Monday, March 31, 2008

Commemorating Canadian Beaver

A 2002 franking from Canada came to my mind thank to a message posted yesterday on the Raretés et curiosités philatéliques blog. Its author presents classical stamps and their sales, in a vision similar the one I read regularly in British Stamp Magazine.

The letter was sent by a Toronto lady to a couple living in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

The stamp in the middle was issued for the 150 years of the Canadian post and reproduced one of the three first stamps of the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec). The beaver, the most little value, was designed by engineer Sandford Fleming.

Details non visible on the stamp scanned on Raretés et curiosités philatéliques are visible on this stamp on stamp, for example the sun.

Fleming's beaver was used again in 1859 on a 5 cent stamp after the dollar replaced the shilling and its pence.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Keep our streets clean

... is not a simple work, more a Sisyphean task. Without travelling back to urban antic and medieval odors, this 26 year-old pictorial cancellation reminded civic duty to citizens.

"What did you do today for the Cleanliness of your town?", ask a cat to a mouse.

The Sabine stamp by Pierre Gandon inspired by a David's painting is used on time. It tells "République française". After being elected president in May 1981, François Mitterrand changed the country name on stamps, reversing the short "France" during Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's presidency.

At that time, Parisian post offices are recognized by a number: 68 for the one on Turgot street, in the 9th arrondissement.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The British Library

Back to London, the British Library, national library of the United Kingdom, let you watch a little permanent exhibitions of philatelic collections that started the philatelic specialised part of this institution.

The British Library (this picture's licence: CC-by-nc-nd-sa[1]).

The new British Library buildings are located near the Saint Pancras station (where the Eurostar trains arrive). Following the main entrance, after the first stairs, panels present the Tapling collection Tapling and some other fine stamps and covers.

In the same hall, a permanent exhibitions of the British Library's treasures is a pleasure for the eyes and the historian: original manuscripts and old drawings, including an history of the Magna Carta. The visit is free, like often in British national institutions and museums, but you are kindly invited to a donation.

I didn't have the time or the occasion to try it, but the Library is reputed to be one of the main philatelic archives and library in the world, alongside the one at the Royal Philatelic Society London. The British Library started by receiving the Earl of Crawford's book collection, that he first donated to the British Museum.

To discover these philatelic archives, you can read the monthly Stamp Magazine. Inside, one page told the story of one of the British Library's interesting items.

So many bookly wealth in this town...

Note 1 : attribute the picture to the author by his name (by), for a no derivative (nd) and non commercial reuse (nc) under the same licence (sa), please.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ametlla de Mar

A little sunshine during this cold Spring in Paris: Ametlla de Mar, a port in Southern Catalonia, saw this machine stamp passing.

With a pictorial cancellation for a postal service.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ho! Ho! Ho!

No, it's not the Green Giant who can put vegetables in tin can that is coming after Easter...

... it is Santa Claus who laught on the canadian cancellations before Christmas.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Machin in Guernsey

Here is one of the first many postale stamps issued in 1969 and 1970 by the postal administration of Guernsey (excepting the ones of the German occupation during World War 2).

A Guernsey lily stand between Henry V of England, King at the beginning of the 15th century, and the profile of Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin. This effigy served on this island's stamps on stamps issued in 1969 and 1970.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Four stamps and no more for King Edward VIII

Let's travel back in time, around a year before this article - about the first stamps of King George VI -, when the British Post Office was working on the three projected series of the new King Edward VIII.

Published obviously by the Great Britain Philatelic Society, this 1974 fascicule by A.J. Kirk is already ancient (understand: only the publisher has got some unused items somewhere in the stockroom - sending is efficient) but flourished with illustrations. The author told first the genesis of the only four stamps of the reign of Edward VIII. A short reign, ended by the future Duke of Windsor to marry a divorced woman (an abdication that let him express all what he thought about European politics in the 1930s... expressions that won him the friendly post of Governor of the Bahamas, directly proposed in 1940 by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The article of Wikipedia in English told of menacing the Duke of being court-martialed that may have helped).

The series was issued in September 1936 for the Royal Accession of January (8 months and some days vs 6 months for the urgent George VI series). Then, it would have been two series: one for the coronation in May 1937 and one definitive ones. The projects reproduced in the book present the King in all kind of military uniforms, with all sort of ornaments. Edmund Dulac and the president of the Scottish Philatelic Society proposed for the first time (and again for George VI) their ideas with the flowers of the four parts of the United Kingdom. The crown was omnipresent.

