(52) Scarborough, (53) Whitby, and (54) Durham)

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Right, let’s go into the North Riding, and along the North Sea coast. First up is Scarborough. I have been to Scarborough a number of times, on a long six hour bus journey from London (passing through York, Stamford Bridge, Driffield, Bridlignton, and Filey). Scarborough is a popular seaside town with a big old hotel, a castle, two beaches, a vibrant town centre, and great views from the cliffs (which famously eroded dropping another hotel into the sea years ago). I used to go out with someone who spent some time studying here over two decades ago, but I also considered coming to study drama here as well, having previously worked at Asda with someone who did the same. It’s a big town for drama, and lots of well known drama people have lived here. Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the great playwright, was the artistic director here at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for a long time. This theatre, named after its founder, was the first ‘theatre-in-the-round’ in England. I do like a theatre-in-the-round (though my favourite one was, er, White Hart Lane). Other entertainment people involved with Scarborough, well, Winner (ugh) made one film here and then there’s Saville (massive ugh), he lived here too, I remember seeing his house. This was back in the late 90s and people there would still say, yeah he’s a right creep. They weren’t wrong. I do like Scarborough though, and I wish I had been sketching loads back then, because it’s a classic sketchable coastal town, but I wasn’t. I recall during the daytime when I’d be by myself walking about the coastline and learning lines for whatever play I was doing at university at the time (usually something in German), and listening to David Devant. The wind coming in off the coast can really drive through you though, so it’s nice to reach the chip shop and get some delicious chips in gravy. Scarborough was the subject of a song called “Scarborough Fair”, which goes something like “Are you going to Scarborough Fair, they have the Big Wheel and the Twister and the Waltzers there, You can get candy floss stuck in your hair, And with an air gun you can win a teddy bear.” It’s an old folk song. Anne Brontë is buried in Scarborough. The Brontës were from Yorkshire and wrote books, though I have not read them. I think they are about dinosaurs but they might not be. One of them has a character called “Heathcliff” which let’s face it is what happens when you can’t think of a name and you just look around, there’s the heath, oh there’s a cliff, that’ll do. Other characters are Doorwall, Tablechair and Fieldpond. I haven’t read the books so I might not be completely accurate there.

As you go up the coast there is a nice little town called Robin Hood’s Bay, though I didn’t draw it on this virtual trip. I remember eating some delicious scampi there. Robin Hood may well have come here for scampi too, but the story goes that he beat up a bunch of French pirates here. I wonder how French pirates pronounced the Pirate word “Arrrr”? “Yeau-eau-eau, chevre mes timbres!” Ok that’s enough. On this trip I was headed straight for the town of Whitby, lots of peoples’ favourite spot on the northern coast. When I think of Whitby I think of the Synod of Whitby, where they determined the date of Easter many centuries ago. Nah, I think of Dracula. In Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, in which an ancient supernatural from Transylvania being spends a great deal of time trying to broker a property deal in London while turning into great wolf-like beast, a bat, and for some reason some mist. I mean, you do what you can to get the deal you want, who among us has not turned into mist when trying to get a bank loan. Anyway the vampire gets on a Russian ship with loads of boxes of mud and lands in Whitby, getting into all sorts of shenanigans up at the ruins of the Abbey, on top of that big cliff. Strange thing about vampires, not being allowed to cross running water and not being able to come inside without an invitation. Whitby has a beautiful harbour, I can imagine being here on a cold October evening as the rain is blowing in, heading into a warm pub, eating some delicious fish and writing ghost stories in a journal. With everybody else there doing the same. The town is probably full of goths looking for vampire stories, which is fine too. In fact when I was at school I actually wrote and performed an eight-song musical for the drama part of my expressive arts class called “Dracula AD 1992”. That one took place in Essex at the ‘Alucard Motel’. Anyway, I enjoyed drawing Whitby and look forward to some day going and drawing the real thing. I’ll bring a cape, and maybe an umbrella and a wooden stake.

I remember a joke someone told me when I was a kid. Where does the Pink Panther live? Durham, Durham, Durham Durham Durham Durham Durhaaaam… I think you have to do the Pink Panther music in your head to get it, and to know where Durham is (or that it exists) which when I was a kid, I didn’t. In fact I thought it was in Ireland, because people say “County Durham”, and you only say that for counties in Ireland, like County Wicklow or County Clare, you don’t say for example “County Suffolk” or “County Leicestershire”.  Anyway I never thought the joke was funny (it’s certainly no dead parrot polygon joke), and it’s filed away with the one about Batman being told it’s dinner time. So, time to visit Durham. Durham has one of the most dramatic cathedrals in the country, high up on a hill overlooking the river Wear that curves like a race-track around the historic town centre. I’ve wanted to go and draw that ever since I studied Anglo-Saxon literature and we did the poem about Durham. This actual cathedral building came later than that poem but the words were still very illustrative. This was St Cuthbert’s city. We are very much in old Northumbria now, far away from the southern kingdoms of Wessex and Kent. Northumbria was an important kingdom in the Anglo-Saxon times, with centres of great learning and scholarly activities, most notably at Lindisfarne with our man Bede. Despite sounding like one of the “softies” from the Beano, Cuthbert was one of the most important monastic figures in northern Britain in the Early Middle Ages and is considered the patron saint of Northumbria. A couple of centuries after his death, his relics were brought from his original burial site at Lindisfarne where he was Bishop to find a new spot (there was a cow involved apparently) on a perch overlooking the Wear, and that’s where Durham and its cathedral were founded. The cathedral building that is there now dates back to the end of the 11th century and the time of William the Conqueror, who we have met a couple of times on this story already (beating Harry at Hastings and chasing Hereward the Woke out of Ely). William was a bastard (he was called William the Bastard before the Conqueror URL became available) and especially in the north, where he undertook the Harrying of the North, though we should have called it the Williaming of the North since Harry had been beaten in 1066; bloody leaders blaming and naming their own actions on their predecessors, good job we don’t have leaders like that now eh. But the legacy of cathedrals like this is quite a tick on the plus side, because it is really gorgeous. I would love to do a cathedral tour of England, fill an entire sketchbook, bigger size, with cathedral drawings.

Next up, we are reaching the top of England, and heading into the other great cities of the North-East: Newcastle and Sunderland. I’m starting to get dizzy.

