’til you drag your feet to slow the circles down

Rock Hall 062722sm

Still catching up with the summer sketching, here are some UC Davis sketches from in between the two Europe trips. I have actually done more drawing this year than last, although I am forever miles behind on scanning and posting. These first couple were done in June – June! A million years ago – and the first one is Peter A. Rock Hall, formerly Chem 194. As I write in the latter half of September, that roundabout is likely a wild mess of cyclists going round and round until they have the courage to veer off without causing a spaghetti bolognese of bike chains.

Latitude UCD 062922 sm

This is Latitude, a food place for students on campus. I like the roof, it looks like statistics, maybe of a pandemic, maybe an opinion poll, maybe the results in a Tottenham season (start well, go up, lose to Burnley or someone, start to dip, sack the manager, get a new manager, win against Man City or someone, start to rise, don’t win anything; as every Spurs fan knows, the real trophies are the managers we sacked along the way).

Silo 070522 Above is The Silo, you’ve seen me draw this before. When I need to draw something with a pointy hat, we don’t have any wizards or wizard-school castles near here, so I draw the Silo. It used to be covered in greenery, but that has been shaved off to reveal a dull concrete torso. Someone sped past on one of those motorized stand-up scooter things. We never got actual hoverboards here in the future, did we. No, we got those electric scooters, that cut silently up the sidewalks and streets. I would fall on my Aristotle if I rode one of those about. I wasn’t even good on a skateboard. I had a skateboard for a bit when I was a teenager. It probably needed better wheels, better bearings, probably a better board, definitely a better person on top of the board. I just couldn’t make the thing go. I’d see other people, they seemed to just stand on their skateboard, tilt their head slightly and they’d be flying off, moving it telepathically. Never mind all the tricks, like the one where you jump off it and it spins around off a railing, and you land on it again like it was no big deal. If I ever did that, I would expect the win Sports Personality of the Year or something. I really wanted to be a skateboarder too; one day me and my friend Kevin, who also had a skateboard interest and a similar set of skills to me, met up in Harrow or Wealdstone or somewhere and skated a bit at some skate park, falling over, sending my board flying into a group of people before deciding, right, we’ve done that and are shit at it, so let’s go to the actual main skateboarding site in London, that area with all the graffiti on the South Bank in London, near Waterloo Bridge. We went that same day, got the tube down, and when we got there and saw all the kids doing tricks and flips, we basically stopped being skateboarders any more, and went back to just talking about football. Less Tony Hawk, more Tony Hawks (or is it the other way round).

Cruess UCD 070822 Finally, this is Cruess Hall, which had those bright pink blooms on the trees outside in early July. Cruess is where the Design Department live, and that’s where I had my 2016 show at the UC Davis Design Museum, ‘Conversations With The City’, a ten-year retrospective of my sketchbooks. That was six years ago this Fall. I have drawn quite a bit since then. If I just look at the past six years, on campus and outside, I’ve probably drawn more than in the previous ten years. I think I was quite happy with my drawings around the years 2014-2016 though, that was a good period of sketching for me. I’m still sketching, trying to get better, hopefully a better sketcher than I was a skateboarder.

street corners in july

E & 2nd 071122

A couple of corners in downtown Davis from the first half of July. The top is on the corner of 2nd and E, the bottom on the corner of 5th and C. That Philz Coffee shop used to be DeLuna Jewelers; just around the corner (unseen) is the football shirt shop Soccer and Lifestyle, the first shop I ever set foot in here in Davis, back in (checks notes) 2005. I drew this after eating a ‘super burrito’ at El Patio opposite Philz. Yes, I’ve been here since 2005. Long-time readers will know that, but the further away 2005 becomes the more bizarre that sounds. 2005 was the pre-smart-phone era. The time of Blair and Bush! Spurs had Kappa shirts. Prince William had lovely hair. As I write, in September, it is nearly 17 years since that move, and I have watched (sketched) a lot of changes in Davis. Those triangular flags with the black and white stripes on top, they come in a number of colours but they have been pretty constant, that always tells me it’s Davis. Below is the side view of the Hattie Weber museum of Davis. I remember years ago when my son was about four going in there for their Easter egg hunt, and while quickly scanning and finding all the easter eggs hidden around the place he said “Daddy you drawed that!”, having spotted one of my drawings of that building on the wall, I think it was a print I’d sold at an ArtAbout event. We always liked that building, on our Saturday mornings out taking the bus downtown we would always stop off there to ring the big schoolbell outside. Crossing 5th Street there in July you could see the crosswalk painted for Pride, in bright rainbow colors. This was drawn on the way home from work during lunchtime, a quiet summer day. As I write, Fall quarter is beginning and the people are all back.

