Saturday, 9 April 2011

The final pit stop... and some afters


232 Kingsland Road

‘Fantastic’ felafel and a bottle of water

The shopfront states that Ali’s was the first kebab house to open in East London in 1969. I don’t know if this is true, but it seems an appropriate place to finish my own journey at somewhere that was the start of another. The posters in the window proclaim his felafel to be the best in the world, and the menu lists it as ‘Fantastic’ felafel, so I order a portion. I take a seat in the window and Ali, for I presume it is him, begins to prepare my food. A group of three men sit eating at the table nearest the counter and chat with him as he works. They seem to be friends or at least regulars. It is a long thin space that is dominated by a huge mural that runs along the wall directly in front of me. It seems to be a scene from a Cuban bar.

The radio is tuned to Smooth and is playing a range of mellow tracks. Kingsland Road seems strangely quiet apart from the buses that pull up at the stop outside at regular intervals. I suppose at this point in the road we are not quite Shoreditch and not quite Dalston, maybe that’s why.

My felafel arrives and I tuck in. It is unlike most felafel I have eaten before—it is served in a flat, pattie type shape and isn’t crispy on the outside. It has a slice of melted cheese on top and seems to be auditioning for the role of felafel burger. It’s nice though.

Another customer comes in and orders the felafel. Ali calls over to me ‘all right love?’ ‘Mmm, great’, I reply, with a thumbs up. ‘See, my felafel is different from others’ he says. ‘Mmm, fantastic felafel’, I say. I go up to the counter to pay and notice all sorts of things that I missed when ordering; a big assortment of photos of Ali through the ages; an old fashioned mincer with worms of mince piled in the tray and suspended in action at the mouth of the contraption; a set of optics next to the drinks fridge; and, I also see he is open until 2am on weekdays and 5am at weekends. We chat about the photos and he is proud of his children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren. I’d like to take some photos of all of the stuff, but it seems too intrusive, for it doesn’t feel like a business, it feels like part of his life.


The end of the journey

Over the course of eight weeks last summer I ate and drank my way from one end of Hackney to the other, and in doing so, took a culinary journey from one side of the world to the other. I chewed the fat with Brazilian football fans and chewed chat with Ethiopians; I shopped before Shabbat and ate breakfast at the start of Ramadan; and, I learnt more than I could have imagined about Hackney, kosher food, legal highs, and countless other things. I have found food not only to be central to social identity and to creating bonds with friends and family, but I have also found it central to the complex network of local and global connections that make place. The consumption of a fifty pence Polish chocolate bar produced by a brand that, in turn, has been bought and sold by British, American and Asian companies, instantly highlights the far reaching nature of such a seemingly inconsequential item.

Yet somehow, even in some of the more exotic, seemingly more ‘global’ establishments, I had what I can only describe as a local experience. Places like Andu Internet Café or Shanghai could never be compared to the global ‘non-places’ of Starbucks or McDonald’s. The service, the decor, and in Andu’s case, the lack of menu, don’t conform to any type of corporate masterplan. Idiosyncratic places such as these seem entirely in keeping with Hackney. It is a borough that is not only home to a hugely diverse population, but is also one that seemingly desires to repel major corporate incursions; to retain a streetscape that supports local independent traders as opposed to building a brand ridden ‘blandscape’ populated by outlets such as Costa Coffee, Pret A Manger, and Pizza Hut.

Some of the food I have eaten has been fantastic, with highlights being Turkish breakfast at Şömine, lunch at Andu, breakfast at Mr Bagel, and the double with chana from the Roti Stop. Drinks have provided my worst moments with Şalgam and coconut juice sharing the honours for the most undrinkable. However, ultimately the whole experience has been about much more than just food and drink. The process of engaging with place in this way has led to a huge range of experiences and reflections about customs, cultures and beliefs, with my own often being brought sharply into focus—often through difference. By taking such a central role in the process, one cannot fail to reflect on that position itself. Often this manifested itself in questions of belonging that ran through the full spectrum of issues surrounding gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality. So, whilst I learnt more about Hackney, I also learnt much about myself. However, differences aside, rarely did I receive anything but a warm welcome and genuine pleasure that I had enjoyed what I had ordered.

