Monday, 31 March 2008

Road to Perdition

The Roman Gartree Road is scored straight across south east Leicestershire, sometimes city street, sometimes country lane, more often than not just an ancient trackway between ash and beech, the haunt of owl and fox. It bypasses the Strettons (on the 'street')- Little Stretton, the largest of the two, of course, and Great Stretton, of which virtually all that remains is this little church out in the fields. It makes up for it by being the photograph on the cover of W.G.Hoskins' Leicestershire: The History of the Landscape.

But these acres are now under a threat that would make Hoskins revolve in his grave; but that perhaps would gain immediate grape-eating approval from the Romans. Dev the Developer can't wait to bend the newly-revised planning laws in order to turn this landscape, much of which is a truely-green enclave of Leicester itself, into what is oxymoronically called an 'eco-city'. In this case one the size of Hinckley in the same county. The idea pretends to cash-in on the environmental bandwagon, claiming the desire to build 'green' houses on already richly-green pastureland. We all know that this is a lie, greed dressed-up in eco clothes. The Government, so called, will fall over their miserable ill-thought out commitments to let it happen, intent as they are to ritually destroy the English countryside. But who is selling all this land, in one go, so that Dev doesn't have to spend decades buying it up? None other than the Co-Op. Yes, the 'caring sharing Co-Op' who once used these pastoral acres to graze cattle that supplied milk to their shops. Hang on a minute. Isn't this the Co-Op that was formed in Rochdale to benefit all of us? Apparently not.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Water Marks

I need help. (Muted cyber-chorus of agreement.) Why is it that I find water towers,and I have to say these white-painted ones, so appealing? And at the same time find wind turbines so unattractive to the eye? I found this one on my fenland tour whilst out picking-off candidates for Classic Constructs, a new book for later on in the year. It sits out in the bleak landscape at Newton, where Cambridgeshire narrows to a point up near The Wash, a simple unadorned landmark structure that has enormous appeal for its functional simplicity. Coupled with the fact that thought was given to its placement here by planting a stand of silver birch and willow around it. Water towers are necessary where natural gradients are insufficient to maintain a good head of water, and, like all things, the acceptability of their presence in isolated countryside comes down to design. There are stunning examples- the landmark towers of Ravensden in Bedfordshire, the Wellsian science fiction Mappleton out on the Plain of Holderness. You probably wouldn't want one looking over your back garden- the concrete and glass Haddenham comes to mind- but necessity can still be the mother of inventive design. I suppose it comes down to taste, like good old-fashioned tap water versus over-priced 'eau' run-off from your local volcano.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Fit for Purpose

Having mentioned Fitton Hall in my last blog, I thought it would be churlish not to show it. At first glance I did think it was a derelict railway station, until I realised there was no sign of a platform, no sign of a dismantled line on my map, and in any case no earthly reason why there should be a station of this size here. No, it's just a simple Victorian house, not particularly pretty, but with some attempt made to liven things up a bit with courses of blue brick layered into the stock red. There's also been an attempt to produce a little bit of grandeur with the porch, into which is set a stone roundel with the name and date- 1869. But I think it has immense charm, possibly because of its comparative airy isolation, and because the cart horses and orange slurry tank lend it a certain Animal Farm ambience. The name Fitton comes from 'fit' meaning grassy banks on a river, and 'tun' for settlement. It's perhaps interesting to note that the River Nene is only a short distance away, but before the great reclamations of land around here nearby Wisbech was a port actually on the coast, (there's a section of old sea bank in the next village of Leverington). So previous manors here at Fitton End would have looked out on to the muddy reaches of The Wash, now over ten miles away.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Game of Two Halves

Fitton End is only three miles from Wisbech, a handful of houses including the derelict Fitton Hall that looks like a gothic railway station marooned in the fields. You won't find the hall in Pevsner or a Shell Guide, but it's certainly worth a look before it gets restored. But it wasn't what made me turn round in a farmyard and retrace my tyre marks. At first glance this pair of cottages look nothing out of the ordinary, the left hand dwelling still almost original. But on looking more closely I thought 'Voysey'. Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941) was a leading member of the Arts & Crafts movement, and is famous for his country houses that, although large, were never grand. His trademarks were pebble-dashing, angled buttresses, porthole windows. And he designed everything from the wallpaper to the knives and forks. This pair of semi-detacheds aren't by him, far from it, but there is certainly a Voysey-inspired architectural game going on here. Out on the fen I see the landowner at breakfast at the Hall, reading Building News and, on seeing a Voysey retrospective, turning down the page corner for a later chat with his estate manager. Rose Cottage maybe painted-up like a lighthouse, but I think Voysey would have loved it.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

