Watching Jessica and Imogen keenly studying catalogues this morning, to make a selection of Christmas wishes, took me back years. Twice in my childhood and adolescence, I collected postage stamps. Very briefly I was a cub scout, so this would have been quite useful for my collector’s badge. Had I taken more interest in the history and geography they tell us than simply in the attractive designs, I might even have been given the award.

So, what has philately to do with gift catalogues?

It is all a question of approvals. Buying stamps ‘on approval’ is one of the oldest methods of building a collection. Dealers give a questionnaire about your interests and send you little approvals books from which you remove your choices and send back the remainder with your payment. It worked well for a young lad on a very small income. Each period of interest waned, and I gave the collections away.

Jackie’s father, however, did keep the Triumph Stamp Album given to him by his grandmother, Mrs Dove, featured in ‘Revealing The Ancestors’. This collection dates back to Victorian times and contains much history. I had a look through it, seeking sets that I may have once possessed, and which I had attempted to fill gaps.

France Marianne stamps

One such is the early ‘Marianne’ one dating from 1903. This woman is a national symbol of the French Republic – a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. Since the mid-twentieth century the full length figure we see here has been replaced by head and shoulders images, and later, beginning with Brigitte Bardot in 1969, busts of famous women. The currency shown is in francs and centimes, from before the days of the euro. I don’t think I ever completed the set

The similarity with the girls’ activity lies in the eager anticipation engendered.

Our return journey, travelling by Errol’s route, was much smoother. Took a diversion through the Oxfordshire countryside and lunched at the Fox Inn at Boars Hill. We enjoyed excellent pizzas and sparkling water which was enough for the rest of the day.

Trees reflected in Hatchet Pond

The weather had been dull and rainy for most of the journey, but by the time we reached Beaulieu and Hatchet Pond, a clear light produced smooth reflections.