespeare play, in Two Gentlemen Of Verona, which is soon to be performed on the main stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for the first time in many years):-

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford.

Shakespeare's Grave.

  Shakespeare's grave is in the church itself next to some to his relatives and at the head of it is the intriguing message shown in the photograph below:-

Shakespeare memorial in Holy Trinity Church.

 A weekend of celebrations is being held in Stratford to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and it is disappointing that Royal Mail have not participated in the marking of his anniversary by the release of a stamp issue. Ah well, forsooth, we still have the Peppa Pig stamp issued in January to show that Royal Mail gets its priorities right when it comes to choosing what will be included in its new issue programme. At least I have a rather nice and unique philatelic souvenir to place in my own collection.

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