I was flattered to be asked to contribute To the January-February 2018 edition of The London Magazine – the Capital’s oldest. I was asked to write their 25th “My London” piece which you can see here please – My London by Mark FR Wilkins . I refer to one of London’s tribes, as a  “typical” MGB owner. I suggest that this still holds largely true, despite that the owner may now be in his 70’s although the corduroy’s will still be worn!


These are adored British cars that have even described by Simon Chalesworth in his brilliant piece on the MGB in February 2018’s “Classic and Sports Car”, as the “gateway drug into whatever this is that we do with old cars”. I understand, that a good quality example of an MGB can be acquired at reasonable cost and by a proficient mechanic or a hired hand it can be up, running and looking fine in reasonably short order and comparable cost.

The MGB is a four cylinder, two-door British roadster – open topped/rag roofed sports car – produced by British Motor Corporation, later British Leyland, between 1962 and 1980, from its famed Abingdon (Oxfordshire) works. It used braking and suspension from the MGA and the engine dated to a design from the late 1940’s.

A previous outing of the MG brand was seen in Aestheticons with the MGA – please see here our previous piece – MG – MGA



The MGA is a stunner and I thought it couldn’t be surpassed but those who know tell me that the MGB is infinitivly more fun and certainly a greater level of comfort – particularly later models – over its predecessor. The Sunbeam Alpine, also featured here before, seems to have set an newly raised bar one that the MGB sought to attain –  see our earlier post here – Sunbeam Alpine – Bond’s first car

Below is an MGB Mk 1, in Tartan red with a black interior and red piping. It was built in Abingdon in February 1963 and was an early car; the MGB being first shown to the market in September 1962. This car, a stunning example, is Norwegian owned and had 22 previous owners!


The MGB with its 1798 cc BMC B-Series engine – which was upgraded in 1964 and again in 1967 – initially achieved a 0–60 is around 11 seconds but required detuning in 1975 to be comply to stricter US emission standards, the US being a key export market – you’ll note our featured image is a left hooker. The same year the MGB, which was one of the first cars to benefit from crumple zone technology, was fitted with black polyurethane bumpers to comply yet further with the US Health & Safety codes – some see these as a blight the MGB’s otherwise clean lines and great looks.

Variants including the MGB GT – which first appeared in 1965 – the MkII MGB and MGC that both appeared in late 1967 with the latter benefitting from a six cylinder engine in a MkII MGB body. With around 9000 examples of the MGC made by August 1969 it was withdrawn and is highly regarded by collectors for its ride and handling.
 In 1993-5 the MGB bodyshell was brought out of retirement by Rover and used for a limited 2000 MG RV8 roadsters to celebrate the MGB’s 30th Anniversary.
As much as I adore these splendid small English sports car my garage is destined for others. I’d be more than keen to have a die-cast model of an MGB on the shelf in my Man Cave – join me by clicking the Amazon link below the image! 


MG B MGB Cabrio grün Modellauto 10002 T9 1:43

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Photo credits with grateful thnaks – Trygve Sørli/, The London Magazine, Marc Vorgers,

Brompton Bicycles


I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.


It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike


Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike


BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike


BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image


Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium


The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Billingham 225 Camera Bag

Billingham 2

Returning to my core mission of celebrating aesthetically pleasing and classically designed icons mention must be made of the beautiful English made bags of M Billingham and Co Ltd – better known to us as “Billingham Bags”.

In 1973, Martin Billingham founded his eponymous business making fishing bags and forty years on the business is still in family ownership. Indeed the essence of the light brown canvas bags are reminiscent of a trout fishing bag my father gave me over forty years ago complete with many internal sections for reels and tackle. By 1978 it was discovered that a large number of their bags were being sold to a New York based photographer thus igniting the most important connection between these durable water-resistant canvass and rubber bonded bags, edged in finest leather and their obvious target market.

Typically a Billingham bag is full of sections divided by velcro sided foam panels that can be varied to accommodate several lenses, camera bodies, flash units and filters. The larger models also feature external straps to hold tripods.

The world of photography has undergone a revolution in its transition to digital image capture and a trend away from larger SLR type cameras – Please check out here our piece on the new Hasselblad X1D – Hasselblad X1D to the more convenient “point and shoot” or even the use of a high pixel camera like that of the new iPhone X. Yet it seems that the future of the Billingham bag, as the bag of choice for the professional or serious amateur  photographer, seems set for many years to come. The Billingham range has also evolved to offer a range of smaller bags designed for compact cameras and their accessories.

HB x1d-above

I bought my first Billingham bag, a large brown canvass 225 with chestnut leather piping, in the late 1980’s to accommodate my beloved SLR camera, a Nikon 801 body – to which I had attached a Nikon motor drive – and had a large flash unit, several Nikkor zoom and wide angled lenses, straps, boxes of Ilford and Kodachrome film – both black and white and colour – and a tripod. It was an excellent collection that I used regularly and produced some pretty decent photos. My habit of saving both boxes and receipts from my favourite camera shop “Fox Talbot” (that merged with lager rival “Jessops” in 1998 now owned by TV’s Dragon’s Den investor, Peter Jones) stood me in good stead. In the middle 1990’s, when we were away on holiday and our house was being renovated and some light fingered painter/decorator stole my entire Billingham bag and its contents. The insurance company were impressed by my proofs of purchase and refunded the entire loss allowing me to replace my favourite bag and its contents.

