(64) Loch Ness, (65) Inverness, and (66) John O’Groats

GB 64-66 sm Our virtual journey is at an end. The traditional end-point for the island of Great Britain is John O’Groats (or the beginning point; end, begin, all the same), and so after all the cities and dramatic valleys we end at a tiny hamlet, well less hamlet and more medallion of bacon, or lardon, on the way to the Orkneys. People walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity, or to see how far it is, or just to explore a route across the island of Great Britain. I can vouch, it’s a long way, with a lot in between. You have to miss a lot out; you can’t explore Great Britain and see everything. Doing this virtually means you miss out on meeting all the people, but on the plus side you don’t have to meet as many people. I don’t think that’d be a problem up here. In Edinburgh during the Festival maybe, or London while Camden Market is on, or Manchester on a Saturday night, or Bournemouth beach after lockdown is lifted (or even before), too many people for a crowd-avoider like me. The north of Scotland is significantly less populated, though I am sure it still gets a lot of tourists.

And why not, it’s spectacular. Loch Ness is a highlight, stretching up the Great Glen and slicing Scotland in two. I have started getting very interested in the geology of Great Britain, and I bought a book all about it, and have watched some shows on YouTube that talk about it, but I feel like I still have a way to go before I can really understand it – Britain has a very deep geological history. What is now Scotland in fact was once on a different continent to England, something which can never happen again in our lifetimes, at least not geologically, though maybe geopolitically. The area that is now the border between the English and the Scots is roughly where the geological border lies. But then you have the Great Glen, up in the Highlands of Scotland, a massive deep diagonal lobotomy through the head of Great Britain. The faultline is called the Great Glen Fault, where two tectonic plates meet and move slowly in different directions. In the Ice Age huge glaciers carved up this land, and glacial erosion in the Quaternary period formed the immensely deep freshwater lake called Loch Ness. The bit I drew was of Urquart Castle, from street View (but obviously on a boat, so Loch view) (incidentally, wen you use Google Street View here the little yellow person icon changes into a green Loch Ness Monster). You’ve all heard of the Loch Ness Monster, aka Nessie. It’s a monster that looks a bit like a plesiosaur or a dragon, and has to hide with his family of other Nessies whenever those damned scientists come along (I think they’ve had enough of ‘experts’), and there’s this family who helps them out, a couple of kids and a bloke with a big bushy red beard, he plays the bagpipes to warn them I think. I saw a documentary but it’s been a really long time. Actually I did watch a movie about it called “Loch Ness” with your man from Cheers in it, I actually saw that at the cinema in 1996. Bit of a story to go with that, I was on a date in central London, and we decided to watch Loch Ness at Leicester Square. I remembered it was a fairly boring film, but we heard this loudish bang during the film, thought nothing of it. Afterwards it was freezing outside but we walked down by the Thames talking about how Loch Ness wasn’t all that, until time to go home as I had college next morning (I was heading back to north London, she to south). But then the bridges across the Thames were closed, and I was stuck. The reason the bridges were closed was because the loud bang we had heard was actually a bomb going off on a bus on Aldwych, not that far away. It was an IRA bomb, but unannounced (often there would be a phone warning in those days) – this one was being carried by the bomber but went off accidentally while he sat on the bus. There were quite a few IRA incidents in the mid 90s. So, many of the bridges were closed, meaning I was stuck on the other side of the Thames. My date’s friend was picking her up by car and offered me to stay over if need be but I really needed to get home so I could be up for college next day (I was so responsible) so I said I’d be fine. I walked for ages down the Thames until I got to a bridge that was actually open; by the time I managed to walk back up to Trafalgar Square, absolutely freezing in the light snow, it was way too late for the tube (which I assumed would be closed anyway due to the bomb, that was a thing) and wondered if I’d need to walk home (which is about a four hour walk), there was thankfully a Night Bus. The good old N5. So, when I think of the Loch Ness, I think of that freezing cold night. 

At the top of the Great Glen is Inverness. I have to say, I found it hard to find something on Street View I wanted to draw. I think I imagined more than I got, I thought maybe there’d be a great whisky shop or statue of Nessie or Ted Danson, but in the end I found this nice bridge across the water. What I really liked about it was the couple in the foreground, sat by the river, the woman’s head resting on the man’s shoulder, it just seemed warm and touching. I’ve kept in the people were I can in these drawings, because I’ve learned that geography is not just about the inanimate objects, but the inanimate human beings as well. It’s a nice view of the bridge looking over at the church, but these people give it a warmer, happier feel. Inverness is often voted the happiest place in Scotland, which makes me want to visit it more now. Apparently the accent is quite different, with none of the usual rolled ‘r’s, but the accents change as you get further north up here and can be quite different to what English or other people expect to hear from a Scottish voice. I want to travel just to hear all these accents, as interesting as differences in geology. Inverness historically was a stronghold of Gaelic speakers too, though use of the native language has dwindled over the years. Scottish Gaelic is similar linguistically to Irish and Manx, and also related to Welsh, Cornish and Breton, the Celtic languages. I know a little Irish, just a few phrases really (nobody in my Irish family spoke it), but the only thing I ever learned in Scottish Gaelic was “Alba gu bràth” which means something like “Scotland forever”. 

We can’t stay in Inverness forever, so time for the sixty-sixth and final stop on this long journey, John O’Groats. As mentioned this is where charity walkers like to start or finish. The spot I chose to draw is right by the edge of the sea, at the little harbour where you catch the ferry to the Orkneys. The town is apparently named after an old Dutch ferryman. There’s not much here, but it’s the knowledge that you’re right at the tip of this big island with thousands of years of history and culture behind you. It’s been a fun journey, I hope to do it in person someday, but for now I’m at the desk in my house in California, the air quality from the wildfire smoke still making it hard to breath outside, a global pandemic making everything difficult, my son just started his first day of Junior High, all completely remote, and we had no big summer travels this year for the first time in ages. I suppose it’s good, we can sit at home and see the world in other ways, but we are looking through a keyhole, seeing only the bits we want to see, not hearing any real voices, or accents, not smelling the air or tasting the food, not getting a chill from a North Sea breeze or drenched in a Mancunian downpour or sun-burned on a Cornish beach, no exhaustion from climbing steep hills in Bristol or Edinburgh, no rushing to finish my sketch so I don’t miss the last bus out of Portmeirion. I should write a final page to close out the book, that I will keep to myself; I’ve left it blank. Anyway I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey, even the long rambly often nonsensical and sometimes made-up-ish posts that go with them. If I ever do exhibit shows again this will be a fun curio to look at, of a virtual journey in a year when were were told to stay home. What a bloody year. I hope next year is better than this.   

