Sunday saw us wandering around Carshalton in South London, popping into the Honeywood Museum of local life and climbing an early eighteenth century water tower, both taking part in the extraordinary Open London scheme where you can often see things not normally open. Carshalton came as a welcome relief after the day before when an insulation savant in Belsize Park got twelve of us shut into his small bathroom to tell us about condensing boilers.
My mate, (who was brought up around here), suddenly said "I wonder if the holes are still in the wall by the Ponds bus stop?". Indeed they were, as you can see. Every brick in the wall immediately behind the stop had holes in them of roughly the same diameter and depth. They tailed off in each direction. What can they be? Giant masonry bees? The only explanation we could come up with was that for decades schoolchildren had bored them out with their bus fare pennies. They're about the right size for an old penny, and presumably the brick is soft enough. And if the bus was late you'd soon have made a serious indent. But we're not at all sure. So come on Old Carshaltonians, have you ever joined in this communal making of brick Emmental? Or is there another even more unlikely answer?
So. What I want to know is, when the Royal Mail gets privatised, will it still be the Royal Mail? Presumably not. I can't find a news item or discussion that even mentions it in passing, but don't we think it's important? You know what will happen. It'll be called something crass like Post For Yoo-Hoo; after all, look at the high level of thinking behind the moronic and quickly dispensed with 'Consignia'.And not being the Royal Mail means we won't see the reigning monarch's cipher cast into the iron. I think I'm right in saying that there's a dictat ( probably stuffed behind a radiator at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office) that they will always be painted red, like London buses. But you never know what mindlessness can beset those responsible for looking after our visual environment. The pillar box above is in Letchworth, the first garden city. Looking around, the colour that predominates in the leafy streets, apart from the cream renders and burnt orange tile hanging, is green. Green leaves, green trees, green lawns and the original Letchworth green doors, drainpipes and garden gates. So what colour did the council, unencumbered with any thought concerning their fabulous heritage, order the wheelie bins in? Of course. A mind-numbing shade of purple.
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