Thursday, November 26, 2015

Island Mail and Postage


Until 1992, New Islanders were obliged to use Russian postage stamps. However, in 1985, Gordon Slant etched the Roger Putney 10 pence (top) on a copper plate, and printed hundreds of these in his shed near Wigsthorp. New Islanders were already talking about gaining independence from Russia, so these "spirit of Roger" stamps were only used on hand-delivered mail. Only about fifteen are known to exist today.

Gordon Slant also designed the New Island Railways $1 stamp in 1992 but it was never issued. The "dollar" monetary unit was being considered at the time, but was soon changed to the "roger".

Soon after Independence, the Bellingshausen 25-pence was issued by the Ministry of Trade. Ironically, this first stamp honored the man who had claimed the island for Russia, and it is still used today.

Our favorite stamp issue is this set of triangles honoring four of New Island's indigenous creatures...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

56. Alan climbs the Wart

Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci's "Proportions of Man" drawing.
--courtesy Wikipedia

Alan did go up to check out Hobb's Wart early that evening. He was a little nervous after hearing that the top of it was haunted. Other people said they saw weird lights up there at night, yet no one claimed they'd ever been up there. Was it perhaps a landing site for UFOs? 

Alan wanted to find out. 

Hobart's one major street turned into a faint footpath that took a zig-zag pattern up the slope toward the great rock. His curiosity pushed him up this path as it then skirted the base of the massive Wart. After some distance, the path abruptly turned into a narrow cleft in the rock wall, and a series of steep steps led Alan up to the top. Someone had carved this he marveled. He climbed a while, then stopped to listen. It was completely quiet except the sharp chirps of numerous swallows he saw swirling and circling over the brush and trees below. 

Finally, a bit winded, he arrived at the broad, rocky top. Toward its center, he spotted a large rectangular flat area, like a floor, carved into the rock. As he approached it, he noticed a raised platform in the middle, apparently carved out of the same rock as the floor. The platform's slightly slanted top faced west toward the now-setting sun, and on this was a carved-out vaguely human form, a bit under six feet tall, with legs and arms slightly spread, similar to the pose in da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The thing looked inviting, like one was supposed to lie down in it! 

He reached in and touched the stone surface inside the thing, and ran his fingers along the arm to the finely detailed hollow fingers. The surface had been finished or worn very smooth, like fine marble, and the rock was warm from its exposure to the sun all day. Also, there seemed to be a silky feel to the inside, maybe from traces of oil or lotion. Elsewhere the stone had a much more pitted and weathered look to it. There seemed to be no other carving on the platform, or anywhere else.

Alan didn't know what to think of this, but it felt definitely weird to be here, like it was a secret and very private place. Part of him wanted to see if he would fit in the form, and the rest of him felt he should get away from right now!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New Island Currency

The Original one-roger, in brass, has been in circulation since 2003. 
Designs for future roger coins, such as the 10-roger with surfer,
are being considered.

New Island continued to use Russian currency for several years after independence in 1992. Finally, the new government enlisted the skills of medalist Virginia Jansen to create the nation's first issue, the one-roger. The "roger" denomination originates from Roger Putney, our charismatic spiritual leader during the first years of islander settlement. "We are One" and "Joy" are New Island mottoes.  

Until other denominations of ten-pence,100 pence, half-roger, ten-, fifty- and 100-roger coins are introduced, Russian (mostly Soviet) rubles will still be used to make change.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rumors about the Volcano

View of Mt. Hayes from Deep Creek, in the Highlands near the Inland Traverse Path
Someone in Skegness sent in a "scientific article" to the Putney Times last week claiming that massive Mount Hayes may explode "just like Tambora" within the next few weeks. 

The geology departments at Putney University and at the School of Oceanography in Victoria Harbor have looked into the situation, mostly by checking the two tiltmeters that were installed on the mountain's upper slopes in 2012. Tiltmeters measure the slightest variation in ground movement or swelling, that may preclude a volcanic eruption. These have been used to some advantage on the Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii.

The gases and steam output at the 8,500-foot-high crater have also been carefully analyzed in the last six months, as have the geothermal spring water at two locations on the mountain's lower slope. 

Since 2012, Mt. Hayes has indeed risen a little over 2 centimeters, according to one of the tiltmeters. However, there has been no noticeable change of gas and steam output or chemistry, nor any changes in chemistry or geothermal temperature of mountainside springs.

