Just a quickie here. We went up to Lyveden New Bield on Sunday, and ended-up having teas and hot chocolates out on a lawn. They gave us wooden sticks as stirrers, and a kind lady came out with a tin of sweets. Which was very nice. The Boys soon ran off to continue a sword fight on one of garden mounts, leaving this behind on the iron table. I thought: how good is that, even down to the mop of hair made by a piece of uneaten (strangely) chocolate.
Wandering around Islington on Wednesday evening I chanced upon this cafe in Essex Road. I am now relieved to know that 'S&M' stands for 'Sausage & Mash', having initially thought that a cappacino might be accompanied by a good thrashing. Or, tantalisingly withheld. But what of course really took my attention was that lovely panel advertising ices at post war (or even pre war) prices. And that marvellous mosaic entrance with 'refreshments' underfoot. I'd bring all my luncheon vouchers here.
On our way down to Bigbury and Burgh Island on Sunday, in the glorious county of Devon, we came across a row of cars and vans incongruously parked in a field. " Hare coursing" I said immediately, but on drawing nearer we saw figures in the wide landscape hoovering the soil with metal detectors. But on the way back, (after malty Pilchard Bitter and cold Sauvignon on the island), all the vehicles had gone except this lonely Morris Minor. We drove slowly by, and of course two miles further on I said "I really should have photographed that Morris in the field". A turn at a crossroads, a drive back up the winding narrow South Hams lane, a very uncoordinated vault over a farm gate, and here it is.
At last, a messenger arrives hotfoot from Bloomsbury with an advance copy of Cross Country. This is the latest from the typing room at Ashley Towers, and so celebrations are in order for the next few weeks. I shall now be locking myself away with the book, my only company twenty Capstan Full Strength and a bottle of Baillie Nicholl Jarvie. I shall be like a dog with a new bone, growling when anybody comes up the spiral staircase to the turret room.
The areas covered in my Cross Country ramblings are: Southwest Cumbria, Herefordshire & Shropshire, North Norfolk, Romney Marsh & Dungeness, North Cotswolds, Essex Estuaries, Wiltshire-Dorset Borders, North Cornwall Coast and High Leicestershire (of course).
This week I've been photographing the remarkable stone-built town of Stamford in Lincolnshire, for a project I'll talk more about later in the spring. In the remains of the day I found myself at the west end of the town, and in particular on this pathway that runs between a stream and the water meadows that stretch out to the River Welland. It's called Melancholy Walk, and is in fact a raised causeway that ends at a few acres of allotments and an isolated cottage. Standing there I was taken back to a spring evening long ago, when aged about three I was taken down here by my two older girl cousins who lived nearby on Tinwell Road. They held my hands and patiently let me toddle on between them until we reached a gateway that's just out of sight to the left of this photograph. We tried to traverse an area of deep black mud churned up by cattle, in an attempt to cross the meadows, but I got stuck fast, my little wellington boots slowly sinking into the ooze. They pulled and pulled, to no avail. And then a man in a raincoat and flat cap appeared, cycling slowly down the causeway either to the allotments or the cottage. "Excuse me mister", the elder girl called out, "But our cousin has got stuck in the mud". He didn't even turn and look, but just shouted over his shoulder "Bugger off".
Yesterday I found myself round the back of Waterloo Station, as you do, my visit coinciding with a few beams of sunlight that were just starting to light up the capital. This is one of my favourite areas of London- Roupell Street in fact, where the street is lined with artisan's cottages from the mid-nineteenth century. On one corner is a delightful pub, further down nearer the station is this, a branch of Konditor & Cook. I could've spent an hour just looking through the window hungrily, with perhaps a frayed balaclava on my head and my shoelaces undone. But I didn't have time. If I had foregone trying to get on the M11 before the rush hour I would have gone in and bought something special. Particularly as today is Youngest Boy's birthday. Shame on me, happy birthday to him.
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