5th st 070522

back from london, back to the heat

Mrak Hall panorama

So, after my trip to Europe I returned to Davis and we had a heatwave where it was eight days straight of 100°+ weather. That’s been forgotten now, as we just got off a wave of ten days over 100°, of which eight were over 105°, and four were over 110°. The highest was around 116 (definitely hit 117 in Sacramento). It’s been a very very hot summer. Even on our second trip to London the temperatures were up in the records, but here it’s been oppressively hot. Thankfully it is cooling off at last, back down into the (whelp) 90s, although the fire season is on and we have had smoke in the sky from a fire in the foothills, and a soccer tournament in Tahoe cancelled (again). Back at the start of summer, it was a very hot day when I drew this panorama of Mrak Hall, UC Davis. I actually got sick that first week after returning from the UK; I had tested negative for Covid twice before flying (in fact the day I flew home was the first day they removed the testing requirement) and then negative again when I got back to Davis at our famed campus testing center. Then a day or so later I suddenly started getting ill, with a fever, a headache, a sore throat. Kept testing negative though, with various tests, so it wasn’t the Covid, but I still tested positive for ‘feeling like crap’ and stayed in bed. It took me a few days to feel ok again, but that heat was hard to do things in. I stood in the shade next to King Hall, but even then it was too hot, so I coloured it in and did all the scribbles for those trees later on. Mrak Hall is one of the main administrative centers for the campus, and Chancellor May has his offices in the top floor. I used to come to Mrak a lot when I was working with graduate students, when Graduate Studies was based here, but they moved recently to their new home in Walker Hall (you might remember all my drawings of the place). This was June, right at the start of the long hot summer; it’s now nearly mid-September, and the UC Davis Fall quarter is a week away. Our campus summertime is over. Everything gets busier now, a lot busier. Prepared? Haha.

her majesty’s a pretty nice girl

You probably heard the news: the Queen is dead. She died today in Balmoral, peacefully and with her family. We all knew it was going to happen some day, but it was a surprise, nonetheless. 96 years old, that’s quite the innings. I did always hope she would make it to 100, not least so she could write a letter to herself. There will be a lot of things said over the next few days and weeks by a lot of people, but it is undoubtedly the passing of an era, a real historic moment for Britain. Whatever any of us think about the whole monarchy thing, Elizabeth II was a good person, a very likeable person, quite a funny person and a very popular Queen, even if people didn’t like many of the rest of them. She was The Queen for 70 years, all my life, almost all my mum’s life, one of her earliest memories is the coronation. I was in London with my mum during the Platinum Jubilee. In her time the Queen had 15 Prime Ministers, with the newest one coming in just this week. She did manage to get quite a few Prime Ministers in her last few years. She saw England win the World Cup and Spurs win the Double, both of which were a really long time ago now. She saw the rise and break-up of the Beatles, and was still around when Get Back finally came out. Ironically, last night I learned the ukulele chords to ‘Her Majesty’, not knowing that the next day she would die. I drew this tonight, it has been a long time since I drew on one of those brown envelopes, I still have a big stack of those. I’ll probably give it to my mum. Sh really loved the Queen. I expect the Funeral will be fairly massive. And then I saw that Charles was ill too, and I thought wow that’s all they need, but I misread, it actually said ‘King Charles III’. So Prince Charles is now King Charles the Third. I always thought he would take on a different name when crowned, such as George or Henry, but that might have been too confusing for all those people who get confused when someone changes their name. It actually happens a lot. Many monarchs were called something different, Popes do it all the time, Anakin Skywalker changed his named to Darth Vader. I like the sound of “Charles III”. We need a new national anthem now – I know we just keep the same one and change “Queen” to “King” but maybe now is the time to choose an all-new anthem, one that’s a bit livelier at the big sporting occasions. I do have to get an updated ruler now – I have one of those ones with the names of all the English kings and queens on it – but that’s what happens when a monarch dies, you get a new ruler.

