Friday, 23 December 2016

Pillars of Local Society

A Very Merry Christmas to all my friends in Unmitigated England

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Lost in The Fens

Youngest Boy started a new school this morning, and he now resides at Ashley Towers. Whilst he is quite content to sleep under a table in the scullery, I do feel obliged to shove everything up a bit so that he can stretch out a little. This means sorting through a stack of boxes to make his straw paillasse easier to access. One contained an enormous pile of photographs unseen for many years, the above being a prime example. The thing is, where is it? Not a quiz question, I've totally forgotten.
    The date would be sometime in the late 80s, the very approximate location Somewhere on The Fens in either Cambridgeshire or, more likely, Norfolk. That's it really; all I can add is that Bullards is a now defunct Norwich brewer, and Eric De Maré’s photograph of the Coslany Street brewery can be found on page 102 of English Allsorts. And that it was almost certainly shot on my little Minox 35ML which fitted as neatly into my shirt pocket as a packet of Gold Flake.

    Of course there are even more questions when you come to think about it. Who drank here? Is the absence of a roadside window an indication of the covert drinking practices of the past? What was kept in the rickety lean-to? Whose are those cars peeping out from the back? (I certainly saw no one else near.) 

    Right, back to moving, rummaging, and dividing the bathroom in half.

Everyone can now relax. Thanks to the exceedingly thoughtful Roger Porter the location is no longer lost. It's the Butchers' Arms at Terrington St.Clement near to Walpole Cross Keys in Norfolk. Apparently it could look much the same and folk still live at one end. Thank you Roger!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Sussex Signposts

Have you ever gone to a place for the first time, and then, for inexplicable and unconnected reasons, kept being drawn back to it? Three years ago I had time on my hands before meeting a 'plane at Gatwick, and decided to try and find a church that I had espied the year before in the failing light somewhere in the Ouse Valley between Newhaven and Lewes in East Sussex. The first person I described the church to was looking after the National Trust counter that sits in Leonard Woolf's garage at Monks House in Rodmell, half way down on the opposite bank of the River Ouse where his wife Virginia loaded up the pockets of her coat with stones and walked into its waters. I described how the church sat to the left of the road, seemingly alone but towered over by a group of Scotch firs. He thought for some time until telling me he had absolutely no idea. Monks House gripped my imagination, as did the next village down the road, Southease. And then, returning up from Newhaven on the A26 I rounded a bend in the chalk hills and there it was. Beddingham. Complete with firs and backed by a round-topped section of the South Downs I now know to be Mount Caburn. Here it is in the photograph above and something that day happened very deep within me, something I still haven't fathomed out. But the signposts keep on rising up into my consciousness.
    At home I poured over the maps, noticing with pleasure that Southease was served by a little station from where a field path led via a bridge over the Ouse to the village, and looking in a Southern Railway timetable for 1947, as one does, I noticed that a train took just four minutes to get to Newhaven Harbour or six to Lewes. So of course I started to imagine myself here, four minutes to Eric Ravilious's harbour lighthouse, six minutes to Harvey's Brewery Shop in Lewes, a few minutes more to Brighton Rock.
    Not long afterwards I picked up Eleanor Farjeon's Book and read about Elsie Piddock's constant skipping taking place on, of course, Mount Caburn. That's it in the background of Ardizzone's lovely cover for the Puffin:
    The signposts continued, a map reference here, a paragraph in a book there. All now accidental, uncalled for but very pleasurably received. I started to see myself as an even more eccentric Other Man, the alter ego that dogged Edward Thomas on his travels throughout In Pursuit of Spring and who told him "There is no weathercock" at Kilve. Well there is at Southease, or at least a vane:
I saw myself walking across the Ouse floodplain to catch trains up to London, returning in the dusk and on the path home turning to see the carriage lights receding down to Newhaven.
    Other things then took up my time. Until a couple of weeks ago when I quickly scoured my bookshelves for something light but good to take down into Essex for three days. Ripple dissolve, as they say, to a school class room in 1959 on a Friday afternoon. We'd filled in our diaries for the week (like the passing of Buddy Holly) and settled down to hear the first chapter of a book read to us by Pop Widdowson. I was so entranced by The Family From One End Street by Eve Garnett that I ran excitedly home to tell my mum all about it. At the weekend she went out and bought me a copy of the Puffin book for myself and I devoured it over a couple of evenings; almost certainly the first time I had read a book from cover to cover. So of course the next Friday afternoon I sat there smugly whilst Pop read the next chapter as I grinned and nodded at my fellow pupils.
The light faded over Colchester and I found myself immersed in the adventures of the Ruggles family in Otwell-on-the-Ouse. Oh no. Wait a minute. But yes, as the pages unfolded after all those years, it became clear that Otwell was Lewes (almost), Seahaven was Newhaven and Brightwell, of course, Brighton. Further delving found that Eve Garnett was indeed from Lewes. I felt as though someone had come up behind me and pointed to another signpost. Naturally I have to return, but what will I find? My hopelessly erratic imagination puts forward all sorts of possibilities, some of which I'm sure you're making up for me now. But, I have to say, it's with a certain amount of trepidation. I must just make sure nobody quietly ladens my coat pockets with pebbles.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Painted Christmas

