Still working from home, but coming to campus a couple of times a week at least to do stuff in the department, although the lack of people on campus really is depressing, the start of Fall quarter is usually about the buzz and energy of everyone being around, but there’s none of that this year, with most people working from home and most students taking their classes remotely. This is the Zoom Generation. What a year. Nobody really knows when this will end, but end it must, and construction goes on for when we are all back. I wonder what impact the pandemic will have on future architecture? I’d be interested to follow developments in the next few years with global pandemics in mind now that is a thing. In the meantime here are some sketches I did in the middle of September on the UC Davis campus of some of the ongoing construction projects. Above, Walker Hall, which is nearly ready. You can see all my other Walker Hall sketches at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157678149480548. This will be the new Graduate Center, and I attended a virtual walkthrough last week which was really exciting. Last time I was in the building was two years ago when I was invited to sketch inside during reconstruction, I was able to explore the space and try not to fall through holes in the floor, and I got my photo of me sketching with the hard-hat which was what I really wanted. It’ll be great to see Walker Hall finally open. Here is the ongoing construction project at the Chemistry Building, that started at the end of 2019. This part of it anyway, the other parts of the huge building have been undergoing work for a few years already. You can see the sky was sorta blue on these days, the AQI was still high, but the smoky skies were intermittent. Not so on the day I drew the sketch below, when skies were dull and brownish/orange from smoke. I wasn’t outside for long, but I ate a sandwich at the Silo and stood outside to draw the view of the new Teaching and Learning Complex rising over the skyline. Building work keeps on going.
A few weeks ago we went to the town of Sonoma for the afternoon, to have an outdoors lunch with my wife’s mother. It was nice to get out of Davis and I took the opportunity to go and do a sketch of the Mission, above. If you don’t know about the Missions of California, here is a good site for you to find out about them: https://californiamissionsfoundation.org/the-california-missions. The one in Sonoma, called San Francisco Solano, is the most northerly one, the end of a trail that leads all the way down to San Diego. This little adobe building dates back to 1823 as the culmination of three hundred years of Spanish-Mexican settlement in California, going back to 1523. It was actually badly destroyed in the 1906 earthquake but was rebuilt and restored. I have drawn it twice before, but it turns out it was a really long time ago: 2007 and 2006!
The very first time I came to California, in 2002, we spent a couple of days in Sonoma housesitting at my (future) wife’s friend’s place. I really liked Sonoma best out of all the places I went to on that trip, and I remember the delicious wine and the great cheeses from that cheese shop. Now during the pandemic there are still people out and about but the cheese shop was closed, and seating at restaurants and cafes was all outside. We had an early dinner in one of our favourite spots, Hopmonk Tavern, and I sketched my son on his device while the ladies talked. This is one of only a few occasions we have eaten out since the whole pandemic started. This was a brief respite form the terrible smoky air in California, but that soon came back. That very night there were enormous fires that erupted near here in Napa Valley, destroying some historic wineries and lots of homes, raining large flakes of ash down on all the towns around. I hate this awful year, and I really hate fire season. It’s never been so bad, and it’s terrible on all the industries around this way.
I have started sketching outside more lately, even though the weather is hot again (94 degrees yesterday, in mid October, that is not normal but what is). But earlier in the month I needed to sketch one evening, and even though I am thoroughly bored of drawing the living room I just went ahead and sketched anyway. I sat down to watch a replay of the Spain-Portugal friendly game (not knowing the score, and not knowing what an immensely boring game it was). Not an epic. More ‘claw my eyes out wish I’d spent my time watching something else’. Oh well, there have been a fair number of overexciting Premier League games lately. I’m thinking of changing the pictures on the wall going up the stairs, maybe taking down the prints of my cathedral drawings (three of them aren’t even really cathedrals, I should just call them big churches) and replacing them with my classic World Cup posters, perhaps to remind me occasionally that international football can be fun, even if the most fun parts are just the posters, the sticker albums and sometimes the kits.
