C-3PO has let himself go

020921 covell blvd, north davis

Here’s a quick sketch I did on a lunchtime from work (in the at-home office) on Covell Boulevard, north Davis. It’s Calvary Chapel on the corner of Oak Street, and I have drawn this building before, quite a long time ago now, back in 2012 when I first moved to north Davis (after six and a half years in south Davis). Back then, there was a funny looking periscope thing on the roof, one of those architectural details that bring light down into the building. That has gone now. Not gone entirely though, it’s been moved next to the building (on the other side of this, unseen; I should go and draw it really). The 2012 sketch is below. As you can see it’s a different colour now. Those trees behind the building didn’t just sprout up in that time, at least I don’t think they did, I probably just left them out. Not the Cypress trees in front, they were there. Of course what you are probably wondering about is the foreground object, a wonky electrical box on my side of Covell. It really was quite wonky, not much exaggeration there. It looks like a drunken robot, on the walk of shame in the early morning when the sun’s coming up. Come on, we’ve all been there. It looks like it’s just stumbled off the night bus having gone halfway across London in the wrong direction because it missed its stop. Several times. Like, London is massive and the night buses at Trafalgar Square when it’s freezing cold, sometimes you jsut jump on the first one that looks about right, just to get warm, and suddenly you’re in like Enfield or Chingford. Yeah I know this is really specific now, but we’ve all been there, we’ve all done it. One time it was like Queens Park or Harlesden, or somewhere pretty scary looking at 3am and you just jump on the next bus outta there, wherever it was going, and back to sleep. The 90s was an age of exploration, and sleep.

part of lutheran church, north davis

walker hall, nearly there

020321 Walker Hall Graduate Center sm

This is the almost-ready Graduate Center in the almost-refurbished historic Walker Hall, on the UC Davis campus. If you have been reading this site for a while you might have seen this building once or twice; see all the previous posts at petescully.com/tag/walker-hall. Well the little huts where all the construction workers go have been moved away, and so I had a pretty good view from across Hutchison, though the fence is still up. I did this fairly quick panorama while I was on campus earlier this month. Click on the image to see a close-up.  

And this is what it looked like back in January 2014! Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, as Bowie would say. If he were still alive. I wish Bowie were still alive.

panoramarathon: walker hall

run run run

Nike Renew

I have been running more and more for the past year and a half, just around the local area, usually on runs of between 2-3 miles (occasionally more), but it was only a couple of weeks ago that I actually went and got some actual running shoes. These are Nike Renew. They really made a difference, finally running with a bit more cushion beneath my sole makes things a lot more comfortable than my regular trainers. Anyway, I have drawn so many of my son’s shoes over the years that it was time to draw my own for once. The funny thing I learned about running shoes is you need to get a size up, at least, because of the way your feet expand when running. Lately though I’ve had trouble buying any new shoes because my feet always feel too big for my regular size. I’ll look at my shoes I’ve worn for years and be like, yep, definitely a 9, but when I buy new size 9s it’s like wearing kids shoes, and I don’t mean in that kind of ‘new shoe, not broken in yet’ way because I recognize that when getting shoes. Maybe my feet are getting bigger. Maybe shoes in general are getting smaller. I got my feet measured at REI while looking for new hiking boots (we are still hoping to go on the spring hiking trip to Utah we had to cancel last year) and they were like, get at least 10.5. I must admit, other than checking what size my last shoes were, I never actually measure my feet, because in general I don’t like buying shoes. I’ve never liked shoe shops, ever since I was a kid. My mum used to take me to shoe shops at Brent Cross or wherever and I hated them, the new-shoe smell of them, being forced to put things on my feet, but mostly waiting around. I would ask to wait outside the shop. I feel like much of my childhood was spent stood outside Dolcis or Freeman Hardy and Willis. I do like looking at shoes online though, “ooh they look cool,” and I quite liked these ones. I am going to track my mileage in them, so I know how long they last before wearing down (I actually do have spreadsheets…). Keep on running!