Until the unexpected arrived: a 18 year old fellow ask if he can propose a project. He was thanked by the Greater Post Office for his ideas. In return, after he discovered the final design of the stamps, the father answered politely that the GPO may not have been honest in this story. I let you compare the designs...

With a 20 page long and illustrated specialized study and in consequence of the abdication, the genesis is quite short. But, all the reproduced projects show that design ideas for the series of the next decades were in place: use of sculpted profile, castles and monuments for the high value definitives for example.

Have a nice reading.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Action Against Hunger

While I see more and more illustrated postage meters, I am growing impatient to finally see on French mail illustrated cancellation instead of the anonym coded ones.

You see here how the association Action contre la faim is promoting its actions againt hunger on its mail: brand, internet adress, call for donation.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The first stamps of George VI

Bought during my journey to London, at Vera Trinder, here is a short but richly illustrated book about the design of the six first stamps of the reign of King George VI.

In Great Britain King George VI Low Value Definitive Stamps, Peter Worsfold told the genesis of these stamps from Edward VIII's abdication till February 1937. A very short time, but creatively dense, a shortness that was justified by the crowing date maintained in May 1937. The illustration is aboundant and the letters were retrieved in the British postal archives. Many projects are reproduced in black and white.

I will summarize the whole with two main points. First, the ornament was wished by George VI to be less severe than the one of the Edward VIII stamps issued some weeks earlier. Artists competed even if the four floral emblems of the Countries of the United Kingdom were omnipresent.

Then, the problem was the portrait. Until Edmund Dulac intervened early February, essays were printed using a photograph by Bertram Park and the profil for coinage by Paget. Author Peter Worsfold and Dulac's biographer, Colin White, were enthusiastic about the Dulac head. White wrote that Dulac "gave the King the classical features of a young Greek hero!"

This 2001 book - a pleasure to read - is available at the publisher, the Great Britain Philatelic Society, whom will be quoted again about an other of my recent acquisitions.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Local elections in France

A 1997 pictorial cancellation from Auvergne's capitale, Clermont-Ferrand, and in the context of local elections in France. This Sunday 16 March 2008, electors are going for a second vote (in France, many elections took place in two rounds): elections of communal representants and of half the representatives to the departemental councils.

Translation of the text: "To register on the electoral lists, it is to participate to the life of the nation" and was commissionned by the Civil Information Center. In France, citizens must be registered before 31 December to participate to the next year elections. Those whose 18th birthday takes place between 1 January and the election day can register in this period.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

And if postal competition went through the destinator...

Editor's opinion

This article by Dominique and this other by Claude Jamet about the postal competition for the expedition/delivery of parcels made me consider an idea that may frighten public postal operators and guarantee the quietness of my mind.

It seems to me that, until now, when the highest authorities decide to open postal service competition, there are the senders that benefit the most of this larger choice of operators: lower costs, guaranteed time of delivery, economic rates for sending lots of mail at once, adaptable service, etc.

Unless that... most of the time, it is the final client that pays this value added by the postal transportation. Understand: me. Me who click on Amazon to receive DVDs sent in not-discreet parcels or Me who send mails to philatelic associations to order one of their rare books. Me finally who has to carry the incoming time, not only long, but hazardous (from one to three weeks between the United States and France). Me who pays with my time, my temper and, sometimes, with more money, the non-arrival of a parcel. With a reminder of how impolite and condescending the answers from the telephonic operators are, I don't want to know how a postal clerck will answer a demand to know where is a non-followed parcel.

Nowadays, different sending services are proposed by order compagnies to avoid this kind of problems: quicker expedition (with a go-through the borders regulation = VTA added = the postal service will deliver in your hands to catch the adding money) or express service (1 to 2 day guarantee and a rate...).

And if, in some types of commercial website, the client could choose the postal operator (postal operation allience) that will transport and deliver the parcel? On the 500 gram to 10 kilogram parcel market, why is it not the client who desires the content of the parcel that can choose?

I imagine (idealist that I am) that postal operators - public and private - will ensure the destinators' confidence by multiples guarantees, competitives prices and even subscriptions for a certain numbers of delivery per year.

