I’m going to admit that even though I did my best to fill a Woolworths-bought stamp album as a youngster, I didn’t find many stamps all that exciting. Back then, it was interesting, but the only stamps that got me excited were the ones that arrived from an aunt in England. She never had any children, but seemed to understand that a young boy was not particularly interested in foreign heads of state or landscapes. She sent me stuff like Second World War stamps issued during the Battle of Britain, images of Spitfires off to glory and Hurricanes in formation. She also sent me a mint sheet of Battle of Hasting commemoratives, which I thought were cool as well.
I have earlier related how, seeing the original gum, I was excited that I wouldn’t have to dig into my scarce stock of hinges and just licked and stuck them on the page! But then I moved on with life and rarely thought much about stamps. Since working on Canadian Stamp News, I have found myself looking at mail differently. I admire a pretty cover, and there have been a few stamps that caught my eye, so to speak. My interest in British stamps seems to remain. My Aunt Grace, now long gone, probably never realized that the seeds she planted back then would ever see me writing about stamps for a living. She was convinced that I should become an engineer.
Recently I found myself getting excited about the British space stamps described on the cover of this issue. Now I’m going to admit that I have a passion for astronomy, and even considered a career path in that direction, until I met up with algebra. But these stamps are pretty cool because they show delightful full-colour images of our solar systems, taken from space. On a clear night, you can look up and see most of the planets, if you know where to look, with your naked eyes. If you do it often, they become familiar enough that you begin to recognize them without thinking. Jupiter in its glory, blazing Venus, and even Saturn are not that hard to spot, but sometimes elusive in our world of light and atmospheric pollution. Nothing I ever saw prepared me for these dramatic images.
What makes it exciting is that these stamps show images of the planets that could never be seen by an earthbound observer. This is the way the solar system looks to us as we begin to explore our tiny section of the cosmos. What we are seeing is much more exciting than the various artists’ renderings that graced my old textbooks. Back then we had a Wild West approach to space. We saw it as a hostile environment that had to be explored then tamed and subdued. These stamps look at the magnificence of all creation, the beauty that is both awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time. I really hope at least one person who sends me mail from the U.K. uses these stamps. My philatelic side also hopes that it gets gently cancelled, and escapes the ballpoint graffiti cancels of a thorough postie.