1Most of us have heard of Venice’s Grand Canal, seen below. But perhaps fewer people are aware of the longest canal in the world, the Grand Canal in China, also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.

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Muhammad Ali postage stampThree times heavyweights world champion boxing Muhammad Ali died last week at age 74. With 56 winnings out of 61 matches, he is considered to be the greatest boxer of all time by many people. Ali was also famous for his quotes that were everything but modest.

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Jambo The Gentle GiantAs a silverback gorilla was recently the subject of great controversy after an incident in an American zoo, my mind went back to 1986 and the English Channel island of Jersey. In August of that year at the island’s Durrell Wildlife Park (formerly Jersey Zoo), a five-year-old boy fell into a concrete ditch in the enclosure housing silverback gorillas – including the then 25-year-old Jambo.

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SperatiIt is an accepted fact that the more desirable and valuable collectible items become, the temptation for counterfeiting increases. And in the world of philately, the master forger was surely Jean de Sperati. Born in Pisa, Italy, in 1884, Giovanni de Sperati (later adopting the forename Jean) was part of a wealthy family thrown into poverty by the failure of their business. This forced his brothers, Massimo and Mariano, to take up a trade – one becoming a photographer, the other a stamp dealer. As a result, Giovanni developed a passion for both philately and photographic processes and techniques. As an impoverished collector of stamps, he once discovered that a particular item he had bought was a fake. In later life he claimed that his desire to avenge the selling dealer led him to create his own philatelic ‘‘works of art’, which would eventually fool stamp experts across Europe.

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