Funny how the smallest detail can act as an aide memoire to all things past. I took one of my boys on a tour of the sights of my own childhood- houses, workplaces, places I loved, places where I got to up to no good. I was born in the back bedroom of an 1899 house in Wigston Fields, just to the south of the city of Leicester. You'll find a picture of it on page 13 of The English Buildings Book- at long last in paperback. The back part of the house was once a remote Georgian cottage, but in late Victorian times large houses gathered around it in the fields and the old cottage was doubled in size. The original trackway became sealed-off as a cul-de-sac, and at the top there was a forbidding brick wall- I imagined heaven was on the other side- together with this lovely piece of cast ironwork forming the base of a tall tube that towered into the sky. We didn't think it special then, quite the reverse. For this, we were told, was a Stink Pole. Not understanding this meant a sewer ventilator I just assumed it was where 'Number Twos' were stored. Probably just mine. The lane is almost exactly as it was when I first propped my bike up against it- just more cars parked against the hedges. This was fascinating to my son, who stared at it and then at me and of course tried to climb up it. Something I never attempted, sadly. But I'm very pleased to see it still in service, 'doing the business' as it were.
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)