broken bones

fallen tree behind MSB 012721 sm

That big storm we had a couple of weeks ago felled a lot of trees. When I say ‘felled’ I mean ‘tore down violently’. The storm was loud, louder than I remember any storms here in Davis (and I’ve seen a few now, though very far between). Maybe it’s because I’m a homeowner now that I’m a bit more anxious about flying foliage and tumbling trunks but I didn’t get much sleep that night, listening to the deep booming howls and the intermittent crunching sounds from our neck of the woods. Next morning I went out to review the damage, while our internet was down, and power out for thousands (but not us, thankfully). Debris strewn everywhere, trees (or the tops of them) toppled, one large thick tree had fallen directly onto the roof of a house, another just missed the house but completely blocked the drive, other huge trunks blocked pathways on the Green Belt, but most concerning were the large branches in trees that had snapped but not quite fallen, hanging precariously, and it was still a bit windy. Falling branches can be deadly. So I proceeded with caution and went home. Still, I needed to do some work, so I went (carefully) down to campus, steering clear of dangling branches and passing many big old wounded oaks, and into the safety of our large solid stocky building. It always feels much safer watching the world from a window up there, but we’ve had our share of trees go down outside over the years, and this past storm was no different. I saw the tree above snapped like a broken doll at the back of the building, so I did a quick sketch of it. (I thought I’d keep a log of this event). Soon after it was cordoned off with yellow tape, and a couple of days later a man with a chainsaw had come to cut up what he could. It’s only now, a fortnight later, that many of the trees that went down are being removed, they had to deal with the most urgent ones first (like those plonked onto rooftops or blocking traffic, or the many that went down taking the powerlines with them). I wonder if any of them went down like Neymar, falling dramatically and rolling around a bit, maybe waving an imaginary yellow card. Poor old trees though.

but there’s too much history, too much biography between us

View from Math Sciences Building

I’ve gone to work on campus a few times lately, though hardly anyone is about. The Davis sky has been interesting lately, for a change (I have gone through more cerulean blue paint over the years than any other colour, so I get really excited when I see a cloud). We did have a massive storm that knocked out many peoples’ power, as well as our internet for almost a week, as well as so many trees, I’ve not ever seen so many get blown down before. Anyway my department being on the fourth floor the view from the window is pretty good. For a long time working here I had no window and I’m still not used to the novelty. The view above however is actually from the recently-vacated office next door to mine, as the view was slightly different. I say recently-vacated, it hadn’t been used since last March, hardly any of them have, but the person who hadn’t been using the office has recently left. It’s odd rattling around the department with hardly anybody there, one other staff member comes in to do IT stuff, occasionally one of the faculty might be there and maybe a grad student, otherwise it’s like a ghost town. I worked straight through lunch this one day, not taking a break until after 3, so I decided to draw a panorama of the view. I drew a lot before my next afternoon Zoom meeting, but I finished most of the colouring after work, when the sun had already set; the sunlight doesn’t hang about in late January. Click on the image for a better view. You can just about make out the new construction in the background, the Teaching Learning Complex, while the ochre-coloured building on the right is the Crocker Nuclear Lab. Yep, this sucker’s nuclear.  

view from MSB

This is another view, also not from my office. It’s looking west, rather than north, and this was while there was rain outside. Moments after finishing, there was a beautiful rainbow. I took photos but had already put my paints away. This was done from the corner office, which I was in trying to reorganize office assignments for next year. There is a stand-up desk in there, an I’ve been contemplating getting one, so decided to try it out by sketching the view from the window. I liked it, I think I need one. The sky was all sorts of dramas. It was like BBC2 at 9pm or whatever. This was actually Davis at 4pm on a Friday. The sort of dramas you got then in England were more children’s TV shows like The Little Silver Trumpet, the one I was in when I was 4 and thought it was all real. The best school-age drama, Grange Hill, that would have been on at 5:10. Zammo, Ro-land, Mrs McCluskey, Bronson, Gonch, Ziggy, all them. Just Say No, kids. Sometimes on Fridays though you got those strange ones from the 70s, or dubbed German shows like The Legend of Tim Tyler (Tim Thaler in the original). Those were great, I used to crack up at the misplaced dubbing. I did see it in the original when I was in Austria aged 15 and it seemed so much more serious. 

