Monthly Archives: Aug 2019

Freddie Mercury – Stamp Collector

A couple of days ago I was entering Philatelic Numismatic Covers (PNCs) on our eBay site. They are generally dull, boring, difficult to pack and hard to enthuse about. They are the bastard offshoot of the combined imaginations of the low-lives who make a living from selling brightly packaged, expensive and tawdry stamps and coins. In this case they have come together to produce a coin/stamp combo, which, to my mind, offers little to a collector of either.

It’s an interesting keepsake, but that’s all. Unfortunately they are marketed aggressively and often sold for what I consider unreasonably high prices.

If either of my children came home and told me that that he had taken up employment with one of the marketing companies responsible for these abominations I’m not sure what I’d do. I’d certainly hide the fact from my neighbours and claim they were an estate agent, people trafficker, or even a politician,  rather than admit the horrible truth.

Anyway, there I was, with a heap of dispiriting detritus on my desk, trying to put a brave face on it, when I noticed  a familiar name on one of the covers – Bulsara.

As you may know, I am a great accumulator of useless trivia.

One thing I know is that the family name of Freddie Mercury was Bulsara.

It took me a few minutes but I was able to tie the evidence together.

There’s a picture on Freddie Mercury’s Wikipedia page showing the blue plaque on his childhood London home, with the caption “English Heritage blue plaque at 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham, London”

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I rest my case…

So this is indeed a PNC addressed to a Mr Bulsara at the home address of the Bulsara/Mercury family.

How good is that?

I managed to piece together some other information – Stanley Gibbons, the famous stamp dealer, have something about B. R. Bulsara, father of Freddie Mercury, and his stamp collecting. Young Freddie, it seems, had a stamp collection in his youth.

Eventually his father sold his collection, and Freddie’s collection, to raise funds for the Mercury Phoenix Trust.

I even found out that Freddie Mercury’s sister lived in Sherwood, and he used to visit her. I’ve lived in Sherwood over 30 years and I never knew that.

So there you go, it’s not the greatest piece of rock memorabilia, and Freddie Mercury may never have seen it, but it did lead me into some interesting new areas and help me add to my accumulation of trivia. I can’t help wondering what would have happened if he’d lived long enough to start collecting stamps again, once the lure of sex and drugs and Rock and Roll faded and he started looking for something more fulfilling in his later years.

It’s here on eBay if you want to look. The appalling title is by the owner of the shop who has, in my personal opinion, the wrong idea about titles. He just loves to cram the title bar with what he considers important words. The concepts of less being more, syntax and elegance of language have little place in his life. However, the concept of him paying my wages does have quite a large place in my life so I write what I’m told.

In other words, don’t blame me for the bloody awful title.

You can, however, blame me for everything else, including the inclusion of the Queen song titles. I have no shame when it comes to trying to make things sound interesting, and trying to make silk purses out of a pig’s ear.

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1986 Commonwealth Games Commemorative £2 coin

 

Still flagging…

Sorry, I started the day on Wednesday with a McDonald’s breakfast, had a pub lunch and ended up with a steak in the evening. In the gaps we collected two different prescriptions from two pharmacies, visited the jeweller, saw family, shopped, went home to change and saw family again in the world’s least efficient restaurant.

By the time we got home at eleven I was stuffed full and ready for bed, so sorry there was no post.

It’s very difficult to view Wednesday as a day off when you have this sort of social life to cram in.

It’s always nice seeing family though, and it was good to see the great nephew has a mini rugby ball. He’s not showing much talent for the game, but he’s only 18 months old so there’s time yet. I’ve reached 61 without showing much talent for the game. Or for any game.

I really need to get some work done but when I’m not out gallivanting I’m sleeping fitfully, which makes me slow-witted and grumpy.

The end picture is a rather nice enamelled double florin coin brooch. It’s a very interesting coin. I particularly like the bit about it still being legal tender because they forgot to demonetise it when we went decimal. You can, theoretically, spend it as a 20p coin, though the silver value is more like £4.

