chasing clouds on the banks of the thames

London battersea ps 2022 sm

On the first day of June, which is always a good day in the calendar, I took the tube down to Battersea to meet up with friend Simon, who was flying over from Dublin that morning for a few days. I say I took the tube down, well this being classic London, I left in good time only to find the Northern Line was down, so I had to get a bus to Queensbury to jump on the Jubilee Line. Can’t escape the Jubilee. Incidentally that Jubilee Line was named for the Queen’s 25th (Silver) Jubilee, which is why it is coloured in grey. This year it was the 70th (Platinum) Jubilee, and they named the new Crossrail after her, the Elizabeth Line (that was actually her mum’s name, Elizabeth Lines-Bowen) (I think they missed a trick by not renaming Crossrail as “we-are-not-amused-rail”, ok maybe not). Anyway silly jokes aside, I was hoping to see the new London underground station on the Northern Line, Battersea Power Station Station. That is actually its name. It is the tube station for Battersea Power Station, so therefore it is Battersea Power Station Station. However, once me and Simon met up, at Vauxhall Bridge, we never found it, as we were catching up on three years of silly jokes. It was a fun day out we had along the river, and then up into Chelsea, and the clouds were incredible. He’s a pro photographer and got some great shots – follow him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/naderissimo/ – and I started some sketches, very much in the ‘finish these later’ category. I had not drawn Battersea Power Station before, I do want to draw it from the other side of the river sometime, but it has all been redeveloped in recent years and is all a bit fancy now. I notice that the Urban Sketchers London had a sketching event down there recently, part of the ten year anniversary, as many Battersea Power Station sketches kept popping up on my feed, making me want to go back down that way. I haven’t really explored there before, so it was an eye opener.

London Albert Bridge 2022 sm

We walked down through Battersea Park, where I have not been for many years, until we took a rest by the Albert Bridge (above). I drew this bridge as an illustration for a book years ago, the “London Walks, London Stories” book in about 2008 or 2009, so I was keep to draw it in person. Not super easy, so I drew the main bits, the main outlines, and drew in the rest of the details later. We were busy chatting. Albert Bridge is named after Queen Victoria’s dead husband Prince Albert (I mean they are all dead now aren’t they, the Victorians), and is one of the best and most charming bridges in London. Lots of things are named after Prince Albert, you’ve got the Albert Embankment, the Albert Hall, the Albert Bridge, the Albert Memorial, Albert Square, and of course the Prince Albert, which I won’t elaborate on further. We crossed Albert Bridge and wandered about Chelsea, looking for one specific pub that Simon knew about, and I can definitely say I got my ten thousand steps in that day a couple of times over. Still at least we got to look at some cool shops and see loads more colourful Jubilee displays, including this union-jack-themed mini. Simon used to have a very beloved mini, so I just had to draw this, though now he lives in Dublin he probably wouldn’t drive this particular one about. There were so many interesting floral displays along the Kings Road, we spent a lot of time taking photos (and being silly of course) before resting with a pint in the old pub he was looking for, and then heading over to Harrods (I got some delicious cannoli). One thing about this trip, I did explore a fair bit of London I either hadn’t been to before, or not been to in years. It’s like a book you can keep coming back to and learning something new, but because it’s the city where I’m from there’s always a connection.

