Paul Gascoigne, as I will always think of him. For those who read my blog and don’t know the names of every footballer I mention (and I mention a few), Paul Gascoigne – aka “Gazza” – was a player from the late 1980s to early 2000s, who had perhaps his greatest playing period while a young cheeky lad in the white shirts of Tottenham, scoring a bullet of a free-kick against Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi-Final in 1991. As an England player he was perhaps the most ‘gifted’ player of his generation, playing with unrivaled passion yet a tinge of tragedy, famously crying on the pitch after receiving a yellow card (undeservedly) in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany, meaning he would have missed the final, if England had been any good at penalties. He became a national hero and an international icon. His golden spell at Tottenham ended with an FA Cup medal in 1991, though he never finished that match, having been so hyped up that he attempted to kick a hole in the chest of one player (laughed off by the Gazza-loving ref) before seriously injuring himself trying to remove the legs of Nottingham Forest’s Cary Charles. That injury put him out for a year, after which he was transferred to Lazio, and so on and so on. You can look up his history in Wikipedia or something. While he had a few moments of wonder, such as his amazing goal against Scotland at Euro 96, Gazza never quite reached the heights we knew he was capable of. Injury, personal issues, drinking, (cf Chris Evans and Jimmy Five-Bellies), famously being left out of the 98 World Cup squad, he never could live up to the hype of being Gazza. For me and so many other Tottenham fans, that free kick against Arsenal was the defining moment (and for me, all the more fun as I watched the match with my Arsenal-supporting dad). At his best there was nobody in the country even close.
Gazza has had a lot of trouble in his life since his glory days, alcoholism, domestic troubles, mental health issues. And now last week he was admitted into a treatment centre in the US, having suffered another setback in his health. It’s unlikely he will ever be free of his demons, but I’ll always think of him like this, young, cheeky and brilliant.
AVB – or Andre Villas-Boas as he prefers to be called – is the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. He is also Manager of the Month for December, following Spurs’ fantastic run lately. He is young too, and the first Spurs manager ever who is younger than me. He doesn’t like shaving (I can relate, though I can’t do stubble for very long without getting grumpy about it). I drew him yesterday lunchtime, when I was too tired to leave the office for lunch, and stayed in to draw on one of many envelopes I get at this time of year (this one is from Shandong University in China). It has been a very busy week, with an even busier one to come. In fact I was so tired yesterday that when I got home I fell asleep almost straight away, and when I woke up at half past five this morning this man was on the TV, leading Spurs in a 0-0 draw against his predecessor, Harry Redknapp, now boss of bottom-placed QPR. I like AVB. “A valuable boss.”
Here is a beer for the hot weather (and, while today has finally cooled off a little, we here in Davis have had a very long hot summer). Great White is brewed by Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka (I always read that as ‘Lost Coats’, with images of standing around by those coat places in nightclubs), and is very refreshing and tasty on a hot evening. In the pub, the beer pump is shaped like a shark. This is sketched in my ‘beer’ book, a brown paper sketchbook I’ve had for a while.
Last Saturday was national beer day, apparently, so I partook by having (and drawing) a couple from the Blue Moon Brewing Co. They make a nice wheat beer, but also make nice seasonal beers, my favourite of which is the Winter Abbey Ale, below, which is now off the shelves. Above is their Belgian style pale ale, Pale Moon, which was also very nice. I drank them and drew them (except for the bottle below which I drew later) while watching a movie on cable, “I Am Number Four”, which I think may have required more than two beers to fully appreciate the subtleties of.
Chimay Bleu, a very popular Trappist beer in Belgium. When I spent a year there I only had it the once, it wasn’t really my thing, very dark, but the Charleroi locals loved it, king of the Trappists. I like the glass, and brought my Chimay glass with me to America, it’s nice to eat ice cream or trifle out of. Anyway, my wife got me one recently so I had it tonight while watching the telly, and of course I had to draw it in the brown paper beer book.
Last night, I partied like it was 1999. That is to say, I went to see the Phantom Menace. In 3D. I know I always say that 3D is shite, and that Phantom Menace is, largely, also shite, but I couldn’t wait – this would be awesome man! Well, the chance to see Star Wars, any Star Wars, on the big screen again couldn’t be passed up. Phantom Menace has its faults (I am looking squarely at you, Jar-Jar Binks – time has not made it easier to forgive the Gungan for his hapless existence) but in many places it is quite great – Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon is someone everyone would want to know, a favourite uncle, Obi-Wan’s lightsabre skills are still world class, and I think Jake Lloyd was superb as young Anakin. They made some improvements, fixing Yoda from that terrible puppet to a digital one that more closely resembles the original puppet, and switching all of Amidala’s lines with ones that made sense (actually they didn’t do that, sadly). I was reminded of how excited everyone was when the trailer first aired, when double-bladed lightsabre wielding face-painting experiment Darth Maul told us he would be revealed to the Jedi. But was it 3D? Nope.
It’s hard to just switch a regular movie into a 3D movie, I guess. I remember seeing Jaws 3D at the pictures when I was a kid and jumping out of my seat when a harpoon flew out of the screen – now that was 3D (actually, Edgware cinema it may have been a real harpoon, looking back). There were trailers for new 3D movies last night which did look quite spectacular, but they were made with 3D in mind. Phantom Menace just wasn’t. Not even the podraces, exciting though they were, particularly flew out of screen. The most 3D bit, seriously, was when Watto was speaking Huttese and the subtitles came up. I was like, “oooh floating letters!” After a while, the 3D glasses (“3D – Real D” it says, whatever the heck that is supposed to be) were bugging me. I expected those light cardboard ones you used to get, red on one side, blue on the other, but these were proper plastic sunglasses. They’re great, if you don’t already have glasses on. They fit over your glasses, but wearing two sets of specs is a real pain on the nose.