view from MSB with brush pen

This one was drawn from my office, and it was just simple blue sky outside, no cloud at all. Bit cold though, and windy. I had an hour between Zoom meetings so I ate lunch at my desk, the Spurs v Chelsea game was on my iPad beside me (that was… excruciating), and I had a grey marker from one of the urban sketching symposia that I had not used before, so I did a quick drawing of the view with it. I am still working from home, same as the rest of the family, but on the day or two I need to come by to campus to take care of some things (often stuff like putting up required notices that hardly anyone will read), I like being back. Also, I don’t have cats bugging me all day. Can’t wait for us all to be back, but it looks like we won’t have that until the Fall. In the meantime I will continue to run, draw, work, meet via Zoom, listen endlessly to Belle and Sebastian (yet another B&S lyric for the blog post title; I have a lot of history and biography in this building now), watch bad Spurs games, not see people, and think about all the places I want to go after the pandemic is done with. In other words, the same as I was doing before the pandemic. 

Dublin Part 3: pints make prizes

Dublin Phibsborough House sm

The final chapter in my recent (August and September…recent enough) virtual tour of Dublin, a series of drawings made on long and painstaking virtual walks around the city via Google Street View, reliant on the often unusual angles and above-head-height horizon lines, hoping traffic does not impede the view of something good. Thankfully I found some good views of several pubs, and in Dublin you are never very far from a good pub. I wish I could have gone inside, had a beer, sketched the interior, but I just had to imagine instead. This pub above is in Phibsborough, Clarke’s, aka the Phibsborough House. My next door neighbour Gregory here in Davis used to live opposite this pub, he said his cousin still frequents there. The large ‘BOHS’ sign above is a reference to the local football team (soccer that is, not Gaelic football, which is huge in Ireland) in Phibsborough, Bohemians. I have a Bohs shirt myself (courtesy of my neighbour, cheers) and the club’s supporters have a reputation for being very anti-fascist, pro-left issues, one of their recent kits had “Refugees Welcome” across the sponsor area. My kind of club. I did stay at a B&B in Phibsborough near the stadium on a visit back in the 90s. I liked this area a lot (I think one of my cousins lived there when I visited as a kid too) and would walk into downtown Dublin from Phibsborough every day. We never went to this pub, but my friend Simon who moved to Dublin in the summer has been here, and hopefully when all is Back To Normal and I can travel again, I’ll go there with him (and maybe say hi to Gregory’s cousin).

Dublin Bleeding Horse sm

Walking on, this is south of the Liffey, down on Camden Street Upper. It’s called the Bleeding Horse and goes back to the 17th century. I don’t know how the pub got its name but it might be from an incident in the Battle of Rathmines in 1649, when apparently a horse that was wounded fled the battle. and YES, he WENT INTO THE PUB, and OH YES, the barman, the first ever barman to utter these immortal words, said to the horse, “WHY THE LONG FACE?” Oh yes he did. Although in this case he probably said “Why the long bleedin’ face?” Anyway this pub is just around the corner from the crosswalk outside the chicken farm, and the polygonal shaped parrot cemetery. The pub was mentioned in Ulysses, although I don’t remember that as I haven’t watched that cartoon since the 1980s, but I still remember the theme tune. The Bleeding Horse is a great pub name, but really is best said in a London accent, “the bleedin’awse”. Another one on my list of places to go on this future Dublin trip. I imagine this trip being one where I hope it rains a lot so I can spend more time inside the pubs drawing. It won traditional pub of the year in 2017 and 2018. 

