sheltering in place, the first few days

stairs
I really hate 2020, a lot. Like, it can honestly just bugger off. Well, this week Davis announced it will Shelter In Place, then this was followed a day later by an Order to Shelter In Place by Yolo County (yes our county is called Yolo), and this was then followed by the whole of California. So I started this week in the office, ready to pack up any moment, and was working from home by the middle of the week. Lots of meetings by Zoom. Because my wife is also working from home, it’s different from other times when I have worked from home like when I’ve been sick or looking after my son when he’s sick, because I can’t just have Revenge of the Sith on in the background or play David Bowie. It’s all an adjustment. I’ve not quite decided to turn on the camera in the Zoom meetings yet, until I can decide what my suitable background will be. I need to get a selection of clever sounding books and put them on a shelf behind me, either side of my head, so people will be like, wow, maybe he is clever. I have a lot of language books, and the Riverside Chaucer, or maybe I should put my own books – speaking of which, my most recent book was published in CHINESE this week! They sent me a copy. Or perhaps I’ll just put up one of my vintage World Cup posters, that would look more like me. Anyway, now that the whole world of urban sketchers it seems are sketching their houses, I thought it about time I did the same, and drew the living room last weekend. This week I drew a few more. Above, the stairs, drawn late at night while watching videos on YouTube about Star Wars (wow, there’s a lot of utter crap out there). The hanging birds and letters on the wall are from a Happy Birthday message I made for my wife, in Hawaiian. She really likes Hawaii. We would not mind being stuck there right now. There’s my son’s bike, he’s new to riding it, but he loves it, it’s just now with social distancing it’s harder to meet up with friends. And of course, despite living in Davis, the bike capital of America, I still can’t really draw a bike. I don’t care; there’s a pandemic on.
bedroom
Working from home means I can go to different rooms in the house and work. While I do have a nice computer at a desk downstairs, I can also take the laptop upstairs and do exactly the same thing. As it slowed down one afternoon I sat in the bedroom, answering emails and approving this and that, listened to podcasts, and then decided I needed to draw the bedroom. I don;t think I ever have before, the lair of Lego and piles of things, framed pictures and clothes, musical instruments and boxes of records, and all the shoulder bags I no longer use but don’t need to get rid of yet (I just brought one out of retirement that I got in 2007, it fits my new iPad into it so it’s back on the team). That large framed drawing in the middle, that is actually a print of an extreme panoramic drawing from Liège that Gérard Michel gave me way back in 2011. I keep meaning to bring that one into work, it’s too big for that piece of wall so it rests on top of other frames for now. I also have one of a 360 degree drawing from the Montagne de Bueren staircase that he gave me, now I have visited that very place maybe that one should go up here too, I just need to frame it.
kitchen

This is the kitchen, drawn from the dinner table, late at night while (again) listening to podcasts. One thing about working from home more now is that I snack more, which I had in the past year cut out completely (I lost 30 pounds in the last year, though I’ve put a couple back on now). I miss my walking to work, going to the gym after work, and I need to be a bit more dedicated to not snacking at home, but there’s a pandemic on, and the stress of that makes me feel more hungry I think. In this Shelter in Place order though, we are allowed to go out running, as I did this morning, I went on a 2 mile run (I actually was supposed to do a 5k this morning, but the event was cancelled). Most of north Davis seemed to be out too, walking dogs, walking themselves, running, biking, throwing balls to each other, social-distancing I suppose, not really sheltering in place. In Spain they have been using drones to tell people to go home from the park! So, I will run while I can, and I never liked going near people anyway, but I’m not gonna lie, I’d really like to go and sketch at the pub. I’m going to miss that for a while.

the corner of the kitchen

Kitchen at home

I have tailed off from sketching the past couple of weeks. Been busy, not been spending enough time sketching at lunch, but also I have a sketchbook with only a couple of pages left to finish off and I like to fill those with big bold sketches, you know. I was hoping to close it out in April, but never made it. Suddenly it’s nearly mid-May! I’ve not had the time for a two-page panorama, and not been anywhere particularly big and bold lately. I am eager to start the next sketchbook, but I want that one finished before I leave on my summer trip, when I will start a new one. It’s all about timing. So, I should sketch at home more. But I always find, I don’t really want to. Then I stood in the kitchen and thought, I’ll sketch this corner. It’s quite colourful. I accidentally drew the top of the blender a little too high so now it sticks above the line of the cupboard which is actually in front of it, but I’ll just pretend you didn’t notice. By the way I don’t use that blender much. I got it to make nice cocktails and smoothies last year but only made a few. We don’t really make much of that stuff. The toaster gets used the most. I’m of the British variety where everything goes on toast. Beans, noodles, cheese, sardines, even toast on toast. I don’t have a toastie though, back in my teens I loved having a toastie. I’d make toasted sandwiches full of hot melty cheese, it was always the best when the cheese would melt through the sides and get all crispy. Great with a spicy sauce too, and maybe some tuna. I’m thinking about all these foods, but the diet is going pretty well so far.