(61) St.Andrews, (62) Dundee, and (63) Aberdeen

GB 61-63 sm Scotland, bonny Scotland. Och aye. We’ve got past Glasgow and Celtic now, and now on to the other parts of Scotland. I didn’t leave enough spots for places like Stirling, Arbroath, Stenhousemuir, Forfar Athletic, Queen of the South, or other places I remember from lower division Scottish football tables. Speaking of which, I used to collect Panini football stickers, and after all the English clubs were out of the way you;d get the Scottish clubs, and they would be half-sized, two players per sticker, and you had some names etched into my memory, Murdo McLeod, Maurice Malpas, and they didn’t all have M names. Remember Campbell Money? Well that’s still an M name I suppose. Tosh McKinlay, Willie Miller, there was a guy called Fraser Wishart, and a Crawford Baptie. Enough of this, let’s see some Scotland. 

First stop is St.Andrews, which is famous for two things – Golf, and William and Kate. This is where the sport of Golf was born, here in St.Andrews, when famously they were playing a game of football when one lad decided to pick up the ball, place it on a tee, and hit it into the goal using a metal club, and that’s how Golf was discovered. Now of course there are all sorts of types of Golf, you have regular Golf, Mini-Golf, Crazy-Golf, Golf League, Golf Union, Australian-Rules-Golf, Volkswagen Golf, and the Golf War. I’m not allowed to watch Golf in our house because apparently I make too many silly jokes about it, which surely isn’t true. So I’ll move on from the Golf to the other thing St.Andrews is known for, Wills and Kates. They went to university here, and met here, and the rest is History of Art. Obviously I am talking about the Heir of Windsor and Duchess of Middleton and not the American reality TV couple Will and Kate Plus Eight, though they may also have met here. I wonder what happened to them? I don’t really. I stopped watching them when Sister Wives came out. I wonder what happened to them? No I don’t. I wonder what happened to Wills and Kates? St.Andrews University – the oldest in Scotland – has many famed alumni though, you’ve got Edward Jenner (no relation to the modern Jenners), John Pringle (nothing to do with the crisps), John Knox (unrelated to the TV show Opportunity Knox). Now, St.Andrews does look like a nice place, though I bet that North Sea blows in a chill wind through your bagpipes. It’s a lovely looking town, few too many golf shops, but I drew this charming little bookstore. One more thing – St.Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. You’ve heard of St.Patrick for Ireland, you know St.George for England, you may be familiar with St.David for Wales, well St.Andrew is the saint for Scotland and its his cross on the national flag, the Saltire. We Britons learn the four Saints as kids, along with the other four national symbols, the Rose, the Shamrock, the Thistle and the Daffodil. Or the Leek, I forget now. 

Let’s move on. Dundee is not famous for crocodiles and comparing cutlery. To me, Dundee is famous for two things: the Beano, and Dundee United. And Dundee FC, and the Dandy. Ok that’s four things but you can lump the Beano and the Dandy together, and Dundee FC and Dundee United are two football clubs on the same street, literally a couple of minutes walk from each other. Dundee is getting very far north now, it feels very alien to me. I like Dundee United though, they were my favourite Scottish team in the 80s, though I liked Celtic for Irish cultural reasons. Dundee United had some great runs though, winning the league and later getting to the UEFA Cup Final, losing out to IFK Gothenburg, I remember watching that on TV and being so disappointed they didn’t win, but really loving both teams’ kits. For me though, it’s all about the Beano. (And the Dandy, fine). The Beano was a kids comic that was massive when I was little. My older brother was a huge Beano fan, and one of my earliest memories of us sharing a room is messing up his comics, though we used to read the Beano together and always got our own copies of the Beano Annual at Christmas. (He is ten years older than me, but I’d still get him the Beano Annual years later). I loved all the characters, the Bash Street Kids, Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, but most of all Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher. I was a member of the Dennis the Menace Fan Club, I got the little wallet with the two badges. (I just checked – you can still get them!) The Beano and the Dandy are published here in Dundee by DC Thomson (whoah, I just made the connection between ‘Dandy’ and ‘Dundee’) The Dandy was alright, I liked it at Christmas but it as a comic it was always the one I would only get if the Beano was sold out. Desperate Dan with his massive chin and those cow pies was never as relatable as Dennis and Gnasher. I remember the Beezer comic, sometimes I’d get that at Christmas too and I liked it mostly for the Numskulls, but I never got Topper, Topper was rubbish. Now what I decided to draw for Dundee was a big tall ship, the RRS Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott of the Antarctic’s ship built right here in Dundee and now moored next to the V&A Dundee, an impressive modern building down beside the river Tay. I would like to see Dundee, home of the Beano, and it was apparently dubbed “Coolest Little City in Britain” in 2015, but the world’s a different place from 2015 so that tile might belong to Wigan or somewhere now for all I know. 

And last stop on this trip is Aberdeen, the granite city. Aberdeen were the other one of those teams that in the 80s broke up the dominance of the Old Firm. We’ve had enough Scottish football for one post though. So, Aberdeen, it’s called the granite city. Presumably lots of granite there. I liked drawing this street, with the extreme angle perspective caused by scrolling Street View too far. I’m going to bet that building is made of granite. Ok all I really know about Aberdeen is the football team was food in the 1980s when Alex Ferguson was their manager, they had red Umbro shirts with JVC on them (Adidas shirts earlier on when they won the European Cup-Winners Cup while Gordon Strachan played for them) and had a player called Jim Bett in the Football 88 album. Sorry, I realize you probably expect some history of the city but even if I visited there, even if I went there in real life and went out speaking to locals over a pint and a chip supper, I’d still only think about the 1980s Aberdeen football team, the ‘Granites’. Apparently Lord Byron was raised in Aberdeen, old ‘Granite’ Byron as he was known. 

We’ve only got one more spread until we are finally all done, and thankfully very few 1980s Scottish football references coming up in the next places: Loch Ness, InverNess, and John O’Groats Ness. So expect lots of references to the 80s cartoon The Family Ness. And of course, greatest Scottish show of all time, Super Gran (not actually filmed in Scotland). “Is there nothin’ that she cannae do?

(57) Hadrian’s Wall, and (58) Glasgow

GB 57-58 sm And so, the final leg of the virtual journey, we are heading north to Scotland. By the way, WordPress, I hate the new editing tool for posting on the blog, too unnecessary, clunky. The old one was much better. Anyway, here are the final few posts on this journey, written as I’m stuck inside during a pandemic and a wildfire smoke emergency, wondering if I’ll start the next virtual sketch journey or not, and thinking maybe it’s not worth it, but I’ll tell you it’s good practice drawing buildings.

