The Remastered Mini by David Brown

The Remastered Mini by David Brown 1

Today’s depressing BBC Brexit bafflegab-farce forces me to seek something positive. The Geneva Motor Show is, as ever, vast and glitzy. Aston-Martin rubs shoulders with Honda ; Bugatti with Skoda. There are custom cars, concept cars, electronic cars, driverless cars and even flying cars. Each alluringly lit stand is wo/manned by smiling – smart and knowledgable representatives. I cruise around seeking that single jewel; that stuff so beautiful that I have to talk about it. And there it is; the Mini Remastered. Albion’s little giant reborn, roaring and rearing to go. If this motorshow is some foreign field then the corner that is forever England is David Brown Automotive.

The Remastered Mini by David Brown 2

A surprising and rare wave of patriotic sentiment ignites an Austin Powered recall of the first car I ever drove together with images of Mr Bean and the voice of Michael Caine in The Italian Job “You Were Only Supposed To Blow The Bloody Doors Off!” I smile. Here at last is something uplifting from the land of hope and glory. This Brit’s day has just got frabjous.

The Remastered Mini by David Brown 3

These little chariots of fire are beautifully conceived and flawlessly finished. They are even more charming than Sir Alec Issigonis’ classic original. I love the fusion of the 1960s iconic image with contemporary design and build. However, they are not simply constructed in the spirit of the Mini. Each has a “donor” Mini – included in the final price – out of which are taken the engine and gear box; these are remastered so keeping the all-important chassis number. The rest of the vehicle is lovingly constructed around them.

The Remastered Mini by David Brown 4

The company emphasises the sculpted body-coloured wheel arch extensions; a flawlessly finished four-week hand- applied paint process; centrally-mounted exhaust outlets; handcrafted badges using traditional die-sinking enamel techniques; jewel-like LED rear light clusters and indicators framed by bespoke aluminium surrounds; chrome bullet-style door-mounted wing mirrors with integrated LED puddle lamps; a premium infotainment system, operated via a 7″ touchscreen interface as the centre piece of in-car connectivity; full-grain, British-sourced leather upholstery; elegant knurled aluminium gear stick and classic Mota-Lita® steering wheel. Cripes, Bunter! An arrow of desire might end up costing the pierced enthusiast 70,000 guineas! A Mini, a Mini! My kingdom for a Mini!

The Remastered Mini by David Brown 5

Keep calm and carry on! The Mini, as Jeeves observed of Shakespeare, gives universal satisfaction. I wander around the show. Nothing else spikes my interest in quite the same way. The Remastered Minis are victorious, happy and glorious. Cool Britannia! Twist and shout!

The Remastered Mini by David Brown 6

The Geneva sun slopes down to rest now day is done. The Minis are tucked in for a well-earned snooze. Their bed-time story is Peter Rabbit read by Mary Poppins. (Chuffin’ Nora! Get a grip, man!)

Lest we forget, the name’s Brown… David Brown. 

“And the EU negotiators, Ma’am?” A pause. Pursed lips. “Make it look like an accident, Double-O Seven!”


Photos by Bertrand Godfried and Isaac Griberg.

Death and Alabaster

It is hot July in England. The dusty scent of harvesting and the silent dancing of brown butterflies amongst the tired grass informs my senses of where we are in the universal round. Quiet lanes take me deep into the Norfolk countryside to a place I discovered many years ago and then lost the knowledge of where to find it again. A recent interest in photographing the churches of the County led me back to the small church at Stratton Strawless; lying somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Death and Alabaster 1

This unexceptional country church holds a true treasure inside its musty, cool interior. Along the southeast wall are two very creepy, tombs….or are they beautiful, poignant memorials to the great landowners of the parish?

The first that you see at the end of an aisle of secondhand books is the memorial to Thomas Marsham who died in 1638.

Death and Alabaster 2

He struggles to rise in his shroud and this, according to my research, is the first time the resurrection was portrayed on a memorial. His high position in the heirarchy of Freemasonry is carved below and a hideous collection of bones and dried hands seemingly press against a grill at the base of the memorial, creating a feeling of claustrophobia as I imagine myself thus imprisoned with the dead.

There are many memorials to the Marshams down the ages in this church but the only one to match that of Thomas is the tomb and memorial to the family of Henry Marsham. I feel instantly and extremely sad as I view the pale family praying to a God whose plan and will Henry presumably accepted as his family was destroyed one by one.

Death and Alabaster 3

The first of his family to die is Henry’s daughter Margaret at the age of one year. The dead, wrapped child stands like some weird pupa beside her mother. Henry’s wife Anne dies in childbirth with an unborn son in the June of 1678 and his son Henry junior follows at the age of twelve, being taken in the November of the same year. Henry dies in 1692.

I am unable to find out who the creators of these memorials were. Their work is highly skilled and accomplished, rendering in perfect realism the subjects. This I admire greatly and admiration begins to overcome what were feelings of revulsion mixed with fascination and sadness. These works are from an age so different from ours, telling us of their beliefs, their fears and imaginings, their story and perhaps of the requirement to be remembered in a way appropriate to the position they held in society.

The sculpted material is Alabaster, not marble as I had previously supposed. Alabaster is softer and easier to carve. It has a beautiful transluscency unlike marble but can be very carefully heated in boiling water to reduce this quality to produce a fake marble called Marmo di Castellino. Alabaster is porous and can be easily dyed to give it a more marble-like appearance, such as we see with these memorials. The memorials were restored in 2007 after the iron supports had rusted away and threatened to break up the Alabaster.

