scout walker

Lego AT-ST
More Star Wars Lego (and this ain’t the last of it). This is the AT-ST, otherwise known as the Scout Walker. Not Scott Walker as my autocorrect would say. “the Twin Suns Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More”. This is the one from Rogue One, seen briefly unless you were looking at your popcorn or literally blinking. It’s the same as the ones seen in Return of the Jedi, the ones famously useless at dealing with rolling logs. This vehicle will always remind me of getting run over at age 7 by a van outside my house.

I was playing with my friends Natasha and Simon in our narrow street, my Star Wars figures all over the doorstep. We crossed over the street to see if our friends Robert and Victoria wanted to come out and play. They couldn’t; they had family visiting. Ok we said and turned to dash back over to our side of the street. My street was narrow, but cars parked on one side meant it was hard to see oncoming traffic. I was first, so I stepped into the street and woke up on the couch, covered in blood with crying and panic all around. I vaguely remember the impact knocking me out, seeing a big white blur. I think the van was white. It was probably going too fast, but it hit me head first so I have no idea. I was lucky. I spent the night in hospital, and all I had was a big beaten-up face and a black eye. But I got a new Star Wars toy as a present, which was the old Kenner AT-ST Scout Walker – Return of the Jedi had come out a few months before and was pretty much my favourite thing in the world. I remember my older sister playing with it with me, creating a terrain on the carpet by putting a blanket over several other items to create hills. There was a button on the back to make it walk. I did have an Ewok with a little glider that dropped boulders on it, as well as the Biker Scout on the Speeder Bike (which would ‘explode’ by pressing a little button on the back). My tortoises had a little brick ‘hut’ in the back garden I would pretend was the Imperial Bunker (the tortoises didn’t mind at all, I think they enjoyed being part of the story). All of this, I think of when I see the AT-ST! Hardly a trauma. I remember people asking for a couple of months afterwards, “who hit you?” It was a van, don’t worry about it. My school photos from 1983 showed a lot of scabbing and a redness in my eye. I did miss a couple of days of school. Ironically, one of my best friends in class, Wayne, also got run over on the exact same day in a separate incident. (Conspiracy theorists of 1983, get on that!). I think he was hit by a taxi. He was out of school for longer than me though, because he had broken his leg. I remember Wayne, we used to play chess and talk about animals and politics; he loved running and was good at football, he supported Everton, we both liked Sampdoria. His family were Jamaican and when he went over to Jamaica when we were 9 or 10 he brought me back this thing called a ‘Jamaican Yo-Yo’ and incredibly I STILL have it. I should find it and sketch it sometime.

This was a fun set to build, and comes with (among others) Baze Malbus, the dude with the massive blaster in Rogue One who is friends with Chirrut Imwe. Those two were cool.

überlingen am bodensee

Überlingen am Bodensee
Überlingen am Bodensee. I came here in 1996 to stay for a year, but liked it so much I stayed for nearly a month. That was a funny episode in my life. Whatever possessed me to up sticks and suddenly move to Germany? Where I knew nobody, with practically no money nor idea of what I was doing, going off to save the world I think it was. I’d always wanted to live in Germany. I had gone to work with mentally disabled children at the local Heimsonderschule, several miles out of town (on my one day off a week I’d hike or hitch into town, look around the record shop and the bookstore – I love German bookstores – then trudge back again). For one reason or other I decided it was the wrong move, though, and trudged back to England.

I no longer recall that much about Überlingen; I did revisit briefly in 1998 while on my five-week tour of Europe, and took the photo from which I drew this picture, but didn’t stay long. It also made headlines after two passenger planes collided ouside the town, a few years ago. I have been to Bodensee (or Lake Constance, on the Swiss/Austrian/German border) several times, first of all when I was 15, on a school work experience trip to Vorarlberg. “Schnupperlehre”, I think the experience was called.

I do remember hitching into town, though. The walk was pleasant enough, going past pear orchards and rolling sunflower meadows, but long; a lift would be nice. I often hitchhiked while strawberry picking in Denmark – pretty much everybody I knew there did, not just into town or back to the farm, but often across Europe. I was told one trick of hitchhiking, to stand nearby to where a car has broken down. They may just be waiting for the AA to show up, but you’re more likely to get offered a lift by some kind passing audi. When it’s raining, you’re happy for such advice, even if you feel a little guilty about it. But local people would always offer to give you a ride:  the first evening I arrived in Überlingen, I was checking out the map at the station as the sky grew ever darker, when a family asked if I needed a lift to wherever I needed to go. Oh, no that’s ok, danke, ich gehe zu Fuss. “Nein, nein, es ist zu weit!” they insisted, laughing hearty German laughs (after discovering how far it was and how dark the countryside was at night, I bashfully agreed). They even invited me to dinner at their house the following week (I regret not going). It seems so long ago. The idea of hitchhiking anywhere now seems so mental to me, perhaps it’s living in America where, and I thank you media, hitchhiking equals certain death possibly involving machetes and being buried in the desert.

