it’s not easy being blue

andre villas-boas

You have to laugh at Chelsea. It would be easy to say their managerial office has a revolving door, but it’s more like a revolving cashpoint. It reminds me of the Crystal Maze, that bit at the end where you are in that air cupboard and have a minute to grab as many bits of rapidly flying silvery paper as possible before your time is up. Actually it’s not like that in the slightest but I like the image. Longer serving managers like Ferguson, Wenger, Moyes (that’s it, by the way) must look at Chelsea in the same way that oak trees look at human beings, with their fleeting brief lifespans, but still strong enough to cut them down from time to time. The fabulous wealth that their Russian owner brought them means that instant success is an absolute (which basically means winning every trophy in your first couple of weeks or you’re fired). Even Ancelotti, who won them their second double, was booted out less than a year later. The double used to be really really hard to win, and double-winning managers were revered for decades later (Nicholson, Mee, Dalglish). Now it’s like, well you couldn’t even win the Champion’s League too? You’re useless! All of which hiring and firing becomes very expensive for Chelsea. This is Andres Villas-Boas, who lasted about two thirds of a season. He’s only 34, look at him. He was a manager for one year before coming to Chelsea, winning a load of stuff at Porto before shifting to the Bridge for a ton of Siberian cash. Now he’s out the door also with a ton of cash, and while part of me feels bad for the guy – he’s young, still learning, and needed to be given time to change that aging cliquey team around – but really I think he’s not been harmed too much by this whole affair, he has full pockets now, and when even top-drawer managers with very successful careers can get axed at Chelsea (Ancelotti, Mourinho, Scolari) it doesn’t hurt his reputation as much as you’d think. Andre, I hope you to either a smaller club, or even back to Portugal, and spend a few years really working on a project, making it successful, building up a bank of respect and a catalogue of trophies, and then when Chelsea, many more managers and revolving doors and millions of pounds and failed players down the line, will look back up at you and shout “save us!” you will whisper, “no…”

for whom the bell tolls

view over berkeley

I hadn’t been to Berkeley in ages. I don’t even remember the last time I sketched there. I took the train down with my mum during her visit to California last week, as she’d never been there. We looked around downtown and explored the UC campus, going to the top of Sather Tower, the massive Campanile bell tower. I really must go back and draw a panorama! I couldn’t resist getting my sketchbook out, and a blue pen, and sketching while I had a moment. What a moment, it was five minutes to twelve. Before long, and out of the blue for some reason, the bell in the bell tower struck twelve, and it was LOOOUUUUD. And for some reason, it struck like twelve times. By the end of it my knees were kind of made of jelly. Again, obviously a totally unexpected surprise what with it being midday, but I did feel quite scard of heights all of a sudden. That soon passed, when the carillion player came up and started playing pop songs on the carillion. Lady Gaga, apparently, not that I know what a Lady Gaga sounds like. Anyway, nice view.

imperial garbage truck

"garbage truck"

This is my son’s new AT-AT. When he first saw one (its brief appearance in Return of the Jedi) he called it a ‘garbage truck’. It makes perfect sense – it sounds and moves just like one, and to a toddler the connection is obvious. The name has stuck and I’m glad, I always disliked the name AT-AT when I was a kid (but we still said that rather than ‘Imperial Walker’, which is what they’re called in the film, because ‘AT-AT’ is what it said on the box, and Hasbro boxes tell no lies). I remember getting mine for Christmas when I was a kid, it was like the best thing ever, but the little plastic guns kept snapping off. This is the ‘Galactic Heroes’ version, which I must say is really cool (and a lot sturdier). Sketched in blue Micron pen in my WH Smith sketchbook (first sketch in that book in a year and a half).

mail on friday

my desk on an airmail envelope

Another rainy lunchtime, another envelope sketch, this time of my busy busy desk. I had been outside in the rain to find food, so only had fifteen minutes or so to get a drawing in. These are some big big storms California is getting.

drawing to a close

30, drawing

#30 of 30, and that’s that. This sketchbook is finished. These are some of my current sketchbooks – the moleskine is in between the big watercolour one and the small wh smith one. I’ve had a pen, or a crayon, in my hands ever since I had hands. I’ve always drawn, always, even if for some years I didn’t really draw all that much. It’s funny though, but I feel it’s just the last few years that I have really come back to it and put myself into it, drawing daily and posting online. It’s like, full circle; I have had many many interests, and things I’ve tried out, and I still do, but drawing was the first thing I did, and it is still what I do.

So the series ends. This was a series of thrity things about me, that you may or may not have known. I specifically chose a mixture of fairly mundane things and fairly interesting things, but these are not necessarily the most important things. Similarly, I’ve drawn different views around the apartment (similar to the How to Save the World series), and kept the words as unkempt and off the cuff as possible.

Here then is the final list. Makes sense when you look at it like this.

I hold my pen in an unusual way


29, tv

Penultimate entry, #29 of 30. Funny I should do this on the day of the Emmy’s. Don’t tell me, oh you should get BBC America. If I wanted to watch back-to-back repeats of crap shows like ‘Coupling’, I would have gotten it by now. But they don’t show Match of the Day, so sod ’em.

