To boil or simmer?

The latest issue of Best of British magazine carries an article I wrote after years of collecting snippets of information and photographs on a topic. It is about the drinking troughs provided for horses in towns and cities from the mid nineteenth century until the fifties. It all started when visiting Shropshire and spotting a trough with an inscription including the word Metropolitan, a word which suggested our capital rather than a town or city location. After spotting a few more on our travels – have you noticed how often once you have seen one example of something they keep cropping up – I delved a bit further into their history and gradually built up a collection of photographs and individual stories that suggested an article might be possible.

A Metropolitan Cattle Trough and Drinking Fountain Association trough now in use for floral displays.

A Metropolitan Cattle Trough and Drinking Fountain Association trough now in use for floral displays.

Whilst this piece has been simmering away for years others reach boiling point more quickly. The photos from a week in Devon included a number on a single theme and it didn’t take long for them to come together into a finished article which was submitted only a week after our return.

It is not just a case of keeping your eyes peeled either. A chance remark, often in the scene setting for an event or TV programme, can set the cogs turning. Introducing Antiques Roadshow on one occasion the presenter mentioned the name of the alley he was standing next to. I already knew of a few local names for alleys and soon collected enough for an article. I hadn’t found them all, though, as one reader responded on the letters page next month I had missed one from the neighbouring town to the Antiques Roadshow example. It did tell me that at least one person had read it!

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