Waiting this utopian postal world, it is true for the last steps of the parcel that: until the public operators don't want to understand that, on day-time, we are working in order to pay for the things we want them to deliver... until then... I will wait... (known melody)

Monday, March 10, 2008

The French Chess Federation

Following a return to the chess game, I received this meter from the French Chess Federation's machine :

About the chess topical collection in French, you can visit thèméchecs, a website that goes beyond the postage stamps.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Philatelic bookshops in London (2) : Vera Trinder

Near the Strand in London, you can find the Vera Trinder philatelic bookshop. Exiting Stanley Gibbons shop to go back to Trafalgar Square, look for Bedford Street on your right hand. At number 38, go down the stairs and here you are.

The hall with the cash machine stocked a large and international choice of stamp catalogues.

No stamp, only accessories to look at, manage and organize a collection. And to study it by knowledge. A title or a topic, and the seller invites me to wander around the bookshelfs to the perimeter my quest may be fulfilled. Since I have been reading philately, it was the first time that I found a place that is so near the help-yourself bookshop I dream of. Usually, either the choice is tiny, or the seller go to the stockroom alone.

The real help-yourself at Vera Trinder LtD. was at the Stampex show where the shop had a booth. Inside two boxes of more than 20 years old books, I found little ones that will be useful to me.

Have a good visit, this place is worth the try.

Update on Friday April 1st 2016:
The Vera Trinder bookshop in London was closed in 2014 and moved to Cornwall.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Ugly Canadian cancellations

Looking at my e-mail archives, forgotten along the way, I retrieved the adress of a Canadian blogger and saw the uglyness that are Canadian cancellations these days.

They are awful and sometimes unreadable, I already knew it. But, moreover, they are sometimes printed on arriving mail: watch here, here and there again.

Philatelic bookshops in London (1)

Around one street of London, the Strand, I found two places that would be the nearest of my perfect dream: bookshops with (almost) total accessiblity to the bookshelfs.

Directly on this street, around 400 meters to the East from Trafalgar Square (the one with Nelson mocking the French atop a column), on the left side of the street, at the 399, here you are, at Stanley Gibbons' shop. Here - French mostly, the others knew already through their catalogue editors - you will discover what a great stamp catalogue is: name and initials of the majority of the stamp designers, name of the printers, a huge amount of variations and errors described. For the printer, Yvert et Tellier catalogues very rarely give it. For stamps of France, it's normal because there was only one printer for almost all the philatelic history of France (but you need to possess one book that told you their name and periods...). It is not true for a lot of country and that can be important: first, knowledge is good, second, take a British definitive series that was printed by more than one printer in its career. Now, go see the prices... 1955 Castle series is a good example how the name of the printer is a price-maker.

At your hand, the British catalogues from the basic one (image + topic + price) to the specialised (tome 1: Queen Victoria ; tome 2 to be reprinted soon: from Edward VII to George VI; and many tomes for the Elizabeth II philatelic ocean). The Commonwealth catalogue (1840-1970) at 70 pounds sterling can be avoided for parts by countries or regions with the stamps until the year of publication. Coupons can be found in Gibbons Stamp Monthly magazine and special offers happened regularly to help empty the remaining stocks.

Better, at this ground floor, philatelic books await you: topical books or postal history (such as the Bahamas' by Harold G.D. Gisburn). If you have a precised title in mind, the nice (always) seller will go look into the stock or will take your e-mail or telephone references and try to find it elsewhere.

At the end of the shop, because the founder was a stamp dealer, you find the stamp counter with sitting desk for clients.

Don't be surprised that the stairs in the middle of the shop is going to another shop (of autographs), the London real property is so expensive that any means have been thinking to have a tiny place near the Center: use half a floor with access in your neighbour's property, to live at the bottom of the estate (with big curtains to avoid being a show for the pedestrians on the sidewalk above you), etc.

In a next episode of our London Season, an other bookshop whose competition to Stanley Gibbons is just one street ahead.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I am the Doctor

Refreshing discovery in London: there is more than philately in a stamp dealer's life. Before I told you my visit to Stanley Gibbons, the British philatelic publisher of reference, let's cross the Strand and go at the shop just in front. We are near Trafalgar Square.

