It's a funny process writing a book. I can't even remember how long ago it was that my friend Alison, then an editor at Ryland Peters & Small (and where she is greatly missed) asked me if I'd like to think about writing a book. Ages.
Last spring and summer, Jan Baldwin (the photographer) and I were already deep into the book, visiting beautiful places and friends; I was meeting with the editors from Ryland Peters & Small, sifting the material together and putting my emerging thoughts in order. Over the autumn and Christmas I completed the text and when I was (meant to be) skiing I actually sat in my hotel room and finished the captions, in the depths of an ice-cold winter.
Then you hand the whole lot in, well a little bit in dribs and drabs, to be honest, and then the proofs come back - first for the photographs, and then for the text, and there's a mad rush to finish everything and you forget what you were thinking in the first place AND you are by this stage so close to the whole thing that... well, the LAST thing you want to think about or look at is... your book.
Visits to bookshops thereafter are filled with that sort of 'uh oh' feeling where you think 'uh oh, I should have thought of that' or 'hmmm did we really pick the right colour for the spine' (or 'what colour did we pick for the spine'). And then luckily other things come along to distract you and now it's summer and it is being printed so far away that you forget about the whole thing entirely.
When my first copy arrived I wasn't so excited. I've got to be honest. All those long days and deadlines came right back and for a few weeks it sort of, um, just sat in a corner of the office.
But I began to get excited last week, when I was mooching down Marylebone High Street and wandered into Daunts, as you do, and there it was. Hmm. A whole two weeks earlier than I was expecting.
Well it turned out the warehouse had received copies early and the process of delivery was beginning. And then, suddenly, it did all feel quite cool.
So now, I look at the book, and all I remember is the happy funny times with Jan and me and all my kind friends who let us into their houses, running amok (well, hopefully, a bit more gently than that). And the very funny meetings we had with RPS, which were actually quite hilarious. And I re-read the text and it doesn't seem too bad after all. And the spine is even a nice colour.
I've snapped a few of my favourite pages here. You can order a book, which I will be very happy to sign, from Robin over in the shop, or you can save loads of money, probably get it sooner, and buy an extremely rare unsigned copy from Amazon.co.uk. Obviously we'd love to send out a handsomely wrapped parcel from the shop with your VERY OWN personal message, but I would quite understand if the dull joys of more grown-up internet shopping are more appealing!
Either way, I hope you like reading my book and do let me know what you think. So long as it's very kind.
The remarkable plaster ceiling at Glemham makes a dreamy endpaper:
My kitchen mugs here in Dorset, looking chic:
Old flat (farewell):
Parkland in Suffolk opens the book:
And my friend Argus's parents' Entrance Hall, streaming with light...
My neighbours Chris & Caddy, down the road in Dorset...
The Milligan's in Scotland... (Scottish English Decoration):
Oak smoked Garsington, home of my friend Catherine, dream house...
Apple green joinery in A N Wilson's London study...
Insane library in Suffolk...
Serene Library at my friend Craig Hamilton's House in Wales (Welsh English Decoration):
More kitchen perfection, in Scotland...
Even more kitchen perfection: David & Sue Gentleman in London - my favourite room in the whole book?
And Arne Maynard's kitchen in the welsh borders...
Bonkers wallpaper and fantastic paint colours at Garsington:
Classic aristo style at Glemham (left):
Plain and simple, my guest bathroom in Dorset:
Even more plain and simple... The Gentlemen and Garsington, from 'Rooms of Utility':
The Garsington utility room on the right, again, probably my second favourite room in the whole book...
David Gentleman's study in Suffolk...
Quinlan Terry's dining room - Venetian glass fireworks:
BONKERS Peter Hone at home in Notting Hill...
And brilliant yellow from Brian Webb:
The walled garden at Glemham, dreamily nostalgic... a garden book next?
and to end, a Ravilious mug on a mantle shelf, total bliss:
And there it is!!