Philately Friday: Traditions Interrupted

I’m going to talk about Christmas stamps. Eventually. I’ll share some imagery of various versions as we get there.

My father’s life was a journey of sorts. As a teen, in the Army at the end of WW2 he abhorred petty rules and authority generally even if he joined willingly to be part of the ‘show’. His antipathy to the Government at the end of the war – not Churchill per se, but the Tories he led – was deep rooted. By the time I was old enough to discern his political instincts, he was about as liberal as Nigel ‘Mine’s Pint and Send Them Home’ Farage. He reach peak reactionary, I’d guess around the Falklands conflict of the mid 1980s when his general suspicion of M. Thatcher had morphed into an abiding respect. He liked her principles, her values and her inclination to traditions rather than novelty. I’m pleased to say that thereafter the edges became softer, the opinions more considered if no less strident and empathy for the perils of his fellow man more obvious.

That’s not to say he didn’t enjoy the benefits of progress, even if, for him a revolution only brought you back to where you started. Mind you, progress in the guise of technological advancement could leave him splenetic with barely suppressed frustration.

‘This bloody thing hates me, Barbs,’ he would complain to my mother when he discovered his latest attempt to record the rugby on the VHS player had instead left him to enjoy a Malcolm Muggeridge special on the verrucas that shaped Christianity. The epitome of this antipathy was his relationship to motor cars, with each of which he had a fractious and tendentious relationship. He would insert the key in the relevant aperture, pull out the choke, grip the starter and pray; he wasn’t especially religious and, in the case of cars, it wasn’t a prayer to a benign and loving god that he pledged allegiance every morning, but to the most egregious kind of capricious sociopath who had ever been allotted a small rocky outcrop on Olympus from which to ply His trade. On the good days the car started and stayed started until he reached work; on bad, he could be seen through the net curtains in the dining room window, gripping his pipe in his teeth as he plotted revenge on this particular deity, if ever they bumped into each other in the public bar of the Harp and Hymnal or whatever passed for a watering hole in his allotted afterlife.

This urge to stick to what he knew, keep it simple and avoid frills manifested itself in his taste in stamps. He was opinionated on the subject in ways most might find faintly ludicrous. To this day I can hear him engage in one of his favourite past-times: the anticipatory moan. This small pleasure is found in the toolbox of the collector of passive-aggressive behaviours. There is something that is about to happen/be revealed/announced. It is being kept secret save for some teasers. That’s all Dad needed to nestle onto his launch pad and engage the countdown. It could be pretty much anything. The new Doctor Who, recently revealed would have been one such…

‘It’ll be a woman… (there has been a woman, dad)’

‘Or foreign though we had that Scottish twit… (and Welsh)’

‘I’ll bet they want a ginger after that bloody Royal… ‘

‘I don’t know what was wrong with William Hartnell…’

In the case of stamps, it was the designer David Gentleman who set Dad ready to stun. In truth there were some of Gentleman’s images he didn’t mind, but the one that started his dislike was the Battle of Britain stamp that came out in 1965 on the 25th Anniversary. It laid out the groundwork for a life of bafflement and pseudo despair.

But, and here we come to the point, he never enjoyed the Christmas Stamp. That disdain started with the very first in 1966. Here it is.

As you can see it comprises some children’s drawings. Dad had nothing against children’s drawings or, indeed, was his antagonistic to the notion that Christmas, for those of no especial religious bent, is for children. But things have their place, or otherwise they will fall apart and we will end up with a society in which the News is no longer at Ten, you have to explain what sort of milk you want with you tea and men stop wearing ties to work (he’d really not cope with the world today).

For some time, I assumed he disliked these naif images for the lack of skill shown in their design. However, I think he was in fact expressing his political prejudices; in 1966 the Postmaster General, the man (of course it had to be a man) in charge of the issuance of stamps was one Tony Benn. To say Benn epitomised the character of the Labour Government of the time would both true and enough of a reason for Dad to instinctively hate the stamps. Looking back, it does seem a bit unfair on children who drew these images that they should get caught up in this small class war being fought between Dad and all things socialist.