Before we reach Scotland, we must get to the end of England. Hadrian’s Wall isn’t the border between England and Scotland, a border that’s moved about a bit over the centuries, but it was a border once. It was the edge of the Roman Empire, ordered to be constructed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian around the year 122. It’s old. There was no England or Scotland back then, there was the Roman province of Britannia, and Caledonia, where the Picts lived. I think Hadrian was one of the better Roman emperors, I suppose, because he had a beard, not many of them did. His statues make him look a bit like Matthew Corbett, you expect him to be putting on a puppet show with a very naughty little bear, a grey dog that squeaks and a bossy miniature panda. Even his name, Hadrian – you get other emperors with names like Nero, Caligula, Severus, Voldemortus, Bastardus Maleficus, Anus Panus the Heinous – but Hadrian is basically ‘Adrian’, bespectacled and bookish (hey I’m both of those things), into Subbuteo and French films (me too, this is weird, maybe I’m really called Adrian?). I wonder if Hadrian kept a diary when he was thirteen and three quarters? He did write poems, well, one poem. He was one of Rome’s “Five Good Emperors”. Sure he loved a bit of excessive cruelty but that was the Romans, I guess. The wall itself runs from Newcastle all the way to the Solway Firth. There is Google Street View along the wall too, so I did a virtual walk along some of it, and found a spot I liked. I decided to add all the colour, it just seemed right. I really want to walk the Wall some day. explore the old Roman sites, learn about life along the edge of the Roman Empire.     

And so forth to Scotland, taking the high road (or the low road, they both get there, though I think the low road is quicker). I decided to go straight to Glasgow, the biggest city, though not the capital (that’s Edinburgh). I have only ever been to Glasgow very briefly, over twenty years ago, staying with my friend Simon’s uncle outside the city for a couple of days. Scotland is beautiful, like amazingly so, we drove around some of the most amazing countryside I’d ever seen (and in a classic Jaguar too, beautiful vehicle). I’ve had a few Glasgow connections. One of my best friends at school when I was 12 was Glaswegian, Ralph, when he first came I was the only one in our class who understood his accent. My mum was in Glasgow when she was younger, in fact she got married there to my older siblings’ father. I used to have other Glaswegian friends I met on holiday and we’d write to each other. I always felt a connection to Glasgow but I’ve never actually spent any time there at all myself, and wandering about the city virtually I really wish I had. Glasgow has my favourite UK accent. I loved that show Rab C Nesbitt when I was a kid. One of my all-time favourite bands, Belle and Sebastian, are Glaswegian. Glasgow’s an artist’s city – famous art school, plus Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s a very Irish city, a lot of Irish immigrants settled there over the years, which is why we have Celtic football club, I have a couple of Celtic shirts (one is from about 1988 which doesn’t really fit now obviously). Also, while not set in Glasgow, one of my favourite films is the 1981 Bill Forsyth film Gregory’s Girl. I kinda fancied Clare Grogan when I was a teenager, I even finally met her when I was in my 20s. I also liked Forsyth’s film from a few years later, Comfort and Joy, with Bill Paterson (Grogan was also in that one), about an ice cream war in Glasgow (though there really were ice cream wars in Glasgow in the 80s, but I think that was more of a turf war between drug gangs). My uncle used to sing “I Belong to Glasgow” when he’d had a drink. The drawing I did is of Glasgow City Chambers, in George Square. Signs everywhere in bright pink state “People Make Glasgow”.  

Right, next up on this trip we will head east to Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. May the Forth be with you. 

(55) Sunderland, and (56) Newcastle-upon-Tyne

GB 55-56 sm

Howay man, wey aye pet, gannin reet op to NewCAStle noo! Apologies for my terrible attempt at a Newcastle “Geordie” accent, I definitely can’t do one in real life, though two of my best friends were born in the northeast, one in Sunderland and one in Newcastle (though they grew up in London so they have Tottenham and Harrow accents respectively). The Newcastle mate, Simon, can do a great Geordie accent though and comes back up here regularly, and I’d never be able to go there without him, this is very much his toon. I have never been to the north-east of England, not beyond Whitby, it really does feel like a different country to me, and the language spoken, it is English but the dialect sounds very different to mine from daahn saahf. It can be beautiful in its intonation, though growing up for me I associated it with two very specific TV programs – Byker Grove, and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. There was Jossy’s Giants as well, but I only remember the theme tune now and not a lot else. I must say, I am very pleased with how this page turned out, it might be my favourite spread. I would love to stand beneath the real bridges and draw that angle. But I’d have to go with Simon, and I’d never attempt the accent in real life.

So first up on this North-Eastern leg, Sunderland. I liked this view of the Empire Theater and a pub with a big advert for Newcastle Ales on the side of it. Sunderland didn’t look like the prettiest city from my virtual tour view, I’ll be honest, but it had a charm about it that felt familiar to me. The name of the town reminds me of the Dark Crystal, “What was sundered and undone”, well that’s where the name came from, not the dark Crystal, but the word “sunder”. The land on the other side of the river Wear was separated or ‘sundered’ from the monastery on the other side at Monkwearmouth. That monastery was filled with Mystics, while Sunderland became filled with Skeksis who lived at Roker Park, and at first the Skeksis gave all the local Gelflings jobs, working in the palace as guards or looking after the coaches, until eventually they discovered that if you drain the essence from a Gelfling it makes you look a bit younger, so they just started draining all the Gelfling’s essence until all the Gelflings were dead, except two who were hidden away, only to come back and heal the Crystal reuniting the Skeksis with the Mystics to create a race of beings called the Mackems. Their new local football stadium was henceforth called the Stadium of Light. This is a true story, no need to look it up, definitely not made up. Speaking of football, the local team has been the subject of a Netflix series called “Sunderland ’til I die”, which I’ve seen some of, but I think they edited out all of the Skeksis but probably should have left the Podlings in, they might have done better on the pitch. Still, bit of a grim name, “Sunderland ’til I die”, perhaps they should call it “Sunderland ’til I get reunited with my evil other half and fly off into space to live forever”. Now, you may not know, but the town of Washington, which is within Sunderland, is the ancestral family home of one George Washington, the tall man that was in the musical Hamilton; he was Hamilton’s boss.

