This is probably the most inconsequential blog post I've ever written (no, there's plenty of those: Ed.). It's just that two things happened yesterday that confirmed that we do now live in two parallel retail universes. One is how we'd actually like it to be: shops on a high street where we hope we'll get anything we want (within reason), and cyberspace where although we won't be able to touch anything we'll still get our hearts' desires and won't have to wait long to get them. But I do like to give local traders first dibs. So, wanting black Pentel Sign pens for a set of drawings I'm doing, I enquired at Ryman's in my local town. They were very helpful as always but not only didn't they stock them they hadn't heard of them either. This was the fibre tip pen that once rivalled the Biro in its ubiquity. On Saturday Youngest Boy discovered the one I had got and after a weekend of drawing and emptying it said it was the best pen he'd ever drawn with. A quick tap-tap on the keyboard yesterday means a pack of twelve are now winging their way to Ashley Towers.
From Ryman's I went to the local cookshop, specifically for sherry schooners. "Sherry what?" asked Bloke A. "Schooner" I said, staring out into the street. "Shooner?". " No, look," but then Bloke B (a manager I supposed) said "No, haven't seen one of those for years. Sort of thing you would've seen in 1970's pubs." I said thank you and left. Tappity-tap. Six schooners were dispatched to me this morning.
General ignorance aside, in both cases I wouldn't have minded waiting if both shops had said they could get them for the next day. After all, I know all about Click 'n' Collect now, after having had my first go at it with John Lewis and Waitrose on Saturday. (All went very well until I had to show the girl my driving licence which has a picture of myself sans spectacles that looks like a Photofit of a serial killer.) I know, I know. I've just got to accept how it is, and leave Ryman's for the coloured plastic folders I like and the cookshop for bright red teapots.
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