More from London; that’s what you can expect for a while, still more to scan! These were drawn on the Northern Line, my line of the London Underground. It’s not easy to draw while the tube is bumping all over the place, though I see many people who seem to manage it just fine. How do they do it? I have no idea. But I gave it a go, and of course the bumping-about effect is really just part of the experience, added into the ink. The Northern Line is a lot better than it used to be. back in the olden days when I was a lad. That isn’t to say it’s not still without its considerable faults – coming back as an occasional visitor it works like a dream, but put me on it day in day out and the full experience would all come back. And it’s an expensive business, travelling on the tube. On this past trip alone I spent, ooh I have no idea but it was a lot, updating the Oyster Card. But that said, as a Londoner I almost have to complain about it, like the changeable weather, but I’m eternally thankful we have it at all.
While back in London in December, I spent about six million pounds just on travelling on the tube. Or at least, it felt like it. The Oyster Card was well used. Lots of urban sketchers sketch on their urban transport systems, so I of course had to do some as well. Being a Londoner of course and therefore absolutely terrified at the thought of interaction with any other person, I usually sketched when the tube was near empty. I am from the Northern Line, Edgware Branch, that was my highway. Years ago, before the trains very nicely started telling me where I was, I could tell I was getting closer to home because of the way the stations were painted – Hendon Central was sky blue, Colindale was yellow – ah, red! Burnt Oak. Time to get off and get some fried chicken. They’re all painted the same now, though the signs help.
Trains still stop inexplicably outside Golders Green for like, ten minutes though. “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of the tube stopping for no reason whatsoever outside Golders Green for ages,” as Johnson once said.
Someone enjoyed watching those dot matrix displays on the underground train (above). I remember when they brought those in, that was nice, and nowadays they even work! He got to know the voice that announces the stations very well (“this station is Belsize Park. This train terminates at Morden, via Bank“). Best of all though was the ‘Mind the Gap’ announcement, which in many places is a nice gentle FYI, but in others it is still the one I remember as a kid, the booming, authoritative ‘MIND THE GAP’, which I always imagined was the voice of the Supreme Being. Yes, the one from Time Bandits.
I do miss the Tube sometimes. Even after so many years and years of it annoying the hell out of me, even though certain ticket office staff seem to deliberately make an effort to be unhelpful, even though it’s overcrowded and unreliable and ridiculously expensive…um, sorry I forgot what I was talking about.
Part 2 of Soho sketching day. This is Broadwick Street, and that is the Blue Posts pub, which I also sketched in ’07. In the distance, Centre Point. There I am, to the left, drawing this very scene. My nephew and I chatted while I drew, then went to art shops, foreign language bookshops, football shirts shops; I lamented the lameness of Carnaby Street, navigated through short-cuts and alleys, reminisced about nights out I can barely remember. I do see Soho as a city with a city, and one with tiny neighbourhoods of its own, and I could draw it endlessly, but the end of the afternoon came quickly, and so we got the tube back up the Northern Line, my tired nephew sleeping much of the way back (and giving me a chance to attempt some tube-train sketching; here is the result…)
A good day was had by all!