I should have watched Star Wars. I’ve been listening to some Star Wars podcasts (well one, called Full of Sith) and I’ve been thinking a lot about Star Wars, especially the prequels. I love the prequels, and even more so now the sequels are all done with (I was much less impressed with those – although I loved Force Awakens, I was undecided on Last Jedi, but I really disliked The Rise of Skywalker, despite a few good bits, it was overall poodoo). I might some day write an unnecessary blog post about it accompanying some tangentially related sketch. But I love the prequels, I have a lot of good feelings and memories around those, and I love them even more knowing that a lot of people are very sniffy about them. That said I love that one episode of Spaced where Tim is really annoyed about Phantom Menace. Maybe I should have watched Spaced, been a little while since I saw that series. Or maybe Shawn of the Dead, or Hot Fuzz, I love those films. I was less impressed with the final ‘Cornetto trilogy’ film, The World’s End, but maybe I should watch it again. I did watch a film last night, Knives Out, which was directed by Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, and starred Captain America and James Bond, it was a whodunnit sort of film. Why do we say “whodunnit” rather than “whodidit”? Speaking of the genre, you know the board game “Cluedo”, in America they just call it “Clue”. So why do we Britishers call it “Cluedo”? What about “Ludo”, do Americans just call it “Loo”? If only there was a way I could ask them. What about Ronaldo, is he just called “Ronal” over here? I’ve never thought about it. I wish I had thought about it during that Spain v Portugal match, because that would have made the game slightly more interesting.
A few weeks ago we took an anniversary weekend out of Davis and down to Monterey. While the bigger fires closer to us had been contained or started to recede, other big fires in different parts of the state had created an even bigger smoke emergency, so this was probably the worst of all the poor air times in the 2020 fire season for us. San Francisco had the unforgettable Martian ‘orange sky’ day; further up the West Coast Portland and other cities were experiencing hazardous air conditions like we’ve never heard of. Probably a good time not to go anywhere. Or maybe, if we are just going to be stuck indoors, best to go and be stuck indoors at a nice hotel so it at least feels like a vacation. So we drove across the Valley and the Delta, and around the East Bay to the South Bay and everywhere was just dull toxic grey, like an apocalyptic waste, everything familiar hidden. We made it down to Monterey, and the thick smoke became mixed with thick fog. The AQI levels were still high, but slightly lower and damper now. Monterey will always have fog in September but we could barely see anything at all. We were staying in Pacific Grove, one of our real favourite places. As you can see from the sketch at the top, the fog was thick. I sat on the rocks along the coastline to draw. We even ate outside at actual restaurants, for the first time in six months, and that felt great. Pacific Grove is a charming town, on the top corner of the Monterey Peninsula. The houses all beg to be drawn, and I’m sure they get painted a lot. The air quality was good enough for me to go and walk about town and sketch, something I’ve been really missing in 2020. The sketch above is a hotel on Lighthouse. In the new social-distance pandemic reality I stood masked up out of the line of foot traffic or cars parking, the mask-steam on my glasses adding to the sea-fog and fire-smoke. I usually get over mask-steam on my glasses quickly, when I get a new mask it’ll happen the first or second time and then magically it stops as I adjust, but I find when I’m sketching that it happens more, because I look down a lot and it shifts things around. Still you need to wear the mask in Monterey or you get fined a hundred bucks. Nobody can use cash nowadays so I use that hundred bucks I am saving as an extra filter in my mask. I don’t really, but if I did it would might me not forget where I leave my mask when I’m at home. Actually one place here did take cash only, this lovely delicious bakery called Pavel’s Backerei. We came here to pick up breakfast, and there was a line outside. The pastries were huge and delicious. They didn’t take cards though, so it was lucky I had some actual cash on me – I don’t normally carry any, but it had been in my wallet since before the pandemic, maybe as a souvenir of the past. The bakery was on the same street as this impressive town hall, so later that day I came back and drew it. It was an awkward one to draw though, the sort that seems like a good idea but is less fun to actually execute. I enjoyed drawing the hotel on Lighthouse a lot more. This fence was right outside our hotel window. We had a nice room, just a block away from the sea (which was invisible) and the lighthouse (which was now closed to the public). A lot of golfers around here, loads of golf being played. I suppose people really like golf, it’s never appealed much to me, but that might be all the stuff that surrounds it rather than the actual hitting a ball and walking over fields bit, which sounds alright I suppose. I’m not allowed to watch golf in our house (my wife actually enjoys watching a bit of golf) because I make too many golf based jokes or puns on the golfers’ names. I can’t think of any now, I actually have to have the golf on to activate that particular box, so I’m just not allowed to watch it, which is a fair way. So, I draw rocks instead. There are so many rocks, it was like a rock festival. Sat there with my sketchbook I might have felt like a rock god. But I didn’t; rock gods don’t have to fend off seagulls who are looking to make off with your paintbox.
