Aug 29, 2014

An English sojourn

Greetings to you, dear and gentle reader.
I've just returned from a three day holiday in the UK, where many things were seen and even more things were done. Here's a sampling of what I got up to...

1. I visited J. R. R. Tolkien's grave.
It has been a wish of mine for some time now to visit my favourite author's resting place. It turned out to be the first thing ticked off the list after arriving at Heathrow airport. The drive up took a little over an hour (thanks to traffic and some pretty heavy rain), but the graveyard was eventually reached without any difficulty and Mr. and Mrs. Tolkien's grave was found soon after.
I must confess that I did shed a tear as I stood there. For the vast majority of my life, Tolkien has been a big part of who I am. So to be standing there, with him resting before me, hit me a little harder than I had expected. But I expressed my thanks to him for all that he had given me, and paid my heartfelt respects.

2. I got up close and personal with Stonehenge.
Well, I would have if there wasn't a barrier erected to stop people from touching the stones. Also, it was severely lashing down with rain. Proper torrential stuff.
You can see the rain in the shadows.
So I couldn't do all of my Spinal Tap jokes. That was a pity...

3. I found River Cottage.
My wife and I have been fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's programs since the first River Cottage was aired. So I was able to track down the original cottage's location on a map and managed to follow said map correctly!
This is a pretty magical spot. Hugh no longer resides here, but the place looks essentially the same and I didn't even have to do any trespassing, which is a bonus.

4. I walked through Kensington Gardens.
This was undertaken to fulfil a bit of an Arthur Rackham dream of mine. Rackham, of course, illustrated many books back in the day, including Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
It's a very impressive place, full of massive trees, people exercising, plenty of wildlife (including geese, pigeons and grey squirrels) and lots of landmarks.
The highlight for me was actually the Albert Memorial, which is just an amazing example of what can be done with realistic sculpture. It is fantastic.
5. I bought stuff.
It wouldn't be a holiday without me buying lots of things and stressing out about breaking or generally damaging them on the return journey. But I'm happy to announce that all items arrived safely. Here are a few choice pieces:

Some Stonehenge swag: The guide book, a commemorative coin and a cheap replica dagger.

Finds from Lyme Regis: A cool little stone sphere and a Trilobite.
Lyme Regis is on the Dorset coast, also known as the Jurassic Coast because of its abundance of fossils. I also visited a sci-fi/paleontology painter by the name of Richard Bizley's store and watched him work on a piece for a while. He has a cool set-up where he actually works in his store. So you can browse his paintings, prints and other items, while he paints away in another section of the store. It's a great marketing idea.

The Natural History Museum, in London, is pretty awesome. It's free to get in, and is probably the best Museum of its kind in the world. I went straight for the dinosaur section and finished up at the gift shop. The badger thing at the right does look like some kind of a coffee mug, but the reservoir is actually quite shallow. I'll probably use it for some artistic purpose, no doubt. Possibly a watercolours water cup.

A half dozen Cretacolor AquaMonolith watercolour pencils in a cloth Derwent pencil holder.
I didn't get much in the way of art supplies while I was there. Though I did visit a store called Cass Art in Charing Cross in London, just around the corner from the National Gallery. They had some great stuff and I would have bought a whole lot more if I had the luggage space.

Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble volumes 2 & 3
I love Knights of the Dinner Table. I first got into them when I was working at Gamer's Realm back in 2002. Anyway, I picked these two books up at a gaming store called Orcs Nest on Earlham Street in London. I already regret not grabbing more copies...

I also visited a glorious bookstore on Charing Cross Road called Henry Pordes Books. Quite simply, it is the greatest bookstore I have ever been in. That is saying a lot, obviously. But there is a justifiable reason for me saying that. It's because that bookstore has the biggest selection of books that I personally want that I have ever come across. Often, when going to a bookstore, I would normally find maybe 2 or 3 books I'd be happy owning. Well, this bookstore had about 30. There was a huge selection of Arthur Rackham early editions, the largest selection I have ever seen in one place, as well as lots of books illustrated by golden age masters like Dulac and the Robinsons, and there were a couple of gorgeous early editions of the Wind in the Willows.
It pained me to leave that store empty-handed, but the cheapest book I wanted was already way out of my range at the time. But the experience of standing there, looking up at a high shelf full of Rackham books was pretty amazing, all the same.

And now I'm back at home with paintings to paint, illustrations to illustrate, networking to network.
My next post should be a bit of an update as to the status of the podcast I keep going on about. It should be up in less than a week.
Chat to you then!

1 comment:

Boric G said...

So awesome, and so incredibly jealous-making. I was far too young and stupid when I made my trek (with my parents) across the Pond. I've always regretted some things (OK, MANY things) and wished I could go back. Maybe when I'm retired?


'Til then, thanks for letting me visit by proxy.