April 12 2011
As a child I used to collect… postage stamps! My mother would buy them for me at the post office and from the local philatelist, who had a dusty little shop across the road from my father’s branch of the electrical goods retailer Expert, in the town of Weert.
Half the shop was taken up by a big safe with double doors, which were open during office hours, as if they led out to the veranda. I still prefer cupboards with open doors to cupboards that are closed.
For years I saved postage stamps with my mother. We would stick plastic sleeves into so-called Davo albums and slide the stamps neatly into place. I had my own pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass with a white imitation-horn handle, inherited from my Uncle Frans who had passed away in 1978 after heart attack number 12.
Not everything made it into the album. My mother and I took special interest in the Europa stamps that had been issued annually by European countries since the 1950s. The early sets, with subjects such as “Europe under construction”, were the most imaginative, with dramatic, futuristic graphic designs.
“Europe under construction” was the subject of the 1956 set, published by the European Coal and Steel Community. Coal and steel: brutal steel towers out of a coal-mine landscape, blackened architecture in the old city. Coal and steel: practically erased from public memory, replaced by white polyester windmills and endless roofs of subsidised solar panels.
Call it false nostalgia, call it mortality, but I sometimes miss the smoke and fumes of old-fashioned industry. The architecture, the landscape, the energy, the mentality: the raw feel of reconstruction culture!