Friday, 22 November 2019

A very big Penny Black

No, I am not talking about a large lady called Penelope Black. Those of you who collected postage stamps in your youth will all know what a Penny Black is. It was the invention of Rowland Hill. 

He revised the complicated, inefficient and expensive postal system in Britain and introduced a standard letter charge of one penny throughout the land. The black one penny postage stamp was stuck on your letter to prove that you had paid the fee. It was the world's first adhesive postage stamp and was introduced in 1840.

The system was clever and innovative but the stamp itself had one very serious flaw. It was black. When the Post Office endorsed an inked stamp on it to cancel it after use, the cancellation was difficult to see and this tempted naughty people to try to use the stamps more than once. Thus, the following year the stamp's colour was changed to red and it became known as... the Penny Red.

I have just given a talk in Kidderminster Town Hall and standing outside the  venue is this statue to Rowland Hill, who was born in the town. What is interesting is that the subscriptions came from all over the world to recognise the revolutionary postal system that he had put in place. Even today, I marvel at the tremendous value of a postage stamp. I can write a letter, stick a stamp on it, and the Royal Mail will carry it hundreds of miles and deliver it to the address I have given them. To do that myself would cost me hundreds of pounds and I acquire this service for a fee measured in pennies.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

How can I stop my tomatoes from growing?

We are in November. 

Don't they realise? 

They are not in a greenhouse and they insist on climbing inexorably towards the roof of my house, flowering still and fruiting. 

Perhaps I can hope for a really good frost to kill them off.