When was my last post? I don’t remember. I know I can look it up by just looking at my last post, but even as I read the date I forget what it says. Time is an irrelevance. It’s October now, isn’t it? What month is that, eight? Ten? Are months important any more? When you look at months, they do beg the question: what the hell is that about? This one has 30 days, this one has 31, then comes February and it’s like, wait no, just 28 for you, except every now and then it’s 29, I mean what the bloody hell? What is an hour?How many in a day, 24? Right let’s divide the hour into 24, no actually 60, I mean when you actually look at it all, it really does make you wonder WTactualF? Days in a week? 7 FOR SOME REASON. What is a week? I mean we know what a year is. We can understand years. Days too, to an extent, although the actual day bit depends on the time of year and where you are on the planet. But years, we get years, we can’t do anything about years. The French Revolutionaries tried changing all the months to more sensible time frames, with funny names like Breezy, Wheezy and Sneezy (those weren’t the real names, that’s what the British called them mockingly, because our old fashioned months made so much more sense). Years we understand. Except that there are only two thousand and twenty of them apart from all the thousands that went before. Don’t get me started on the boring people that insisted on the millennium not being the millennium because there was no year zero, and I was like well what the hell are we supposed to do with all these fireworks?? Besides I personally count years from 1BC. Years though, I do understand years, and a week ago or so (I think, time is an irrelevance) I celebrated fifteen years living in the U.S.
Fifteen years! Fifteen times around the Sun, and what a bloody hot sun it has been, especially lately, here in California. It’s October, and we’ve still been having 100 degree weather. Fires have still been giving us choking air. As a socially-distanced-soccer coach I constantly check the AQI to see whether the Sky Gods will permit us to kick the ball around for a bit while trying to stay six feet apart, and still be heard trying to explain rules of complicated drills under my mask. The game is the best teacher. Recently we got out of town for the weekend, driving down to Monterey across a California we could barely even see, the smoke was so thick, and even in Monterey the smoke mixed with the fog. I did do some drawing, I will post them another day. The pandemic is going on and on and on, with no normality in sight, I don’t need to tell you that. Cinemas are closing, films aren’t coming out. The things we love are on pause, or going away, and time is hard to measure. But I’ve been living in America for fifteen years, and that’s a thing for me to think about. I’ve generally measured time in sketchbook pages, though this has been much harder this year because I am so far behind all the other years. The sketch at the top of this post shows little relevance to the theme of this thought bubble, but it shows time passing, a new building, the Teaching and Learning Complex, the TLC, which meant something different in a different time. It’s an optimistic building, in these strange and unusual and unprecedented times, when so much teaching is happening through the exhausting little rectangles that give us all headaches. I like drawing buildings on campus in their various stages of transition, it’s real time, really passing. It can’t always be measured but it’s time you can hold on to, and keep, and never get back.
We can never get this time back. People grow, live and stop, things happen and stop happening, we adapt, and it’s hard, it’s bloody hard but it was hard before, now we have an excuse, that’s what I think some days. This week I’ve been seeing videos online celebrating the 25th anniversary of Oasis’s second album, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” which was always one of my favourite records. I remember the day it came out, I had been having the most illustrated year of my life. Illustrated? I suppose that’s the word, I was 19 and felt like I was grabbing the world by the horns a bit. That was the year I took off and went to Denmark to pick strawberries all summer. Listening to music on my crappy tape player, and what music it was, 1995 was a great year, optimistic. By the time October rolled around this album came out and I went and got the CD from Our Price in High Barnet, where I was at college, and I got home and immediately put recorded it onto a cassette, so I could listen to it on the tube. I was going down to Stratford if I remember rightly, I was going on a date with a girl from Prague I’d met a few days before. I just remember getting to Stratford tube station, and I was so engrossed in the album I didn’t want to turn it off, so I just walked about Stratford until the very last bits of Champagne Supernova had finished, walking through a subway, volume turned right up on my headphones. Then I met the girl from Prague and apologized for being late, saying there was a delay on the Central Line or something, which sounded plausible. I remember it was a nice autumn evening, we went to a pub and played pool, but I just couldn’t wait to get back on the tube to Burnt Oak and listen to it again. That was all twenty-five years ago? That blows me away. And then again, it doesn’t. The last fifteen years probably surprise me more. The decade between where and who I was in September 2015, moving to America, and October 1995, listening to that album for the first time, makes me really wonder about what years really are – that was definitely longer than the fifteen years that have flown by since. I’ve fit a massive, massive amount in, and I still am, but the thirties and forties are so different from the twenties. Back in the old days, an album was as long as the amount of space on two sides of a 12 inch piece of vinyl. Then it was as long as you could put on a CD without getting bored. Now it’s arbitrary, what is an album? Endless playlists, pick and choose, random selection, the ceremony vanished a long time ago. But each song carries a piece of history with it, some memories that only you can carry, that album carries a lot of mine. Time is irrelevant, but absolutely precious, utterly priceless. We will never forget this year, none of us, a massive shared experience which will be different for everyone, but don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.