Dublin John Kehoes sm

Next up, this one is on Anne Street in central Dublin not far from St. Stephen’s Green, called John Kehoe’s, which is described on its website as “an award winning traditional Irish pub in the heart of Dublin’s south city centre”. Sure it looks like a place I would spend an afternoon with my sketchbook and a couple of pints. I must confess though, I don’t like Guinness. Never been my thing. I’ll have a pint, but I’ll take a Smithwicks after that. Being where it is, I expect this place gets a lot more tourists looking for the authentic heritage pub than the others in this post, but as a Londoner who never minded tourists I don’t mind that at all, people on their travels and stopping for a pint or two are always up for a friendly chat. I’m usually a tourist myself. So this is another one added to the list, though I’d need to make sure I get there when I can find a good spot to draw the bar area. However I know for a fact that I would constantly be making jokes about the classic TV show “Through the Keyhole” because the name sounds a bit like keyhole. If here with my now-Dublin-inhabiting friend Simon, we would undoubtedly be going from Loyd Grossman’s distinctive New England twang “WHO LIVES in a HOUSE like THIS? DAVID it’s OVER to YOU” followed by David Frost, “Lets see…whose house…this is.” And of course it would turn out to be Michael Caine’s house, of course, so we’d have to do a Michael Caine voice, “Oi, get OUT of my HOUSE”, and I’ve only had one pint at this point. If you are thinking, no you wouldn’t, you’d think all of this but not say it, you are wrong. My now-Dublin-inhabiting friend Simon and I spent an entire evening in McSorley’s in New York City one sub-freezing February night doing a variety of voices, and when I say ‘variety’ I mean 95% Michael Caine, saying a variety of Star Wars quotes, and when I say ‘variety’ I mean almost every line in all of the movies. Even Jar-Jar. The poor couples sat next to us trying to enjoy a Valentine’s Day drink. But just imagine Michael Caine saying Han Solo’s line “Don’t get cocky!” I want to do a remake of Star Wars where all of the voices are replaced with Michael Caine saying the lines. “Mesa day … starten … pretty okey day … with A BRISKY MORNIN MUNCHIN!” Ok I can see you’re not impressed, let’s move to another pub.

Dublin Gravediggers pub sm

Slightly quieter spot now, north of the river, we might keep the Michael Caine impressions to a minimum at this one. John Kavanagh’s, next to Glasnevin Cemetery, is called the “Gravediggers’ Pub”. Right, so this one has a bit of history, and is even mentioned in Atlas Obscura, that book that talks about loads of interesting and obscure places in the world. The cemetery was apparently the first one to be opened up to Irish citizens of all faiths, Protestant and Catholic, in 1833. Anyway, Kavanagh’s is called the gravediggers’ pub because, well this is where they came after digging the graves. The story is that there used to be a hole in the wall that the barman would pass drinks through to the graveyard shift workers on the other side. A ‘stiff drink’ indeed. Here’s one: a gravedigger walked into a pub, asked the barman for a Guinness and a hot Lemsip. “Why d’you want the Lemsip?” the barman asked predictably. “For me coffin,” replied the gravedigger, also predictably. Thing is, the gravedigger has been a staple of comic humour for centuries, just think of the gravediggers scene in Hamlet, the funniest part of the very long play. Especially in the Kenneth Branagh version where Yorrick’s skull is very obviously Ken Dodd, even before it’s revealed to be he. And that always reminds me of the tongue twister, “Ken Dodd’s Dad’s Dog’s Dead”. Try saying that after a few pints at the Gravediggers’.   