(49) Leeds, (50) Harrogate, and (51) York

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Yorkshire is a big place. It’s so big that it’s divided into several counties – North, West, South, and East kinda sorta. What is now officially the county of “East Riding of Yorkshire” was mostly called Humberside when I was growing up, and I didn’t realize until I looked at a map recently (just now) that it had officially changed into “East Riding of Yorkshire”. Not “East Yorkshire” though I guess some people call it that. But I’m not going into the East Riding on this trip. Today we are in the West Riding, tomorrow the North Riding. Riding? Yorkshire was historically divided into three “Ridings” – Old English via Old Norse þriðing”, literally “three-thing”; think “farthing” – North, East and West (but not South). It’s not related to Red Riding Hood, though I can see why you thought that (by the way, why is the story called that? Red Walking Hood more like, amirite?)

First up is the biggest city of Yorkshire, Leeds. I decided not to go to Bradford, a city I have visited before which I must say I like the look of architecturally, well worth a sketch trip. Leeds is somewhere I have only ever changed trains, but it’s a big place and I enjoyed wandering about virtually. I know quite a few sketchers up this way, it would be nice to go and sketch the area. I like the Yorkshire accent. I chose to draw the Leeds City Markets building, and the angle I chose was unusual but I really like how it turned out on the page. I added no colour, letting the white space above it do the talking. Now the Ridings in Yorkshire are – were – divided into ‘Wapentakes’, and this was in the wapentake of ‘Skyrack’, a name that probably comes from the Old English words “scir-ac”, or “shire oak”. Wapentake, what a funny word. It seems to come from a meeting place where votes were taken by the brandishing of weapons – wapen – and this comes from the time of the Danelaw, when the Vikings ruled. Yorkshire is very much the heart of Danish England. Its boundaries were set by the Vikings and the Danish kingdom of Jorvik – York. We’ll get to York soon. Leeds though was a medieval market town, with a name that goes back to the ancient British, possibly from “Ladenses”. The Venerable Bede referred to the places as “Loidis”. When I think of Leeds though, I think of Leeds United, the football team. They just got promoted back into the Premier League after absolutely ages.

Just north of Leeds is the historic spa town of Harrogate. I’ve heard Harrogate is quite nice, but it just sounds nice by its name. In fact it has been voted the “happiest place to live in Britain” three times. That reminds me of that book, Mr Happy. Didn’t he go to a place that was the most miserable place to live, where there was a law forbidding people from being happy? This must be the opposite, I presume. Actually it wasn’t Mr Happy, it was Little Miss Sunshine. I used to be an expert on the Mr Men and the Little Miss books. At my school, people would ask me to draw Mr Men for them. My class even did a Mr Men themed school assembly performance and I got to draw massive Mr Men characters and we coloured them all in and held them up as flat ‘costumes’ in front of ourselves, I think I was Mr Rush but I don’t remember. The Mr Men may have even been what inspired me to start drawing, because all I wanted to do was draw Mr Men – they are not difficult, and I loved their shoes, the ones who wore shoes anyway. I loved the TV show too, Arthur Lowe’s authoritative story telling style, that theme music which I will always consider to be my theme music. When my son was younger I would read him Mr Men stories at night, but I would do them in all sorts of voices. I would read them in the style of Simon Schama narrating A History of Britain. I would read Mr Chatterbox like Vicky Pollard. Fun times, those. Anyway, Harrogate. My only connection to the place is I knew a bloke at school, Andrew, who came from Harrogate to live in London. He had a Yorkshire accent but it was not very strong, we expected it to be all “ee bah gum, t’ferret in t’field” but it wasn’t anything like that. I also used to have this ancient metal toffee tin that came from Harrogate. I decided to draw this pump house, the Royal Pump Room, part of the spa baths there I suppose. Looks like a nice place to sketch, Harrogate, and then get afternoon tea.

And so on to the mos famous and historic city of Yorkshire, York. This was the Viking capital of Jorvik, but it was also the Roman city of Eboracum, capital of the province of Britannia Inferior. I have only been to York once, as a kid on a school day trip from London. Even then I was a bit obsessed with history so I found it amazing, but it did piss down. We visited the Jorvik centre to learn all about the Vikings, and I remember the authentic disgusting smell, though that might have been a sandwich in my school bag that had been there for a few weeks. We also visited York Minster, which I was gobsmacked by, though I couldn’t stop and draw cathedrals back then. I want to get back there to draw it. And I remember we went to the Shambles. I bought a poster about Dick Turpin which had pride of place on my wall for years. Dick Turpin was an infamous highwayman (who really hated people calling him Dick Turnip), who terrorized people on the road to York. Well, he robbed them, I wouldn’t call him a terrorist. He had a great tricorn hat so people would think he was a pirate – imagine their surprise when he turned out to be a highwayman! I don’t know if he ever said “Stand and Deliver, your money or your life” but historians are adamant that he did. He probably should have not put a comma after the word “Deliver” though. Turpin is famous in my home area of Edgware because he was said to have stayed in one of the inns there whenever he would pass through going up the Edgware Road (sometimes with his Essex Gang committing some horrible robbery), an inn that in the 80s was an Italian restaurant called the Vecchia Romagna, and my mum worked there sometimes as a waitress, so we all heard about Dick Turpin coming through like two and a half centuries before. Turpin was hanged in York in 1739, and passed into legend as a dashing robber on horseback with a pirate hat and an Adam and the Ants song on the radio. I used to have a book all about the Richard O’Sullivan tv series, and Dick Turpin was quite a good looking chap if that series is historically accurate. Or he might have looked like Dick James. Anyway, the sketch I did was of one of York’s historic gates, this one being Micklegate Bar. York also has lots of little alleys called “Snickelways”. I think there is also a gate called “Ticklegate” named after Mr Tickle, but I might have just obviously made that one up. It sounds like a scandal anyway. Finally, York always reminds me of Yorkie, one of my favourite chocolate bars, I love those. Especially the ones with the bits of biscuit in them.

So that was York, next up we will go to the North Riding and up to the coastal town of Scarborough, followed by Whitby and then north up to Durham. We are nearly done with England now, and then Scotland, and then I can start a virtual tour around France or Europe or America or something. Not gonna be getting anywhere real any time soon, after all.

(46) Blackpool, (47) Pendle, and (48) Hebden Bridge

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As I go further north, I move into geographies I’ve not really thought about in years, to the point that I look at the map and am surprised that places are where they are. The Yorkshire Dales are way further west than I realized, I’m not sure where I thought they were, under the North York Moors I guess, but not the case. I didn’t draw anything there. Also, the Forest of Bowland is a pretty huge area, just to the southwest of the Dales, and I haven’t ever thought about that place before. It’s an Area of Natural Beauty. I want to hike around it now. I have been to the Lake District when I was 17, and I decided to miss that area out on this trip, but that was a gorgeous place. But since that’s not where I went on this spread, let’s get on with it.

