Now this location really does still look like this. Could be anywhere, you might think, so I'll give you a big clue. I first discovered it on August 5th 1978, whilst on an excessively self indulgent shoot around England with a photographer, and it was here that we heard on the radio that Victor Hasselblad had died. In memoriam my friend shot film off into the air like a Provo gunman, and his Hasselblad promptly jammed, causing us to revise our plans. (Well, we still went into the pub.) Then we looked at each other, both of us thinking how incredibly appropriate our location was for this to happen. Does that help?
Oh what a joyful sign! Morph the word 'vicarage' into 'Animal' and we've got a superb cover for Orwell's farmyard classic. And it does what it says on the sign, with a field of hens over the hedge scratching about being admired by a Kellogg's Corn Flakes box rooster. And if all that wasn't enough there's a cut-out pink pig on the ridge of a nearby barn roof and another little sign talking of Homemade Cakes. All that's brilliant about the English countryside in just a twenty yard stretch of road between Southwick and Bulwick in North East Northamptonshire. Quite possibly the best farm sign I've seen; cue Viv Stanshall's Jollity Farm.
Another well-photographed English village. A regular in books called things like Our Homeland in Colour, I haven't seen it pictured in recent years. But it still looks like this, much as it did in 1972 when I used to drive here in my Mini Moke to pick up the Sunday papers from a shop on the left hand side of the photograph.
And so to the northernmost outposts of Nottinghamshire. Quite by accident I found myself on an old section of the Bawtry to Gainsborough road at a place remarkably called Drakeholes, and this pair of delightful, if somewhat forlorn, pair of lodges. Until recently they were apparently so overgrown they looked like they were constructed with architectural growths of ivy and other rampant vegetation. Now it's all been cleared away in anticipation of restoration, revealing the lodges as almost X-rays of buildings with the appearance of red brick both under the peeling stucco and in precariously revealed foundations. They once heralded a now lost driveway to Wiseton Hall, built in the early eighteenth century for the Acklom family but demolished and replaced by a smaller house in 1960. Equally remarkable is the fact that the foreground seen here is in fact the start of a tunnel on the Chesterfield Canal, which just to the north makes a sudden right-hand turn before decanting into the broad reaches of the River Trent at West Stockwith. A tiny brick tunnel entrance is just out of shot, adding another fascinating glimpse of an all but forgotten age.
This is one of England's most photographed villages. But almost never from this angle. That's because, as you can see, the sun's in the wrong place to give the traditional chocolate box kind of view. Which is why I like it. We stayed here once with my parents and our Border Collie called Newky, much loved by my father who would stand at the cottage gate every morning with her chatting to passers-by. (That's my dad talking, not the dog. Although in our family...) "Newky?" I hear you say over your Weetabix. For some unfathomable reason us young uns in the mid 1970s named our pets after the beer we drank in our respective villages. There were dogs called Barnsley (a defunct northern bitter taken over by Courage I think), Guinness, Ruddles and Newcastle Brown, which was a hopelessly impractical name for a dog that quickly got edited down to its bar room shorthand. I think there was an Adnam somewhere.
Watch out if you're ever in a car with me and you haven't been driven across Blackheath before. The chances are I will suddenly hang a right (or left) at the roundabout and head through the gates of Greenwich Park. At the end of the long tree-lined drive is one of the best views in London, down across the park to the Queen's House, Greenwich Hospital, the Isle of Dogs and that glorious sweeping bend of the Thames. To one side is the Royal Observatory with its one o'clock timeball, and everywhere else two thousand backpackers not looking at anything much at all unless it's each other. I was down here on Monday, and after dodging a traffic warden hiding amongst the trees I spotted this little tea pavilion and thought "I really like this". The shape, the use of render and red brick, the judicious lettering and of course that lovely little dovecote perched on top. I don't think much to the injudicious planters, but I could happily spend an hour or two in here, hands round a warming mug of Bovril waiting for the timeball to drop.
I used to visit this town often, but can't honestly remember this market place. I know there's a propensity to radically alter town centres, but it would have been a bit much to pull down this fifteenth century half-timbered building. Need a clue? The town hosts a department store whose van livery adorns one of the most expensive pre-war Dinky Toys ever sold at auction. One thing's certain, you wouldn't wander about here now with your shopping basket, in and out of the traffic. Of course someone will now tell me it's a traffic-free zone.
Caught in the headlights returning home on Tuesday night. I've never seen this sign before, and can only assume it was meant, along with a others strung out down the lane, as a safety instruction to workmen. Except that neither roadworks or roadmen were in evidence. And so the mind starts playing games about what one's supposed to do, and where does one find a banksman at this time of night. And do I have to reverse, or is that backwards thinking?
What can I say? Or as Only Daughter said on the phone at half past eight this morning "Never mind 'Where's That Then' what about 'Where Are You Then?'". But how is it possible that a brand new computer, installed last July, can just suddenly decide to not do anything? Aren't they supposed to mend themselves or something, apologising profusedly whilst they're doing it? Anyway, that's my excuse for the extreme tardiness of this week's puzzle picture. Great shot though, ain't it? From a new discovery, a 1948 book photographed by Val Doone (no, really). And of a place I'm not really very familiar with, having rushed about it at eight o'clock on a summer's morning and driven off. I must return.
I think that the first time I heard of the kiwi, or indeed saw its picture, was on the eponymous boot polish tin. Although not English in origin, the very look of this particular tin (my guess is 1952-ish) is so redolent of newspaper laid out on the kitchen table and a row of shoes lined-up waiting for my father's robust military applications of polish. And the subsequent buffing-up with a yellow duster accompanied by either a Player's on the go or his tongue sticking out for some reason (like he did when he drove his car). William Ramsay first made the polish in 1906, in Australia oddly enough, but his wife was a New Zealander and so he named his product after the endemic flightless bird of her native country. Now it accounts for two thirds of all shoe polish sales in the world, and is accredited for popularising the kiwi as the country's national symbol. I thank fellow designers Philip Amis and Peter Denmark for giving me this empty tin in 1975. "We think you ought to have this", they said solemnly.
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)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph