"Suicide Bridge", Archway

On my full last day in London, I took the tube down to Archway to meet my cousin Dawn for some sketching around Highgate. This was my old neighbourhood before we moved to the States., and I still love it around there. I used to live on Hornsey Lane, a few doors down from the bridge above, Archway Bridge. Of course, this bridge is better known as Suicide Bridge. Unfortunately, it’s a name more commonly earned than I realised before I lived up there. Dawn (who also lives nearby here) and I sketched beneath the bridge, beside the busy Archway Road, where the 134 bus charges down on its way into central London. Because I lived higher up Highgate Hill I would not come up this way much, so it was fun to come back and explore a bit more. We popped into one store full of second hand stuff and I saw (but did not get) a full set of Worzel Gummidge dvds. We grabbed a sandwich at Tescos (I love that about England, proper normal-size sandwiches everywhere, not the doorsteps you get over here) and sat opposute the Jackson Lane building, an arts centre not far from Highgate tube station.

Jackson's Lane, Highgate

We walked around inside there, and I picked up leaflets for events that of course I can never go to, but I’m always dreaming of us all living in Highgate again some day. It’s my favourite part of London, along with Crouch End. We walked further up to Ripping Yarns, an amazing antiquarian bookstore stacked to the brim with wonderful books. Hardly enough room inside to turn around. They specialize in old children’s books but also have lots of other books as well. We spent a lot of time in there, I was looking through many of the old annuals, Roy of the Rovers, the Beano, Topper, all those I used to have on my own shelves. I did pick up an interesting (and slightly quirky) little book, The Observer’s Guide to British Architecture; it’s quite hilarious in its description of Saxon building practices, dismissing them as “primitive”, “uneducated” “crude”, complaining that “they built their churches piecemeal like children playing with bricks”. It does give a comprehensive history of architectural methods with nice little illustrations so it’s a great find, plus it has that old old book smell.

We sat opposite the bookshop and sketched it, and then it was time to go. It was lovely spending time with Dawn and you should check out her incredible work on her Flickr site.

Ripping Yarns, Highgate

I had a few more things to do in London, no more sketching unfortunately (I bought an Ireland  football kit for my son), but this was the day that the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour so lots of people were hanging around waiting anxiously for the big news. I was already home packing my suitcases when the as-yet-unnamed heir to the throne was announced. The next day we flew back to America. I still have to post my Barcelona sketches; those are coming soon…

and they sang him a song of times long gone

Angel Inn, Highgate
You would think I draw nothing but pubs. These two yellow-stained sketches are from a month ago in London, both sketched while out with my friends. The top one is the Angel Inn in Highgate, a lovely pub I have been to many times before. I especially like it on a cold wintery day, when you can escape the chill of the Highgate Hill and sit by the warm radiator with a pint and a paper (or in my case, a sketchbook). This was not the case during heatwave-era London, but it was just as fun, catching up with my friend and relaxing in the atmosphere. I drank a couple of English craft ales, though I forget what they were called.
John Snow, Soho

This one was sketched more centrally in Soho, on a Sunday evening which actually saw several pubs. We popped into this one (because one of my favourite pubs, The Ship on Wardour St, was closed for the night): the John Snow on Broadwick St, because it has fairly cheap and good beer and nice wooden interiors, though it was pretty empty. I also remembered after we’d been there for a while that this was the pub that gained notoriety a couple of years back when it threw out a gay couple because they kissed each other. Boo, this pub! I do know the pub is named after a very famous epidemiologist (and not the bastard son of Ned Stark, nor the Channel 4 newsreader whose cousin Peter is the guy with the Swingometer). These were the only London pub sketches I managed on this trip. Next time perhaps I will manage a big panorama!

angels and bus-stops

angel inn highgate

Another north London pub, sketched quickly before meeting up with a friend. This is the Angel Inn on Highgate Hill, a pub I’ve been to many times before (it used to be my local, though when I lived there I went once every few months or so at most, I wasn’t exactly Norm from Cheers). It’s a really nice pub though, warm and welcoming, and in a great location – home was always down hill. I lovegolders green Highgate Village. There are great views over london, nice little shops, intimate little restaurants and warm pubs, plus it’s near Hampstead Heath. Can someone please pay me loads and loads of money to just draw around the world, so I can move the family back there? Cheers.

Anyway, my bus got there fifteen minutes early so this was what I got, not a bad capture for quaretr of an hour. An example of ‘draw what you have time for’. Know what’s possible in a certain amount of time and do what you can. On the way there, I got off the tube at Golders Green to catch the 210 bus, and had eight minutes to spare, so I also drew the sketch on the right, a rooftop opposite the bus-stop. How did i know I had eight minutes? The nice little LED display at the bus-stop told me so, and it was pretty accurate. That is very handy. I remember it not being too long ago that waiting for a bus in London was a case of ‘anyone’s guess’, but it’s not too bad these days.

