To open my mailbox like someone opening a surprise box and to feel the pleasure of discovery unleashed by an envelope decorated with stamps.
To be part of the world and also to discover it this way, with the help of those who share this vision.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

 COVER N.165 - GEORGIA

Postmark: 58 - Georgia - Mtshketa - 33000 - 14.09.2022  
Posted on the 14th September; received on the 21st September 2022
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What a tremendously pleasant surprise! Thank you so much Alexander for your care and for letting me add another country to the Philatelic Atlas.

Just like Ray Charles I've had Georgia on my mind (well  I know, his Georgia is not the same, but one just can' t escape a good pun, right?) for quite a long time and I've been thinking of going there for one of my driving holidays, since I have a feeling that a country  nested between the Caucasus and the Black Sea  has to be full of  good reasons for the nature loving traveller to enjoy the ride.... sometime in the future, now that retirement is getting nearer....

Meanwhile, while I write this blog entry I'll will treat myself to some fitting soundtrack and will let Khatia and Gvantsa Buniatishvili fill the spaces between my words with their beauty and their outstanding playing.

The history of Georgia is full of pages written in blood. Having declared its independence in the midst of  WW1 and the Russian Revolution, it wasn't long before it first became a British protectorate in 1920 only to fall rapidly into Russian domination which eventually led to it becoming one of the republics of the Soviet Union in 1936.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia regained its independence in 1991, but the transition was anything but pacific with coups d'état and general social unrest that lead to a civil war that would last until 1995.

Since then, separatist pressure from the Russian backed South Ossetia and Abecassia  regions who have both declared their independence (which only Russia and a few of its accolades acknowledge), has led to more blood being shed in a short but bloody conflict in 2008, which ended up with Georgia terminating its diplomatic relations with its gigantic neighbour.... (hmmmmm If I was Georgian I would be very concerned about the result of the war in Ukraine....)

Against this dramatic backdrop, I'm sure that many were the names that have ascended to National hero status because armed conflicts, and especially independence wars, are prone to  produce them... what under cold analysis isn't such a good thing after all, because heroes generally ascend to that status in exchange for their most precious possession: life....

Maro Makashvili was one such case. A voluntary nurse with the Georgian forces that opposed the Russian invasion of 1921, she was killed by splinters from a bomb shell.

The first woman to be awarded the order of Georgian National Hero, her memory was also made everlasting in quite a fiitting way: a park, in Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, was named after her.

On 23MAR2021,  Georgian Post also honoured her memory with the souvenir sheet with a 3 + 1 Georgian Lari stamp that Alexander used on the cover.. I can't understand the wording both on the stamp and on the the sheet, but I'd tend to think that the  legend in larger characters  probably reads National Hero Order, since the image presented is that of the Order. 

I also don't know what the extra charge on the stamp is meant for. Can anyone help?


Chess needs no introduction. It is played in every continent and has its own legion of fervent fans. Not I, though. Too mind tasking for my restless nature, I think, even though I've learned its rudiments (now long forgotten)  as a child.

The World Chess Olympiad takes place every two years, being organised by  FIDE, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs - International Chess Federation as a contest between national teams.

The first unofficial tournament having taken place alongtside the Paris Olympic Games of 1924, it is now in its 44th edition.

The 43rd edition took place in Batumi, Georgia, in 2018, from 23 September till 6 October, with the Chinese team winning Gold, the US, Silver and Russia, Bronze.

On 14JUN2018 drawing on attention to the upcoming contest, the Georgian Post issued the very colourful 0,90 Lari stamp on my cover, illustrated with the 43rd Olympiad logo.



Tuesday, 20 September 2022

COVER N.165 - FRANCE

Postmark: 58 - Corsigny - Nievre 14.09.2022  
Posted on the 14th September; received on the 20th September 2022
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Mr. Postman, my friend, rides a motorcycle these days, but I still remember seeing the CTT (Portuguese Post) or the Portuguese Marconi boletineiros cycling across Lisbon traffic to deliver telegrams and other urgent mail...

They were good, hey had to be.. Lisbon is known as the city of the 7 hills and although none of them is higher that the Col du Tourmalet, it wasn't an easy task, especially considering that they did so in uniform... Marconi even had its own cycling team that I think also competed in the Volta a Portugal (The Portuguese Tour).