These posts are just a small section of the contents of the book—Food Miles—that was the end result of my journey. The next post will, finally, get round to talking about the design of the book itself.

Yumyum... an old hospital


187 Stoke Newington High Street

Vegetable spring rolls, spinach and fresh
to-fu curry and a Chang beer

One enters Yumyum through a very grand courtyard. The wrought iron gates must be over ten feet high and the courtyard houses a mosaic fountain, several Buddha statues and some small model temple buildings, as well as three domed, wooden eating areas. A flight of steps leads up to the imposing Georgian building with its large windows and flat front.

It is by far and away the most dramatic entrance I have encountered on my journey so far and must have been an important building* in Stoke Newington in its heyday. On entering one is greeted by a maître d’—all very formal. There is a large bar area and probably well over two hundred covers. This is some operation. The interior décor is all dark wood, mood lighting and subtly coloured translucent drapes separating the different eating areas and the bar. Tasteful objets d’art are placed throughout. The music is jazz-tinged instrumental covers, you have to actively listen to hear it.

We order some spring rolls. They come almost immediately, complete with a piece of carrot sculpted into the shape of a flower.

The waiters are dressed from head to toe in black and seem to glide across the floor. The service is professional and attentive, but stops short of being obsequious. It is a slick, well-oiled business operation, very different to many of the places I have visited along this stretch of road. There is clearly an emphasis on style, ambience, and a real ‘restaurant’ experience here. I suspect Yumyum is making the most of its position at the top of Church Street and catering to the well-heeled Stoke Newington set. Our main courses arrive, my curry is a little soupy, but very tasty.

I’m not convinced spinach and tofu is a traditional Thai curry dish, but maybe one that has been invented to satisfy the vegetarians seeking something different from the usual vegetable green curry. Before leaving I go downstairs to the toilets, where the opulence continues. Red panelled lighting in the ceilings, dramatic patterned wallpapers, polished marble tiles and a spectacular long red sink. There really is no expense spared here. I feel like I have accidentally strayed from my Kingsland Road to Stamford Hill path.

*187 Stoke Newington High Street
The London Road led to early settlement in Stoke Newington and much was concentrated at the junction with Church Street in the 17th century. A fine group of town houses was built north of the junction with Church Street in the early 18th century, and number 187, dated 1712, may have been built by the merchant Edward Lascelles, whose daughters sold it in 1755 to John Wilmer. Wilmer, a wealthy Quaker, was buried in a brick vault in the garden with a bell attached to his wrist, for fear of being buried alive. In 1794 the building was occupied by a schoolmaster and from 1832 until the Second World War by the invalid asylum for ‘respectable females’. The asylum was founded by Mary Lister in 1825 and intended to provide rest and medical care for domestic servants. In 1909 alterations converted the asylum into a hospital, which by 1917 was called Stoke Newington home hospital for women. The hospital had 31 beds in 1930. It moved to Stevenage during the Second World War and did not reopen after the war.

From its beginning the Invalid Asylum had a physician and surgeon in attendance every working day, and the attendance of a dentist is noted from 1866. In 1826, its first full year, the Asylum treated forty-seven women. By the time of its centenary in 1926, this number had risen to 264. The original purpose had also been extended, with convalescent and maternity cases being admitted. The Invalid Asylum was overseen by a Ladies Committee, and the establishment very quickly gained royal patronage, with Princess Augusta acting as Patroness from 1826 until 1840, when Queen Victoria accepted the role. Queen Victoria served as Patroness of the Invalid Asylum for over 60 years, and the tradition of royal patronage continued right up to the incorporation of the Home into the National Health Service in 1948.

