Tuesday 18 September 2012


After ten years of gestation it has suddenly run up and tapped me on the shoulder. It seems so long ago now when I said to the person who was to become the Wartime Housewife "I want to do a book on English Towers". "Yes", she said, "And you could call it Preposterous Erections". Oh how we laughed, but lo and behold here it is. And what fun I've had. Climbing hills, spotting 'Twr' on Ordnance maps, being told of them in evening pub conversations. Once or twice I came across extraordinary erections that weren't towers exactly, but I couldn't resist including them. An immense pale green coal hoist in Goole, a white cloche-shaped folly high above a Cheshire town. And something new and utterly brilliant that appeared just in time to close the book with. Amazingly I've been asked to go on about them at this year's The Times Cheltenham Literary Festival. I'll be in a tent in Montpellier Gardens on October 9th at 4 o'clock, and in Quinns Bookshop in Market Harborough between 6 and 8 on Friday October 12th. You'll need tickets for Cheltenham, nothing for Quinns.

If all this wasn't enough, in a few weeks time the Goldmark Gallery are issuing a limited edition hardback. I'll be posting about it soon, but there'll be only 500 hardback copies, of which 100 will have a pocket containing a set of tower stamps and a signed Preposterous Erections cappricio print containing seventeen of the towers. After all this I shall need to go and lie down. Preferably on top of a tower somewhere with suitable company.

Friday 14 September 2012

Seeing Red

In 1979 I had the idea of creating a red poster, just for fun. It was simple; all I had to do was collect anything that was red of a convenient size, (pillar and telephone boxes were out), and arrange them on a photographer's studio floor. For weeks I rummaged through draws, trawled supermarkets, hung around waste bins. Friends used to my sudden and inexplicable passions either gave me things or lent them. Finally photographer Mike Brown let me into his vast studio in Leicester and I started laying mountains of stuff out on the floor. The camera had to be on a special rig above it all and I spent hours saying things like: "Just move that lightbulb one centimetre to the left of the child's shoe". This is the result, and very excitedly we thought of doing a yellow one, a green one- you get the idea. Well, it didn't happen, and the original print got lost. Until a couple of weeks ago when it resurfaced in a designer's plan chest in Gravesend and I'm thinking of doing a print of it. The plan chest went on e-bay, the print came to me. So thankyou Maggie, you're a star. A Red Star of course.

Monday 10 September 2012

Brighton Rocks

And so to Brighton. Well, Hove, actually. Although you never really go to one without the other. We turned up on Hove Lawns at 8.30 in the morning, for a reason that I'm sure will be expounded upon soon by the inestimable Wartime Housewife. For the first time in years I was able to just relax and take it all in. Being so early meant the light was just right for snapping Nash & Georgie's Holiday Pavilion. And oh what light. This time of the year means the sun's lower, perfect for photographing all those extravagant terraces and squares by father and son architects Amon and Amon Henry Wilds, and for picking out the details in shop windows in The Lanes. I chatted to a bloke who was doing the music for a film on Cezanne (only in Brighton), and he was revisiting the town after having lived here for ten years or so. "You have to watch it", he said, "It gets very seductive". I know what he means. It's any number of towns for me. The Brighton of Graham Greene's novel and the 1947 film Brighton Rock still showing through, the Brighton of the Len Deighton-scripted film of Oh! What a Lovely War that one uses to put back the vandalised West Pier. Piper aquatints, Southdown buses. The air, the light, the people. And that so pertinent quotation by Keith Waterhouse: "Brighton always looks like it's helping the police with their enquiries".