The smoke from the nearby fires was bad, very bad. Ash raining everywhere, air quality awful. Then it cleared up a little bit and we even came outside for a bit. And then it got worse again from the many other fires up and down the West Coast, and now it’s pretty universally awful. The Orange Sky Day in San Francisco was a thing. But this sketch, from my office on campus, was from a few weeks ago when it was bad from those first fires. Everything tinged with amber, dense particulates in the air, not great to breathe in. So my quick sketch was just in ashy looking paint. Looked appropriate. I’ve no idea when this current smoke event will clear up (we’re not able to do youth soccer practice right now, which was tricky enough with our COVID protocols), but campus is starting to get ready to welcome some students back, and there are marquees going up for some outdoors instruction, which won’t be able to happen now in this current ashy hellscape. What a year 2020 is, huh.
I was in the office this week, campus is still closed but I had a lot to do there, preparing for the new academic year. At the end of the day, I got to enjoy Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speaker Series, hosted by UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, with special guest presenter Gary Younge. It was titled “Going Viral: Race, Racism and Rebellion in the Midst of a Pandemic”. The talk was presented remotely from England, and so I watched in my office and sketched my desk and the laptop while it was on, using my iPad. I really enjoyed it. The live Q&A afterwards with Chancellor May and Gary Younge was cut short unfortunately due to loss of connection. It has been a long time since I drew my work desk, in fact I don’t think I have drawn it since moving offices. When I’m on campus I usually keep the drawing space and the work space separate, even though I’ve not been working from this desk regularly in several months now due to this damned pandemic. See if you can spot my Baby Yoda hand sanitizer.
This here is the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis, which used to be the Davis Library decades ago. It also used to be in a different location, but was moved to the edge of Central Park also decades ago. Buildings have a habit of moving around in Davis. I’ve only ever seen it happen once – in the dead of night, walking home in the darkness after an evening of sketching and beering, there it was, a house suddenly sprouting large legs, not unlike those of a chicken, and rising up and walking several blocks down the street. No, it didn’t happen like that, the legs were more like a turkey’s. Actually it would be cool to imagine them doing that. The building I saw move was on Third Street, and was being moved down on a trailer behind a big truck. It was a long time ago, my memory might be playing tricks, as it does, it might have been on the back of a turtle. Anyway, some buildings have moved about here in Davis, the Anderson-Hamel house on the corner of F and 7th used to be down on 2nd Street, and the Tank House up at Impossible Acres farm used to be next to the Varsity Theatre, among other places. This building used to be on F Street, moving here in 1988 to become the museum. Enough history mystery, I drew this recently, as a piece for the Pence Gallery’s annual Art Auction. This year the Art Auction (which has an incredible logo, by the way) will be completely online, so I will miss the usual event, I always like to go and bump into art people I know, and have some delicious wine and food. The Museum itself is interesting (here is the website: http://dcn.davis.ca.us/~hattieweber/) and is named after the first paid librarian in Davisville, Harriet Elisha Weber. I’ve not been in there in a while, but I remember they used to have a school bell outside that my son used to like ringing. One year when my son was little we came in to do an easter egg hunt, and while looking for easter eggs he spotted one of my drawings in there, which was a surprise, and a big honour. It was nice to be out drawing again in Davis, something I have not been doing much this year at all. although I didn’t do that much – just the basics, the outlines in pen, and then cycled home to add the details and the paint. I wonder if I’ll ever get back into the rhythm of going out drawing regularly, as I did when I was at the office every day. Of course this month the air has been too smoky to be outside, although it is improving. I cannot believe it is nearly September already. This year, this damned bloody year.
