This chap spoke to me this morning at breakfast.He said "I'm one of those objects the obsession of which you can never remember the name of." He was found on Cley beach. I shall have to do a treatise on them, probably call it Face Book.
Can anyone out there help with this? We found it in the grounds of Bayfield Hall in Norfolk yesterday. It looks very much like it was specially forged and welded together for Unmitigated England, but when I enquired in the stables it was looked at in great mystification as if seen for the first time. Which may of course be the case; that opening could so easily have seen the recent evacuation of an alien crew.
And then we tipped-up at Cley-next-the-Sea down the road and lo! there was an exact copy perched up on the embanking between the salt marsh and beach. This is when the first inkling of their purpose came to me. Could they be fish smokeries? The Cley example was very conveniently placed by where the catches are landed, and this would be about as fresh as a smoked herring could possibly get. But this far from the comforts of the village? Maybe the pungent smoke was a problem, but I doubt it, particularly at the assumed time of its utility. Of course it would be now, the part time residents hastily switching on the Vent Axia's in Farrow & Balled kitchens.
So, any ideas? Before I reach for that bit about the space craft unscrewing itself on Horsell Common in War of the Worlds. And, do you know, just as I'm typing this Jeff Wayne's music for the same comes ominously out of my wireless set. Please help.
Aircraft have been taking off all morning from the Unmitigated England Airship (nicknamed The Duchess by my ground crew) in order to take lucky fee-paying customers above the clouds to witness the moon impertinently blocking out the sun. On each return to the mother ship the brass goggle wearing passengers were treated to a full UE breakfast that included kedgeree warmed in a silver spirit burner kept at a safe distance from the gas bags.
Alas, alas. The real reason for this posting is that I'm obsessed by anything to do with airships. My interest was first kindled by seeing tiny snapshots in the family album taken by my father of either the R100 or R101 airships at Cardington. Subsequently the gargantuan hangars were pointed out to me from the train after Bedford, something I tediously do for my children now. Every time. So now a green tinplate airship hangs from my living room light shade and no minutiae is safe from my researches. So imagine my excitement when one of the Library Girls ran down the corridor yesterday, clutching the above that had been unearthed whilst they were looking for a Weetabix Vistascreen 3D Viewer. (I've told them about running in corridors, particularly with trays of gin and tonics.) The Meccano Magazine for February 1926 was published when the future was all airships, very gung-ho copy that talked of a failed experiment with an aeroplane attempting to hook up under the craft when "the releasing gear failing to act at the critical moment, the daring pilots were thrown out of their machine when some 3,000 ft. up, and were dashed to their death." As we now know, there was much more trauma to come, the dreams of big silent airships criss-crossing our skies coming to an end in a muddy field in Beauvais and in flames at Lakehurst New Jersey.
But all was not in vain. Next year sees the launch of a new airship, once again darkening the skies above Cardington. I'd post a picture of it, but fear it may cause concern amongst more sensitive readers. So here's a link to it. Meanwhile I've got to go and help the ground crew moor our airship to a convenient pylon a couple of fields away.
So, farewell then the car tax disc. Farewell to sitting outside the post office trying to make a neat job of tearing around the perforations. Farewell to know-alls tapping your windscreen and saying "Your tax runs out tomorrow" as if you hadn't realised. Funny thing, I shall miss these curious bits of paper, glancing at them every few months as I have done since I started having to buy them. Missing the feeling of relief at the post office counter when all my paperwork seems miraculously to be in order, missing the relief when a passing copper didn't realise there wasn't even one there.
Removing the plastic holder from the inside of my windscreen the other day I found the previous owner had kept every single disc from the car's first registration. A little piece of history of various post offices and various prices, and slight changes of design from year to year. I've made a double page spread out of them in my scrapbook. But oh how long will it be before I stop feeling guilty about the absence of this little piece of paper, no longer confirming me to be a proper person. Probably until I go and put a 1942 one for an Austin in the once official position, bottom left hand corner. In fact, I've gone on about this before, here.
The passing of actor Alan Howard brings to mind a rare film that most obituarists will struggle to recall. I never saw Howard on the stage, (I never see people on the stage much), where I believe him to have been magnificent, but John Madden's film for the BBC is something else. Filmed in the summer of 1984 Poppyland was transmitted only once to my knowledge, in January 1985. Howard played Clement Scott, the poet and Daily Telegraph drama critic who visited the Norfolk coast around Cromer in 1883. His subsequent pieces for the papers brought the crowds thronging to Cromer, the countryside being dubbed 'Poppyland' by the Great Eastern Railway Company.
At 90 minutes long, this is a proper film, one that transcends the medium it was made for. Apart from Howard, the narrative is helped along by Scott's friends turning up at the mill house that is the centrepiece of the film, played with much Victorian vigour by John Shrapnel, Jonathan Hyde, John McEnery and the delightful Phoebe Nicholls as the miller's daughter Louie Jermy. Films made by the BBC around this time tend to get forgotten (or worse) unless the archives are trawled through by the British Film Institute who have done a marvellous job in resurrecting the early work of Ken Russell and the Christmas M.R.James stories for DVD. I did in fact record Poppyland on a VHS tape, which although still in my possession is missing the opening couple of minutes. I sincerely hope the BFI will find something more substantial so that we can all enjoy the film again.
Yesterday morning I felt as though I'd come out of hibernation. I sat listening to The Archers (when is that Rob Tichener going to get his very just desserts?) as I got down to cleaning my cameras on the kitchen table and recharging numerous batteries. As I did so I noticed that the two bunches of daffodils that I'd bought last week were suddenly bursting out. I think I love the spring above all, and here was the perfect harbinger of both the season and the fact that this week I get back on the highways and byways of Unmitigated England. I just thought I'd share them with you.
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)