Thank you so much Jean-Pierre for this letter embellished with two great stamps (and also thanks for the felines inside they were truly appreciated!)

Le Portet d'Aspin, L'Alpe d'Huez, le Col du Galibier....le Col du Tourmalet....names that are synonymous with overcoming our own human nature just by relentlessly turning round and round two pedals connected to a sprocket wheel that in turn drives a chain that drives another sprocket wheel and makes the body dangling on the two wheeled contraption go forward, little by little, faces tinted with a mascara of pain and resolve...

That's cycling at its best... that's the classic of the classics, the Tour the France, that's the climb of the Tourmalet, the high mountain peak that has featured the most times on the yearly menu of the Tour, 83 times, to be precise, ever since the first time it was included in the famous race, in 1910.

Located in the Central French  Pyrenees, in  the Hautes-Pyrénées department  the ascent to the top implies17,2 km with a medium 7,4% slope on the West bank or 18.8 km on the East side, its slope also averaging 7.4%... not for little children...

I took a look at the list of winners at the top of the Col and lo and behold, amidst the familiar names that one will always associate with the epic times of cycling, (long before carbon fibre frames and wheel rims and complex gear mechanisms that make the high competition bicycle today a rocket science issue), such as Raymond Poulidor, Loucien Van Impe, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Thévenet (strangely could not find Jaques Anquetil ) I found the name of a fellow countrymen that I confess I had never heard of, the hero of my childhood days having been Joaquim Agostinho: José Manuel Ribeiro da Silva (1935 – 1958... damn!... did he depart early.. a  motorbike accident being the culprit). 

Ribeiro da Silva  won at the Col in 1957, a good year for him since he also won the Volta a Portugal (the Portuguese Tour) a feat he had already accomplished in 1955.

Celebrating the mythical Col du Tourmalet, on 11JUL 2022, La Poste issued the beautiful 1,16€ stamp that was used on my cover, featuring a view of the road to the mountain, which can be seen on the background, with a reckless cyclist in the foreground, starting the difficult ascent.



La dune du Pilat is the highest moving dune in Europe, and it is located at the entrance of the Arcachon bay, in the Biscay gulf.

With a total area of 87 hectares and extending over a total length of, 2,7 Km, being made of some 60,000,000 m³ of wind blown sand, its height above sea level was 106,6 m, in 2018. Since it is always growing, it must be a bit higher by now.

The dune is a famous tourist attraction of the region, especially at sunset when flocks of  sun worshipers climb the slope to watch the famed and well promoted Dune du Pilat sunset....

Guess who one of those tourists was in 2014 (man how time flies....) and I have proof of it...


Not a bad place at all to watch the sun go down...


Whenever I watch a sunset, I remember Richard Harris' words in his fabulous "Slides" song: "sunset, another sunset, I know it looks indistinguishable from the last, but I remember the difference".

On 19SEP2005, La Poste issued a set of  10 stamps encased in a minisheet as issue nº 6 of the "La France a Voir - Portraits de Régions" series,  of which the beautiful Dune du Pilat stamp on my cover was a part.

Unfortunately, the very nice cover was again the victim of the dreaded double postmarking with a machine postmark being applied over the already manually postmarked stamps, what only creates "postmark noise" and graphic confusion... sad!



Sunday, 18 September 2022

Operation TAAF 

a progress report on what happened to a souvenir sheet that was broken into 5 parts

Episode I - Iles Éparses 

Episode II - Crozet

Episode III - Iles Australes - St. Paul et Amsterdam

Episode IV - Iles Australes -  Kerguelen - Cover received on 14September 2022


Four down, one to go!

The day after I entered the  St. Paul and Amsterdam entry into my blog, I received the cover that journeyed from  the Island of Grande Terre, the largest in the Kerguelen archipelago, another of the territories that integrate the TAAF.

The archipelago, discovered in 1777 by  a French Naval Officer, Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec, from whom they got their name, is located in the Indian Ocean more or less midway between Africa and  Australia and  I believe it to be France's second southernmost territory, right after Terre Adélie.

