Saturday saw a beautiful, sunny, placid day on the beach at Brancaster in Norfolk. The tide was in on our arrival, but it soon receded over the vast sandy levels of the Staithe harbour to be a just discernible blue line on the far horizon, leaving shallow channels streaked across the beach. Just perfect for launching one of Mr.Sutcliffe's tin model ships in order for it to bob along over sandworm casts and broken shards of razor shell. Youngest Boy had purloined said ship from the bathroom shelf, but we couldn't find the key that you stick down one of the funnels to get the propeller whirring. But it did provide some excellent photo opportunities as it drifted aimlessly about, Philip Larkin's '...steamer stuck in the afternoon...' from To the Sea. Sutcliffe Models will be remembered from seaside toy shops of the 50s and 60s- pale green Nautilus Submarines and topical Bluebirds. And dad's workshop or garage often had a bright red Sutcliffe Oil Can with its gold label on the shelf. I was fortunate enough to buy my tin liner from Mr.Sutcliffe himself. Having retired he hawked his remaining stock around toy fairs until one Saturday I spied his stall stacked with brightly-coloured tin. Which is all very well but it doesn't shed any light on where the missing key is.
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)