French Lesson

Out on the Fens again, and a discovery on a back road between Eye and Crowland. This is one of the distinct pleasures of keeping one's eyes open in this, some would say, featureless landscape. Apart from there always being something odd out of the corner of the eye there will also be the names: Teakettle Hall, Whipchicken Farm, Dog Drove South, Dog Drove North. And so Powder Blue Farm. At first I thought it was simply a farm named after a favourite on a colour swatch, perhaps there'd also be a Fowler Pink Farm, a Lamp Room Gray Rectory. Then it occurred to me that Powder Blue might be a local name for the Holly Blue butterfly, here right on the edge of its territory. Thank goodness for Edward Storey's The Solitary Landscape. Storey tells us that woad was grown around here right up to the late-eighteenth century, and the French Huguenots were the only ones prepared to take on the unpleasant task of grinding woad into the blue powder sold as dye to the clothing trade. They would have called it poudre bleu,and their presence is also still remembered in the names French Farm and French Drove. But the condition of this sign still suggests to me that Prairie Gold Yellow Farm might break through at any moment.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Merry Easter

"It's snowed Dad" shouts Smallest Boy, as he yanks back the curtains. "Happy Easter".I open one eye and see a fir tree and the corner of a barn in the lane rendered in monochrome. Snowflakes still score across the image in precisely-angled lines. "Actually, it must be Christmas" says Smallest Boy. He is very confused, and so am I; I don't think I've ever seen snow at Easter, at least not so much as this. We decide to snuggle-up and sing carols, just in case. I start with 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' and then he joins in with a surprisingly rude version of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'. Larger Boy moans in his sleep and tells us both to be quiet. I read to Smallest Boy Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, and the wireless greets the day from the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral. I imagine snow driving across the Mersey, the dark pink sandstone block gathering white highlights on the ribs and buttresses. "If it's not Christmas, is there eggs?".Yes, there'll be eggs I'm sure, and a wonderful idea I sneaked a look at in a carrier bag under the stairs- a chocolate rabbit and hen in real wood and wire cages. The snow is starting to melt now, patches of blue appearing like rags caught in the trees. Time to go downstairs and get that rabbit in the oven.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

An English Deference

Just to bring my short Tony Meeuwissen season to an end (got to get out in the fresh air) I give you The English Difference. The cover was illustrated by Mr. Meeuwissen, but the design for this and the rest of the book was by John Gorham (1937-2001), and it is this man I want to introduce you to. The Times obituary said of him 'John Gorham was a graphic designer whose supremely individual approach to his craft stood out more and more in a world dominated by the impersonality of the computer...His work will be remembered for its wit, elegance and attention to detail'. It was his work for Penguin Books that first drew my attention to his work, books that I immediately picked-up and turned over to assure myself, yes, it was John's cover design. He was just as much at home designing a honey label or a cheese packet as he was a film poster for Alan Parker. And at home he was, in a little back bedroom with his knapsack and camera hanging on the back of the door. I knew John, a very gentle man, and felt very privileged not only to work with him, but also to spend time in his company, which was always a rewarding and stimulating experience. Find yourself a copy of The English Difference, and you'll understand John's passions about the country he loved. And publishers, get working on a Gorham monograph NOW.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Billy Willy

Since I and a perceptive commentator have been going on about how this Penguin book jacket has achieved iconic status in our lives, I thought I'd better get it out and show it off. For those whose cogniscant lives didn't start until 1976, this is a brilliant, and accurate, pastiche (designed by Tony Meeuwissen) of a Wills Woodbine cigarette packet, at least until it was deemed necessary to make it look like a bus side. Billy Liar is an exceptionally funny novel, very well worthwhile reading, and the source material for an equally great film directed by the late and sadly missed John Schlesinger. (Far from the Madding Crowd, Marathon Man.) The film has a bravado performance by Tom Courtenay, and a fledgling appearance by the trouser-enlarging (for me at any rate) Julie Christie. For a sixties teenager like me, the book was a signpost to a life, or at least an attitude, outside my first job in a public library. In Billy Liar's case it was perhaps half a rite of passage to a life beyond the undertakers he worked for, stuffing calendars he should have posted (having pocketed the money) down the office toilet whilst his erstwhile colleague Stamp mouths obscenities through the door. These formative, life-enhancing experiences should never be ignored. Bring 'em on.