Our virtual journey is at an end. The traditional end-point for the island of Great Britain is John O’Groats (or the beginning point; end, begin, all the same), and so after all the cities and dramatic valleys we end at a tiny hamlet, well less hamlet and more medallion of bacon, or lardon, on the way to the Orkneys. People walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity, or to see how far it is, or just to explore a route across the island of Great Britain. I can vouch, it’s a long way, with a lot in between. You have to miss a lot out; you can’t explore Great Britain and see everything. Doing this virtually means you miss out on meeting all the people, but on the plus side you don’t have to meet as many people. I don’t think that’d be a problem up here. In Edinburgh during the Festival maybe, or London while Camden Market is on, or Manchester on a Saturday night, or Bournemouth beach after lockdown is lifted (or even before), too many people for a crowd-avoider like me. The north of Scotland is significantly less populated, though I am sure it still gets a lot of tourists.
And why not, it’s spectacular. Loch Ness is a highlight, stretching up the Great Glen and slicing Scotland in two. I have started getting very interested in the geology of Great Britain, and I bought a book all about it, and have watched some shows on YouTube that talk about it, but I feel like I still have a way to go before I can really understand it – Britain has a very deep geological history. What is now Scotland in fact was once on a different continent to England, something which can never happen again in our lifetimes, at least not geologically, though maybe geopolitically. The area that is now the border between the English and the Scots is roughly where the geological border lies. But then you have the Great Glen, up in the Highlands of Scotland, a massive deep diagonal lobotomy through the head of Great Britain. The faultline is called the Great Glen Fault, where two tectonic plates meet and move slowly in different directions. In the Ice Age huge glaciers carved up this land, and glacial erosion in the Quaternary period formed the immensely deep freshwater lake called Loch Ness. The bit I drew was of Urquart Castle, from street View (but obviously on a boat, so Loch view) (incidentally, wen you use Google Street View here the little yellow person icon changes into a green Loch Ness Monster). You’ve all heard of the Loch Ness Monster, aka Nessie. It’s a monster that looks a bit like a plesiosaur or a dragon, and has to hide with his family of other Nessies whenever those damned scientists come along (I think they’ve had enough of ‘experts’), and there’s this family who helps them out, a couple of kids and a bloke with a big bushy red beard, he plays the bagpipes to warn them I think. I saw a documentary but it’s been a really long time. Actually I did watch a movie about it called “Loch Ness” with your man from Cheers in it, I actually saw that at the cinema in 1996. Bit of a story to go with that, I was on a date in central London, and we decided to watch Loch Ness at Leicester Square. I remembered it was a fairly boring film, but we heard this loudish bang during the film, thought nothing of it. Afterwards it was freezing outside but we walked down by the Thames talking about how Loch Ness wasn’t all that, until time to go home as I had college next morning (I was heading back to north London, she to south). But then the bridges across the Thames were closed, and I was stuck. The reason the bridges were closed was because the loud bang we had heard was actually a bomb going off on a bus on Aldwych, not that far away. It was an IRA bomb, but unannounced (often there would be a phone warning in those days) – this one was being carried by the bomber but went off accidentally while he sat on the bus. There were quite a few IRA incidents in the mid 90s. So, many of the bridges were closed, meaning I was stuck on the other side of the Thames. My date’s friend was picking her up by car and offered me to stay over if need be but I really needed to get home so I could be up for college next day (I was so responsible) so I said I’d be fine. I walked for ages down the Thames until I got to a bridge that was actually open; by the time I managed to walk back up to Trafalgar Square, absolutely freezing in the light snow, it was way too late for the tube (which I assumed would be closed anyway due to the bomb, that was a thing) and wondered if I’d need to walk home (which is about a four hour walk), there was thankfully a Night Bus. The good old N5. So, when I think of the Loch Ness, I think of that freezing cold night.
