Sunday, May 31, 2015

stilted houses

Lake Nokoué is in what is now Benin in West Africa. The country was known as the Republic of Dahomey from 1958 until 1975 when the more neutral name of Benin was chosen. In a lagoon at the northern edge of the 20km long by 11km wide lake is the village of Ganvie. 
In the late 16th or early 17th century the Tofinu people saved themselves from the attacking Fon people who had made a deal with the Portuguese to hunt and sell other people from smaller ethnic groups. Someone realized they could take advantage of the Fon religion that forbade the warriors from entering water (something about a water demon) and a plan was hatched to build their new community on stilts in the lake. 

It's the largest lake village in Africa with about 20,000 inhabitants and is now a UNESCO World heritage Site.

Many of the houses are built of bamboo and the boats - known as pirogues - from tree trunks.
All of the houses and shops - plus a hotel and a couple of restaurants - are built on wooden stilts several feet above the water. A patch of dry land was made by importing soil in their boats to house the school and more soil is being imported in order to build a cemetery. The lagoon is not deep and several small islands pop up and are used to house a few domesticated animals, though the main livestock is fish from an intricate system of underwater corrals.
These stamps are from 1960. 
Here are some recent photos, found on the internet, of the lake village.

This is apparently quite a tourist attraction, though it mostly seems to consists of being ferried around in a boat watching the local people go about their daily business. Still it would be fascinating to see. Of course, this being Benin - at 6º north of the equator - I'm sure it gets unbearably hot and humid. And I'm thinking with all that water (where all the waste presumably goes) quite odorous.

for SundayStamps II showing places to live.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

street signs - Portside

Portside is in Charlotte, Rochester, NY and, conveniently as it's name suggests, beside the port. On the map, it is Portside Dr and runs through Ontario Beach Park between Lake Ave and N River St near where the Genesee River flows into Lake Ontario
I find these over-the-street arms with the lights and street names very convenient for driving - no having to search over to both sides of the intersection to see where the street sign is located, and you can continue looking straight ahead to see the lights change (or not, as the case may be).

As you can see, there is a lighthouse on these street signs.

This is the Genesee Lighthouse
another in my irregular series of street signs

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

grave post - Collins

MAY 30, 1842
8 MO.12 DAS


THE 21st N.Y. VOL. CAV.

A theory about this stone's unique geometric shape is posited in "Speaking Stones" from the Rochester University. The simple decorative lines leave the powerful message of the stone's shape and words to speak for themselves without other distracting symbols. The design of this stone was, perhaps chosen by the wife of E. Burke Collins, since the largest text on the front of this stone is "My Husband". It seems obvious that she wanted this stone with its unique geometry to catch the attention of any passers by. Follow the straight side upwards to the slightly curved upper edge and continue the curve.  These lines meet to form a very conventional shape of a tablet style with a curved top. Collins' is not a complete triangular, but rather a full tablet cut off at little more than half its size, bearing a strong relation to the person whose grave this stone marks. E. Burke Collins was shot by accident when only 29 years old, scarcely more than half the life expectancy of that time.

This was a small gravestone that certainly caught my attention. I took the photos, on the fly, so to speak and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was one that was included in the Speaking Stones website, which turned out to be a course offered by the Rochester University for the Dept of Religion and Classics. The course outline almost makes me want to go back to school.

Monday, May 25, 2015

a bit of green

After putting together yesterday's post of Dutch stamps, I realized I had a couple of unfinished draft posts from my trip to Amsterdam last year. So, for Monday Walks here is one we took in the quaint (but very touristy) village of Zaanse Schans. We gave the museum a miss (or should I say my travelling companion did...)

though, to be honest, by the time we had traipsed through the village and shopped and ate and gawked, we'd had enough for the day. Maybe next time we'll (or more likely, just me)  tour the museum and then head over to the restaurant for our coffee and some very good food (one doesn't always expect very good food at touristy places).
It was very pleasant to just stroll through this village with no cars impeding your way. Lots of tourists, though there also seemed to be many locals. It is free, after all. 
and people do actually live here as this dog was letting everyone who walked past know.

I like the openness, but I'm not sure how I could ever get used to having thousands of people peering into my back garden (or my windows - I did try not to peer, but the temptation...)

Apart from the houses, there are also shops, a cheese factory, little museums where you can see such things as these artistic wooden shoes 
and windmills where you can see the inner workings of the only windmill still making pigments for paint.
There are several windmills - not as many as were here in the 16thC and 17thC, but still exciting to see. 

