It is September 15th 2012; 10×10 weekend. This is the second year of 10×10; this year in the West End.
I am exploring Whitehall – square 6J. I know it so well … however, when I start exploring I realise that I hardly know it at all.
I am trying to imagine disembarking at Falmouth on 4th November 1805 – two hundred and seven years ago – and wanting, needing, the fastest way to reach London; to bring the news that Britain is now permanently safe from the threat of invasion by Sea, and that my cousin by marriage, Admiral Nelson, is dead.
I am trying to imagine taking thirty seven hours to travel the two hundred and seventy one miles to Whitehall, with twenty one changes of horses and a cost of forty six pounds, nineteen shillings and one penny. I cannot imagine it.
There was literally no faster way to carry news then. Time and space – and matter and information – all moved at the same speed; they were bonded. Now the layers of our experience have de-laminated and I wonder if our experience is thinned.
I am trying to decide what to draw.
What about Nelson on his column, with a stream of red buses, seeming to ‘pump’ towards the National Gallery; fishscale dome, pleasingly misaligned? The Duke of Cambridge looking up; his horse looking down.
Or the naked infant riding a cockle shell between two dolphins – Robert Adam at his best – on the screen in front of the Old Admiralty building, Ripley Block, where Nelson’s body lay in January 1805 ?
The handsome façade of Jones’ Banqueting House; fine Portland stone abutting cheap render flank – so straightforward, unapologetic; bearing unseen memories of Charles’ cruel death in January 1649 ?
Or the big wheel which never fails to delight and surprise; transforming the scale of the city. It makes me feel big and small at the same time; a strong presence but hardly there.
There are two bronze horseman riding towards Westminster, or the coruscating skyline of Horseguards, the ivy-covered bunker, the winged horse-fishes or the silver chested guardsman motionless except their eyes; fodder for family photo albums in all four corners of the Earth.
There is no shortage of things to draw; shall I draw one of these ? No.
Just round the corner is the Little Yellow House in Great Scotland Yard a charming not-quite-regular doll’s house, hiding, just off Whitehall; smiling on its modest domain. It is a terraced house without a terrace.
Who lived there ? How did it come to be there ? I do not know. I think it would be nice to live there, or at least to look out from its upper windows sometime.
This is my delight; to stand and draw; and thanks to my son Noah for sharing the work.