London UK Mini 2022 sm

what the dickens

London Dickens Inn EXT 2022 sm

After visiting the Classic Football Shirts shop in its new location on Commercial Street, I decided to take a walk down to St. Katharine’s Dock, near Tower Bridge. I hadn’t seen any football shirts I wanted to buy,
all the really classic ones were out of my price range, although the pound is very weak against the dollar so maybe I should have gotten that 1992-93 light blue Spurs 3rd kit I’ve always wanted. I ended up buying some socks (one pair themed like the 1984 Belgian shirt, and another themed after Roberto Baggio’s 1994 Italian kit), and having a hot chocolate. It was the last day of May, it wasn’t cold but wasn’t hot, it was good London weather, and the weather was about to turn wet. I walked through the east end, taking photos of old pubs I would draw later, but didn’t have time to stop and draw now. The clouds were looking a bit ominous. I’d not been to St. Katharine’s Dock before, at least not since I was a kid and can’t really remember that. My mum likes to go there for lunch, and another mate had told me about the Dickens Inn, and it looked like something I should draw. So I walked about the pretty little docks, there were some boats I thought about sketching, but I sought out the Dickens Inn instead. I found a good spot with a classic red phone box in the foreground, and started mapping out the sketch…and then the skies opened up. It wasn’t so bad, but I had to find something to stand under. So I stood inside the phone box! Yeah this is great, what a story. No, that was uncomfortable, and the phone box just got a bit steamy, and what if someone needed to use the phone? Oh right, it’s not 1994. Anyway, I found a better spot, underneath a tree, this time with a classic red postbox in the foreground. I abandoned that fairly quickly, trees aren’t actually that good at keeping you completely dry, plus I thought I heard a rumble in the sky, though that might have been my tummy. I don’t stand underneath trees if there’s thunder, thunder famously hates trees. So there was the awning of a nearby building, this time with a classic gas-lit lamp-post in the foreground, yes this will do. I drew for as long as I could, which turned out not to be as long as I would have liked, because that rain, man, it kept on coming and just got heavier. I’m almost flat against a wall with little keeping me dry thinking, just do this later yeah. So I dashed inside to dry off.

London Dickens Inn INT 2022 sm

It’s a big place, the Dickens Inn. It wasn’t super busy but there were quite a few people in there, several American tourists (probably why all the tv screens were showing baseball), and a lot of wood. The website says that “it is believed” to have been built in the 1700s – the building, not the pub, this being an old warehouse, maybe a tea factory, just east of where it currently stands. “Years later” it was turned into a tavern. That would be in 1976, so it’s not as ancient as you might think, being as old as I am – we would have been in the same year at school, but it probably has better eyesight than me. It’s not called the Dickens Inn because Charles Dickens used to drink there (this being the one pub in London’s Zone 1 that Dickens apparently wasn’t a regular at), although “Dickens” did drink there, that being his grandson Cedric Dickens who opened the pub. There are Dickens references about, as seen written on the beam in the sketch I did above. It was very nice in there; the windows were open, and outside the rainstorm grew heavier, the rumblings of thunder grew louder, and I had an afternoon of not needing to be anywhere thanks, so here I stopped, eating a pub lunch and having a couple of nice pints, and of course getting the sketchbook out. Bliss. This was the first London pub I was sketching in a long time. I wouldn’t mind coming here again some time.

When the rain slowed down a bit and I was done with sketching, I walked over to Tower Bridge and crossed the Thames, and enjoyed an ice cream in the rain from a proper ice cream van. Ice cream vans in England look like ice cream vans; the ones in Davis, not so much, more like creepy child-catcher trucks with scary jingles. I had a 99 of course (they cost a lot more than when I was a kid), and walked along the river in the rain, before heading back to the Northern Line. Have I mentioned that I love London?

st pancreas

London St Pancras 2022 sm

I had a few nice family days in London, went to my older brother’s wedding, met my younger sister’s baby for the first time, ate some lovely breakfasts after discovering that Richmond Irish Sausages now come in a chicken sausage variety. Yes please guv. I must point out, I gave up eating red meats (beef, pork, lamb) when I was 12, and one of the only things I regretted giving up were the Richmond Irish Sausages. I bloody loved them. But they had to go. So when I was in Asda and saw that they had a chicken variety, well, that was discovery of the century. They were so good. Anyway, breakfasts aside, I took another day out for some London sketching, and went down to St Pancras. I was headed towards Classic Football Shirts, always a destination when I come back, but now in a new location near Aldwych. Outside Kings Cross, I had the most delicious lime and coconut doughnut (wasn’t cheap, was well worth it though), and then draw the road between Kings Cross and St Pancras, towards the latter’s famous gothic station facade. The sky was fairly ominous; we would have lots of rain later, but this is England, where the weather can go either way, but rain is never off the table. So I had to paint the sky. Across the street, unseen in this (unfinished) sketch, there was a queue of people stretching almost a mile long. I asked a station worker who was managing the line what it was for. “Eurostar!” he said. Delays caused by staff shortages, too many people travelling, the Jubilee, all sorts of things. I was worried, because I was going to be taking the Eurostar myself to Lille just a few days later on Saturday. How long were these people in line? “Three hours at least,” he said, clearly having a miserable day at work; he had my sympathies. I asked what time he advised I come for my 10:30am train on Saturday. “Jubilee weekend? When the station opens, I’d say, if you are lucky.” That would be at 5:00am. Right. Oh well, I thought, I’m glad I asked. I hope his day got better, he was very helpful. So I’d have to show up five and a half hours before my train? Phew. My ticket said to arrive 90 minutes early. I’d have to leave Burnt Oak at what, 4:30am? Would there even be a tube? I’d have to get the night bus, and we all know how I feel about those. Doesn’t feel right if I’m not eating cheap greasy fried chicken, and wake up at the wrong stop. Tant pis, as they say in France. If I end up not getting to France, I’ll get more time to enjoy the Jubilee. I was determined to get that train.

