towering over our heads

UC Davis arboretum Here’s another sketch of the UC Davis Water Tower (one of them anyway) in the Arboretum, this time with a very spring-like feel with the redbuds glowing. The first day of March 2022, which means we are nearly two years on from that day in March 2020 when we all stopped, and then carried on in a different way.

a complex world

TLC Feb 2022 sm

The world is a mess, but we keep on keeping on. This is the new Teaching Learning Complex, a building that has been under construction this past couple of years and is now open (I went and walked around inside last week, it’s nice) but there’s still work going on at the exterior and I think the upper floors are nearly ready as well. I drew at lunchtime, but added in details on a different lunchtime, and then decided not to colour it, but then decided to put colour on it, and splashed on a bit of paint so that it dripped down. It’s nice to have this new building around, I can even see it from my office. But, as I am sure will be said many times over the years by clever people giving talks here, “teaching and learning doesn’t need to be complex.”  I don’t know where you go next from that phrase but it sounds like the sort of thing that you might say when speaking to a group of, I don’t know, undergrads learning to be teachers maybe. I might use it some day myself. In fact I just did, just then. Oh, the world is a mess. I wish the war would stop in Ukraine and Russia would leave them alone, that isn’t going to happen, what an awful situation. I’ve not felt this much dread at a world event since, I don’t know, the cold war? Or maybe since Covid started. I wish Covid would go away, though on that front campus is relaxing things soon, and masks will no longer be required after March 18, though I’ll still wear mine because I like to feel like a ninja. At least I have plans ahead, I finally booked a flight to London this summer, the first time back in two and a half years, and I’ll believe it when I see it. We just keep on keeping on.

ickle bit of pink

UC Davis arboretum

The Redbuds are out. This is in the Arboretum at UC Davis, the section closest to where I work is the Warren G. Roberts Redbud Collection, which blasts into life at this time of year. Here’s a little bit of info about it: The Redbud is a native Californian plant, which grows in the foothills. I sketched quickly. A lot of people in the Arboretum that day, seemed to see many people I know, or who knew me without me knowing (or recognizing) them. I do sometimes get a “hello!” from people who I’ve obviously met before but don’t recognize (either due to the masks, my legendarily bad eyesight, or just that I never recognize anyone), so I always just say “y’alright, how ya doin’?” back, and let my slow mind catch up with who it might have been afterwards. This happened just last night on the way out to the soccer practice field, I got a “hey Pete, been a while!” from someone but for the life of me I don’t know who it was, I just waved a “yeah man, good to see you!” although I couldn’t actually see them. My phenomenal lack of being able to recognize people goes back a long way. Back in the 90s, I was up in Yorkshire visiting a friend who happened to work in a nightclub, so after arriving on the late bus from London I went by there to wait for them to finish and I spotted one of their friends, who I had met the previous time I’d been up there, Bertie I think he was called, drinking with a couple of other lads. So I went up and started chatting, “how’s it going, good to see you, yeah I had a long journey up here, six and a half hours on the bus, not very comfy, bit cream-crackered now,” the music was loud so it wasn’t easy to hear each other, I anyway after about ten minutes he says to me, “who are you though? I don’t actually know you.” Because it wasn’t Bertie, he had no idea who Bertie was, or who I was, or why I was talking to him about the state of the seats on the National Express. I just went, “oh, you’re not Bertie, sorry!” and went off to hide forever. I might have done that thing where I take off my glasses and rubbed my eyes like in a cartoon. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have known Bertie if he’d jumped out of a big cake. I don’t even remember if he was really called Bertie, he was probably called Bobby or Barry. Anyway, I’m not great at recognizing faces, so if you do see me and I look a bit nonplussed and give the random “hey, how’s it goin” response, that’s just my terrible eyesight and memory, nothing to worry about. I’m too busy focusing on the pink trees anyway.

UC Davis arboretum

Auf wiedersehen, Konditorei

konditorei, davis

This is – was – Konditorei, an Austrian bakery on 5th Street in Davis. Konditorei closed a week or so ago after 32 years in business following the retirement of the owners Albert and Gloria Kutternig. Wow, 32 years…exactly twice as long as I have been in Davis. I cycled over to draw it, although it wasn’t open. I used to pass by here on my way home from work or downtown when I lived on the other side of Davis, and it would usually be closed by the time I came by, being typically open earlier in the day, so I didn’t get a chance to come in here often. But I really loved their birthday cakes. I would always ask for a Konditorei cake for my birthday, and I had my final one a few weeks before they closed up, a delicious and elaborate white chocolate cake whose name I can’t remember. It didn’t last long. I was first introduced to Konditorei’s cakes about twelve or thirteen years ago when our department chair (who was from Germany) brought one in to share with the staff on the occasion of his birthday. I loved it so much I asked for the same one for my birthday a week or so later, it was a work of art. I’ve enjoyed them ever since. It will be sad not to have one next year! I wish the Kutternigs a very well deserved retirement.