Chewing the fat with some chat


528 Kingsland Road

Misir wat, kik alecha, atakit wat,
inerja and a spicy tea

When I first noticed Andu I wasn’t sure if it served food or not as although it had a couple of visible tables and chairs, one side of the room was given over to four computers along a thin piece of benching. The notice on the window says ‘we sell Ethiopian food’ but none is on display, nor is there any kind of menu. However, since having popped in to check I know they do serve food, but there is no menu, it just depends what has been cooked that day. I arrange to go with a couple of friends as I feel self conscious about eating in such a small place on my own, nervous about what I might get, and about eating it in the correct way. On meeting them I feel a little like a cultural tourist as I walk them round the corner to Andu. We enter the small space, which is busy, with both tables occupied. The owner gets up from one of them and asks the other two men to give up their seats for us, we protest but he is adamant. The two men move to the bench outside the shop and continue to chat. The owner remembers me from last week and asks what we would like. We say we don’t really know and he suggests he brings a dish out to see if we like it. We decide to all eat vegetarian and suggest that he just brings us three of what he recommends to make it easier. I ask for Ethiopian tea also.

Now we are seated I can take in my surroundings more. The décor is eclectic—a plaque with a stag in some trees, a Chinese painting, some African carvings, a hanging basket with plastic flowers, a large cuddly toy koala bear wearing a straw trilby, a couple of England flags of the type people attached to their cars during the world cup, and a picture of Haile Selassie.

I realise the room has a screen dividing it, and just behind it is another seating area, with benches, cushions and low tables. A slightly unsteady, elderly man wanders in with a red Nike baseball cap and a large, half drunk bottle of whisky in his pocket. He goes to sit in the rear room, and proceeds to wander in and out, getting ever more agitated, during the couple of hours we are there. Andu does seem to be part restaurant, part internet café, part shop, and part community centre. While we are there several men gather in the rear room and sit and chat. Behind us a man and two young children eat a tray full of meat stew piled on top of injera. Our food, however, comes on plates, beautifully arranged in small piles and with a fork and spoon each. Our plate of injera is enormous and is complemented by two slices of bread. I wonder if this is especially for us. The food is really tasty and quite easy to eat with the injera, which is spongy, and soaks up juices well.

As we are finishing our food one of the men takes two packs of twigs, wrapped in big banana leaves, through to the back. They all begin chewing the leaves as they chat. When the owner leaves his companions to clear our plates I ask him how my tea is made. I am surprised to find my Ethiopian tea is Yorkshire tea with spices added. He shows me the tin of spices, there is definitely cinnamon in there, but I don’t know what the rest is.

I ask him about the leaves. Chat, he says, it wakes you up. It is shipped from Ethiopia. He asks me if I want to try some. Ok then. It’s not drugs is it? He laughs and says its legal here. The leaves taste bitter. The men laugh at us, particularly when we swallow the chewed up leaves, not realising we are only supposed to swallow the juice.

On leaving I ask if I can take a photo of his front window. He is more than happy and tells me has been in Hackney for nearly two years, that there is quite a big Ethiopian community here, and that he wants to open up a proper restaurant on Brick Lane, but that now, in order to make enough money, he has to run the internet side of the business as well. He asks me if I am a journalist, I laugh and explain my project. He seems happy when I tell him the meal is one of the nicest I have had. I’m not so happy when I get home and find out the effects of Chat are described as similar to those of amphetamines!

So what exactly is chat?
Chat has been used for centuries in countries such as Yemen, Ethiopia and Somalia to enhance relaxation or to lubricate social gatherings. It is increasingly popular in Britain and is seen as a relatively safe high—an alternative to the west’s favourite drug, alcohol. Chat is an evergreen shrub that grows naturally on the mountain sides of many parts of Africa. In Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya the plant is cultivated and several tons a week are bundled up for export; the majority ends up in Britain for use by the Somali community. In economic terms Chat is Ethiopia’s fourth largest export, and in upland regions such as Harange, it is the backbone of the economy, employing thousands of farmers, packers, harvesters and traders.

