My vanity allows me to imagine someone asked, “Where’s the Stamp Guy?” Well, I had to go for some stamps. Somehow they taste better when you buy them in the country where they’re issued. So after retiring in October of 2009, I spent three months touring Australia and New Zealand. Next, I set off driving down the US west coast, across Texas, up through the upper Midwest, visiting family and friends until April. Even if all I had to show for it were the stamps on the postcards, I’d have plenty to keep me busy this winter. But, the fun was only beginning.
I flew to London for the weeklong International Festival of Stamps from May 7th-15th, plus some sightseeing. Imagine stamp dealers, exhibits and post offices from all over the world under one roof. For some reason Canada decided not to be there, but they had a designated dealer selling and cancelling our stamps. That was a disappointment because I remember their big booth at Washington (D.C.) in 2006. It was great to meet collectors with common interests from India, Israel, France, and even Russia. I even ran into four from Calgary, and shared stories over some fish and chips. It becomes a real “show and tell”: what did you find today?
After airBaltic decided Iceland’s volcano might still be a threat, I spent 24 hours in Gatwick airport, but they eventually got me to Tallinn, Estonia, where I was based until August. Having taught English there in 1992, I had visited my host family several times, and traded stamps with another friend there. A three-week side trip to Norway included cruising the fjords, visiting Bergen and Oslo, riding some great trains, watching the midnight sun in Bodo, and then a few days in Copenhagen. I have a practice of mailing home all the city maps, church brochures and historical information rather than hauling them in the luggage. That, of course, means…stamps. And most “posties” were very helpful in finding new things. Australia had $20 a Uluru (Ayers Rock) stamp I’d never heard of and the clerk in Adelaide didn’t even know she had it until it sort of slipped out the back of her folder. Lucky me, and it made it home in good condition.
The piece de resistance was Switzerland in September. I’d bought specific stamps over the years showing places I’d like to visit. So, after the cows came down from the meadows in Appenzell, I headed to the Post with my fancy envelope and three stamps showing Heidi and her goats leading the cows. When I got home, my sister thought it was so nice she wanted to keep it. I rode the Bernina Express train, celebrating 100 years this year, and the subject of…you guessed it…a Swiss stamp. I must have used 50 of them on postcards and letters. The train travels over that stone bridge almost everyone has seen in a calendar or book at some time. A triptych (of three stamps) shows the famous mountains: Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau. They’re impressive with the blue sky, white snow and green Swiss meadows below. Mailed on a special mountain envelope up at the 12,000 foot high post office…looks nice in your album, eh?
A couple other favourites include a cover cancelled at the Neotsu, Oregon post office. It sits exactly on the 45th parallel north. Five weeks before, I had been on the 45th parallel south near Queenstown, New Zealand. Cancels on board ships to Stockholm and Geiranger fjord ship. And, important additions to my postal rate collections: cards with a single stamp issued especially by that country for postcards to Canada. And everywhere I went I checked boxes of old envelopes to find those mailed from Canada to Estonia or other European addresses.
All of that is to catch up and let everyone know, especially you “philatelists” the Golden Stamp Club is back in business. If you have any questions, you may reach me at: 250-344-5939, or at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll bring along some of the philatelic items I created and special purchases I made along the way. And gladly trade or sell my spares…and you’re welcome to bring yours. We’ll also have some dealer approvals for you to check through…if the road is open again and the mail gets through.
There will be a slideshow presentation on Saturday, February 5th at 7:30pm at the Trinity Lutheran Church of my travels.