Thursday, November 11, 2010


What better image to kick-start two years' worth of drawings done in and around London than the dome of St Paul's Cathedral? I was fortunate to secure a secondment to the London office of the SA Morning Group as a correspondent. My future wife, Robyn, and I arrived in late 1989, as the Iron Curtain was collapsing in Eastern Europe. It would be an incident-packed period, both for South Africa and the rest of the world. Already, the Berlin Wall had come down and in China, Beijing had brutally repressed a pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher would be ousted as prime minister and Britain would join the US and other allies in the first war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

One of the first things I drew as we scouted around Fleet Street trying to find my office in nearby Holborn, was St Paul's. It was bitterly cold. We arrived just before Christmas of 1989, my having had to inform Regiment Piet Retief that, unfortunately, I would not be available for call-ups for the next two years. Little did I realise the upheaval that was just around the corner in South Africa, with the unbanning of the ANC on February 2, 1990, and the release of Nelson Mandela a few weeks later.

After arriving, we settled into our new home - a flat in Acton - then headed north to Leeds in Yorkshire for Christmas with Robyn's mom, Pam, who had married a Yorkshireman about five years earlier. I did this icy sketch of the Palace of Westminster soon after our return to London early in the new year in near-freezing conditions.

On that same outing I drew this barge on the Thames, again almost unable to hold the pencil it was so cold.

Where better to take the chill off your bones than in a local pub? There were several within walking distance of our home in Acton, west London, and it was in the Red Lion on Acton High Street that I did a few quick character studies.

The ubiquitous flat cap, an essential item in the drizzly, mizzly weather.

Two more characters in that pub. I was later to discover that Acton and surrounding burroughs have a strong Irish and indeed Australian/Kiwi and South African element.

There is something about the guy at the top that reminds me of an old Spike Milligan.

I did several drawings in a large, A3, drawing book, including this one. They are too large to scan. However, a few years back I had it photocopied to A4 size at a place in Port Elizabeth, my home town in South Africa from where I had "fled" apartheid SA in late 1989. So this is a scanned version of a photocopy, hence the loss of quality. Probably the best description of a London Underground station I have read is in Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time".

No comments:

Post a Comment