London - Old St Panc 2022 sm

The main reason I’d stopped at St Pancras was because I wanted to visit St Pancras Old Church. I’ve never been there before, but had seen pictures of the graveyard and thought, I should sketch there next time I’m in London. So I walked up to find the church, and a man seated just inside the gates asked if I needed any help. He told me that unfortunately the church and the grounds were all closed for an event for the next few days (Jubilee related? Not sure but probably) which was a bit disappointing, but there’s a lot of London to draw so I wasn’t too miffed, there’s always next time. I did try to draw the church from outside the fence, looking up, but to be honest it was a weird angle and I wasn’t super comfortable, so I gave up and headed for the tube.

I’ll post the rets of the day’s sketches next time, but wanted to keep on the St. Pancras theme by posting the next sketch which is actually page 1 of the following sketchbook (landscape sketchbook #43 if you are following along; check out petescully.com/sketchbooks for the full list!). So Saturday came, the news was all about travel chaos at the airports and stations, and did I leave at 4:30am? No I did not. I left at about 7:00am, thinking you know what, I’m not daft. When I got there, instead of desperate queues and confusion, the hall was empty and orderly, and there was a sign for each scheduled Eurostar’s line to start, with my one not opening for a good hour and a half. Plenty of time to just hang about, and do what? What would I possibly do with all my time? So outside I went and sketched St. Pancras Station again, from a bit closer up. This is a very detailed station that requires a bit more time a touch of patience and a lot of good eyesight, and out of those, two out of three ain’t bad. I wasn’t right on the street level so nobody bothered me, and I was done with time to still wander about the shops and get a snack before my journey to Lille. Travel lucky again.

St Pancras Station  London

You know I always wondered who St. Pancras actually was. We used to see that name on the Underground map when we were kids and laugh, because it sounded like ‘pancreas’, and since we had no idea what body part the pancreas was, we giggled because it was probably a rude part. The Underground map is actually full of possible naughty double-entendres, none of which I would have understood when I was nine, but still sniggered at “St. Pancreas”. Apparently St. Pancras was from Phrygia but moved to Rome and was beheaded when he was only 14, just for being a christian. To paraphrase Stewart Lee, “These days mate,” Roman chariot taxi drivers used to say, “they arrest you, lock you up and chop your head off just for saying you’re a christian.” This was in fourth century Rome, under the persecution of Diocletian, so they totally did, even though he was only fourteen. So now Pancras is the saint of children. And years later, children in London (such as I) would laugh because his name sounded a bit like a rude part of the body that isn’t even rude. It’s a funny old world. 

Next up, more London sketches (with more completely sensible history). I’ll leave you with a joke. “‘Scuse me mate, how do you get Kings Cross?” “Forget their birthdays. Hahaha.”