Here is The Stamp Centre, whose front glass present all kind of st... hmm... all Doctor Who dedicated. Doctor Who is the classical science-fiction television series of Britain since the 1960, and is reborn in 2005 under the pen of Russell T. Davies. In the shop, one of the two gentlemen is pleased to be efficient by bringing these two different topics together.

For the Doctor, you can find plastic characters, cards, collectibles and some seasons on DVD, and the Royal Mail postcard reproducing a 1999 stamp. It represents a Dalek, one of the many ennemies of the unamed Doctor, photographed by Lord Snowdon.

For the philatelic part of the shop, British stamps are in majority and recent first day covers. The website announces more important periodical sales.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Second DVD for TV Timbres

The second DVD inspired by TV Timbres is delivered to its first buyers. Its price compared to its length is in proportion of independent movies that won't be hardsold at 4.99 € in six months.

(from Timbres magazine website)

Two parts. The first one is centered around Jacqueline Caurat and the former television show she did with her husband Jacques Mancier, Télé-philatélie then Philatélie-club. A to be continued... at the end announced a next episode.

Bought at high price to the National Audiovisual Institute, French organization responsible for archiving all French radio and television shows, here is an index of the pictures and excerpts of the show you can see in this DVD interview:
1. artist Jean Cocteau drawing his Marianne stamp design with Caurat's lipstick;
2. an example of exhibition visited by the show (one of the railway philatelists);
3. pictures of Cocteau and Dalí;
4. engraver Albert Decaris told how he came to stamp designing in 1933;
5. actor Yul Brynner told how he work at stamps to rest from his movie day work;
6. Prime Minister Jacques Chirac opening Arphila 75 in Paris. Caurat asked him questions about the place of modern art on stamps;
7. the auction sales aboard the Queen Mary in 1966;
8. the philatelic exhibition aboard the France for the philatelic exhibition of Montréal in 1967;
9. pictures of press documents and of the show;
10. part of Prince Rainier III of Monaco about the respective places of classic and modern arts on stamps... with a conclusion in favor of intaglio printing (Timbres magazine supports the association Art du timbre gravé).

After that, let's visit the Musée de La Poste, in Paris. The first report today's Caurat visiting the temporary exhibition War and Post that will be closed on 15 March 2008 (hurry up!). The second report by Gauthier Toulemonde is a commented visit of the permanent exhibits of the museum. Finally, a slide shows postal and philatelic historic objects: from pre-philatelic letters to mail art by French soldiers.

About the cost of INA's archives video that editor-in-chief Toulemonde spoke about in his March 2008 opening letter, I think a mobilisation by philatelists would not be useless : here is the result of a research with the word "philatélie" at INA website (0 on 5 March 2008, "timbre" directed only at vocal art).

Good viewing.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Nelly at Stampex too

Like the Autumn stamp show of Paris, French blogger Nelly visited the Spring Stampex of London too. Good reading.

Prince Harry, Prince Alfred

Because of the mediatic indiscretion outside the United Kingdom, Prince Harry was taken back home from Afghanistan where his Royal Family and the British Government accepted to let him do his military duty, despite fear for his own and the other soldier's safety.

However, reading the history of the British Royal Family since Queen Victoria, there has already been a military prince whose career might have cost his life (and not from the far side of a gun): Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, young brother of future King Edward VII.

When he was second in the line of succession, he did a little like Harry: to make the Palace accept his will to enter the Royal Navy. It was accepted in 1856. In February 1866, at 22 years old, he was entitled Duke of Edinburgh and captain of his own ship. Next January 2867, he started a worldwide journey on board the HMS Galatea.

One century later, these two stamps of the British Atlantic territory of the Tristan Da Cunha archipelago reminded of the politic importance of the naval career of the Prince: he was the first member of the Royal Family to visit many colonies. The island-volcano of Tristan Da Cunha kept an unerasable trace of his stay: the capitale was named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas in his honor.

The next year, he was shot in the back near Sydney, in Australia. The consequence was a subscription to open the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, opened in 1882.

Parallel to his family and spending life -spent in postage stamps... -, Prince Alfred became one of the main leader of the Royal Navy: commander of the Mediterranean Fleet between 1886 and 1889, Admiral of the Fleet in 1893, and commander-in-chief from 1890 to 1893.

