an early start

norwich walk 071722sm

Back again. The view from my old bedroom in Norwich Walk, in our little Burnt Oak corner of London, drawn after waking up very early on a hot July day. On these days when I’m jetlagged and the middle-of-summer sun comes up way way earlier in London than in California (where the sun has a nice lie-in but definitely works a lot harder during the day), I like to try and start the day with a sketch, especially if I’m probably not going to be sketching as much due to doing family things. I miss seeing my London family, it’s always nice to be back, even at times when things are a bit stressful, it makes me feel nice to be Home, you know. I was lucky as a kid that we never moved house during my childhood, because it means I have definite sense of where ‘Home’ is in my mind. There are times even here in Davis in my forties that I wake up and I’m not immediately sure if I’m in my old bedroom or in California, with the window behind me, the shelf to my left, cars starting outside, a cat pawing at the door. Burnt Oak is quite different to Davis though. This is looking westwards, towards Orange Hill Road. Lot of stories up this street. I remember that house on the corner which has the little green food truck parked on the drive now, that was Mrs. Philpin’s house for a very long time (she passed away many years back), my mum was friends with her daughter since they were little girls, I went to school with her grandkids. I don’t know many other people in the street now, so many have moved on, passed away, although my old neighbour Matthew still lives across the road and I always stop and have a chat in the street when I’m back, usually about Spurs. This was an awkward looking sketch; the way the bed and side table gets in the way makes it harder to lean out the window than it used to be, although my mum now has much nicer windows installed. The morning sunlight kept changing the colours of everything subtly, but it’s pretty much how it felt; this was soon going to be the hottest summer of all time in London, and this day was going in that direction. My son had been up since about 3 or 4 as well, so we got a very early start and after breakfast with my mum we headed into central London for some sightseeing, taking our jetlagged selves onto a two-hour boat trip down the Thames, before getting the tube back up to Burnt Oak. We were still shattered from the two-day journey from California, but happy to be in London again. 

We each managed one sketch while down in central London, a quick drawing of Horseguards (below). 

whitehall 071522 sm

what the dickens

London Dickens Inn EXT 2022 sm

After visiting the Classic Football Shirts shop in its new location on Commercial Street, I decided to take a walk down to St. Katharine’s Dock, near Tower Bridge. I hadn’t seen any football shirts I wanted to buy,
all the really classic ones were out of my price range, although the pound is very weak against the dollar so maybe I should have gotten that 1992-93 light blue Spurs 3rd kit I’ve always wanted. I ended up buying some socks (one pair themed like the 1984 Belgian shirt, and another themed after Roberto Baggio’s 1994 Italian kit), and having a hot chocolate. It was the last day of May, it wasn’t cold but wasn’t hot, it was good London weather, and the weather was about to turn wet. I walked through the east end, taking photos of old pubs I would draw later, but didn’t have time to stop and draw now. The clouds were looking a bit ominous. I’d not been to St. Katharine’s Dock before, at least not since I was a kid and can’t really remember that. My mum likes to go there for lunch, and another mate had told me about the Dickens Inn, and it looked like something I should draw. So I walked about the pretty little docks, there were some boats I thought about sketching, but I sought out the Dickens Inn instead. I found a good spot with a classic red phone box in the foreground, and started mapping out the sketch…and then the skies opened up. It wasn’t so bad, but I had to find something to stand under. So I stood inside the phone box! Yeah this is great, what a story. No, that was uncomfortable, and the phone box just got a bit steamy, and what if someone needed to use the phone? Oh right, it’s not 1994. Anyway, I found a better spot, underneath a tree, this time with a classic red postbox in the foreground. I abandoned that fairly quickly, trees aren’t actually that good at keeping you completely dry, plus I thought I heard a rumble in the sky, though that might have been my tummy. I don’t stand underneath trees if there’s thunder, thunder famously hates trees. So there was the awning of a nearby building, this time with a classic gas-lit lamp-post in the foreground, yes this will do. I drew for as long as I could, which turned out not to be as long as I would have liked, because that rain, man, it kept on coming and just got heavier. I’m almost flat against a wall with little keeping me dry thinking, just do this later yeah. So I dashed inside to dry off.

London Dickens Inn INT 2022 sm

It’s a big place, the Dickens Inn. It wasn’t super busy but there were quite a few people in there, several American tourists (probably why all the tv screens were showing baseball), and a lot of wood. The website says that “it is believed” to have been built in the 1700s – the building, not the pub, this being an old warehouse, maybe a tea factory, just east of where it currently stands. “Years later” it was turned into a tavern. That would be in 1976, so it’s not as ancient as you might think, being as old as I am – we would have been in the same year at school, but it probably has better eyesight than me. It’s not called the Dickens Inn because Charles Dickens used to drink there (this being the one pub in London’s Zone 1 that Dickens apparently wasn’t a regular at), although “Dickens” did drink there, that being his grandson Cedric Dickens who opened the pub. There are Dickens references about, as seen written on the beam in the sketch I did above. It was very nice in there; the windows were open, and outside the rainstorm grew heavier, the rumblings of thunder grew louder, and I had an afternoon of not needing to be anywhere thanks, so here I stopped, eating a pub lunch and having a couple of nice pints, and of course getting the sketchbook out. Bliss. This was the first London pub I was sketching in a long time. I wouldn’t mind coming here again some time.