Now then. I know it's ridiculously early, and I'm usually the first to be shouting at decorations appearing in John Lewis in September, but I wanted to share a pertinent thought with you all. A few of you will remember the Christmas cards I painted between 1998 and 2006, generally featuring buildings around Oundle in Northamptonshire, but always featuring a Royal Mail van of one vintage or another. More of you will perhaps have seen them in the Christmas chapter in More From Unmitigated England. Later, in discussion with the Royal Mail over a book on post boxes, I accidentally found myself showing them off. They were leapt upon, and I found three of them being proposed as Christmas stamps to the august body that is the Stamp Advisory Committee.They were the RM's stamps of choice, but the Committee decided on photographs of leaves floating on water by Andy Goldsworthy.
So, to get to the point (yes please, Ed.) I have decided to sell the original paintings.They are all a uniform size, 155mm x 155mm, and are executed in Designers Gouache. If you are seriously interested, then contact me through this blog and I'll send a pdf poster of all nine to you. The usual copyright stuff applies, but we'll talk about all that off piste as it were. The three paintings here feature, from the top, Oundle Post Office, the bridge over the River Nene at Fotheringhay and one of the two gate lodges to Lilford Hall. Obviously much artistic licence has been liberally applied along with the paint.

"...very impressive" Chris Beetles

Monday, 17 October 2016

Electric Hedge

This little building is obscure even by Unmitigated England standards. It's halfway down the very bucolic Commissioners Lane (which tells of it being an enclosure road) that leads only to a farm just outside Slawston in Leicestershire. You won't find it in a Pevsner or a Shell Guide; this is a prime example of a utility building built, I would think, between the wars. Despite all the warnings of death by electric shock, I somehow think that there is no sub station equipment therein. There's no sinister sounding hum emitting out into the lane, and I would guess it's now currently (no pun intended) a store for Western Power Distribution's excess tree-loppers and hedge cutters that are being put to increasing use locally to cut back foliage from electricity wires, and any other bits of tree pruning they can be persuaded to do. ("While you're up there...")
    But my main reason for sharing this riveting discovery is that it's worthwhile spending half-a-minute to look at how much care actually went into its simple design. Built in neat brickwork, a concrete lintel extends over both door and windows, the roof parapet is in different coloured brick with an intermediate course of tiles and care was taken with the iron gate. The tree loppers haven't been snipped into action on the surroundings, and the whole thing is gradually disappearing from view. Soon WPD's white Land Rovers will come down here and the abseiling woodcutters will scratch their heads saying "Well it was around here somewhere". 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

On The Brink

With its back to the tidal River Nene, this was the South Brink Farm Shop on the A47 just to the west of Wisbech. In 1999 I'd been out on the Fens and on my way home I pulled in here."Do you mind if I take a photograph?" I asked politely. "You might as well" the proprietor said from his easy chair "Every other f----r does". I loved it. The handwritten signs shouting out like a market trader, the impromptu temporary feel to everything. Just look at that wheel-less Allinson Wholemeal Bread van sitting there. I had to buy big onions at £1.50 a stone, and think I said as a parting shot "As the French onion seller said as he sold his last onion: that's shallot". I can't be absolutely sure but I think he said "F--k off."