a thousand things i wanna say to you

London - Prince Charles Cinema 2022

I had a big grin on my face when I got out of the tube at Holborn and started wandering about the streets I always knew so well, but are now thousands of miles away. I always feel so comfortable being back in this old place, sure it’s crowded and the city air makes your throat scratchy, sure so many things have changed lately, and what’s with all the big new tall buildings, but it’s still London. I stopped along Long Acre in Covent Garden and drew the Sun Tavern pub (below), which is a pub I’m not even sure I’ve ever actually been to, there are so many around there, I wasn’t a regular to any. In Covent Garden I mostly spent time in art shops (well, one specific art shop) and map shops (well, one specific map shop) (both of which I visited again on this same morning). The scene above, that isn’t in Covent Garden but just off nearby Leicester Square, on the corner of Leicester Place and Lisle Street, as you enter Chinatown. The cinema on the corner is a proper London icon, the Prince Charles Cinema, which is beloved in London as a place to watch films that are out of circulation from the general commercial cinema circuit, so you might catch old movies here or runs by a certain director, movie marathons, occasionally new films, but often classics (as I write, August 12, I see that they are showing Pulp Fiction tonight, me and my wife still love that film) – I remember years ago (mid-90s) coming here to watch a late night screening of The Godfather Part II, which is so long it needed an intermission, and didn’t finish until after 1:00am (that’s Night Bus territory, as all Londoners know, which in 1996 meant a pretty long wait for the N5 on Charing Cross Road, I would eat greasy fried chicken while waiting in the cold). The Prince Charles also did singalongs to classic musicals, “Sing-along-a-Sound-of-Music” was popular on a Friday night, people would dress up, and I did go to see the long-running sing-and-dance-along to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, they showed that here for years. I think they are doing Sing-along-a-Grease soon – by the way, rest in peace Olivia Newton John – and Sing-along-a-Dirty Dancing too, both of which were well played and well sung-along to in our house growing up, not by me but by my two sisters. I wish we had a Prince Charles Cinema in Davis, it’s one of the places I miss most from London.

London - Sun Tavern Cov Gdn 2022

Below is the St. Moritz Swiss restaurant on Wardour Street. Wardour Street was one of my favourite roads in London, I always seemed to end up somewhere there back in the 90s. The St. Moritz has been there for ages. While I never ate at the restaurant, I did go regularly to the St. Moritz club next door (or underneath, Soho nightclub geography always confused me). It was tiny, but the music was always good. I remember I knew one of the DJs who worked a club night there, it was a good hangout. I remember one night out there, I was studying French at university and really had to finish my book by the next day, I think it was Le Pere Goriot or something, I’m sitting there reading with a beer in the dim light while everyone in the club was dancing to the Stone Roses or something, it’s a funny memory. I never finished the book – well, no, I did, I definitely got to the end, but I do remember skipping long bits. I recall trying to read it on the night bus too, eating greasy fried chicken, and still reading it next morning on the tube down to Mile End on my way to class. I had a lot more energy in those days. As I drew this, it was a Saturday afternoon and there were a lot of Hen parties about (Bachelorette parties, as Americans would call them), groups of women (many in costumes) going from place to place enjoying their Saturday, and a few did stop by as I was drawing to say “Wow! That’s lovely!”. Soho has a real buzz to it, it’s an interesting neighbourhood, being both party central and local residential area, it has always had a community spirit to it. Soho is changing, no question, and isn’t the Soho I remember from the 90s, but it still makes me smile. I used to dream about drawing the whole of Soho, capturing it all before changes swept through, and while the most interesting Soho is gone, some of it is still there if you look.

London - StMoritz 2022

Also on Wardour Street, a pub I used to enjoy going to the most (they always played good rock music in there): The Ship, which is not far from the St. Moritz, on the other side of the street. It’s a little cleaner in there now but hasn’t changed that much, the toilets are still pretty tight (no chance of social distancing in there), and I popped in for a pint and to rest my weary legs. It’s always been a good rest-stop, in the middle of Soho, but I loved coming here in the evenings when it would be crowded and people would spill into the little courtyard outside. Literally spill. I remember coming here with friends in about 1996 and then going over to the Intrepid Fox across the street (best rock pub ever, now long gone, though the stone sign remains), and then on to the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street. You will notice all the union jack bunting all over the place. London was preparing for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which was the following week, celebrating her millionth year on the throne, something like that. People were making a big deal about it. Thing is, I presume she had to get up from the throne occasionally, to go to the toilet or watch the racing, so it’s probably not 70 years continually sitting down.

London - Ship Soho 2022

Speaking of the Jubilee, I did do a quick sketch at Piccadilly Circus (you can see Lillywhites across the street, where I used to get football shirts, though the place gives me a headache now), and there are some of the big union flags that were all over London for the upcoming festivities. I didn’t bother finishing this drawing. I don’t really like Piccadilly Circus much. And so, this was my first big sketching-day in London for ages, and while I probably could have got more drawn, I did wander and explore a good bit too. The jetlag was kicking in, and it was time to head back to my mum’s for dinner.

