Monday, 30 November 2009

Scotland - it's St. Andrew's Day

With a perfect sense of timing, this excellent map card of Scotland arrived so that I could mark St Andrew's Day appropriately.  The stamp has completely missed the franking machine, so I can't say where it came from.  Probably Scotland. :)

From the back of the card:
Scotland has a land area of about 79,000 sq km (30,500 sq miles), with a total coastline of nearly 12,000 km (7,500 miles).  There are some 800 islands, with almost 600 of them lying off the west coast, over 30,000 freshwater lochs and 6600 river systems.  Scotland's population of 5.1 million live in only 3% of the total land area.

So, plenty of room to lose yourself there. 

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Monte Carlo - the casino terraces

I picked up this card because I'm interested in seeing cards of places which have radically changed over the years and of course Monte Carlo is one of them.  What I didn't realise at the time was that the reverse was every bit as interesting as the picture on the front, possibly even more so.

As you can probably see, it was postmarked Southampton and dated 24 February 1927.  I had no idea what R.M.S. Lancastria was until I looked it up.  It was a Cunard liner, first sailing on 19 June 1922, and on scheduled crossings of the Altlantic until 1932 when it became a cruise ship.  This must have been sent at the beginning or end of a crossing, though you have to wonder why there was no message at all.

During the war the Lancastria became a troopship and was sunk during the Dunkirk evacuations, on 17 June 1940.  Approximately 4000 lives were lost (and possibly considerably more) making this the greatest loss of life in British history, greater than the losses of the Titanic and Lusitania combined.  Because it was such a disaster, public announcement was banned, though the New York Times and the Scotsman published the story in July that year.  It is well worth reading the Wikipedia article if you have time, or the Lancastria Association history.
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Saturday, 28 November 2009

Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, China

This beautiful card with the equally beautiful stamps was sent to me on 18 October 2009.  If you can read the Chinese script, you can tell me where it was posted. :)

Cave No. 465  Family Dependents  Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368) Dunhuang, China

The Mogao Caves are a system of Buddhist cave temples created from the 4th century at a strategic point on the Silk Road.  More and more were built and they remained an important centre of culture until the 14th century.  This card shows a mural in one of the later caves of the Yuan Dynasty.
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Friday, 27 November 2009

PFF: Flooding in the cathedral

This picture shows the bust of William Walker, the deep sea diver who saved Winchester Cathedral.

Way back in the 13th century, the cathedral was enlarged using wooden foundations, but the area has a very high water table and the foundations were almost always flooded.  Eventually, just over a hundred years ago it was realised that there was a serious problem and that the cathedral had to be underpinned.

To cut a long story short, William Walker was employed to go down into the waters and place concrete underneath the weakened walls.  It took him from 1906 until 1911 to do the job, working in almost complete darkness, in deep and dirty water and in a heavy diving suit of the era.  Once it was done, the water could be pumped out and the walls reinforced and repaired.  The crypt still does flood to this day, especially during the winter.

The flooding of the crypt is not entirely a bad thing.  There is a wonderful sculpture of a contemplative figure there, Sound II,  (see the postcard I sent to Mary/theteach), created by Antony Gormley to take advantage of this flooding.  The materials making up the work are listed as lead, fibreglass and water.

There is an exploration of some of Gormley's works on the Tate Modern website.  When you get there, click on "Explore four of Antony Gormley's works", and then you will find Sound II as a thumbnail.  You can see many more photos of the sculpture, and from different angles, unfortunately taken when the crypt was dry - I say unfortunately because water really is an integral part of the piece.

But it's thanks to William Walker that we can see the sculpture in the crypt at all.

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday.
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Thursday, 26 November 2009


Because I live in Europe I have no Thanksgiving cards whatsoever, but I'd like to mark the occasion for my many American friends by re-posting a few cards I think are appropriate, and at the same time being grateful for the new friends that postcards and blogging have brought to me.  So here we have my own, international, interpretation of Thanksgiving.