the view from the dinner table

At Home
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).
Kitchen

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.

and if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme

chez nous

I thought I’d try something different. I was watching TV and getting utterly sick of every single advert being a doom-and-darkness political attack ad (please, please can these elections be over? I can’t take it any more! This isn’t politics it is mass brain destruction, spending as much money as possible to make sure the voting public is completely diverted from any real issue). I took my mind off it with art. I regretted that I never went on a sketching outing with the magnificent artist Tia Boon Sim from Singapore up at the Portland Symposium, but everyone that did spoke afterwards about her paint-splashing techniques. Like I say, I didn’t get to learn it, but nonetheless I was inspired to splash paint onto my big watercolour pad, not thinking about what I’d do with it, but very therapeutic after all the nonsense on telly. When it dried, I sat on the couch and sketched the view of the kitchen, adding some more wash when done. This was a fun exercise.

sunday afternoon

Leaving the apartment today consisted of taking out the trash.

sunday afternoon

It was very warm, and very sunny, but wind was blowing pollen all over the place, and the high pollen count is not my friend. April is the cruellest month. So I stayed in and made pancakes and washed up and watched Tractor Tom (“what would we do without you?“), then cooked a roast dinner. While chicken and potatoes were roasting I drew the view from the dining room table.

‘Taking out the trash’. I sound so American now. Or like a TV cop.

all we are saying is give peas a chance

21, I do not eat peas

#21 of 30. No peas for me. Don’t even try to convince me because I will not eat them. End of. Frozen, they are good for nursing scrapes and bruises. Give me baked beans any day. Beans on Toast, the staple of growing up. Gotta be on toast. Noodles too, as you know, my favourite food. A funny thing, this week my wife was looking in a recipe book for toddlers and it suggested sardines, on toast. “Who’d eat that?” she asked. “Me!!!” I said in excitement. The book was obviously British. I loved Sardines on Toast, especially sardines in those little tins of tomato sauce. They don’t really do the “___-on-toast” dinner choice here in America like we do back home. I grew up on it of course. But I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t put peas on toast, and that may be why I don’t like them. No, the reasons are listed above. It was those school mushy peas, alongside the domes of pure white ‘potato’, tasteless and dehydrating, that swung it for me. And I’ve not looked back. I will not give peas a chance.

“many ugly strawberries”

12, strawberries in denmark

#12 of 30. Denmark, the summer of ’95, strawberries, adidas shorts, and those coins with the holes in them. I was only nineteen, but I felt like an old man of nineteen. I learnt a lot of things. I learnt that when traversing Copenhagen station (or any train station), have a bag that has wheels, or at least some sort of discernible shape, one that doesn’t look like you’re hauling a body bag with a live body in it on your shoulders. It took me approximately a day and a half to reach the strawberry farm in the south of the island of Funen from Victoria station in London, which seems an extraordinary amount of time now that we live in the age of budget airlines and long bridges. In 1995, the dreaded Eurolines buses were the way to go, and Denmark was a nation of many ferry rides. It took almost 24 hours to reach Copenhagen, and from there I went via a mixture of trains, ferries, locals buses and a lift from a chip-shop owner, until I pitched my tent in the dark, and proceeded to spend the rest of the summer picking strawberries, busking in the street with my fellow jordbærplukkers and writing postcards.

Sometimes the picking was not good. The farmer, Bjarne (who I was told was nicknamed the Terminator because of his voice), would inspect each punnet, and if he didn’t like what he saw he would admonish you with the slow mechanical line, “many ugly strawberries”. Usually, ugly ones would be eaten mid-pick, since they were juicier, or even used for jam, but you were paid by the kilo, so more often the jordbærplukkers would hide big fat ugly ones under nice tender pretty ones. On the other hand, a nice punnet of shiny, shapely strawbs would be rewarded with a cool “many beautiful strawberries”. Sometimes the work would be frustrating, cold, back-breaking, sometimes it would be hot, back-breaking and frustrating. Often it would be fun though; the other jordbærplukkers, plucked from around the UK and Europe, were a great laugh. Sometimes we would meet the raspberry pickers from a nearby farm, sometimes hang out with locals, such as ‘Scouse’ Claus, who spoke in a broad Liverpool accent but had never been anywhere near the Mersey (he did work on a ferry though). People are very friendly in Denmark, the friendliest country I’ve ever been to.

It really did put me off strawberries though. I had nightmares about them, giant strawbs chasing me down the street, big piles of them every time I closed my eyes. That horrible red juice would just not wash from my hands, leaving me scrubbing like Macbeth for days after the last berry was picked. What little money I had left as the strawb season closed i used to jaunt around the country for a few days, first to Århus in the north, finally to Copenhagen, where I forewent a night in a packed and sweaty hostel, preferring to spend my last few kroner locking up my unwieldy luggage at the station and crooning in a karaoke bar, where locals bought me drinks and told me stories. When the sun came up, I got on a bus to England, with only a single krone left. I put that coin on a piece of string I found, and wore it all the way home, and for some time afterwards. I wonder where it is now.