So rest in peace your majesty, you longest-serving British monarch, it’s going to be a long time before anyone breaks that record, and will Britain ever have another Queen? Probably not in my lifetime.

afternoon at the arms

London Southampton Arms 2022 sm

The last sketches from my first trip back to Europe this summer. I’d be back in a month and a bit, with the family, for more London and France. On the Friday, following a Thursday of staying in Burnt Oak and then working remotely in the evening (I say evening, I didn’t actually stop until almost 4am…that’s late even on California time, but there was a deadline), I went to Hampstead and met up with my friend Roshan. We walked about the village and over the Heath, it was a nice day and the views across London were amazing. I really miss London, and this is what I miss. We stopped off at a couple of places to have a cold drink and a sit down, these forty-something-year-old legs need resting more often, and ended up at a pub we’d never been to before, the Southampton Arms, down Parliament Hill / Tufnell Park. It’s a small place, with great music and a good choice of beers. This is the sort of place to spend a warm afternoon. I had to draw it, to catch a bit of the light and the mood. I used to live not too far from this part of London, up in the Highgate area, before moving to America. I often daydream of whether we would still live around there had we stayed in London; it’s so expensive to live there, and we could never earn enough with the sort of jobs we were doing, but you never know. I’ll always be a Londoner, but we will probably never live there again; I guess I’m Californian now. Still it’s nice to visit and see friends and family, while we can. I went back home for dinner with my mum, and that evening also met up with another friend James down in the Angel for an overdue catch-up (and lots of Beatles chat).

I flew back on the 12th, on the day when the COVID testing requirement to re-enter the States was officially dropped (I still had to do a proctored video test the day before, but by the time I had to enter my results into the system there was no need). We had a small family gathering the evening before at my mum’s, which ended in a lot of singing and dancing in the back yard, many Irish songs. I found it hard to sleep through the night though, as there was a big punch-up in the street between some of my mum’s Romanian neighbours, and I mean it was a proper fist fight between three blokes, you could hear the ‘thwack!’ and ‘pow!’ noises as the blows landed, even over the loud exclamations of a woman right below my window. It went on for quite some time, I wanted to tell them to take it down the park please, but given how loud we were playing the Wolfe Tones just a few hours before I couldn’t really tell them to pipe down. So I just kept my window closed and thought well, at least this will be a story. Usually I’m kept awake in Burnt Oak by the sound of foxes fighting in the bins and bushes, those things are loud. I made my plane in good time though, and I had an odd seat, in that there was no seat in front of me, giving me loads of lovely legroom. Also no screen to watch, but then I was going to be watching that Sex Pistols show on my iPad anyway, and listening to more Beatles podcasts. The guy next to me was a bit jealous of my legroom I think. He was chatty and kept trying to have a conversation with me at first, but beyond a few pleasantries I wasn’t really interested in listening to this guy for ten hours so put the headphones on and started drawing, because I just can’t stop drawing can I.

