Home sweet home sweet home

living room march 27 2020
The confinement continues. I don’t watch the news, not as much as I should, but I watch the numbers, and the numbers aren’t looking great. So I sketch. I’m really drawing this house a lot. It’s relaxing to sketch. Above, the view from the couch. We were watching Spider-Man Homecoming, which is one of our favourite films. We had just watch the original Tron movie from 1982, which I had never seen before, and I must admit I wish I had not seen yesterday either. It was not just the early 1980s slow computer generated scenery, surely technically advanced for the day (though even as a kid, I remember it looked naff and didn’t really want to see it), but the uninteresting story and barely perceptible storytelling. The only thing I enjoyed about it was that the bad guy was played by Evil from Time Bandits, David Warner, whose voice I could listen to for hours. He actually played two characters, a human bad guy who looked like Arsene Wenger, and an computer-game bad guy dressed like a cybernetic prawn. Other than that the movie was just bats, and gave me a headache. So watching Spider-Man afterwards was much more of a palette cleanser.
desk area march 25 2020
Above, this is my desk area. Working from home, this is where I sit. I’m there right now too. I’m here a lot. This was another late evening sketch, drawn from the dinner table. On the screen are the latest coronavirus numbers. Even though this was only a few days ago the numbers are so much worse; we are no closer to flattening this curve. Not going to lie, I’m very much not enjoying this whole timeline. And like you all, I’m snacking way more while at home, so there’s another curve I won’t flatten. I haven’t been for a run for a few days, mostly because I am staying up too late (sketching, and worrying) and feeling too tired next day. I keep saying to myself, I’ll go to bed earlier, I’ll get up early, run before breakfast, energy and positive for the day. But I find it’s harder than I think.
living room march 24 2020

Here is the other view from the couch, looking at the desk and the table behind it. That box of tissues on the coffee table is in each picture. That coffee table is nice and big. We used it tonight to play Carcassonne. I just got that game last week as something new we could all play together. I really liked it, I want to play it more. I’ve never played it before so we are still learning. I’ve not really played any of those European-style table-top games before. Any more time at home and we’ll end up playing loads of them. I hope you are all doing well out there, at this crappy time. Let’s hope we’re out of this soon.

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.

at home in the time of pandemic

living room USkAtHome
Interrupting the travel sketches for a bit to catch up with events back home in 2020. 2020 for me by the way started on the beach, but 2020 has been what historians will probably call a complete f*ck*ng sh*tf*ck. This period of world history in particular will one day be studied as an elective. You all know what I’m talking about, the COVID-19 pandemic, and every day it is developing, and it’s overwhelming, and scary, and surprising, and pretty shite overall. I’m not going to go on about it here. A lot of people around the world are spending a lot more time at home than usual, and so Urban Sketchers last weekend recommended that we all draw our homes rather than go out and mingle – you can find their sketches in the usual social media places with the tag #USkAtHome – so here is my own entry. I spent most of Saturday at home, our AYSO away game in the morning had been cancelled, the preceding week having been one of the longest weeks I can remember. This week is moving just as fast, we got the ‘shelter-in-place’ call today in Davis, though we don’t yet have the drones following us home like in Madrid. Saturday afternoon I finally opened the bottle of Charles Quint that I had brought back from Belgium last summer, and sat in the living room watching one of my favourite zom-rom-com, Shaun of the Dead. Seemed like the right call. Sketched in uni-ball signo pen and tombow brush marker. These are strange times indeed.