London - PicCirc 2022

back to burnt oak library

BurntOak - Library - 2022

At the end of May I finally returned home to London, having not been back since before the pandemic started. This was my longest period of time not going back, and it was great to see my family again. My older brother was getting married to his long-time partner (I was best man and gave a speech). It was the first of two trips back to London this summer, and both times I would be going off to France for the second half of the trip. It’s been a busy time. I also managed to get a lot of sketching done, as well as many drawings I would start now, finish later (gives me something to do on the plane home). I felt a bit odd flying across the Atlantic again after all this time, but it wasn’t so bad, and I landed at Heathrow and took the brand new Elizabeth Line, London’s newest train line, that had opened only a day or two before. It was pretty exciting getting to ride this new train so early in its existence. The Elizabeth Line (formerly called Crossrail) station within Tottenham Court Road was like an underground cathedral, at least compared to the tube platforms. Anyway, I made it up to Burnt Oak on the Northern Line which is where my family still live, and this is where I got my first sketch of the trip in. This was a London sketching day and I was headed down into town to fill my book and wander the streets, as I do. I like to explore. But I had to stop here on Orange Hill Road and draw Burnt Oak Library. This iconic landmark of Burnt Oak (opened 1968, designed by B. Bancroft) was like a second home to me growing up, I spent so much time in here. These days only the top part is the library, greatly reduced in book numbers, while the bottom floor is all council offices for local services now (very useful of course). When I was a kid, the children’s library was upstairs while the main library was downstairs. I still dream about the library from those days. There was a smell, a bookish smell, and as you walked in the main doors (which are in a different place now since the remodel), you were greeted with three maps on the wall (I think it was three, maybe two?) showing Burnt Oak as it was when it was all fields and a few roads, then a small village in Middlesex, and then how it looked in the 60s all built up and part of the Greater London suburban metro-land. Burnt Oak is on the Edgware Road, which is part of the ancient Roman road called Watling Street, shooting dead straight in a general north-western direction. It’s from Watling Street that we get the name Watling Avenue, the main road that cuts from Edgware Road (called ‘Burnt Oak Broadway’ in this section) downhill and past the Underground station towards this intersection with Orange Hill Road, and that’s where you find the library. Watling Saturday Market by the way, from the sign in the sketch, was the market that was in the parking area behind the station. I don’t know if it even still goes, and I think the stairwell down there from Watling Avenue has been closed off, but we used to go there on Saturdays and look around the stalls. The little street to the right is Park Croft, a tiny cul-de-sac that just backs up to the train lines. The library itself didn’t used to be painted in such a dark grey colour, but was white (not a very clean white admittedly) and looked quite striking. Then they painted some colourful patterns on the interior parts, and when they did a big redevelop in the 2000s they painted it an uninviting dark grey. There didn’t used to be a fence around the grassy bit, well there was a small shin-height barrier we used to jump over, so we could sit in the shade outside the library windows. I remember getting my library card as a very young kid, possibly on a visit from my infant school which was just up the road (Goldbeaters), the librarian upstairs in the kids section had brown curly hair and was friendly and kind but serious, you couldn’t make noise of course without a stern look, but I remember her teaching me all about book care (I still remember her advice that it’s not a good idea to turn the corners of pages in your books to mark your spot, and to this day I still don’t). I do remember that I forgot to take some books back when I was a kid, and it turned out they were in our loft, and the two books were a very silly children’s story about colourful teddy bears getting into trouble, and a heavy book about the Soviet manned space program. Two more completely different books you could not have chosen but that was the sort of thing I would read, I guess. As I grew I would read lots of adventure books, but I’d mostly spend ages poring over the travel books, especially the Insight Guides which have all the colourful photographs in them. New Zealand, Hong Kong, Germany’s Rhine Valley, Brazil, the fjords of Norway, Australia, Japan, the Trans-Siberian Express, there were all these places I read books about at that library but have as yet still never visited. Some day. When I was an older teen I would study in the library, especially on the evenings when it would stay open late until 9pm, I could get some quiet study done and also if I needed to study with friends, but usually it was a quiet place for myself. I would go to other libraries too, I remember studying hard for my Maths GCSE in Edgware library every day, and the big library at Hendon was a favourite for me, I’d sometimes spend all of a Saturday in there getting lost among the language books, and they also had an excellent music library where I would check out vinyls (I often used to get the old BBC Sound Effects records, for some reason). Libraries were such a big part of my growing up as a place where I could find ideas and let the imagination bubble, and I carried that on into adulthood. When I lived in Hornsey Lane, when I wasn’t working I would spend most of the day in Crouch End library. When I moved to Davis, similarly I would spend a lot of my time in the library, looking through books that might be interesting. I think it’s always a massive shame whenever public libraries close, they need to be protected. While it’s a lot smaller than it used to be, I’m glad Burnt Oak Library is still there. Probably not quiet enough for me to do my homework in now though. And I wish they paint it white again.