First up is Blackpool, on the Lancashire coast. I have been there when I was about 11 or 12; it’s a popular seaside town, the archetypal British seaside town, even more than places like Brighton or Bournemouth. Oh by the way all seaside towns in England begin with B. Because they are next to the C. Anyway folks I’m here all week. I could never have been a seaside pier comedian. That’s what you get in English seaside towns: a pier, and comedians who have shows there. Not necessarily funny ones, it’s often your Davidsons or your Browns or your Littles and Larges, but sometimes there are good ones. Are there though? Maybe it’s just something you have to have, like donkeys on the beach (do they eat sand?), sticks of rock, buckets and spades, and rain. Blackpool though is a proper seaside resort with huge amusement parks, big rattling rollercoasters, candy floss, and all that stuff that I liked when I was a kid. This sketch shows some of that, with the huge Blackpool Tower in the background, Britain’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. A lot of people like Blackpool, and fair play, it’s not somewhere that appeals a lot to me. I remember the beach being massive though, the sea was so far out I could barely see it. I did enjoy my holidays at Southport, further down the coast, which were at the Pontins holiday camp. So many fun memories there. We wold go there for the Irish music Festival, watching classic performers like Philomena Begley and Brendan Shine (“Catch me if you can, me name is Dan, sure I’m your man,”). I was a kid so I just played at the playgrounds and met kids from all over Britain, all with Irish families like me. It was so easy to meet friends when you’re a kid, “I like this slide, oh you like this slide too, hey we’re best buds now!” I remember getting slices of pizza, playing in the arcade while my mum and my big sister were at the clubhouse watching Brendan Shine singing about washing con-shine’s old lobby down. I made friends with this kid from Glasgow on this one trip and we were inseparable, and even wrote to each other afterwards, and then I think I saw him again on a later trip there but we were a couple of years older so it was like, yeah different people now I guess. I remember on this other trip when I was about thirteen and meeting this girl from Brighton or somewhere who had a double-barrelled first name, I can’t even remember what her name was now but my big sister just referred to her as Mary-Ellen and then subsequently as “Hairy Melon”. The things you remember! But that place, Pontins in Southport, was the first place I met so many people from all over the country – I had never experienced that before, and wouldn’t really again until I went to Cumbria when I was seventeen, and then when I went to university. You need to meet people from all over to learn more about the world.

So that’s the Lancashire coast. I didn’t know where to head next, but I had to go in the direction of Yorkshire. Blackburn? Nah. Burnley? Bolton? Is there anywhere that doesn’t begin with a B? I started reading through Richard Bell’s Britain for inspiration. I came across a golden orange drawing at a place called Pendle Hill. While up to now I have been drawing towns and cities and villages – buildings basically – I decided that now I should draw some countryside. Pendle Hill is quite dramatic, and I did a virtual walk all around it. I decided to stick with the colouring style, just doing the sky, though I wish I had coloured the whole thing. I did that in another countryside sketch later on and I’m glad I did. Pendle is known for witches, because of a famous witch trial in 1612. Pendle Hill also translates as “Hill Hill Hill”, with “Pen” meaning Hill (well, “head”, but that’s a type of hill) in the old Cumbric language, “-dle” coming from the Old English “hyll” (Pendle was recorded as “Penhul” in the Middle Ages), and the in more modern times they added the word “Hill” to the end. Probably in a thousand or so years if a different variety of language is spoken there they might add another word meaning hill, and keep going forever. There are several place names like this in England, I know someone who lived in a place in Devon called Combe Valley (“Valley Valley”) and there’s the River Avon (“River River”) and in America you have “New York New York” (which just means “New York New York”, but give them a few centuries).

Speaking of York, now we are heading from the county of Lancashire to the county of Yorkshire, two historic rival counties either side of the Pennines. You might think of the Wars of the Roses, when the royal Houses of Lancaster and York were big rivals, but you can’t think of that as a Lancashire/Yorkshire thing, more of a national power-hungry aristocrats thing. Nevertheless there is an inter-county sporting rivalry, called the “Roses” rivalry (after the chocolates; other counties have the Quality Street rivalry, the Celebrations rivalry, and the Milk Tray rivalry, but I haven’t decided yet which counties have those rivalries). So you get the “Rugby League Wars of the Roses”, the “Roses Match” in the county cricket championships, and Leeds United v Manchester United, though I think of that as the Eric Cantona derby. So I crossed into West Yorkshire and decided to stop in the pretty looking town of Hebden Bridge. The buildings here as in many northern towns all seem to be made from the same sort of stone, clinging to the sides of a steep narrow valley. Hebden Bridge has suffered several terrible floods in the past decade, one of the worst being Boxing Day 2015, turning streets into mucky brown rivers. Floods have come back since and the whole Calder Valley is threatened by flooding. The town is apparently known for its many independent shops; I chose to draw this little fruit and veg shop that seemed so old fashioned.

I will be moving through Yorkshire over the next couple of spreads; it’s a big place. So join me next time as we get to the triangle of Leeds, Harrogate and York…

(44) Chester, and (45) Liverpool

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Continuing the virtual tour through North-West England now, with one place I’ve never been to, and another place I have not been too in a really long time. As I wind my way through England I am going through the emotions that I went through when I drew all of this. Now at this stage in the virtual journey, in the real world the living-room flood had happened and I’d relocated upstairs; I only just moved my desk downstairs again, much to the annoyance of my cat Whiskers who has gotten very comfortable spending his afternoons on the downstairs desk chair. Now he tries to push me off at around 2pm so he can get his usual nap in. In the virtual world, I was still passing through each virtual street, with so many places “temporarily closed”, the image of a country in limbo. My relationship with England waxes and wanes in my absence, as it did when I lived there, some days I just think nope, place drives me nuts, other days I miss it terribly, even missing places I have never stepped foot. Often I just miss the Cadbury’s chocolate and the Jaffa Cakes, and silly things like the meal deal sandwiches at Tesco Metro. I don’t know, it makes me feel sad sometimes, especially during this whole thing. Anyway.

