Fondue is big this year

Switzerland 2018 Fondue CHF1 fondue caquelonSo I look away for one moment and suddenly everyone is putting fondue on their stamps. And by ‘everyone’ I mean mostly Switzerland, but also Jersey.

Switzerland can be forgiven. Fondue as a mainstream dish is a surprisingly recent development in cuisine, but it’s theirs, and it’s a thing of national pride. Back in the 1930s, sitting around dipping stale bread into a pot of melted cheese must have been a fun way to pass a cold Alpine evening while discussing in four languages how the nearby rise of fascism left you feeling completely neutral.

Designed by Francisco Rojas, this December issue from Swiss Post celebrates fondue – not a history, as such, but just the mere existence of the dish. There’s a stamp with fondue on it, naturally, but also a stamp with cheese on it, or as I like to think of it, fondue-in-waiting. And as you can see, they’re both as big as a mountain, which is also how I like my cheese, so respect for that.

Switzerland 2018 Fondue CHF1 Cheese

You can also get this quite awesome miniature sheet featuring six of both stamps hovering above a giant fondue pot (or caqueron, as I’ve just learned a fondue pot is called. Must remember that next time I’m playing Scrabble). It even features a recipe for fondue in four languages. (Apparently it involves more than just melting cheese! Who’da thunk it?)

Switzerland 2018 Fondue CHF12 sheetlet

This is not even the first time the Swiss have put fondue on a stamp. A 2014 issue honoured Garfield. You know, the cartoon cat Garfield, famously remembered for his love of eating… um… fondue? OK then.Switzerland 2014 Garfield CHF1 Garfield eats fondue

Then there was the 2000 release celebrating ‘souvenirs’, and featuring a number of Swiss scenes depicted inside snow globes. Take a look inside this one, I bet you’ll never guess…

Switzerland 2000 souvenirs snowglobes CHF 0.20 fondue

If at this point you’re thinking of starting a topical stamp collection just on fondue, I can’t blame you, and it’s possible that this blog post will function as your complete catalogue. In which case it’s only fair to mention that fondue also popped up in one of what the Netherlands calls its ‘Decemberstamps’ in 2014. Apparently it’s something the Dutch like to do for Christmas – skewer some melted cheese and then sing Gouda King Wenceslaus. Thank you.

Netherlands 2014 December stamp fondue

So let’s turn to Jersey. Not content with taking out number 1 position in my recent 12 Stamps of Christmas countdown, it’s also jumping into the philatelic fondue pot. A year ago I mentioned Jersey’s far-out acid-inspired 1960s popular culture stamp issue. Well, there’s a 1970s follow-up now. I’ll save the detailed look for another post because it makes me happy for a whole other reason, but here’s the entry under ‘1970s food’:

Jersey 2019 1970s Popular Cultue 94p fondue

Credit where it’s due. That’s pretty ’70s.

This stamp resonates with me on a deeply personal level. Gathering dust in the back of a cupboard in my childhood home was a strange, orange-brown ceramic pot that sat on top of its own burner. It was never used; it had been a wedding gift to my parents, who were married in 1972. ’Nuff said. Many years later I came to realize that it was a fondue pot; this week I learned it was technically a caquelon. (Minimum 72 points if I land the C and N on triple word scores, plus 50 assuming I use all my letters.)

I do love this stamp. Those colours, those fashions… it looks like a cover on the kind of romance novel my Mum was reading in the 1970s while she was busy not using her caquelon. It looks like a bad date. That poor woman, patiently stirring her stale bread through her fondue, while her polo-necked companion smoothly slips his hand somewhere that’s probably not good and mansplains why Simon and Garfunkel aren’t getting back together anytime soon.

But let’s consider this stamp in the light of the Swiss issue just weeks beforehand. A cuisine that to Channel Islanders (and most of us in the English-speaking world) represents pure nostalgia, a laughable, long-burned-out fad – can you believe we used to sit around melting cheese in a pot and dipping bread into it? – remains a proud and vibrant part of a culture not even a thousand kilometres away.

How many other proud cultural customs have been embraced and then dispensed with elsewhere in the name of fashion? Centuries of tradition cheapened and discarded in favour of something equally old and yet temporarily more now. Futons, hula hoops, dreamcatchers, the Macarena… which cultural institution will be the next to be laughed off as a wacky, embarrassing fad? It’s time to take a stand against this mindless cultural appropriation.

I wonder if Mum still owns her caquelon.

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© Philatelic product images remain the copyright of issuing postal administrations and successor authorities

The 12 Stamps of Christmas

UPDATE! I’ve added a couple of reader’s nominations to the bottom of the list! Read on…

It’s the 12th day of Christmas. The Christmas tree withers in the corner, unwatered for days. The batteries on the toys have expired. The gurgling remnants of Christmas lunch are in a fight to the death with New Year’s resolutions. So it’s the perfect time for me to give you my 12 Stamps of Christmas! After all, I am your true love.