!887 Victorian double florin

!887 Victorian double florin

 

Next day I wrote this post, fell asleep at the keyboard and forgot to publish.These summer nights are playing havoc with my sleep.

Yesterday was reasonably busy, but today really took off. The owner was away this morning and in three hours we packed the parcels, served six customers and bought two lots of coins in. Both of them contained lots of low value coins, though one also contained an 18th century Norwich token and the other had a respectable looking George III sixpence and a Victorian half farthing in it.

I’ve been writing up an interesting piece for eBay. It’s something and nothing but it’s also personally associated with a 20th Century icon.

All will be revealed tomorrow…

Wilting…

I have a report to write on yesterday’s Afternoon Tea and a brief biography of Private Dunkerley, the man commemorated on the memorial plaque I pictured yesterday.

Both things will take some concentration to do properly and, to be honest, after a day of high temperature and poor ventilation I’m not feeling up to the job. Tomorrow will be soon enough.

Meanwhile, here is Julia at the specially painted post box in the Market Square. It celebrates England winning the Cricket World Cup.

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I’m guessing they won’t win it again in my lifetime.

She was in cheerful mood after eating an Afternoon Tea in the company of her brother and sister-in-law.

Tomorrow we are lunching with both brother and sisters-in-law, plus niece and great-nephew. It’s an important time in the child’s development as his father is a great football fan and we are just waiting for the right time for granddad and the wicked uncles to nip that nonsense in the bud and get him playing with a rugby ball.

I’m going to have to keep an eye on Julia as seeing so much family at one time could lead to all sorts of jovial consequences. I have to be constantly on my guard against outbreaks of cheerfulness, as you never know what it can lead to.

 

 

Resisting the Temptation to Rant

I’ve accidentally been thinking about death this morning. It’s a lovely day, blue skies, green trees, a great view and a Bank Holiday.

After rising slightly before seven I decided I may as well stay up and started catching up with some writing. I even avoided the depressing fight with my trousers this morning. As I sit and type I’m not wearing any. If I ever learn how to use Skype I may have to reconsider my dress code but for now it makes for a more relaxing morning.

We’re off for Afternoon Tea later today so I’ll have to wear a new pair of trousers so, quite honestly, I didn’t see the point of doing it twice in one day. Why, I hear the gentlemen readers ask, do you need a new pair of trousers? Because Julia says so. We are going to a hotel and she is demanding that my normal everyday costume of creased clothes with food stains is replaced by a clean and pressed ensemble.

I asked if she was going to be the one doing the ironing but she snorted and said: “You know where the iron is.”

I do. I also know where she stores the lettuce, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to be making a salad any day soon.

Fortunately there are a pair of trousers and a reasonable shirt (ie with all buttons and a check pattern) in the bottom of the clean laundry bag. They should be flat enough.

I suppose somebody will ask if I don’t explain it – people with fuller figures have to avoid shirts with lines as they tend to exaggerate the rotundity.

Anyway, I digress.

Death.

I was having a break from writing and thought I’d check up on a few symptoms I’ve noticed recently. With everything that I currently have it’s difficult finding room for new symptoms but I seem to have managed. I thought I’d better check just to see if they are important and see if I could spare the time to have them looked at.

I’m still waiting for news on the last chest X-Ray and the nonsense with Rheumatology (who have gone very quiet). In a couple of weeks I also have a routine blood test, so I think the NHS has plenty of my time as it is.

So, I logged on to the appropriate condition and looked at symptoms. I have most of them. Most of us do. Like all these sites they throw everything at it, alter the order and load it onto a website.

Not only that, but after whittering on about care plans and drugs they start talking of palliative care, a section which has plainly been written by a trainee with a text book. But I will not be tenpted into a rant.

