Friday, November 29, 2013

Symboles régaliennes

Sometimes, I pick up postcards without really knowing anything about them, or exactly what drew me to it. Sometimes, they seem just so odd that I need to have them. Like this one of a porcupine. With a crown!

Without too much effort, I found out that the porcupine was the symbol of French King Louis XII. He ruled from 1498-1515. At first, the porc-épic seems an odd choice, after all he's not nearly as large or ferocious looking as a lion. But then, think of the little guy's personal archery arsenal with those quills! Louis XII inherited the porcupine from his grandfather, but it soon fell out of favour as being too militant and aggressive a symbol though not before it graced the Blois and everything that could be emblazoned with it. Like these.

His successor, Francois I, who ruled from 1515-1547, chose a salamander as his emblematic symbol of fire and cold.

there is an interesting blog post about the salamanders at the Château de Chambord herePostcardFriendshipFriday

Sunday, November 24, 2013

singers on stamps

These stamps from 2007 were only the second to feature living Canadians.

Each stamp is square, like an album cover (since these photos are from more or less 30 years ago). The photo is from a significant period in each singer's career with a font designed appropriate to the era. The design was also enhanced by using a MetalFX process that involves "underprinting in metallic silver ink, then overprinting with other colours. The result gives a lustrous sheen to the artists’ portraits." A Canada Post article on the stamps and the musical icons can be found here and other singers on stamps can be found through here

Friday, November 22, 2013

Casa Loma

The fate of Casa Loma has been up in the air during the last few years. But this week, one of the things Toronto City Council managed to succeed in approving was for Liberty Entertainment Grp to take over as the new operations managers of the main house and grounds.  There was some fear that it may end up having part of it turned into condos which seems to be a favoured solution to old buildings needing massive repairs and renovations. But the new plans - for a restaurant and events rooms as well as a museum and galleries for highlighting the stories and history of Toronto (something sorely missing and desperately needed) looks promising and exciting. Sadly, this news was overshadowed by council dealing with the Rob Ford scandal. 

Henry Pellatt was an eccentric millionaire who, among other things, founded the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883. He and his partners would later build the country's first hydro generating plant at Niagara Falls. His fortune would begin to unravel once he lost the monopoly on electricity when it became public. Then there was the war. In the end, he had to sell his castle after living in it for only nine years.
 circa 1914
circa 1954

It took over 300 workers three years to build the $3.5 million home. The start of WWI put an end to construction and much of the house was unfinished due also in part to the expensive excesses of Pellatt and architect E.J. Lennox. There is an elevator (for his wife, Mary, who was in a wheelchair), an oven large enough to cook an ox, vertical passageways to fit organ pipes and a central vacuum. There are ballrooms, a conservatory and a tunnel to the hunting lodge and stables (which themselves are outfitted with mahogany and Spanish tiled stalls). 

The tower and the attic are empty and the swimming pool was never completed, but the unfinished bowling alley is now a gift shop and the unfinished gymnasium is now a cafe. There is currently an ongoing exterior renovation and soon some more interior renovations (including air conditioning!) but it won't be closed to the public. So go visit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

where the key no longer works

There is a wonderful episode of Yes, Prime Minister (I know, they were all wonderful) where Sir Humphrey, the Cabinet Secretary, has some of his responsibilities taken away from him and reassigned. His key is also taken away from him and the locks changed so that he can't just wander into the PM's office from the cabinet office whenever he likes. I was thinking of this as the locks were changed at Toronto City Hall keeping the Mayor-in-name-only out of the Deputy Mayor's (new) office. Humphrey was more of a schemer than a bully, so it is unlikely that Ford will resort to the same antics. But there will be antics. We know this.

you can watch the episode here or you can read about it here

In the meantime, here are postcards showing City Hall as it looked in 1965 when it was built.

The council chambers located in the flying saucer bit in the centre of the two towers.

Measuring 155' in diameter and 40' to the peak of its domed ceiling, the clear-span concrete shell hovers over the circular central assembly space and semi-circular public gallery. A continuous band of glass between the upper and lower shells provides indirect daylight.

and in 1978, with Nathan Phillips Square looking slightly less bare
Nathan Phillips ("a mayor of the people") was apparently very popular  
(I don't remember as he was in office from 1955-1962) 
and the driving force behind the building of this 'avant-garde' new building 
(the excitement of the opening, I do remember)

Monday, November 18, 2013

a walk in the forest

What I learn from Postcrossing. This postcard arrived today from Dasha in Siberia.

Barnaul band type pine forest
This is in the Altai region where there are around 13,ooo lakes. There are five pine forest bands, with this one being the largest. It stretches for 400km but is as narrow as 15km wide in some spots.

There is an old legend about pine forests telling of the God of Wind that was flying above these lands in the Altai region and saw a beautiful girl with a wonderful name, Aigul (it means 'Moonflower' and is common in Kazakhstan). He decided to take her to his castle beyond the clouds and cajole her to marry him by showering her with marvelous presents. But the girl knew that it would be very hard to love him as the Wind frequently changed his character and mood, was frivolous and often flew away from home. Aigul heard the Wind sneaking up to her while smelling the unusu­al flowers he carried and scared of being torn off her native land she rushed home along the meadow. But the Wind turned into a hurricane, ran the beautiful runaway down, picked her up and took her away to his celestial chambers. Aigul was crying and where her drops of tears fell there appeared small lakes. The green bands from her braids flew down to the ground and where they dropped there grew forests to show her brothers the way to find their sister. Whether they found her or not nobody knows…

source with slight adjustments to the translation

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Boring is the theme Viridian has chosen for this week's stamps. While I knew what I would choose, I have been thinking about what is boring. After seeing some stamps too many times one can become quite bored with them though the stamps themselves may not be boring. Some stamps bearing a cameo of a monarch come to mind. 