it wasn’t to be, this time

spurs champions league final living room
It felt like a World Cup game. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m just glad we got there, we really shouldn’t have even made it out of the groups. That quarter final against City with the late VAR screen ‘no goal’, that dramatic late goal at Ajax after being three down on aggregate, the fact we didn’t have a home stadium until late in the season, the fact we never bought a single player in a year and a half, it’s a whopping great achievement getting to the Champions League final, our first ever one, my beloved Tottenham Hotspur. It was a wild ride. The final itself was killed off by a dubious penalty decision in the first 30 seconds. Liverpool sat back and soaked us up easily, but both teams looked like they hadn’t played for three weeks. I had all of my Tottenham shirts, which number a good many, hung up around the house like a museum of football kits. I made a couple of banners of all the old home kits, we played the old Spurs music and watched old Spurs videos all morning. I never thought we’d actually win it, years of watching real World Cup games has taught me enough of that, but Liverpool have won it enough times. It would have felt better to lose to a non-English team really. Oh well. We can say that Poch should have done this or Harry should have done that, but at the end of the day it’s a football game and one wins, one loses, and there you go. That’s life. I had always said that if Spurs win the Champions League I would put on all of my Tottenham shirts at once and run around Davis singing Chas and Dave. Well the weather was in the high 90s so at least I didn’t have to do that.
uncle vitos

I had a walk downtown that evening though, minus all the shirts, minus the Chas or the Dave. I just needed to sketch and have a pint, and hopefully it would be somewhere that wasn’t showing a replay of the final. I stopped into Uncle Vito’s, who were showing golf, and sketched the above before walking home. Oh well. At least Arsenal lost their final too (unfortunately it was to Chelsea), but that means no North London Supercup. Some other time maybe.

christmas crackers

xmas fireplace 2018
Christmas morning, we were up early, opening presents, calling England. Our morning pressie-time is about the time of my London family’s Christmas dinner-time. Then, time to go over to my wife’s family in Santa Rosa for Christmas Day. We have crab for dinner on Christmas Day in Santa Rosa, and I’m always the world’s worst eater of crab, it tastes great but I am such an amateur with the crackers. I did pretty well this year but I live for the broth, I love dipping the bread into that. We have brought the tradition of Christmas Crackers with us from England, along with the hilarious Christmas Cracker jokes. I say hilarious, I mean terrible, but British humour is different from American humour anyway. That said, my five-year-old nephew likes knock-knock jokes, and we always do the ‘interrupting cow’ version (“knock-knock / Who’s there? / The Interrupting Cow / the interruptin/MOOOOO!”) (I got that one from the Vicar of Dibley back in the 90s), and then many other variants (the one I like the most is the ‘interrupting rabbit’, because of course the rabbit doesn’t ‘moooo’ or anything but just makes a noise tapping its foot). Actually my favourite joke EVER sounds like it comes from a Christmas Cracker, but in fact it comes from ‘3001 Jokes For Kids’. It’s the only joke I remember from that book, which I got for Christmas when I was about nine or ten, and to this day is my favourite joke. When I first read it, by myself in my room, I laughed harder than I had ever laughed, and then laughed more. I still find it hilarious. What is the joke? Well if I tell you, promise not to laugh. Well I mean you can laugh at the joke obviously because it’s brilliant and funny, but just not at me for liking the joke so much. Ok, here goes, the best joke of all time, here it is, here goes.

“What is a polygon? A dead parrot.” 

Isn’t that the best?! Many years later in America someone made some reference to the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch being their favourite bit of British humour, and yes it is very funny, the Pythons are my favourites, but it’s not even the funniest dead parrot joke. Polygon is the funniest dead parrot joke. I remember doing maths at school and we had to do shapes and someone used the word polygon, and I laughed so much I had to go to the toilet. When I was in my late teens I visited Strasbourg and the lycee was close to a street called the ‘Route du Polygone’ and every day I would see that sign and laugh so hard, and I tried the French version of the joke, “Que-ce que c’est un polygone? C’est un perroquet mort!” The joke didn’t necessarily translate directly but they laughed at me anyway, and pointed a lot, which I think means it was extra funny. Strasbourg being historically part German I would sometimes impress people with the German version, “Was ist ein Polygon? Ein toter Papagei.” Again the humour isn’t necessarily transferable but I like to think that what I mistook for confused silent stares were in fact their way of saying, wow what a joke, das ist really cool, Pete ist sehr lustig.

