they’re changing the guard at buckingham palace

buckingham palace

Perhaps it was the hangover of royal wedding fever that got me wanting to go to and sketch at Buckingham Palace. Maybe it was just that I decided, on this sketching day in London, to get out at Green Park, where I’d not been in such a long time, and walk over to the Mall rather than head down to the River or the City. Either way, I had forgotten about the Changing of the Guard, and arrived at the Palace about half an hour before it started, just as the crowds were gathering. The Queen was home, as the sovereign’s flag was flying, and amazingly the sun was shining. It had rained every day, heavily, since I’d been in London and so perhaps this was to be my lucky day! (Fat chance, it bucketed down later on.) ‘The Mall’ by the way is pronounced as in ‘pal’ not as in ‘small’, a note to American tourists. There are no Sears stores or Gaps or food courts (though I’m sure Victoria has a few secrets). The Queen’s guards know their audience though. Sticking to tradition, as they performed their historic ceremony at the gates of the royal residence, the Scots guards in their bright red jackets and tall bearskin hats belted out the theme tune to ‘Superman’. Or perhaps it was ‘Superma’am’?

st james park

I made hay while the sun shone. That’s St.James’s Park above, one of the smaller but more decorated Royal Parks, looking off towards Big Ben and the London Eye. Below, a statue of the Queen Mum, and behind her a statue of Colin Firth.

queen mum and king george vi

i scream for 11p lemonade sparkles

ice cream van
The irony about ice cream vans when we were kids is that they really kept us healthy. Sure they offered us Rocket ice lollies and Funny Foots and 99s with a Flake, but we got our exercise in running after them. We would hear the jingling of the bells (thinking about it now I can still taste vanilla on a humid July afternoon), and there would be a dash about the house, what do you want? Quick! Quick! followed by the mad scramble outside along with the other kids on the block, only to see the ice cream van which leave the bushy corner of Kirton Walk and head down towards Colchester Road. You knew it had a stop about halfway up there, so you ran and ran and ran, until you got a stitch and could barely breathe let alone order an 11p lemonade Sparkle. More often than not, we’d make it, and come away happy (and well exercised). It was an achievement, something Kids Today surely don’t understand, they probably download their ice lollies from the internet or something.

This one wasn’t going anywhere. It was parked outside the British Museum. It has a very happy face, doesn’t it? I think they should still make people run a couple of blocks before they allow them to buy anything though. It’s all part of the experience. We did also do a little sketching in the British Museum Great Court, which I hadn’t visited in years. I’d like to spend some more time in there sketching, really do a big one of the roof and go through all the great exhibits, but alas I live so far away these days. It’s such a great place to visit, and completely free to enter.

british museum great hall

aye aye, captain

captain kidd pub, wapping

The Captain Kidd pub in Wapping. My friend and fellow sketcher Simon has been telling me about it for a long time, but we’d never been because it’s, you know, in Wapping. Still, with Wapping and it’s less salubrious denizens Murdoch and pals being very much in the news that week it seemed like a good idea to pop down there. We took the London Overground (the old orange East London line, now revamped and extended with swanky new trains and a new name) and went down by the river. The old pub literally backs onto the thames, and we grabbed a pint each and sat on a bench looking across the water. The rain would eventually force us inside, but not after a quick sketch of the scenery, and another attempt at sketching my friend (who really should be very easy to capture, but I always get him just wrong, it’s almost become a running theme; next time, I promise, I’ll practise more!). After some catching up and quite a bit of laughing, we sketched inside and I drew the scene above, before I had to head back home. Such a brief trip to London this time, not long enough with my good friends! 

simon sketching at wapping