Dublin Rathmines sm

And finally, not a pub this time but the view from the middle of Rathmines Road, south of the centre of Dublin. This is the end of the book. There is a pub on the left called the Bowery, which seems to be built in the style of an old galleon, so very much somewhere I’d like to go. Except that I think it may have since closed, maybe eve pre-pandemic. Even before this past year, so many good pubs were closing down, and I really hope that they all can somehow survive this pandemic mess. I miss sketching in pubs, I miss the very idea of pubs, places of life, social history, and Michael Caine impressions. That clock tower kept making me think of the old song “Quare Things in Dublin” by the Wolfe Tones, there’s a clocktower in that song, and a pub of course. Rathmines I guess is an area of Dublin I’ve never been to but a lot of my great-grandparents and beyond lived around this neck of the woods, Harold’s Cross, Ranelagh, Portobello over the canal. Plenty of Higginses. The Scullys were from more north of the Liffey. These days I know what Dublin family I have is all over the place, I only met a few of them in my life when I was a kid, as well as many of the Higgins lot who’d gone down to Wicklow a long time before (I remember walking into my great-uncle Bernard’s house and it was like the hall of mirrors, so many red-headed Higgins who looked like me – this is where they were all hiding! None of my siblings or parents have red hair). It’s not like I’d be going on a family discovery tour if I went back to Dublin though, we’re not really like that; I remember when my nan died, end of 1988, when I was a kid in Burnt Oak, London, and her brother came to the funeral. I never knew about this brother before so that was a surprise great-uncle, I assumed he had come over from Dublin. No, he also lived in Burnt Oak, in the street next to my old school, but this was the first I’d ever heard of him. So I just assume that I’m probably related to loads of people I’ve never heard of, they just don’t necessarily all talk about each other. In fact I never even knew the names of my great grandparents until recently when my sister did some digging. Lots of people with the same names going back generations, it turns out, and mostly Dublin for at least a couple of centuries. Lots and lots of people called James Higgins, one (great-great grandfather) with an exceptional General Melchett moustache. One other thing we did discover, my grandfather William Scully, who died before I was born but who gave me my middle name William, well I found out his middle name was Edward, which completely coincidentally is my son’s middle name (which in this case was named after my older brother’s middle name, and he isn’t a Scully). I think my great-grandfather may have been Edward William Scully too. We like to re-use names.

So that was a brief jaunt around Dublin, in no order, on paper I probably would not choose to draw on again. I sent the finished book to my now-Dublin-inhabiting friend Simon (he actually got me the blank book in Dublin in the first place) and I hope he can explore all the historic story-filled pubs, once this bleedin’ pandemic is done with. My next virtual tour I have started already, a long tour of France, starting at Calais and finishing up in Paris, while circling around the country, 64 stops, much more detail. It’ll take a while, but I’m not going anywhere. 

drawing everyday every day

D St Davis

So far in 2021 I have drawn every single day. There was only one day that didn’t get a ‘dated’ drawing (Jan 17 I think it was) but I was probably finishing off another drawing, or I did two the next day or something. Either way I am in a bit of a productive patch with drawing. It makes it easier to do the next one, but it also means that I get worried about stopping, in case I fall into another period of non-drawing. I did got for periods in 2021 when I would only draw once a week or once a fortnight; in December I did only a handful of sketches all month. In the period of Jan 1st – February 3rd I have done 36 drawings, several of which are double-page spreads (in colour), and several more are very detailed drawings of places in northern France (I have started another Virtual Sketch Tour, this time De France, and the drawings are bigger than on my Great Britain one from 2020). At the same time, I have started running again. I was running a lot last year, and really improving my times b midsummer, but then the wildfires came, and the air was too dangerous to go outside in, and the running suffered. Since January started I am back running again, and I’ve run a total of 44.5 miles on 19 runs (should be a few more by the end of this morning, I am awake early again, and the pre-work schedule on early mornings is “write/draw/run/get ready for work”) (or more accurately, “get bugged by cats/write/get bugged by cats/give in and feed them early/draw/still get bugged by cats despite them being fed already/run/tell cats to bog off, they were fed already, but they’re like yeah we’re hungry again/get ready for work”). So yeah, trying to be more active in the exercises, both drawing and running, just hoping to stay fit both ways. You have to exercise your drawing muscles as much as any other. I do sometimes see sketches I’ve done after no sketching for a while and it’s obvious to me I was out of shape. 