Around 90% of Somali men in Britain are thought to chew the plant. According to scientists, there are several potential results of excessive Chat use. It raises the user’s blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Regular users can have bad gum disease and a tendency to lose teeth and there is a high incidence of oesophageal and gastric cancers among chewers. But perhaps the biggest issue is the affect to one’s psychotic state. Users can become agitated and aggressive. Or they can become manic and reckless, not sleeping and feeling hyperactive, and they may become psychotic. When the effects have worn off, they feel worn out, and can feel depressed or even suicidal. However, although overuse of the drug is condemned in Ethiopia and throughout the Middle East, it also is widely recognised to be as important, socially, as coffee in the west. Users say that it has no criminality associated with it, and many people insist that it helps to create a friendly environment, even to help resolve disputes. Chat is also believed to have medicinal value, being used locally to treat influenza, gonorrhea and asthma. In Britain, chat is still legal, but the leaves available here are seldom fresh. So the British user is likely to get only a very mild hit, as the potency of the key chemical ingredient diminishes within 48 hours.
The Guardian, 05 February 2004

Rooibos tea in a gentrified enclave


188 Stoke Newington High Street

A pot of Rooibos tea

I am absolutely parched after my salty soy sauce lunch, so decide to call in at Lemon Monkey for a cup of tea. A relative new comer to Stoke Newington High Street, it is a place that seems to have accidentally spilled out of Church Street. The interior is a junk shop and old grocery store cross; mismatched tables and chairs along with a couple of old shop counters showing off the cakes and sandwich fillings.

The brick wall behind the main counter is painted a dusky grey white colour and the wood cladding is in a Farrow & Ball-like sage green. What looks like a restored shop front sits above the joist that passes through the middle of the space. Painted in gold leaf, with a 3D effect drop shadow, it says W.A.HIGGS.

The overall effect is somewhat let down by cheap laminate flooring that is starting to buckle and peel in places. It is also a deli and stocks the kind of expensive items you would expect in the gentrified enclave of Stoke Newington—Maldon sea salt, organic Belvoir cordials, Maille mustard—you get the picture. I choose to sit at the end of a big, long table. A man and woman sit at the other end and from their conversation I deduce that he is some kind of writer and she a film maker. My pot of tea arrives and I sit surveying my surroundings and tuning in and out of the conversation at the end of the table that shifts from politics and the cuts to Boris Johnson’s indiscretions.

As I finish my tea I get up to have a closer look at the stock on the shelves. I ask one of the waitresses if they found the shopfront during the renovations. She doesn’t know, but the owner appears and tells me they did. It was discovered when they removed a false ceiling, and I notice it is still behind its original glass. I explain what I am doing and tell her that she is my gentrified English tea stop. She responds by saying many of their products are French and Italian. Good point, and on reflection, my tea came from South Africa. Maybe they are just gentrified Hackney then?

My love hate relationship with Stokey
There’s something about a lot of the people in Stoke Newington, that makes me want to punch them. Now that probably says more about me than it does about them, but it’s an extreme reaction all the same. For me the offenders come in two types. Firstly, the typical young, trendy Hackney types in their tight jeans, rolled to ten centimetres above the ankle and worn with deck shoes. Their look is completed with oversize plastic sunglasses and a trilby type hat. Secondly, and even more annoyingly, the self-satisfied, trendy thirty and forty-somethings with their three wheeler push chairs and children called Arabella or Tobias. I think it must be my nicely balanced, chip on each shoulder, working class roots coming out. But… I really like a nice cup of coffee in the Spence, or a lovely Greek salad in The Parlour, so it’s complicated. These rather nice cafés are only there because of the left-of-centre gentrifiers seeking out their organic this, and gluten free that.

A palimpsestual, cross-cultural mix


41 Kingsland High Street

Stir fried noodles with vegetables
and a bottle of water

Housed in a former pie & mash shop*, with a listed interior, Shanghai is a palimpsestual, cross-cultural mix of a place. Its walls retain the mirrors—complete with intertwined pairs of brass eels fixed to each side—and ceramic tiles.