smelled the spring on the smoky wind

la cuve à bière

Between 1999 and 2000 I lived and worked in Charleroi, Belgium, as my Year Abroad while studying French. Who could love Charleroi? The sprawling decayed post-industrial mess at the heart of the slag-dumped Pays Noir, derided as a bed of crime and shady politics, and the place where a lot of England fans threw a lot of chairs and got hit in the face with big water-cannons for their efforts. Well, grimy as it is, I do love Charleroi. The people are warm and welcoming, and down-to-earth, and beneath the soot and neon there is some gorgeous art-nouveau archtitecture to be found. It’s the home of some of Belgium’s most beloved BD (comic book) stars, such as Spirou and Lucky Luke. Yes there are rats the size of small cows, but so what? (I tripped over a massive rat here once, actually tripped over it – it ignored me and just shuffled along, watched by a prudent cat).

And the beer is amazing. This is la cuve à bière, a little pub I used to visit several times during the week, largely because they had a TV that would show match of the day on BBC1. I’d sit and write or draw, taste new beers, eat cheese. Sometimes, Tel would come over from England and drink Kwak. I remember that on cold sleety nights I would walk through the doors, my glasses would steam up instantly, but by the time I’d wiped them clean and gotten to the bar, my beer would already be there waiting there for me. I don’t even know if la cuve is still there; I hope it is. When I’m back in the UK this december, I might pop over there to find out.

going strøget

copenhagen, strøget

Drew this from a photo taken on my first trip to Denmark (strawberries, adidas shorts, 1995), strøget in Copenhagen. The photo itself is bright and sunny and colourful, but for some reason I changed it to sepia and old-fashioned. Well, it’s historical, for me. I was nineteen and adventurous (and skint). I just decided one day to go and pick jordbaer in the south of Fyn, meeting lots of interesting people along the way. Back in those days they didn’t have the long road bridges between the isles: a trip across Denmark meant getting on lots of ferries. There was a great ferry that the train rolled onto, and off again once in port, straight onto the tracks. That hot summer, the night in Copenhagen came last. I must have had about ten quid’s worth of krone left. Doesn’t get you very far in Denmark. I went to an atrociously bad hostel, paid my money, sat on the bed (with the hudnred or so other beds in the converted gym around me, got up, went to the front desk, got my krones back and went off into the night. My bags were locked at the station, and went to a karaoke bar, and while singing ‘going underground’ I told Denmark about my predicament, and I swear I didn’t have to buy another drink that whole night. I was younger then. I got on the bus for London the next morning (the bus! Back before the cheap flights boom, the 24 hour eurobus ride from hell was the way the poor travelled) I had one Danish krone left, one of those coins with a hole in it. I threaded a piece of string through it and made it into a necklace. I probably still have it somewhere.

I’ve been back a couple of times since, each with different stories. A friend of mine just had his stag do in Aarhus, another place I’ve been a couple of times; wish I could have gone this time! I could at least afford the drinks now.  I love Denmark, it’s expensive but the people really are the friendliest.

never his mind on where he was

Encore, my illustration friday entry this week: “Memories”, this time with colour. Not much colour, but some colour. I posted the black and white version yesterday. It’s an homage, or even an homage of an homage. I forget now.

misty watercoloured

Memory is a funny thing. Whole academic programs are set up around the very idea of memory, its uses, its effects on future actions, plus lots of other stuff I don’t quite know (or have forgotten). In the days before literacy, memory was of vital importance, to keep laws, to pass on traditions, plus lots of other things I can’t remember. Our incredible capacity for memory became less well exercised once things began to be written down – we trusted paper for permanence, rather than agreed ideas on what really happened or what the rules really were. We also began, everntaully, to equate language with what is written rather than what is spoken – a huge mistake if you ask me. But anyway back to memory. Do you remember, in the days before we all had cellphones, that you used to remember most of your friends’ phone numbers? You had to, in case you needed to call them. But now you just press their name in your nokia. Memory capacity unexercised. I don’t even remember my own cellphone number now. I don’t have to. So what’s the rest of my brain doing when it’s not being used remembering things like that? I forget.

As for what happened in our lives… it’s funny how quickly things whisper away from your thoughts. People, places, ideas; yet, if we have a small token from them, doesn’t matter how small or insignificant, we have a greater chance of retaining that memory. Photos are one thing, drawings are another. Each of these things above have some sort of meaning to me. I’d be happy to explain.

some have gone, and some remain

Illustration Friday this week is “Memories”; this is my entry. 


I took my inspiration for this composition from the phenomenal Andrea Joseph. Well, her and the homage to her by France Belleville. I’ve wanted for a while to do a detailed piece of “bits” for a while but hadn’t blocked out the mental space for it – wow, it takes some concentrated concentration! – and, actually it’s not finished. I’ll be adding colour later (I just need a rest!). I drew it so that it would be coloured.

Those are just some of my memories. Oh, except one, a partially hidden photo of my grandad (who i never knew) with my dad as a boy (you only see his hair). Once the picture is complete I’ll add notes. They span several countries. Two of the objects are actual ‘memory’.