Dogs are everywhere

I’m a fan of a certain type of book, the ultra-local nostalgia-fests that have names like “Memories of Ward End”. They’re not heavy with detail, not well put together normally, but they’re beautiful in their sheer ordinariness. They provide the wonderful mundanity to go with the pompous history of the rich, but there’s absolutely no reason why you should care if they’re not of a place you care about. Alton Douglas has long been the Birmingham master of the “photocopied old bus ticket anthology” market, his books have a careful artlessness I enjoy. They seemed to have started quite wide a “Memories of Birmingham” and got progressively more niche, down to “Memories of Erdington Shoe Shops Between the Wars” (well almost). Which is why I’ve just spent far too much money on one on ebay:

Cover of "Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

Yes, “Dogs in Birmingham” (worryingly I discover available for 7p on Amazon) a book containing photos of dogs, in Birmingham.

Now the usual format of these books is a scrapbook-style rampage through the archives at the Post & Mail for pictures of an area of subject. Areas work best, everyone goes “ooh remember what Small Heath used to look like” (pretty much as it does now it turns out), but dogs — how does dogs work? How many dog stories are there to felch?

Not many it turns out. Virtually anyone who collected silver foil in the 70s and 80s is here, holding a big cheque:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

BUPA employees with a photo of a guide dog they’ve collected money to pay for, and another dog.

Then there are celebrities with dogs:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas
Left: Alton and some dogs.
Right: Crossroads’ Miss Diane (Sue Hanson) and real-life husband singer Carl Wayne and some dogs.

Then there are dogs in community news:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

Top photo, a police dog at Perry Common School (and not for the last time, I’d guess ;) ).
Bottom: Miss England, Tracey Williams, a boy and a dog open Selly Oak Do-it-all in 1988

But then, in between the reprinted adverts for pet food (and the very tenuous “celeb” stuff that wasn’t shot in Brum – Hancock and a poodle), they seem to run out. I’m sure these dogs are from Birmingham, the captions say so — but the photos offer no evidence of that. They’re just old back and white photographs of dogs, like these ones – “from Hall Green”:

"Dogs in Birmingham" by Alton Douglas

The point being, dogs maybe you recognise? I dunno.

My book of the year.

14 comments for “Dogs are everywhere

  1. brendadada
    13 August 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Cripes, Selly Oak Do-it-All. Brings back memories of a certain kind of hell. No dogs in it.

    There's the silhouette of a greyhound, life sized, painted on a posh brick garden wall in School Rd Moseley. Beutiful ghost-dog, really comes alive after dark, in the lamplight.

  2. Wednesday
    15 August 2009 at 1:17 pm

    This is truly amazing!

  3. 28 August 2009 at 10:41 am

    I think cats in Birmingham would be good. It could be a Flickr project, done with one of those very long paparazzi lenses. “Here we have a black and white cat sitting on a shed roof in Balsall Heath.” “Here we have two cats wrestling in a garden in Bearwood.” (that would be my cat – he'd be happy to help). It could even have captions, like lolcatz, but in a Brummie style. Yam can has cheezburger.

    Alton Douglas could be involved, but only if he promises to update that photo of himself, which he apparently dug from the same archive that he pulls the content of his books from.

  4. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  5. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  6. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  7. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  8. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  9. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  10. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  11. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  12. 6 December 2009 at 6:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

  13. 6 December 2009 at 7:15 am

    I wish I have that book, really wonderfull

Comments are closed.