And so on to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I like drawing bridges, and this place has bridges. Newcastle is a big port city, important for the coal industry historically, and a long tradition of ship-building on the Tyne. For those who don’t know, that is the river, the Tyne. There’s also a famous song by Lindisfarne called “Fog on the Tyne”, which famous Geordie son Gazza “Paul” Gascoigne re-released when asked to bring out a music video making sure people knew he was a Geordie in case they were not aware. Fellow North-Easter who played for Newcastle and Spurs, Chris Waddle, also tried his hand as a pop star alongside Glenn Hoddle in the mid 80s, with the most cringeworthy record of a cringeworthy time, “Diamond Lights”. I am still embarrassed to have ever watched the video for that. I’ve mentioned the word “Geordie” a few times as a descriptive name for people from Newcastle, that is like “Scouser” for Liverpool, “Cockney” for London, “Brummie” for Birmingham and “Someone from Bristol” for Bristol. The most famous Geordies in the world are Ant and/or Dec. They started out as PJ and/or Duncan, characters from Byker Byker Byker Byker Grove, with a hit song called “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble”, which was a good bit better than Fog on the Tyne, and light years better than Diamond Lights. They went on to become Britain’s most beloved TV presenters with their cheeky little faces and most famously presented the Jungle reality series “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!” which recreates the real situation of famous people being put in a tropical situation to talk behind each others backs, eat insects, and become more famous for that than anything they ever did. The other most famous Geordies in the world are Sting and Jimmy Nail, both named after things with sharp points. Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits is also a local Geordie and they play some of his music before Newcastle United games. That’s the big black and white striped football team from up here, with long suffering but very vocal fans. One of the best periods of football from them in my lifetime was the mid 90s when they came very close to winning the Premier League, under the great little North-East lad Kevin Keegan, a hero of mine. I met him in Charleroi when he was England manager, he signed my diary. But without doubt one of the best things to come out of Newcastle is the comic magazine Viz. Biffa Bacon, Billy the Fish, Finbarr Saunders, though I always liked the letters pages, and the Top Tips. It’s still going now, but I used to read it when my brother would buy it in the late 80s, and it’s from there that I learned all the Geordie words that I cannot say in real life.

Also coming out of Newcastle is Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman barrier between the Empire and the wild world beyond, and that is our next stop. I might take a break from posting while I catch up with some of my other sketches, though I’ve not been drawing that much lately. But the next spread will take us into the country of Scotland, the last leg of the virtual journey…

(52) Scarborough, (53) Whitby, and (54) Durham)

GB 52-54 sm

Right, let’s go into the North Riding, and along the North Sea coast. First up is Scarborough. I have been to Scarborough a number of times, on a long six hour bus journey from London (passing through York, Stamford Bridge, Driffield, Bridlignton, and Filey). Scarborough is a popular seaside town with a big old hotel, a castle, two beaches, a vibrant town centre, and great views from the cliffs (which famously eroded dropping another hotel into the sea years ago). I used to go out with someone who spent some time studying here over two decades ago, but I also considered coming to study drama here as well, having previously worked at Asda with someone who did the same. It’s a big town for drama, and lots of well known drama people have lived here. Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the great playwright, was the artistic director here at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for a long time. This theatre, named after its founder, was the first ‘theatre-in-the-round’ in England. I do like a theatre-in-the-round (though my favourite one was, er, White Hart Lane). Other entertainment people involved with Scarborough, well, Winner (ugh) made one film here and then there’s Saville (massive ugh), he lived here too, I remember seeing his house. This was back in the late 90s and people there would still say, yeah he’s a right creep. They weren’t wrong. I do like Scarborough though, and I wish I had been sketching loads back then, because it’s a classic sketchable coastal town, but I wasn’t. I recall during the daytime when I’d be by myself walking about the coastline and learning lines for whatever play I was doing at university at the time (usually something in German), and listening to David Devant. The wind coming in off the coast can really drive through you though, so it’s nice to reach the chip shop and get some delicious chips in gravy. Scarborough was the subject of a song called “Scarborough Fair”, which goes something like “Are you going to Scarborough Fair, they have the Big Wheel and the Twister and the Waltzers there, You can get candy floss stuck in your hair, And with an air gun you can win a teddy bear.” It’s an old folk song. Anne Brontë is buried in Scarborough. The Brontës were from Yorkshire and wrote books, though I have not read them. I think they are about dinosaurs but they might not be. One of them has a character called “Heathcliff” which let’s face it is what happens when you can’t think of a name and you just look around, there’s the heath, oh there’s a cliff, that’ll do. Other characters are Doorwall, Tablechair and Fieldpond. I haven’t read the books so I might not be completely accurate there.

As you go up the coast there is a nice little town called Robin Hood’s Bay, though I didn’t draw it on this virtual trip. I remember eating some delicious scampi there. Robin Hood may well have come here for scampi too, but the story goes that he beat up a bunch of French pirates here. I wonder how French pirates pronounced the Pirate word “Arrrr”? “Yeau-eau-eau, chevre mes timbres!” Ok that’s enough. On this trip I was headed straight for the town of Whitby, lots of peoples’ favourite spot on the northern coast. When I think of Whitby I think of the Synod of Whitby, where they determined the date of Easter many centuries ago. Nah, I think of Dracula. In Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, in which an ancient supernatural from Transylvania being spends a great deal of time trying to broker a property deal in London while turning into great wolf-like beast, a bat, and for some reason some mist. I mean, you do what you can to get the deal you want, who among us has not turned into mist when trying to get a bank loan. Anyway the vampire gets on a Russian ship with loads of boxes of mud and lands in Whitby, getting into all sorts of shenanigans up at the ruins of the Abbey, on top of that big cliff. Strange thing about vampires, not being allowed to cross running water and not being able to come inside without an invitation. Whitby has a beautiful harbour, I can imagine being here on a cold October evening as the rain is blowing in, heading into a warm pub, eating some delicious fish and writing ghost stories in a journal. With everybody else there doing the same. The town is probably full of goths looking for vampire stories, which is fine too. In fact when I was at school I actually wrote and performed an eight-song musical for the drama part of my expressive arts class called “Dracula AD 1992”. That one took place in Essex at the ‘Alucard Motel’. Anyway, I enjoyed drawing Whitby and look forward to some day going and drawing the real thing. I’ll bring a cape, and maybe an umbrella and a wooden stake.