To the amateur historian and geneaologist of England’s past the Marsham memorials are a treasure. The necessity for great artistry to be used in order that the memorials were spectacular and would be beautiful to behold in ages to come means that they are undoubtedly works of art and ‘beautiful stuff’. However, one should never forget that within them lie what remains of people who lived and so can properly be used as a focus for a one-way communication with them. Is that not the true purpose of a memorial?

Death and Alabaster 5

Thomas Marsham resurrecting

Death and Alabaster 6

The Masonic symbols on Thomas Marsham’s memorial

Death and Alabaster 7

The sculpted skulls and bones on the Thomas Marsham memorial

Death and Alabaster 8

Henry Marsham junior’s epitaph

Discarded Hollywood Glamour

Neighbours moved away yesterday. They must have dropped a picture and left it on the street. Familiar faces catch my eye; one in particular always gets me thinking.

Discarded Hollywood Glamour 1

I separate the damp poster from its smashed frame and lay it on the pavement. The photo is at once charming and amusing; it was taken at the premier of “How to marry a millionaire” in 1953. I love the interactive snap-shot-moment of these three stars.

Discarded Hollywood Glamour 2

Lauren Bacall seems to be admiring – and tolerating with good humour – her husband, Humphrey Bogart, who is clearly admiring something else. I imagine that he has just wise-cracked something risqué to Marilyn about some juicy titbit that he has eaten and the need to wipe his fingers afterwards. And then of course, there’s Marilyn, the greatest female icon ever, just lapping up all the attention.

Everyone would know that smile. Not everyone would know of her courageous stand and work for women in the male-dominated Hollywood of the day. Few would know that after her death, investigators’ photos of her lying in her bed were published. Worse still, mortuary photos of her awaiting a post-mortem examination were likewise published. I know of no other celebrity whose person has suffered this particular violation of privacy nor been the subject of such a gross breach of medical ethics. I find it sad that such a bright star should die with such indignity.

The Lonely Planet at Terre Blanche

The Lonely Planet at Terre Blanche 1

Terre Blanche Golf Resort describes itself as a “Land of Inspiration in Provence.” In my mind, a reasonable claim. Even though it’s the French equivalent of Saint Andrews, I’m not only here for the golf. The club house and elegant surroundings are crammed with stylish contemporary sculpture. And big names too. However, despite the best efforts of the helpful staff, nobody can tell me the provenance of something that really captures my attention: a huge silver-steel-shiney orb sitting among some stunted oak trees that line the path down to the first tee. It is entirely out of place and all the more intriguing as a result.

The Lonely Planet at Terre Blanche 2

The object’s surface is covered with randomly spaced indentations of varying size; they are clearly meant to recall craters. It reminds of the first time I used a high powered telescope to look at the moon the surface of which is entirely covered by evidence of asteroid impacts. I read once about the “impact events” that have affected planet earth. Apparently, every 500,000 years an asteroid of more than 1km collides with earth; one of over 10 kilometres hits us every 20 million years (and extinguishes most life forms.) The reason that these craters are less obvious on earth as compared with the moon and other planets is simply because of water; many hit the sea and the signs of those that have had a terrestrial impact are slowly ground down by atmospheric erosion and plant life.

Fascinated, I wander around this lonely planet. I lay on a hand; the brilliant surface is smooth and very cold. On touching it with the tip of my nose, I detect a faint but definite metallic odour. I tap this beautiful sphere with my knuckles and am treated to a deep and distant resonant clang; it’s not a forest noise. Finding this sculpture here, completely discordant with it’s earthly surroundings, augments the other-worldly feel it gives out. Form and placement together result in an immensely satisfying piece of work. Does anyone know whose work it is? Or did it fall from the sky?

Herring Boats in Overstrand

Herring Boats in Overstrand 1

I imagine Overstrand in England’s late 19th century. It is winter. The grey North Sea can be heard crashing its rollers on the beach below the cliffs. The cry of gulls on the gale add but more wildness to the day. In the cottages here on the remote coast of North Norfolk, candlelight illuminates the dish of herring that form the evening meal of the population. This is a horsedrawn world, quiet, non-electric, non-digital, with time to think and ponder your life. Your heroes are the sailors who bring home these silver fishes for your dishes, the seamen, your relatives and friends, who brave the storms in their sailing boats – and latterly powered by steam engines – in order to harvest the great North Sea of its bounty. Death is always near; if not from drowning, he visits with disease and injury in a time long before our National Health Service. Such a different life from ours today!

Herring Boats in Overstrand 2

My imaginings were prompted by what I had just discovered on a hot, Summer’s afternoon whilst walking past an old cottage atop Overstrand’s cliffs. My eye had caught the exquisite rendering of herring boats – “drifters” – carved into the brickwork of the cottage wall. Each boat sails upon a sea of cement below the brick. The gaff-rigged sails, steam chimney and upward angled prow of the vessel speak of a deep knowledge of the subject.

Herring Boats in Overstrand 3

I feel a connection to a person now dead who took the time to scratch these important images of their life into the bricks. What was the purpose? Was it simply a love of the boats? Was it hero worship or some deeper, spiritual ceremony to bring luck or success in the hunt for the elusive shoals? All I have to work with is this evidence on the cottage wall. The rest is conjecture but nevertheless, I am in a culture now past. I gulp and a tear rolls. I am deeply moved.

Herring Boats in Overstrand 4

Here’s to you! Fishing here was your life; all consuming, necessary and endless. You were born, you fished and you died. Occasionally you would carve another boat on that cottage wall. Did you do it for me? Were you seeking some form of immortality? Whatever your reasons – thank you.

Herring Boats in Overstrand 5