Our Skegness resident wishes to remain anonymous, probably for good reason. She allegedly heard a message coming from the mountain while she bathed one night at Blair Hot Springs. "I heard a deep voice," she said. "It told me to beware and prepare - the volcano will soon change everything!" The "voice" then gave a detailed account of the kind of eruption, which included a big explosion at the summit, lava flowing all the way to the ocean, a huge ash cloud darkening the sky, and a "volcanic winter" on New Island. 

The small port-town of Skegness rests at the base of Mt. Hayes, on Putney Bay, and would be especially vulnerable.

The official response from our resident volcanologists: "We see no immediate threat from the volcano. Remain calm and carry on."

Another view of Mt. Hayes during the wildflower season - early spring. This is from Lake Riga, near Bunbay.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

New Island talk and book signing party in Appleton, Wisconsin USA


This is a real event at a real place in the real state of Wisconsin. New Island maps and original artwork will be on display, plus I'll talk about New Island at this evening's event. 

I'll sign copies of my New Island Guidebook which will be for sale! See details below.

New Island Guidebook and road map

November 7 - New Island Exhibition and Book Signing Party.  My newest art book, The New Island Guidebook, is available and it will be featured! Come by for some refreshments, and to see some of the original art that helped create New Island, my island-nation-as-art. The Guidebook, plus the New Island road map, are the keys to exploring this 12,000-sq.-mile island-nation. I'll personally sign books and include a free New Island map with every copy!

602 club         
The 602 Club with its little free library at the corner

When: Saturday evening, November 7th, from 6 to 8 pm.
Where:  The 602 Club, a community gathering center in a 114-year-old house at 602 N. Lawe St., Appleton, WI, 54911. (on the corner across Pacific St. from the Jacob's Meat Market)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

55. Where is Alan Now?

He's in Hobart.

After Alan and Chloe (sadly) went their separate ways back in Beastey, Alan continued by train, and then on foot, to the tiny settlement of Hobart, where he stayed a night. There was absolutely not much going on in Hobart, so he walked into the local pub, and fell into a conversation with two locals, a young man and woman, which continued past midnight. The next morning, he vaguely remembered that they conversed about Donald Trump, American consumerism, guns and shootings (in the US) and the most popular evening pastimes on New Island. The rest was a blur. The company and a few vodka tonics made the evening pleasant enough to keep his mind off of Chloe...

By noon, he felt alert enough to get out there and make a color sketch of Hobb's Wart (scenic feature no. 9 on The List). The Wart, as it was lovingly called in Hobart, loomed about a mile west of the town center. The more Alan sketched the thing, the more curious he became about what one might discover on the summit, so he thought he might try to hike up there after supper. He figures he'll stay another night in this exciting town, and then head back to his lodgings the next day.

At the Burnt Rose, Alan ordered the meatloaf with potatoes, and asked the server if she knew of a way up to the top of The Wart. With a look of surprise she said, "No way! You don't want to go up there -  it's haunted. We've lost too many of our lads up there fooling around on that rock."


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Overnight Accommodations

The Hotel Plakaford, in Victoria Harbor

As you travel around New Island, you'll find a variety of comfortable lodgings, but they are quite different than, say, the Hyatt or Marriott. 

In Putney, Victoria Harbor and a few other large towns, you can find hotels that appear out of the 1930s or '40s - up to four stories tall, with thirty to forty rooms, a small restaurant and bar, a check-in desk with pigeonholes for the keys, and sometimes a swimming pool. More common here and in the smaller towns are the many rooming houses, usually in the older neighborhoods near downtown. These have two to six rooms to let, and usually include supper and breakfast. They are run by the families that live in the houses, most likely.

For example, on Victoria Harbor's Garden Island, the Lee Villa on Coldwater Lane seems most promising. The six-stool bar adjoines a cozy dining room, and a tiny elevator carries you to your room as high as the fourth, and top, floor. The Plakaford Hotel, around the corner, has a lovely outdoor dining area. At both places the fish-and-chips with a bottle of Runcorn white wine are a good combination. (Runcorn has the memorable dancing maiden on the label.)