I remember a joke someone told me when I was a kid. Where does the Pink Panther live? Durham, Durham, Durham Durham Durham Durham Durhaaaam… I think you have to do the Pink Panther music in your head to get it, and to know where Durham is (or that it exists) which when I was a kid, I didn’t. In fact I thought it was in Ireland, because people say “County Durham”, and you only say that for counties in Ireland, like County Wicklow or County Clare, you don’t say for example “County Suffolk” or “County Leicestershire”.  Anyway I never thought the joke was funny (it’s certainly no dead parrot polygon joke), and it’s filed away with the one about Batman being told it’s dinner time. So, time to visit Durham. Durham has one of the most dramatic cathedrals in the country, high up on a hill overlooking the river Wear that curves like a race-track around the historic town centre. I’ve wanted to go and draw that ever since I studied Anglo-Saxon literature and we did the poem about Durham. This actual cathedral building came later than that poem but the words were still very illustrative. This was St Cuthbert’s city. We are very much in old Northumbria now, far away from the southern kingdoms of Wessex and Kent. Northumbria was an important kingdom in the Anglo-Saxon times, with centres of great learning and scholarly activities, most notably at Lindisfarne with our man Bede. Despite sounding like one of the “softies” from the Beano, Cuthbert was one of the most important monastic figures in northern Britain in the Early Middle Ages and is considered the patron saint of Northumbria. A couple of centuries after his death, his relics were brought from his original burial site at Lindisfarne where he was Bishop to find a new spot (there was a cow involved apparently) on a perch overlooking the Wear, and that’s where Durham and its cathedral were founded. The cathedral building that is there now dates back to the end of the 11th century and the time of William the Conqueror, who we have met a couple of times on this story already (beating Harry at Hastings and chasing Hereward the Woke out of Ely). William was a bastard (he was called William the Bastard before the Conqueror URL became available) and especially in the north, where he undertook the Harrying of the North, though we should have called it the Williaming of the North since Harry had been beaten in 1066; bloody leaders blaming and naming their own actions on their predecessors, good job we don’t have leaders like that now eh. But the legacy of cathedrals like this is quite a tick on the plus side, because it is really gorgeous. I would love to do a cathedral tour of England, fill an entire sketchbook, bigger size, with cathedral drawings.

Next up, we are reaching the top of England, and heading into the other great cities of the North-East: Newcastle and Sunderland. I’m starting to get dizzy.

(49) Leeds, (50) Harrogate, and (51) York

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Yorkshire is a big place. It’s so big that it’s divided into several counties – North, West, South, and East kinda sorta. What is now officially the county of “East Riding of Yorkshire” was mostly called Humberside when I was growing up, and I didn’t realize until I looked at a map recently (just now) that it had officially changed into “East Riding of Yorkshire”. Not “East Yorkshire” though I guess some people call it that. But I’m not going into the East Riding on this trip. Today we are in the West Riding, tomorrow the North Riding. Riding? Yorkshire was historically divided into three “Ridings” – Old English via Old Norse þriðing”, literally “three-thing”; think “farthing” – North, East and West (but not South). It’s not related to Red Riding Hood, though I can see why you thought that (by the way, why is the story called that? Red Walking Hood more like, amirite?)

First up is the biggest city of Yorkshire, Leeds. I decided not to go to Bradford, a city I have visited before which I must say I like the look of architecturally, well worth a sketch trip. Leeds is somewhere I have only ever changed trains, but it’s a big place and I enjoyed wandering about virtually. I know quite a few sketchers up this way, it would be nice to go and sketch the area. I like the Yorkshire accent. I chose to draw the Leeds City Markets building, and the angle I chose was unusual but I really like how it turned out on the page. I added no colour, letting the white space above it do the talking. Now the Ridings in Yorkshire are – were – divided into ‘Wapentakes’, and this was in the wapentake of ‘Skyrack’, a name that probably comes from the Old English words “scir-ac”, or “shire oak”. Wapentake, what a funny word. It seems to come from a meeting place where votes were taken by the brandishing of weapons – wapen – and this comes from the time of the Danelaw, when the Vikings ruled. Yorkshire is very much the heart of Danish England. Its boundaries were set by the Vikings and the Danish kingdom of Jorvik – York. We’ll get to York soon. Leeds though was a medieval market town, with a name that goes back to the ancient British, possibly from “Ladenses”. The Venerable Bede referred to the places as “Loidis”. When I think of Leeds though, I think of Leeds United, the football team. They just got promoted back into the Premier League after absolutely ages.

Just north of Leeds is the historic spa town of Harrogate. I’ve heard Harrogate is quite nice, but it just sounds nice by its name. In fact it has been voted the “happiest place to live in Britain” three times. That reminds me of that book, Mr Happy. Didn’t he go to a place that was the most miserable place to live, where there was a law forbidding people from being happy? This must be the opposite, I presume. Actually it wasn’t Mr Happy, it was Little Miss Sunshine. I used to be an expert on the Mr Men and the Little Miss books. At my school, people would ask me to draw Mr Men for them. My class even did a Mr Men themed school assembly performance and I got to draw massive Mr Men characters and we coloured them all in and held them up as flat ‘costumes’ in front of ourselves, I think I was Mr Rush but I don’t remember. The Mr Men may have even been what inspired me to start drawing, because all I wanted to do was draw Mr Men – they are not difficult, and I loved their shoes, the ones who wore shoes anyway. I loved the TV show too, Arthur Lowe’s authoritative story telling style, that theme music which I will always consider to be my theme music. When my son was younger I would read him Mr Men stories at night, but I would do them in all sorts of voices. I would read them in the style of Simon Schama narrating A History of Britain. I would read Mr Chatterbox like Vicky Pollard. Fun times, those. Anyway, Harrogate. My only connection to the place is I knew a bloke at school, Andrew, who came from Harrogate to live in London. He had a Yorkshire accent but it was not very strong, we expected it to be all “ee bah gum, t’ferret in t’field” but it wasn’t anything like that. I also used to have this ancient metal toffee tin that came from Harrogate. I decided to draw this pump house, the Royal Pump Room, part of the spa baths there I suppose. Looks like a nice place to sketch, Harrogate, and then get afternoon tea.

And so on to the mos famous and historic city of Yorkshire, York. This was the Viking capital of Jorvik, but it was also the Roman city of Eboracum, capital of the province of Britannia Inferior. I have only been to York once, as a kid on a school day trip from London. Even then I was a bit obsessed with history so I found it amazing, but it did piss down. We visited the Jorvik centre to learn all about the Vikings, and I remember the authentic disgusting smell, though that might have been a sandwich in my school bag that had been there for a few weeks. We also visited York Minster, which I was gobsmacked by, though I couldn’t stop and draw cathedrals back then. I want to get back there to draw it. And I remember we went to the Shambles. I bought a poster about Dick Turpin which had pride of place on my wall for years. Dick Turpin was an infamous highwayman (who really hated people calling him Dick Turnip), who terrorized people on the road to York. Well, he robbed them, I wouldn’t call him a terrorist. He had a great tricorn hat so people would think he was a pirate – imagine their surprise when he turned out to be a highwayman! I don’t know if he ever said “Stand and Deliver, your money or your life” but historians are adamant that he did. He probably should have not put a comma after the word “Deliver” though. Turpin is famous in my home area of Edgware because he was said to have stayed in one of the inns there whenever he would pass through going up the Edgware Road (sometimes with his Essex Gang committing some horrible robbery), an inn that in the 80s was an Italian restaurant called the Vecchia Romagna, and my mum worked there sometimes as a waitress, so we all heard about Dick Turpin coming through like two and a half centuries before. Turpin was hanged in York in 1739, and passed into legend as a dashing robber on horseback with a pirate hat and an Adam and the Ants song on the radio. I used to have a book all about the Richard O’Sullivan tv series, and Dick Turpin was quite a good looking chap if that series is historically accurate. Or he might have looked like Dick James. Anyway, the sketch I did was of one of York’s historic gates, this one being Micklegate Bar. York also has lots of little alleys called “Snickelways”. I think there is also a gate called “Ticklegate” named after Mr Tickle, but I might have just obviously made that one up. It sounds like a scandal anyway. Finally, York always reminds me of Yorkie, one of my favourite chocolate bars, I love those. Especially the ones with the bits of biscuit in them.