The ones behind the counter depict boats that presumably are of the type that would have caught the eels. The main seating in the front area is church bench like, with a row of bar stools at the counter. I order a still water, as there are no Chinese soft drinks on the menu, and stir fried noodles. The water arrives in a fancy glass bottle sporting a Barnbrook typeface on its label.

There are four other customers in, and sixties and seventies American pop plays over the sound system—the Mamas and Papas, Harry Nillson—the waitress occasionally sings along, and she and the guy behind the counter exchange the odd word in a language I don’t understand.

My food arrives. The noodles are big and fat and are interspersed with strips of onion, carrot and cabbage. It looks a bit anaemic. I feel like I can’t be bothered to use the chopsticks that are in a pot on the table, and am drawn to the spoon and fork which each table is set up with, but I resist.

The table setting is perhaps an indication of their predominant customers. The noodles are floury tasting and slightly chewy. The other overwhelming taste is that of salty soy sauce. At the end of the room a large stone Buddha sits serenely on top of a cabinet that is full of other, smaller statues, which I assume are gods of some kind. The music shifts to eighties British stuff—the Police, Phil Collins—middle of the road elevator music that doesn’t interfere until you start listening to it, then it adds another layer to the confusing sensory experience. Given research into what makes a successful ‘ethnic’ restaurant, I am surprised Shanghai took this place on as they are so restricted in what they are able to do with the decor. On the way to the toilet, I see the back room tables are laid with chopsticks and two tables of Chinese people are eating. Is this some kind of culinary apartheid? On paying I ask the waiter if the china figures are gods. Yes, he says and explains that they are to do with wealth and success. As I walk out of the door I pass over the mosaic tiled step that reads COOKE ESTABLISHED 1862. I wonder if they lasted longer than Shanghai will?

(Photo by

*East end pie and mash shops
The first eel-pie shops didn’t appear until the early 19th century, just before Queen Victoria came to the throne. They sold pies filled with meat or eels, and stewed eels and began to serve the pies with mashed potato, as this was a cheap, staple food. By 1874 there were 33 such shops listed. The eel pie and mash shops became very popular with the poor working classes, as they served hot nourishing meals very cheaply. The shops began to flourish and spread across the East end of London, where the main body of poor working class lived and worked, and Pie & Mash became entrenched in Eastend culture. Licquor was, quite simply, the liquid left over from stewing or boiling eels. This was often made into a sauce or gravy by addition of herbs, particularly parsley which was a natural accompaniment to fish dishes. It was quite a natural step for them to serve this green gravy with their eels and mash.

A lot of pie and mash fans will tell you that they only use a fork and spoon and that it’s hardly de rigueur to use a knife. According to an interview with Fred Cooke in 1989 there was a shortage of knives during World War I and customers of such establishments nicked the knives, so only forks and spoons were available. However, in a subsequent Channel 4 interview with an Emily Giggins, who was born in 1908 and has eaten at Cooke’s since she was a young girl, she says that ‘knives were banned because of fighting between the customers’. Well, whatever the reason, using a fork and spoon has became a tradition.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A story about the hole in the bagel


2 Stoke Newington High Street

Cream cheese bagel

The Bagel House is open 24hrs and bakes its own bread and cakes on the premises. The three women behind the counter are all chatting to a couple of women and their children. One breaks away to serve me. A cream cheese bagel please. She puts it in a bag. One pound ten please. I hand over the money and try and start up a bit of a conversation about the 24hr opening. So, you must have to work shifts if you are open 24hrs, that must be a pain? Nah, I am off at two. Do you get many people in at four in the morning? Yeah, she says as she hands me my change. I sense she has better things to do than answer my inane questions, so I thank her and leave. I save the bagel till I get home. Lots of cream cheese, but I’d say I’ve had better bagels.

It strikes me that it didn’t say it was kosher. Does that mean it is not a real bagel? A bit of digging leads me to find out that Eastern European Jews brought bagels to North America in the late 19th century, and although bagels are considered ‘Jewish food’, they have no religious significance. Bagels simply have been popular in Jewish circles for generations. So a bagel is a bagel is a bagel, kosher or not.