When the rain slowed down a bit and I was done with sketching, I walked over to Tower Bridge and crossed the Thames, and enjoyed an ice cream in the rain from a proper ice cream van. Ice cream vans in England look like ice cream vans; the ones in Davis, not so much, more like creepy child-catcher trucks with scary jingles. I had a 99 of course (they cost a lot more than when I was a kid), and walked along the river in the rain, before heading back to the Northern Line. Have I mentioned that I love London?

back to burnt oak library

BurntOak - Library - 2022

At the end of May I finally returned home to London, having not been back since before the pandemic started. This was my longest period of time not going back, and it was great to see my family again. My older brother was getting married to his long-time partner (I was best man and gave a speech). It was the first of two trips back to London this summer, and both times I would be going off to France for the second half of the trip. It’s been a busy time. I also managed to get a lot of sketching done, as well as many drawings I would start now, finish later (gives me something to do on the plane home). I felt a bit odd flying across the Atlantic again after all this time, but it wasn’t so bad, and I landed at Heathrow and took the brand new Elizabeth Line, London’s newest train line, that had opened only a day or two before. It was pretty exciting getting to ride this new train so early in its existence. The Elizabeth Line (formerly called Crossrail) station within Tottenham Court Road was like an underground cathedral, at least compared to the tube platforms. Anyway, I made it up to Burnt Oak on the Northern Line which is where my family still live, and this is where I got my first sketch of the trip in. This was a London sketching day and I was headed down into town to fill my book and wander the streets, as I do. I like to explore. But I had to stop here on Orange Hill Road and draw Burnt Oak Library. This iconic landmark of Burnt Oak (opened 1968, designed by B. Bancroft) was like a second home to me growing up, I spent so much time in here. These days only the top part is the library, greatly reduced in book numbers, while the bottom floor is all council offices for local services now (very useful of course). When I was a kid, the children’s library was upstairs while the main library was downstairs. I still dream about the library from those days. There was a smell, a bookish smell, and as you walked in the main doors (which are in a different place now since the remodel), you were greeted with three maps on the wall (I think it was three, maybe two?) showing Burnt Oak as it was when it was all fields and a few roads, then a small village in Middlesex, and then how it looked in the 60s all built up and part of the Greater London suburban metro-land. Burnt Oak is on the Edgware Road, which is part of the ancient Roman road called Watling Street, shooting dead straight in a general north-western direction. It’s from Watling Street that we get the name Watling Avenue, the main road that cuts from Edgware Road (called ‘Burnt Oak Broadway’ in this section) downhill and past the Underground station towards this intersection with Orange Hill Road, and that’s where you find the library. Watling Saturday Market by the way, from the sign in the sketch, was the market that was in the parking area behind the station. I don’t know if it even still goes, and I think the stairwell down there from Watling Avenue has been closed off, but we used to go there on Saturdays and look around the stalls. The little street to the right is Park Croft, a tiny cul-de-sac that just backs up to the train lines. The library itself didn’t used to be painted in such a dark grey colour, but was white (not a very clean white admittedly) and looked quite striking. Then they painted some colourful patterns on the interior parts, and when they did a big redevelop in the 2000s they painted it an uninviting dark grey. There didn’t used to be a fence around the grassy bit, well there was a small shin-height barrier we used to jump over, so we could sit in the shade outside the library windows. I remember getting my library card as a very young kid, possibly on a visit from my infant school which was just up the road (Goldbeaters), the librarian upstairs in the kids section had brown curly hair and was friendly and kind but serious, you couldn’t make noise of course without a stern look, but I remember her teaching me all about book care (I still remember her advice that it’s not a good idea to turn the corners of pages in your books to mark your spot, and to this day I still don’t). I do remember that I forgot to take some books back when I was a kid, and it turned out they were in our loft, and the two books were a very silly children’s story about colourful teddy bears getting into trouble, and a heavy book about the Soviet manned space program. Two more completely different books you could not have chosen but that was the sort of thing I would read, I guess. As I grew I would read lots of adventure books, but I’d mostly spend ages poring over the travel books, especially the Insight Guides which have all the colourful photographs in them. New Zealand, Hong Kong, Germany’s Rhine Valley, Brazil, the fjords of Norway, Australia, Japan, the Trans-Siberian Express, there were all these places I read books about at that library but have as yet still never visited. Some day. When I was an older teen I would study in the library, especially on the evenings when it would stay open late until 9pm, I could get some quiet study done and also if I needed to study with friends, but usually it was a quiet place for myself. I would go to other libraries too, I remember studying hard for my Maths GCSE in Edgware library every day, and the big library at Hendon was a favourite for me, I’d sometimes spend all of a Saturday in there getting lost among the language books, and they also had an excellent music library where I would check out vinyls (I often used to get the old BBC Sound Effects records, for some reason). Libraries were such a big part of my growing up as a place where I could find ideas and let the imagination bubble, and I carried that on into adulthood. When I lived in Hornsey Lane, when I wasn’t working I would spend most of the day in Crouch End library. When I moved to Davis, similarly I would spend a lot of my time in the library, looking through books that might be interesting. I think it’s always a massive shame whenever public libraries close, they need to be protected. While it’s a lot smaller than it used to be, I’m glad Burnt Oak Library is still there. Probably not quiet enough for me to do my homework in now though. And I wish they paint it white again.

