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

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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!

(18) Plymouth, (19) St. Michael’s Mount, and (20) St.Ives

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We are off to Cornwall, the southernmost tip of the island, but first one more stop in Devon. The big lighthouse there is at Plymouth, a fairly decent sized port city on the river Tamar that borders Devon and Cornwall. My only experience of Plymouth was passing through on a coach when I was 16, by myself, crossing the Tamar Bridge. I was off to visit my friend Kevin, who lived in Devon, while my family were holidaying in Cornwall. Cornwall was beautiful, but they were arguing and I was old enough to say, actually can I go and visit my friend Kevin cheers see ya bye. Plymouth makes me think of Francis Drake playing bowls while getting news of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and being totally like, yeah when I’m finished with this game alright, no come on on Drake you have to come now, oh FINE I’ll just finish this one game; we’ve all been there. I bet his mum used to call him down like ten times for dinner while he was playing Minecraft or something. We also think of Plymouth when we think of the Mayflower. It’s funny, I listened to a podcast about the Mayflower recently and it actually debunked some of the legends we think we know when it comes to the Mayflower. For example, it didn’t sail from Plymouth, but from Southampton. I know, right! And it was apparently the biggest ship ever, and wasn’t full of pilgrims but rich people drinking champagne, and it never even got to America because it hit this big iceberg and the band kept playing Celine Dion music as it sunk, and this one man who was the King of the World ended up sinking while his girlfriend floated home on a piece of wood. Nothing about the first Thanksgiving, none of those tall buckled hats, it is surprising what you can learn.

And so, we move into Cornwall, still travelling along the South Coast, which down here is full of cliffs and coves and caves, myths and legends and tales. Cornwall on a map is technically “in” “England” but it’s not England. Cornwall is an ancient duchy with a Celtic heritage, its people most closely related to the Welsh and the Bretons, left over after the Angles and Saxons came over from the continent . In fact those pesky Angles and Saxons drove a whole bunch of those “Britons” over the sea to Armorica in northern Gaul, which we now call Brittany. There’s still a lot of cultural heritage shared between these areas. I chose to draw St. Michael’s Mount, which is a beautiful little tidal island jutting out into the English Channel. There is another one across the sea in France called “Mont St.Michel, on the Norman/Breton border, but it’s much bigger than this one. St. Michael’s Mount is nonetheless like something from a fantasy book, and probably looks nice at sunset. St. Michael though makes me think of the clothing brand from Marks and Spencer.

I decided not to draw Land’s End; I had already drawn St. Michael so another clothing brand straight away would not have been a good look. So I circled back around Cornwall to the town of St. Ives. Made famous by the rhyme with the stupid question at the end, St. Ives was also the name of a butter when I was a kid, if I’m not mistaken. [Edit after some clever clogs tells me no it’s actually not that, it’s St.Ivel] Sorry, turns out I am most mistaken, it’s St.Ivel, but nonetheless St.Ives makes me hungry for butter. [Edit after some clever clogs tells me it’s not butter it’s “buttermilk spread”]. Well it tastes like butter. It has a Swedish flag on it. [Edit, no technically it’s not] It looks very pretty there in St.Ives though. I really liked the look of this pub, the Sloop Inn, which according to the sign dates from 1312. I bet it’s one of those places on a wet and stormy evening would be warm and cosy with bearded old seadogs drinking scrumpy. But what I like most was that in the Street View photo, all the people sat outside are clearly aware of the street View camera and are all waving and smiling, and I liked that. Unless they were saying awful things which they might well have been for all I know. Nevertheless, while I drew this, nobody could get close to anybody in public places so it already looked like a distant time past. I enjoyed walking virtually around St.Ives though, and along the rest of the Cornish coast. I’d like to come here some time and look for Arthurian sites, and pirate coves, and salty old pubs, and sit on the cliffs looking out at the Atlantic towards America, and think back on all those people from the Mayflower who hit that iceberg, singing “my heart will go on.”

Next up: back to Devon! I forgot something!

(15) Bournemouth, (16) Exeter, and (17) Brixham

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And just like that, we are in Dorset. Virtual tours go quickly. Hampshire might be a big county with a lot going on but there’s a lot to see. Bournemouth is the next stop, but I’m avoiding the beach because there are crowds of people, so I walked virtually inland to see if there was anything else to draw other than the pier. Time for the first church of the book, and this one is very tall, the 1879 church of St. Peter. Good name that. I have never been to Bournemouth but I know people that live there. My mum actually went there last week for the first time. It’s a popular seaside resort town, looks like a nice place for a weekend away, but I’d probably prefer somewhere a little less popular. The local football team, Bournemouth, got relegated from the Premier League this season after a few seasons, and I still can’t quite believe that Bournemouth were in the Premier League. I hope they come back some time.