At the top of the Great Glen is Inverness. I have to say, I found it hard to find something on Street View I wanted to draw. I think I imagined more than I got, I thought maybe there’d be a great whisky shop or statue of Nessie or Ted Danson, but in the end I found this nice bridge across the water. What I really liked about it was the couple in the foreground, sat by the river, the woman’s head resting on the man’s shoulder, it just seemed warm and touching. I’ve kept in the people were I can in these drawings, because I’ve learned that geography is not just about the inanimate objects, but the inanimate human beings as well. It’s a nice view of the bridge looking over at the church, but these people give it a warmer, happier feel. Inverness is often voted the happiest place in Scotland, which makes me want to visit it more now. Apparently the accent is quite different, with none of the usual rolled ‘r’s, but the accents change as you get further north up here and can be quite different to what English or other people expect to hear from a Scottish voice. I want to travel just to hear all these accents, as interesting as differences in geology. Inverness historically was a stronghold of Gaelic speakers too, though use of the native language has dwindled over the years. Scottish Gaelic is similar linguistically to Irish and Manx, and also related to Welsh, Cornish and Breton, the Celtic languages. I know a little Irish, just a few phrases really (nobody in my Irish family spoke it), but the only thing I ever learned in Scottish Gaelic was “Alba gu bràth” which means something like “Scotland forever”.
We can’t stay in Inverness forever, so time for the sixty-sixth and final stop on this long journey, John O’Groats. As mentioned this is where charity walkers like to start or finish. The spot I chose to draw is right by the edge of the sea, at the little harbour where you catch the ferry to the Orkneys. The town is apparently named after an old Dutch ferryman. There’s not much here, but it’s the knowledge that you’re right at the tip of this big island with thousands of years of history and culture behind you. It’s been a fun journey, I hope to do it in person someday, but for now I’m at the desk in my house in California, the air quality from the wildfire smoke still making it hard to breath outside, a global pandemic making everything difficult, my son just started his first day of Junior High, all completely remote, and we had no big summer travels this year for the first time in ages. I suppose it’s good, we can sit at home and see the world in other ways, but we are looking through a keyhole, seeing only the bits we want to see, not hearing any real voices, or accents, not smelling the air or tasting the food, not getting a chill from a North Sea breeze or drenched in a Mancunian downpour or sun-burned on a Cornish beach, no exhaustion from climbing steep hills in Bristol or Edinburgh, no rushing to finish my sketch so I don’t miss the last bus out of Portmeirion. I should write a final page to close out the book, that I will keep to myself; I’ve left it blank. Anyway I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey, even the long rambly often nonsensical and sometimes made-up-ish posts that go with them. If I ever do exhibit shows again this will be a fun curio to look at, of a virtual journey in a year when were were told to stay home. What a bloody year. I hope next year is better than this.
Scotland, bonny Scotland. Och aye. We’ve got past Glasgow and Celtic now, and now on to the other parts of Scotland. I didn’t leave enough spots for places like Stirling, Arbroath, Stenhousemuir, Forfar Athletic, Queen of the South, or other places I remember from lower division Scottish football tables. Speaking of which, I used to collect Panini football stickers, and after all the English clubs were out of the way you;d get the Scottish clubs, and they would be half-sized, two players per sticker, and you had some names etched into my memory, Murdo McLeod, Maurice Malpas, and they didn’t all have M names. Remember Campbell Money? Well that’s still an M name I suppose. Tosh McKinlay, Willie Miller, there was a guy called Fraser Wishart, and a Crawford Baptie. Enough of this, let’s see some Scotland.
First stop is St.Andrews, which is famous for two things – Golf, and William and Kate. This is where the sport of Golf was born, here in St.Andrews, when famously they were playing a game of football when one lad decided to pick up the ball, place it on a tee, and hit it into the goal using a metal club, and that’s how Golf was discovered. Now of course there are all sorts of types of Golf, you have regular Golf, Mini-Golf, Crazy-Golf, Golf League, Golf Union, Australian-Rules-Golf, Volkswagen Golf, and the Golf War. I’m not allowed to watch Golf in our house because apparently I make too many silly jokes about it, which surely isn’t true. So I’ll move on from the Golf to the other thing St.Andrews is known for, Wills and Kates. They went to university here, and met here, and the rest is History of Art. Obviously I am talking about the Heir of Windsor and Duchess of Middleton and not the American reality TV couple Will and Kate Plus Eight, though they may also have met here. I wonder what happened to them? I don’t really. I stopped watching them when Sister Wives came out. I wonder what happened to them? No I don’t. I wonder what happened to Wills and Kates? St.Andrews University – the oldest in Scotland – has many famed alumni though, you’ve got Edward Jenner (no relation to the modern Jenners), John Pringle (nothing to do with the crisps), John Knox (unrelated to the TV show Opportunity Knox). Now, St.Andrews does look like a nice place, though I bet that North Sea blows in a chill wind through your bagpipes. It’s a lovely looking town, few too many golf shops, but I drew this charming little bookstore. One more thing – St.Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. You’ve heard of St.Patrick for Ireland, you know St.George for England, you may be familiar with St.David for Wales, well St.Andrew is the saint for Scotland and its his cross on the national flag, the Saltire. We Britons learn the four Saints as kids, along with the other four national symbols, the Rose, the Shamrock, the Thistle and the Daffodil. Or the Leek, I forget now.
