28th May 2012
Harmony between Nations
The song you sing, the tale you tell.
For some Philately can be a lonely personal endeavour, for others a path that will lead to many rewarding friendships with like-minded fellows.
Those who are brave enough to attend, display and speak at stamp meetings provide inspiration to others, whilst finding at the same time that the process does much to concentrate their own thoughts and feelings about their material.
If you are usually too shy to speak unreservedly to strangers, you may use your collection as the song that you sing. By so doing you will link to others who will in their turn learn and be uplifted by hearing the tale you tell.
To study the means and methods by which people have communicated over time, which of course is what philately is all about, teaches us much about the relationships between nations and their various efforts to connect with one another.
The weekend before last I had the pleasure of visiting the North East Philatelic Weekend, an annual event organised by the North East of England Philatelic Association and held this year in Gateshead on Tyneside. NEPA brings together local groups and societies as well as attracting a number of attendees from Scotland. I am happy to report personally that cross-border relations between the two countries seem as warm as ever, despite the growing Scottish pro-independence movement. We may not have to build another wall.
Grosvenor had the pleasure of sponsoring the pre-dinner drinks reception at this event and we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to three unsung heroes of the stamp world, the real ‘Angels of the North’ who contribute greatly to the hobby, often without receiving the thanks they deserve.
Val Beeken, whose commitment that all went well, and that everyone enjoyed the event fully, was truly inspirational.
Robert McMillan, hard-working, but always with a cheery word, and accompanied by lovely wife Daphne who, as a music teacher, knows more than most about harmony.
Cliff Garside, a strong character and excellent auctioneer, full of good humour.
Cliff’s auctioneering skills left me happy to contribute by holding up the lots at the Saturday afternoon auction and I was delighted to do so. We can all get stuck in our own specialist areas and I saw stamps that day that I had not seen before, others not encountered for many years.
Most of us retain strong memories of the stamps that inhabited our earliest personal collection, especially those that caught our imagination through their connection to some far-away land, and nowhere seemed more distant and exotic than Azerbaijan with its weird and wonderful 1919 ‘Fire Temple’ stamp (above).
Baku’s Fire Worshippers’ Temple, a shrine devoted to Zoroastrianism, was constructed on ground that was considered sacred because of its naturally occurring ‘eternal’ fires. We now know that these are due, less poetically, to natural gas seepage, Azerbaijan having become one of the birthplaces of the international oil industry. Nevertheless this remains a captivating image.
Sacred fire represents a symbol of hope, and our control over it expresses the determination to hold to the principles that it represents. Even today it can be considered worthwhile to take such a fire and to run with it around a whole country in order that no-one should be in any doubt on this point.
Azerbaijan is nowadays less exotic than it once seemed to a young stamp collector and is so strongly linked to Europe and the West that on Saturday it hosted this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, another fine example of how people can come together to celebrate an enthusiasm. Cheesy and kitsch, the quality of the songs not noticeably improving from year to year, all this is true yet this contest provides an excellent way for nations to compete in good spirit.
At the same time the people of the host nation can show themselves off to other nations and we can respond by showing an increased interest in them. The postal history of Azerbaijan, through its periods of independence, joint federation or as part of the Russian or Soviet empires, would certainly reward further study. Alternatively, if you were so inclined, you may already have invited some like-minded friends around to watch this extravaganza with you whilst perhaps feeding them interesting Azerbaijani cuisine – although that could be going a little too far, even for a philatelist.
We wish you all a very pleasant week and now, if you will excuse me, I have some left-over piti and plov to eat up . . . .