Anyway, this sketch was one of those lunchtime sketches I needed to do to keep drawing, just a ride downtown to draw a building, I settled on this one I have drawn a couple of times in years long past, Smith funeral home. Not a great subject in this time probably, a funeral home (and I know people who have passed away in the past month or so, and that was probably heavy in my thoughts), but it is an interestingly shaped building. I first drew it in October 2010 in my ‘Davis Moleskine‘, a long accordion sketchbook (from the first USk Symposium) filled with Davis drawings. Wow, that was over a decade ago. I would do another of those but you know how much I hate actually standing there with the accordion book, they wind me up more than other people. Others can stand or sit there with either side of the accordion pages falling gently to their sides like cherubs on a renaissance ceiling (what?), whereas when I try to draw with one I look like Frank Spencer fighting with a library. Although in the sketch below (from 2010) you can see I carefully folded the pages back into the book and added little clips (this is why I drew the book on the page, actually, to make it look like I knew what I was doing when in reality I could never get the pages flat and was flailing about annoyed at ever starting this project, which I drew using a brown Pitt fineliner and grey marker, all of which seemed Fine At The Time but aren’t my usual tools; I hadn’t yet quite discovered the brown-black uniball signo UM-151, though I will say the Pitt fineliner did move more nicely on the waxy Moleskine paper than the Micron did). The funny thing about that project, I left those gaps at the top and bottom partly so I would not have to draw quite so much (these took longer than a usual similar-sized sketch in the watercolor sketchbooks, for some reason), but also because I was going to write stories about Davis in those areas like the Bayeux Tapestry or something. I was obsessed with the Bayeux Tapestry. I’m glad I didn’t. I did add in various foreground objects such as trees, lamp-posts, Stop-signs to use as markers of transition from one drawing to another. The whole project was inspired by Paul Heaston’s recent long-form drawing of Main Street in Bozeman Montana, but I abandoned the ‘whole street’ idea myself immediately (though I did do something like that of Hutchison Drive in 2016) (and I still might do one of either 5th or 2nd St sometime).

Funeral Home on D Street

Why draw so much? My excuse has always been that I am recording the world I am in so I remember it later, and now I’ve been in this particular world so long I am just recording the changes, performing some sort of public service maybe, but I think it’s really so that I can have something I have made (other than an untidy bedroom) to show for my time here. Books, CDs, even football shirts are all just stuff that someone else has to not care about when you are gone, but I suppose a collection of sketchbooks might be a more personal leave-behind. I don’t know, it’s a bit early in the morning for this sort of thought. Time to feed the cats (again? seriously lads) and go for my run, the sun is starting to come up. It’s a new day, baby.