Behind the library it looks like they are building some sort of extension on top of Silkstream Parade, that changes the look of the street a bit. I’m interested to see how that turns out, but I hope it’s not some big redevelopment scheme like we saw in Colindale, which is a completely different place from when I left the area. I miss it round Burnt Oak, so it was good to be back for a little bit. I did do a few more drawings round here while I was back, will post later. Next up – central London sketches…

deep-six ninety-six

Gareth Southgate 2021 copy2

Well, there’s no question now is there. It is definitely coming home. It may have to quarantine for ten days and take two tests but come on. England did it, they beat Germany in a knockout game, and it didn’t even have to go to penalties. Sure, not an entertaining game, but if you want entertainment go and watch Hamilton. Or Spain v Croatia, or France v Switzerland. Amazing and ridiculous games, no defending whatsoever. England haven’t let in a goal yet. Haven’t scored many either, but maybe this is how it comes home. Anyway I am not going to analyze the game or offer opinions on whether Kane wasn’t getting service or tired or whether this Germany isn’t as good (it’s better than circa 2000 Jens Jeremies era Germany) or home advantage or any of that. I don’t even really think it’s “coming home” (if “coming home” means England winning it, since “it” is the European Championship, which England has never ever been in the final of before, or “it” is the Henri Delaunay trophy, which is French). The semis and the final are at Wembley though, but first England have to play a quarter-final against Ukraine in Italy, specifically so people can sing “it’s coming Rome”. Whatever happens, England did beat Germany, at Wembley. Gareth Southgate beat Germany, at Wembley, in the Euros. So, just as I did an illustration of him in 1996 recently, here he is in 2021, a quarter of a century later, this time in celebration. nice tie, Gareth. No waistcoat this time. Here he is, burying 1996. And so I ask myself, can we all bury 1996 now? 96 is the new 66. England didn’t even win it in 96 but it’s become such a big thing, part of the folklore, and that song, that bloody song, yeah you know I’ll be getting the CD out if England make it through to the final. CD?! How old are you, grandad? Can we all bury 1996 now? Not just the Euros, but everything? 1996 was one of the Last Great Years, maybe even The last one. Nobody used a mobile phone. What a time that was, eh! People had to wait until you got home before you ignored their call. To call people when you were out you had to use a phone box, with ‘coins’, maybe with a ‘Phonecard’. Nobody used a mobile phone. A few people sure, the things existed, but you go to a football match or a gig or watch a building burn down, nobody had their phones out filming it, tweeting it, recording it in case they forgot. People had to just ‘remember’ their experiences. Nobody used the internet. The odd ‘tech geek’ perhaps, in England anyway. There was a guy we knew at college called Ruman who could get us ‘on the internet’ in the computer labs, he was the only person we knew who could get onto this magic place, but there was nothing on there back then anyway, and our college wouldn’t let us stay online for long before kicking us off. Social media? What the hell’s that? 1996, the Star Wars Special Editions hadn’t even come out. The old Tories were still going, pre-New Labour, John Major and co. Princess Diana was still alive and being hounded by the press, before they decided in the middle of the night a year later that she was actually the Princess of Hearts or something. 1996 Wembley isn’t even the same Wembley as 2021 Wembley, it’s just in the same bloody place. 1996, I was twenty and could stay up all night long, bouncing about to Pulp or Oasis or Rage Against The Machine, and often did; I ain’t twenty no more. London was amazing in 1996. I got my guitar that year, on Charing Cross Road, I still have it. I bought it while on my break from the chocolate shop I worked at. A piece of 1996 I have held on to. Soho was brilliant in 1996, not yet shite, but no longer quite as seedy as in the 70s and 80s. Still seedy enough though. The Hellfire Club on Oxford Street was the best place on Saturday nights, a place long gone now. Can we all bury 1996 now? I mean, the world of 1996 has been buried a very long time, and it ain’t ever coming back. Gareth just buried another bit. His penalty miss is now in the ground with all the CDs, VHS tapes, Phonecards, cash, music magazine with cassette tapes on the cover, Soho being cool, and all the other stuff we left behind. Is this about me missing London? Might be, most things are, I’ve been burying that for years. 

walk away, walk away, walk away

Southgate 96 copy

And so, the rematch is on. Sure, England have played Germany loads of times since 1996. Euro 2000 for example, when an England in red beat a Germany in dark green in Charleroi, the city I lived in at the time. In October 2000 in the last ever game at the old Wembley stadium, the historic old toilet with the twin towers, Germany beat Keegan’s England causing Keegan to quit in sadness. And of course who can forget the 2001 5-1 mauling of Germany in Munich by the exciting young England of Owen and Beckham. And then there’s the 4-1 whopping of England all in red by the Germans at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, that was a hard one to take. But for me, that semi-final in 96 was the one. Bigger than 1990, the World Cup semi in which Waddle launched the ball into low-earth orbit, because that was held in Italy, and was about Gazza’s tears. 1996 was at home. England wore grey. It was a brilliant summer in London, and it all came crashing down in a penalty shootout. Ah well. Young Gareth Southgate missed the decisive kick for England before Andreas Möller beat Seaman and celebrated by strutting, and the BBC played Casts’s “Walkaway” over the end credits, a song which I’ve always felt should be called “Walk Away”, but always makes me relive the sheer crestfallen emotion of that moment. I can’t do those penalty shootouts you know, I can’t watch them. I end up in the kitchen. But next Tuesday morning (for me, living in California) England will play Germany in a European knockout game, once again at Wembley (the newer one with the big metal arch), once again with Southgate involved, this time as manager. I know I have Written Off The Germans (At My Peril), but no, no no no, this will end in penalties again, and I will be in the kitchen. We can hope. I had to do a quick digital drawing of Southgate, 1996, right after the penalty miss. He looks like he’s being taken hostage. In a way I suppose he was, nobody wants to be chained to the memory of penalty miss in a major semi-final on their record, which is why Stuart Pearce looked like he was expelling demons after his penalty against Spain in 96. Southgate you could say expelled his by managing England to the penalty shootout win against Colombia in 2018, but really the arc of history, the ninety-six narrative has all been heading here, to a game against Germany at Wembley in what is effectively another home Euros for England. It is, as they keep telling us, coming home. 