The islands are totally devoid of human presence, but for the  staff of  Port aux Français, a permanent scientific base  and a Satellite tracking station, close to it in Grande Terre., also known as Desolation island (a quite graphic toponym...) . throughout the year anything from 45 to 100 people might be stationed in Port aux Français, supplies being brought in by ship, given that there is no landing strip available.


Similarly to Crozet and St. Paul et Amsterdam, Kerguelen also has its very interesting blog full of inside information on the islands and the day to day aspects of life and work of the members of the Scientific missions that occupy the Port aux Français Base. 

 


Further to the "Official" Port Aux Français Postmark, and the usual Coodinates stamp, M. le Gérant Postal included two other beautiful stamps.



This one I believe is the seal of  the telecom team of Mission 72, their motto being Lavoisier's famed Law: Nothing is lost, Nothing is created, everything is transformed. The image of an albatross with a walkie-takie dangling from its head and a small rubber stamp are the only drawings I can understand although there are a couple more items in the seal. The seal is handsigned by the members of the team, MM. Boris (le Gérant Postal, whom I thank for his attention and care), Jean-Sébastien and Axel, according to a photo in the aforementioned Kerguelen blog.

The other seal is probably the seal of Mission 72, mimicking a playing card with a penguin, of which there must be plenty on the islands...




The small rectangular stamp wirh the coordinates reads: 




Saturday, 17 September 2022

COVER N.164 - UK

Postmark: Mount Pleasant 12SP22  
Posted on the 12th Septemberf; received on the 15th September 2022
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A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....

I still remember how impressed I was by the words scrolling in perspective on the screen to a vanishing point  somewhere in the infinite space.. who wasn't? That and the first time I went to a Theatre  - good old Tivoli, that is still used for performing arts but not for movies anymore, IIRC,- featuring the then novel Dolby stereo system that made the walls tremble and the chairs wobble. 

All this years after, people are still marvelled by the universe created by George Lucas and his team, which has naturally expanded, as has the real one, to absorb all the technical developments that have since appeared in the field of special effects, to continue to produce sequels and prequels and spin-offs and musicals and books and DVDs all sort of merchandise one could think of. 

George Lucas has really created a new parallel world, not in a galaxy far, far away, though... but right across the door, with its centre in the San Francisco constellation.....

and from this new world endless hours of joy and enjoyment would radiate, as if an inverted black hole would pulsate at its centre, not only because of Star Wars, but also because of the other phenomenon that was therein generated and which had an adventurous archaeology professor named Indiana Jones at its fulcrum (curiously enough, as we all know, majestically played by the same guy who drove the augustly decadent Millennium Falcon in the Star Wars Saga).

Thank you so much Simon, for a beautiful cover with an unbeatable frieze of heroes.. I can't understand C3PO and R2D2 having being left out, though. 😀


The First film of the Star Wars Saga premiered in 1977. Since then eight more, appearing in an order more consonant with commercial interest than with chronologic logic (no, I do not stutter…) have filled movie theatres around the world with hosts of fans, although these days many would probably commit the sacrilege of watching the film on the minimal screens of a smartphone or a tablet, at most....

Aside thought: Can someone imagine watching something like... say.... Lawrence of Arabia, on a smartphone, probably munching popcorn at the same time ....?

In 2015 "The force awakens", the first part of the trilogy that sequels the original trilogy (confused?)  was distributed for movie theatres around the world. With the Star wars craze thus rekindled, Royal Mail thought it would be a good commercial idea to launch a stamp emission dedicated to the theme and so on 10OCT2015, two strips with six se-tenant 1st class stamps were issued, one of them gracing the top of my cover.

Lef t to right we have The villain Darth Vader, The sage Yoda, who was the mentor of Obi-Wan Knobi, Obi-Wan himself, a Stormtrupper (the SS of the sidereal space). Han Solo (the mighty "driver" of the Millennium Falcon) and Rey, a she Jedi mentored by none other than Luke Skywalker himself.

The other strip includes stamps with the mugshot of Princess Leia, The Emperor, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Finn and Kylo Ren.

The postmark on the stamps tells us that the letter was processed via the Mount Pleasant mail Centre,  London's central mail central.


Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Operation TAAF 

a progress report on what happened to a souvenir sheet that was broken into 5 parts

Episode I - Iles Éparses 

Episode II - Crozet

Episode III - Iles Australes - Cover received 13SEP22

Another piece of the souvenir sheet arrived yesterday... I'm making good progress! 😃

I confess that before I had started to prepare Operation TAFF, I had never heard of the Iles Australes - St. Paul et Amsterdam, so, as usual I went searching for information and what I always  suspect, seems to once again be true: it was a fellow countryman who first set his eyes on the tiny island of St. Paul, in 1559. The crew of the Nau S. Paulo, commanded by Rui Melo da Câmara, discovered it while on their way to India, on one of the many such ventures that took place after Vasco da Gama had proved the possibility of navigating from Lisbon to India in 1498.

Amsterdam was discovered by Elcano during the circumnavigation that Magellan started in 1519 and he finished  in 1522, exactly 500 years ago, but was christened after the name of the ship of a Dutch sailor - Anthony van Diemen - who sighted it in 1633 and gave it the name of his vessel - Nieuw Amsterdam.

The French took possession of the two Islands in 1843 and from then on, the two extinct Volcanoes erupting from the Indian Ocean have remained French territory, although both islands are only inhabited by scientists - 25 to 50 at most - who stay mostly at the  Martin de Viviès Base, in the Island of Amsterdam, although short study stays can also be made at St.Paul.

These islands are important biodiversity sanctuaries and harbour substantial colonies of seabirds and seals.



Monsieur  le Gérant Postale of the St.Paul and Amsterdam Islands, M. Christophe Bouchet, whom I most sincerely thank for his attention and care, was very generous with his stamps on my cover which took exactly 8 moths on its round trip from the very same desk I'm typing on right now, the return leg having started on the 18th March, and finished yesterday, that is to say  about a week short of a six month journey.



On the front of the cover we have no less that 4 different stamps: the regular Martin de Viviès - St. Paul - Ams. TAAF postmark, dated of 18-03-2022, plus The  stamp of Mission 73, comprising the outline of Amsterdam Island with what looks like an albatross, plus a western rockhoper penguin and a sea lion.

The second large stamp on the front of the cover is what I presume to be the stamp of the Mission's Doctor - Dr. Morgane David-Lefèvre - even though I could not find any mention to her  in the Amsterdam Blog (again, a very interesting resource). It comprises the outline of the Island and an albatross with a red cross badge on the wing.



and, as usual with TAAF covers the coordinates for the place  - Martin de Viviès - Long. 77º 32E; Lat. 37º 41S.


Monsieur le Gerent Postal also applied to large stamps on the back of the cover plus a sticker.



Left to right we have  a stamp of the local chapel - Notre Dame de l'Océan  (Our lady of the Ocean) with the outline of the island and the image of the chapel building;



A sticker evocative of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Amsterdam Island, that is taking place this year;


and finally the Gérant Postal’s own "Tampon" with a western rockhoper penguin, an orca, a sea lion and M. le Gérant own signature.


All in all, a truly interesting addition to my collection. Again, thank you so much, M. le Gérant Postal des Illes de St. Paul et Amsterdam!


Monday, 12 September 2022

POSTCARD N.89 - RUSSIA

Postcrossing postcard sent on the 25th August inside cover #163, received on the 9th September 2022

Postcard image: Yuri Gagarin
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I was born  in 1960, so I can say that my infancy and that of the space race were somehow contemporary .

I have already written here about the National Geographic magazines my father signed, so the likes of John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and Neil Armstrong, to mention but a few of the more sounding names, were faces that, even though I was still a child, were no strangers to me, the curious little prick I was.

All things Soviet would not be easily distributed in the Portugal of that era, locked in a stupid monolithic and cruel fascistoid dictatorship  as senseless and persecutory as  any of the sad regimes of the Soviet block countries. But the space race was such an huge  thing in its heyday that Sputnik, Laika and most of all, Yuri Gagarin, would also be household names for those infants like me that would marvel at the black and white newspaper photos of rockets lifting off Cape Canaveral…no images of Baikonour, then, and TV... 

train of thought...

When I was a kid I  only had access to TV at home for 3 years from 65 to 68, because then I went to live in the Azores, where no such luxury was available. In fact, I would only watch TV again upon my return to the mainland in 73...

Lucky me, I had the best youth years a child can get: a bicycle, a fishing rod, a spear fishing gun... I was literally King of the World, long before DiCaprio...

back  to our regularly scheduled program:

Yuri Gagarin was, of course, the first man to be sent to space. This having happened in 1961, I, small wonder, couldn’t not even be bothered with it, but when he unfortunately died in an accident while flying a Mig-15, in 1968, I was already aware of his place in the history of space exploration and he too, as well as Valentina Tereshkova (whom I remember visiting my country in 1975) were names that I revered.

Knowing my interest in all things that fly, be it animals, aircraft or men,  Julia sent me, a very nice card with a photo of a young Yuri Gagarin and a varnished 60 superimposed  on it, commemorative of the 60th anniversary of his famous flight, which took place on the 12th April 1961.


Curiously, CTT, the Portuguese Postal Service, had also issued last year a pre-stamped postcard commemorating Gagarin's flight, thus I now have to very nice postcards to present side by side.




 COVER N.163 - RUSSIA

Postmark: ПОЧТА РОССИИ - КАЛУГА ПОЧТАМТ УООПО 248099 (Russian Post - Kaluga Post Office 248099) 
Posted on the 25 August; received on the 97th September 2022
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Another one of Julia's very nice covers always complemented with a few interesting stamps. Thank you so much again Julia!

Dmitry Borisovich Glinka was another of the Russian air aces of WW2 who scored a total of 50 air victories, for which he was twice awarded the title of hero of the Soviet Union, and who survived to tell the tale.

Born in 1917 in Kryvyi Rih, today the 6th largest Ukranian city, he joined the military in 1937, after learning to fly at the at the Kryvyi Rih aeroclub, also in present day Ukraine.

Most of his air victories were achieved in an American aircraft, the P-39 Aircobra, supplied to the Soviet Union by the US, under Roosevelt's lend- lease programme.

One cannot escape the irony of thinking that if it was today, he would probably  be fighting against those he fought for... possibly on American supplied aircraft....

Having left the military in 1960, Glinka would employ his skills and knowledge in the cause of civil aviation, both as a pilot and instructor. He died in 1979.



Dmitri Glinka was honoured by the Russian Post more than once with special covers. The one Julia kindly sent me was issued in 2017 and it features Glinka's photograph with his P-39 Airacobra in the background and his two "Hero of the Soviet Union" decorations right before his effigy.

The envelope is self-stamped with an imprinted Tariff A (Domestic up to 30g) stamp mark

Stamps, left to right:

According to an entry on Arctic cooperation and politics in Wikipedia, "In 2007, Russia planted a flag on the Arctic Ocean seafloor beneath the North Pole while performing research to substantiate its claim to an extended continental shelf." 

The fact is clearly highlighted by the 8 Rubble stamp on my cover, issued on 07DEC2007 as part of a se-tenant two even priced stamp set and a label, themed on Arctic Exploration. The legend reads СЕВЕРНЬІЙ ПОЛЮС ГЛУБИНА 4300 m or NORTH POLE DEPTH 4300 m.

5 Rubble stamp celebrating the centenary of birth of Dmitry Likhachov (1906-1999) a Russian scholar and a survivor of the Gulag, considered to have been in his life the  foremost authority in Old Russian and its literature.

He was detained and exiled in a concentration camp for having questioned the 1918 soviet reform of the Russian orthography, ... Sigh....how come this be...? Portuguese, as we write it today, was the subject of a useless and senseless orthographic revision that occurred in 1990. I have made fun of it many times... just to think of it....

On 11MAY2021, the Russian Post issued a minisheet with four 24 Rubble stamps dedicated to the Technological Achievements of Russia. The stamps feature an autonomous  Robot, a satellite navigation system, a combat robot and an autonomous submarine.

Fyodor (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) the robot, the subject of the stamp on the cover, was the first autonomous robot to have been sent to the international space station where he accomplished several tasks, proving its worth as a viable technological aid.

The robot reputation would notwithstanding be forever stained by a video of him shooting a live gun, what had some consequences in the development of the project, with a parts supplier abandoning it.

Surely there could be better things for Fyodor to do than to shoot live ammunition (or any ammunition, for that matter), right?