Everyone knows about about my predilection for all things appertaining to Len Deighton. Be it novels (particularly those of the 1960s), cookbooks, non-fiction and the various books he edited. One, though, had escaped me for years until last week I finally got my hands on Drinks-man-ship at the right price and in excellent condition for it's age (1964). It's a superb piece of Deightoniana: large (235mm x 325mm), beautifully designed by Derek Birdsall and in it Deighton brings together writing by his pals on all manner of drinks and drinking. It's a magnum of good things- classic sixties photography, typography, and reminisces of drinking by the likes of George Melly and Anthony Haden-Guest (very funny). But do you know, I'd have bought it just for the dust jacket. That's Len himself in close proximation to the model Pattie Boyd (she of Smiths Crisps TV commercials and married to both George Harrison and Eric Clapton who wrote Layla about her). The caption reads 'Photograph of Len Deighton and friend by James Mortimer', and it's still got that 'wow' factor that hasn't dated. It all makes me want to knock back an Underberg and break into a blue packet of Gauloises before reading.
So here are the other five posters, in the order I executed them. Having decided on the first one that the legend 'Bread' should not be a piece of additional text but an integral part of the poster, I had to think of ideas where the same thing could happen. Which proved to be a lot of fun. The only thing that changed on the final prints was that badge on the Soda girl's t-shirt. I'm obviously so immersed in the codes of Unmitigated England that I'd always thought the phrase 'spooning' meant 'courting', mainly because my dad said it lot. When I showed the design to Only Daughter she expostulated "Daddy you can't possibly say that". We did in fact print it like this originally, but a few raised eyebrows prompted a rethink.
Fortuitously, just as I'm about to press the 'publish' button, I learn that Brucciani's have just been successful at the 2014 Tiptree World Bread Awards, winning the category 'Great British White', which I thought was a brand of whale.
If anyone's interested in a print, just get in touch via my e-mail
Last year I designed and illustrated six posters for two cafes in the centre of Leicester. They have a remarkable pedigree stretching back over 70 years, and everyone around here knows about going into Brucci's. As a spotty teenager I used to meet my dad in one at lunchtime for a cheese and pickle sandwich, and later waited in trepidation to see if a potential girlfriend would turn up. I was reminded of them again this week as I found myself in a Costa, and set to ruminating on why they think it's a good idea to have you queue to place your order and then to queue again to get your beverages. I mean, it's not Genoa is it? There I'm quite happy to pay upfront to an old lady in a glass booth, but then my cappuccino will be with me in two shakes of the chocolate sprinkler. It isn't every Costa, but if ever you're stalwart enough to brave Leicester's city centre do give a Brucciani's a go. The girl who takes your order will also very smartly prepare your request, and you'll find one in Fox Lane and one in Churchgate, both just off the Clock Tower. And if you're sitting down near to the poster above you can try and work out the puzzle picture to the right of the coffee pot.
Of course all this will seem like a shameless plug for a client, but I have to say this was one of the most pleasurable and satisfying jobs I've had to do. If you want to see the other five I might oblige, and if you want something similar for your emporiums (or anything else) then I will certainly oblige. We can talk about it over an affogato.
A beautiful autumnal morning, yesterday in Norfolk. I was very glad to turn off from the incessant traffic on the Cromer road to find two villages I hadn't seen before. Great Snoring and Little Snoring, which sound like two characters in a fairy tale. As you leave Little Snoring a bend in the lane reveals the remarkable little church of St.Andrew. Apparently it's a bit of a Norfolk mystery as to why an early Norman church was demolished so soon, and its replacement, certainly within a hundred years, built just to the north. My guess is that building at this time could be a bit hit and miss and the original church lurched with subsidence. The now detached round tower survives, and its magical red cap, again like something from a fey tale of long ago, looks like it may have been used as a dovecote. The louvered openings seem very small if they're for bells. Pevsner doesn't mention them, but then he didn't mention that you can still clearly see where the original church met the tower either.
