Monday 31 January 2011

Latch Match

What's that word again, the one that's for when you start seeing faces in inanimate objects? Like Hitler in a half-bitten McVitie's plain chocolate biscuit. Incidentally, I looked at my almost finished piece of toast this morning (Waitrose Seeded Batch, Wilkins Tiptree), and noticed that it bore a remarkable resemblance to a map of England and Wales, my last bite being Cardigan Bay. I was going to blog it but ate it before photography could commence. Anyway, this is a door latch at Ashley Towers in winter sunlight.

PS I've just noticed another, very unexpected face.

Monday 24 January 2011


Bradgate Park will be well-known to the people of Leicester and Leicestershire. An almost perfectly preserved medieval landscape of 350 acres, this is where the city comes to walk, picnic, fly kites, kick footballs and exercise rotweilers. I was brought here many times on a Midland Red bus as a child, eating Spam sandwiches on the igneous rocks, snapping away with a box Brownie and once having an unfortunate accident in my trousers because I refused to enter the evil smelling lavatories. At the heart of the park is Bradgate House, a spectacular orange brick ruin that is one of England's earliest fortified manor houses. Started in 1490, it later became the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, nine days Queen of England before being summarily beheaded at the behest of Mary I. They say all the oaks in the park were pollarded out of respect for her, and by the look of the oldest trees this would seem to be the case. Walking up to the ruins, I realised just what a major part of my life they'd been, and I will bring my boys here again very soon, armed with sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper and their new digital cameras. But I'll make sure they 'go' before marching out under the oaks.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Unexpected Alphabets No 13

I love signs that are what they say they are. If you get my mangled meaning. This was spotted on the Grays Inn Road in that London last Thursday. And I love neon, which I may have gone on about before. It appears to have a long shelf (or wall) life. There's still a big 'Take Courage' in blue neon up on a London gable end, lighting up every night on what used to be a pub. I'd like to bet the owner of the building has no idea it's still connected to his electric supply.

Sunday 16 January 2011


So, farewell then Susannah York. On the day she passed away I was by remarkable coincidence showing Second Eldest Boy Tom Jones, Tony Richardson's seminal 1963 film in which she played Sophie Western: "Mr. Blifil! You can't be in earnest! If you are, I am the most miserable woman alive." I first saw it sitting nervously in Leicester's Picture House cinema (it was an old-fashioned 'X' certificate and I was under age) and remember thinking, as Miss York made her first delectable appearance on the bridge at Stepleton Iwerne in Dorset, "Blimey, who's that?". And today, as I heaved logs into the shed I noticed again one of the big wooden red 'E's from the main sign for the Picture House hanging up on the wall.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Sixties Players

Funny how the wheel of life turns. Or the CD on the record player of life. Putting the finishing touchs to my cigarette book (blogs passim) I was reminded that Procol Harum made an album in 1969 called A Salty Dog. And that the album sleeve was a primitive pastiche of the original Player's Navy Cut cigarette packet. I'd never heard the album, even though A Whiter Shade of Pale transcends genres and time to still be one of the best pop songs to make the Hit Parade; and I do have an obscure album of theirs called Exotic Birds & Fruit which I bought just for the still life on the cover. So needing a pristine example of A Salty Dog to scan in for the book, I sent off for what I think is a 40th anniversary edition. It arrived yesterday, so I can now tell you that the cover was painted by Dickinson, who, surprisingly, is a lady and married (at least at the time) to the lyricist in the band Keith Reid. I popped it into the player in the car this morning, and have to tell you I had to stop the car in a field gateway and stare out over the wet fields of Leicestershire as the eponymous first track swept over me. I thought it simply brilliant. Which is a good job, after forty two years.

Monday 3 January 2011

Blog Early This Christmas!

Well and truly thwarted in my plans to give you a Christmas Special, and having failed to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I can at last kick off 2011 with something appropriate. Considering my lack of getting anything done this last December, I can do no better than give you this excellent Barnett Freedman poster from 1938. It will act as a reminder for me to get my finger out next December. Freedman (1901-1958), is one of my favourite designers, amongst the last of a breed once called 'commercial artists' as opposed to 'graphic designers'. He will perhaps be best remembered for King George V 1935 Jubilee stamps and Faber bookjackets, but little recognised for designing an early Penguin chocolate biscuit wrapper. Happy New Year!