Meow. This sleepy little beggar is Whiskers, on his chair; well, the chair he has claimed. He was having a good old nap on a Sunday afternoon, so I drew him. His tummy is very fuzzy. Am I a cat sketcher now?
I hope you are enjoying the World Cup. Here I am in my living room, watching Russia beat Egypt 3-1, the big World Cup poster hanging above my TV. On the wall to the right I have all of the flags on the wall arranged by group, mosaics made of paper, my son and I made many of them for the 2014 World Cup, he didn’t help me make any of the new ones though. I like this World cup, I’ve had a lot of 5am wake-up calls for kick-off, but World cups in their early group stages are still full of hopes and maybes, before the rot sets in. Still some room for excitement and apathy. Soooo…my pre-tournament tip of Argentina winning it? Yeah, they drew 1-1 with Iceland and lost 3-0 to Croatia. I think Argentina’s formation was one big sad face, Messi’s certainly was. Time to break out the “Don’t Cro For Me Argentina” headline. (“Messi Argentina Taken to Cleaners.” “Hrvat’s Going On?”). No 0-0s yet, thankfully, but 1-0s aren’t any more exciting. Goals can be overrated, a good contest is much more fun. I’m glad England won their opener, Harry Kane doing what he does. I feel bad for the North African teams all going out early though. Oh yeah, Tunisia aren’t out yet, but they have Belgium next and the Belgians are looking good. I could go on, but I have had two very long pre-World Cup posts already. I’m enjoying this Russia World Cup, teaching us all a bit more about Russian geography, and the hosts have had a good start, less Russian bots and more Russian boots. The TV studios backing onto Red Square with St.Basil’s in the background look amazing. I had a pen-pal from Moscow when I was a teenager, so many years ago. I remember going to see the Hunt For Red October when I was about 14, and not enjoying it, I left before the end because I was bored. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Big nuclear explosions probably. Maybe there were a few last-minute goals I missed, I don’t know. I never watched it again and don’t want to, I like the mystery of not knowing what happened. Also, I don’t remember anything that happened during the movie anyway. It was no ‘Back To The Future 3’.
Here are a couple of sketches (two months apart) from our dinner table, one looking out to the yard, the other to the kitchen. Fun penwork. The one above was done in the afternoon with a Pepsi Max (or rather, ‘Pepsi Zero Sugar’ as it’s called now over here), while the one below was done in the evening and a glass of Portuguese wine. I am going to Portugal this summer for the Urban Sketching Symposium so wanted to get an early taste. It’s Vinho Verde; I’ve never actually had Port wine, not sure what I would make of it. They tell me it’s a dessert wine, good with cake. When I was last in Lisbon the only thing I saw locals drink was Super Bock and Sagres beer. I’m also reading ‘Futebol: the Brazilian Way of Life’, a gift from the Brazilian family whose son was on our U10 soccer team this year. We were the Davis Spurs (naturally). I’m enjoying the World Cup, by the way. I ended up getting the Argentina away shirt, but I was given a Brazil away shirt along with this book so I’m wearing both of those this year (as well as wearing my 2010 England away, my 2014 France shirt and my 2016 Belgium top; I just like good football shirts).
I might get a new dinner table. The chairs are getting a bit wobbly, despite frequent retuning with the allen key. That vinho verde was very nice. I’m enjoying the book.
So the Spurs finale at the Lane was pretty epic. The victory against United, which of course I never doubted for a second would happen, and then all the old legends came out onto the field in pouring rain, and Kenneth Branagh’s video, and the rousing rendition of Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur (“Pride of northern London and the KINGS of WHITE HART LANE…” yeah, I got a bit salty-discharge-eyed) and the clouds broke and sunshine poured in mid-chorus, and That Rainbow which was an unbelievably Hollywood moment of perfect timing (and did you see Glenn Hoddle? Raising his eyebrows and pointing his brolly up to show his fellow 80s legends, who were all thinking, Glenn, don’t get too excited mate, it’s just weather!). Yep, in my living room which we had decorated with Tottenham shirts from through the years (happy mother’s day, by the way), we watched and felt very moment. And all those years that I have been singing “Spurs are on their way to Wembley,” and now I really don’t want them to. And today, the bulldozers are already in digging the old place up.
But enough of all of that. This is a completely unrelated sketch, except that it is of the couch where my exiled-from-north-London bottom was sat watching it all from 5000 miles away. This sketch however is from April, on a day when I was home from work sick, and lying on the sofa. Sofa away, you might say.