I drove by last April with the redoubtable Ron Combo, and noticed that it was not only closed but very substantially burnt to the ground. Anyway, if you'd like a signed A4 glossy print I'll knock one out (as they say) for twenty quid. Just drop me a line. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Estuary English

Two power stations on the Thames Estuary. At the top is the one on the Isle of Grain in Kent, which I believe is no more. Or that might be just the chimney. The second is at Tilbury in Essex, taken in an equally wintry afternoon light from a gun emplacement at the fort. They come to mind because of three things: 1) There's a celebration of the estuary starting about now, 2) Rachel Lichtenstein's book Estuary is out tomorrow, and 3) I shall grab a copy as I make my way to a meeting on the Thames at Blackfriars.
    I lived close to both these shores once, and have found that over the years they have seeped deep into my bones. First it was helping to race a Thames barge on the wide stretches of water around Southend and Brightlingsea, later lonely walks out on the Isle of Grain and the Hoo Peninsula on bitterly cold days, then the discovery of the Cooling Marshes and Cooling church with its little gravestones that inspired the opening scene of Dickens' Great Expectations.
    Later still there were commissions that took me to the Essex shore to photograph both the Tilbury and Coalhouse Forts and the wonderful Bata shoe factory. All to the soundtrack of my re-discovery of Canvey Island's Doctor Feelgood. (I'm often asked what period of history I'd like to go back to and inevitably hear myself saying "the Kursaal in Southend in 1973 with Doctor Feelgood doing Route 66". When I should be saying "on the deck of the Victory" or something.)
    So much to see, so much to feel, so much to hear. Mournful ships' hooters in the fog, the clanking of iron doors on empty forts way off shore, the cries of marsh birds, rotting hulks, the orange flares of refineries. As John Piper said of the Romney Marsh "it's all 90% atmosphere really".

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Oven Ready

Sometime in the hedonistic eighties we were meandering our way home from Hastings and came across a derelict house next to a railway station in East Sussex. The front door was open, honest, and we shuffled about on broken glass from room to room. In the kitchen I noticed a slightly different surface to part of the wall, and a tell-tale gas pipe told me an iron plate had been placed to absorb heat from an oven. It was streaked with yellow paint and I immediately knew what it was. As I'm sure you've guessed too. Our car had a toolkit and it was but seconds for the plate to be levered away to reveal this very bright enamel sign, still exhorting us to find the station master and take out Railway Passengers Assurance. And still demonstrating the artist's optical trick of giving the perfectly rectangular sign a permanent lean.
    It's subsequently been in a succession of garages and garden sheds with just spiders for company, until the other day I was putting the lawnmower away and had the urge to take it down and give it a good clean. The enamel, which appropriately would have seen the inside of an oven in its manufacture, came up as bright as the day it left Hancor Signs in Mitcham in, I imagine, the 1920s. One thing I like that you can't really see in the photograph is that there is residue of the green kitchen wall paint on the edges. Probably the only reminder of the house, now demolished to make way for a car park extension. So now I'm wondering where to put the sign. Looking around I think it will have to be the ceiling.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Very Badmin

