One of the highlights of writing illustrated books is getting out of my usual, solitary workspace and going to unsual locations for photoshoots. Not that it happens very frequently, but when it does, it's a huge treat to see inside a house or building you'd otherwise never see except in magazines or films.
Yesterday, we did some photography for my next book (it will be out in autumn 2012) in a wonderful place in Spitalfields. It was a beautifully renovated Georgian property, very plain, with wide, creaking staircases, wonderful proportions and lots of light from tall sash windows, immense amounts of pale panelling and very carefully chosen furniture and mirrors. The owners continue the Georgian way of combining workplace and home in the same building, and there is a peaceful atmosphere of calm creativity about the place.
The real surprise, though, was climbing up a steep and narrow staircase to an enclosed roof garden, up amongst the chimneys of E1.
Although at first I was thinking of the Drifters, I quickly realised that a more suitable soundtrack would be from Mary Poppins (ignoring Dick VD's execrable Cockney accent). It also brought to mind the heart-rending passage in Oliver Twist when Oliver looks out sadly over the the soot-blackened chimneys and roofs of London (much cleaned up now - as seen below).
Even if this modern roof garden is more productive with its apples and grapes, runner beans, clipped box hedges and lavender, and even a tiny wildflower meadow, it's just as much a haven as Riah's, and the elevated view amongst a forest of chimney pots is still as delightfully disorienting as it was in Dickens' time.