So, first stop on this spread is the city of Chester, in Cheshire. This might be my favourite drawing in the whole damn book. I love nothing more than drawing timber-framed buildings, and the whole of downtown Chester (“downtown”, I’m so American now, I’m going to forget what a Jaffa Cake is) is filled with this sort of architecture. I should draw a whole book just of timber-framed buildings. I am sure there must be lots of sketchers in Chester, busy drawing these all the time, but if they aren’t called “Chester Drawers” I’d be really disappointed. While there are medieval buildings in Chester, most of these ones such as this are from the 19th Century’s “Black and White Revival”; this one was built by one of its great proponents, T. M. Lockwood. I bet his friends called him “Trademark”. I don’t know much else about Chester, except that it has a zoo, and that I think my nan lived there years ago before she lived in London, I remember my mum telling me (I might not have been listening, for all I know she was telling me about her chest of drawers). It’s funny visiting places where ancestors lived (even if it was only for a short time and might actually have been me mishearing a story about a chest of drawers). Chester is actually Roman though, the imperial city of “Deva”. On AA road maps in the UK (at least ones I used to read) the Roman name of the city would be listed underneath the modern name on a map, usually in small caps. While it is interesting for someone like me to know that Chester was once DEVA, York was once EBORACUM, St. Alban’s was once VERULAMIUM, I’m not sure why it’s important to the motorist trying to find their way from the A41. Unless the AA are expecting the Romans to return someday.

Speaking of the AA, the next stop is Liverpool. That is a reference to the joke, who do you call when your car breaks down in Liverpool? The “AA, Calm Down”.  That is a reference to a Harry Enfield sketch about Scousers, which itself was a parody of characters from Liverpool-based soap Brookside, which I’m not ashamed to say was one of my favourite shows years ago. The Liverpool accent is probably my favourite English accent, much better than my own one. Years ago when I spent a year in Provence I directed a university play, an adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and my flatmate Emma who is from Liverpool played one of the “Scouse Squirrels”. Every time a Davis squirrel gets all aggressive with me on campus now I hear the Scouse Squirrels voice in my head. Liverpool is most famous for the Beatles, who I love, and also loads of old comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck, and of course Cilla Black, singer and beloved TV presenter. I visited Liverpool a couple of times when Iw as a kid, while we holidayed in nearby Southport, the last time being back in 1989. That was a long time ago! At that time, local football teams Liverpool and Everton were trading league titles (although in that year Arsenal won it, though Liverpool got the FA Cup; it was also the year of Hillsborough). We did all the tourist stuff, went to the Beatles museum (I remember getting a cool Beatles badge that I actually gave to a girl a few years later), took a ferry across the Mersey, went to the Albert Dock and saw the floating weather map from This Morning (although I’ve since heard about the weather man from that map; ughhh, glad he’s in jail), and visited one of Liverpool’s TWO cathedrals. We didn’t go to the big Anglican cathedral, which was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott (he of the phone box, Waterloo Bridge and Bankside Power Station, aka Tate Modern); shame as that one is massive; we could see it across the city. But probably because my mum had become a Catholic in the 80s we went to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, the modern triangular spikey looking building which I actually thought was totally brilliant. I really like this odd looking church, built in the 1960s, because on the inside the colourful light is beautiful. It reminds me of the Jedi Temple. Liverpool has a very Irish heritage; it’s not surprising given how close it is, but this was where a lot of Irish immigrants landed in the 19ths century during the Famine, many settling and many leaving Liverpool on a big boat to America. Lots of the Irish songs I learned as a kid were about this very thing. I never expected I would end up in America myself. Actually the reason we would come to Liverpool is because, as I mentioned, we were holidaying in Southport at the Pontins resort, which hosted an annual Irish Festival in the 1980s, so we always had a lot of traditional Irish music on in our house. I’d like to come back to Liverpool, come sketching, maybe visit my old flatmate Emma, not seen her in nearly two decades. I expect it has changed a lot since 1989. The football team just became league champions for the first time since 1990. There aren’t as many Beatles any more, but a lot more Beatles monuments. I assume there is still a ferry across the Mersey, though I expect people take hoverboards or flying cars now or something (in 1989 I imagined they would be by 2020). Mostly I would come just to hear the accent.

Next up, we turn north up to Blackpool, before taking in some Lancashire countryside and crossing the Pennines into Yorkshire. We’re right up north now.

(42) Buxton, and (43) Manchester

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I’ve never really been to the Peak District, except passing through it on a coach once as a kid (and even that I’m not sure about, I might have imagined it), but I am told it is very nice. One of my friends went there by himself a couple of years ago to rent a cottage and write a book, which sounds like a great idea. I’ve always thought that would be fun, but I’m not sure what I would write about. I’d just end up drawing, and then write about it like that book I admire so much, Richard Bell’s Britain. It would sound a bit like this I suppose; I’m not sure I could stay serious. On on earlier post I compared the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 to a grueling extra-time football semi-final ahead of a final at Hastings on the other side of the country; a couple of posts ago I was talking about “Hereward The Woke”, while in the last one I was telling you about my nightmares about Sheffield and nuclear war. Eh, it’s usual for this site I guess. Some days I’m serious, some days silly, some just confusing. On my original blog, when I started posting drawings and not just observations about my new life in America from a mid-2000s, early 30s perspective, I would make the accompanying text font really small so you had to squint as if to say “look at the drawing, don’t worry about the nonsensical text”.

Anyway this counts as “going on a bit”, so let’s get on with it. The top sketch is in the Peak District town of Buxton, Derbyshire, which I hadn’t intended on stopping at and sketching, but wow it’s very nice there, very nice indeed. I know Buxton from the spring water, which I am going to say is very nice even though I’ve never had it, because the old adverts in England made it look delicious. The building I chose to draw is the Buxton Opera House, a beautiful looking building. It was built by the same guy who designed the London Palladium, the London Coliseum, and the Hackney Empire, Frank Matcham. Buxton also makes me think of one of my favourite sketchbloggers who lives in this neck of the woods, Andrea Joseph, who I followed online in the early days of sketchblogging, 2006 era. Back in those days I’d check in on her blog regularly, along with Jason’s, and Gabi’s, and Jana’s, and Suzanne’s, and Martha’s, and France’s, and Daniel’s, and Julie’s, and more and more others as I found them, learning a lot from them along the way. Buxton also reminds me of Adam Buxton, who is not from here and has nothing to do with the place, except his name. I really like listening to his podcasts though, old Buckles, while I’m out sketching or jogging, he makes me smile.