(57) Hadrian’s Wall, and (58) Glasgow

GB 57-58 sm And so, the final leg of the virtual journey, we are heading north to Scotland. By the way, WordPress, I hate the new editing tool for posting on the blog, too unnecessary, clunky. The old one was much better. Anyway, here are the final few posts on this journey, written as I’m stuck inside during a pandemic and a wildfire smoke emergency, wondering if I’ll start the next virtual sketch journey or not, and thinking maybe it’s not worth it, but I’ll tell you it’s good practice drawing buildings.

Before we reach Scotland, we must get to the end of England. Hadrian’s Wall isn’t the border between England and Scotland, a border that’s moved about a bit over the centuries, but it was a border once. It was the edge of the Roman Empire, ordered to be constructed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian around the year 122. It’s old. There was no England or Scotland back then, there was the Roman province of Britannia, and Caledonia, where the Picts lived. I think Hadrian was one of the better Roman emperors, I suppose, because he had a beard, not many of them did. His statues make him look a bit like Matthew Corbett, you expect him to be putting on a puppet show with a very naughty little bear, a grey dog that squeaks and a bossy miniature panda. Even his name, Hadrian – you get other emperors with names like Nero, Caligula, Severus, Voldemortus, Bastardus Maleficus, Anus Panus the Heinous – but Hadrian is basically ‘Adrian’, bespectacled and bookish (hey I’m both of those things), into Subbuteo and French films (me too, this is weird, maybe I’m really called Adrian?). I wonder if Hadrian kept a diary when he was thirteen and three quarters? He did write poems, well, one poem. He was one of Rome’s “Five Good Emperors”. Sure he loved a bit of excessive cruelty but that was the Romans, I guess. The wall itself runs from Newcastle all the way to the Solway Firth. There is Google Street View along the wall too, so I did a virtual walk along some of it, and found a spot I liked. I decided to add all the colour, it just seemed right. I really want to walk the Wall some day. explore the old Roman sites, learn about life along the edge of the Roman Empire.     

And so forth to Scotland, taking the high road (or the low road, they both get there, though I think the low road is quicker). I decided to go straight to Glasgow, the biggest city, though not the capital (that’s Edinburgh). I have only ever been to Glasgow very briefly, over twenty years ago, staying with my friend Simon’s uncle outside the city for a couple of days. Scotland is beautiful, like amazingly so, we drove around some of the most amazing countryside I’d ever seen (and in a classic Jaguar too, beautiful vehicle). I’ve had a few Glasgow connections. One of my best friends at school when I was 12 was Glaswegian, Ralph, when he first came I was the only one in our class who understood his accent. My mum was in Glasgow when she was younger, in fact she got married there to my older siblings’ father. I used to have other Glaswegian friends I met on holiday and we’d write to each other. I always felt a connection to Glasgow but I’ve never actually spent any time there at all myself, and wandering about the city virtually I really wish I had. Glasgow has my favourite UK accent. I loved that show Rab C Nesbitt when I was a kid. One of my all-time favourite bands, Belle and Sebastian, are Glaswegian. Glasgow’s an artist’s city – famous art school, plus Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s a very Irish city, a lot of Irish immigrants settled there over the years, which is why we have Celtic football club, I have a couple of Celtic shirts (one is from about 1988 which doesn’t really fit now obviously). Also, while not set in Glasgow, one of my favourite films is the 1981 Bill Forsyth film Gregory’s Girl. I kinda fancied Clare Grogan when I was a teenager, I even finally met her when I was in my 20s. I also liked Forsyth’s film from a few years later, Comfort and Joy, with Bill Paterson (Grogan was also in that one), about an ice cream war in Glasgow (though there really were ice cream wars in Glasgow in the 80s, but I think that was more of a turf war between drug gangs). My uncle used to sing “I Belong to Glasgow” when he’d had a drink. The drawing I did is of Glasgow City Chambers, in George Square. Signs everywhere in bright pink state “People Make Glasgow”.  

Right, next up on this trip we will head east to Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. May the Forth be with you. 

(55) Sunderland, and (56) Newcastle-upon-Tyne

GB 55-56 sm

Howay man, wey aye pet, gannin reet op to NewCAStle noo! Apologies for my terrible attempt at a Newcastle “Geordie” accent, I definitely can’t do one in real life, though two of my best friends were born in the northeast, one in Sunderland and one in Newcastle (though they grew up in London so they have Tottenham and Harrow accents respectively). The Newcastle mate, Simon, can do a great Geordie accent though and comes back up here regularly, and I’d never be able to go there without him, this is very much his toon. I have never been to the north-east of England, not beyond Whitby, it really does feel like a different country to me, and the language spoken, it is English but the dialect sounds very different to mine from daahn saahf. It can be beautiful in its intonation, though growing up for me I associated it with two very specific TV programs – Byker Grove, and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. There was Jossy’s Giants as well, but I only remember the theme tune now and not a lot else. I must say, I am very pleased with how this page turned out, it might be my favourite spread. I would love to stand beneath the real bridges and draw that angle. But I’d have to go with Simon, and I’d never attempt the accent in real life.

