Will you welcome please....

Mr. and Mrs. Ately and their son Phil Ately.

When I was a boy, like most of my friends, I collected stamps. It was a cheap hobby. The only expensive thing was the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue.
It taught me a lot. How else would I have known where the Pitcairn Islands were or begun to have a glimmer of understanding of inflation by having German 1 Mark stamps overprinted with 5,000.

When you are a man you are supposed to put away childish things and I probably would have done if I had not inherited a collection of Swiss stamps. Even so it was not the done thing in the University to admit to ones colleagues that you had a collection of bits of paper.

But at various stressful times in my life it has been a diversion to identify, sort and display.

The Swiss collection spilled over into Austria and its empire. Here is a typical page of the stamps of Bosnia and Herzogovina. The extra shows a close up of the famous Mostar bridge. So in the 1980s and 90s when there was conflict in this part of the world I knew something about its history.

Boys still collect. Now it is hundreds of cards with pictures of footballers which are slotted into plastic holders. I can't help feeling that times are not what they were. But then most people of my age have thoughts of that kind.

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