LHR to SFO 061222 sm

what we have said will always remain

BurntOak - Watling Ave - 2022 Before I flew back to the States, a couple more sketches of Burnt Oak, the hometown. After all the sketches from France and Belgium I needed a couple of drawings from up the Watling to be getting on with. I’ve had a lot of Burnt Oakers get in touch over the years, people who have moved away, sometimes pretty far (like I did), to say they like my drawings of the old manor, the place is a shared memory, and one that is always changing. I stood at the top of Watling Avenue and looked downhill. Those chimneystacks stepping downwards towards the station are iconic to me. I drew the other side of the street looking downwards way back in 2008, and then again looking upwards back in 2012, a decade ago. This time I added colour, and also a lot more of the people that passed by, because it was quite busy. We are a very multicultural area. The Romanian foodshop across the street (Food 4 Less) is where Pennywise used to be (I drew that in 2013), and next door you can make out a place called Bella. When I was growing up Bella, which was run by an Indian family if I remember, was a place where you could get all sorts of stuff. Household products, kitchen items, cleaning gear, cups (I have that mug that says “I’m a Mug from Burnt Oak” which comes from Bella), batteries, toys, you would come here to get your keys cut, oh and it was also a video rental store, this is where I would come with my uncle on a Saturday morning to pick out what films we would watch at his flat that afternoon. It seems that it’s just a cafe now. There is a clothes shop just out of view to the right that is called ‘Respect Men’, but has prominently displayed in the window what can can only be described as the illegitimate offspring of a tuxedo and a cardigan, white on the top half and black on the bottom, divided by an ugly carpet pattern going across the middle. Respect Men. I should have drawn it. Instead, I walked down the hill to the corner of Orange Hill, outside the library, and drew Woodcraft Hall. I’ve never been in there (never really wanted to either), but it’s one of those buildings I’ve known all my life that is just there, and long may it be just there. This crossroads was pretty much junction number one in my life. I lived up one arm of it, Orange Hill. Up Gervase Road, my mate Terry lived, and it was the way to Montrose and then on to Asda, where I had my first proper job (but not my first work). Left up the Watling towards Woodcroft Avenue, that was the way to my junior school, and on the corner opposite Woodcroft Hall is our local doctor’s, where my mum works. And then right is up Watling Avenue itself, you have the library, the shops, and of course the tube station which for me was the key to going everywhere else in the world, which I couldn’t wait to do. It started raining as I was drawing this, though I was sheltered in the doorway of the library, but I went home for dinner, and coloured it in later.

BurntOak - Woodcroft Hall - 2022

one last butchers at Brussels

Brussels rue des Bouchers sm Before getting my late-evening Eurostar, I had plenty of time to do another drawing in Brussels and wander about a bit more. Because I’d originally planned to come back to London the next day I decided to keep my third night reservation at the hotel, an excellent choice as I was able to go back and rest, shower, relax before my train. I have to say, I was pretty much the most relaxed I have felt in a long long time after this little solo trip. I never rushed, I never fretted about being places. I turned off my work email so I wasn’t getting distracted, even though I did actually lead one staff meeting remotely from my hotel (they had little soundproofed pods for exactly this), and I was supposed to attend another meeting with our dean’s office right before I got on my Eurostar, but that was cancelled, so one less thing to think about on the way to Midi station. The wet weather had cleared up, and Brussels was bustling; there were a lot of football fans out, apparently there was an international match going on that evening. I walked down Rue des Bouchers (I started imagining a Francophone Frank Butcher, Franck Boucher, from made-up Belgian soap opera Ostenders… he would say things like “Tu me prends pour qui, un type de pilchard?“). (Sorry, getting side-tracked) This side-street near the Galeries Hubert is full of little restaurants and bars, often hawking tourists to come and eat their mussels, it’s quite colourful at night. I stood next to a pile of boxes and drew this for the best part of an hour, before going off for a final bag of frites and sauce. Until the next time, Belgium!