So first up on this North-Eastern leg, Sunderland. I liked this view of the Empire Theater and a pub with a big advert for Newcastle Ales on the side of it. Sunderland didn’t look like the prettiest city from my virtual tour view, I’ll be honest, but it had a charm about it that felt familiar to me. The name of the town reminds me of the Dark Crystal, “What was sundered and undone”, well that’s where the name came from, not the dark Crystal, but the word “sunder”. The land on the other side of the river Wear was separated or ‘sundered’ from the monastery on the other side at Monkwearmouth. That monastery was filled with Mystics, while Sunderland became filled with Skeksis who lived at Roker Park, and at first the Skeksis gave all the local Gelflings jobs, working in the palace as guards or looking after the coaches, until eventually they discovered that if you drain the essence from a Gelfling it makes you look a bit younger, so they just started draining all the Gelfling’s essence until all the Gelflings were dead, except two who were hidden away, only to come back and heal the Crystal reuniting the Skeksis with the Mystics to create a race of beings called the Mackems. Their new local football stadium was henceforth called the Stadium of Light. This is a true story, no need to look it up, definitely not made up. Speaking of football, the local team has been the subject of a Netflix series called “Sunderland ’til I die”, which I’ve seen some of, but I think they edited out all of the Skeksis but probably should have left the Podlings in, they might have done better on the pitch. Still, bit of a grim name, “Sunderland ’til I die”, perhaps they should call it “Sunderland ’til I get reunited with my evil other half and fly off into space to live forever”. Now, you may not know, but the town of Washington, which is within Sunderland, is the ancestral family home of one George Washington, the tall man that was in the musical Hamilton; he was Hamilton’s boss.

And so on to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I like drawing bridges, and this place has bridges. Newcastle is a big port city, important for the coal industry historically, and a long tradition of ship-building on the Tyne. For those who don’t know, that is the river, the Tyne. There’s also a famous song by Lindisfarne called “Fog on the Tyne”, which famous Geordie son Gazza “Paul” Gascoigne re-released when asked to bring out a music video making sure people knew he was a Geordie in case they were not aware. Fellow North-Easter who played for Newcastle and Spurs, Chris Waddle, also tried his hand as a pop star alongside Glenn Hoddle in the mid 80s, with the most cringeworthy record of a cringeworthy time, “Diamond Lights”. I am still embarrassed to have ever watched the video for that. I’ve mentioned the word “Geordie” a few times as a descriptive name for people from Newcastle, that is like “Scouser” for Liverpool, “Cockney” for London, “Brummie” for Birmingham and “Someone from Bristol” for Bristol. The most famous Geordies in the world are Ant and/or Dec. They started out as PJ and/or Duncan, characters from Byker Byker Byker Byker Grove, with a hit song called “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble”, which was a good bit better than Fog on the Tyne, and light years better than Diamond Lights. They went on to become Britain’s most beloved TV presenters with their cheeky little faces and most famously presented the Jungle reality series “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!” which recreates the real situation of famous people being put in a tropical situation to talk behind each others backs, eat insects, and become more famous for that than anything they ever did. The other most famous Geordies in the world are Sting and Jimmy Nail, both named after things with sharp points. Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits is also a local Geordie and they play some of his music before Newcastle United games. That’s the big black and white striped football team from up here, with long suffering but very vocal fans. One of the best periods of football from them in my lifetime was the mid 90s when they came very close to winning the Premier League, under the great little North-East lad Kevin Keegan, a hero of mine. I met him in Charleroi when he was England manager, he signed my diary. But without doubt one of the best things to come out of Newcastle is the comic magazine Viz. Biffa Bacon, Billy the Fish, Finbarr Saunders, though I always liked the letters pages, and the Top Tips. It’s still going now, but I used to read it when my brother would buy it in the late 80s, and it’s from there that I learned all the Geordie words that I cannot say in real life.

Also coming out of Newcastle is Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman barrier between the Empire and the wild world beyond, and that is our next stop. I might take a break from posting while I catch up with some of my other sketches, though I’ve not been drawing that much lately. But the next spread will take us into the country of Scotland, the last leg of the virtual journey…

(52) Scarborough, (53) Whitby, and (54) Durham)

GB 52-54 sm

Right, let’s go into the North Riding, and along the North Sea coast. First up is Scarborough. I have been to Scarborough a number of times, on a long six hour bus journey from London (passing through York, Stamford Bridge, Driffield, Bridlignton, and Filey). Scarborough is a popular seaside town with a big old hotel, a castle, two beaches, a vibrant town centre, and great views from the cliffs (which famously eroded dropping another hotel into the sea years ago). I used to go out with someone who spent some time studying here over two decades ago, but I also considered coming to study drama here as well, having previously worked at Asda with someone who did the same. It’s a big town for drama, and lots of well known drama people have lived here. Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the great playwright, was the artistic director here at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for a long time. This theatre, named after its founder, was the first ‘theatre-in-the-round’ in England. I do like a theatre-in-the-round (though my favourite one was, er, White Hart Lane). Other entertainment people involved with Scarborough, well, Winner (ugh) made one film here and then there’s Saville (massive ugh), he lived here too, I remember seeing his house. This was back in the late 90s and people there would still say, yeah he’s a right creep. They weren’t wrong. I do like Scarborough though, and I wish I had been sketching loads back then, because it’s a classic sketchable coastal town, but I wasn’t. I recall during the daytime when I’d be by myself walking about the coastline and learning lines for whatever play I was doing at university at the time (usually something in German), and listening to David Devant. The wind coming in off the coast can really drive through you though, so it’s nice to reach the chip shop and get some delicious chips in gravy. Scarborough was the subject of a song called “Scarborough Fair”, which goes something like “Are you going to Scarborough Fair, they have the Big Wheel and the Twister and the Waltzers there, You can get candy floss stuck in your hair, And with an air gun you can win a teddy bear.” It’s an old folk song. Anne Brontë is buried in Scarborough. The Brontës were from Yorkshire and wrote books, though I have not read them. I think they are about dinosaurs but they might not be. One of them has a character called “Heathcliff” which let’s face it is what happens when you can’t think of a name and you just look around, there’s the heath, oh there’s a cliff, that’ll do. Other characters are Doorwall, Tablechair and Fieldpond. I haven’t read the books so I might not be completely accurate there.

