Merchant Ivory films tend to get judged as 'Laura Ashley dramas'. Comments which are as obtuse as they are ignorant. So after a magnificent Sunday lunch with loved ones of roast pig and parsnips I retired to my village fastness and, after having poured myself a large snifter, I put on my DVD of Howards End. This must have been the fourth or fifth time I'd watched it, but yet again I was utterly absorbed. Everyone dresses up because this is Edwardian England; the period detail is as meticulous as it is unsurpassed. The social mores of the turn of the century brought to life by superb performances from everybody. But in particular I like Samuel West as Leonard Bast in his ill-fitting bowler and the infinitely watchable James Wilby who, with his eye-rolling, pipe-smoking characterisation of Charles Wilcox manages to overtly steal every single scene he's in, from even the august Mr.Hopkins and Emma Thompson. And of course there are veteran cars with original AA badges, steam trains and a walk-on part for St.Pancras as it was, complete with the wooden panelled booking office and a trainshed wreathed in smoke. I first saw this film when I scived off work to watch it in the Curzon cinema in Mayfair, (is there a better place to watch films?), and found myself alone in the red plush seating. And not a popcorn remnant in sight.
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), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)