So that is why I am accidentally thinking about death

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Great War Memorial Plaque

(I just had a look at my old posts on arranging my own funeral and notice I never did get on with discussing the sandwiches for the funeral tea. I may get back to that in the next few days.)

An Ancient Tradition

No, not me lying to my wife about my spending habits.

I refer to the Coroner’s Court.

The office of Coroner was instituted after the Conquest as a way of fining people and confiscating property involved in fatal accidents. This gives me the chance to introduce the word deodand, property confiscated by a Coroner after causing a death. It wasn’t confiscated as a way of making it safe, just as a way of making the owner buy it back. Coroners were very much about making money in the early days.

I don’t recall ever having a chance to use the word  before. I think you know how I love the chance to use new words.

So why, I hear you ask, all the rambling about Coroners?

The answer is simple, Julia got a letter from the Coroner this morning summoning her for jury service. The days they want her are the days we were intending to be on holiday. Because we’ve not actually booked a holiday we can’t produce evidence of this and thus cannot defer the jury service.

It’s just one of those things that happens. It’s not life threatening, just another example of how life hates me.

However, I would like to make a point about letter writing. I have noted in official letters from the constabulary, the City Council, and now the Coroner, a tendency to use threatening and aggressive language.

They already have the law on their side when addressing me on these matters, there’s no need for further unpleasantness. Just because they can’t mark roadworks distinctively, or mark bus lanes plainly, or persuade people that being on a jury is fun, we suffer. They should be apologising, not threatening.

Basically it’s Tiny Hitler Syndrome, a tendency noted in some people who are able to be unpleasant via official letter but wouldn’t be half so brave if they had to tell you to your face.

They have the legal right to inconvenience my wife for nine days, or over 200 days according to the scale of allowable expenses. I do hope she doesn’t get landed with a 200 day trial.

I don’t see why they also need to threaten her with legal action if she fails to fill in the enclosed form or fails to turn up. That’s just bullying. But if you give a little power to a lackey of the State this is what you are going to end up with.

I’m sure I will return to this subject later.

The figure of Britannia is another old tradition, dating from the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was 1672 when she reappeared and she’s been there ever since. The story is that the 1672 Britannia was based on Frances Teresa Stuart, a woman who had refused to become a mistress of King Charles II. Considering his extra-marital tendencies this was quite extraordinary. Britannia currently circulates on 50p pieces, though they are no longer minted, and on some £2 coins. She even has a coin named after her – the Britannia, though they don’t circulate.

The one in the picture is from a 2002 set of “coins” produced as examples of what UK Euros might look like if we had them. It is a trial, essai, fantasy piece or pattern, depending on which word you prefer. It isn’t a proper coin, just an example of what a proper coin might have looked like if we’d ever joined the Euro Zone.

 

The Medallion Collection

It’s a very modest collection, which was, partly, my intention when I started it.

The idea was to buy a medallion relating to every year of the 20th Century, and to do so with discrimination and economy. (Before you ask, that’s 1900-2000 because I can’t be bothered to argue about when a century begins and ends).

I’ve collected a number of things in my life but I’ve never really made a sustained effort, or had sufficient cash. Not that I’m pleading poverty, just that my eyes are bigger than my wallet. Once I’ve bought a few things I start getting ambitious.

Look at this one – linking piers and medallions. What better for a man who likes piers and medallions? It’s nearly 200 years old and it isn’t expensive in collecting terms. However, I can’t see Julia being too happy to find we were on baked potatoes and beans until the end of the month because I’d blown the housekeeping. She’s very patient with me, but even she has her limits.

The first medal celebrates the life of Dr Kwame Nkrumah. I presume it was made in 1972 to commemorate his death. It doesn’t have a pier on it, but it does have a map of Africa and some interesting history behind it.

He was 63 when he died, just two years older than me. In that time he had achieved independence for Ghana and established a fame that still endures. That doesn’t leave me with much time for achieving something as I’ve loafed away my first 61 years and all I have to show for it is a small collection of  medallions.