Fellow travellers in Unmitigated England will know of my passion for the work of S.R.Badmin. And indeed will doubtless share it with equal fervour. So finding an image I hadn't seen before is always a singular joy. Badmin produced many book covers, and indeed also illustrated books of the calibre of the Ladybird Book of Trees and Puffin Picture Books on trees and architecture (Village and Town). So I got very excited by discovering in Chipping Norton The Rolling Road by L.A.G.Strong, and its Badmin cover of which the above is a detail. It's 'The story of Travel on the roads of Britain and the Development of Public Passenger Transport' and this Swift coach sums it all up for me. Was there a Swift Coaches Company around in 1956, and if there was did they paint their vehicles in this sympathetic livery of pale lemon and deep pink? I do hope so. I bet the number plate is SRB something; Badmin often included his name or initials somewhere in the picture other than in the obligatory bottom right hand corner. One book on churches even has his name very prematurely on a tombstone in the foreground.
   I had the enormous privilege of taking tea at Mr.Badmin's home in Bignor, West Sussex, with a dear friend in the autumn of 1987. His large living room window looked out at the slopes of the South Downs and my friend said "It must be wonderful for you to have that view of the Downs just outside of your window" and he replied "Too close for me m'dear" and proceeded into the kitchen to put the kettle on. And it's true, so much of his work informs us with loving detail in the foregrounds, but quickly take us off to far horizons.
    These days we still always say when confronted by a stand of chestnuts around a farm or a line of willows by a slow-moving stream "Very Badmin" as if nature had decided to copy his work. Nobody 'does' trees like S.R.Badmin, but there's always much more in his paintings. If you can get hold of a copy of Highways & Byways in Essex (the last in the series in 1939, he completed it on the death of F.L.Griggs, the original illustrator) you will see his outstanding line drawings of buildings, such as Bures Mill above. But trees really were the thing. As we left Mr.Badmin's home I noticed that leaves from the trees in his garden had dropped with the rain onto my car. I carefully peeled them off and put them in a church leaflet I found in the glovebox. 'Leaves from Mr.Badmin's Garden' I wrote on the front. I still have it, the leaves now dry and brittle, but still embued with enchanting and very agreeable memories.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Over The Wall

And so to Northumberland with Youngest Son. I'd always wanted to see the painting above, which is one of eight at Wallington Hall (west of Morpeth) and the start of a series commissioned by Pauline and Walter Trevelyan in 1856 to illustrate salient points in Northumberland's history. This one is of a group of workers on Hadrian's Wall being roundly chastised by a Roman commander. The artist's model for this soldier was John Clayton, Town Clerk of Newcastle, who was instrumental in saving stone from Hadrian's Wall being nicked by local farmers for buildings. It is, I think, my favourite Victorian narrative painting.
Thence to Bamburgh, where after a frightening experience in our hotel with what we thought were possibly onions in a steak sandwich, we fled to the beach where YS went fully-clothed into the sea whilst I waited for the sun to appear from behind a static mackerelly cloud to light the castle. One of the most impressive sights in England, this colossus is a quarter of a mile long and covers eight acres or so. I've always loved it since seeing it used as seventeenth century Loudun in an establishing shot in Ken Russell's The Devils (1971), complete with a foreground of a skeletal corpse tied to a cartwheel on top of a pole. Dear Ken, I do miss him.

After these disturbing thoughts we moved swiftly on to Holy Island the next morning. What a romantic place to spend time in, providing you've read the tide timetables coherently. The beaches with sea-washed bricks and tiles (always an Unmitigated Pleasure), the fishermen's huts made from upturned boats, (are they really, or did they just use boatbuilding skills?), a gaunt ruined abbey and of course the showstopper of Lindisfarne Castle. Built by Edwin Lutyens for his mate Edward Hudson (the founder of Country Life magazine) in 1902, this is the ultimate holiday home. Shades of Enid Blyton's Five on a Treasure Island perhaps, or Tintin's Black Island, this was a sixteenth century castle on an outstanding plug of rock, abandoned in the mid nineteenth century until Hudson discovered it.
This is a painting by John Moore, showing the original castle in 1877, complete with the nearby limekilns in action and the abbey in the distance. I too needed a memorable image, so got very excited in the tiny scullery when for only about two minutes the top of a tap was highlighted. As this was the hottest day of the year thus far it seemed somehow very refreshing. Although when I pointed this photo opportunity out to other castle gazers they quickly turned and went sniggering outside to look at seals through a telescope on the Upper Battery. Oh well.