snowman xmas tree 2018
Let’s move on from the world’s funniest ever joke (if you are finished laughing about Polly being ‘gone’, if not, take your time). Above, I sketched my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree, which this year was dressed up as a snowman. The hat actually has a history, it was brought over from London by my mum over ten years ago and left at my mother-in-law’s in Santa Rosa, and before that my mum actually got it from my uncle in Belfast, so the hat has a long well-travelled history. I like this snowman tree, and I sketched it while we watched the Water Horse, that movie set in Scotland with the Loch Ness Monster. It reminded me of the Family Ness, that was a cartoon I liked as a kid. Not as funny as the polygon joke but amusing nonetheless. I nearly drew a cartoon many years ago about fish living in a Scottish loch called “Under Loch And Quai”, with a kind of Porridge-like cell-mate dynamic to it, but while the little fishies were fun to draw, I had no actual material other than trying to work in the polygon joke, which doesn’t really work when it’s a cartoon about two fish, because (a) they wouldn’t understand what a parrot is, what with fish being entirely water-bound, and (b) parrots not exactly being aquatic nor common in Scotland. To the underwater community, “Polly” might well be a common name for a frog, for all we know, what with a ‘pollywog’ being another name for a tadpole, albeit more common in America than rural Scotland. So a better version of the joke for two fish to say would be “What is a Polygon? A dead frog.” And you can imagine, this might make two fish roll about in hysterics, but would have us humans just shrugging our shoulders. Maybe humour isn’t as translatable as we think. The only joke I could think of for this cartoon was another one which I may have read in 3001 Jokes For Kids, I don’t remember, but it goes as follows:

FISH 1: “Why are you swimming under the pier?

FISH 2: “Because it is raining.”

croatia vs denmark

watching croatia v denmark WC2018

The knockout stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup started yesterday. The first game was ridiculous, with France winning 4-3 against Argentina, Messi dropping his head while 19 year-old Mbappé turning up the speed. Kylian Mbappé, by the way, was born AFTER France won the World Cup in 1998. Incredible. Messi on the other hand just stood there after the final whistle, while various people came and tried to hug him. Portugal v Uruguay was a tighter affair with some good football – that cross-field pass from Cavani to Suarez, so that Suarez could cross it back for him to head home, was a thing of utter beauty, bettered only by Cavani’s superb second goal. I felt bad for Portugal, and of course out went Cristiano Ronaldo. I like Ronaldo, and particularly love the way he pulls his shorts right up when taking a free kick. This morning, we got up early again to watch Spain vs Russia. These early morning get-ups are getting old fast. I interspersed iot with watching the Formula 1, the Austrian Gran Prix, and somehow contrived to miss the best bits of both events. We did watch extra time, and of course the penalty shoot-out, and to our surprise Spain lost. Now I had originally predicted Argentina to win the World Cup, if you saw my long posts with all the kits, and that obviously didn’t work out, so I switched my prediction to Spain. Mystic Pete strikes again eh. So just to be safe and guarantee an England victory on Tuesday, I am predicting Colombia will win the World Cup, definitely for sure, they are gonna do it. Ok, so for today’s second game I parked myself on the couch and watched as Croatia and Denmark battled it out for a 1-1 draw. I sketched from the couch – see the picture above. In the distance you can see our paper mosaic flags. When a team is eliminated the flag is taken down. Above the TV, the official World Cup poster. And on the couch next to me, the Berlitz Engelsk-Dansk dictionary which I bought in 1995 ahead of my summer picking strawberries in Denmark. Yes I would wake up at 4am and pick strawberries on a farm in southern Funen, so you might say this isn’t the first time I’ve been up early rooting for Denmark. In the end it came down to a battle of the keepers, and though the Danes had the heroic Kasper Schmeichel, son of the Great Dane Peter himself (in case you missed it when the commentators mentioned it like a thousand times), the Croatian goalie saved one penalty more, and Modric and friends go through to meet Russia in the quarter finals. And I got another living room sketch out of it. It’s so hot these days I’m not sketching outside much.

never mind the balalaikas

watching the world cup
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’.