Harvest in Finland

Oranges from Spain

Cheeses from France

Berries from Finland

Vines, grapes, wine from South Africa

Family and friends, the world over.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Egypt - the desert

Egypt - Western Desert: the White Desert near Farafra.
As usual I can't read the postmark clearly but I think it says Maadi, and the date is 23 October 2009.

I have never seen any sort of desert in real life so this is something of a revelation to me.  It looks so architectural with the rock formations, almost like some old town.  According to the message, other parts consist purely of sand dunes, and that is how I imagine a desert.  The message continues:
"A lot of this sand gets blown into the cities by strong winds so everyone has a problem of dust in their homes."
I have a problem with dust in my home too, but I can't blame the desert!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Japanese tea party?

Postmarked Takeda, dated 13 November 2009, this pretty card is something of a mystery to me.  Do the characters mean anything?  They seem to end in a question mark, so it does look as though they are more than decoration. I'd love it if anyone could enlighten me.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Deal Castle

This lovely view of Deal Castle in Kent, on the south coast of England, is clearly postmarked Deal, and dated 18 August 1911.  The date will become significant.

The castle is one of 30 castles or forts built by Henry VIII between 1539 and 1540, all along the south coast, in an effort to prevent invasion.  It is shaped like a Tudor rose, with a central, low circular tower, and six semi-circular bastions over-looking its outer wall.  In this outer wall are six more, much larger, bastions.  It eventually became the official residence of the Captain of the Cinque Ports until the residence was destroyed by World War II bombing.

The message is interesting because for onec there is a some mention of the current affairs of the day.
Dear A.
Just a line to say we like Deal very much. I hope you are enjoying your visit and are quite well. Does Reg keep you posted up with newspapers? How terrible all these strikes are.  There are so many places of interest in and around Deal.
Love from all.
The strikes mentioned are a reference to a wave of unrest leading to riots and strikes across the country.  Several key industries were affected.
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Sunday, 22 November 2009

The cathedral of Brasilia

This card, looking amazingly like a modernised picture of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, is postmarked Brasilia and dated 31 October 2009.  It is, though, the Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida in Brasilia.
Night view of Brasilia's cathedral.

Brasilia as a whole is on UNESCO's World Heritage List.  It was designed and built from scratch by Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer.  The cathedral too was designed by Oscar Niemeyerwho was also responsible for Le Havre's cultural centre, the Volcan.  I must say that the cathedral is a great deal more attractive than the Volcan which, as Beth Niquette so neatly puts it, is just like a giant tennis shoe.

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Saturday, 21 November 2009

French bagpipes

I'd like to bet that when you see the word bagpipes, the first place you would think of would be Scotland, but you can find them in the traditional music of several countries.  This card I picked up at a flea market.  It has never been used and has no date.  Folk music in Brittany, north-west France) experienced a great revival during the 1970s so that with the deckle-edge to the card makes me think it probably dates from around then.

MX 3151 - Sonneur de biniou de Plougastel-Daoulas
Le biniou se compose d'un sac que l'on gonfle par un sutel et sur lequel sont adaptés une flûte - levriad des Bourdons
Roughly translated (very roughly)  Bagpipe player from Plougastel-Daoulas
The bagpipe consists of a bag which is inflated by a pipe, and with a chanter attached.

There are two types of bagpipes that originate in Brittany, the veuze and the biniou kozh (old bagpipe in Breton), but this card shows neither.  This is the biniou bras (big bagpipe) and is based on Scottish bagpipes.  Breton soldiers saw Scottish pipe bands and brought the idea home with them.  They became popular in the 1950s and then followed the revival of folk music in the area, so they are still popular these days.

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Friday, 20 November 2009

PFF: Friendship

I am late posting today, but for once I noticed that Marie's theme is Friendship, and I am able to tie in this card which has the words "Mes Amitiés d'Ambérieu", my friendly greetings from Ambérieu.  I've made many very good friends through Marie's The French Factrice, so it's a very apt theme.

There was obviously a stamp on the back of this card, but it was removed even though it had been cancelled.

I'm wondering if the N.A. followed by some letters signifies some form of forces postal service because I have a series of postcards apparently sent by the same person showing submarines, troop ships, and so on, from 1920.

