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Stick to stamps
by Asa Butcher
2007-10-09 09:46:36
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When I first heard that one of my uncles was a philatelist I first assumed it was a political affiliation and then when I discovered he was also a philatelic member the innocent child in me could only pray that it could be treated with antibiotics. I was relieved to discover that he merely collected stamps and would not be subjected to quarantine, yet I did catch stamp fever from him and it stayed with me for a number of years.

The reason I am revealing another facet of my dark and mysterious past is because today, like every October 9th, is World Post Day and you maybe surprised to learn that it is an official United Nations holiday celebrated across the world - of course, there is also a World Second Class Post Day but that isn't celebrated for another few weeks. The day marks the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union, the international organization that coordinates postal policies between member nations.

Before the creation of the UPU in 1874 every country had to agree a separate postal treaty with one another before it could carry international mail to or from, which was rather irritating for all involved. The UPU established that there should be a uniform rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world; postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic mail; and each country should retain all monies collected for international postage.

It is for these three reasons established 137 years ago that we are able to receive our eBay packages with relative ease, return forgotten items by houseguests and even send letters to family members still lacking internet access, such as my grandad. A few weekends ago would have been my Grandma's birthday, so I opened a new Word document – no, even I don't handwrite letters – and jotted down a few lines about the life and recent times of the Butcher family, primarily focusing on its youngest member.

We have all complained at one time that we never receive any personal correspondence through our letterbox; instead, we pick junk mail, local newspapers, bills and autumnal leaves from our doormats. The time it took to write two pages of A4, plus a few recent photos, and walk to the post office was negligible when I think of the joy it gave my grandad to see an envelope with an exotic Finnish stamp sitting on his Welcome Mat that morning.

Emails serve their purpose and have revolutionised the world in which we live when it comes to instantaneous communication – if people actually read them when they arrive – yet they will never match the personal touch of a letter sent in an envelope. A few weeks after I proposed to my wife she had to return to Finland and we were separated from almost four months during which time we emailed almost daily, but it was still the hand-written weekly letters – yes, she got handwritten – that meant the most to us both. Even now I don't know how we didn't run out of things to say with our emails, letters and phone calls!

Today I just write letters to Grandad and no longer collect stamps, although it was with some shock that I discovered in the second year of my marriage that my wife is still an avid collector. She eagerly cuts out the stamps from letters from abroad and stores them… somewhere – I'm not actually sure – because she thinks our daughter will want them when she grows up. The irony is that the stamps I collected for the few years of my childhood are worth more than the ones currently turning brown in a secret location in our flat; on that score, I have her licked!

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Emanuel Paparella2007-10-09 10:52:36
Your wife is right, your daughter will eventually want your collections. When my father died the first thing I requested of my mother was that I, as the elder and only son, inherit my father stamp collection which was exclusively on European countries and which I had observed him assiduously collecting collected for a quarter of a century. I never contracted his addiction to philately but the collection has become a sort of treasured family patrimony. Moreover, every time I survey it I get stirred to do some research on some aspect of European culture portrayed on some stamp. It is a lost world, all the more worth preserving. Mario Ruopolo and Pablo Neruda must be turning in their graves.

Clint2007-10-09 20:37:59
There is no World Post Day here in the UK. All the Posties are on strike, were last week, are this week, are next week. What we need is a 'Postmen Back to Work Day'.

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