An Post, the Irish postal service, has issued stamps celebrating Thin Lizzy’s 50th Anniversary – but a year too early, according to the band’s former manager. This comes just three months after they misspelt the Irish word for ‘moon’ on a stamp commemorating the moon landing …
“…. and in January,” said Vincent, “we’ll bring out a stamp about Martin Luther King.”
This’ll be good, thought Jane. “Er, why?” she asked.
“It’s the year his famous speech was about,” said Vincent. “He called it his 2020 Vision.”
“It was called ‘I have a dream’,” said Jane, before she could stop herself.
Vincent smiled indulgently at her. “I think you’ll find,” he said, “that that was a song by Abba.”
This time Jane let it go. She had been Vincent’s assistant for five years now, and knew that there was no point in arguing.
Vincent had started with An Post as a fifteen year old, working in the Sorting Office in a small town in the west of Ireland. Four years later he had been promoted to postman. This job requires a prodigious memory, knowing where every person on your route lives so that you can plan your route in the morning, deliver mis-addressed envelopes, and recall who is on holidays so that you can hold their post for them until their return.
Vincent did not have such a memory, but was a nice young man with a permanently sunny disposition in even the most savage of weather, so his customers had said nothing and had taken to meeting a couple of times a week for a mail swap.
In time he had been moved on to parcel deliveries, and this had not been as successful, as neighbours had learned far too much about each other’s sometimes esoteric interests. A delegation had met the local Postmaster, a word had been had, and Vincent had been moved to Dublin.
He was put to work in Stamp Design, which back then was regarded as a dead-end job – stick something like a harp on it, remember to change that to a robin in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and then sit around doing basically nothing until the next price change.
Vincent had not seen it like that. To him a stamp could be a source of joy, a history lesson, a small kernel of knowledge delivered to your very door.
Over the years he began to design more adventurous stamps, celebrating centenaries, Irish celebrities, world events. His range of subjects was inventive and far-reaching. He had only one real flaw – he didn’t have a good memory, but his experience as a postman led him to believe that he had.
So he looked up nothing, researched nothing, came up with ideas based purely on his own sketchy recollection. This occasionally led to errors in his stamps.
You might have thought that he’d have been fired because of this, but in fact he was the saviour of An Post. In an age when letters, cheques and postcards were passé, endangering the very existence of philately itself, stamp-collectors all over the world rushed to buy Vincent’s creations commemorating such things as the London 2013 Olympics, the Age of Aquarius (January 21-February 20) and, on June 16th 2004, the 100th anniversary of Bloomersday.
An Post gave him an assistant, Jane, to help with the designs. Her friends thought she was mad to stay there, but where else would she have got to design an image depicting the 20th birthday of Beatrix Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? (She had drawn Peter Rabbit in round glasses and a cloak).
Besides, all these years later, Vincent was still a nice man with a permanently sunny disposition, and Jane liked him as a boss. So now she just nodded.
I’ll do something with him in front of an optician’s chart, she thought to herself. “Martin Luther King it is then,” she said.
“Great,” said Vincent. “Anything else?”
“Well, just one thing,” said Jane, a bit reluctantly. “You know the stamps we did last week about Thin Lizzy?”
“Of course,” said Vincent. “The band were named after the Queen, you know.”
“I think that was Queen,” said Jane.
“Who?” said Vincent.
“Never mind,” said Jane. “Anyway, their manager says they weren’t founded until 1970.”
Vincent snorted. “Sure what would he know,” he said.