Not wanting to find we were stuck out here until six o'clock we walked with long purposeful strides to the distant car park, our heads whirring with thoughts and stuck into big ice creams. We will return, next time maybe in the depths of winter with an easterly gale blowing, the threat of Northumberland snow in the bitter air and firelight in Lutyens' hearths lighting the herringboned-patterned brick floors.

Both Wallington Hall and Lindisfarne Castle are National Trust properties, and Moore's painting can be seen at the latter. Thank you NT.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Fun in Fitzrovia

Once upon a time I was asked to contribute to this, originally a big full colour book edited by Bill Bryson, who at the time was Chairman or something of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. I was very pleased to be included in a list of contributors that included Kate Adie on gnomes and Benjamin Zephaniah on the Malvern Hills. And what a launch party we had. Michael Wood (Alfred's Cakes) brought along his John Mayall's Blues Breakers LP, the one with Eric Clapton (Newlands Corner) reading the Beano on the cover, in the hope that Eric would be there to sign it. He wasn't. I kept looking for Richard Mabey and he wasn't either. Truth be told it all became a bit of a blur, as Only Daughter and I were having such a good time. We looked unsteadily round the room until we espied Mr. Bryson nervously packing up his little leather briefcase. "Let's go and talk to whasisname" we both said at once, and did. My most coherent memory of the evening is poor old Bill fleeing resolutely into the Fitzrovia night.

Anyway, here's a new paperback, just out. I go on about post boxes, Bryan Ferry about the Penshaw Monument in Sunderland, Kevin Spacey on canal boating. Just to drop two more names. But all are worth reading, and this new edition of Icons of England has a fabulous new cover illustration by Neil Gower. Amazon are still showing the old cover with a post box (ooh) on it, but I'm sure that will change soon.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Wortley Voysey

Last night I delivered the mother-of-my-children up to the welcoming arms of the Women's Institute in Earl Shilton, Leicestershire, whilst her gamekeeper and I went in search of sustenance. I know, I said, and we ended-up in what is probably the only pub designed by Charles Voysey, the Wentworth Arms in Elmesthorpe. Built for Lord Lovelace in 1895, it is now completely knackered as far as the Voysey Look is concerned, as all the interior rooms with green tiled fireplaces and other details were ripped out in the 1970s. We did however have very decent bangers and mash and pints of Doom Bar, so we looked more kindly at the outside which still sports a typical Voysey catslide roof in Swithland slate.

Much more to our liking was the row of cottages, also designed by CV, just over the railway bridge next door to the pub. Wortley Cottages, designed for Lovelace in the following year, are much better preserved with intact porches, rendering and big fat corner buttresses. The family in one of them were sitting down to a barbeque in the back garden so I was able to ask to trample over the lawn with ease. "I'll have mustard with mine" I said, and was met (yet again) with blank stares. But the main bloke was very kind and pointed out that they were once thatched, now replaced by superbly size-graded Swithland slates. Here's how they would've looked:

He also pointed out the Very Voysey original door hinges and superbly lettered name plaque on the far left cottage. And all this goes to show that hidden treasures can continually pop up into one's consciousness. The west side of Leicestershire is so easily written-off as ugly and not a patch on High Leicestershire to the east. This is partly the result of indiscriminate Victorian development that served the extensive hosiery industry, so that when the socks and stockings had run off left a very sad neglected feel. I hadn't been over here for some time, but I'm pleased that there is now a much brighter atmosphere. Particularly when one sees cottages like these after some Doom Bar. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Another Attenborough

I stood next to that David Attenborough in a Leicester pub back in the 80s. He had a pint of Bass and a curry in a bowl, just like me. But this isn't about him (Happy Birthday), but his dad, Frederick Attenborough, who was once Principal of the University College in Leicester from 1932-1951. One of his mates was the Reader in English Local History, W.G.Hoskins. In the late 1940s the latter wrote two brilliant little books, Touring Leicestershire, and Rutland. Both were photographed by Frederick, and son David remembers helping out by trying to get cattle in the right places and, as my own children will testify, probably counting down the seconds before the sun emerged from behind a cloud whilst the photographer's eye was pressed up against the viewfinder.

