Looking for subjects to draw and paint can be a bit frustrating sometimes. It’s not that there is nothing on offer to work on in London; it’s totally the opposite.
There is far too much choice and I end up springing a trap on myself looking for the perfect subject and I end up doing nothing other than wondering about. I did this in Havana once and every sex worker (male and female) for miles around took me for a very shy punter who just needed a bit of encouragement. It was chaos in a bull market.
I could feel that trap creeping up on me today. I had all my gear on me and plenty of time. The perfect day and I just needed the perfect subject. Yes, I was on the verge of doing bugger all.
The intervention for this is to just get off the train and within 15 minutes you do whatever is there. I got off at Leicester Square and walked north. I quickly ended up in Soho on Compton Street. I had used about 10 minutes by now and this was NO PLACE to walk about looking shy that’s for certain so I had to be quick.
At the East end of the street on the apex of two roads sits Ed’s Easy Diner. Although I lived in London for 23 years and Soho was one of my hang out areas I had not even noticed Ed’s for near on 20 of those years, but it had not always been like that.
When I first moved to London from Portsmouth in 1988 Ed’s was the very first place I visited for a bite to eat ‘in the West End’. It was completely thrilling with all its chrome, counter top jukeboxes delivering sixties music and heavy, meaty stilton burgers ‘made to order’. There was nothing like this in Portsmouth at the time. If there were it would have played charting modern music far too loud and would have been smashed up within a few months anyway.
London does cosmopolitan better than anywhere I know and being in Ed’s Easy Diner at 22 years of age with all of life in front of me was pretty intoxicating. I used to go there regularly whenever I was in town for a good few years drinking the choc shakes and the heady atmosphere.
Of course London gets into your blood and I was eventually lured away to the non-tourist hangouts up back alleys and down cellar bars, not to mention the outlands of Camden, Brixton and Hackney.
So here I was again, 21 years after my last Ed’s burger, sketchbook in hand and my train ticket in pocket which will take me back to my new home in rural Somerset once I have finished.
The building is a complex structure and there was plenty of walking about to build the composition up. I wanted to get the whole triangle of the block into the piece so I pulled it in from two angles at once. Once I got to work I reacquainted myself with what a lovely building it is. It has fine stonework and slick jade tiles cladding the walls, I will certainly take this to a watercolour and maybe an oil too if I have the steam for it. The drawing took me about an hour and a half and I enjoyed it greatly. As I finished it began to rain so I needed a bit of cover and a bite to eat too. It had to be Ed’s for old times’ sake.
I sat down in my old seat and ordered a Stilton burger, chips cooked to order and a chocolate shake. Looking about the place it all seemed exactly the same. Wonderful polished chrome and neon. The burger arrived and tasted great, marginally less Stilton though. The chips were certainly the same and even the songs on the counter top jukeboxes were as I recall. I always wondered if the jukeboxes really did work because in the old days customers were always putting money in them and you would need to eat ten burgers before your tune would come around. I don’t think I ever did get to hear my ‘Blue Velvet’ by Buddy Holly.
Today no one puts any money in them at all and they are starved of 20p’s. This of course is because of our modern age. If you want to listen to Buddy Holly you just spark up Spotify or YouTube and there he is, the bespectacled Buddy ’ Peggy-sueing’ away on demand.
The thrill of finding ‘that tune’ you have been searching for for years has long gone and the and the gasping jukeboxes are testimony to this. Ed’s do however still supply 60’s bubble gum pop to chew on with your meal which is good enough for me. I wonder if they are digital these days?
I finished my burger, chips and shake and exited Memory Lane back onto Compton Street. It was raining hard now and I put my hat on to give a bit of protection. I adjusting my hat in the reflection of Ed’s chrome door I was reminded that not everything was the same. I was different. 21 years older and a fair bit rounder too. I confess I felt a bit sad for a second or two, where did all those years go? I took solace in that I made the most of my London years at the time and I have got happier as I have got older, with plenty more to come. Liam is an improving picture.
The initial drawing of Ed’s Diner in Soho. See below