Believing Nicholas Courtney in The Queen's Stamps, Prince Alfred may have inspired the very-philatelic passion to futur George V, his nephew (a midshipman too during his teenage years). Perhaps inspired by his great-uncle's example, Prince Harry criticized the Army's postal services and told the importance of incoming mail for the soldiers' morale.

Post Office Ltd.

If, in English, post office is the translation of the French bureau de poste, the British Post Offices have the particularity to be separated from their mother-home the Royal Mail since the 1980s. The Post Office Ltd., even if controlled by the Royal Mail Group, is in fact an independent company that must be profitable at the end of the year. No compensation through the benefits of the mail transport can balance the post offices' budget. The British Government tries to make them both profitable.

In London, you can see quickly how a Post Office wants to be profitable. Across the Saint-Pancras Station (and I forgot to take pictures, I am an amateur in press reporting), I thought first it was one of the many multi-services stores you can find anywhere in the British capitale. From the street, you can see on the windows flyers fot phone cards, insurances and international money tranfers, a fridge full of beverage, chocolate candies, a phocopy machine. But, no visible postal things: no special stamps put in evidence, no queue of people bringing mail,...

The Notting Hill mini-market I entered for a fruit juice before going to my hotel the night before could have easily replace this Post Office. And, it is what the British Government prepared more and more for rural areas and the less dense urban zones: itinering service, non itinering service installed once a week in a non-postal shop, permanent service by a non postmal commerce, limit of one post office per a certain number of inhabitants.

I have already written about this topic of the post offices and services' rentability, and their consequences for postmen and common people sending or receiving mail. Sincerely, because I have always been living in very dense urban areas where pure postal post office (even philatelic specialized post offices) are available, I don't know what to think of these evolutions.

Monday, March 03, 2008

First steps in the definitive stamps of France

The definitive stamp family of France is larger by six members out of 100-stamp sheet since Saturday 1st March 2008 and the last rate rising. They certainly will be scrutinized in every details, like all definitives before. On the web, many ressources are now available to begin the climbing of this French philatelic mountain.

The Société des collectionneurs de coins datés et de millésimes (SO.CO.CO.DA.MI., litterally the Collectors of Corner Blocks and Millesimes' Society), created in March 1936, is known of every French philatelic magazines readers because it published the postage stamp printing dates and numbers. Its members compilates what they read on sheet margins, thank to gentle postmen who let them consult the stock or by investing money in buying corner blocks. The final goal is to study how postage stamps are produced and how this production evolves.

The Cercle des amis de Marianne (the Marianne's Friends Circle) publishes a little monthly study on their website, showing an aspect of one of France's 20th century definitive series.

The weblink pages of these two websites will help you climb another step of the mountain.

On the British side, the March 2008 issue of Gibbons Stamp Monthly saw the 11th and final chapter of Ashley Lawrence's study of the Sowers (la Semeuse). The Royal Philatelic Society London website proposes Lawrence's 2003 exhibition on these stamps too.

Good discoveries.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Royal Mail's ups and downs

From the British magazines (Gibbons Stamp Monthly et Stamp Magazine), I read their reader's bad comments on Royal Mail's politic of the stamp. In a minimalist vision, the postal company seems to consider machine stamps printed at the postal counter to be sufficient for all franking, definitives Machins may be acceptable because some clients want to frank their mail themselves. Illustrated stamps, Countries definitives (with symbols of the four parts of the United Kingdom) and special stamps must be bought, collected, worshipped and unused, please.

On the philatelic stand at the London Stampex (27 February - 1 March 2008), I had the opportunity to see the two faces of the coin (that can happen in France?).

First, there were two types of counters on the stand: retail and philatelic. The first one sold quickly to collectors who saw the wished products on the walls : special issues, minisheets, "presentation packs" (the stamps with a cardboard note on the topic), and other luxuous objects such as books with a silver reproduction of the stamp (not for franking).

The philatelic counters announced clearly what the game is with panels: each philatelist could ask whatever he wanted to see for an hour... ?!!

The time I asked for advice to a very polite gentleman of the Royal Mail who was directing visitors and to queue at the retail counter, I discovered the activities taken place at philatelics: to cut and buy piece of definitive stamp sheets, cut how exactly they wanted, from any printer they wanted, in any form they wanted. At that moment, a man was asking for Countries sheets "without dot" by De La Rue. And, scissors in hand, he cut the sheet margin and detached the stamps he needed (the British mode seems to be a 45° cutting and a 6 or 8 stamp block).

