Dates to be stamped on the memory

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NEXT year will be an important one for British collectors, with an increasingly fast flow of new commemorative stamps, new banknotes and new coins being issued by the Government. In case you might be caught napping, here is a checklist of the most important issues lined up for the first half of the year.

1 January. To celebrate the end of 1992 and the official beginning of the single market in Europe, the Post Office is issuing stamps showing Dover Castle, Hastings Bay, a Martello tower and other scenes symbolising our close links with the Continent. They will not be valid for letters to Europe.

10 January. A commemorative set of stamps will be issued to celebrate the invention of the hot water bottle by the English scientist Peregrine Stamford. Stamford's later experiments to use huge hot water bottles to power a new kind of submarine came to a tragic end in the Serpentine; the event is depicted on the 48p stamp.

24 January. A new pounds 20 note is to be issued, depicting the Queen on one side, and someone on the other side with a lot of white hair and old-fashioned clothes. Many people think it may be Michael Foot and say: 'Crikey, hasn't he put on weight]', though it is in fact Alfred Lord Tennyson, who is being commemorated for being the only famous Englishman to put his forename in front of his title. (Those who put Marmaduke Hussey forward as an alternative candidate are reminded that the 'Duke' is not a title but an affectation.)

11 February. A new set of stamps is issued depicting what seems to be a series of meat carcasses hanging in a cupboard. Or it may be old clothes. Or perhaps heraldic shields caught in a fierce fire? No - they are opera set designs from the fertile brush of David Hockney.

1 March. St David's Day. New 10p coin. It depicts the Queen on one side and the Severn Bridge on the other. This causes amusement in Wales, where it is pointed out that one of these coins would not be enough to get you halfway across the bridge it depicts. And the Welsh want to know if, on foggy days, when the bridge is closed to traffic, the coin will also be temporarily invalid?

12 March. Set of stamps to commemorate the death in 1893 of Sir Rupert Scaresby, the first man to discover the difference between a bridle path and a footpath. He was also the first to devise a way of distinguishing between the two on an Ordnance Survey map, and the stamps depict what look like four different parts of the Footpath Map of England, though they could well be leftover David Hockney opera set designs.

21 March. Twentieth anniversary of the discovery by Englishmen of such hitherto unknown counties as Humberside, Avon, Cumbria and West Midlands. They depict Peter Walker in explorer's hat, Ted Heath being burnt in effigy in Somerset, etc.

22 April. New-style pounds 50 note depicting the Queen in grim mood, in front of a background of Windsor Castle, still smouldering. The words 'Get Yourself Insured - Now]' mark a breakthrough for indoctrination on British currency. The portrait on the other side is of Sir Hector Gradely, the pioneer insurance man who first invented a domestic insurance scheme that did not, alas, cover the bicycles stolen from your garden shed or indeed the contents of your garage, I'm sorry about that, but everything else was insured . . .

13 May. In an attempt to interest the youth market in posting more letters, the Post Office issues a set of T-shaped stamps to celebrate the birth of the Victorian bathing magnate Caspar Doolittle, who is said to have invented the T-shirt. It has taken the Post Office a year to work out the best way of getting T-shaped stamps on the same perforated sheet, but everyone agrees that the stamps are a success, except for the tendency of the colours to run when wet, and the difficulty of reading the slogans on the T-shirts. The 48p stamp, depicting the invention of the wet T-shirt competition, is very popular until questions are asked in Parliament, after which it is withdrawn.

11 June. First set of British stamps with poetry. They bear a specially commissioned poem by Ted Hughes. They were originally planned for issue in 1989, but the poem arrived late. Each of the six values bears a different verse. Very collectible.

30 June. New pounds 5 note bearing the slogan: 'Going to the Near East on business? Want to earn extra dosh by spying part-time for Britain? Ring this number]'