(21) Barnstaple, (22) Bristol, and (23) Bath

GB 21-23 sm
Now for Barnstaple, Bristol and Bath; I like the Bs, I like to make them rhyme. After a brief whistle-stop tour of Cornwall we are back in Devon, but this time North Devon, which is different. Devon’s a big county. First stop is Barnstaple, which I wanted to stop in because I have been there twice in the past couple of years, and I had wanted to draw this bookshop. Barnstaple is where my uncle Billy lived, until he passed away last year. He loved his music, knew more about music than anyone I’ve ever known, I still have several old Beatles and Pistols records that he gave me when I was a kid, but he also loved to read and had a huge library of books about music and crime in his living room, so sketching a bookshop seems appropriate, though I couldn’t find a good record shop to sketch. Right opposite this bookshop is an amazing chip shop. Seriously amazing chips there, but I always like chips in towns like this, usually a lot better than in London. When we visited Barnstaple for his wedding, my older brother and I stayed out late one night playing pool and afterwards went to a kebab shop near here to get some sort of local food called a “Jemmy Twitcher”. It has every kind of meat in it, plus lots of other stuff. I didn’t eat one but fair play, my brother did and he finished it. Helped sop up all the Guinness! So that’s Barnstaple. I remember coming to North Devon when I was a teenager, well just over the border in Somerset, camping with our local youth club, we did some into Devon a lot for activities like canoeing and walking about.

I’ve never been to Bristol. It’s been in the news lately, with statues of slave-traders going into the river. I didn’t really know much about Bristol as a city, except for the two football teams – City and Rovers – and the accent, and even then I couldn’t pick the accent out of a crowd. I know people who went to university there, I think, it always seemed like a college town people used to live in but now live somewhere else (bit like Davis). So the virtual tour was an eye-opener, it looks like a really interesting place, and a bigger city than I realized, lots to see and sketch, lots of places to walk, the big Clifton Suspension Bridge, there’s a cool looking market area, but I just really enjoyed all of the terraces of old houses, usually with different coloured doors. There was something really characteristic about them. So that’s what I drew. I must have virtually walked around the whole town. I wish I had been there in real life.

Something I noticed a lot which made me really sad was looking at the Google Map and everything, cafes and shops and pubs and especially theatres, everything had “temporarily closed” next to the name on the map. That was horrible, this whole thing is horrible, but these cities are their places and this virtual tour was one of imagination, imagining what it would be like standing there on the street, wandering through that market then popping into that pub for a local beer, to listen to that accent, but it’s not to be. Some day perhaps, I just hope all these places are still open when we come out of this. On that note, I went to the next spot on the tour, one I couldn’t miss out, and that’s Bath. I have only been to Bath once before, on a day trip from London when my wife first moved to England, with a tour group of Americans in the UK on student-work visas (we went to Stonehenge that day too), and it was very pretty. All the buildings are the same colour though, all made from the same type of stone. When I was a kid Bath was in a small county called Avon, named for the River not the Lady, but now it’s just part of Somerset. This drawing is a place I think we came for tea, Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House, a little cafe named after a Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon who became known for her delicious buns. People called her Sally Lunn because they couldn’t pronounce her name properly, but mostly they wanted to make it rhyme with “bun”. The thing called Sally Lunn’s bun isn’t even a bun, they just call it that to make it rhyme with “Sally Lunn”. See? Logical. So “Sally Lunn’s Buns” it is. They look pretty massive, Sally Lunn’s buns.

Ok that’s that. The next chapter in the virtual tour of the island of Great Britain takes us into the country of Wales. I am reminded of a joke I loved as a kid, “How do you get two whales in a Mini? Drive down the M4”. Now I live in America nobody gets that joke, so I have to try making a local equivalent, Americanize it. “How do you get two whales in a Ford SUV? Stick em in the back seat with the two giraffes!” It’s not quite as funny, but it makes me laugh on the inside. I suppose I could try it with a smaller car, like a Prius or a Corvette. “How do you get two whales in a Corvette? How the heck would I know, wise guy!” You have to do the 1930s gangster voice and say “myeaaaah, shee” as they did. I suppose I need to use an equivalent road, but it would have to go to a town that sounded like Whales, or maybe somewhere more American that sounds like a big animal in a small car. “How do you get two Antelopes in a Mini Cooper? Drive up I-80 past Sacramento!” That’s quite local for our area, I suppose, one for the Davis folk. Or maybe not an animal, how about “How do you find two needles in a garbage truck? Drive down Route 66!” Needles is a town that is on the old Route 66, at least it said so when I went there, the map says it’s actually on 40. No, best stick with the old classic, but even then it only works of you live in London or along the M4. Bath is close enough for it to still work. If you live in Wales you’d have to say “How do you get two baths in a Mini? Drive down the M4 and then turn off the A46 at the Tormarton Interchange!” Which we can all agree is much funnier. Right, see you in Wales!

