I'm sure Expo 70 was a marvellous thing. I've never been to a World Fair – to me they seem like a thing of the Victorian era, full of fantastical inventions, sights and sounds. But of course they are as much a part of the present and the future…and the past…everywhen, really.
Expo 70 was held in Osaka, Japan and was where the USA displayed a lump of moon rock they'd picked up the year before. It's Landmark Tower inspired the designers of the Valley Forge from Silent Running and the site was used to film the final battle between Gamera and Jiger in the Japanese monster movie…Gamera vs. Jiger, obviously.
Visual delights from the East, in the form of first days covers, from the late 60s through to the beginning of the 80s. Like all countries Japan has produced some absolutely stunning stampage (as illustrated here) and many cubic tonnes of self-adhesive shite.
I can’t tell you very much about Hans Thoni except that he died in 1980 aged 74 and was a Swiss graphic designer. There are a few of his posters online and some stamps he designed. There’s much more online about Finsteraarhorn, the highest and less popular mountain in the Bernese Alps.
It’s nothing personal, Finsteraarhorn is, I believe, a perfectly respectable Alp, It’s just that it’s hard to get to. And I don’t mean ‘no public transport’ hard to get to, I mean it’s in the middle of flipping nowhere. It’s, what we explorers call, “a very very long way away”.
Of course, I’m an armchair explorer really and would much rather scrutinise the results of a tectonic uplift from the comfort and relative warmth of my living room, with or without Kendal Mint Cake…
Thoni’s economic illustration of Finsteraarhorn is as sparse as a mountaineer’s emergency rations after three days of blizzard-bound isolation. I count three colours and really, not much drawing. But everything is just right. Just as it should be.
I’m a little obsessed by this tiny depiction of a very big thing.
They said it couldn’t be done. They said, it was impossible. They said that 'The Thing' could not ‘travel’ to 'The Place'; that it could not happen. It was impossible.
Even now, some claim that it did not happen. They claim that it could not have happened. But let me tell you, with complete certainty, that it did happen. I know. I was there. I saw it.
Yes…the postman really did post a commemorative 45” single from 1969 through our letterbox. A letterbox, notably, not big enough for this vintage News of the World give-away. A letterbox that measures less than the requisite 7” across, at its widest point.
So how did he do it? I here you ask. HTF? (As the younger generation might abbreviate). How was it possible to bend the laws of physics, to pervert known science – to make something so big, fit through something so not big? How?
By bending it. By fecking bending it.
But this was no flexidisc, oh no. This disc did not flex. Or bend. It did not bend and it did not flex. It did not fold and it did not contort. It did, what it had to do. All that it could do.
It fecking broke.
We can send a man to the moon. We can record the account of that journey and we can press that account into a disc of plastic to be played back using a turny thing and a needle. We can package that disc of plastic inside a printed account of the remarkable happenings of that time. We can slip both disc and leaflet into a printed space map depicting the journey made all those years ago. And we can stick all that stuff into a specially manufactured glossy card sleeve with a moon boot on the front.
But we can’t post all that shit through a hole smaller than it without something happening that is not supposed to happen. It's a scientific fact.
I tend to keep my stamps loose or mounted onto small white cards that I file in a box. I'm fighting the conventional and accepted forms of stamp collection/preservation, in my own small way. Maybe one I'll curse my chosen path. I think I'm going to frame these and leave them to the ravages of everyday light attacks.
I'm immersed in heritage-related projects at the moment. It's really interesting. The studio I'm working in has two "interpretive planners", who know tons of history and that. They're fascinating. It's all quite different to what I'm used to but refreshingly so. Lots of challenges; I'm covering for a super-talented creative with a real passion for history – formidable shoes to fill. Anyway, I was reminded of this, from when I was…oooh, about knee high.
It was during this year that SAVE Britain's Heritage was created, "the most influential conservation group to have been established since William Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Beards", or something.
We've been spending a bit of time in the past lately. Proper, personal, family past I mean. Not surprising. It started with me looking for a photo of my Dad but I soon got side-tracked. This is (mostly) my Mum's old Post Office book (with a brief appearance from Dad's). No forgotten fortune inside.
I'm going to try something for a while and see if it gets annoying. There's a load of stuff back there in the Ace Jet Archive. I love going through it every now and then. Like these superb Dutch stamps. Well worth re-visiting. Well, I think so anyway.