I do love a pastry, and enjoy Austrian food. When I was 15, I went to Austria for the first time as part of a school exchange trip. Our German class wasn’t very big so it was combined with one of the younger years from our school. Our teacher Mrs Kellock was from Austria, so it made sense we would come there. We went to a little town called Lauterach, in the Vorarlberg region which is squeezed in the gap between Switzerland and Germany on the shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance), with high mountains all around, and little Liechtenstein not far down the road. While I did spend time at the local school, my main reason for being there was for work experience, or “Schnupperlehre” as it was known. German was my favourite subject at school and I think I imagined that I might live in a German-speaking country when I grew up. In my early teens had a pen-pal in Vienna, Michaela, though we never met in person. The work experience I did was at a tiny advertising agency (with only two employees, the owner and a woman who was never there) in a small building near the top of a mountain on the edge of a town called Dornbirn. The family I stayed with in Lauterach were nice, and what I remember most is that I enjoyed the Austrian breakfast, especially the big slices of bread and all that Nutella, along with some of the freshets and tastiest milk I’d ever had. I should like to visit Austria again some day. Grüß Gott!

february, catch me if you can

E Street, old norh davis

February moves fast doesn’t it, it’s like the speediest month. Blink and you miss it. January and March on the other hand, well we all know how long a March can be (the 2020 edition went on for years), but that zippy little February, you try to catch it but “meep meep!” and it’s off. It’ll be back. Anyway the pink blossoms are out (they will pop up a few times in sketches yet to come) and I drew this one on Super Bowl Sunday while out and about in old north Davis. Speaking of fast, I did another 5k race in February, the Davis Stampede. Not that I’m saying I was all that fast, I was about a minute slower than the Turkey Trot (I blame the massive amounts of food and drink consumed over the Christmas and beyond period, still getting through it all to be fair), but still a couple of minutes faster than I was two years ago (and I got 6th place in my age bracket). I like running, though I have been a bit lazy in my preparations lately. I have another 5k later this month, the ‘Lucky Run’, I’ll be lucky if I get a good time in that one. We’ll see. I like to listen to music while I run, for the tempo. Every time I do a run though, I’m like “I can’t wait for the next one! Let’s look up all the races in northern California and sign up for them! Run across the Golden Gate Bridge!” And then the next morning that I should be out training, my legs are like, “ooh not today, you went to bed late last night, you need more sleep. Plus you ate some Weetabix at 11pm last night so you’re too full still to go running.” And I listen and am like, yeah I guess I’ll run tomorrow. Or maybe the day after. Roadrunner never has that problem.

you see UCUC, you see


Every two weeks I get my Covid test at the ARC, on the UC Davis campus, which all employees have to do. It’s a bit of a long walk back to the office on those days when I don’t bring my bike (my back wheel is acting a bit odd these days and I need to fix it, I just haven’t gotten around to it). On this day I took the long walk past the old ARC Pavilion on LaRue, now the University Credit Union Center (UCUC, which sounds like someone emphatically making a point) (maybe it should be called the UCUCUCD). I was listening to an audiobook about the Beatles (“Tune In” by Mark Lewisohn, chapter one of a planned three part epic called “All These Years”, detailing their entire childhood and early adulthood right up to their last Hamburg trip at the end of 1962 – it was a 45 hour audiobook, which seemed like a lot for an audiobook until I remembered I’ve probably listened to over 100 hours of Beatles podcasts in the past couple of months since the Get Back inspired return to Fab Four obsessiveness. Honestly I’m like Murray the K. Anyway, I was listening to stories of young Ritchie Starkey playing Butlins with Rory Storm, I realized I’d never drawn this building before. It makes interesting shapes when the sun casts its shadows. It put me in mind of the Southbank Center and Royal Festival Hall (where Macca gave a talk about his book The Lyrics not too long ago), and that made me miss London, which is my default setting these days, missing London and obsessing about the Beatles. I used to like going down to the South Bank when I was in my teens, when I was doing A-Levels I would go to art exhibits there on the weekends, back before the South Bank was as busy as it is now, before the London Eye, before the Tate Modern, before the nicely paved walkways down to City Hall which also wasn’t there; I’d say ‘before the South Bank was cool’ but in the early 90s the South Bank was as cool as it was ever going to be, though I do love all the new things. I also had this thought, UCD standing for “UC in the sky with Davis” which I think would be a good name for a book, or maybe just a zine. Or maybe just a blog post, and not even this one, save it for a better one.