As you go up the coast there is a nice little town called Robin Hood’s Bay, though I didn’t draw it on this virtual trip. I remember eating some delicious scampi there. Robin Hood may well have come here for scampi too, but the story goes that he beat up a bunch of French pirates here. I wonder how French pirates pronounced the Pirate word “Arrrr”? “Yeau-eau-eau, chevre mes timbres!” Ok that’s enough. On this trip I was headed straight for the town of Whitby, lots of peoples’ favourite spot on the northern coast. When I think of Whitby I think of the Synod of Whitby, where they determined the date of Easter many centuries ago. Nah, I think of Dracula. In Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, in which an ancient supernatural from Transylvania being spends a great deal of time trying to broker a property deal in London while turning into great wolf-like beast, a bat, and for some reason some mist. I mean, you do what you can to get the deal you want, who among us has not turned into mist when trying to get a bank loan. Anyway the vampire gets on a Russian ship with loads of boxes of mud and lands in Whitby, getting into all sorts of shenanigans up at the ruins of the Abbey, on top of that big cliff. Strange thing about vampires, not being allowed to cross running water and not being able to come inside without an invitation. Whitby has a beautiful harbour, I can imagine being here on a cold October evening as the rain is blowing in, heading into a warm pub, eating some delicious fish and writing ghost stories in a journal. With everybody else there doing the same. The town is probably full of goths looking for vampire stories, which is fine too. In fact when I was at school I actually wrote and performed an eight-song musical for the drama part of my expressive arts class called “Dracula AD 1992”. That one took place in Essex at the ‘Alucard Motel’. Anyway, I enjoyed drawing Whitby and look forward to some day going and drawing the real thing. I’ll bring a cape, and maybe an umbrella and a wooden stake.

I remember a joke someone told me when I was a kid. Where does the Pink Panther live? Durham, Durham, Durham Durham Durham Durham Durhaaaam… I think you have to do the Pink Panther music in your head to get it, and to know where Durham is (or that it exists) which when I was a kid, I didn’t. In fact I thought it was in Ireland, because people say “County Durham”, and you only say that for counties in Ireland, like County Wicklow or County Clare, you don’t say for example “County Suffolk” or “County Leicestershire”.  Anyway I never thought the joke was funny (it’s certainly no dead parrot polygon joke), and it’s filed away with the one about Batman being told it’s dinner time. So, time to visit Durham. Durham has one of the most dramatic cathedrals in the country, high up on a hill overlooking the river Wear that curves like a race-track around the historic town centre. I’ve wanted to go and draw that ever since I studied Anglo-Saxon literature and we did the poem about Durham. This actual cathedral building came later than that poem but the words were still very illustrative. This was St Cuthbert’s city. We are very much in old Northumbria now, far away from the southern kingdoms of Wessex and Kent. Northumbria was an important kingdom in the Anglo-Saxon times, with centres of great learning and scholarly activities, most notably at Lindisfarne with our man Bede. Despite sounding like one of the “softies” from the Beano, Cuthbert was one of the most important monastic figures in northern Britain in the Early Middle Ages and is considered the patron saint of Northumbria. A couple of centuries after his death, his relics were brought from his original burial site at Lindisfarne where he was Bishop to find a new spot (there was a cow involved apparently) on a perch overlooking the Wear, and that’s where Durham and its cathedral were founded. The cathedral building that is there now dates back to the end of the 11th century and the time of William the Conqueror, who we have met a couple of times on this story already (beating Harry at Hastings and chasing Hereward the Woke out of Ely). William was a bastard (he was called William the Bastard before the Conqueror URL became available) and especially in the north, where he undertook the Harrying of the North, though we should have called it the Williaming of the North since Harry had been beaten in 1066; bloody leaders blaming and naming their own actions on their predecessors, good job we don’t have leaders like that now eh. But the legacy of cathedrals like this is quite a tick on the plus side, because it is really gorgeous. I would love to do a cathedral tour of England, fill an entire sketchbook, bigger size, with cathedral drawings.

Next up, we are reaching the top of England, and heading into the other great cities of the North-East: Newcastle and Sunderland. I’m starting to get dizzy.

(49) Leeds, (50) Harrogate, and (51) York

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Yorkshire is a big place. It’s so big that it’s divided into several counties – North, West, South, and East kinda sorta. What is now officially the county of “East Riding of Yorkshire” was mostly called Humberside when I was growing up, and I didn’t realize until I looked at a map recently (just now) that it had officially changed into “East Riding of Yorkshire”. Not “East Yorkshire” though I guess some people call it that. But I’m not going into the East Riding on this trip. Today we are in the West Riding, tomorrow the North Riding. Riding? Yorkshire was historically divided into three “Ridings” – Old English via Old Norse þriðing”, literally “three-thing”; think “farthing” – North, East and West (but not South). It’s not related to Red Riding Hood, though I can see why you thought that (by the way, why is the story called that? Red Walking Hood more like, amirite?)