I keep meaning to do a big detailed pub interior sketch inside the Angel Inn. Next time, perhaps I will.

angels on silver strings hang from above

angel inn, highgate

After spending some time among the wild stones of Highgate Cemetery, I strolled through the park and back up to the village and sat in the middle of a traffic island, sketching the Angel Inn. Yup, another pub drawn. It’s a nice, warm pub with a good atmosphere and nice beers. I didn’t have the time (or energy) to draw the inside – some other occasion maybe. I would sometimes pop in here when I lived on Hornsey Lane, just down the hill. When I came out of the Angel Inn, the Sun had long since flown and the pretty garlands were zigzagging down Highgate Hill.

highgate village by night

I hear there is a lot of snow in London these days. Have they learned to grit the roads on time yet? I remember back in, ooh, ’04 I think it was, the second annual Arctic Blast that caught us all by surprise (by giving us three days’ notice), and how my boss gave me a lift back from Finchley to Crouch End, bypassing the strangled traffic on the main iced-up roads by cleverly taking the back streets, but then having to navigate through stranded cars and sliding buses down Highgate Hill. It was like something from the Winter Olympics, but in extreme slow motion. Pretty scary. Highgate is a very steep hill.

frame thy fearful cemetery

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images

(T.S Elliot, ‘The Waste Land’)

highgate cemetery

I love Highgate Cemetery. They used to say there were vampires here, many years ago, but surely they would all have book deals by now. I haven’t been into the famous boneyard in a long time but really wanted to come and catch some sketches here. Or one at least, while the sunlight was still good. I didn’t bother with the main paved routes but dove straight into the thick overgrown muddy paths, where not a single grave is standing straight, and ivy covers the moss-green stone tombstones of someone possibly famous who you’ve never heard of. Everyone is here to see Marx, of course, the tourists from China who all had to study his works at college, snapping a photo next to the bearded tomb; I tried to sketch it but it looked like Santa. I took photos of the cemetery myself – who couldn’t? – and one of them is below. As for sketching, I enjoyed hiding among the dead and drawing the above. I was out of the way. There was one other person I think who appeared from time to time, stealing photos between the stones, but otherwise all I could hear were the crows. I was eager to include the entrance ticket (four quid to get in, by the way) on the page but forgot to account for the red writing contrasting with the greens and greys. It didn’t stop me.

Highgate Cemetery

high tide, mid-afternoon

highgate high street

A second in a possible trilogy of Highgate drawings. This is the top of Highgate Hill, that’s the little village store there. Old brick is good. A world away from here, but only just, you know, over there.

I might not join the global sketchcrawl tomorrow. I need to; I haven’t been drawing much lately, and I might be out of the groove, or just taking a rest. Been busy. You always wonder if one day it’ll all just stop, that you’ll not pick up a pen and draw things, that the sketchbook will end up being a collection of blank, unfillable pages. If this habit is just that, a selfish frivolity. You always wonder, after some non-drawing days, if that’s actually today.

Mauer im Kopf.

to view a voiceless ghost

pond square, highgate

They say Pond Square is haunted. Who are they? Well, lots of people and ‘ghosts of london’ books, but not the estate agents I imagine. It’s possibly haunted by a pond, but I have never seen it (there hasn’t been a pond here for more than a century and a half). I love this little nook of old Highgate village. I used to walk through here in the wee small hours on the way home after getting off the late bus up the hill from Camden Town (with a beer-sopping bag of chips and pepsi max). Give me Highgate and its Hill any day.

Copic multiliner and watercolour.

while we were getting high

I’ve been back in London almost a week now, and done a fair bit of sketching; but not much scanning or getting online. I did post this picture on the urban sketchers site though – it’s the Gatehouse pub in Highgate, an area I used to live in, and one which I  love. The Gatehouse is right on top of the hill, and while the wetaher has been really mild and bright since we arrived, it was a little nippy while I sat drawing this.

the gatehouse in highgate

I hadn’t intended on going to Highgate that day. I was on my way in to the City to go to an exhibition (This Tiny World, by my cousin, and it was very good) but the tube stopped in Golders Green (typical; welcome back to London). So I detoured to Highgate and had a little mooch around my old stomping ground: Highgate Village, Waterlow Park, Hornsey Lane, Archway. I used to go to this pub sometimes, but I didn’t on this day – I finished the wash in the warmth of the nearby Angel Inn. I miss this part of the world a lot.