Snuggle Down

Rifling through the Ashley Archive for something Eastery I came across this illustration from an ad. for ICI Terylene Fillings for duvets. OK it's not very religious, but it is thought-provoking and there are chicks coming out of eggs. Religion does come into it a bit, because if you were a graphic designer with a complete set of Magic Markers in the seventies, then you worshipped at the shrine of the master illustrator Tony Meeuwissen (pronounced May-verson). We used him at Wolff Olins for McVitie's biscuits packaging, and he painted Michael Wolff's back garden gate with a fox asleep under a moonlit sky. Many will remember his superb Penguin book jackets - particularly for Billy Liar, (Gerry Barney in our studio had much to do with the artwork), but it was with illustration that Tony made our jaws drop open with disbelief at the meticulous nature of his impossibly painstaking work. You will probably have also licked the backside of a Meeuwissen Royal Mail stamp, and I show the duck picture here to bring seasonal greetings to fellow bloggers and commentators. Click on the image and just revel in all the duck and water details. On top of it all he's cheekily put his own book The Witch's Hat on the windowsill, and the tapir trademark he did for his agent in a frame up on the dragonfly-wallpapered wall. Happy Easter.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

A Picture for Lily

Lily isn't her real name. In fact I never knew it. She was a lovely old lady (at a guess I would think nearly ninety) who yesterday afternoon got on my London-bound train at Bedford and sat next to me. She had come to Bedford for the funeral of a chap she had helped bring up in care, many years ago. No-one at the station could be bothered to find out where the cemetery was for her, and so, very confused, she decided to return to her tiny flat in Roehampton. Enter the "ticket collector" with a silver ring in his ear. Lily showed her return ticket, except it was the London-Bedford half. She thought she'd given the return half in by mistake at Bedford. She hadn't. After searching fruitlessly in her bag she became distressed, and Silver Ear demanded her credit card. It took at least three attempts at inputting her pin number into a grey lump of plastic he kept thrusting at her. I intervened, and said surely the fact that she had the other half went someway to prove her innocent of fare-dodging, unless she enjoyed going from Putney to Bedford twice in a day, just for a laugh. Finally he was able to relieve her of £21 (she'd already paid £12.90 return). After he'd gone I calmed her down and helped her look for the ticket which she then found. I went in search of Silver Lining and he'd got off at Luton Parkway, so thirty backpackers who'd just got on for St. Pancras never got their tickets checked anyway. At the terminus I took Lily to the ticket office where they shrugged their shoulders and gave her a long form to fill in to get her money back. Doubtless there'll be a box to tick that says "How did we do?". For the record, this is the newly-enfranchised East Midlands Trains, motto "Travel All About You". With illiteracy like that, what can we expect?

The picture for Lily is of a 1950's railway carriage print of Blythburgh church in Suffolk. Railway companies put four of them in each compartment, this one's in its original wooden frame. I'm sure she would have enjoyed them on her journeys in the past, but more importantly would have been shown patience, compassion, and that now much mis-used word 'respect'. I hope you got home safely Lily.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Tanked Up

This isn't what you'd expect to come across on a very muddy walk in remote countryside, but it happened this afternoon. I am under pain of death not to reveal its whereabouts; suffice it to say it's just about the most fabulous collection of Hornby 00 gauge models I've ever seen. At least when what I was actually expecting to discover were holes in the ground made by Vikings. It reminded me of two things. 1) I have a train set, the most vital parts of which, viz: the locomotives and rolling stock, have somehow steamed-off into oblivion somewhere in an over-stocked garage, and b) what a great thing it was when commodities like oils were transported by rail, instead of by over-sized road tankers demolishing villages because their SatNavs told them to. And not only that, the railways did it in such great style. When I was a boy (hard to believe, I know) I took great comfort in hearing wagons like these being shunted about in the nearest goods yard, a reminder to a child afraid to go to sleep that there was actually someone out there, still awake. Shell Oils, Palethorpes Sausages, Cadbury's Cocoa. The stuff of dreams.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Ruddles County