The second one marks the Cambridge University Press’s move away from hot metal to digital printing.

I like medals made from re-used metal. I have one made from the copper of the Foudroyant )one of Nelson’s old ships) and one made from the lead of Selby Abbey. The Selby Abbey one was sold to raise funds for rebuilding the fire-damaged abbey. I really must find them…

It’s interesting to hold something in your hand and think that it used to be something else, though I suppose all metal was once something else, even if it was just ore.

This isn’t an elegant medal but it marks the end of an era. It was £6, including a box and explanatory leaflet.

I aim to spend around £5 on a medallion, which allows me to complete the century for around £500 and lets me buy something regularly. A collection needs regular additions. Or an addict requires a regular fix, depending on how you view collectors.

Looks like I missed the midnight deadline. I remember thinking it was 11.40 and time was pressing. Then I woke up at 12.10 sitting in the computer chair. I left it another eight hours before posting, as my ability to edit improves greatly after sleep.

 

A Picture for Laurie

The opening picture is a medallion of William Shakespeare by Paul Vincze, commissioned for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. You may remember the Moon Landing Medallion I pictured a few days ago. I mentioned I had this in my collection and Laurie said she’d be interested in seeing a picture of it. I laughed in a hollow fashion, as it’s just one piece of the multifarious detritus that flows around our house.

However, I have to start tidying and last night one of the first things I put my hand on was my medallion collection. To be more accurate, some of my “medallion collection”. The some is easy to understand, the inverted commas were added as I haven’t really collected so much as accumulated. There is a difference, as we tell people when they come to the shop with bags and boxes and even buckets of coins, stamps, cigarette cards, medals and postcards. We do banknotes too, but they don’t usually appear in such quantity.

An accumulation is just an aimless gathering of bits and pieces, often put together with an eye to quantity and economy rather than a theme. It’s often called a collection, but that doesn’t make it one. I could call a salad food, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s just colourful plate decoration.

I’m in anti-salad mode tonight. Julia is cooking and has just told me that our baked potatoes and veggie burgers will be accompanied by salad. This is indeed a cruel and unusual meal.

However, back to collections, a proper collection should have a theme, it should improve your knowledge of the subject and it might even increase knowledge of a collecting field.

Having rather foolishly agreed to give a talk at the Numismatic Society – Monday, 9 March 2020 – Peace & Tribute Medallions of The Great War – I am having to knock that part of my collection into shape. (Make a note in your diary if you are in the area).

The trouble is that there isn’t much information about them and I’m having to trawl the internet and write to museums. So far the museums have been friendly but have had no information, and the internet is tricky. If you search individual towns for information something sometimes crops up. But if you just search generally the third or fourth reference I found was one of my posts on this blog.

I’ve pictured a couple of examples below.  In a week or two I’ll probably find this post cropping up as part of my research!

An Elegantly Wasted Life

We had a slowish day, with enough work to keep us going but nothing overly taxing.

We had three parcels to send this morning, with a fourth to be packed and weighed so that we could invoice the buyer. In the afternoon another order came in – one postcard. It didn’t take much packing.

I’ve just had a look at the shop’s eBay account. The invoice has been paid and two more things have been purchased, a post card and a coin set. It looks like another easy day, though I’d rather have a busy one because it means I’m earning my wages.

There’s a very fine line between having an easy day and having a succession of easy days, or “unemployment” as it also known. Not that I would be unemployed, I’d just call myself a writer and get on with all the stuff I’ve been meaning to do for years, such as drinking more tea, claiming for pens on expenses and looking wistful.

I would also spend time selling my own stuff on eBay, though I note that their namby-pamby terms and conditions prohibit me from selling a kidney (Plan C, as I think of it), advertising my services as an inept assassin (or even an efficient one, to be fair) or advertising coins from Sudan.

