Last weekend the Youngest Boy and I were in Mid Norfolk at the tiny village of Hardingham. I'd very kindly been asked to open their very Unmitigatedly English Fete, so I prepared a wandering speech all about rural pleasures and was going to recite from Philip Larkin's Show Saturday after apologising for it being a Sunday. A silver prize band tuned-up, bunting and chocolate cakes were adjusted and I went behind a marquee to limber up with throat spray and a hip flask. My kind host then told me that I didn't need to say much more than a couple of sentences because nobody would listen anyway. My ego suitably deflated I was going to give the mike to Youngest Boy, who'd brought a pair of kitchen scissors in his pocket because he'd thought there would be a ribbon to cut. So we kept it short and sweet and then got on with feteing. A red 1967 Eastern Counties Bristol single decker (of which more later) brought folk to the village from special steam trains that were stopping at Hardingham station. Crowds gathered around well-thumbed Dan Browns on the bookstall, rats were splatted in drainpipes, rides were taken behind a small scale steam traction engine. A kindly fireman told us how they cut crash victims from wreckage with massive bolt cutters and a Norfolk copper kept staring at me and talking sotto voce into his walkie-talkie. We thought the best thing was throwing three balls at shelves of crockery for 50p. Which suited us well enough, particularly Youngest Boy who was itching to do something similar to the Tombola table. Thankyou Hardingham for such a pleasurable afternoon in the heart of Unmitigated Norfolk.
I am a 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)