Let’s move on. Dundee is not famous for crocodiles and comparing cutlery. To me, Dundee is famous for two things: the Beano, and Dundee United. And Dundee FC, and the Dandy. Ok that’s four things but you can lump the Beano and the Dandy together, and Dundee FC and Dundee United are two football clubs on the same street, literally a couple of minutes walk from each other. Dundee is getting very far north now, it feels very alien to me. I like Dundee United though, they were my favourite Scottish team in the 80s, though I liked Celtic for Irish cultural reasons. Dundee United had some great runs though, winning the league and later getting to the UEFA Cup Final, losing out to IFK Gothenburg, I remember watching that on TV and being so disappointed they didn’t win, but really loving both teams’ kits. For me though, it’s all about the Beano. (And the Dandy, fine). The Beano was a kids comic that was massive when I was little. My older brother was a huge Beano fan, and one of my earliest memories of us sharing a room is messing up his comics, though we used to read the Beano together and always got our own copies of the Beano Annual at Christmas. (He is ten years older than me, but I’d still get him the Beano Annual years later). I loved all the characters, the Bash Street Kids, Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, but most of all Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher. I was a member of the Dennis the Menace Fan Club, I got the little wallet with the two badges. (I just checked – you can still get them!) The Beano and the Dandy are published here in Dundee by DC Thomson (whoah, I just made the connection between ‘Dandy’ and ‘Dundee’) The Dandy was alright, I liked it at Christmas but it as a comic it was always the one I would only get if the Beano was sold out. Desperate Dan with his massive chin and those cow pies was never as relatable as Dennis and Gnasher. I remember the Beezer comic, sometimes I’d get that at Christmas too and I liked it mostly for the Numskulls, but I never got Topper, Topper was rubbish. Now what I decided to draw for Dundee was a big tall ship, the RRS Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott of the Antarctic’s ship built right here in Dundee and now moored next to the V&A Dundee, an impressive modern building down beside the river Tay. I would like to see Dundee, home of the Beano, and it was apparently dubbed “Coolest Little City in Britain” in 2015, but the world’s a different place from 2015 so that tile might belong to Wigan or somewhere now for all I know.
And last stop on this trip is Aberdeen, the granite city. Aberdeen were the other one of those teams that in the 80s broke up the dominance of the Old Firm. We’ve had enough Scottish football for one post though. So, Aberdeen, it’s called the granite city. Presumably lots of granite there. I liked drawing this street, with the extreme angle perspective caused by scrolling Street View too far. I’m going to bet that building is made of granite. Ok all I really know about Aberdeen is the football team was food in the 1980s when Alex Ferguson was their manager, they had red Umbro shirts with JVC on them (Adidas shirts earlier on when they won the European Cup-Winners Cup while Gordon Strachan played for them) and had a player called Jim Bett in the Football 88 album. Sorry, I realize you probably expect some history of the city but even if I visited there, even if I went there in real life and went out speaking to locals over a pint and a chip supper, I’d still only think about the 1980s Aberdeen football team, the ‘Granites’. Apparently Lord Byron was raised in Aberdeen, old ‘Granite’ Byron as he was known.
We’ve only got one more spread until we are finally all done, and thankfully very few 1980s Scottish football references coming up in the next places: Loch Ness, InverNess, and John O’Groats Ness. So expect lots of references to the 80s cartoon The Family Ness. And of course, greatest Scottish show of all time, Super Gran (not actually filmed in Scotland). “Is there nothin’ that she cannae do?“