Ifirst became aware of This England when I returned to Britain after living for over 30 years in the Middle East, first in Basrah, Iraq and then Abu Dhabi in the UAE. But it was as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Abu Dhabi that started my article writing, mostly about teaching but also reflections about life in an Arab society. But back in England on a permanent basis, I had the opportunity to discover or rediscover places that interested me, be it regarding history, architecture or landscape. Not forgetting the people who had made a meaningful contribution to their fields of interest or expertise. So my article writing continued. But I needed an outlet, hopefully a market too. Fortunately, my articles seemed to tick just the right boxes for This England and thus began a happy and successful association.
How do I choose my subjects? In a variety of ways. Anniversaries of births, deaths and significant events are a good starting point. So too is finding somewhere or something unique. Bromley House, a private library in Nottingham, certainly qualified in this respect. Research is essential. Capability Brown was a point in question. Familiar with his name but little else, I devoured books about his life and work as well as enjoying several of his gardens at first hand.
And once in the field, the appropriate equipment is vital — notebook, camera, eyes and ears. In particular, I try to discover some nugget of information that exudes the atmosphere of a place or reveals the character of a person. Recently on holiday in Looe, Cornwall, I was fascinated by a young boy crabbing by the harbour. The words, “crustaceans, claws, translucent” floated into my consciousness, already destined for my next article.