Thirty five years ago, I lived a five minute bike ride away from here, and I never tired of seeing these windmills. This was my first time back to Zaanse Schans since 1980.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

three queens and a king

Today is Queen Victoria's birthday - her 196th, 
though she has been dead for 114 of those years.
We don't do much in the way of celebrating Victoria's birthday, though it is a holiday and there are fireworks. The Victoria Day Weekend is considered the unofficial start of summer and people head out to open up their cottages, and the tourist attractions that are seasonal will now be open. And, it is now considered safe to get your garden planted. It is always said that you should not plant anything until the 24th of May because there is still a risk of frost. Very few actually believe that adage, but it was proven right this year as we (in southern Ontario) had three or four nights of frost warnings in the last ten days.

Anyway, my only Victoria stamp is on my other blog, but I do have stamps of Dutch royalty who also have their birthday as a national holiday.
Koningsdag (King's Day) is celebrated in the Netherlands on the 27th of April for Willem-Alexander.  From 1890 to 2013, of course, the holiday was known as Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) for the three previous reigning monarchs, Wilhelmina, Juliana, and Beatrix
Willem-Alexander was born in 1967 and was the first male royal born since 1851. He is currently the second youngest monarch in Europe. This stamp was issued in November 2013 and designed by Job Smeets and Nijnke Tynagel. According to PostNL, the portrait was meant to appeal to a large group as well as being personal, so he is facing his public.

Wilhelmina (left) reigned for 58 years, longer than any other Dutch monarch. Her reign as queen (1890-1948) covered both world wars and the collapse of the Dutch colonial empire.  She was born 31 Aug, 1880 and died in 1962. She was only 10 years old when her father died and her mother, Princess Emma acted as regent.
In 1895, Queen Wilhelmina visited Queen Victoria who wrote of her in her diary: The young Queen ... still has her hair hanging loose. She is slender and graceful, and makes an impression as a very intelligent and very cute girl. She speaks good English and knows how to behave with charming manners.
Her only child, Juliana (above right) became Queen upon Wilhelmina's abdication due to ill health. She was born on 30 April 1909 and Queen's Day was moved from the last day of August to the last day of April. When she died in 1994, she was the longest lived former ruling monarch in the world.

Beatrix ascended to the throne in 1980 upon Juliana's abdication on her birthday. Her own birthday is 31 January and she decided to keep Queen's Day as 30 April, a much better time for a holiday.  She also abdicated on Queen's Day and The Netherlands had their first King since the unpopular William III.
This stamp is possibly my least favourite of any royal stamp though I appreciate the design idea. Issued in 1982, it is a Peter Struycken design featuring a field of 16,384 dots that are individually placed instead of in a usual grid pattern.

More royalty on Sunday Stamps II

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

red door

Tucked into the back side of the building row on York St in Stratford is the small and charming Wee Book and Photo Shop. There is an eclectic mix of books, but also a studio where you can have your portrait taken - old style - against a scenery backdrop wearing one of the outfits from a collection of vintage clothing and costumes.
The store has been open for a couple of years and is run by two sisters - Maureen is the vintage collector and Suzanne is the photographer - and is a delight to browse through.

The sign is a bit hard to see from the street, but the red door makes it nearly impossible to walk by without noticing. But, look closer below the sign and you'll find a quotation written in chalk

A home with no books is like a room with no window - Horace Mann.

and, over on the other wall in the small courtyard are more ghost signs

as I was there in early April, the signs were not yet obscured by the creeping vine, though the sun was doing its best to get in the way
I have no idea what these signs were advertising. Perhaps next time, I will ask at the wee shop if they know.

for more signs - ghostly or clearly written - check out Lesley's blog at signs, signs

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

grave post - Pond

Colonel Nathan Patchen Pond was born on September 11, 1832 and enlisted as a private with the 3rd Colored New York State Cavalry and quickly rose through the ranks to squadron commander and Major of the 1st United States Colored Cavalry, to Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd United States Colored Cavalry
He was discharged after the war ended in 1865 but remained active with the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) until his death at age 88 of lobar pneumonia in 1921. His first wife, Julia Beecher Pond died at age 36 in 1887 while she and Nathan were returning home from Florida. They were on a train when she took ill and became very weak and within 30 minutes had succumbed to what was later determined to be tuberculosis. His second wife, Susan Moore Pond, died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 84 in 1942. When Susan Pond had this monument erected in her husband's memory, Julia Pond's body was moved to this location. Both of their names along with birth and death dates are inscribed on the other side of the obelisk.
In 1870 Pond founded the Rochester Printing Company which began printing the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and remains today as Rochester's only daily circulated newspaper.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


These mushrooms are from the Republic of Congo - not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is its neighbour on the other side of the Congo River. This Congo was part of Equatorial East Africa and known as French Congo until 1960.