First up is the biggest city of Yorkshire, Leeds. I decided not to go to Bradford, a city I have visited before which I must say I like the look of architecturally, well worth a sketch trip. Leeds is somewhere I have only ever changed trains, but it’s a big place and I enjoyed wandering about virtually. I know quite a few sketchers up this way, it would be nice to go and sketch the area. I like the Yorkshire accent. I chose to draw the Leeds City Markets building, and the angle I chose was unusual but I really like how it turned out on the page. I added no colour, letting the white space above it do the talking. Now the Ridings in Yorkshire are – were – divided into ‘Wapentakes’, and this was in the wapentake of ‘Skyrack’, a name that probably comes from the Old English words “scir-ac”, or “shire oak”. Wapentake, what a funny word. It seems to come from a meeting place where votes were taken by the brandishing of weapons – wapen – and this comes from the time of the Danelaw, when the Vikings ruled. Yorkshire is very much the heart of Danish England. Its boundaries were set by the Vikings and the Danish kingdom of Jorvik – York. We’ll get to York soon. Leeds though was a medieval market town, with a name that goes back to the ancient British, possibly from “Ladenses”. The Venerable Bede referred to the places as “Loidis”. When I think of Leeds though, I think of Leeds United, the football team. They just got promoted back into the Premier League after absolutely ages.

Just north of Leeds is the historic spa town of Harrogate. I’ve heard Harrogate is quite nice, but it just sounds nice by its name. In fact it has been voted the “happiest place to live in Britain” three times. That reminds me of that book, Mr Happy. Didn’t he go to a place that was the most miserable place to live, where there was a law forbidding people from being happy? This must be the opposite, I presume. Actually it wasn’t Mr Happy, it was Little Miss Sunshine. I used to be an expert on the Mr Men and the Little Miss books. At my school, people would ask me to draw Mr Men for them. My class even did a Mr Men themed school assembly performance and I got to draw massive Mr Men characters and we coloured them all in and held them up as flat ‘costumes’ in front of ourselves, I think I was Mr Rush but I don’t remember. The Mr Men may have even been what inspired me to start drawing, because all I wanted to do was draw Mr Men – they are not difficult, and I loved their shoes, the ones who wore shoes anyway. I loved the TV show too, Arthur Lowe’s authoritative story telling style, that theme music which I will always consider to be my theme music. When my son was younger I would read him Mr Men stories at night, but I would do them in all sorts of voices. I would read them in the style of Simon Schama narrating A History of Britain. I would read Mr Chatterbox like Vicky Pollard. Fun times, those. Anyway, Harrogate. My only connection to the place is I knew a bloke at school, Andrew, who came from Harrogate to live in London. He had a Yorkshire accent but it was not very strong, we expected it to be all “ee bah gum, t’ferret in t’field” but it wasn’t anything like that. I also used to have this ancient metal toffee tin that came from Harrogate. I decided to draw this pump house, the Royal Pump Room, part of the spa baths there I suppose. Looks like a nice place to sketch, Harrogate, and then get afternoon tea.

And so on to the mos famous and historic city of Yorkshire, York. This was the Viking capital of Jorvik, but it was also the Roman city of Eboracum, capital of the province of Britannia Inferior. I have only been to York once, as a kid on a school day trip from London. Even then I was a bit obsessed with history so I found it amazing, but it did piss down. We visited the Jorvik centre to learn all about the Vikings, and I remember the authentic disgusting smell, though that might have been a sandwich in my school bag that had been there for a few weeks. We also visited York Minster, which I was gobsmacked by, though I couldn’t stop and draw cathedrals back then. I want to get back there to draw it. And I remember we went to the Shambles. I bought a poster about Dick Turpin which had pride of place on my wall for years. Dick Turpin was an infamous highwayman (who really hated people calling him Dick Turnip), who terrorized people on the road to York. Well, he robbed them, I wouldn’t call him a terrorist. He had a great tricorn hat so people would think he was a pirate – imagine their surprise when he turned out to be a highwayman! I don’t know if he ever said “Stand and Deliver, your money or your life” but historians are adamant that he did. He probably should have not put a comma after the word “Deliver” though. Turpin is famous in my home area of Edgware because he was said to have stayed in one of the inns there whenever he would pass through going up the Edgware Road (sometimes with his Essex Gang committing some horrible robbery), an inn that in the 80s was an Italian restaurant called the Vecchia Romagna, and my mum worked there sometimes as a waitress, so we all heard about Dick Turpin coming through like two and a half centuries before. Turpin was hanged in York in 1739, and passed into legend as a dashing robber on horseback with a pirate hat and an Adam and the Ants song on the radio. I used to have a book all about the Richard O’Sullivan tv series, and Dick Turpin was quite a good looking chap if that series is historically accurate. Or he might have looked like Dick James. Anyway, the sketch I did was of one of York’s historic gates, this one being Micklegate Bar. York also has lots of little alleys called “Snickelways”. I think there is also a gate called “Ticklegate” named after Mr Tickle, but I might have just obviously made that one up. It sounds like a scandal anyway. Finally, York always reminds me of Yorkie, one of my favourite chocolate bars, I love those. Especially the ones with the bits of biscuit in them.

So that was York, next up we will go to the North Riding and up to the coastal town of Scarborough, followed by Whitby and then north up to Durham. We are nearly done with England now, and then Scotland, and then I can start a virtual tour around France or Europe or America or something. Not gonna be getting anywhere real any time soon, after all.