Mind you, Benn wasn’t the worst, in Dad’s eyes; that mantle fell to be worn by Roy Jenkins the Chancellor who in 1967 devalued the pound. When the soap we were watching was interrupted with the news Dad sat bolt upright and began a diatribe against the Wilson government in general and Jenkins in particular for destroying all we held dear. Condoning the issue of a non traditional stamp was symptomatic of this awful malaise

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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29 Responses to Philately Friday: Traditions Interrupted

  1. Erika says:

    What beautiful and cute. I love that there are even stories to see on the several stamps for example 1973. This is cool with the years on the envelopes. I missed 1970.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh, these are wonderful! And I love the stories you are telling about your father, via the stamps. I’m reminded of a recent TV show episode wherein a character said, “I remembered my father not for who he was, but for who he was to me.” May we all be remembered with such fond and honest recognition.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can certainly identify with your dad. Bo Bo Biden and his socialist cronies have me in a state of frustration most days. I’m not a Trump lover but get painted with that slur when mentioning the gross incompetence of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government. Your piece is well written (of course) and was good to see the first covers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      It’s bloody annoying, isn’t it to express frustration with some political or party and be branded as a card carrying supporter of the other lot. In all my years I’ve yet to agree with all the policies or outpourings of one or other party. Voting is always a compromise. In theory I like the Swiss idea of regular referendums but then remember its not just me voting and there are some right old loons out there…!!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this post. Tee hee!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. gordon759 says:

    Dads relationship with cars was certainly remarkable. He had the inerrant ability to pick the right car to suit his needs.
    1995, or thereabouts, was the centenary of the British motor industry. One newspaper had an article that listed the 10 best, and the 10 worst, cars produced in Britain during the preceding century. Dad had owned three of the ten worst, a remarkable achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. noelleg44 says:

    Glorious Christmas stamps and envelopes! What a treat to receive!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do enjoy these posts. ( Christmas 1978 Cover appears twice)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Widdershins says:

    Politics and postage stamps – pretty spot-on when you think about it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. petespringerauthor says:

    It is interesting what sets a person off. I know that I have my triggers too, just as my dad did.

    Politics and stamps always intersect. I used to collect stamps for many years as a child. Not only did I like collecting stamps from foreign countries, but it was my introduction to world leaders and major events.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. trifflepudling says:

    Somehow I can picture your dad in a brown Allegro! Hilarious.
    What did he think of Denis Healy?!
    The stamps are lovely – it doesn’t matter that you said they aren’t worth much. What are those Ely ones which have a ‘+1’ amount on them?? Never seen that before

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I don’t know either re the +1. Must check. Denis Healy he who ‘kowtowed to the bloody leeches at the IMF’… I think that gives you a flavour. He did like the ‘savaged by a dead sheep’ quip though


  11. Jennie says:

    I so enjoyed these stamps, Geoff. I must say I agree with John, and can identify with your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Age mellowed the odd contrarian happily. He loved small open.minds to talk to about nature and the world. A walk with dad and the kids aged about 5 took a bloody age as he’d find a spiders nest or a rainbow lichen and engage them in a leaf turning hunt.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennie says:

        Age has a wonderful way of mellowing. I can imagine you at age 5 having to stop at all his discoveries while on a walk. Perhaps torture for you then, and a wish for you now. Hubby’s mother was closer in age to my grandmother. She used to have our children hunt for four leaf clovers. That took a bloody age. I can get used to ‘bloody’, it’s a good word.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        It was dad’s go to worst swear word in the 60s and 70s. We never heard the f or c words until I was at uni. Apart from in literature. Chaucer was fairly eye opening…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jennie says:

        Haha! Best to you, Geoff.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I remember too many of those! And the ones I recognise most clearly are the 1966 ones. Maybe, being a child myself, I was deeply impressed that another child could design a stamp.

    Liked by 1 person

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