So that was York, next up we will go to the North Riding and up to the coastal town of Scarborough, followed by Whitby and then north up to Durham. We are nearly done with England now, and then Scotland, and then I can start a virtual tour around France or Europe or America or something. Not gonna be getting anywhere real any time soon, after all.

(46) Blackpool, (47) Pendle, and (48) Hebden Bridge

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As I go further north, I move into geographies I’ve not really thought about in years, to the point that I look at the map and am surprised that places are where they are. The Yorkshire Dales are way further west than I realized, I’m not sure where I thought they were, under the North York Moors I guess, but not the case. I didn’t draw anything there. Also, the Forest of Bowland is a pretty huge area, just to the southwest of the Dales, and I haven’t ever thought about that place before. It’s an Area of Natural Beauty. I want to hike around it now. I have been to the Lake District when I was 17, and I decided to miss that area out on this trip, but that was a gorgeous place. But since that’s not where I went on this spread, let’s get on with it.

First up is Blackpool, on the Lancashire coast. I have been there when I was about 11 or 12; it’s a popular seaside town, the archetypal British seaside town, even more than places like Brighton or Bournemouth. Oh by the way all seaside towns in England begin with B. Because they are next to the C. Anyway folks I’m here all week. I could never have been a seaside pier comedian. That’s what you get in English seaside towns: a pier, and comedians who have shows there. Not necessarily funny ones, it’s often your Davidsons or your Browns or your Littles and Larges, but sometimes there are good ones. Are there though? Maybe it’s just something you have to have, like donkeys on the beach (do they eat sand?), sticks of rock, buckets and spades, and rain. Blackpool though is a proper seaside resort with huge amusement parks, big rattling rollercoasters, candy floss, and all that stuff that I liked when I was a kid. This sketch shows some of that, with the huge Blackpool Tower in the background, Britain’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. A lot of people like Blackpool, and fair play, it’s not somewhere that appeals a lot to me. I remember the beach being massive though, the sea was so far out I could barely see it. I did enjoy my holidays at Southport, further down the coast, which were at the Pontins holiday camp. So many fun memories there. We wold go there for the Irish music Festival, watching classic performers like Philomena Begley and Brendan Shine (“Catch me if you can, me name is Dan, sure I’m your man,”). I was a kid so I just played at the playgrounds and met kids from all over Britain, all with Irish families like me. It was so easy to meet friends when you’re a kid, “I like this slide, oh you like this slide too, hey we’re best buds now!” I remember getting slices of pizza, playing in the arcade while my mum and my big sister were at the clubhouse watching Brendan Shine singing about washing con-shine’s old lobby down. I made friends with this kid from Glasgow on this one trip and we were inseparable, and even wrote to each other afterwards, and then I think I saw him again on a later trip there but we were a couple of years older so it was like, yeah different people now I guess. I remember on this other trip when I was about thirteen and meeting this girl from Brighton or somewhere who had a double-barrelled first name, I can’t even remember what her name was now but my big sister just referred to her as Mary-Ellen and then subsequently as “Hairy Melon”. The things you remember! But that place, Pontins in Southport, was the first place I met so many people from all over the country – I had never experienced that before, and wouldn’t really again until I went to Cumbria when I was seventeen, and then when I went to university. You need to meet people from all over to learn more about the world.

So that’s the Lancashire coast. I didn’t know where to head next, but I had to go in the direction of Yorkshire. Blackburn? Nah. Burnley? Bolton? Is there anywhere that doesn’t begin with a B? I started reading through Richard Bell’s Britain for inspiration. I came across a golden orange drawing at a place called Pendle Hill. While up to now I have been drawing towns and cities and villages – buildings basically – I decided that now I should draw some countryside. Pendle Hill is quite dramatic, and I did a virtual walk all around it. I decided to stick with the colouring style, just doing the sky, though I wish I had coloured the whole thing. I did that in another countryside sketch later on and I’m glad I did. Pendle is known for witches, because of a famous witch trial in 1612. Pendle Hill also translates as “Hill Hill Hill”, with “Pen” meaning Hill (well, “head”, but that’s a type of hill) in the old Cumbric language, “-dle” coming from the Old English “hyll” (Pendle was recorded as “Penhul” in the Middle Ages), and the in more modern times they added the word “Hill” to the end. Probably in a thousand or so years if a different variety of language is spoken there they might add another word meaning hill, and keep going forever. There are several place names like this in England, I know someone who lived in a place in Devon called Combe Valley (“Valley Valley”) and there’s the River Avon (“River River”) and in America you have “New York New York” (which just means “New York New York”, but give them a few centuries).

Speaking of York, now we are heading from the county of Lancashire to the county of Yorkshire, two historic rival counties either side of the Pennines. You might think of the Wars of the Roses, when the royal Houses of Lancaster and York were big rivals, but you can’t think of that as a Lancashire/Yorkshire thing, more of a national power-hungry aristocrats thing. Nevertheless there is an inter-county sporting rivalry, called the “Roses” rivalry (after the chocolates; other counties have the Quality Street rivalry, the Celebrations rivalry, and the Milk Tray rivalry, but I haven’t decided yet which counties have those rivalries). So you get the “Rugby League Wars of the Roses”, the “Roses Match” in the county cricket championships, and Leeds United v Manchester United, though I think of that as the Eric Cantona derby. So I crossed into West Yorkshire and decided to stop in the pretty looking town of Hebden Bridge. The buildings here as in many northern towns all seem to be made from the same sort of stone, clinging to the sides of a steep narrow valley. Hebden Bridge has suffered several terrible floods in the past decade, one of the worst being Boxing Day 2015, turning streets into mucky brown rivers. Floods have come back since and the whole Calder Valley is threatened by flooding. The town is apparently known for its many independent shops; I chose to draw this little fruit and veg shop that seemed so old fashioned.

