We’ve all heard of the zodiac, and have probably on more than one occasion checked our daily horoscope in the hope it will reveal what the future holds. When I sat down to write this blog I was buoyant in the revelation that my day was going to be “filled with love and joy”.
But perhaps lesser known in Western culture is the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the 12 animals that represent it.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar
More commonly known as the Chinese Zodiac, it is believed the Chinese Lunar Calendar begun around 2600 B.C. and is related to the worship of animals in Chinese culture. Legend has it before departing to the next life, Buddha asked every animal on the planet to comfort him and the twelve animals (including the dragon, tiger and rat) that responded are now honoured in the lunar calendar that spans 12 years – one animal for every year.
Much like the Western Zodiac, your lunar animal sign depends when you’re born. And people born in specific lunar years are believed to have certain personality traits and characteristics related to their animal.
Turns out I was born in the Year of the Sheep – so I’m creative, compassionate and friendly. I’d say that’s fairly accurate, though I’m not sure I agree that I like to spend my money on fashionable things… you win some you lose some!
The incredible popularity of Lunar Coins
For over 40 years mints from around the world have celebrated Chinese New Year with Lunar Coins. These issues have turned in to something of an international phenomenon, to the point where the lunar theme is the largest ongoing coin programme on the planet.
Most prestigious mints have a lunar series, including Australia, Canada, and of course our own Royal Mint. With each selling millions of ounces of gold and silver coins each year inscribed with the year’s relevant lunar animal.
Collectors will snap these coins up for a variety of reasons. Some collect their own lunar animal, because they like the personal connection, others will collect a particular specification because it’s especially limited. Personally, I find they also make great birthday gifts for obvious reasons – my friends love them.
The Year of the Rat
The 25th January 2020 will mark the Chinese New Year, and with it the next lunar animal will be celebrated – the Rat.
The Rat is in fact the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac, and people who are born under the sign of the Rat are thought to be intelligent and quick-witted with rich imaginations.
If this sounds like you the odds are you’re born under the sign of the Rat. And this year your lunar animal will be celebrated on lunar coins around the world.
What’s more, The Royal Mint has just released their brand new Year of the Rat range, including what’s perhaps the most sought-after specification of all – the 1oz Silver Proof Coin.
Apparently Rats are known for taking good advantage of opportunities presented to them – so what are you waiting for, make sure you snap up your lunar coin today!
If you’re interested…
You can own the BRAND NEW Royal Mint Lunar Coin TODAY – the 1oz Silver Proof Year of the Rat coin.
This coin is sure to be the most sought-after yet because not only is the 1oz Silver Proof a key specification for collectors, it’s also got the lowest edition limit yet!
Today, we had the honour of meeting all 9 Red Arrows pilots at the Bournemouth Air Festival to present them with a very special gift…
Karen & Alex had the pleasure of personally presenting them with a 5oz of Pure Silver commemorative medal featuring each of their 9 signatures carefully engraved onto it.
Officially licensed and approved by the Royal Air Force and the team who helped us create this superb piece, just 450 have been issued worldwide and we reserved issue number 1 of 450 of these pieces to present to them today (and, so they didn’t have to share, we also presented them with a Red Arrows 2017 Display Season Medal each).
Each signature on the 5oz Silver Medal is meticulously engraved above their team number. Then to complete the piece, each member’s iconic Hawk jet with the RAF roundel at the centre is highlighted in vivid colour, surrounded by an altimeter inspired pattern – the most fitting piece to present to the Reds today. (Details below on how you can own one.)
It’s not the first time The Westminster Collection has had the chance to chat to one of the Red Arrows – in fact you can find out if being a Red Arrow is just like being in Top Gun straight from Red 9 himself in our previous blog here >>
You have the opportunity to own the official Red Arrows Signature 5oz Silver Medal. This is a rare chance to own an item so closely and personally linked to the Red Arrows themselves and we only have a few remaining so you’ll have to act quickly to secure yours. Click here for more information and to order yours now >>
Today we are excited to announce the brand new Red Arrows commemorative. It’s the FIRST EVER Collector’s Ingot to be officially licensed and approved by the Red Arrows and features a stunning full-colour photograph of the Red Arrows in their famous Enid formation – taken by aviation photographer James Biggadike.
In the build up to this exciting release and the 2017 Red Arrows display season Flight Lieutenant Emmet Cox, a.k.a. Red 9, gave us an exclusive interview telling us what it’s really like to be part of the world renowned Red Arrows. I revealed part one of the interview in my last blog (If you missed the first half of the interview you can read it here >>). Now, in part 2, Red 9 tells us just how hard it is to be a Red Arrows pilot…
How long does it take to prepare the display and train to public display level?
“It is a year-round job. We take a couple of weeks off after the season finishes and then it’s straight back into it. Typically, we incorporate the new pilots in small formations of three aircraft from September and, as experience grows, we add more to make it a five then a seven-aircraft formation and eventually the full nine, which normally happens late February/early March. Once the nine are together, we spend most of March and April in Greece to put the ‘polish’ on the show and take advantage of the good weather. So you can see it takes well over half the year to get the display to a standard that we are happy to show to the public.”
“Each person has their own way of preparing”
What happens if one pilot is unable to take part in the display? Do you have reserve pilots?
“We have no reserves in the Red Arrows. The positions are too specialised and it would be next to impossible for one individual to remember and perform to the level required for all the different positions. We do, however, rehearse ‘loser plots’ where minor shape or smoke alterations are carried out to cater for a missing aircraft.”
Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do before each display?
“The way we prepare for a sortie is very procedural, starting with a time check and then a briefing in a certain format. Each person is different and has their own way of preparing, such as mentally rehearsing, visualising the upcoming show or carrying points forward from the previous show.”
“The flying is incredible”
What’s the best thing about being a Red Arrow?
“The flying is incredible and there are few other places in the world where you have the opportunity to perform the aircraft in such a manner. The people are also what makes the job; to work alongside such a talented, focused group, whether it is the aircrew, engineers or support staff it makes it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”
How does the Hawk T1 compare to other fast jets you’ve flown?
“The Hawk T1 is often referred to as the sports car of the RAF’s fast-jet inventory, its small size and simple avionics make it a real pilot’s aircraft. Compared to something like the Tornado GR4 there are few similarities – the Tornado is far bigger, carries more fuel, has more complex avionics and is more focused on weapons employment. Its stick and controls are heavier, the cockpit itself is far bigger and it is surprisingly quiet inside.”
“To put the red suit on for the first time…is a very special moment”
What has been your proudest moment as a Red Arrow?
“To put the red suit on for the first time after being awarded Public Display Authority is a very special moment. You are only a custodian of the red suit for a short time and when you put it on you realise the history and responsibility that comes with it – to represent not only the RAF and the armed forces but the UK as a whole, I could only imagine it feels similar to representing your nation in a sport.”
If you are as excited as I am to see the 2017 Red Arrows display make sure to catch them at an air show this summer. Their full display schedule can be found here >>
Let us know in the comments if you’ve already seen them this year!