Making sense of the new normal
Photographs of life in 2020 would amaze our forbears for whom masks were only for parties and dances
All our lives we must make decisions, but never more so than now. Even with lockdown easing, life is not normal; a threatening virus is still out there, and we have to avoid coming into contact with large amounts of it. Photographs of life in 2020 would amaze our forebears, with everyone avoiding close contact with others, not shaking hands, and wearing masks. They would have understood the gloves but not blue plastic ones, and masks were only for parties and dances. Even nine months ago we would not recognise the scene.
When in the middle of last century when Gloucestershire Federation purchased WI house in Gloucester as a meeting point for our members, they could not have known in 2020 we would have had to close it for three to four months. Even after that, instead of welcoming visitors and members, we will be discouraging them, except on urgent business. Visitors will be asked to make an appointment, be greeted with hand sanitisers and asked to wear masks. Not the welcome that was planned all those years ago. But WI members are nothing if not adaptable, and we will continue to keep in touch by one means or another.
For those who are techno savvy, this means meetings, workshops and lectures by Zoom. For others it is a phone call, a package left on the doorstep, conversations down the garden path or in the park. Good weather is meaning we can meet outdoors to share ideas, picnics, cake, etc. We can “show and tell” like the schoolchildren and we have been busy in lockdown. I think as soon as we can have village stalls, they will be weighed down with home-made jam and cake, knitted goods and of course custom made masks for general wear. Scrubs in the care homes and for care workers have taken on a new appearance as members have cut up old duvets. I hope the fun element of wearing colourful outfits will continue. One of our members has been making dolls in more traditional outfits which have proved very popular.
There have been a lot of unfinished projects that are now completed, many originating from workshops held in WI House. Sadly, these are not going to happen in the same way as before. The House is old and not designed for social distancing let alone having a tutor explaining how to do things. However, all is not lost and where we can we are going to have workshops on Zoom or hold them away from the house in larger venues.
Large meetings are a problem as there are so many things that have to be monitored and numbers will have to be reduced until social distancing is no longer required. But as soon as we can hold them, we will, they are after all a major fundraiser for us, without them it is difficult to maintain all the services we provide for members. A major setback was our non-attendance at the Royal Three Counties Show. But thanks to Worcestershire Federation’s generosity we will be there in the main tent next year.
As I said in June, ‘we will overcome’. The abnormal world is still with us and it it will never be completely be the same. I hope this is in a good way with a greater appreciation of the environment and all that means, overuse of resources, less pollution and wastage. As well as appreciating how lucky we are to have wonderful health and support services in this country.
I am sure the WI members will adapt to the new norm and we have two new campaigns to get our teeth into, more about those next month.
According to Sotheby’s, stamp collecting has consistently ranked as one of the world’s most popular hobbies since the 1800s. However, the coronavirus outbreak appears to have generated new enthusiasm for this historic pastime. In April, Stanley Gibbons – the longest-established rare stamp merchant in the world – revealed in a COVID-19 update that it had observed evidence of more people displaying an interest in the hobby. The group reported ‘a gratifying increase’ in new clients and ‘ lapsed customers’ returning to the pastime, as well as ‘a material increase’ in website and social media platform-users.
Victoria Lajer, managing director of philately at Stanley Gibbons, says that collecting stamps is ‘ very rewarding’ and has ‘ so much to offer’. ‘ You can get as technical or as basic as you want – it really is completely up to you and completely personal,’ she says. The expert believes the activity is ‘ accessible and available to everybody. ‘ You can buy a stamp for 50p – you don’t have to spend £5,000 on [one]’.
If you’re a total novice, don’t worry, as stamp collecting is easy to get started with. Victoria suggests trying to track down every stamp within a certain country or hunting for stamps of a certain colour. Or, your collection could be personal to you. ‘If you have a family history, there’s no reason why your stamp collection couldn’t centre around the correspondence from a family member during the First World War, the Boer War or the Second World War,’ Victoria says.
Stamps can be sourced via the Internet, dealers, auctions, and local and national stamp shows. You can even find stamps in charity shops – though
Victoria advises people not to be surprised ‘when there’s not an absolute jackpot find’. As to the equipment you should have to begin collecting stamps, Victoria suggests a pair of tweezers, as well as potentially a magnifying glass, and says that stamp-storage options are varied. She notes: ‘You can literally spend £10 on a second-hand stockbook and fill that. You could equally spend £600 on a pre-printed album where you slot in the stamps in the designated spots.’
If you’re looking to make money from stamp collecting, it’s important to bear in mind that (according to financial information and advice site Moneymagpie) only a tiny fraction of stamps are valuable. However, Victoria counters that many valuable stamps do exist. According to stamp dealer organisation The Philatelic Traders’ Society (PTS), stamp collections are less likely to possess value if they comprise First Day Covers of the last 30 to 40 years, commemorate a royal wedding, birth, anniversary or similar, are a general ‘all world’ collection with less than 100 stamps per country or comprise any form of manufactured ‘instant’ collection. Collections are also less likely to have value if the stamps are loose or unsorted in a bag, or if they are in poor condition.
However, the PTS says that stamp collections may have value if the stamps were issued no later than around 1960, include higher face values, are in good condition, are of an individual nation or countries, and are arranged neatly in albums and look like money and care has been spent on them at one point. Meanwhile, Victoria says that quality and scarcity dictate a stamp’s price. She advises those wanting to try to get hold of valuable stamps to use ‘reputable dealers’ and constantly ‘[strive] for the best quality that you can afford’ – and who knows, that hobby could eventually evolve into a money-spinner.