For me the most adaptable bag in the current Billingham range – and there are more expensive ones – and the one I have owned for several years, is the Billingham 225 – see here a live review of this bag –Billingham 225 camera bag

If you would like to enjoy the evident benefits of these most appealing icons of modern photography please click the AMAZON link below the image


Billingham 225 Canvas Camera Bag With Tan Leather Trim – Khaki

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Image credits M. Billingham & Co Ltd and Hasselblad AB

Penguin Books


Founded in 1935 by Allen Lane at 8, Vigo Street (Mayfair, London) Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930s through its selling of modestly priced paperbacks – sixpence – then the price of a packet of cigarettes!

It seems Mr Lane (later to become Sir Alan) may have had his idea for well designed and engaging paperback books as a result of the poor quality of available texts on offer at Exeter train station.

The earliest Penguin imprints were released under the Series Title of “The Bodley Head” a publishing business co-founded by Mr Lane’s uncle, John Lane.

The books were colour-coded, the initial colours were orange for fiction, blue for biography and green for crime – please see the titles reproduced below – and the first published included titles by Ernest Hemingway (“A Farewell to Arms”) (our featured image)  and Agatha Christie (“The Mysterious Affair at Styles”).

Design was essential to Penguin’s success and it was essentially very simple with three horizontal bands across the book – two of which were colour-coded. The initial design of the Penguin logo was by office junior, Edward Young. There is little doubt that the immediacy of recognition contributed enormously to the success of this iconic British publishing house.

The deliberately low sales price appears to have assisted Mr Lane in securing publication rights to a wide variety of books; other publishers couldn’t see the commercial sense in such low cover prices and anticipated it would be short lived. However, in 1936 an order from Woolworth for 63,000 books covered all exposure on costs and allowed Mr Lane to establish Penguin as a separate company. By March 1936 one million Penguin books had been printed.

The Second World War saw the Penguin establish itself deep in the national heart of the UK with its manuals such as “Keeping Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps” and “Aircraft Recognition”.

In 1945, the fabulous Penguin Classics was formed with a translation of Homer’s Odyssey by E. V. Rieu.

Penguin’s notoriety was boosted with Mr Lane’s decision in 1960 to publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. A resulting obscenity trial – which Penguin won – helped drive sales to over 3.5 million copies.


In 1964, Penguin published Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


By 1970 Penguin was in financial difficulty, sadly Sir Allen died on 7 July and six weeks later, Penguin was acquired by Pearson PLC.

1976 “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs was published by Hamish Hamilton (acquired by Penguin in 1985) and 1983 Penguin acquired Frederick Warne, best known for the Beatrix Potter books. This would allow Penguin to diversify many years later with an animated series of Ms Potter’s characters.

Penguin’s next twenty years saw it again as the fearless publisher including the release, in 1998, of Deborah Lipstadt’s book “Denying the Holocaust” which accused David Irving of Holocaust denial – causing Irving to unsuccessfully sue the author and Penguin. “Spycatcher”, which was suppressed in the UK by the government for a while and Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” which resulted in Ayatollah’s Iran issuing a Fatwa against him.

Penguin has evolved to compete with the new electronic book technology – publishing its own e-books in 2008.

Penguin Books is now an imprint of the worldwide Penguin Random House, an emerging conglomerate which was formed in 2013 by the merger of the two publishers Pearson PLC now retains a minority shareholding of 47% against Random House’s owner Bertelsmann which controls the majority stake.

I suspect for the majority of those reading this review of this wonderful and iconic British design classic, the memory of walking into a family drawing room or bedroom, seeing and selecting a read from a line of, often, orange and white coloured small format books remains a most cherished memory.

Like many of us you may well have lost some or all of your collection either through moving on, moving out or because of light fingered flat mates. No worries why not re-stock with these iconic little books – in many ways so much more appealing not – and I do love them Amazon Kindle Fire – on Kindle!

Penguin was launched by “Ariel” by Andre Maurois – get a copy here – please click the link below the image in each case.


Ariel – Penguin No 1

Would a First Edition of Hemmingway’s Classic be of interest? “A Farewell To Arms was the second Penguin release.


A Farewell to Arms.

The Third book published by Penguin was the “Poet’s Pub” by Eric Linklater.


Poet’s Pub. Penguin Fiction No 3

The Fourth Penguin publication was “Madame Claire” by Susan Ertz.


Madame Claire (Penguin Books no. 4)

And finally the fifth of the first publications was Dorothy L Sayers “The Unplesantness at the Bellona Club”.


The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

A Penguin Modern collection – explores the diversity of the imprint and the iconic writers who make up its wonderful stable of talent.


Penguin Modern Box Set

Featured Images from Penguin Books with grateful thanksby Eric Linklater