Now. This is a really difficult post to write. Because I like Nicholas Crane very much, whose new BBC2 series Town started last night with Ludlow. And I had to turn it off. OK, I did need an early night after a particularly concentrated early doors, but I really did want to sit back and enjoy it. The problem is twofold. Nicholas came to our attention with his trademark umbrella sticking out of his knapsack in the beautifully informative series Map Man. And then he appeared striding around clifftops and harbours in Coast, or at least when that nighthawk Neil Oliver wasn't glowering at us over his shoulder and flicking his raven hair out of his eyes. But something had changed, and I'd like to bet it wasn't Nick's fault. He vocal delivery altered. Suddenly he was talking in a fashion perfected by sports journalist Gary Newbon on 70s Midlands television, and currently irritatingly employed by that girl who does trailers on Radio 2. A sentence that starts, rises up and then dramatically falls back down again. Everytime. It's difficult to put into words, but I hope you know what I'm going on about. The thing is, this isn't how Nick talks. I've met him, and he talks perfectly normally. (Certainly better than me on this particular occasion.) And he was on Front Row with Mark Lawson the other night, and was very enjoyable to listen to. So what happens? It has to be the producers / directors, the ones with headsets and stopwatches saying "Nick darling, we need it like Gary Newbon" as they flick hair out of their eyes. That's the onefold. Number two was the music so thumpingly overlaid. Why? As Nick reluctantly admitted to Mr.Lawson, what was really needed was the natural recorded sound of the townscape. Not the Ride of the Valkeries (again) just because Nick was giving us a nervous grin from a helicopter. Come on BBC, put down your clipboards and puffa jackets a minute and look at how Aubrey Manning did it. And if you haven't heard of him get a DVD of Betjeman out of the archive. Sorry Nick, but don't let them do it to you.
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) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)