I was reminded of the Rutland book this morning, as I drove down local lanes and noticed the new growths of cow parsley starting, and the about to burgeon hawthorn. I thought of the photograph above, of an old drovers' lane near Empingham, and wanted to share it with you. I was a little surprised, however, to see that Hoskins' caption was 'High Summer near Empingham' when it appears the cow parsley is only just about to invade the verge. No matter, it's an image that always comes to mind at this time of year, and I look forward to wandering these quiet lanes again. Amongst others it was Hoskins who ignited my interest in the English landscape, and in 1995 I obtained permission from his publishers to use sections from his inimitable Shell Guide to Rutland for my first little book Rutland Much In Little.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


My apologies for being off air for so long. Can't believe early March was the last time. However, my purpose here is to make another apology; to all those of you who so kindly subscribed to my Unmitigated Postcard Box. There wasn't the same kind of support from Unbound themselves, very sadly because I actually do believe in what they are doing. Well, maybe a little less now. At my request they promised to close down my page yesterday, but that hasn't happened either. But when they get round to it money will be refunded, or, if you want, transferred to another project.

Interest has been shown by two 'real' publishers in producing it, so there is hope it may find an appreciative home. Failing that I may do it myself and travel around the country like a medieval pedlar, a stack of yellow boxes on my back as I trudge from town to town, hoarsely crying out my wares. In the meantime here are five postcards to be going on with:

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Rocks & Tinplate

This is Stoneywell Cottage in the Charnwood Forest, north west of Leicester. If you like arts 'n' crafts buildings and furniture (and I'm bonkers about them) then this seemingly organic house, rising out of the igneous rock and surrounded by woods, must be put very high on your 'must do' list. Designed by Ernest Gimson for his brother Sydney, it was built in Ulverscroft by that mercurial A&C craftsman Detmar Blow. Completed at the very end of the nineteenth century, for the most part it was used as a summer residence, with the family returning for Christmas. Deceptively economic in design, there are beautifully homely touches everywhere. A piece of granite jutting out near a fireplace was left for Sydney's tobacco jar and pipe, the stairs are like church tower steps with helpful ropes leading up to rooms where the floors are all on differing levels. The very nature of the site means that the main fat chimney grows up out the rock, an upstairs bedroom window gives access immediately into the garden.

The furniture is of course so at home. Gimson-designed ladder-backed chairs sit round a solid table in the dining room, almost Shaker-style coat hooks hang against a white painted wall. Contemporary or beautifully reproduced cots, beds and bookshelves; and everywhere a very comforting feel of homeliness. I could have dozed off in an armchair with an Arthur Ransome book on my lap, daffodils on a deeply-inset window sill, a log fire spitting in the grate with its Gimson fire irons in attendance.

As you can probably imagine I got very excited upstairs, with not only wonderful pictures on the walls, childrens' games on cupboards and chairs but also a heart-stopping Hornby O Gauge train on the floor of the Well Room, working its way past tinplate buildings in order to tunnel underneath a bed. And all so genuine. This is no art-directed interior, Stoneywell was left to the National Trust by Donald Gimson, grandson of Sydney, who advised the Trust on so much here. You have to book, which is good because it means you won't be trudging round with a hundred others before and after. But do try and make it soon as spring comes to Stoneywell.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

A Pocket Full of Ferrets

Last night I went off-piste to ITV3 and watched a Miss Marple from 2008: A Pocket Full of Rye. Kenneth Cranham got the rye grains in his jacket pocket and blackbirds both in a pie and his desk drawer and Rupert Graves put a clothes peg onto the nose of a corpse, just to keep it more-or-less in the spirit of the nursery rhyme.

