Before I say anything else, I have to confess to being a) so uncharacteristically 'with it' that I use a smart phone (well, not very smart as it's covered in beer stains and gouache fingerprints) and b) utterly absorbed with taking snaps with the astounding Hipstamatic 'app'. As they say, "digital photography has never looked so analogue". The software uses the standard phone camera, but turns pictures into unbelievable retro-looking snaps. Just like plastic-lensed cameras of the 50s or 60s. Flaring, blurring, generally messed about with, it introduces an eccentric quality you'd spend two grand a day with a London snapper to get. The next step is that we'll all go back to using Instamatics and waiting for them to be done-over at Boots. And if you think I'm joking, or for once in my life ahead of the game, it's already happening. The Hipstamatic 'films' and 'lenses' have curious Ikea-style names like 'Ina 39' and 'John 'S', and if you don't watch out it changes your settings at random, just for fun. So you can imagine how I felt when these First World War limeburning kins at Barrowden in Rutland, in front of both a raging sky and the limestone village church, were accidentally captured on a film called 'Lucifer' with its burnt out ring of fire. You can find out more about the kilns in this book.
Another collection started today. The sheer variety of local signs advertising fresh eggs makes an interesting I-Spy game whilst out on country roads. Well, that's my excuse anyway. It could be a piece of recycled wood knocked out from the back of a wardrobe with not enough space left on it for the 's' of 'eggs', or the remarkably enigmatic 'Bull's Eggs' found out on an Essex coast road, as seen in Cross Country. Local vernacular commercial art. Here's a lovely jolly example on a road leading into Wilmcote near Stratford-on-Avon. Note the wheels for running it indoors at night. And yes, I did call in for half-a-dozen, and a quartet of duck eggs for good measure.
You can find out much more about these fabulous art deco buildings at the inimitable English Buildings blog, but I couldn't resist putting these pictures up. I'd been in central London, and was supposed to be joining the North Circular at the Hangar Lane 'Gyratory'. But I was so taken up with ranting and waving my arms about for the benefit of my long-suffering passenger that I found myself in the tunnel and out the other the side in a flash. I couldn't correct my error until the next junction on the A40 at Perivale, but this meant that on our return trip eastwards we passed this stunning pair. I'd always wanted to photograph them, but either it was raining or I was on the wrong carriageway. I do urge you to park up nearby if you're in the area and take a good look as we did, and I hope the sun and clouds are as complementary to the architecture. As Pevsner says, this was a factory designed to impress the new speeding motorists passing by in a few seconds, a blinding flash of hygenic white that perfectly endorsed the efficiency of the household cleaners once made within the early 1930's factory. The 1938 air terminal above was in fact the canteen, and round the back is now a Tesco, whose signs adorn the front lawn. Their presence here is remarkably and untypically low key. Every little helps.
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