Let me say, I love these Machin stamps, but if I were living in the UK I might be a little tired of seeing them. They have, after all , been around since 1967. Apparently, neither the Queen nor Arnold Machin would approve any changes to the design. Personally, I love the rich colours which make me think of Fiesta ware. I want to collect all the rainbow of colours.

But the most boring stamps I find, are the ones that bear simply a number. 

Like these from Sweden and The Netherlands. The ones on the right are from the 1950s and have interesting swirls descending from the letters 'g' and 'n'. The even simpler one on the left was designed in 1976. Like the Machin series, each denomination is a different colour, though for these the background colour fades from top to bottom. This series was in use until the Euro came and now is no longer valid, so we won't be bored by it any longer.

Monday, November 11, 2013

grave post - cenotaph

The population of Port Elgin was only 1,235 in 1911. By 1921 it had grown to 1,291. 
That was after losing 17 men in The Great War.

The only loss of life from Bruce County during the Boer War was Gordon Cummings, a native and school teacher of Port Elgin 
This monument was erected in 1903 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

ancient ships

Dar Pomorza - Gift of Pomerania - was a sailing frigate built in 1909 in Hamburg as a training ship for the German Merchant Marines. After WWI She was taken over by the French and at some point around 1929 she was to become an ocean liner, but that plan failed and she was eventually bought for £7,000 by the community of Pomerania and was used as a training vessel until 1982 when she was decommissioned. This year marks the 30th anniversary of her life as a museum ship. You can still visit her at the Maritime Museum in Gdynia. This stamp was part of a series designed by Stefan Malecki around 1965
For SundayStamps where the theme is ships or boats Here are some other "ancient ships" in a series from 1963, also designed by Stefan Malecki

left to right top row
14thC Koga - statek fryzyjski 
Cog - Frisian ship
15thC Karaka - statek handlowy
Carrack - merchant ship
16thC Galeon - okret wojenny
Galleon - war ship

left to right bottom row
17thC Polski - okret wojenny
Polish - war ship
18thC Liniowiec - okret wojenny
Liner - war ship
19th Kliper statek handlowy
Clipper - merchant ship

Friday, November 8, 2013

days of war and separation

There will be sweet birds calling when I come back again,
Songs of deep joy awaking, after the storm and after the rain;
There will be sunlight gleaming, skies will be shining and blue
When I am by your side, dear, when I come back to you.

with permission from the publishers of Cary & Co 
13 Mortimer St London
words by Edward Lockton, music by Eileen Summers.

I haven't been able to find a video or recording of this song anywhere, but there was a small review in a New Zealand newspaper

"A delightful love ballad that has met with a very favourable reception. Its message will find an echo in many hearts in these days of war and separation." 
March 1917, Otago Times, NZ

for PostcardFriendshipFriday on this Remembrance Week

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

trains in a flower bed

Every year at the end of October, the greenhouse at Gage Park hosts an impressive themed Mum and Fall Flower Show. This year, the theme was trains. Here are a few trains and signs planted among the displays.

The TH&B (Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo)  locomotive 103 was retired in 1956 but was spared from the scrap yard by an agreement between the railway and the city of Hamilton. It was accepted by the Hamilton Parks Board and moved to the south side of Gage Park where it  became a landmark piece for a generation of people in Hamilton.  Even in retirement the 103 was still used by the TH&B. Their sidings ran along Lawrence Ave., past Gage Park where the locomotive could easily be seen by engineers. Dispatchers used it as a waypoint when shunting cars. "Push 'em back as far as the ol' 103," was common radio chatter.

a previous photo essay can be found here.  but for the immediate future, I'm off to bed with my tea and honey and maybe a wee dram.... will visit everyone later.

some flowery signs for signs, signs

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

grave post - Cpl Dyer

Corporal Dyer was taking part in a night training mission in Afghanistan on April 17, 2002 when his position was bombed by an American warplane in a friendly fire incident at Tarnak Farms. Sadly, he and three other Canadian soldiers were killed and eight more were injured. 

Their deaths were the first of Canada's war in Afghanistan.

Dyer was just 24 years old. He was born in Montreal and grew up in Toronto. He enlisted in the Canadian Forces in 1996 and would go on to become a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Cpl Dyer had aspirations of gaining an engineering degree upon completion of his service in the Canadian Forces. 

A plaque bearing the names of Sgt. Marc Léger, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Richard Green and Pte Nathan Smith lies on a floodlit memorial beside the Canadian headquarters at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Corporal Dyer was commemorated in February, 2003 on the Rakkasan Memorial Wall at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He is buried in the Necropolis in Toronto.

Taphophile Tragics for Remembrance Week

Saturday, November 2, 2013


When you think of the Arctic, probably the first thing that comes to mind would be ice and polar bears.
This 2¢ stamp from 1953 for National Wildlife Week was designed by John Crosby
while this 1972 25¢ version was designed by Reinhard Derreth

by 2006, we have these bears designed by Doreen Colonello as part of the 'flag' definitives series
and in 2011 this international stamp from the baby wildlife series 

and finally, (and my personal favourite) this 2009 series for Preserve the Polar Regions and Glaciers featuring a Polar Bear and an Arctic Tern 
“This bird serves as a link between the Arctic and Antarctic regions, since it migrates yearly between the North and South Poles”