I will be moving through Yorkshire over the next couple of spreads; it’s a big place. So join me next time as we get to the triangle of Leeds, Harrogate and York…

(42) Buxton, and (43) Manchester

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I’ve never really been to the Peak District, except passing through it on a coach once as a kid (and even that I’m not sure about, I might have imagined it), but I am told it is very nice. One of my friends went there by himself a couple of years ago to rent a cottage and write a book, which sounds like a great idea. I’ve always thought that would be fun, but I’m not sure what I would write about. I’d just end up drawing, and then write about it like that book I admire so much, Richard Bell’s Britain. It would sound a bit like this I suppose; I’m not sure I could stay serious. On on earlier post I compared the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 to a grueling extra-time football semi-final ahead of a final at Hastings on the other side of the country; a couple of posts ago I was talking about “Hereward The Woke”, while in the last one I was telling you about my nightmares about Sheffield and nuclear war. Eh, it’s usual for this site I guess. Some days I’m serious, some days silly, some just confusing. On my original blog, when I started posting drawings and not just observations about my new life in America from a mid-2000s, early 30s perspective, I would make the accompanying text font really small so you had to squint as if to say “look at the drawing, don’t worry about the nonsensical text”.

Anyway this counts as “going on a bit”, so let’s get on with it. The top sketch is in the Peak District town of Buxton, Derbyshire, which I hadn’t intended on stopping at and sketching, but wow it’s very nice there, very nice indeed. I know Buxton from the spring water, which I am going to say is very nice even though I’ve never had it, because the old adverts in England made it look delicious. The building I chose to draw is the Buxton Opera House, a beautiful looking building. It was built by the same guy who designed the London Palladium, the London Coliseum, and the Hackney Empire, Frank Matcham. Buxton also makes me think of one of my favourite sketchbloggers who lives in this neck of the woods, Andrea Joseph, who I followed online in the early days of sketchblogging, 2006 era. Back in those days I’d check in on her blog regularly, along with Jason’s, and Gabi’s, and Jana’s, and Suzanne’s, and Martha’s, and France’s, and Daniel’s, and Julie’s, and more and more others as I found them, learning a lot from them along the way. Buxton also reminds me of Adam Buxton, who is not from here and has nothing to do with the place, except his name. I really like listening to his podcasts though, old Buckles, while I’m out sketching or jogging, he makes me smile.

Right, moving on from the Peak District (whenever friends from London say that it sounds like “the Pete District”) I took the road up to the city of Manchester. I first properly visited Manchester during the Urban Sketching Symposium there in 2016, which I really enjoyed, one of my favourite symposiums. I was astonished how sketchable Manchester was, especially the Castlefields area. See my Manchester sketches here. And yes, it rained every day, and I loved it. Sat on the pavement in the rain eating chips in gravy for lunch with a can of orange Tango is up there with my favourite memories. Though it was quite noisy in the area where I stayed downtown, which I think was on the edge of party central; thankfully the bedroom of the apartment I rented had double glazing. I do remember walking past this train station at Deansgate early one evening when I was wandering about lost, looking for the pub where everyone met nightly during the symposium – I had taken a wrong turn, those famous Scully map reading skills not working out on this one occasion. It happens sometimes, I get lost, but hey it’s the only way to really discover. I like drawing railway bridges. Manchester is a famous city you’ve all heard of, football, music, telly; the only time I had been here before 2016 was when I visited the old Granada TV studios with my family back in 1989, and we did the studio tour, seeing the Coronation Street set. My mum loved that show. The old set has now been demolished and rebuilt at the new Granada Studios at Salford Quays.

Well that is Manchester, and I want to go back there and eat chips in gravy in the rain again, but we must press on to the city with my favourite accent in England, Liverpool, and the nearby city of Chester…

(39) Lincoln, (40) Nottingham), and (41) Sheffield

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Onwards through great Britain we go. Last time out we were in Skegness, Lincolnshire, and that’s a big country so I decided to stick around. I really want to visit Lincoln some day, to draw the big cathedral. I would love to do a real tour of all of England’s cathedrals, but them into a big book. On this virtual trip however I couldn’t get a great view, but you can see it poking its head out from over that scaffolding in the panorama at the top of the spread. Lincoln of course is the name of one of the great American presidents, Honest Abe Lincoln, wearer of tall hats. The city does date back to the Romans, Lindum Colonia, though that grew from an older Iron Age settlement. The Cathedral was, believe it or not, the Tallest Building In The World for about 200 years in the Middle Ages, but the really tall spire that gave them that title fell down a long time ago and they never bothered putting it back.

Next up is Nottingham. I used to wonder a lot about Nottingham when I was a kid. Obviously I always associated it with Robin Hood, but I would read road maps of Britain before going to bed at night (and Europe too; I was really into travelling in my head) and Nottingham would pop out as a place that wasn’t far from all the other places in England. Now it makes me think of that film “This Is England”. So while virtually wandering Nottingham, I found a big old pub called “Rose of England” covered in England flags, so I decided to draw that. I needed somewhere with lots of England flags, since I drew a pub in Cardiff covered in Welsh flags. I never found a pub covered in Scotland flags, but ah well, maybe if Street View goes around Glasgow during the next football World Cup they’ll find some. Oh, ok, maybe not the World Cup, er, maybe the Rugby Six Nations. Anyway Nottingham is also the place where Brian Clough, one of the greatest football managers of all, worked as the gaffer of Nottingham Forest, leading them to two European Cups, one Football League Title, and a helluva lotta League Cups. I am a big fan of Cloughie and his funny ways, especially all the stories his former players would tell about him. but of course with Nottingham we have to think about one man only – the Sheriff of Nottingham. Oh, and Robin Hood. The Sheriff was played by one of my favourite actors of all time, Rickman. Rickman’s voice was perfect, nasal and dismissive. Anyway enough of Nottingham, time to move slightly further north into South Yorkshire, and to the Steel City.