A story about the hole in a bagel
I remember once hearing a story recounted by Iain Sinclair about an elderly Jewish gentleman reminiscing about his childhood and eating bagels at his grandfather’s house. His grandfather would always ask him to leave him the hole in his bagel, so he would eat most of it then offer the remains to his grandfather. ‘No, no, I just want the hole’, his grandfather would say, ‘that is too much’.

So he would nibble away some more and offer it again. ‘No, no, it is still too much, I just want the hole’, his grandfather would reply.

So again, he would nibble some more, until finally there was nothing left. At this point his grandfather would pretend to be aggrieved that his grandson had not done as he had asked. ‘But where is the hole, I asked you to leave me the hole!’

Lucky cats and paper money


134 Kingsland Road

Stir fried tofu with lemon grass and chilli, steamed rice and homemade
soya bean drink

We were planning to go to Quê Viêt as it had been listed by the Observer as one of the 50 trendiest places to go in the world! However, on arriving it was devoid of customers. The Sông Quê, however, is busy. We go in and ask to sit near the window. Too hot, we are told, and are given a table in the centre. With near floor to ceiling windows on both sides of the room the corner café is very light. The tables in the centre are in a long row, and we are sitting next to a group of young girls who are eating lunch and chatting in a language I cannot understand, presumably Cantonese or Vietnamese. The tables are covered with white paper cloths, that can be changed quickly after being splattered with soup stains. I notice that in the chiller cabinet are green vases, each with a pink rose, presumably the table decorations for this evening. The chairs are bright red and contrast with the pale green walls and the brighter green bar, which seems to have two large lobsters decorating the top fascia. On the bar itself sits a big, gold lucky cat* with its right paw raised in a salute.

I see a tray of white drinks being delivered to a table of young men. I ask the waiter what it is. Soya bean drink, is the reply. I order one to go with my lunch. It tastes kind of savoury and beany, but milky and sweet at the same time. I think it is probably quite good at counteracting the heat of the red chillies in my tofu. As we eat, the restaurant gets busier still, many customers are ordering large, steaming bowls of phô, which seem to come out of the kitchen almost as soon as the order has been placed. Our bill comes and with it are some little sweets—ginger and coconut candy, it says in English. To us it seems like a Werthers Original with a south east Asian flavour.

*Lucky cats and paper money
Lucky cats are traditional Asian items which represent good fortune and protection. Those who have lucky cats in their work places will have their protection as well as the wealth benefits they attract. Most of the time there are two lucky cats represented together, one with its left paw up and the other with the right one up. The lucky cat raising its left paw is the one which attracts wealth, while the one which raises the right paw is in charge of giving protection to those who keep it, as well as to the income attracted by its partner.

The lucky cat which has its left paw up is depicted smiling. The smile is meant to invite good fortune and wealth to come to him and therefore to the place where he is. On the other hand the lucky cat which raises the right paw has a warning expression. This warning is what protects your income from any evil. Small shrines containing paper money are also often found in doorways of Vietnamese restaurants. This represents a temple of ancestor worship in which paper money is burnt as an offering to the dead.

Friday, 25 March 2011


73,480 words later I am done and I submitted the weighty tome (all 9, yes 9, copies of it!) at the end of February. Well, I suppose I'm not exactly done, but at least I'm ready to have my viva. Somebody helpfully pointed out that if I could have done 20 words extra then I would have had a nice round number. Maybe whatever corrections I have to do will achieve that feat. No idea when the viva is going to be, but hope to have Prof. David Crow from Manchester Met, Dr. Eric Laurier from Edinburgh University and Prof. Steven Scrivener from UAL grilling me. If I am lucky they might all be able to find a convenient diary date this side of Christmas...

In the meantime, I am starting to apply for jobs, but obviously with the current climate, they are thin on the ground at present. I have been lucky enough to pick up a bit of third year teaching up at Nottingham Trent to help tide me over.