Please forgive me if you know the story of why this pub is called The Jackson Stops and has a white horse on the sign, but it's always worth re-telling. The inn is in the village of Stretton, just off the A1 in that part of Rutland that is more like Lincolnshire in character. In the late seventies we pitched up here very regularly, usually to drink Bass in the little brick-floored snug with its wooden bench with a hole in it that you threw pennies into. I can't remember the name of the game, but I was no good at it. These were riotous evenings, better not to go into too closely. But I did play darts with Roger Chapman out of Family one night. Oh yes, the name. Well, this pub was once called The White Horse, the emblem being painted on the big iron roundel that once denoted ownership by Ruddles. And then it was put up for sale, and yes, the agent was Jackson Stops. They put their big sign in the hedge, but took so long to sell it the locals started calling the pub after them. Much may have changed here, but the humour lives on. The pub was also at one time used as the local polling station. Vote For Eccentricity.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Rocks 'n' Rolls

A while ago Amey Rail asked me to go and photograph their railway track maintenance equipment. The first was somewhere between Newbury and Theale, and at three o'clock in the morning. "But it'll be dark" I said to my client. "Yes, I suppose it might be" she yawned. This was a giant piece of kit that moved along a previously surveyed section of track marked out with aerosoled flashes on the sleepers. It bodily lifted up the rails, and shoved exactly the right quantity of ballast underneath, and then dropped the rails back again. It was the most noisy, bone-shaking thing I'd ever been on, and I felt whatever the landlubber equivalent is of being sea-sick. I was so relieved to get off at a moment's respite in order to take this shot. The workmen looked down on me like a bomber crew, giving thumbs-up like they would to ground staff. It was called a Stoneblower, and of course was made in Germany. The second commission couldn't have been more different. A sunny day out on the Dart Valley Railway in Devon with tamper 'Eddie King'. Amey train their bomber crews on the line, a good deal for the preserved railway because they get their track sorted out for nothing. An incredible night and day on the wrong side of the tracks.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Brownie Points

Apart from being my homage to Kim Sayer's beautiful book Dinky Toys, this blog is also an 'In Memoriam' for the fact that Kodak no longer make film cameras. Many of us will have made our first awkward attempts at taking photographs with a Box Brownie, or the later Instamatics, eagerly awaiting our glossy black and white or coloured rectangles to be ready at the chemists. It was some time ago that we stopped sending our slide films in yellow envelopes to Hemel Hempstead, when slide processing moved out to the Land of the Cuckoo Clock. Oh the joys of slow old Kodachrome, so magnificently celebrated by Paul Simon, and the blue-toned Ektachrome that was the first film I looped into my 1970 Yashica. All those yellow boxes in attics, stuffed full of little cardboard or plastic mounts. My father swore by Kodachrome, taking off his thick-rimmed Philip Larkin spectacles to peer myopically through viewfinders. ("Always put something red in the picture boy".) And literally swearing when he had to struggle with an Aldis projector and screen in order to show my Aunt Rosalie's slides (usually of her Cyclemaster propped up against banana trees in the Nigerian bush) to open-mouthed audiences in remote Leicestershire chapels. Photographs taken on film, I suppose, will never completely disappear, but will one day recede to become the fine art it was at its inception. Goodbye Box Brownie, goodbye opening the back up too soon and finding you've fogged all the film.

Rubber Souls

This is all that's left of the Dainite Mills in Market Harborough. There were two of these High Victorian buildings due to be conserved, but the other was obviously in the way of the multi-billion pound re-generation project, so 'accidentally' found itself on the hard end of the ball and chain. The Harborough Rubber Company was once one of the biggest employers in the town, producing soles and heels under the Dainite brand, and latterly waterproof covers for computer key pads. In the dim and distant we also thought they made condoms, and so thought it childishly side-splitting to ring them up and ask if they wanted experienced testers. Progress on giving Market Harborough the eagerly-awaited manifestation of Dev the Developer's vision appears to be very slow, so we are still rewarded with the somewhat ironic site boards depicting the ghosts of the soles and heelers busy at work. The first boards got blown down in a previous 3,000mph gale, the second lot are now peeling and covered in those stringy bits of tack that come out of party poppers. At first I thought these monochrome photographs were a welcome change from the usual overly-optimistic architect's impressions; now I find them incredibly sad and just wish Dev would get on with it.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