In the back-country, accommodations vary greatly. The tribe settlements almost always have a room or two to let, and include breakfast in the common dining room. Rates are negotiable, and often include work-trade arrangements. Along the Path System, settlements and tribes provide indoor lodgings or outdoor campsites, all with kitchens available and some with meals included. These travelers' inns almost always have a common room for walkers and wanderers to meet and visit one another. Along the northeastern coast, the Japanese villages accommodate travelers in traditional inns, unchanged from 18th Century Japan. The elegant wood-and-tatami rooms have no furniture except a small table placed beside the futon on the floor. Meals are served in the room, and guests are welcome to use the communal furo bath.  

If you are walking, you will find some kind of lodging every 8 to 15 miles along the paths and back roads, except in the Sheffield Desert - so you don't have to pack a lot of gear. Being adaptable is the key here.

Happy travels!

Friday, October 23, 2015

New Island News - The Old People

It is time to take a break from Alan Faramond's travels and catch up with a few happenings around the island...  

The Old People left ruins all over New Island, such as these structures at Beatty Point.
So far, we haven't found any written records!
The Old People are mentioned in passing on page 29 in the New Island Guidebook

There is more to their story! Apparently this was a long-lasting culture that began 40,000 years ago, and mysteriously ended about 800 years ago, or around 1200 AD. 

So far, the Antiquities Department at Putney University has not been able to determine what happened to them, or, for that  matter, where they came from. Archaeologist Sheila Rankin stated in a recent interview, "We know they must have developed writing and art, given the sophistication of all the ruins on this island. They built ports, towns, roads and ceremonial sites, so there was commerce, government and religion. They had to have a written language!" 

We do know that, beginning about 5,000 years ago, they learned how to build in stone, using lintels and multi-floor construction. They developed a singular style of stone-fitting that rivals that of the Inca culture in South America. The stone platform at Wave Point, now used for the Wave Festivals, was likely built around 1000 AD and is in good shape today, despite centuries of occasional hammering by ocean surf at high tides. 

We think these people may have left some of the earlier sites due to climate and sea-level changes. The harbor at the Old Port ruins just west of Twentymile Beach (northern coast) tells us that the shore has risen above the waves about fifteen feet. Either the land rose or the sea level dropped enough to dry up the port!  Also, this area is all desert now, and could have once been much wetter, and more productive agriculturally.

"What we hope to find in the near future," Sheila went on, "are the writing, the art and other secrets of these Old People. We will keep looking and digging!"

Saturday, October 17, 2015

54. Hike to the ferry, a hot breakfast, then a bus to the train station

At the Stonebill station, Alan got on the train (instead of walking to Pendleton).
Chloe decided to followed a back-country path further south.

The rain had stopped by first light, but the tents were wet!

Since they didn't know the ferry schedule, Chloe had to tell Alan several times, "Just relax - it'll all work out!" They made some coffee and a couple of packets of hot oatmeal for breakfast. Alan said, "I hope we have time to get a proper breakfast in town - I'd looove some eggs and bacon right now."

Chloe smiled at him, "Me too!"

They managed to get their gear in order (the tents can dry out later) and then marched directly through the ruins and down a gentle slope toward two small settlements, part of the co-operative tribal group called the Beastey Bay Tribes. These were compact villages surrounded by white stone walls (to keep out the sheep), with about 150 souls residing in each one. The houses were mostly white also, quite small, and many were built against those outside walls. Since many walkers came through here every day, no one paid much attention to Chloe or Alan as they walked through the first village, called Sturgis.

As they approached the next village, called Bayview, they could see the ferry dock in the distance, and the ferry was on the bay approaching it! They walked quickly through Bayview, again without much notice. Once at the ferry landing, which was quite crowded with horsecarts, handcarts, and quite a few walking passengers, Chloe bought tickets.

"They told me where to catch the bus to the train station," she said. Once on the ferry, Alan was finally able to relax. They had only walked for about an hour, but for some reason it seemed like a much longer distance on the map.

The ride across the bay took about fifteen minutes, and then they were walking into Beastey, a sizable market town. This area began to look familiar, as Alan had seen it once before from the train, which seemed like ages ago!  By the time they reached Beastey's town center and the bus terminal, it was only about 9:30. The posted schedule told them a city bus would take them up to the railway station at 10 and 11 am, plenty of time to meet the train.

Time for second breakfast!