Still, after Darth Maul went to pieces, after Qui-Gon Jinn was set on fire and after the Gungans paraded their vuvuzelas in the streets of Naboo (with Palpatine looking on saying to himself, seriously what part of “wipe them out” did they not understand??), it was fun to come out of the movie theatre feeling like I had relived the olden days. I then fancied a beer and a sketch. One other thing I did in 1999 was spend a couple of weeks in Prague, so I went to local pub Little Prague for some Czech beer. I’ve drawn this place several times before, and this time I drew on a brown envelope (from Peking University), using a uniball vision micro, a superb Y&G Calligraphy pen, and a white gel pen. Oh and a bit of warm grey Pitt brush pen. Took me about an hour and a half, while people milled about dancing and drinking. I like Little Prague, but the music on Friday nights can be a bit loud and, well, not my thing. Lots of others seemed to enjoy it though, but I concentrated on drawing all those bottles. I considered extending the envelope to draw the rest of the bar (I would love to do a curving panoramic of this bar sometime, perhaps on a less busy evening). I would like some time to organize a Drink and Draw type group here in Davis, something that seems to be popular in other cities. In the meantime, here’s wondering how the other Star Wars films will look in 3D. I think I can guess!
Occasionally, I really miss London. Sure, there is a lot to be improved (for example, when I drank this bottle of London Pride I actually put it in the fridge first – tastes much better cold). When a man is tired of London, he’s usually tired of the Underground, or the council tax. And it’s just so crowded, and so many good stores have closed, and the weather is frankly shite when you most need it not to be. But I miss it, it’s home, it’s me, and of course it’s where the Olympics will be held this year, and it keeps cropping up in the media. With all this talk of London I am getting very homesick for my native city. Sure, there were horrendous scenes last summer during the riots; yeah, every headline is ‘stabbing this’ or ‘shooting that’, fine, the economy is so far down the plughole it may actually make it to the north sea, evaporate and come back as even more rain. I know, it rained every day on my last visit, and the one before that saw a blizzard of Narnian proportions. But what a place! The history is just everywhere; Burnt Oak, my home area, has a name that dates back to the Romans, sort of. It’s on the Edgware Road, the old Watling Street, built by the Romans. Of course nothing else was built there for another millennium plus a few more centuries, and then a couple more, but you know, it’s history, man. When I take a walk around the 1930s housing estates, to the 1960s era flats, and the kids playgrounds erected in the 1990s (and vandalized ten minutes later), all I can think of is, history man, we don’t get this sort of ancient history all around us in California, where everything was built like, five minutes ago, and there are no centuries-old epic highways built by road-building Latins before English speaking people arrived. (Well, there’s the Camino Real, but y’know)
Of course, I’m having a laugh, int ya. I always think it’s funny though when people in America (and the UK too) speak of London like a walk through the pages of history, when the great majority of things you will see are no older than the things you’ll likely see in the States (except for a few obvious exceptions; all the Norman churches and castles, for example, but even then they may have been heavily modified in later years). What’s older, the White House or Buckingham Palace? Tower Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge? Independence Hall or Big Ben? Oh this is an easy game to play to your advantage (“What’s older, Windsor Castle or the Mall of America?”) but the point is that while we do have a long long history Londoners are not generally immersed in it on a daily basis, any more than big city Americans. The streets and their names go back many more centuries than the architecture that occupies them, and provide great stories if you should know them, but sometimes the truly historical takes some digging. And that’s where we have the edge, in the history that goes back beyond what we can see. Many of our winding streets follow their medieval courses. Names like ‘Threadneedle Street’ and ‘Lombard Street’ tell us something about the trades or even the nationalities that lived there. London Bridge dates from the 1970s, but there has been a bridge over the Thames at that spot since Roman times (apparently prone to falling down), which being the only one was London’s Bridge. The stories of history too pervade the modern settings – it’s always great to stand in the middle of a crowded street and say, for example, here, Oliver Cromwell was hanged two years after his death in front of huge crowds, or right around here, Dick Whittington heard the Bow Bells and turned back, putting his cat in a cage to mark the spot. But even the history we know isn’t as established as people think. Londoners had not the smoggiest idea who Samuel Pepys was for two centuries, but now he’s considered one of the most well-known of historical Londoners. For many centuries, Londoners believed that their city was founded not by Romans, but by a Trojan named Brutus. Historical names remain, but their meanings slip away from us; I grew up near St.Alphage’s church, but had little idea that Alphage (or Ælfheah) was a hugely important part of Anglo-Saxon London’s self-consciousness as a city: he was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was martyred (read brutally tortured and murdered by drunken bloodthirsty Vikings) in 1012, becoming London’s first martyr-saint (very important for an aspiring medieval city) – that was exactly a thousand years ago!
I’ll be watching the Olympics in California of course, with the usual time delay, feeling sad every time they show an establishing shot of the Millennium Dome or the BT Tower and other such historical buildings. I’m sure a tear will be brought to my eye when they show the curve of the Thames or the layer of grey ozone above the Docklands, or when the US networks interview locals about what sports they’ll be watching, and then shrug in confusion when they say ‘Affle’ics’ or ‘Fuh’baw’. I miss London, I’m proud to be from the city, with all of its history. So here is London Pride, a beer I enjoyed and sketched in the brown-paper-beer-book last week.