Behind the library it looks like they are building some sort of extension on top of Silkstream Parade, that changes the look of the street a bit. I’m interested to see how that turns out, but I hope it’s not some big redevelopment scheme like we saw in Colindale, which is a completely different place from when I left the area. I miss it round Burnt Oak, so it was good to be back for a little bit. I did do a few more drawings round here while I was back, will post later. Next up – central London sketches…

concord fire station

Concord fire station 051522 sm

The final tournament of our soccer season took place in Concord, the Concord Cup. We did ok, coming third in a five team round-robin, drawing our first two games 2-2 apiece, then losing 2-1 next morning to a team that would have won the tournament except that they picked up so many yellow cards against us that they ended up being docked points (even one of their parents got carded and sent away from the field). We then won our final game 4-2 to leave us feeling a bit better about things. Although at one point the games had to stop because a drone was flying over the field, and there’s a rule now that refs must stop the games for that. I liked that. The refs were pretty good overall, they had to deal with a lot of nonsense, and one came up to me and my assistant after one of our games and thanked us for being positive coaches with players who didn’t give them any hassle, much easier to work with than some of the others there. That was nice to hear. I generally had a good rapport with the refs (and with other coaches for the most part) and that’s one thing I’ll miss from coaching, though I probably couldn’t step into the field with the whistle myself, that’s a hard job. I did referee U6 games a long time ago, and I could barely handle that, I was getting tired even on tiny fields, and one kid stomped on my foot. Fun times. Anyway, down at the Concord Cup, during a break between games at the tournament we went back to our motel (which was the sort of place which characters on TV shows go when they are on the run from the cops or hiding from the mob), and while the others rested I went out and did a sketch of the fire station down the street. I like these old tiled-roof buildings. I like fire stations. When my son was very little we would take him to fire stations all the time to see the big fire trucks; simpler times. This sketch feels like ages ago, it was only in May. I’ve been over to Europe twice since then. I’m going to start posting my sketches from those trips next.

in line at the whole earth festival

whole earth festival 050622 sm Here’s another one from the UC Davis campus, this was sketched at the Whole Earth Festival in early May. The Whole Earth Festival is back in-person, and this is a popular annual event in Davis, with lots of vendors and food and music all around the UC Davis Quad. I went over on the lunchtime with many of the staff from our office to sit and have lunch with each other, I got an absolutely delicious mushroom burger, all vegan, really tasty. I started this sketch while I was in line, and went back after eating to draw some more (I had to keep saying to people “no I’m not in line”). If you like drawing people quickly, lines for food are usually a good spot because they will usually be still for a bit. I might have mentioned that in my book “Five Minute Sketching: People”, but if not, I’m saying it now and you can just write it in there of you have a copy. One thing, people are a little less likely to leave the line to come and see what you are sketching, because they don’t want to lose their spot, and they are hungry. Another tip, this one told to me by my sketching friend Rita Sabler, if sketching people at a bar, look at their drinks and sketch the ones with full glasses, because you know they will be there for a while. It’s a good tip. I was going to add colour to this sketch, but never got around to it, and now I prefer it just like this. But the Whole Earth Festival was pretty colourful, although we didn’t stop for much of the music, as we had to get back to work.

