The puffin has landed



A birthday addition (not mine)… he’s fairly brilliant and the slightest turn of his head introduces a whole new dimension to his philosophical commentary.


Holiday haul


Summer holiday: all those unnecessary possessions spilling from boxes and cupboards and wardrobes and drawers reduced to camping stuff and a couple of bags of clothes. And nothing is missed, we’re just here in the present. There’s a lesson there I’ve patently failed to notice, because back home I’m shuffling a new hoard around and wishing I could just ingest everything like something from the movie eXistenZ


Beginning with a superb Penguin from 1964: the cover is a still of Anne Bancroft from the film version which I saw a few months ago. A fascinating film, beautifully acted and shot, 50 years old and still relevant. (The write-up on the DVD has the slightly fatuous line ‘Jo Armitage has a breakdown in Harrods and her life begins to crumble’.)


Just brilliant typography – and another film from the 1960s I saw recently. Carson McCullers has such evocative titles for her novels (like Tennessee Williams, and some might find it a little melodramatic) but a phrase like this always draws me to a book, which is partly something to do with how they look in print and how designers can work such magic with them. I haven’t read Carson McCullers before but I know I’ll love this. I had to wrestle and choose between this and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe in the same edition. I wish I’d just got both but was physically removed from the bookshop once it was clear I was about to spend the rest of the holiday budget and probably throw the camping gear out of the car to make room for these essentials.

Huxley and Bowen

More 1960s paperbacks. To think there was a time when most books looked like this.

Bowen and Lehmann

Another evocative title that I’ve been looking for: The Weather in the Streets. I’ll just add this poster from the Transport Museum here, because it comes to mind every time I pick up the book…


Notable to see Howard Spring recommending this, a bestselling and respected author that never made it to the 21st century. I’m looking forward to the ghostly short stories from Elizabeth Bowen, particularly after The Demon Lover.


And lastly, some Leon Garfield. The cover of The Drummer Boy is by Antony Maitland. I was partly drawn to this by a walk to Easby Abbey in Yorkshire, passing a memorial to a drummer lost in the secret passage from Richmond to the abbey in the eighteenth century.

Drummer's stone

Whistle Down the Wind (vinyl version)


Whistle Down the Wind 7a

I wanted to name my blog ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ after the film with Alan Bates and Hayley Mills, so this song was always going to get in here somewhere.

I’ve been sorting out a lot of old records over the last few weeks on and off. Vinyl is a lovely thing, as are proper record sleeves. It’s the only format where you can really appreciate the effort that has gone into the design, with picture labels and the ritual of really sitting down to listen. Some records come out of the box and have gone sour, vinegar of the era in sound and design, and they fizz and burn out like a match of memory. But some keep shining, like these from 1983/1984.

Whistle Down the Wind 7

The photography is windswept and melancholy, and the typography as spare and crisp as you’d want. Probably this was partly to move Nick Heyward away from the bright and, um, breezy (sorry) pop star mania of Haircut One Hundred. It’s fascinating to read him saying 30 years later*, “I was the happiest man in the world, and also the saddest. That’s what the single Fantastic Day was all about. You’re really up, then really down again. Happy one day, crying the next… I was really melancholy. I couldn’t see anything else, which is why I was writing songs like The Day It Rained Forever.”

Whistle Down the Wind 12

Looking at all his records, there’s a particular brand of indie-ish whimsical Englishness, blown in from the 1960s in a bright and Beatle-ish balloon. And if the rest of his 80s albums were swamped and lost in glossy 80s pop production, there are still excellent songs here and there like Traffic in Fleet Street from albums with evocative titles like Postcards from Home or I Love You Avenue.

Blue Hat for a Blue Day 1

Doing the triple retro thing again… 50s, 80s, 2010s… a Daydreaming in Albion Award deserved for Nick Heyward I think.

Ten years after Whistle Down the Wind he was finally able to make an album of proper jangling guitar pop in From Monday to Sunday. The song Kite brought some fresh recognition in America, and French/US band Ivy late covered it on their album Guestroom.

Here’s the video for Whistle Down the Wind (with some great scenery for landscape fetishists)…

….and following it Kite, which is a perfect sunny day in Ambrosia.

*Quote from 2011, The Beaver: LSE paper

A romany sky and a house with roots


Two album covers from the early 1970s, unconnected, although there’s a good contrast of the anchored home and the perceived freedom of an open road. Both bands are from the era of electric folk.

Mr Fox - The Gipsy

I don’t know the Mr Fox album. The band came from a background of Yorkshire folk music: the artwork suggests the stereotype of a dark satanic north. The gipsy is dressed in industrial landscape – mines, factories and terraces – with fewer trees and streams. Quite interesting when you look at the current fascination with folk that goes hand in hand with more rural dreams.

Trees - Jane Delawney

The Trees’ cover for The Garden of Jane Delawney is fascinating. Are these the roots of a home, or the over-riding latent strength of nature in our built environment? (The tree through the window reveals a facade…) Or do the art-nouveau swirls against a perfect doll’s house suggest an Edwardian childhood innocence? In this way it chimes with the turn-of-century imagery and design that often danced with the more contemporary visions of the late sixties and early seventies.

The design and artwork is by David Costa, impressive artistic control by a member of the band. The title track is mesmerising, a trip through Keats’s ‘verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways’…

The poet’s voice lingers on
His words hang in the air
The ground you walk upon
Might as well not be there
Might as well not be there

I’ll take you through my dreams
Out into the darkest morning
Past the blood-filled streams
Into the garden of Jane Delawney
Into her garden now…

Dustwrappers from the 30s and 50s – the Joy of Text


Some perfect ‘text only’ dustwrappers, two from the 1950s (The Hireling and Four Plays by Tennessee Williams) and two from the 1930s. Aldous Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza is particularly dramatic – a lot of care has gone into the arrangement of that text. Such is the impact, it asks to be writ large on a film screen. I could stare at this font for hours (well, maybe a good few minutes from time to time…)

The Murder in the Cathedral dustwrapper does something quite subtle: it suggests a cathedral with a simple serif font reminiscent of stone lettering on a monument, but the diagonal slash of red shouts of scandal like a newspaper headline.