Right, moving on from the Peak District (whenever friends from London say that it sounds like “the Pete District”) I took the road up to the city of Manchester. I first properly visited Manchester during the Urban Sketching Symposium there in 2016, which I really enjoyed, one of my favourite symposiums. I was astonished how sketchable Manchester was, especially the Castlefields area. See my Manchester sketches here. And yes, it rained every day, and I loved it. Sat on the pavement in the rain eating chips in gravy for lunch with a can of orange Tango is up there with my favourite memories. Though it was quite noisy in the area where I stayed downtown, which I think was on the edge of party central; thankfully the bedroom of the apartment I rented had double glazing. I do remember walking past this train station at Deansgate early one evening when I was wandering about lost, looking for the pub where everyone met nightly during the symposium – I had taken a wrong turn, those famous Scully map reading skills not working out on this one occasion. It happens sometimes, I get lost, but hey it’s the only way to really discover. I like drawing railway bridges. Manchester is a famous city you’ve all heard of, football, music, telly; the only time I had been here before 2016 was when I visited the old Granada TV studios with my family back in 1989, and we did the studio tour, seeing the Coronation Street set. My mum loved that show. The old set has now been demolished and rebuilt at the new Granada Studios at Salford Quays.

Well that is Manchester, and I want to go back there and eat chips in gravy in the rain again, but we must press on to the city with my favourite accent in England, Liverpool, and the nearby city of Chester…

(39) Lincoln, (40) Nottingham), and (41) Sheffield

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Onwards through great Britain we go. Last time out we were in Skegness, Lincolnshire, and that’s a big country so I decided to stick around. I really want to visit Lincoln some day, to draw the big cathedral. I would love to do a real tour of all of England’s cathedrals, but them into a big book. On this virtual trip however I couldn’t get a great view, but you can see it poking its head out from over that scaffolding in the panorama at the top of the spread. Lincoln of course is the name of one of the great American presidents, Honest Abe Lincoln, wearer of tall hats. The city does date back to the Romans, Lindum Colonia, though that grew from an older Iron Age settlement. The Cathedral was, believe it or not, the Tallest Building In The World for about 200 years in the Middle Ages, but the really tall spire that gave them that title fell down a long time ago and they never bothered putting it back.

Next up is Nottingham. I used to wonder a lot about Nottingham when I was a kid. Obviously I always associated it with Robin Hood, but I would read road maps of Britain before going to bed at night (and Europe too; I was really into travelling in my head) and Nottingham would pop out as a place that wasn’t far from all the other places in England. Now it makes me think of that film “This Is England”. So while virtually wandering Nottingham, I found a big old pub called “Rose of England” covered in England flags, so I decided to draw that. I needed somewhere with lots of England flags, since I drew a pub in Cardiff covered in Welsh flags. I never found a pub covered in Scotland flags, but ah well, maybe if Street View goes around Glasgow during the next football World Cup they’ll find some. Oh, ok, maybe not the World Cup, er, maybe the Rugby Six Nations. Anyway Nottingham is also the place where Brian Clough, one of the greatest football managers of all, worked as the gaffer of Nottingham Forest, leading them to two European Cups, one Football League Title, and a helluva lotta League Cups. I am a big fan of Cloughie and his funny ways, especially all the stories his former players would tell about him. but of course with Nottingham we have to think about one man only – the Sheriff of Nottingham. Oh, and Robin Hood. The Sheriff was played by one of my favourite actors of all time, Rickman. Rickman’s voice was perfect, nasal and dismissive. Anyway enough of Nottingham, time to move slightly further north into South Yorkshire, and to the Steel City.

Sheffield is big, and has an important history. This is where our knives and forks were made, the steel industry here being world-famous. In sporting terms, the oldest professional club is Sheffield FC, while the two other bigger clubs have a long history in the game, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United (who are the “Blades”). I used to watch the Snooker World Championships every May on TV which take place at the Crucible in Sheffield. One of my favourite bands, Pulp, are famous Sheffielders, as is the singer’s namesake Joe Cocker. There’s something intrinsically normal and unpretentious about Sheffield, and I’d like to walk about its neighbourhoods one day with a sketchbook. I drew the quite modern looking Winter Gardens entrance on my virtual tour. But despite all of this, whenever I think of Sheffield, I get flashbacks of nightmares I had for years because of one TV miniseries that came out in 1984: “Threads”. If you haven’t heard of Threads, it was a dramatization of a nuclear attack seen through the eyes of local people in Sheffield. It was so realistic, it scared the absolute living bejeezus out of me. The woman peeing herself in the street. The white flash melting milkbottles and people. I was only eight and the Cold War was very much a thing and something I worried about a lot, I had that book “When The Wind Blows” and I remember “Protect and Survive”, the government information advising us to paint the windows white and take the doors off their hinges. So yeah, if I think of Sheffield I think of when it was blown away in Threads.

And on that bleak note, we will move into the Peak District and continue westwards on the virtual Great Britain tour, and take our minds off of fictitious 1980s nuclear wars that still wake me up in the night.

(36) Cambridge, (37) Norwich, and (38) Skegness

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I’m not doing East Anglia any justice. It might not be as dramatic as Wales or as culturally diverse as London, but there are lots of places to explore, immense amounts of history and legend, and despite geographically not being that far from London it sometimes feels far away and distant. At least that’s how I usually felt when going there as a kid, but even now Premier League football teams in London will often fly to games in Norwich rather than take the coach. So in this virtual tour I am really rushing past this important part of England, just stopping off at a couple of places to say hi before heading into the north of the country.

First up is Ely, a small cathedral city in Cambridgeshire. Ely might be small but the cathedral is huge, and I’ve always wanted to go back there and draw it. The first time I was in Ely was in 1995 visiting my friend Jacki for the day, looking at the cathedral, the river, Oliver Cromwell’s house, the shops, and the Woolworth’s, but not the Little Chef which I had heard a lot about, before I caught my train back to King’s Cross; I think I stopped by Ely again briefly a year later, but memory fails me a bit. I do have a few sketching friends in Ely now and have wanted to get back there for a while to draw that cathedral, but I’ll have to make do with virtual sketching for now. The Woolworth’s is long gone, as is the Little Chef I expect. Ely is in the Fens, and the name probably comes from the “isle of eels”, or so I was told at the time. The Fens are a flat and marshy landscape, spreading out across northern East Anglia right up to The Wash. They bring to mind the great Anglo-Saxon hero Hereward the Wake, who held out against the Norman conquerors (who probably called him “The Wake” as an insult like online trolls now dismiss people as “Woke”). Hereward the SJW led a virtue-signalling rebellion (or was it a radical left riot?) against the freedom-loving Normans who had come to England in 1066 to create jobs (building castles, chopping heads, harrying norths). They didn’t have Twitter in those days, just scribes who used no punctuation whatsoever (so a bit like today). It was here in Ely that Hereward made his stand against William the Conqueror’s Normans, who even brought along a Witch, an actual Witch, in a tall mobile wooden tower to try to freak the English out with magic and spells, though that didn’t work and the English just set fire to the tower (true story). The isle of Ely (as it was an island in those days) ultimately fell, and Hereward escaped to live as an outlaw in the Fens, with his brothers Thereward and Everywhereward (not a true story).

