London’s skyline changes every time I come back. The City now has at least two skyscrapers that were not there last year, dwarfing other prominent 21st century additions like the Gherkin. It is an ever-changing city and it always has been. Above is one building that, while subject to many modifications and rebuildings over the centuries, has pretty much the entire span of London history within its foundations. All-Hallows-By-The-Tower, a small and often overlooked church which sits right next to the Tower of London (which is rather handy given its name), is said to be the oldest church in London, founded in 675, though its main building and spire date from the 1650s (though greatly rebuilt after it was damaged in the Blitz). After drawing it, with one of London’s newest towers being constructed in the background, I popped inside for a look around, to learn a bit more about its history. There is an actual Saxon-era arch still standing, and if you go below to the crypt museum you can see some original Roman tiled paving – this church was built on the site of an building from the days of Londinium. On my tours years ago I used to tell Americans the two things I knew about the place: William Penn was baptised here, Pennsylvania fans, and John Quincy Adams was married here, you know, President number 6 (I never needed to go into too much historical detail as the open-top bus would be swinging past it too quickly, this being the home stretch). It was nice to finally come and spend some time looking at it and learning about it.
I also sketched a bit of the Tower of London itself. You want some history, here’s some history. This is the White Tower, the oldest part of the Tower, built by William the Conqueror. I don’t need to tell you the history of the Tower. Once on my old tour though I was telling people about the Tower, when one guy with a nasal midwest accent piped in, “hey, that’s not a tower.” Er, yes, it’s the Tower of London. “But it’s not a tower!” he insisted. Perhaps when I told him about the Tower he had been expecting Barad-dur or something, but I pointed out that yes, it is a tower, though your personal definition of the word tower may be based on a modern idea rather narrower than the name of a building that has been around for 900 years. However to appease him I announced to the tour bus that had now arrived at the stop for the “Normano-Plantagenet-Tudor compound of castle, palace, tower, prison, moat and ramparts of London”. Nobody got off, so I assured them, “Here we are at the Tower of London! Have fun, and remember the Crown Jewels aren’t all crowns and they aren’t all jewels!”
We went to Disneyland at the end of last week, my son’s first ever visit, a fifth birthday treat. The main destination was the wonderful Cars Land, which I’ll write about next, part of the adjacent Disney California Adventure park, but the main Disneyland park is the original and really is a fabulous place. I first went in 2002, on my first trip to America, having wanted to go all my life. I was a big fan of Disney films as a kid and as a grown-up, the Jungle Book and Aladdin especially, and Disneyland is addicting. Expensive too, and you find yourself constantly forking out money, but it is Disneyland after all. The attention to detail is staggering. I particularly enjoyed the Star Tours ride, the Star Wars themed one, and the Jedi Training Academy for the kids was very entertaining. While my son went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap, I had some time to sketch so I sat and drew the classic Sleeping Beauty Castle. This has been here since 1955 (so it’s older than many buildings on the UC Davis campus!), the original Disney Land.
Here’s another sketch from the area inside the castle grounds, Fantasyland, which is full of very sketchable things. As I sketched, kids got on and off the King Arthur Carousel, lined up for the Peter Pan flight ride, strolled about with cotton candy and ‘churros’ looking for Mickey and his mates, while embarrassed daddies took their little girls into the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique to get dressed up as princesses and little boys found swords and shields to dress as knights and fight dragons. Happiest place on Earth.
Well, it is Saint Patrick’s Day, so a drawing of an Irish landmark in green pen on green card seems appropriate. Of course St. Patrick’s colour was in fact blue (which might be easier on the eye than this particularly lime-verdant shade) but who are we to quibble. But speaking of quibbling, I wish people would stop using the four-leafed clover on St. Patrick’s Day, the symbol of Ireland is the Shamrock, which typically only has three leaves. But then again Celtic football club, whose shirt I’m wearing today, uses four leaves in its badge and you can’t argue with them. Ah, we’re Irish, we can argue with whoever.
So this is Blarney Castle, in Co. Cork. I was there when I was twelve, when I kissed the Blarney Stone (at first I kissed the wrong one), and got a little certificate that said I was henceforth given the gift of the Blarney, that is to talk a lot of nonsense from time to time – they got that right. I kept that certificate for years. I love when you kiss the Blarney Stone, they hang you upside down by your ankles at the very top of the castle, so you can see the long drop below (where kids are gathered to collect the coins that inevitably fall from your pockets). All of my family originates from Ireland, all over the place. I grew up with the Irish heritage, all the music, the Irish festivals in Southport and Willesden, the red hair and sun-shy freckly skin, and lots of cups of tea, but I don’t like Guinness. I’ve not been back over there in about thirteen years; different place now, so I hear. Ah well, it’s not going anywhere. I’ll be back one day.
My favourite chocolate bar by the way is Cadbury’s Tiffin, you can’t get it in England, but it’s common in Ireland. Tiffin and a cup of tea, my idea of heaven so it is. Just sayin’.