Sheffield is big, and has an important history. This is where our knives and forks were made, the steel industry here being world-famous. In sporting terms, the oldest professional club is Sheffield FC, while the two other bigger clubs have a long history in the game, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United (who are the “Blades”). I used to watch the Snooker World Championships every May on TV which take place at the Crucible in Sheffield. One of my favourite bands, Pulp, are famous Sheffielders, as is the singer’s namesake Joe Cocker. There’s something intrinsically normal and unpretentious about Sheffield, and I’d like to walk about its neighbourhoods one day with a sketchbook. I drew the quite modern looking Winter Gardens entrance on my virtual tour. But despite all of this, whenever I think of Sheffield, I get flashbacks of nightmares I had for years because of one TV miniseries that came out in 1984: “Threads”. If you haven’t heard of Threads, it was a dramatization of a nuclear attack seen through the eyes of local people in Sheffield. It was so realistic, it scared the absolute living bejeezus out of me. The woman peeing herself in the street. The white flash melting milkbottles and people. I was only eight and the Cold War was very much a thing and something I worried about a lot, I had that book “When The Wind Blows” and I remember “Protect and Survive”, the government information advising us to paint the windows white and take the doors off their hinges. So yeah, if I think of Sheffield I think of when it was blown away in Threads.

And on that bleak note, we will move into the Peak District and continue westwards on the virtual Great Britain tour, and take our minds off of fictitious 1980s nuclear wars that still wake me up in the night.

(36) Cambridge, (37) Norwich, and (38) Skegness

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I’m not doing East Anglia any justice. It might not be as dramatic as Wales or as culturally diverse as London, but there are lots of places to explore, immense amounts of history and legend, and despite geographically not being that far from London it sometimes feels far away and distant. At least that’s how I usually felt when going there as a kid, but even now Premier League football teams in London will often fly to games in Norwich rather than take the coach. So in this virtual tour I am really rushing past this important part of England, just stopping off at a couple of places to say hi before heading into the north of the country.

First up is Ely, a small cathedral city in Cambridgeshire. Ely might be small but the cathedral is huge, and I’ve always wanted to go back there and draw it. The first time I was in Ely was in 1995 visiting my friend Jacki for the day, looking at the cathedral, the river, Oliver Cromwell’s house, the shops, and the Woolworth’s, but not the Little Chef which I had heard a lot about, before I caught my train back to King’s Cross; I think I stopped by Ely again briefly a year later, but memory fails me a bit. I do have a few sketching friends in Ely now and have wanted to get back there for a while to draw that cathedral, but I’ll have to make do with virtual sketching for now. The Woolworth’s is long gone, as is the Little Chef I expect. Ely is in the Fens, and the name probably comes from the “isle of eels”, or so I was told at the time. The Fens are a flat and marshy landscape, spreading out across northern East Anglia right up to The Wash. They bring to mind the great Anglo-Saxon hero Hereward the Wake, who held out against the Norman conquerors (who probably called him “The Wake” as an insult like online trolls now dismiss people as “Woke”). Hereward the SJW led a virtue-signalling rebellion (or was it a radical left riot?) against the freedom-loving Normans who had come to England in 1066 to create jobs (building castles, chopping heads, harrying norths). They didn’t have Twitter in those days, just scribes who used no punctuation whatsoever (so a bit like today). It was here in Ely that Hereward made his stand against William the Conqueror’s Normans, who even brought along a Witch, an actual Witch, in a tall mobile wooden tower to try to freak the English out with magic and spells, though that didn’t work and the English just set fire to the tower (true story). The isle of Ely (as it was an island in those days) ultimately fell, and Hereward escaped to live as an outlaw in the Fens, with his brothers Thereward and Everywhereward (not a true story).

So that’s Ely, now it’s time to head into Norfolk. I decided to miss out the Suffolk part of East Anglia, which is a real shame as the countryside is really nice there. Think Constable, Gainsborough, and the others. I needed to get to Norwich, the biggest city in East Anglia and a place that has a lot of childhood memories for me. My aunt Pat lived in Norwich when I was a kid, in a house next to the big Heath with lots of my cousins. We’d visit them from time to time, this house with what seemed like so many rooms, even a basement (I still get excited when a house has a basement). When I was seven I spent a few weeks staying up there with my aunt when my little sister was a baby, mostly playing with my cousin Daniel, speeding down the steep slope of the Heath on bits of cardboard box, playing Star Wars, going to see Superman III, eating out at a place called Zaks. My cousins were Jehovah’s Witnesses so I remember bedtime stories being stories like Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt, which didn’t give me nightmares but made me really wonder about the physics of that. I think I still have the book of those stories my aunt gave me somewhere. Speaking of salt, when I was visiting as a kid my cousin Daniel decided to pour loads of salt into my orange squash, to see what would happen. I remember saying, this tastes funny, and he told me what he’d done. Oh ok, I said, and I kept drinking it, assuming it was some Norfolk thing. Then we sat down for breakfast and I erupted in vomit like Mount Vesuvius, all over my older cousin Debbie’s nice leather jacket. Daniel got in trouble, I just kept throwing up, but the lesson learned was don’t put salt in orange squash. The last time I visited Norwich was when I was 15, we popped by to see my aunt and to my cousin Denise’s. I still have a lot of family around Norwich and Norfolk, I wish I had the time to pop by and say hi to them all, and Norwich would be a fun place to explore and draw. I chose to draw Jarrold’s, the big department store in the centre of town, I vaguely remember my cousin telling me about it when I was a kid, but I don’t know if I ever went there.

And finally in this spread, we leave East Anglia but stick with the flatter Fen counties, going into Lincolnshire, on the other side of the Wash. This is the coastal town of Skegness, traditionally seaside holiday spot on the North Sea. Since I missed out all the other east coast seaside spots like Clacton, Walton-on-the-Naze, Great Yarmouth, Caister, Sheringham, I had to include Skeggy, though I have not been there myself. I drew the clock tower on the seafront, and you can see in the background there are several fish and chip shops. There seem to be so many chippies around here, and that is a very good thing, I think you always need a good fish and chip shop nearby, it’s a requirement. Being northern and by the sea the fish and chips are bound to be pretty good. When I think of Skegness, as with many coastal towns, I think of chalet parks, caravan parks, chip shops, arcades, bingo, sticks of rock. We used to stay in chalets at holiday parks in Caister as a kid, and we would go further north on the other side of England to the Pontins resort in Southport, near Blackpool. We would also go to a caravan park in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, and occasionally to Camber Sands on the south coast. But never to Skegness, always just a bit further away, most Londoners wouldn’t head that far, again unless they went up to Blackpool. “Skegness” as a name sounds very “Danelaw”, and the name does come from Old Norse, with Skeggi either being the name of a Viking or just a word meaning “beard-shaped”, with “Ness” being a coastal headland. What’s the Danelaw? That’s the portion of England that was cut diagonally across the country in late Anglo-Saxon times that was effectively taken over by the Vikings, in short. You’ll find a larger number of place-names of Norse origin, lots of -thorpes and -bys and -holmes and -nesses. Looking at the map as I take the virtual trip I see a lot more of them popping up the further we travel up this way.

But next up, we are heading west again, to Lincoln and further inland.