So that’s Ely, now it’s time to head into Norfolk. I decided to miss out the Suffolk part of East Anglia, which is a real shame as the countryside is really nice there. Think Constable, Gainsborough, and the others. I needed to get to Norwich, the biggest city in East Anglia and a place that has a lot of childhood memories for me. My aunt Pat lived in Norwich when I was a kid, in a house next to the big Heath with lots of my cousins. We’d visit them from time to time, this house with what seemed like so many rooms, even a basement (I still get excited when a house has a basement). When I was seven I spent a few weeks staying up there with my aunt when my little sister was a baby, mostly playing with my cousin Daniel, speeding down the steep slope of the Heath on bits of cardboard box, playing Star Wars, going to see Superman III, eating out at a place called Zaks. My cousins were Jehovah’s Witnesses so I remember bedtime stories being stories like Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt, which didn’t give me nightmares but made me really wonder about the physics of that. I think I still have the book of those stories my aunt gave me somewhere. Speaking of salt, when I was visiting as a kid my cousin Daniel decided to pour loads of salt into my orange squash, to see what would happen. I remember saying, this tastes funny, and he told me what he’d done. Oh ok, I said, and I kept drinking it, assuming it was some Norfolk thing. Then we sat down for breakfast and I erupted in vomit like Mount Vesuvius, all over my older cousin Debbie’s nice leather jacket. Daniel got in trouble, I just kept throwing up, but the lesson learned was don’t put salt in orange squash. The last time I visited Norwich was when I was 15, we popped by to see my aunt and to my cousin Denise’s. I still have a lot of family around Norwich and Norfolk, I wish I had the time to pop by and say hi to them all, and Norwich would be a fun place to explore and draw. I chose to draw Jarrold’s, the big department store in the centre of town, I vaguely remember my cousin telling me about it when I was a kid, but I don’t know if I ever went there.

And finally in this spread, we leave East Anglia but stick with the flatter Fen counties, going into Lincolnshire, on the other side of the Wash. This is the coastal town of Skegness, traditionally seaside holiday spot on the North Sea. Since I missed out all the other east coast seaside spots like Clacton, Walton-on-the-Naze, Great Yarmouth, Caister, Sheringham, I had to include Skeggy, though I have not been there myself. I drew the clock tower on the seafront, and you can see in the background there are several fish and chip shops. There seem to be so many chippies around here, and that is a very good thing, I think you always need a good fish and chip shop nearby, it’s a requirement. Being northern and by the sea the fish and chips are bound to be pretty good. When I think of Skegness, as with many coastal towns, I think of chalet parks, caravan parks, chip shops, arcades, bingo, sticks of rock. We used to stay in chalets at holiday parks in Caister as a kid, and we would go further north on the other side of England to the Pontins resort in Southport, near Blackpool. We would also go to a caravan park in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, and occasionally to Camber Sands on the south coast. But never to Skegness, always just a bit further away, most Londoners wouldn’t head that far, again unless they went up to Blackpool. “Skegness” as a name sounds very “Danelaw”, and the name does come from Old Norse, with Skeggi either being the name of a Viking or just a word meaning “beard-shaped”, with “Ness” being a coastal headland. What’s the Danelaw? That’s the portion of England that was cut diagonally across the country in late Anglo-Saxon times that was effectively taken over by the Vikings, in short. You’ll find a larger number of place-names of Norse origin, lots of -thorpes and -bys and -holmes and -nesses. Looking at the map as I take the virtual trip I see a lot more of them popping up the further we travel up this way.

But next up, we are heading west again, to Lincoln and further inland.

(34) Oxford, and (35) Cambridge

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Oxbridge. The Brangelina of cities. What those of you outside of academic circles may not know though is that they are in fact two completely separate towns with very little in common. Sure they have world class universities that are hard to get into. Well, it was hard for me anyway, so I didn’t even try. You needed a lot more “As” to get in there, and my single “A” in English wouldn’t have been enough. Also I don’t know if I’d have been able to choose between the two. So I ended up staying in London and going to Queen Mary, and I liked it there. Just going to University itself was to open a different world to me than the one I knew from Burnt Oak, it was completely uncommon among most people I grew up with, so the idea of Oxbridge would have been like the idea of going to work at Buckingham Palace or something. Still, I wonder what it would have been like if I had set Oxbridge as a goal earlier in my school career. Probably no different. Even at sixth form college, I knew nobody who went there, or had applied there, it was just seen as effectively off-limits. I’ve met so many people since, great academics of course, who either went there or teach there now, and it seems strange to think of it as something so distant, but I still wouldn’t get in, unless they have a degree in drawing fire hydrants or making bad puns.

So, Oxford then. There are so many places to draw here, but I had to draw one of the big grand college entrances. This is the front of Brasenose College, right in the heart of the city. The University’s colleges are located throughout Oxford (as are Cambridge’s). The University of Oxford itself was founded in 1096 (possibly), although it was really around 1167 that it grew after King Henry II forbade students from going to the Sorbonne in Paris (in case the Sorbonne stole their data, good job we don’t have leaders like that now). Brasenose dates from 1509, its name coming from an old brass door knocker on the old Brasenose Hall. Famous alumni of Brasenose include David Cameron, who had some brass himself; Michael Palin, whose travel shows and books made me want to be a travel writer when I was a kid (yeah, working on that); William Webb Ellis, who invented rugby; and Field Marshal Haig, who was played by Geoffrey Palmer in Blackadder Goes Forth. I’ve been to Oxford a few times, always thought it a place I could live if we were ever to go back to England. I suppose I’m drawn to university towns, I like being close to big libraries.