The message gives further information:
"Dearest Elsie
Am in Ambérieu, today Tuesday.  Will reach Venice next week.  Fine time.  Your old Bill.  Good messieur [sic].  xxxxx"
In the same collection, I have several cards from Venice too.  But the greeting and the sign off with xxxxx seem to imply rather more than just friendship. :)

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Painting al fresco

An rather amusing card this one, sent to me from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on 10 July 2004, though I don't think it's intended to be.  How often does an artist go out for a day's painting wearing a white shirt, neatly pressed trousers and of course a tie, balancing the canvas on his knee?  I'd like to bet that even his lady friend, reclining before him, would have a very sore elbow after a few minutes like that.  The card is produced, it seems, by a company called Quantity Postcards.

I think it must have been sent to me through a card exchange in the days before Postcrossing, possibly organised through BookCrossing.  On the back is a quote from Wasteland:
"And I wanted more than anything else for it to rain for one whole day like it used to."
Not appropriate for current conditions in the UK, where we currently are experiencing flooding in several northern areas.
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

La Défense

I bought this card myself in 1992, for my son who was doing a project on the Grande Arche de la Défense, pictured on the card.  It has never been through the mail.

La Défense is one of the main business districts for Paris.  It surrounds the central area shown on the card and contains some very impressive modern architecture.  The Arche itself is very interesting:

  • It is directly in line with the Arc de Triomphe and the Arc du Carrousel.
  • The canopy that you can see suspended within the arch represents clouds.
  • There is a viewing and information area right at the top.
  • The sides are occupied by government offices.
  • The whole is offset by 6 degrees to reveal the depth of the cube. (It was known as The Cube at the beginning of the project.)
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A rose

This beautiful red rose was sent to me by a friend in April 2008.  Roses are possibly my favourite of all flowers, especially if they are scented.  This one has a strong, sweet, scent. :)

Monday, 16 November 2009

Mesa Verde National Park

A really beautiful card from PostMuse of the Mesa Verde National Park.  It has, intriguingly, two postmarks.  One is Pittsburg and the other Baden, both dated 22 October 2009.

Cliff Palace at Dusk, Mesa Verde National Park
This Ancestral Pueblo culture site is the largest cliff dwelling still standing in North America.  It is believe to have been constructed somewhere between AD 1190 and AD 1280.  Located at over 7,000 feet in elevation.  Cliff Palace contained 151 rooms, 23 kivas and housed between 100 - 150 people.
Photographer George H.H. Huey.

The Mesa Verde National Park is in Colorado near the Four Corners area, and was home to the Ancient Pueblo people.  Cliff Palace is far larger than any other dwelling in the area.  It was discovered in 1888 by two cowboys looking for strays. 
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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Belfast Botanic Gardens and Irish miles

At first glance I thought this card was a picture of Kew Gardens and it wasn't until I saw the postmark Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone, and wondered why it would be posted from there that I examined it further.  It is dated 15 May 1968.
Botanic Gardens Belfast
The Museum and Art Gallery is beautifully situated in these gardens.

The card could have said so much more, that the gardens were first opened as a private park in 1828 and didn't become public until 1895.  By then the Palm House shown on the card had been built (1839-40) by Richard Turner from Dublin who went on the build the iconic Palm House at Kew (1844-48).  It is one of the earliest examples of a glasshouse made of curved iron and glass.

Fivemiletown has no connection with the picture on the card but it's worth a mention for its name, given to it after the Ulster Plantation, which signifies its distance from its neighbours.   You may or may not know that the Irish mile is longer than the Scots mile which in turn is longer than the English mile.  As long as you know which country you are in, you'll be all right.

1968 was the year of student protests.  I'm assuming this card was written by a student, to "Mum and Dad", and clearly a hitch-hiker: "I had good lifts this morning. Have stopped off to write these in a pub".  You don't see so many hitch hikers about these days but I did once cross England coast to coast that way, with a friend.  I never did tell my parents who would have been horrified.
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Saturday, 14 November 2009

The face of autumn

This really adorable card was sent to me by Mary of Mary Tomaselli's Photos - isn't he gorgeous?!  He looks to me as though he's been tasting the early production of cider, judging by his eyes.