last night on turf

FC Davis game 050722

More soccer! This sketch from May was done at the FC Davis match against a team from Oakland, played at the Playfields turf field in Davis. It was the AYSO United Davis fundraiser evening, where people involved with the club went to Sudwerk’s beer garden and had food and drink, before walking as a big group over the I-80 overpass to Playfields to the game, to support the local FC Davis team. The last time I watched FC Davis they were still playing at Aggie Stadium (they were a brand new club then) – see https://petescully.com/2018/06/25/saturday-nights-down-at-fc-davis/ – so it was nice to watch them again, and I love their black Admiral shirts (would love to get me one of those). My wife was chatting with an old friend she’s known since school while I sketched and chatted to others I know; Davis ended up winning the game, and a little more beer was had. Playfields is where I’ve coached a lot of youth soccer practices and games over the years so I’m well familiar with that surface, which is not the greatest field to play on. I actually did play a game myself before Christmas; I’ve not played in years and years, the last time I actually played was a kickaround game with students and faculty from our department in about 2013, when I stretched too hard for a cross and pulled a leg muscle, making it hard to walk for a few weeks, and I gave up then and stuck to coaching. This recent game was for over-40s in one of the local ‘pick-up’ leagues (well it was for men over 40 – though most were over 50 and still twice as fit as me – but women needed only be over 30, and they were about 100 times fitter and faster than me) (despite my recent running and fitness successes, getting decent times in the 5k races, I’ve a long way to go). One of the parents on our youth team invited some of us to take part as they needed players for their team, and it turned out they were going to be up against one of the best teams in the league. It was about six or seven a side, depending on who came, and was pretty informal, I just had to wear orange. Hot off my best ever time in the recent 5k Turkey Trot, plus lots of technical practice training 13 year olds to play club league, I felt pretty good. It was raining too and I don’t mind that. Except, when it rains, the astroturf of Playfields becomes like an air-hockey table, and my steamed-up glasses become fairly useless. They kept falling off too – I really needed a strap – to the point where I would just take them off and hold them, trying to pass to the orange blur but stay away from the blue blur. My opponents were friendly and I joked with them, but they were really good. I did score though, which was unexpected, and put us 2-1 into the lead. Lovely goal as well, considering I can’t usually hit a barn door with a banjo* (*this is a phrase I think I’ve picked up here, not typically something someone from Burnt Oak would use), I hit the target a few other times too. Most unlike me, made it worth it. But I also hit the deck time after time, mostly just slipping over on the plastic ground. I called my self “The Man Who Fell To Turf”. Those little black beads of plastic that get kicked up were just too much for my turf shoes to take. I fell a couple of times really hard, covering my legs in bruises and hurting my arm, and my opponent helped me up a lot of times. In the end I was physically hammered, although I wouldn’t actually stop playing or rest, I dropped back into defense to make a few calamitous clearances. We ended up losing about 5-2 I think it was. I had a lot more sympathy for the players I have been coaching after that experience! It did help me visualize some things I’d been coaching too. I don’t know if I could do it regularly, a lot of people my age do and it’s great for them, but I hurt so much for about a week afterwards. I wouldn’t mind so much playing on grass maybe, but that hard surface took it out of me. So I think the FC Davis players did a great job playing on it. It’s a bit like when I draw on a certain type of paper and think, oh this paper is bad, you can’t draw on this, and then you see someone else drawing beautifully on the same paper and you think, hey maybe it’s me, I need to up my game.

The footy is back this weekend. Premier League, that is. Spurs kick off against Southampton tomorrow morning. It will be a long season…

you know the place where nothing is real

UCD Silo 051922 sm

As I play catch-up on my sketch posts, I may as well do one of those where I just post a bunch of the drawings I did on campus in Spring all at once, so here they are. It’s probably a lazy way to do it, but it saves you from reading through all the stories I feel the need to write to go along with them (but you can skip by the stories anyway, I’m not actually very interesting). Above, that’s the Silo, which long term readers will recognize as I have drawn it before, like a million times.

UCD Tri Co Ops

This next one, that was the Tri-Co-Ops, which I have drawn before but not as much as the Silo, so it still feels new. I’ve never drawn it with that spiky arched structure in front of it though. I suppose the structure isn’t actually spiky, it’s the plants behind it that make it look spiky. It’s made of metal and yeah, it looks interesting.