I decided to skip past all of the places in between “Ox” and “Bridge”, such as Milton Keynes, and Luton, which I’ll be sure to include in a future virtual sketchbook, honestly, and proceeded to the other great university city of Cambridge. The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209 after there were big punch-ups between the locals of Oxford (“town”) and the scholars of the University (“gown”). Actually it was pretty serious – three Oxford scholars were hanged by authorities following the death of a local woman, kicking off a load of violence. Many fled to Cambridge and decided to start a new University right there. Just like in Oxford the colleges are scattered among the town; just like in Oxford there is a “Bridge of Sighs”; just like in Oxford there is a river that winds around town between the colleges, which just like in Oxford is full of “punts”, those long flat boats where people will punt along by pushing a long wooden stick against the riverbed. I’ve done it myself, not easy to navigate at first, but I managed not to fall in. I really like Cambridge, a bit smaller than Oxford, although last time I was there it was pretty crowded with tourists. I first went to Cambridge when I was 19, to visit a friend who I had met on a college exchange trip to France. I remember that day, getting the train up from King’s Cross, walking about town, going to the shopping centre (I bought a Boo Radleys CD there, I remember clearly), reading the Cambridge Evening News and laughing at the hilarious headline “Rising Bollards Claim Another Victim”. I liked being 19, it was a simple time. I’ve been back to Cambridge a number of times and I always like it there, and though it’s somewhere I could definitely sketch I decided on the virtual trip that I would not draw another college building, just creating a mirror on the spread with Oxford, so I chose to draw the Round Church, which as you can see is just that.

Now these being 34 and 35 you’ll notice that we are now over the halfway point in our journey around Great Britain. We will zigzag around the country missing out many a great town and including some which you might think, wow you skipped Ipswich for this place? But the obvious next stop in this virtual journey is just up the train track from Cambridge in the Fens city of Ely…

(31) Ironbridge, (32) Birmingham, and (33) Worcester

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So we virtually cross over the virtual border into the virtual country of England, and three more Places I Have Never Been. This will be the case for most places. I’ve lived more than a third of my life away from Britain, and certainly the majority of the most important bits, and when I still lived in London most of my travels would be across the channel (it was usually cheaper). So I have missed out on lot of interesting places in Britain, so the purpose of this virtual journey was partly to imagine myself travelling about them with my sketchbook, like a kid mountaineering on the staircase, but also to scout them out for future visits. The inspiration for a trip like this was a book I was given several years ago by my cousin Dawn, called “Richard Bell’s Britain”. It is a fully illustrated account of the artist Richard Bell’s year-long solo tour around Great Britain, drawing in brown pen and watercolour, mostly sketching nature such as plants, wildlife, hills, cliffs, really focusing in on the geology, the old country walls and fences, but also the occasional urban scene. Even the writing is in the same brown pen, printed on soft cream coloured paper. It was published in 1981, when I was very young, and in love with Watership Down – in fact Bell was one of the artists on that animated film, and he revisits the actual place in his book. (Fun fact – Watership Down was the first book without pictures that I ever read, and I remember it took me ages, and gave me nightmares, but I still have that original copy).

As I said, my cousin Dawn Painter, herself a brilliant all-round artist and expert (particularly of the natural world), sent me the book, having picked it up at a second-hand bookstore in London. In the note she left inside the book she had drawn a picture of the Iron Bridge which spans Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, at the town of Ironbridge. She said that there is so much to draw, and so much history and from my virtual tour I can see that I really have to come here some day. I like drawing a bridge, and this one made me concentrate. If I go in real life I need to practice that bridge. If it rains though I’m starting under an umbrella and then drawing the rest from a photo with a pint in the pub. So what’s the deal with Ironbridge then? This was in fact the first cast iron bridge in the world. This is where the Industrial Revolution started. You know the Industrial Age we all like, we’re all big fans of, well this is where it came from. Coalbrookdale, the village around the corner, is where Abraham Darby smelted iron ore. As all his friends would say, “he who smelt it dealt it”. Funfacts: Tony Stark was born here, and this is where he first built Iron Man, and the hidden realm of Kun Lun is also around somewhere around here, which is where you’ll find Iron Fist, and rock band Iron Maiden, they were made here too, and the Iron Throne from Westeros was forged here, and…Sorry, I let it get silly. Ironically, irony was not born here. Now another town just a smelted iron ore’s throw away from here is Telford, which I did not draw, but I remember as being a ‘new’ town which would actually advertise itself on TV, “come and live in Telford, a lovely place to live,” or something along those lines. It was named after Thomas Telford, who, as you will remember from my last post, built the big bridge over the Menai Straits. It’s actually very close to The Wrekin, a tall cone-shaped hill I learned about as a kid. It is pronounced “reekin” (he who smelt it dealt it, eh, Abraham). The story I learned was that there was this giant who really hated Shrewsbury, because he kept pronouncing it “shrow-sbury” when locals insisted it was “shroo-sbury”, so he decided to flood the town, or “floooood” it as he would say mockingly. So he goes and gets this massive great big mound of earth and sets off towards Shrewsbury. On the way he meets a cobbler carrying a sack of old shoes (or “shows”, I’m not sure). When the giant asks him the way to Shrewsbury, the cobbler realizes what the giant plans to do and thinks quickly, telling him that “no no Shrewsbury is a really long way away, look at all the shoes I have worn out coming from there!” Now you and I know this was just, haha, a load of old cobblers, but the giant thought, well that does look quite far, and decided to dump the massive pile of earth right where he stood, and went off home I suppose. The mound became known as the “Wrekin”, pronounced “reckin”, but just to annoy the giant even more local people started pronouncing it “reekin” instead.

Enough gadding about Shropshire legends, let’s head into the second city of England, Birmingham.  We have established I’ve never been there, and in all my life I have never once thought of ever going there. I used to be mildly obsessed with the Birmingham, or “Brummie”, accent when I was a kid, because of Barry from Auf Wiedersehen Pet, although I’d be lying if I said it was in my list of top accents in the country. (My top three by the way are Liverpool, Glasgow, and probably Swansea, though that might be just specifically Elis James’s voice.) But I sometimes hear the accent and it just blows me away how gentle and soothing it can be. I can’t say the same for my own Burnt Oak accent of north London, which has more of the “oi you f*#!in’ w@%ker” about it, though that can really come in handy in a tight spot. All I’m saying is that when pushed, the fake transatlantic British accent steps aside and the Burnt Oak comes right back out again. But I used to try to practice accents when I was a kid, and Birmingham was one I always tried, though usually it just made me sound a bit bored. This is what I’m missing out on in this virtual tour, all the accents, and those found across the Midlands are a big gap in my knowledge. I remember watching Crossroads as a kid, with that one very Brummie character Benny on it, but I wasn’t really interested when he wasn’t on screen. We all know Slade and Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leppard from that Vic and Bob sketch. I used to like Bovril. So virtually touring Birmingham, I found it very much as I had always imagined it, a big city that wasn’t London, lots of canals (so many canals). Birmingham is famous for the quiz question, “Watt Steam Engine was invented in Birmingham?” It is also famous for its “Bullring” shopping centre in the middle of town. But I was most drawn to this grand building in Victoria Square, which houses Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery. I was really happy with the slightly Dutch camera angle layout, even though it only left me a small place in the top right corner for whichever town I was heading to next.