gimme some Leuven

Leuven panorama sm

I woke up and it was raining hard. There was no way I was going to Charleroi to draw old factories if I was sitting on top of a hill getting drenched. I spent enough time getting drenched in Charleroi between 1999 and 2000 for a lifetime. So I had a little lie-in, and then hopped on a train to the nearby university city of Leuven (Louvain in French, but this is in the Flemish region). I have only been to Leuven once before, and that was an even rainier day, meeting up with one of my fellow year-abroad teachers. Always thought it would be a good place to go back to a less rainy day, but since it was raining anyway I thought, what the hell. This was my last day in Belgium, I was going to be catching a Eurostar that evening back to London. Originally I’d planned to stay another day, but as much as I like Belgium, an extra day in London is something I knew I’d love more (and I did). I dashed from shop doorway to shop doorway to stay relatively dry, until I reached the centre of town. I spent a bit of time in an interesting bookshop looking at Flemish books, including one very big volume all about the various dialects of Flanders, complete with detailed maps. If I could read Dutch better that would be a fascinating book. It’s hard for foreigners to sometimes pick up the subtleties of accent and dialect in a language where they struggle just to understand the words (I said that very thing to someone when I first came here in 1999, they asked if I was having difficulties with the accent, I said no it’s the vocabulary). I didn’t for example realize that the French of Charleroi was a particularly peculiar version compared to many other places in Belgium, such as my friends in Liege who told me they couldn’t always understand Les Carolos. Meanwhile they are struggling to understand my French, and then when I went to Charleroi, people told me “oh you have such good French!” so I understood, right, I learned it here, that’s why nobody else comprehends me. That’s my story anyway. So, I got to Leuven and had a waffle, and tried to figure out what sort of drawings I would do. I was faced with this big church – I’d go inside later – and the extremely ornate Stadhuis (Town Hall) building, which I knew I’d need to draw, but wasn’t sure where to start. I walked about, and found a covered passage by the Grote Markt where I wouldn’t get splashed on too much. I drew the panorama above. This took under a couple of hours, though I added most of the paint later. Click on the image, you will see it in more detail (on Flickr). It was a reasonably busy Wednesday lunchtime. As I drew, a girl crashed her bike not far from me, sliding on the watery street, and she seemed pretty hurt. I went over with some other bystanders and she was helped up into the dry, and her bike put to the side. I got back to my drawing, I couldn’t really help much more with my limited Dutch, but someone else was able to help her get her phone to call her mother who came to collect her. I felt really bad for her, I don’t think she’d broken anything but she was pretty upset. As much as I enjoyed this drawing I do think of that poor girl falling from her bike now when I look at it.

Leuven sm

Leuven is an important old town, the historic capital of the Duchy of Brabant. Its university goes back to the 1425 (as the old University of Leuven, though that was abolished in 1797, and its successor KU Leuven was founded in 1834). The university’s library was atrociously burned to the ground by the invading Germans in World War I. The enormous St. Peter’s Church (Sint-Pieterskerk) is opposite the Stadhuis and dates from the 1500s, though it too was seriously damaged in both world wars. I stood at the rear of the church sheltered from the storm, and drew the sketch above. I liked the shape of those rooftops. The flags were above a bar called Leuven Centraal, where I would stop in for some food before heading back. there was a young couple seated nearby who were if not on a date, seemed like it was a kind of date, they were having that “I like this music, do you like that music” sort of conversation (from what I could gather of their Flemish; I may have misunderstood, they could have been talking about horse racing for all I know). So I went into the church, walked about, was a bit overwhelmed to do a proper big sketch int here, and drew this big wooden pulpit thing that looked like a magic tree. I bet the priest loves going in there, it’s like walking into a fantastical sculpture, like you become some sort of wizard on the other side.