Right that’s Bournemouth and Dorset done with, time to move along the coast. This is where I really start editing out the stopping points. I’d like to visit Poole, and Portland Bill, and I hear Weymouth is nice, and of course the Cerne Abbas giant in the hills further inland. I need to get to Devon though, one of my favourite counties. when I passed through Exeter last year I never left the train station, though I did sketch the platform. IF I’d had time I would have visited the cathedral, so I went there virtually on this trip instead. I couldn’t get a great view, and I’d dug myself into a bit of a corner for space on the page, so I just drew what I could. Little dash of colour from the bunting. Exeter goes back to Roman times, though their football team Exeter City’s nickname is the “Grecians”. It’s not clear why, some say it might be because of their location outside the city walls in St.Sidwell a century or so ago gave people the idea that they were the Greeks (or Grecians) outside the walls of Troy, honestly the things people think up. Dundee United’s fans for example call themselves the ‘Arabs’ because years ago they had lots of sand on their pitch, true story. Their other nickname “Tangerines” makes more sense given their orange shirts. Portsmouth are “Pompey”, a nickname for the town which could come from a number of origins but one I like is that Charles II’s wife Catherine of Braganza thought Porstmouth reminded her her Bombay, and mispronounced it. Bournemouth are the cherries, makes sense because of their historically red shirts (also apparently fruit orchards nearby their ground when the club was founded). But Exeter are the Grecians, but I’m not sure what they’ve done to urn it.

Always with the puns. I could write a book about football club nicknames but I don’t want to. My brother and I used to quiz each other on them years ago, the Shakers and the Quakers, the Addicks and the Latics, the Eagles and the Seagulls. But time is pressing and I have to move along. I couldn’t find anywhere I wanted to draw in Torquay or any of the surrounding towns, until I found Brixham with its pretty little harbour. Again though, it got a bit squashed into that corner. Pages like this made me rethink the spread layouts a bit, and the next few will evolve a bit more until I start getting much more out of the space. Brixham is on the southern end of Torbay, and apparently this is where the Dutch William of Orange landed with a big Dutch army on his way to taking the crown in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. That would be William the “No no no, I’m not a conqueror! I was totally invited here! And my wife Mary is the current-but-soon-to-be-former King’s daughter. All good? Throne please!”. King Billy, they call him in Northern Ireland. Yeah, that’s a story for another place, let’s leave William behind and move along. Brixham apparently has a big Pirate festival every year, which sounds like something I’d want to go to. This is getting into Pirate country down here in the SouthWest, especially once we hit Cornwall, in the next post. Bit more Devon to come yet though (I do like my cream tea and Devon fudge).

Exit from Exeter

Exeter station, Devon
“Exit from Exeter”. That is really not a very relevant title. I just really wanted to use the word ‘Exit’ in the same title as ‘Exeter’. I scratched ‘Exiting Exeter’ because it could be misread as ‘Exciting Exeter’, and who am I to judge? I was only there for about 50 minutes, and I never left Platform 1. I wasn’t really in Exeter long enough to be really Exiting. ‘Departing from Devon’? I had taken the train from Barnstaple, and changed here at Exeter St. David’s for the train back to London. There was an Exeter rugby match happening that day, so there were several fans on board the train across Devon. I knew that I could get some sketching time in at the station while I waited, so I picked a spot and drew. It’s pretty standard classic English railway station stuff. I like travelling by train, and my journey went well. I actually did the colouring-in while on the train, reserving a table seat ahead of time. I would like to spend a bit more time in Exeter if I came back here again, maybe just a couple of hours to draw the cathedral, which I hear is quite nice. I do like drawing cathedrals. I have a dream to travel the whole of England, drawing all the cathedrals, and then go to France and do the same. I wanted to get back to London though, to pack my bag for the flight back to California. I was in Paddington by the late afternoon. Stepping onto the Paddington platform, I was struck by how cathedral-like it was. Maybe I should draw the railway stations of Britain. I’m sounding like a trainspotter. I already look like one.

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

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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.
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