Which turned out to be Worcester. None of your sauce. Most people know Worcester from the joke about the Bicester Times and the Worcester Times, but it also has a history with the King Charles II. After losing the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles popped into this very pub for a post-battle drink and probably had some lovely Worcester Sauce flavour crisps, hiding out while Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army looked for him in the most famous game of Hide and Seek ever played in Britain, if you don’t count the one Richard II played with his nephews in the Tower of London (BTW, the Princes won that game). The New Model Army wasn’t an Airfix kit, and while they were called Roundheads, it’s not because they looked like Playmobil figures. But that’s what I see whenever thinking about Civil War era England. Anyway Charles II, son of the recently beheaded Charles I (shortest English King ever, for obvious reasons) hid in here, probably wearing a t-shirt saying “Worcester. Day. Ever.” This pub is now called the King Charles House, which I presume it wasn’t called at the time, because that would have been a really bad place to hide. Or a genius place, because Cromwell surely wouldn’t look there. After the Roundheads turned up, he ran out the back door, as you would in any pub when the Millwall firm shows up. Charles went on to hide in various places (such as in the branches of trees, which is why you get so many pubs called the “Royal Oak” in England) (incidentally the Colonel who hid in the tree with him was called Colonel Careless, who for obvious reasons had to speak in a whisper, and I think you know where I’m going with that) before eventually making his way to France where he hung out for nine years until it was safe for him to come back, like Dirty Den in Eastenders.

This was a really interesting leg of the virtual journey, and there are so many other places I had to miss out. I didn’t draw Warwick, or Stratford-upon-Avon, or the Cotswolds villages, or Coventry, or any of the other urban areas of the West Midlands like Wolves or West Brom. I was on the clock, so I hightailed it down to Oxford, back on the River Thames (or the “Isis” as they call it there, unless they have stopped calling it that, like when Lord Grantham’s dog was killed off in Downton Abbey). So join me next time as we go to Oxford and then straight away to Cambridge to compare the two.

(29) Menai Bridge, and (30) Conwy

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The last of the Welsh trilogy brings us right up to North Wales, although I wish I’d made space for the interior. I had to weigh up whether I needed to include Wrexham, but later on leave out Sunderland? It’s a weighty issue, and I’d only be including Wrexham because they knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup that one time. I really enjoyed this spread though, I hope it shows. It was a very enjoyable virtual journey, very peaceful. It was still a couple of days or so before our flood, when I was still at the desk downstairs, and so it’s funny that two bridges ended up on these pages. Or not. But I imagined myself walking these areas, like Tony Robinson in that TV series I have watched a lot of lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about walking the UK, planning out hikes, right down to deciding which walking poles to bring. Of course I would need to factor in sketching time, so each walk would take a lot longer, but I draw pretty fast, and can always do half and finish the rest at the local pub in the evening, listening away for accents and dialects. I studied the history of the English language, and one of my popular-academic linguistic heroes lives up this way, David Crystal, on Anglesey. I have read many of his books, and I’ve always wanted to meet him and talk language and its history and future with him.

So, let’s have a butcher’s at the first drawing then, this is the mighty Menai Suspension Bridge, which crosses high above the Menai Strait that separates the mainland from the island of Anglesey (Ynys Môn in Welsh). The bridge was built by the great civil engineer and architect Thomas Telford and was opened in 1826, and the road that goes across it is actually the A5 – the very same road that links up what we call Watling Street, although that Roman road did not come out this far, although in that Watling Street book I started reading the author does continue past Wroxeter and up to Holyhead, but fails to talk about this amazing bridge. So technically this links it up with the first spread of the book. Now, this sketch was drawn on the Anglesey side of the Menai Strait, so technically it is not on the island of Great Britain – exception to the rule – but you can see the island of Great Britain in the drawing so no rules broken. The name “Anglesey” is likely of Viking origin, but the best place name on the island is unmistakably Welsh: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. It means “Stmaryschurchinthehollowofthewhitehazelneartotherapidwhirlpoolofllantysiliooftheredcave”, which is easy for you to say. It’s where you go to take a picture of the train station sign using panoramic mode on your phone. I have to go there.

It’s North Wales, so another castle was needed, and I like the one in Conwy, mostly because Caernarfon would mean backtracking again, and I’d already done that, or putting the first sketch on the bottom of a spread, and I had done that already. I’m trying to make the book interesting to pick up and look through. Not that I have any interest in publishing, this is just a curio to bring to events in future, but it’s good to mix it up. I get it right a few more times, and less right on a couple, but mostly I’m very happy with the spreads from Wales onwards, and this one more than most. I love a bridge, I love a castle. So for Conwy I needed to find a good angle, and so I went across the River Conwy and found a nice spot next to a little cottage, I can imagine standing here sketching, maybe with the brolly sticking out my coat, saying hello to a local old fellow who passed me by, and nodding while I pretended to understand what he was saying to me, and complementing him on the beautiful countryside as if he was personally responsible for it, and him telling me something about how when he was a kid he’d catch cockles and cook them up for breakfast but that his grandkids just want to listen to records and go to London and work at desks, but they come back for Christmas and they always want cockles for breakfast, but I’m a bit old to get out there now with my back the way it is. Nice chap, this completely imaginary passer-by. Now the castle itself is another one built by Patrick McGoohan from Braveheart, and it is a World Heritage Site. It is a proper example of a proper castle, one that if you have kids and they like castles you should take them to this one.

There’s a lot more in North Wales to draw – coastal towns like Llandudno, which always reminds me of Neville Southall, the great Wales and Everton goalie (and a great follow on Twitter), the peaks and valleys of Snowdonia, and resort towns like Rhyl to draw caravan parks, chalets and chip shops. But as it is, we had to get back to England, to the Midlands, to draw yet another bridge – the very first one made of cast iron…