As mail revenues continue to plummet, for the postal administrations of Christendom, Christmas offers one last chance to hear the bells jingling on their cash registers. (Do you know how many Christmas cards I got in the mail this year? None. That’s a first. It might be that I’ve been crossed off multiple lists. But I choose to blame The Pace of Change.)

So which countries brought their festive philatelic A-game in 2018? These are my favourites of the stamps that crossed my radar. Continue reading

A big, BIG issue

Australia 2018 Silo Art $1 Brim Guido van Helten stamp
Brim, Victoria
Artist: Guido van Helten

One of my favourite Aussie issues of recent times was 2017’s Street Art – vibrant, modern, urban and startlingly different from the usual stamp fodder. Not surprisingly, those stunning works were a big hit on my Instagram page. They’re very like-able.

I’m a month late with this update but I still wanted to say how much I loved seeing Australia Post continue the theme with May’s Silo Art issue. Silo art is the rural equivalent of street art, except that it’s painted on grain silos, and it is, as a rule, fucking ENORMOUS. Continue reading

Love this retro Jersey

Jersey 2017 Popular Culture: The 1960s - moon landing, language, leisure stamps Jersey is one of those funny little islands in the English Channel that are closer to France, and part of the UK, but get to put out their own stamps.

Jersey 2017 Popular Culture: The 1960s 63p music stampInterestingly, this practice began during the Nazi occupation of those islands, when they were cut off from the mother country. This is just one of the reasons why nerds who are into postal history find them so delectable. (If you think you might be one of those nerds, you should check out the Channel Islands Specialists’ Society.)

I’m not one of those nerds, but I do like how these islands churn out pretty stamps, because, let’s face it, what else have they got going on? I mean apart from tax avoidance schemes.

Jersey 2017 Popular Culture: The 1960s 73p fashion stampRecently Jersey jumped on the retro stamp bandwagon with a 1960s Popular Culture issue.

I love the Hendrix-inspired psychedelic guitar player with his groovy vibes and his remarkable fused fingers on his strumming hand.

The models (or are they just ’60s housewives?) on the fashion stamp take me back to a childhood spent rifling through Grandma’s sewing pattern magazines.

And it eludes me why more stamp administrations don’t honour the cheese and pineapple stick on their postal stamps. Continue reading

Printer is gumming: UK issues Game of Thrones stamps

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Iron Throne stampHappy New Year, readers! Hoping your year is as bloody awesome as the pun in my headline.

2018 has kicked off with the news that on January 23, the UK’s Royal Mail is releasing no less than 15 stamps commemorating “the significant British contribution” to the production of the TV series Game of Thrones.

Here’s the Royal Mail’s justification for jumping on the GoT band-dragon:

The Game of Thrones production involves a very significant British contribution. Principal filming of the series is at Titanic Studios in Belfast, at the Linen Hill Film Studio in Banbridge and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, with additional filming in Scotland and European locations including Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco and Spain.
Additionally, the acclaimed cast is predominantly British and Irish, and British expertise is to the fore in many areas of the production, including award-winning costume design and prosthetic special effects.

And here’s what they might as well have written:

Game of Thrones is huge and we are out to make a shipload of coin.

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Daenerys Targaryen stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Cersei Lannister stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Tyrion Lannister stampUK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Jon Snow stamp

Continue reading

10 postage stamps that will whisk you back to your childhood

UK 2017 Classic Toys 1st Stickle Bricks stamp(…Or someone’s childhood. Someone British.)

Ever been suddenly reminded of something that was once an everyday part of your life, but somewhere along the way, it wasn’t anymore, and you think, ‘I haven’t thought of that in YEARS!’?

For me, it was last Tuesday, when this stamp crossed my radar. First reaction: “STICKLE BRICKS!” These joyfully-colored, spiky, plastic building blocks were a regular feature of the bedroom floor in my childhood home. But indeed, I hadn’t thought of them in years.

Second reaction: “I didn’t know they were called Stickle Bricks. How about that.”

And then came the question. What the fuck are Stickle Bricks doing on a postage stamp? I had to know more. Continue reading

Bowie’s latest release

UK 2017 David Bowie album stamps

UK 2017 David Bowie 1ST Aladdin Sane stamp

Well this is the most exciting thing to happen this year since I accidentally swiped right on Tinder and he turned out to be a match, a babe, and leaving for overseas two days later.

The UK is releasing a set of David Bowie stamps today!

David has been on a UK stamp before, as part of a Classic Album Covers release in 2010. (You can also spot a wild Bowie issue hiding in this post about tortoise stamps from Namibia. Yes, you read right.)

Now Royal Mail is releasing this fabulous set of six iconic Bowie album covers, plus four photos from live tours combined in a stamp sheet.

Continue reading

London’s burning

UK 2016 Great Fire of London stamp setHere’s a stamp issue I just have to share with you before 2016 becomes too tiny in the rear view mirror. It was undoubtedly my favourite release out of any that caught my eye last year. And you don’t have to be a stamp nerd to love it, though it’ll help if you are a history buff, comic book geek, or pyromaniac. Continue reading