The card is dated 19 September 2009 and postmarked Whitestone.  On the back is a quote from Albert Camus, "Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower", which I love.  Well it's now half-past autumn and the leaves are nearly all fallen, but still beautiful.

Friday, 13 November 2009

PFF: St George and the dragon, Tbilisi

A card arrived from Georgia (the Republic) this week and it made my day for various reasons.  It has a nice clear Tbilisi postmark (I'm becoming more like my father every day) and is dated 30 October 2009.  Georgia is one of the "rare" Postcrossing countries and in fact the person who sent this to me is ranked top of all members from Georgia, having sent three (3) cards!

Of course the main reason for being pleased is that it shows a statue of St. George and the dragon, and as I live in England I have a very soft spot for the patron saint of England.  He is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Beirut, Bteghrine, Cáceres (Spain), Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Gozo, Pomorie, Qormi, Lod, Barcelona and Moscow, so a very busy saint as probably befits one of the most venerated saints in a number of different Christian churches.

Georgia, the country, may have taken its name from St George though there are several possibilities. The name Georgia was first used by the Crusaders. The first modern state was called the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1912, in 1921 it became the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, then on leaving the USSR it became the Republic of Georgia, and finally in 1995, simply Georgia.

The legend of St George and the Dragon was first published as one of the stories in the Golden Legend, translated into Middle English and published by William Caxton, so making it an early bestseller!

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday.

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Thursday, 12 November 2009


I can do no better than to quote the message on this card, which arrived from Belgium today.  The postmark is unfortunately illegible.
I live in a small town called Scherpenheuvel.  As you can see in the picture it has a huge basilica in the centre.  Lots of people come here to pray.  The story behind all this: In the 17th century a thief wanted to steal a little statue from a chapel.  When he did, hes was frozen to the ground.  He could not move.  He stood there for several days until someone came along and put the statue back in its place.  At that exact moment the thief was free again.  the build the basilica on that place and when you visit you can see the statue inside, always on the same place.
The basilica has seven sides and its layout is based on a seven pointed star.  Seven lanes lead up to it and the entire layout of the town reflects this shape.  The dome has 298 stars to symbolise the heavens.
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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Lest we forget

Today 11 November is Remembrance Day, also known as Poppy Day and Armistice Day.  On this day we remember the sacrifices made by service men and women.  The date was chosen because the First World War was formally ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Reader

This card was sent to me from the Netherlands, postmarked Zwolle and dated 30 October 2009.  It is a card apparently produced in France
Le Liseur (anonyme)
The Reader
2008 Hulton-Deutsch Collection
Editions Désastre - 75006 Paris

Is it a man in a bookshop? Or ... what? I can't work out quite what it is but the idea of being surrounded by books like that most definitely appeals to me.

There are two attractive stamps on the card:

The stamp above is one of the seasonal stamps for December, and the one below is from a sheet of stamps dedicated to five charitable organisations, in this case the charity being De Zonnenbloem (the sunflower).  It has been in existence for 60 years and provides social contact and opportunities to people who may be isolated by illness, disability or age.
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Monday, 9 November 2009

The Spiral Tower at Samarra

This card shows the minaret of the mosque at Samarra, one of the four Islamic Holy Cities of Iraq. The mosque dates from 852 AD, but some people think the minaret, which is separate from the mosque itself on its northern side, may date from as early as 836 AD. It is 52 metres high. In 2005 the top was damaged by an explosion when insurgents attacked the tower because it had been used as a lookout by troops.
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Sunday, 8 November 2009

A sad time

This was one of the first cards I received through Postcrossing from a lovely person called Pennina.  I "met" her first through BookCrossing and we both joined the postcard exchange at much the same time when it was first set up.  She has been inactive on either site in the last several months, not responding to any contact.  So, while I was perhaps not surprised, I was desperately sad to hear that she has died.  My thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.
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Saturday, 7 November 2009

Seasonal fruits, Finland

Another lovely card from Finland, this time showing the fruits of the season, with a lovely stamp!

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