If you want a vision of the future, they say, imagine a reality tv show, stamping on a human soul, forever. But isn’t Big Brother ending next year in the UK? Long, long overdue, that show, from the man whose ancestor gave us the London sewage system.

And so, this particular reality series is almost over (in fact I just drew the last one), a series of mundane facts about the author, not the most important or interesting parts, but just what I happened to come across while rearranging my head. And my apartment. And it may even be fluff, but hey, I’m fluffy.

one falling leaf does not an autumn make

28, i like autumn

#28 of 30… the autumn of the series, “I hold my pen in an unusual way“. This is how it was last weekend. May be about a hundred today though. When it’s a hundred out that means it is still Summer, according to the Wikipeteia. One leaf does not an autumn make. Even so, the halloween candy is in the store. I love autumn, season of changes; but changes can sometimes be a pain, sometimes it is nice when yesterday is like today. I’m just looking forward to when I can wear nice warm jumpers again. I have so many, and yet I live in the scorching Central Valley.

so let’s see your kit for games

27, football shirts

#27 of 30. Some of you know my love for football shirts (or soccer uniforms, if you prefer). I’m a bit of a connoisseur, an enthusiast. Not really a collector, but I have a few. I have a Spurs away kit from the early 90s which is signed by Klinsmann, Sheringham, Anderton, Ardiles, and the rest. I do wear my tops at weekends sometimes, but all that static polyester turns me into a walking van de graaf generator. 

I’ve wanted to have a chat – my annual chat, for sure – about this season’s footy kits. All summer I checked daily the following sites, and, for news on every new shirt release around the world. As always, the South American and smaller British clubs choose practically naked women to promote their tops (almost oxymoronic there); see Linfield’s away kit if you don’t believe me. Some kits this year have been nice – England’s new tailored home kit is lovely, and is the first England kit I’d even consider buying. I’m incredibly envious of Arsenal’s two new away shirts. But there have once more been a slew of lame blah-blah kits this year, with few really original designs for clubs, particularly from the larger companies such as Nike and Puma. Oh, Puma – will I ever like a Puma kit? It’s funny, because the answer to that is yes – I will always like the previous one better than the new one, because they are getting worse. The current windscreen-wipers /chevron template they are overusing has produced some horrific results, but none more ghastly than Tottenham’s current home kit. Awful sponsor aside, the introduction of yellow streaks (cue jokes all over N5, “what do you mean ‘introduction'”, etc) to produce this monstrosity means I’ll be waiting another year for a home kit I might want. It’s not just Puma though – even Adidas have gone for the shock factor with Newcastle’s new yellow-and-custard striped away shirt. Poor Newcastle – they get relegated, and are then told to wear that shirt in front of thousands – okay, hundreds – of people.

But the foulest kit, the most shocking kit of all time perhaps, even more so than Arsenal’s early 90s away kit, has to be Partick Thistle’s new away kit, surely done as a bet, a pink/grey/white camouflage kit. It just has to be a joke. It’s chavalicious. And Puma again.

You can see many of the best and worst kits of all time at perhaps my favourite site on the net: historical football kits. The research these guys have done at HFK is beyond phenomenal, showing images of shirts from all years of English and Scottish football. Its readers help out by forwarding any information they may have; I once sent them a photo I’d found of the Spurs laundry-lady hanging out kits in the mid-30s, showing that we wore navy and white hoops away. Highly exciting stuff for the football kit historian!

And so there you have it, my football kit obsession. It’s funny really, because apart from the beloved adidas trainers, I actually really hate most sportswear.

its sculptor well those passions read

25, british museum

#25 of 30. Nearly there folks! Yes this is lego. Baby-lego. Since my son got them, I have regained my incredible lego building skills. I’m not an architect, but I am certainly a legotect, and can build any manner of planes, trains and space-rockets with the stuff.

The British Museum…Yes, I did a bit of Interactive Theatre years ago, I was really into it, running some performance-and-games-based workshops, using the methods of Ali Campbell, the brilliant guy who taught me, and Augusto Boal, the brilliant guy who taught him (and father of the art). It’s something I was good at, but never did get back into. Anyhow, the Hidden Histories project was a major eye-opener; a series of workshops with inspirational performers from Shape Arts, a disability arts organisation in London, culminating in an abstract promenade performance among the statues, ruins and spectators of the Greek rooms in the British Museum. We were told (and it might even be true) that it was one of the first (if not the first) time the British Museum had been used to host performance art. It was themed around the histories that are hidden not only in the statues and stones, but also in the people you pass every day, able-bodied and disabled. One thing I learnt was that a lot of the people we were calling disabled were a great deal more able in so many ways than most able-bodied people.  I was involved with a few other projects with the Shape performers but this one was the most educational, and most fun.

As did the others, I kept a journal to document the process – not full of the sort of drawings I do now, but cartoony diagrammy stuff, notes, quotes, scribbles, quibbles. The journals were in fact displayed at the British Museum on the days of the performances, down in the education centre. I even made little plasticine figures to represent one segment of the performance. I recall, in the wine reception after the main show (and the press were there), a woman was browsing the journals and was spending a lot of time looking at my one, and she asked me (not knowing it was mine) how old the children were that made these. “Well that child was twenty-five,” I said. I was elated.