None of these mushrooms are native to any part of Africa, so why they are on a Congolese stamp, I'm not sure.

I am not a fan of eating mushrooms. In fact, I will avoid any like the plague. However, I do find them fascinating to look at. They seem rather pre-historic looking to me. I hate to think of what some of the those poor hunters and gatherers suffered while determining which ones were good to eat and which ones were toxic..
The edible mushrooms shown on these definitives are:  

  • Craterellus cornucopioides or horn of plenty. They are also known as black chantarelles. These are apparently quite tasty and nutritious when dried.
  • Amanita rubescens or blusher. These mushrooms turn pink on bruising or cutting. It is only edible when cooked.
  • Lepiota procera or parasol. The height and cap can reach 40 cm. It also must be cooked before eating.
  • Morchella elata or black morel. These can sometimes cause mild intoxication when eaten with alcohol
For more mushrooms and fungi, check out the links at See it on a Postcard for Sunday Stamps

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ghosts and coffee

There is no story to go with this signs post. It's just a stand alone building in a slightly run down section of King Street in downtown Hamilton that serves excellent coffee. And all day breakfast. And has two ghost signs. And a pretty blue car parked out front.
One of the ghosts is for Parker and Son Cleaners, but I can't quite make out the other one.  The sign might have been updated after William Parker took over for his father, Robert Parker.  From what I've found, it was in operation from about 1915/20 until about 1975.

Monday, May 11, 2015

sakura in the sunshine

Our city of Burlington is twinned with the city of Itabashi in Japan.
And this is what they gifted us in 1997. This limestone kanto walkway takes us through 40 cherry trees, a type of sakura known as Somei Yoshino.

It is neat how the new growth of blossoms starts directly from the trunk
The walkway is very popular in this park on the waterfront and there are always people around taking pictures (though I was out before 7am taking these pictures, when it was a bit quieter!)
there are benches (in memory of Leslie Mahaffy) for quiet contemplation 
and views out over the water to the pier 
where sometimes there is a ship waiting to go through the canal lift bridge
and if we go over to the pier we can get the full view of the cherry blossoms
these pictures were taken as soon as the sun came up one morning last week for Restless Jo's Monday Walk

Sunday, May 10, 2015


I chose the theme of peace and unity for this week as it is the 70th anniversary of VE Day. I soon discovered that none of my military stamps seem to commemorate the end of the war. That was not the only peace I had in mind, still, I didn't want anyone to feel they couldn't contribute and sharing a favourite stamp is also an optional theme.
This is my newest favourite.
The poppy is a unifying symbol and the poem an anthem of the sacrifices of all who fought in the First World War. It is part of Remembrance Day services in many parts of the world.
The stamps were issued on the 100th anniversary on May 3rd, 2015 with the sheet also showing the poem written in John McCrae's handwriting.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Barney and Betty and Fred and Wilma

There is a creek, known as Rambo Creek, that runs behind my apartment building, which is rather nice.

Here are a pair of geese who have set up a home there

and here are their neighbours, who have also nested there

Yes, it is a bit noisy.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

daggers and spears

Decorated Arts of Dagestan

The Dagestani armorers were well known for their military products. 

The dagger has always been used as a weapon, as a household item and for various household needs; cutting firewood and slaughtering cattle as well as other jobs around the house or in the field. In Dagestan daggers were worn constantly, from adolescence, so in the second half of the 19th century, daggers were produced much more than other types of cold weapons like swords or sabres.
Next is an antique fishing spear from the 1982 definitive series of heritage artifacts. Apparently, ice fishing with a spear was such a successful way of catching fish in the late 1800s that the conservationists of the day lobbied the government hard enough to eventually procure a ban on spear fishing, with the last license being issued in the 1940's. If you are determined to use this method, there are still 6 states in the US where it is legal. So head off to MN, MO, MI, SD, WI or AK.
But first, see what other weapons were found on stamps at SundayStamps II