Sunday, 6 June 2010

Commemorating the definitive.

This afternoon was “play time”. The housework was done and as it was raining rhinos outside, I pulled out a box of stamps I have been meaning to sort for ages.
I’m not a collector, but I occasionally fossick around with geographical areas that interest me, as you learn so much about a country through the stamps it issues.
Today I was struck by how much I enjoy the “definitive” issues of stamps. These are the ones that you buy from the post office, year in, year out, without paying much attention to them. Often the design is uninspiring or hasn’t changed for so long you fail to notice it. But it does the job just as effectively as the pretty or imaginative commemorative stamp.
I sorted a lot of definitives today, and as I handled them, I wondered what kind of letter they had been attached to and what kind of person had purchased them. As most of the stamps were just post WWII, I was certain the majority would have been stuck to real letters written between real people. Oh to have lived in that gracious part of the 20th century when junk mail had yet to be invented.
My smaller pile of stamps was the bold, colourful and imaginative selection designed to commemorate musicians, authors, museums and acts of gallantry. They covered science and space exploration, antiques and precious gems, wildlife and birds, warriors and poets. Each was a statement of what was historically important to remember.
However, I kept being drawn back to the little definitives. They are the stamp equivalent of a sparrow – a plain little bird, and easily overlooked. It is a stamp that goes largely unnoticed, like most of our lives. But those simple moments, the “pass the salt” of daily existence, are the very backdrop that highlights, accentuates and amplifies to high decibels the flashes of spectacular colour, insight, passion, invention and joy. I could not live without those times, but their appreciation exists only because I live most of my days “in the definitive”.

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