davis moleskine: the entire spread

The 46th President of the United States

Biden inauguration 012021 sm

On the day of the Inauguration of the new President of the United States, Joe Biden, I watched and made notes on the iPad. I kinda don’t know where to stop when note-taking a speech as it’s going on, I feel like I have to inscribe every word, but you don’t know before going in what the most important bits will be. For example, I might write down a bit about coat-hangers or something, and then forget to write down the bit about a groundbreaking theory on dark matter or something. Not the topics of this speech but on a historic day you don’t want to be the person at FDR’s inauguration that wrote down the bits about locusts and profits but left out “The only thing we have to fear is Fear Itself”. So I just wrote words as they happened. I didn’t sketch during the incredible inaugural poem by Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”, I was just enthralled by that, it was a beautiful moment. I will probably sketch Ms Gorman’s performance some other time, I’ve rewatched it a few times already. I really enjoyed Kamala Harris’s speech too. But Biden’s inauguration gave me a great deal of happiness. I just wish I hadn’t drawn him looking more like Robert Kilroy-Silk. He totally does! In my drawing anyway, the real Joe looks nothing like Kilroy. Oh, Kilroy. Remember him? Americans won’t, he used to be on TV in the 90s, in the mornings, he had a kind of Jerry Springer-lite show called “Kilroy”. I remember actually watching it each morning on TV in the common room in the place where I lived in Belgium while eating a tuna panini for breakfast, so I always get the memory of the taste of tuna whenever I think of Kilroy. In fact it wasn’t like Jerry Springer at all thinking back; it was one of those daytime chat shows that was on at around 9:30 or 10am, right after BBC Breakfast Time or whatever was over, but the audience group was all sat facing the camera and there would be a topic they would talk about, I don’t know, whatever middle-England busybodies would talk about, holes in the road or immigrants or something, and Kilroy would bound about from person to person with his mike and his perma-tanned face and his kilroy-silky voice, and then he would tell you all to “take care of yourselves…and each other” in a totally non-creepy way, before his got show cancelled after he wrote controversial things about Arabs, then he was an early UKIPer, bounding about being all anti-EU, and I don’t think I ever thought of Kilroy once since leaving Britain in 2005 until now, when I accidentally drew him accepting the Presidency of the United States. The last thing we’d need is a perma-tanned TV personality with a history of having a go at muslims and banging on about immigrants in charge of things, eh kids. In fact I had to check my notes to make sure I didn’t mis-hear Biden saying “Take care of yourselves…and each other”; thankfully he didn’t. But anyway, welcome President Joe! And I had no idea his middle name was ‘Robinette’, you learn something new every day.

the answer, my friend…

TLC pano 011921 sm

This as you may know from previous posts is one of the new buildings that have been popping up on campus the past few years that I can’t help but draw as they grow. This is the Teaching and Learning Complex, or TLC, next to the Silo which is away to the left there. Behind that tree. On the day I drew this, the wind was blowing hard, blowing off some of the coverings on the building. It was also the last day of the Trump presidency, speaking of wind blowing hard. I’ve been waiting to use that one, I thought of it when I was drawing. I drew most of this fairly quickly for a panorama, it was the afternoon and I was working on campus, and had to drop something off at the international department, which these days of hardly anyone being on campus means some coordination and passing off of a brown inter-office envelope at an outside location. It makes me feel like a secret agent or something. Anyway I got that out of the way earlier than expected so I had a bit of time before my weekly COVID test, a requirement for those who do come to work on campus (and I come in once or twice a week) (I am bored of working from home and miss the office, which has fewer snack distractions or cats begging me to turn on the taps at the sink). I coloured it in later, the blowing hard wind not really the place for the watercolour set. We have had much harder blowing wind since, there was a big storm that rumbled across northern California last week taking down so many trees here in Davis, it was a scary, noisy night.

Changing the subject completely, a few months ago the legendary presenter of the game-show Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, passed away and his final show was broadcast recently. The show is now continuing with a new host, Ken Jennings, a well-known former Jeopardy champion who for all the will in the world is not a game-show host. I think technically he is a ‘guest host’, but it got me thinking about all the game shows I used to like years ago in Britain, and so my wife and I discussed those game shows we had when we were kids, her ones being over here in the US and mine being very much anything with Bruce Forsyth. There were many that crossed the Atlantic (the most recent one being British game show The Chase which we had seen on previous visits back home, but just started here, also with Ken Jennings and two other Jeopardy champs as the ‘chasers’, including my son’s favourite James Holzhauer). At this point in the story I should start listing all of them, your Price Is Rights, your Generation Games, but I can’t really remember them all (I’d have been useless on the Generation Game), and then this becomes another blog post about ‘member this? ‘Member that? ‘Member when we had TV and everyone watched TV, etc. I’m not sure why I’m bringing it up in fact, and I think this is a topic for a longer post that I already would advise against reading. But game shows do add a lot to the language, in certain catchphrases and sayings that filter in to the common consciousness, a bit like how sporting terms crop up in conversation without you knowing the origins. For example we all say things like “that came out of left field”, which is a baseball term (nothing to do with the musician who did that track with John Lydon in the 90s). Or we will say “they had a good innings” when someone dies, more from cricket than baseball. Or we might say someone is “out for the count” which is from either boxing or vampire slaying, both popular sports you don’t see on regular TV any more (I think vampire slaying is still available on “pray per view” channels). I do often find myself using phrases from old games shows that I realize might not have been as popular over here. For example I was at the supermarket buying fruit, and I says to the fruitmonger, “you don’t get nothing for a pear…” and they didn’t respond “…not in this game!” In meetings at work, if someone says I have made good points, I always respond with “and what do points make? Prizes!” while rubbing my chin, while everyone stares and blinks. I was at the card shop, and I was buying some birthday cards and I said “dollies, do your dealing” and the look I got, well, let’s just say it wasn’t “nice to see you, to see you nice”. Basically growing up my whole vocabulary was shaped by Bruce Forsyth. I want to point out that I never say any of those things in public in America because I’m not insane, but it does remind me that I grew up with tv game show hosts being proper tv game show hosts. So farewell Alex Trebek, I hope that a worthy full-time successor comes along at some point (although not necessarily with lots of outdated eighties-era catchphrases).