A Kick in the Privates

This isn't a pretty picture, and it isn't meant to be. Just below the village of Stoke Dry in Rutland is the Eyebrook Reservoir, formed from the Eye Brook being dammed in 1940 to supply water for the Corby Steelworks. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and it's here you will come across big telescopes looking at Bewick's Swans and Goosanders or retired couples just sitting in their cars with their Smith Kendon Travel Sweets. But much of this beautiful area is out of bounds, the preserve of permit-holders (who they?) and of course anglers. So far, so just about alright. I appreciate the fact that nature reserves need to be protected, that anglers must sit around all day not speaking with only a tin of maggots for company. But does it give them the right to allow this appalling and mediocre collection of bully boy signs? They will doubtless all puff-up their padded anoraks and tell us it's all about Elf & Safety, and you can't have just anybody walking about enjoying the countryside. If it's a case of vandalism or setting fire to stolen cars (this kind of sign encourages mindless acts) then get the Game Conservancy shootists down for a bit of practice. If it is necessary to keep people out then at least produce one decently designed sign that doesn't shout abuse at everybody who comes here. I find it ironic that on the corner of two signs it says 'Corus in the community'. Sorry about this rant, but perhaps it's worth remembering that in the Second World War RAF pilots risked their lives on this same water learning how to bounce bombs, in order for our freedoms to be preserved from fascistic bullies hell-bent on depriving us of them.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Passing the Thyme

You may remember I got overly emotional about the disappearance of the Norfolk Stuffing Mix packet (Remembrance of Tins Past 26/2/08). This was the one with the smiley pig and his endorsement of the product as 'Highly Recommended'. Well, as you can see, all is not as lost as I'd imagined. Those of you familiar with this blog and its environs will know that a certain butcher in Uppingham is rewarded with many walk-on parts, mainly for his pork pies. The shop stands at the eastern end of the High Street, with a bright red blind and a green and cream door open at the top like a stable. I was standing in there this morning, glad that there were a few people in front of me so that I could cast my eyes over the scene. Much chopping and hacking on a big butcher's block, meat in various stages of dismemberment like a Tibetan sky burial. String suspended from the axe and cleaver rack, carrier bags with farmyard animals on them. And then my eye casually rose above the pork pies (oh yes) to the top shelf. And there he was, Mr. Pig from Norfolk. They've modified his smile to be more of an expression of pathetic resignation, but I shall take his new recommendation of being 'The Original & Best' and make sure I get a good stuffing tomorrow.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Suspending Belief

I am currently being kept out of trouble by photographing and writing a book on engineering-reliant structures in Britain, for a firm of civil (very civil, as it happens) engineers to celebrate a milestone anniversary. Here's 'one I made earlier' of the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge. Made famous by appearances in Billy Elliot and Auf Weidersen Pet, it is so defining of Middlesbrough that it's also on the council badge. In 1911 a bridge was required here that gave access to Port Clarence and yet still gave headroom for tall-masted ships. The solution was to suspend a gondola from a 160 feet high gantry by what are known as trolley wires, in order that this strange craft could ply (as it still does) across the River Tees with foot passengers and up to nine cars. I was fortunate enough to be taken up to the top, a hair-raising ascent that was like going up into the clouds through a gargantuan Meccano model. I just hoped that the nuts and bolts were better secured than those of my unfortunate boyhood attempt to build something similar on my dining room table. Certainly the Middlesbrough bridge's endurance record is more impressive, having survived raids from both Zeppelins and the Luftwaffe.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

A Drive in the Country

No, honestly, I'm not going to go on about cars again. Well, not very much. Here we have the 1952 Motor Show Number of Country Life, the essential top shelf mag. for top rural people. Of course there's page after page of Singer Roadsters, Austin Herefords and Bristol 401s, but, as now, it's the property pages that make me go cross-eyed. I know it's all relative, but in 1952 you could buy a country house near Wimborne in Dorset with 3 sitting rooms, 9 principle bedrooms and 3 bathrooms for £8,500. Oh, and agents Turner, Lord & Ransom (really) would throw in a servant's hall, lodge house, and garages with 'a flat over'. And I bet Mrs. Miniver waiting to see her dentist still looked at the monochrome ad. and went "How dare they? How can it possibly be worth that". So, back to the cover. This evocative watercolour is by Rowland Hilder, a prolific artist who lived in Blackheath and whose work can be seen in Shell posters and books. To my eye the car isn't a specific model, and, although there's something of the Allard about it, one can imagine the editor in Country Life's Tavistock Street offices briefing Hilder to keep it anonymous- "Don't want to upset any of those motor chaps, eh Rowland?".

