PETER Bray likes listening to people.
It's a gift that has made his slide shows hugely popular, particularly in the Holme Valley.
For it is not just his stunning collection of photographs that draws crowds. Peter's collection of stories about village characters probably helps.
"I like listening to people. I always have and Honley is a village of characters and always has been."
To illustrate the point, he and I (also a Honleyer through and through) start swapping stories about Honley people who we remember from both our younger days.
It is also why I shall be among those crowding into Honley Library on Thursday (November 30) for the latest of Peter's ventures, a new book launched in conjunction with Honley Civic Society of which he is vice-president.
The man who has long packed in audiences for a variety of slide shows and engaging talks not just about Honley but about other local spots such as the journey of the River Holme from Huddersfield to Holmbridge is now venturing into print.
And the chatty style which accompanies his slide show is reflected in the book which promises to have a distinct charm of its own.
You suspect that this new book, Honley Then And Now, has been a labour of love for a man who, with his wife Dorothy, still lives in the village where he was born and where he spent most of his working life.
Honley Then and Now is a handsomely presented book packed with 180 pictures of this Holme Valley village, some taken then, others captured now.
The book includes pictures from around 1890 though the selection chosen for the Then section are mainly from the 19th and 20th century.
Peter has then married those older pictures with companion images taken from the very same spot. It offers a fantastic perspective on a village which you may think in some parts has changed little. But Peter is persuasive in making you want to rush out and check those date stones and architectural features a little closer.
It certainly surprised me to be assured by the expert that Honley "from Hall Ing to Magdale" boasts an astonishing 200 listed buildings.
Peter was born and brought up in the village and his work as an engineer in the textile industry gave him a close-up view of local life including that of the mills in Honley and the people who worked in the textile industry.
Little wonder that when he retired, Peter decided to devote more of his time to his passions for photography, local history and particularly for the life of his home village and its people.
"People look at old photographs of the village and try and think what it is like today. I decided to take pictures from exactly the same spot. I thought it would be interesting and it's just blossomed from there," he said.
So much so that Peter's slide shows, Honley Old and New have filled venues inside and outside the village. And the shows have encouraged people to turf out their albums and photograph collections in search of images that Peter might not have seen before.
Suffice to say that many fellow members of the village Civic Society share his interest in their surroundings. And since the society has already had published a number of other successful local history books, one based on Peter's talks seemed a good bet. Specialist publishers, Tempus Publishing Ltd which is based in Gloucestershire are producing the book as part of a Then and Now series.
Committee member Peter Marshall is the man who has cast his eye over production and layout of the book and he clearly shares his namesake's delight in a village which he and his wife adopted as their home 21 years ago.
"I would never have believed we could have got so close working on this. Peter is steeped in Honley history and I'm a comer-in!"
But both Peters share a desire to protect the village's history as well as to encourage improvements.
And they share a fascination for a village which still has much to offer.
"Honley has a treasure trove of pictures. I'm not sure that every village has such a fantastic selection of pictures taken in the Victorian and Edwardian period," said Peter Marshall.
Pressed to chose a favourite from those selected for inclusion in the new book he opts for an inside shot of the grocer's shop, once owned by the Drake family.
"I can just about remember shops like this where they used to cut butter from a big block and wrap it in greaseproof paper. And in this picture, all the men - and yes, they were all men - behind the counter were there in their long aprons ready to serve you."
For Peter Bray, the fascination of village history is as much in the stories as in the images. And yes, there are some photographs he would dearly love to add to his collection.
He's heard the stories about a crossing, complete with Belisha beacons somewhere in the centre of Honley, and the tales of a bridge crossing from the property known as Bleak House to the old people's park on the opposite side of the village's main street and about the fire station which closed just after the last war. But where are pictures of any of them?
Come up with the goods on either and I suspect that Mr Bray would not only listen intently but would be made a very happy man.
* Honley Then and Now will be launched at Honley Library this week and will be on sale at the Civic Society's stall at Honley's Christmas market on December 2. Other books published by the group, including the third edition of their popular Honley Walks book and the newly revised and expanded version of Hope Bank, Honley's Pleasure Grounds and Gardens, will also be available.