Further down the lane is Great Snoring, a very pretty village with the church of St.Mary's. Worth visiting for the 15th century painted panels on the rood screen, defaced in the Tudor Reformation, and a superb late seventeenth century coat-of-arms towering over the inside of the south door.Near to Fakenham, near to Wells-next-the-Sea, both churches are worth the little detour.
Now this really was unexpected. I discovered it on a wall at the Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge and immediately knew what this was all about. Not that I'm given particularly to non-shrinking wool underwear, but when I was a lad I walked past the Two Steeples factory in Wigston Magna every day on my way to my junior school. The large Leicestershire village was sometimes called Wigston Two Steeples, on account of it having, well, two steepled churches: All Saints and St.Wistans, (later two of the houses at my next school), probably only half a mile apart.
But it was another memory that was stirred on seeing it. The owner of the factory lived at the top of the cul-de-sac road I lived on in Wigston Fields, in a large mid Victorian house, and every day could be seen walking very purposefully down the lane to his work. He wore heavily checked plus fours and carried a cane that he raised to us in greeting. I think he had a monocle, but this may be something I picked up from a character in the Eagle comic. Opposite my house my friend had a large yew tree in his front garden and we would perch up in its sooty branches to spy on people walking below. "Here comes Spring Heel Jack" we whispered as one poor chap strided beneath us as if on rubber springs, his head in a cloud of pipe smoke. I'm not sure what we called Mr.Plus Fours but it was either Two Steeples or The Colonel. He had a mate who used to come and visit him driving a mid blue 1920's Rolls Royce with disc wheels, the hood down and him sporting a Panama and a huge white moustache. "Here comes Mr.Pastry" we shouted to each other, and ran behind the car trying to jump up on the back. Blimey, all this from a sheet of vitreous enamelled iron advertising wool underpants. Whatever next.
I'm walking down the street having just come out of chapel. I pass the ironmongers with tin baths hanging outside and then remind myself I need a mattock like the one in the tool shop.The greengrocer waves to me as I descend the blue brick steps to a canal wharf where a pretty girl comes out from a corrugated iron hut to greet me, our conversation gently drifting from canal boat painting to other things. It's very warm, so I feel obliged to drop into the cool shadows of the public bar of the Bottle & Glass public house, where another delightful girl pulls me a pint of mild and furnishes me with a cheese and onion cob.
Have I gone to some kind of Unmitigated Heaven? In a way yes. I'm in the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, and I urge you to engage with the rigours of the West Midland motorway system and innumerable traffic lights and roundabouts in order to pay it a visit. You won't be disappointed.
We are perhaps all familiar with the Batsford book jackets designed by Brian Cook in the 1930s. Brightly coloured and so evocative of an era blessed with some of the best in commercial art, they have become highly collectable. But post war, Batsford needed to rationalise, and all that bother with rubber plates and transparent inks was simply too expensive, and a whole lot of trouble for those down on the printroom floor. What was needed, particularly for the British Heritage Series, was a generic cover that would do for all the titles, so that all that had to happen was the dropping in of the title onto standard cartouches.
But just look at that illustration. Everything's here that the range of titles demanded: a town, village, church, cathedral, country house, coastline, quayside, a river and a castle. Somewhere I imagine is an 'old inn of England'. It's a cappricio of everything Batsford stood for, and doubtless some of these delightful juxtapositions rubbed off on me when I did my own town prints. The artist is Philip Gough, born in 1908 and trained in Liverpool as a theatre designer, and after producing designs for the original Toad of Toad Hall in 1929 he went on to work on some twenty five theatrical productions in London. Gough had a great love for the late eighteenth century and the Regency period, and his work is perhaps very redolent of that other great artist, sadly lost in the Second World War, Rex Whistler. So now I'm looking out for more of his work. I know he did at least five covers for individual Saturday Books, and in addition to illustrating authors such as Jane Austen he worked on several books for children. Oh dear, yet another collection appears about to start. I think there's still room in the still room.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)