Down Rover!

Right, I just need to get this out of the way. The Rover 3-Litre saloon is the Unmitigated English motor car. I can't even start to tell you how much I need to be driving about in one of these with a Capstan on, an unrequited love that started when I made a model of it from a Revell kit in about 1963. This, oddly enough, is the year of my brochure, and also the year I fantasised about using one to force my geography teacher in his Triumph Herald into the ditch between Leicester and Melton Mowbray. The brochure has the Biro'd figures of a buyer-to-be on the cover, workings-out that suggest he was going to be relieved of £241.6s after part exchange. The full price appears to be £1,936.6s. Could this be right? And what was that six shillings for? "A radio can be supplied as an optional extra and fits neatly into the central parcel compartment." I have stared longingly at them for years, even growling when Margaret Thatcher was still using one as PM in the early eighties. And working on the BBC Restoration thing five years ago I curiously saw the backside of an unrestored burgundy example poking out of a delapidated garage near Exeter. "Wood cappings on all doors are of African Cherry to match the fascia".

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Kitchen Confidential

My cottage is what estate agents used to call 'bijou'. Apart from certain crab-like manouevres required to go from room to room upstairs, living here means adopting a very ergonomically-led lifestyle. None more so than in the kitchen, where everything has to be neatly in its place, or I end up sliding fried eggs up off the floor and slicing bread on the gas hob. Imagine then my horror yesterday evening as I stood in my living room and heard a noise not unlike sixty tons of scrap metal being tipped-out of a lorry through my kitchen window. I didn't rush in, thinking I would be overwhelmed with old dustbins and iron bedsteads. I waited until the noise had subsided and then cautiously poked my head round the door. All that had happened is that my cooking utensils rack had decided to flee from the wall with the attendant noise that only colanders, seives, bottle openers and an Ikea alarm clock can make when hitting a table, floor, cooker and 'worktop'. Of course I put it all down to an aftershock of last week's earthquake, but my son-in-law tells me that my cast iron griddle and chestnut roaster positioned at one end, and the fact that I'd used entirely the wrong screws and rawlplugs, didn't help. Do you need to know all this? Probably not, but the resultant heap of shiny objects was somehow reminiscent of the poster, sans ashes and broken dolls, used for Len Deighton's book Bomber.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Sepia-Toned Baking

Could this take its place as the Unmitigated Cook Book? I was reminded of its existence in the Ashley Archive this morning when my sister-in-law and I had a meaningful discussion about the making of cheese straws (called cheese fingers here), and she was reminded of this little book being given by my mother to her new daughters-in-law at their 1960's weddings. Fishing it out I was reminded that its boldly-lettered cover loomed large in my childhood. Mum's copy had a hole punched in the top left hand corner to facillitate its hanging by a piece of string to the side of her speckled-blue and white enamelled New World gas cooker. It was just at head height, so I would thumb through the baking-stained pages in order to point out what I'd like for my tea, just like Miss Be-Ro on the cover. Spiced Buns, Granny Loaf, Custard Tarts and Dropped Scones that, when told about them, I assumed had to be hurled across the kitchen after baking, much as I had done across the garden when first presented with a plate of tripe. All the recipes revolved around the use of Be-Ro Self-Raising Flour, produced by Thomas Bell & Sons in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Nottingham. It was with great excitement that I first spotted their big brown Albion lorries out on the road, presenting flours to the post-war housewives of England. Be-Ro, and the cook book, is remarkably still available to those who like to get a bun in the oven after a Sunday roast.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Sunday Palate

I couldn't resist this. A Sunday morning coloured abstract in Market Harborough, speaking for itself. Of course I do have to say that it's the juxtaposition of shape and colour that appeals, and the pillar box adds so much. But what of the blue box next to it? Being occupied with getting a bottle of claret to go with my leg of pig and the prospect of a couple of pre-lunch stiffeners in a little favourite Leicestershire pub, I didn't study it closely. Perhaps it's a receptacle for a spare pair of trainers and Lycra cycling shorts that seem to be de rigeur these days amongst the younger generation of postmen. That's it really, except to say that in there amongst the apples and new potatoes there's a poster stuck to the door for an Ian Hunter gig. All the Young Tubers.