If i believe that some members of the SO.CO.DA.MI., a French association specialised in following the printing process of French stamps, would appreciate such a service in France instead of hoping for kind employees in post offices and informators at the Périgueux postal printer plant, I wonder where went the pleasure of research. The Royal Mail succeeded to make an important financial income from a philatelic activity which would nerve any impatient postal clercks used to adhesive stamp machine, quick to print, quick to stick.

All this in a reciproc curtuous manner, with some humour and money went to the royal postal purse until the unaskable question was asked... Of course, I am the asker :)

As a rock in the shoe, I just bought three special series in their natural version, not in presentation packs like my huge French accent would have hint. But, worse, I want to put them all on mail. Here is come, of course, previsibly, inevitably, the question :

how much is the letter rate to France?

If you saw James Cameron's movie Titanic, you have an idea of the situation I put the crew of the Philatelic Service Ship Royal Mail stuck by an iceberg in the bay of Islington. The two women who were servicing me did not have the slightest idea... One of their masculine colleague remembered only the interior rate, but can approximate with the help of the Scout Centenary stamps the minimum I shouldn't use.

Visibly, the British philatelic service has difficulties to imagine that its stamps can be used on mail.

Greatness of the service, politeness and beauty of some issues: I bought the six stamp World of Invention series by press illustrator Peter Till, the six stamp Scout Centenary series by Gez Fry, and the 2006 and 2007 Lest We Forget minisheets. All to send my touristic postcards and letters to family and friends (not for the Great War rememberance I keep for collecting).

Not so great: with each of these four issues, you can't frank your mail without losing money. Six stamps with face value for 3 to 6 differents national or international rates. A saling staff that can't help you know how many penny Machins to buy. I frank with all stamps 48 pence and above (I noted the rate before travelling).

Finally, these salewomen did help me to find the European rate: go ask it in a post office... wonderful, Post Office will be the next story.

P.S. : a nuance, the Royal Mail issued special series with 1st class stamps only but they didn't interested me (see the « Great Britain 2007 » pages on the WADP Numbering System website).

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Very commercially kind indeed

When I wrote this morning that British merchants wanted to fulfill their clients' wishes, I had not open my letter box yet:

Here is one of the covers I put in the red post box at the Stampex philatelic show on Wednesday 27 February 2008. Above the box, a message announced that all postcards and letters correctly franked would be cancelled with the special mark. The Royal Mail apoligized for a longer delivery because the mail was to sorted by hand.

How can you guarantee that the covers would not be - accidentally or carelessly - cancelled again by a machine? This morning came the answer: the mail travelled into a plastic bag. Markings announced for the machines that the mail is a first class priority.

One objection from purist: no rose bars were printed in the process, you cannot proove the mail eventually travelled like any other mail.

Answer: the same day, I put two covers in a usual mail box in Victoria Street. It is a business and commercial street in Westminster. They arrived on Friday, one day before :

Posts of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have a very bad taste for their new cancelling machines: difficult to read, rose bars printed on stamps.

Two different public, two different services.

Some of you may have deduced I overfranked my covers with stamps from the Lest We Forget 2007 minisheet, issued in souvenir of World War One soldiers. 48 pence would have been sufficient. My explanation on that point in a next article of the Seb's London Season.

Commercial politeness

Central London philatelic shop, the philatelic counter of the Royal Mail at Stampex and some other shops operating in a very competitive sector (such as franchising sandwichry and multimedia) offer one quality quite stupefiant to a Frenchman: salers - owner and employees alike - are sympathetic, polite, courteous and really at your service.

Every saleman I have to deal with during these two days in London, helped me without any sign of boredom or impatience (and I thought my English skills would help their impatience): they go into their stockroom to find the little opuscule that every one forgot... and for the philatelic part find it 2 times out of 3. In France, a general direction of where the object might be standing sufficed generally. On Oxford Street, a Zavvi employee working at the second floor decided by himself to go dowstairs to the ground floor and checked if there was one of the latest DVD boxsets I was looking for... and went up back quickly with the answer (not the object sadly). In Paris, the answer would have been: "Go see at the ground floor. If not, we haven't anymore left."

All this with a smile and a final "Cheers" inciting to come back. What would France become under the Anglo-French Union ?