This is our old sofa. Or couch, settee, whatever, They don’t say settee as much over here as in we said growing up in England, but sofa and couch are pretty interchangeable in everyday speech. That isn’t by the way an invitation to school me on correct terminology for furniture, this is just What People Say. When we moved to Davis in 2005, what feels like a million years ago now, we needed something to sit on in our apartment living room, as you do, so we found this little couch (someone called it a ‘loveseat’ but come on, that’s just another euphemism for the bottom, I’m not falling for that one) at Cost Plus World Market (“Cost Plus”, why would you call your shop that? It’s like calling your shop “Value Free” or “Save Less”). It wasn’t expensive but it was very comfy. This very comfy couch stayed very comfy for almost eleven years, but we have outgrown it (especially with our ever-growing son), plus it had started to smell, and we wanted something that would make our living room feel more comfy. We went to Ikea one Saturday afternoon, bought a big L-shaped sectional sofa, which came next day and they took this one away. Au revoir couch. “We’ve come sofa.” So on its last night in Davis I sketched it, giving it all the old #couchexit and #sofexit nonsense, pointing out that I’m glad when we voted to get rid of the old couch we at least had a plan in place for its replacement, that we wouldn’t be sitting around on the floor for weeks while we decided what couch to get, etc and so on. Our new couch, an Ektorp if you must know, is very nice and I love it. I don’t miss the old couch one little bit.
We kept the cushions though. They are lovely aren’t they.
Happy New Year! I’ve been away these past couple of weeks or so, not blogging over the Christmas period, instead gorging on Quality Street and mince pies. I was in London for Christmas, flying back on New Year’s Eve, and am still getting through the jetlag even now. Our decorations are staying up for a couple more days yet, and there is still festive seasonal beer in the fridge. 2016 is going to be busy, very busy. To bring you right back into the spirit of Christmas however here are the first three sketches from the new Watercolour Moleskine (#14), all of a certain festive theme. Above, our living room here in Davis. We dragged out the fake tree this year, sketched a few times before (years ago). On the TV, Stewart Lee on DVD. On the shelves to the right you can make out my son’s advent calendar, made by me – I make him one every year. This year was pirate-ship themed. I tried to sketch this same scene last Christmas, on Christmas Eve, but not long into sketching it our electric went out, not to return for almost a week, which was an adventure. This year at least I finished my sketch!
Second up, this is my mother-in-law’s living room in Santa Rosa. Click on the image for a closer view. We had an early Christmas with our U.S. family before our trip to London, and I sketched this while my two-year-old nephew was napping and the house was still relatively quiet, before all the presents were unwrapped. Everybody’s stockings were nicely placed above the fireplace, and dogs were asleep on their blankets. They are in this image, but you can barely see them, and they don’t look as much like dogs as they might (I don’t really draw dogs too well). This was a nice day, but we had to go home in the evening to pack for London…
Finally, across the ocean to England! This is my Mum’s living room in Burnt Oak, north London, (again click on the image for a closer view) which I started sketching on the first jetlagged morning there, up early with my son, but finished off over a couple more night-time sessions on the trip. This is the living room that I had all of my childhood Christmases in, beside that very fireplace. The Christmas parties my family had in this room, many years of memories. This year as in many others we had all the family over for Christmas dinner, with two long tables going the length of the room. On the TV there, we were watching Return of the Jedi, because this was December the 18th and we had tickets for the morning show of a film called The Force Awakens (which you might have heard about). We had a lovely Christmas in London, and the weather was warmer than in Davis. I hope you had a lovely merry time too.
Happy new 2016!
Did you see it? Did you see Ireland beating Germany? I missed it! But it did happen. I’m talking about the football now. I’ve been proudly parading my various Ireland shirts from the past twenty-one years, but it’s not just the Republic. Northern Ireland may not have beaten the world champions, but they did win their group and will be going to Euro 2016 in France! I’ve not seen them play in a tournament since Mexico 86, the first World Cup that really did mean the world to me (not for Northern Ireland, but for Panini stickers, Gary Lineker and Diego Maradona. I can still hum the “Aztec Gold” TV theme tune used by ITV, at least I think it was ITV). I was ten. I don’t have a Northern Ireland shirt, despite my family connections (my grandad was from Belfast, my other grandparents all came from the Republic) but I might get one now. Wales also made it to the Euros, and I’m super happy about that, though I’ve never been to Wales and have no Welsh family, I do like Gareth Bale, and their manager. England made it too by winning all their games, whatever. But the Republic of Ireland, despite beating Germany and going a point behind them in the qualifying table, were not quite there yet. They had to go to Poland, and either win or get (specifically) a 2-2 draw. Not easy against Poland and their striker Lewandowski, who has scored about four hundred goals in the past couple of weeks alone. (American readers: I am joking, it was more like two hundred). It was on TV. It was Sunday. I wasn’t going anywhere. While my son played on the floor, I watched the game and sketched, naturally in green. Remember, we needed a 2-2 draw. Unfortunately, Ireland lost 2-1. So near, and yet so far. And so Ireland go into the play-offs to see who will get the final few spots at Euro 2016. There is still hope yet! However, poor old Scotland didn’t make it this time, so the almost-there prospect of a tournament with England, both Irelands, Wales and Scotland all in it was just a distant dream (what, there already is one? Oh right, in Rugby…)