I still have more posts to post, particularly the final shots of the food book. But the sun is shining and I have no deadlines, so I'm off to sit in it.

PS. I have just noticed all the crossed out items on the list in the photograph. How very bloody satisfying!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Planning, prototyping and production

My desk has been a hive of hands on activity of late as I am finally getting all the books produced ready for binding. Probably the sketchiest my sketchbooks get at the moment is when it comes to mapping out how a book is going to work. In the shot below I am trying to work out how to interleave the different types of papers and envelopes into the narrative of the Stuff book. I really like these kind of diagrams. They are definitely a way of thinking out loud on the page; testing ideas in pictures.

The plan worked in the end and the book incorporates end papers made out of bits of wallpaper (liberated from Tottenham Hale B&Q sample rolls); glassine paper covering up full page photos of participants' favourite possessions; perfumed drawer liners printed on the reverse; and, three different types of envelopes that hold old photographs, stamps, cigarette cards and letters. These design interventions work in tandem with the narrative and, through the use of non-traditional media and objects, engage the reader through touch and smell, hopefully triggering their own memories of possessions, home and family members.

The book was bound at a traditional bookbinders with a buckram cover and embossed silver lettering. The idea is that the traditional format hides the non-traditional 'innards', effectively acting as a front door. When you open the 'front door', you are faced with vibrantly patterned wallpaper end pages—as if you have stepped into someone's house—moving from outside to inside, and to a 'close up' view of place.

The Food Miles book, of which I am currently posting some excerpts, ended up over 100 pages long, so when it came to pagination a prototype was a must.

Essentially this felt like creating a similar kind of mapping diagram, but doing it in three dimensions. As the book has a few french folded, perforated pages, a gatefold section, and a small book within the book hidden within another french fold, it was all quite complicated to work out. The prototype saved time, printing ink and paper that's for sure. I have just had the book perfect bound at LCC, and will post about the design when I have posted a few more excerpts and actually taken some shots of the book.

I think mapping or prototyping is a bit like writing in a way, as it enables one to put initial theories or concepts into practice. Coffey & Atkinson (1996: 109) suggest that writing 'deepens our analytical endeavour' and I would suggest prototyping works similarly, by creating a physical, permanent form that enables reflection and revision. Like writing, and walking for that matter, prototyping also 'slows thought and perception down' effectively forcing one 'to perceive actively, to make connections, to articulate thoughts and feelings which would otherwise remain at a pre-reflective or practical level of consciousness' (Tilley 2004: 223-4, see also Yee 2007: 9). In these examples the material form of the work not only aids this reflection about the work itself, but also, in a sense, re-sites one in place and allows further reflection on one's experience of place.

Richardson (2005: 923) suggests that writing could be considered a 'method of inquiry' itself, rather than just a 'mode of telling'.

Writing is also a way of 'knowing'—a method of discovery and analysis. By writing in different ways, we discover new aspects of our topic and our relationship to it. Form and content are inseparable.

There seem clear parallels here with the idea of design as a method of inquiry, or 'designerly ways of knowing' (Cross 2007) and both Burdick (1995: np) and Bruinsma (2001: 1) have likened design to writing. In fact if one were to substitute the word 'writing' in Richardson's quote with the word 'design', the statement would not only make sense, but would sum up well the approach of this practice-led research.

However, when it comes to the final production process, I find this far more stressful than anything else—even writing the thesis—but I'm not sure why. In these digital times it isn't as if the work can't be reprinted. You might have thought I could find some of the production therapeutic—cutting away the elements of the Edinburgh old town book, for example—but I don't.

It either feels like an RSI inducing endless task with the scalpel, or a task that teeters on being just a slip away from a severed finger or a need to start again. Luckily, I think this stress enables me to concentrate more and neither was there a severed finger nor a ruined book. The Stuff book, on the other hand, had to redone three times by the bookbinders, with the first two not being cropped correctly and some pages not bound in sufficiently well. They didn't seem at all stressed by this—maybe I should take a leaf out of their book...