Back in Barnstaple

Barnstaple parish church, Devon
I went to Barnstaple with family to see family, an almost six hour drive to the West Country. I like Barnstaple, all of the shops are close together, and if you need a pair of socks urgently you can just walk to a shop a few minutes away and get some for a quid (unlike in Davis). Yes it was the same shop I bought four Topics for a quid. By the way Americans if you don’t know what a quid is, it’s a pound, the UK currency, not the unit of weight. I say ‘quid’ a lot. In America I say ‘bucks’ a lot. By the way it’s never ‘quids’, you don’t say “seven quids”. Oh except in the phrase “quids in”, which means…ok let’s get on with the drawings. I was up early, having beaten my brother at MarioKart the night before in the hotel room (just wanted to point that out), and I like to wander about having a little walk. The sketch above is Barnstaple Parish Church. The church dates back to Saxon times over a thousand years ago (England is well old, folks), though none of that building survives. The present church is much newer, having been built just recently, in 1318 (the spire is even newer, having only been put up in 1389, which was pretty much just the other day). Some more building was added in the 1600s such as the Dodderidge Library in 1667 (it’s hard for a Londoner to see a building dating from 1667 and not assume it is just replacing one destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but it didn’t quite reach this far, hundreds of miles west). The spire of the church has a twist – it was a ghost all along. No, not that sort of twist. It was struck by lightning in 1810, but the twist is that it wasn’t the lightning that twisted it at all, but centuries of sunlight on the lead and wooden frame. Apparently George Gilbert Scott (the grandfather of Giles who built Tate Modern, Waterloo Bridge and designed the red phonebox) was asked to renovate the church, but he refused to fix the twist, because he said that “if you know Bruce Willis is a ghost all along it ruins the tension of this otherwise unwatchable film”. By the way if you ever travel back in time to 1810 and get stuck, at least you know you can generate the 1.21 gigawatts of power to get home by hooking up a cable to the Barnstaple Parish Church spire.
Barnstaple butcher shop

When I first came to Barnstaple last year to visit my uncle Billy who lives here, I saw this really interesting looking butcher’s shop in Joy Street. I determined that I would sketch it when I came back, so I did. I could never be a butcher. I would just be doing ‘meat’ puns all the time, like “nice to meat you!” and “it’s bacon hot today!” and “gammon have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. See, I’d be really bad at it. Master Butchers are very skilled at what they do. They really know their meats. They know all the meats. Beef, Lamb, Pork Pies, all the meats. It would take me ages to learn all the meats. Across the street from here is an art shop called the Blue Gallery, so I popped in to have a look around. Lots of nice art supplies. They also had a copy of Matthew Brehm’s perspective drawing book, I have quite a few sketches in that one. These were the only sketches I did in Barnstaple this time, but my ones from last year are in this post: https://petescully.com/2018/05/19/barnstaple-devon/ . Devon’s nice. I came to Devon when I was in my teens a few times, and always thought I would come back more as I grew older, but never got around to it. It’s a big county, with lots of places to discover. Devon is old country. When you are out on the windswept moors time is almost irrelevant. Unless you are sentenced to Dartmoor prison, when time becomes a thing you do. I always liked the ghost stories from the moors, like the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor. Seriously, the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor. That is an actual ghost story, look it up. It sounds like a Dr. Strange incantation. “By the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor!” 

Barnstaple, Devon

barnstaple museum feb2018 sm
On my brief trip back to England I went to Barnstaple in north Devon, with my mum and sister to see my uncle Billy and his family. It had been a long time since I was in Devon; my 16 year old cousin Jade was still a newborn, which gives you an idea how long ago it was. I did go for a little walk on the Saturday afternoon to do a couple of sketches (also to have some amazing chips in gravy, so tasty). I stood at the busy intersection near the bridge over the wide river Taw and drew the scene above, the Barnstaple Museum, with the clock tower outside. Barnstaple is quite a busy town, and has a pretty bustling town centre on a Saturday afternoon. I have to say, coming from California, and coming from a suburb in north London, it was nice being in a town which has all the shops. Our hotel was right opposite a great toy shop too, they had a lot of Lego, as well as loads of model railways. As I say, it has been a long time since I was in Devon, and one of the things I love about the southwest are the hills in the background. I remember going camping in Devon when I was 16, and the scenery just brings me back. The English countryside really is beautiful. I’ve never really spent a lot of time in the country and the smaller towns and cities, always being in London; I’d love to tour the UK with a sketchbook like that Richard Bell book my cousin Dawn got me a few years ago), but living our here I’ll never get time. You can see the hilly backdrop behind the building below as well, I forget the name of that building (if only there was a way I could instantly look that up on the device I am typing this), but also visible is the Long Bridge over the Taw. I got up very early in the mornings to walk around town and along the river, cold damp February mornings. In those early mornings, you still had a few local lads out from the night before, singing, slurring, bit of scrapping. It was actually raining when I drew the one below, and I had to stop when it started getting heavy. I like the colour of the stone they use for these old buildings down here. Barnstaple itself goes back to Anglo-Saxon times and there is an interesting mosaic near where I drew this, at Queen Anne’s Walk,  showing the whole history of the place, vikings, pirates, traders and raiders.
barnstaple feb2018 sm