CoHo UCD 042822 sm

This is the UC Davis Coffee House, or CoHo as it’s more commonly known. This was one of those days where I just needed to sketch something but didn’t know what. I get a lot of those on campus. After all these years I’m often a bit uninspired for new things to draw. Sometimes I draw the same things in different ways, but if it’s something that requires a lot of thought like a ridiculous perspective, often I’m like, I need to eat, there’s not much lunchtime left, don’t want to do something that makes me think too hard. I was listening to a football podcast while drawing this.

UCD Calif Ave 041922

Another from April, this is along California Avenue, I cycle along here every day. They were doing some construction work, so I had to draw that because I can’t help myself. It looks different now already. There’s always some construction going on. Be nice if they constructed us a new building, we’re running out of space (us and the rest of this growing campus). I liked the people walking by eyes glued down at phones. The mind needs constant engagement, I get it.

UCD Water Tower 042222 sm

Finally, this is the Water Tower, drawn down by the Earth and Physical Sciences building. I was leading a lunchtime sketchcrawl event for the Sustainability Office (we’ve done that for a few years now, close to Earth Day), and I did have a couple of other quick sketches to go with this but this was the main one. Thanks for joining me on this brief campus outing. More sketches still to come…

soccer by the sierras

Comstock Shootout

For the last year I was the coach of a U14 club team AYSO United Davis, which meant practices twice a week and games every weekend. It was pretty busy, and was one of the reasons I put organizing our monthly sketchcrawls on hold. This was our first season as a new club in the NorCal Premier League, and our team had mixed success, although one of the older girls’ teams won the State Cup, which was pretty exciting. (Speaking of female teams winning trophies…well done to the Lionesses winning Euro 2022!! That was brilliant watching England, an actual England team, win a trophy, when the mens’ team could not. Wicked.) Our boys’ team did not end up winning any trophies, though we played in a few tournaments and made some good memories for the kids. I had coached for several years so knew most of the players for a long time, watching them develop. One tournament we went to was the Comstock Shootout in Carson City, Nevada, which involved a long drive over the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains into the high desert. We have been there before on a previous tournament in 2017 when my son was much younger, playing on a U10 team that I didn’t coach, and I did sketch a panorama of the mountainous backdrop back then too (see: https://petescully.com/2017/06/10/over-the-mountains-in-the-high-desert/). It’s a dramatic location for a tournament, played up at a higher altitude of over 4000 feet, and we stayed in nearby Minden – see the view below from our room. The panorama above, that was drawn between two of our games (one which we lost but was close, and one which we won). I had a couple of hours, so I went to watch another Davis team, the older boys form one of the rec Select teams, beating a local Carson City team. I had to sit near the guy with the huge lime green mohawk. It’s like, yeah mate you are getting sketched, you looks cool. Contrast to all the soccer moms and pops on their chairs with their big drinks yelling “pressure!”. Actually in terms of parents comments this was a pretty good one, most of them were positive and encouraging, but we certainly saw some of the opposite of that this season. In our last tournament in Concord one of the parents got red carded and threw a wobbly, I was impressed with how the ref handled that. I’ve been mostly on the coaching side for a few years though, but I remember several years ago when I was on the parents’ side with my sketchbook, and well, if you were a shouty yelling touchline parent, you were getting sketched and I was writing down all your shouts. Well in this game they were all pretty ok. It’s hard drawing all the players as they move around the field, and you have to check yourself to make sure you are drawing the right number. Still, the Davis boys won 3-1, I was pleased for the players and coaches (one of whom actually did coach my son last time he played at this tournament), because some of the other teams they had to play at this one were brutal. You get that at tournaments, an interesting mix of levels, but you come to these for the memories it gives to the kids. The Sierra Nevadas at Carson City makes a pretty memorable backdrop.

Minden NV

I decided to call it a day at the end of the season and hung up my coaching boots, I was pretty exhausted. So, as the new season starts I will be out on the other side again, sketchbook in hand, drawing the shouty sidelines.

PS: The Women’s Euros are over, and now the Men’s Premier League will begin this weekend. 30 years since the Premier League launched! I think I’m ready for the footy to return, but I needed a break from watching it, last season was just too long. I used to do a post on this blog each year with a run down of each team and a little pixel drawing of their kit, with predictions for the season but…I can’t be bothered. I just hope Spurs do well under Conte. I’m still celebrating the Lionesses!