just visitin’

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I’ve been trying to draw every day in January, and except for one I think I have done. Ok two, including today, unless I get a sketch in before bedtime. However there is currently a huge storm rolling through northern California and I’m sure the power will go down any moment. Lights are flickerin’, rain is pourin’, wind is howlin’. Trees are takin’ a rollickin’. The gusts are so strong, they have blown the ‘g’ away from the end of all these verbs. We’ve not had much weather this winter, such as on this particular Saturday when I drew this, when it was bright, sunny, a typically fresh January afternoon in Davis. I got out of the house, mask on, and cycled down B Street to the corner of 5th, and decided to draw the view across this school parking lot, looking over at Newman Chapel. Click on it to see a bigger view, if you need to.

Saturday afternoons, sometimes I will stick on a movie, preferably something I have seen a lot of times so I can do something else while it’s on, such as build some Lego, get on with some drawing, do the laundry, cycle downtown and sketch a panorama, that sort of thing. Most recently I rewatched one of my favourite films that I’ve not seen in ages, Les Visiteurs. Les Visiteurs was a French film I first watched in about 1993 or 1994, starring Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, utterly silly in a French humour kind of way. It’s about this knight (Godefroy le Hardi) and his vassal (Jacquouille la Fripouille) who get accidentally transported into the present day (that is, 1993; god knows what they’d make of 2021). Despite the silliness, Reno plays it with such a sincere seriousness, and every single other character is well fleshed out in their own way, I just love it. I was learning French at the time and I would watch it all the time, and funniest of all are the terrible subtitles (“toil toil never recoil”). The soundtrack too is epic, as you would expect from the best French flicks, rivalling Jean de Florette (another of my favourites, along with Manon des Sources). I did watch the sequel Les Visiteurs 2: Les Couloirs du Temps, on VHS when I lived in France, without the subtitles and with a different actor playing Dame Frenegonde, and it wasn’t anywhere near as good. I didn’t have high hopes, whenever I asked French friends about it they shrugged indifferently; but the again they tended to do that a lot in France. Also I once went to a nightclub outside Charleroi in Belgium called Les Couloirs du Temps and it wasn’t all that. See, I shrug indifferently too. I never saw the English language remake Just Visiting that came out about 20 years ago, starring the same two main actors, but with Christina Applegate and set in Chicago for some reason. I shrugged highly differently at that, taking it as an abomination unto a classic of French cinema at the time, but Les Visiteurs isn’t exactly Le Chateau de ma Mère or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg or one of those other ones I haven’t actually watched (though I did a course in French cinema at university), and now I think I’d actually like it in a funny retro sort of way. And then there was a more recent one, back in French, following on from Les Couloirs du Temps, called Les Visiteurs: La Révolution, set during revolutionary France (and called ‘Les Visiteurs: Bastille Day’ in English, for some reason). I’ve not seen that one yet. But nothing can take away from the original Les Visiteurs, one of my favourite films of all time.