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.
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.
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.”