Leuven st peters sm Leuven Frites smLeuven Statue sm

A couple of different things. The first was outside a friterie, and is an anthropomorphized bag of frites eating a frite. He only has one arm so maybe another bag of frites ate his arm. Maybe cannibalism is a thing in the live-action-frites community. Either way this was CREEPY as hell, but not the creepiest frites related image I’ve seen in Belgium (that would be the odd three-legged feminine-frite, a ‘frite-fatale’ if you will, seen in Charleroi next to an image of, for some reason, Dopey the Dwarf). Still it is a bizarre figure. Yet it still made me hungry for more salty frites. The next statue is a more well-known Leuven fixture, ‘Fonske‘, or ‘Fons Sapientiae’. I would presume this is Leuven’s version of the Fonz, is telling kids “eeeh, be smart, be cool, read books, stay in school” and then for some reason pouring a drink on his head, which Fonzie would never do, unless the drink was hair gel. I don’t know, I’ve not seen Happy Days for a long time. Fonske was created in 1975 to commemorate the university’s 550th anniversary, and the name means “the fountain of wisdom” in Latin. Just like Mannekin Pis in Brussels, the statue is sometimes dressed up in costume. I really hope that one of those costumes is of the Fonz. (Side note, when I first met my wife in France, I would sometimes make her laugh by singing the theme tune to Happy Days in French, “Dimanche Lundi, Heureux Jours…” etc).

Well there was no goodbye grey skies, hello blue just yet, so I popped into the cafe Leuven Central (my guidebook recommended this place) for a late lunch. I got a veggie curry and drank a Kasteel Rouge, which to my surprise was a kriek (or cherry beer). Krieks are popular over here, I’ve never been a big fan of them but this was quite nice. And that was my day out in Leuven. I had to get back to Brussels and back to London, and this little sojourn in Belgium would be over.

Leuven Kasteel sm

A L’Imaige Nostre Dame

Brussels GP Sunset sm After the rainclouds of Antwerp drifted away to wherever they go, I was back in Brussels for the evening. I ate a ‘Quick’ (a fast food they have in Belgium and France that I used to quite like, but tastes awful now) at the hotel, and then headed back over to the Grand Place before it got too dark. there wasn’t time to draw the whole thing yet again, but I wanted to capture that evening sky above the rooftops. Also that big crane. It was nice. I stood on some steps outside the massive Maison des Ducs de Brabant, others were taking selfies. There was a young tourist sat on the cobbles below me, I could see he was trying to open a bottle of Belgian beer he’d just bought, trying in vain. I went and asked a nearby cafe for a bottle opener, they kindly lent me one and I helped the tourist get his bottle open, he looked happy; good dead of the day done. We’ve all been there, when travelling! I remember trying to open a bottle of Fanta on a really hot day in a small town in Denmark with no bottle opener, I was trying to pry it open on metal street signs to no avail. After another long day of sketching I also needed to relax with a nice beer in another centuries-old tavern, so I went back down the little alley where I’d found Au Bon Vieux Temps the night before, but this time went into the lively A L’Imaige Nostre Dame.  Brussels Nostre Dame sm

This old tavern is one of the oldest in Brussels, dating back several centuries, and pretty colourful. There was no way I wasn’t sketching this. I had to find a place to sit with a decent sketchable view, and my table was a little small, but I got a ‘Malheur’ beer (which was alright) and tried to catch the spirit of the place. There was word on the mirror behind the bar that read ‘RastaTrolls’, whatever that means, it reminded me of the kids show ‘RastaMouse’, which was very funny. I could hear there were Americans at the bar who clearly loved this place, from what they were telling the bar staff. Who wouldn’t? It was a friendly place to hang out. I’ve been to some older pubs in Brussels and sometimes they can feel a little sleepy (thinking of A La Becasse), when there are pretty popular places elsewhere (thinking of Celtica, opposite end of the spectrum). I would recommend it here. I drew really fast, and then walked back to the hotel, my last night in Brussels. Next day I was planning to go to Charleroi to draw factories, but it rained a lot, so instead I slept in a bit and went in the opposite direction to Leuven. 