(44) Chester, and (45) Liverpool

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Continuing the virtual tour through North-West England now, with one place I’ve never been to, and another place I have not been too in a really long time. As I wind my way through England I am going through the emotions that I went through when I drew all of this. Now at this stage in the virtual journey, in the real world the living-room flood had happened and I’d relocated upstairs; I only just moved my desk downstairs again, much to the annoyance of my cat Whiskers who has gotten very comfortable spending his afternoons on the downstairs desk chair. Now he tries to push me off at around 2pm so he can get his usual nap in. In the virtual world, I was still passing through each virtual street, with so many places “temporarily closed”, the image of a country in limbo. My relationship with England waxes and wanes in my absence, as it did when I lived there, some days I just think nope, place drives me nuts, other days I miss it terribly, even missing places I have never stepped foot. Often I just miss the Cadbury’s chocolate and the Jaffa Cakes, and silly things like the meal deal sandwiches at Tesco Metro. I don’t know, it makes me feel sad sometimes, especially during this whole thing. Anyway.

So, first stop on this spread is the city of Chester, in Cheshire. This might be my favourite drawing in the whole damn book. I love nothing more than drawing timber-framed buildings, and the whole of downtown Chester (“downtown”, I’m so American now, I’m going to forget what a Jaffa Cake is) is filled with this sort of architecture. I should draw a whole book just of timber-framed buildings. I am sure there must be lots of sketchers in Chester, busy drawing these all the time, but if they aren’t called “Chester Drawers” I’d be really disappointed. While there are medieval buildings in Chester, most of these ones such as this are from the 19th Century’s “Black and White Revival”; this one was built by one of its great proponents, T. M. Lockwood. I bet his friends called him “Trademark”. I don’t know much else about Chester, except that it has a zoo, and that I think my nan lived there years ago before she lived in London, I remember my mum telling me (I might not have been listening, for all I know she was telling me about her chest of drawers). It’s funny visiting places where ancestors lived (even if it was only for a short time and might actually have been me mishearing a story about a chest of drawers). Chester is actually Roman though, the imperial city of “Deva”. On AA road maps in the UK (at least ones I used to read) the Roman name of the city would be listed underneath the modern name on a map, usually in small caps. While it is interesting for someone like me to know that Chester was once DEVA, York was once EBORACUM, St. Alban’s was once VERULAMIUM, I’m not sure why it’s important to the motorist trying to find their way from the A41. Unless the AA are expecting the Romans to return someday.

Speaking of the AA, the next stop is Liverpool. That is a reference to the joke, who do you call when your car breaks down in Liverpool? The “AA, Calm Down”.  That is a reference to a Harry Enfield sketch about Scousers, which itself was a parody of characters from Liverpool-based soap Brookside, which I’m not ashamed to say was one of my favourite shows years ago. The Liverpool accent is probably my favourite English accent, much better than my own one. Years ago when I spent a year in Provence I directed a university play, an adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and my flatmate Emma who is from Liverpool played one of the “Scouse Squirrels”. Every time a Davis squirrel gets all aggressive with me on campus now I hear the Scouse Squirrels voice in my head. Liverpool is most famous for the Beatles, who I love, and also loads of old comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck, and of course Cilla Black, singer and beloved TV presenter. I visited Liverpool a couple of times when Iw as a kid, while we holidayed in nearby Southport, the last time being back in 1989. That was a long time ago! At that time, local football teams Liverpool and Everton were trading league titles (although in that year Arsenal won it, though Liverpool got the FA Cup; it was also the year of Hillsborough). We did all the tourist stuff, went to the Beatles museum (I remember getting a cool Beatles badge that I actually gave to a girl a few years later), took a ferry across the Mersey, went to the Albert Dock and saw the floating weather map from This Morning (although I’ve since heard about the weather man from that map; ughhh, glad he’s in jail), and visited one of Liverpool’s TWO cathedrals. We didn’t go to the big Anglican cathedral, which was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott (he of the phone box, Waterloo Bridge and Bankside Power Station, aka Tate Modern); shame as that one is massive; we could see it across the city. But probably because my mum had become a Catholic in the 80s we went to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, the modern triangular spikey looking building which I actually thought was totally brilliant. I really like this odd looking church, built in the 1960s, because on the inside the colourful light is beautiful. It reminds me of the Jedi Temple. Liverpool has a very Irish heritage; it’s not surprising given how close it is, but this was where a lot of Irish immigrants landed in the 19ths century during the Famine, many settling and many leaving Liverpool on a big boat to America. Lots of the Irish songs I learned as a kid were about this very thing. I never expected I would end up in America myself. Actually the reason we would come to Liverpool is because, as I mentioned, we were holidaying in Southport at the Pontins resort, which hosted an annual Irish Festival in the 1980s, so we always had a lot of traditional Irish music on in our house. I’d like to come back to Liverpool, come sketching, maybe visit my old flatmate Emma, not seen her in nearly two decades. I expect it has changed a lot since 1989. The football team just became league champions for the first time since 1990. There aren’t as many Beatles any more, but a lot more Beatles monuments. I assume there is still a ferry across the Mersey, though I expect people take hoverboards or flying cars now or something (in 1989 I imagined they would be by 2020). Mostly I would come just to hear the accent.

Next up, we turn north up to Blackpool, before taking in some Lancashire countryside and crossing the Pennines into Yorkshire. We’re right up north now.