The melancholy gap between Christmas and New Year is helped along by the Market Harborough Book Fair. Shelves bending under the marshalled ranks of volumes, (why can't I stop myself tidying them up as I go round?), with baize covered tables displaying choice items opened at the best bits, and the church hall window sills put to good use for what are obviously considered the also rans. Where I found this lovely 1950's guide to the town of Malvern, set in one of my favourite parts of England, Elgar's Malvern Hills. "Come to Malvern", says the back cover, "for scenic beauty, pure air and a warm welcome". The advertisements at the back use stock blocks of cows and sheep for local butchers and big briars for tobacconists, and a garage tempting you with the new Standard Vanguard has the telephone number 147. But just look at this front cover. This is what they call 'artistic licence' and whoever did this took a great big one out. The Malvern Hills are dramatic enough, but try as you might you'll be hard pushed to get this perspective of the town. To be honest, I think all he (or she) had to go on was a blurred photograph of the Priory and the thought that there was a hill somewhere near. But it works and is beautiful in its own way, and I expect brought them in their thousands to sample the delights of butchers, tobacconists, garagistes, drapers and outfitters, all clinging to the side of these wonderful Worcestershire hump-backed hills.
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)