kulminator

Antwerp Kulminator INT sm

I went looking for a legendary Antwerp bar called ‘Kulminator‘. I thought I had been there before; back in 2000, I remember reading about this place in Antwerp with a ridiculous selection of beers, with enormous character that was worth looking for. I remember it took me a while walking around the evening streets in the days before smartphones with GPS showing us the way (that was only about three or four years ago for me, but now seems like medieval times), and when I got there, I was presented with what looked like a textbook but was actually the beer menu. I found a beer called ‘Forbidden Fruit’ (called ‘Verboden Vrucht’ here, or ‘Fruit Défendu’ as I know it) which I’d never seen before and sounded mysterious; it felt like I had completed a quest. It’s been my favourite Belgian beer since, although when I got back to Charleroi I told the barman at my local and he said, “oh no we have that beer too, here you go.” So I think that place was Kulminator, but I honestly cannot remember now, it was 22 years ago. I only had that one beer there that night, and then left to go explore night-time Antwerp a bit more, ending up skewering Pulp songs on karaoke; see a previous post.

This time I looked for Kulminator in the daytime. I had been doing some reading about old Antwerp taverns to check out and sketch, and this leapt out at me as possibly being that place from 2000. Even with my smartphone sending me upstreet and down, I still managed to get lost trying to find it. When I got there, the door was locked. It was open, but you couldn’t just walk in. There were signs all over the door. This place was serious about its beer, but you needed CASH, no cards. While I was in Lille I only ever used cash once, when buying a book off my friend Vincent Desplanche, but otherwise it was tap-tap-tap with the cards. In Belgium I found a few places which were cash only, but Kulminator evidently wouldn’t even let you inside. The door opened narrowly, and the face of an old lady peered through. “Cash?” she asked. “Ja,” I replied nervously, feeling like I was still probably not going to be let in. The clouds were starting to get greyer. Nevertheless she welcomed me inside, and it was like entering an old curiosity shop. You couldn’t see the bar itself – it was hidden behind boxes and bottles and glasses and all kinds of Belgian-beer-related knick-knacks, so it became more of a retreat den for the lady who ran the place. There were books piled high, shelves with board games, even a Brazil football shirt hanging from the rafter. The only people in there were an old man hidden away in a corner with his head in a book, and another older couple seated at a table, talking in Flemish. At the rear there was some kind of covered semi-outside area I didn’t go into, but I could hear a couple of American voices talking about beer, but otherwise the only sound was classical music, and Flemish chatter. I could see bottles of every kind of beer in the gaps through to the bar, and the old bar-lady brought to me not a massive menu , but a large chalk board, upon which were written the names of various beers. I think these were the ones on tap (“van’ vat”), and I felt that I should probably order one of these, and I should probably order the one she recommended. So she recommended a Gouden Carolus, and I took a seta by the window. The rain hard started and now it was chucking it down, so I was going to be hear for a while. It was very much the sort of place that you dream of finding as an urban bar sketcher. As I sat and drew, another older chap came in and was talking with the other patrons and the bar-lady. I can’t speak Dutch but I could understand a decent bit of what they were saying. I think he was called Vladislav and may have been an afficionado of classical music, it sounded like he was talking about it with a passion. I loved listening to the rhythms and patterns of their Flemish conversation with the backdrop of gentle music and pounding rain, and the occasional laugh as they made each other smile. I just sat in the corner with my beer and my sketchbook. I picked out some phrases; one of them said “geld is macht en macht is geld”, “money is power and power is money”. When the Americans passed through, looking nervously at the rain, they did speak with them briefly about a couple of beers they were on the lookout for, one of which was Krusovice Dark (a Czech beer). I joined in with a nod of approval and a thumbs up for that, I used to like drinking that here in Davis at the old Little Prague, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I had one more Gouden Carolus, and by the time I was done with my sketch the rain magically stopped, and I walked to the train station. I enjoyed this place and I’m glad I found it (and glad I had some cash).

Antwerp Kulminator EXT sm

I drew the outside of it (above) from a photo I took quickly across the street before I went in, before the rain started. If you are in Antwerp, look for Kulminator. I needed to get back to Brussels though (well, I didn’t need to, I had no plans, but I thought I should get some rest). The next day I was planning to catch a train back down to the old haunt of Charleroi, where I would be climbing slag-heaps and drawing old rusty factories – at least, that was the plan.