I went to Peckham today on my way to meeting Alice and stepped into a fruit and vegetable shopper's paradise. Rye Lane has a fantastic concentration of greengrocers, all stuffed with tomatoes, plantains, mangoes, okra, bananas, aubergines, coriander, chillis (super-hot scotch bonnets), sweet potatoes and squash set out in generous and colourful displays.
I spent a happy hour wandering up and down and in and out while trying to work out how eight Romano peppers can cost £1 here while Waitrose sell two for £1.79, and five mangoes which cost a pound on Rye Lane would set you back £7.50 in Sainsbury's. It's not a mystery, as I well know, but being confronted with fair prices for fresh food does make me wonder at the gall of the major supermarkets - and the compliance of the customer.
Last mentions of corrugated iron on Skye, but it seems that I have stumbled upon a subject that is of interest to more people than I first imagined.
I didn't know it's referred to affectionately as 'wiggly tin' or 'wriggly tin', or that there is a Shire book on the subject (I have a feeling that Shire books must really be coming into their own these days instead of being slightly stuffy/nerdy), or that 'tin tabernacles' merit a book of their own, or that there are Flickr pools devoted to corrugated iron buildings, or that there people like Philip Wilkinson writing about them from a balanced architectural and historical perspective (see here and here) and Anne Ward who writes about them as an amateur enthusiast (on this excellent blog and this excellent website).
[old garage and new, separate, garage with modern corrugated metal roof]
But now I do, and it makes me happy to see that these prototype prefab buildings are enjoyed, sought out, 'collected', photographed, defended and supported by so many people. I'd like to think it's not just nostalgia that causes this, but that there's also a good reason to keep them standing, to use them, stay in them even, and to see them as an integral part of architectural history, and of the development of cheap, quick-build, effective and highly atmospheric structures.
[Broadford, since the 1890s]
Added: Just come across this book which looks great. I also put several photos of wiggly tin on Instagram and received some interesting comments.
Like many people, I guess, I pretty much take the roof over my head for granted; as long as one is there and it isn't leaking or being blown off by a storm, I don't give it much thought. Coming to Skye, though, has made me consider roofs in a new way.
We are staying in a single-storey house by the water's edge with a view of mountains and forests and ever-changing cloud formations, and it has a flat, turf roof which is currently covered in pink and white clover, local grasses and plants I can't name. It looks beautiful as we approach it down the hill (it's set just above the seaweed-covered shoreline) and blends in with the rowan trees and foxgloves and ferns roundabout. But more than that, it creates excellent insulation and has fine green/eco credentials.
Fired by this growing interest in roofs, I've been looking a various types as we drive around the island and reading about Skye buildings in the books on the shelves here. There isn't a great deal of literature on Skye architecture, but I have found out that the crofters' stone cottages used to have thatched roofs which was warm and cosy. However, they were later forced by landowners to replace it as it was deemed unhealthy and germ-harbouring, even though it could be easily be removed, burned and replaced after illness in the house.
Instead, they had to use the new, cheap, modern material of corrugated iron which is noisy, draughty and, in a single layer, very inadequate when it comes to insulation, although it lasts well and looks amazing when it's old and picturesquely rusty - to someone who doesn't live under it.
Nevertheless, there are still many small buildings here with corrugated iron roofs - newsagents, sheds, barns, houses - which are fully functioning, and the mix of old stone and new iron has become an accepted part of the landscape rather than an eyesore (according to one well-known book, corrugated iron was considered very unaesthetically pleasing).
Modern houses now have slate or tiled roofs, but there is also a wonderful new style of Skye buildings pioneered by Dualchas which takes old vernacular styles and types (sheds, byres, agricultural buildings) and turns them into brilliantly designed, light-filled and energy-efficient dwellings and offices made from Scottish materials such as larch, birch, slate and stone (several have modern corrugated metal roofs).
From now on I'll not just thankful for a roof over my head, but also thankful if it happens to be beautiful, interesting, and, importantly, well-insulated.
[I never thought I'd be recommending reading about corrugated iron in rural Scotland, but this study is really good.
It's hot and sunny, and I just want to go outside and collect cerinthe, foxglove, marigold and poppy seeds before they fall. But I'm indoors, working away on the first yarnstorm press title which will be going to the printers very soon.
I went round and round in circles trying to work out how to produce a book. It had to be easy, I reckoned, otherwise there wouldn't be so many in the world. But it didn't seem that way when I was beginning the process, and I got very tangled up trying to plan it all. In the end, I decided to abandon all ideas of dates and deadlines, and instead simply take it one step at a time and make each decision when it was required and not in advance. And even without the contents, ISBN, bar code, proof-reading, fact-checking etc there are so many small decisions about the book itself: size, paper, colour, typefaces, cover, spine, bar code, price, and all the teeny-tiny details of design that influence the look of a book.
It's been a really interesting process and very enjoyable once I realised that, as the publisher, I can work to my own timetable. It took me a long time to get started because I was thinking too far ahead and worrying about what-ifs. Finally, I saw that the only way to make a book is to just do it. No amount of thinking and talking and planning will make a book unless you write it, design it, print it, and offer it up to be read. So that's what I've done and soon I'll be able to see the results. The book is the first in Jane Brocket's Grand Provincial Tour series ('travel with a Brocket in your Pocket') and it will be available in early autumn via this blog, on Big Cartel, and in selected bookshops. (I've yet to make up my mind about Amazon.)
I've also begun to learn how to make books with paper and a needle and thread. Ever since my visits to the former Soviet Union, I've been fascinated by the idea and practice of samizdat, and I reasoned that I might as well have a go at seizing the means of production and finding out how I could make a book from start to finish. Yesterday I did an excellent bookbinding workshop at the London Centre for Book Arts and came away with three books. They have blank pages but as I can supply the words and pictures to go on pages, I now have the means to make a book, something that feels very exciting and liberating.
The seeds will have to wait until later, while I carry on at the computer, make final printing decisions, and think about hand-stitched bindings. It's not a bad trade-off.
Tiles, blue skies, warmth, fresh fruit, a good market, plenty of coffee, lots of pastéis de nata, great shop signs, a street full of haberdasheries, many rattling tram journeys, and Tom, Alice and Phoebe. All that's required for four good days in Lisbon.
I'm changing the photo while I carry on away from the blog, and these are my favourites of the last week. I had lunch with a friend at Honey on Tuesday - highly recommended for generous, delicious Middle Eastern food - and on my way to the loo found this wonderful arrangement of seasonal beauty at the bottom of the stairs and next to the kitchen.
Fresh peaches, fresh tomatoes, bright flowers, and windows wide open to let in a breeze - these are the things I love about summer.