Then of course my mind started to wander, and knowing I was safe with Miss Marple solving everything by being incredibly nosey, I remembered a nursery rhyme book in the East Wing with plates in it by the superb Lawson Wood, and searched it out to see if this rhyme was in it. It was, it's above. But then I was brought back to the screen by a fabulously outrageous performance by the unique Ken Campbell playing a dodgy butler. One scene had him lying on his bed declaiming the rhyme with a bottle and cigarette on the go and his blue eyes bulging. This was to be his last performance, and The Guardian judged him to be "one of the most original and unclassifiable talents in the British theatre of the past half-century. A genius at producing shows on a shoestring and honing the improvisational capabilities of the actors who were brave enough to work with him." One of those actors was Sylveste McCoy, who competed against Ken for the role of Doctor Who and won. But they still did shows together where they stuffed ferrets down each others' trousers.

Blackbirds, clothes pegs, pies. And on Tuesday a corner of my curious and utterly delightful extended family gained yet another ferret to add to two others who, I assume, are also frantically trying to find trousers to run up the inside of. The connections didn't stop ferreting around my mind when I also recalled that I had once attended a wedding reception in the old Diorama in Peto Place near Regent's Park and Ken was a fellow guest. When it came to dancing (and I doubtless did my usual pogo-ing to Van Halen's Jump!) he danced across the floor and half way up a wall. Again, and again, and again. I have never seen the like before or since. Right, off to Waitrose to see if they have any blackbirds. Three frozen packs with eight in each perhaps. 

Pledge for the Unmitigated Postcard Box here.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Spring Loaded

Spring hadn't sprung yesterday, but it certainly felt as if it was about to. Youngest Boy and I decided to go down the road to Kirby Hall, somewhere I've continually gone back to for, ooh, a very long time. Snowdrops gave a soft patterning of white as we went down the avenue, the Hall itself welcomed us with window bar shadows reaching out into the bare empty rooms. After the obligatory hiding from each other and then jumping out with blood-curdling shouts (annoying those with audio tours clamped to their ears) we ventured outside. The upturned willow had to be climbed, but I took great pleasure in seeing what had happened to it since it fell over six years ago or so. My first picture of it above was taken in 2010, and I was so gratified that it hadn't been attacked with a chain saw (probably because willow spits like hell in a woodburner) or replaced by a sapling in a rabbit-proof plastic tube. No, it had been left to itself, and now wands of new willow have shot up in profusion. Sometimes we manage too much.

It was all very invigorating, and when we got home ready to start preparing lunch (well, I did) we found that the daffodils had trumpeted out from the Adnam's jug. Spring really does seem to be around the corner. Let's hope.

Pledge for the Unmitigated Postcard Box here.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Unmitigated Postcards

Anybody who has been within five miles of me in the last year will have heard of the progress of this latest addition to the Unmitigated Stable. It’s taken a while to fine tune, which involved immense research and drinking in London, Leicestershire and Oxfordshire. (In fact it involved drinking just about everywhere really.) So at last, thanks to those marvellous people at Unbound, here is an opportunity to go even deeper into the hidden recesses of Unmitigated England.
The Unmitigated Postcards Box is my first go at a crowd-funded project. Which basically means that subscribers elect to support an author, usually for a book, at different levels from signed collectors’ editions right up to something really special at the top end. It’s all so exciting. You’ll see from the Unbound site that the yellow carton (a pastiche of a well-loved Kodak photo paper box) contains 100 ‘eccentrically eccentric’ postcards. A few you may have seen; most you won’t. All are my favourites, and it would be brilliant if you thought that you could support the cause. Thank you all very much.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Canvas & Aluminium

This morning the last Land Rover ran off the production line at the Solihull works. So we’re regaled by journos talking about the Land Rover Defender being born in 1948. No it wasn't. As you all know I was born in 1948 along with the Land Rover. (Are you really sure? Ed.)The Defender came much later after the Series 2. Anyway, farewell. And thanks again to Toby Savage who is amongst a very elite group that knows everything about the wonderful original, and indeed allowed me to photograph his 1948 model for the Shire book cover above. He is probably sitting at his kitchen table now, with head in his hands and fist closing round a starting handle.