On Castle Road, the main thoroughfare, they found a cafe that specialized in English and Scottish breakfasts, so Chloe led Alan inside by the arm and said, "You'll love this!"

After a fabulous hot breakfast of eggs, bangers and mash, with fresh orange juice and coffee, they caught the bus to the Stonebill station. They sat on a bench out on the platform, in the late-morning sun. 

Behind them through the station windows, one could see Beastey Bay and the ocean, and from across the platform, where they were sitting, they could look upon massive hills, green and empty, beyond the low buildings of Stonebill. The broad slopes led the eye up to Spy Hill, about ten miles distant. White dots of sheep were scattered here and there, and the smaller scurrying dots must be spring lambs, Alan thought. 

Then he said, "This is a lovely day to walk, Chloe." 

"Yes, it is."

A few minutes passed. Birds chirped, and a breeze ruffled the hanging geraniums.

Then he asked, "Uh, when do you think we'll meet up again?"

"I dunno," Chloe said. "That's the thing with this Long Walk, there's no plan - but I'll call you. Or I'll call that gallery."

"Yes, call the gallery and Adrian will get me or leave me a note. Or, you can write me a letter!" 

"Okay. How about in a couple of weeks?" 

Just then, an Irian-Southwestern Railway two-car train glided silently to a stop in front of them. They stood up and Alan smiled at Chloe,


And Chloe grinned back, "Hey - see you again soon." And she gave him a smooch to remember.

He boarded the train, found a seat and saw Chloe already walking into Stoneville.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

53. Tower Head

Alan got this one done pretty quickly.

Later that morning they arrived at Tower head, and found a spot on the beach with a good view of the old tower. Alan got curious...

"Say Chloe, what is this tower all about?"

"Well, it was built by the Old People about 1500 years ago, I think. The stone work is incredibly tight, so it's held up against the weather and all. It's one of many stone ruins left by these people."

"Oh, like Hazelhurst? That was my first assignment, and it's only a mile or so from where I'm staying."

"Yep. They left ruins all over the island." 

Alan set up his watercolor set once again, and proceeded to sketch the bluffs and the tower.

Their food supplies were low, and Chloe thought she might try casting a line in the surf to see what might bite. She rigged a sinker with a lure on a long line that she laid loosely on the sand, its other end tied to a stake. She could then literally throw the leader out into the surf, and then pull it in again hand over hand. The waves threatened to tangle it but she managed to hurl a few casts. She was lucky - a pilch (an Australian yellow eye mullet) bit on it and she was able to pull him in after a spell. Her hands were red in places where the line had bit in, but it was worth it! She cooked it over a fire on the beach and they had a nice main course. (Alan was once again amazed at Chloe's resourcefulness.)

It was growing cooler today, with clouds gathering, so after lunch Alan quickly finished up his sketch. Luckily the sun was still out when he started it. After he finished, they decided they would keep walking for a few miles before setting up camp. 

The path followed the bluff-tops over well-cropped grazing land, with some sheep visible in the distance. There were no fences, and Alan noticed nothing man-made except a shepherd's wagon. At Cape Fury, they passed another of New Island's few lighthouses, a squat metal structure accompanied by a low stone keeper's house. They were both built by the Soviet Navy in the 1930s, and maintained by New Island's own Coast Guard, says Chloe. Soon they were crossing a broad grassy slope overlooking Beastey Bay.

As the daylight began to fade, they arrived at the Bailey Ruins, another Old People site that looked quite like a ruined castle. "Indeed," said Chloe, "the place looks a bit like London's Old Bailey, hence the name..." 

Once they had set up their camp, Alan studied the map that Adrian had marked up for him, and then got out his train schedule. "I think I'm through walking for a while, so I'll catch the train in Stonebill, here, just across the bay. I see there is a ferry at this place called Bayview, so we'll have to get up early to catch it!"

Chloe looked over his shoulder. "Yeah, I think you're right. And maybe we can catch a bus from Beastey to the Stonebill station. I'll come with you!"

"On the train?" 

"No, silly. I'll come with you to the train, and then I think I'll take this path out of Stonebill to the south. I want to see Roaring Cape!"

They had pitched both tents, and after a dinner of packaged dried soup and hard crackers, they stored their packs into one of them. They then huddled into the other one, just as a wind-whipped drizzle began. They both fell asleep almost instantly, to the intermittent splattering of light rain and mist.