I can see their point in some of these, but other prohibitions, such as Sudanese coins, make no sense.

Last week we wrote up a sale for a miniature George Cross on a First Day Cover, It’s a novelty collectable and the George Cross is a perfectly respectable medal. However, eBay automatically refused it as Russian law prevents the ale of Russian State Orders and Decorations. To advertise this, we would have to remove the Russian Federation from our postage list on this auction. We did this but still couldn’t post the auction.

We removed the word “George” from the title and it allowed us to proceed. The Russians, you see, have an Order of St George and the idiot in charge of such things at eBay has allowed for this by making it impossible for you to advertise medals with “George” in the title.

Politics by eBay is becoming ever more farcical, even in a world that includes Boris Johnson as our Prime Minister.

Just out of interest, now that President Trump (UK slang for breaking wind) and Prime Minister Johnson (US slang for penis), does anyone else have a growing belief that we are living in ludicrous times?

I’m going to resist temptation and not discuss silly names.

However, if you want to follow the link I can’t stop you.

Painted Ladies and Flying Time

There were three Painted Ladies in the front garden when I got home. The combination of red valerian and warm flagstones seems to attract them.

The quality of the photographs is, as ever, dubious. Just as the garden seems to be good for Painted Ladies this year, it seems to be bad for photography at the end of the afternoon.

 

The rest of the evening was a bit of an anti-climax after that. I had some sorting and planning to do, and seemed to have worked harder in the evening than I did during the day. The Westminster School Attendance Medals I put on eBay yesterday sold within hours. P8190077.JPG

As I think I said yesterday, this always makes me wonder if they were too cheap. However, I think it’s generally that you are showing your stock to so many people that there are always keen buyers for certain things out there.

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I’m adopting one of the medals as my new motto.

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Delay Not: Time Flies.

How true.

A Reasonable Sort of Day

Sorry about missing yesterday. We went to see Dad, came home the long way,replied to some comments, had a takeaway and then I fell asleep in front of the TV, waking shortly after midnight. That meant I couldn’t post yesterday.

I should have planned better and done it in the morning, but you know how it is…

Well, maybe you don’t, because I understand many people live orderly and well-planned lives.

Yesterday consisted of of lie-in, brunch, visit, defeat at dominoes, coffee with sister, great view of a Red Kite in Northamptonshire, Chinese takeaway and snooze.

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Red Kites are becoming commoner

Today consisted of getting up, complaining about aches and pains, dropping Julia at work (rather in the manner of Shakespeare’s schoolboy – with her “shining morning face, creeping like snail, Unwillingly to school”.) I’m trying to persuade myself I’m in the 5th age – “round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances”. It’s getting harder to believe as the days go on.

I then took myself to work, wrestled for supremacy on the Ring Road with a lobotomised boy racer and an articulated lorry, survived, arrived an hour early, started work because we had a lot to pack – the boss arrived and chipped in and we had the lot done by just after 10.00.

No stupid questions in email, hardly any phone calls, left work an hour early. Did two errands, had two cups of tea in the back room of a friendly jeweller, shopped, went home, washed up, fed Julia on her return from work (coffee and cake), TV (did well at Pointless), cooked tea (which was half made up of leftovers from last night). Now feeling virtuous and blogging. Julia is ironing and after that I will make a drink.

We actually sold a medallion I was going to blog about. It’s a Moon Landing commemorative by a sculptor called Vincze. I’ve often thought about collecting his medallions because some of them are quite striking. I loaded it on Saturday before we left the shop and it sold shortly after. It was either very collectable or too cheap. Sometimes after a quick sale you wonder about the price…

Moon Landing Medal by Vincze

Moon Landing Medal by Vincze (Reverse)

 

It has not been an exciting day, and not really a productive day as the decluttering and writing is grinding to a halt at the moment. On the other hand, it hasn’t been a bad day either. I think we can mark this down in the plus column.