Monday, 22 August 2011

An orderly queue

I leave the Westway to seek another open-air population supervised by a semi-benevolent uniformed force, with occasional spats and cultural divisions, speaking their own patois: Promenaders. 

Two queues are forming on the wide stone steps leading down from the Albert Hall. I pick the queue for an Arena day ticket costing a fiver. I flick a fag end and a petrified lump of chewing gum off my chosen step and acclimatise to the terror and humiliation of a fresh drawing spot. A pigeon keeps getting too close. 

Words of a friend ring in my ears: how brave I am to do quick portraits using a medium I can't erase. For brave read foolhardy. I choose charcoal this time, rub rub rub, sometimes with a few bits of white, red, pink and yellow chalk. I wish my cheap grey sugar paper weren't quite so vile. 

Snippets of conversation blow across on the breeze:
'So where did you go in France?'
'I said to her, is it worth putting yourself through the horror of a real...'
'Such a silly way to spend a Sunday afternoon.'
'...more every year. This has been a shambolic season for us.' (A BBC employee.)

I sketch a Promenader who is sitting upright but sleeping. He wakes. I call him over. Nicholas (left). He doesn't want to talk about himself: 'Nothing has happened to me.' 

A Welshman and I discuss whether the Welsh are the British race most like Rastafarians. He is swimming in London culture on holiday, and has just been singing in the scratch run-through of tonight's Mozart Requiem. He is wearing a plaited gold ring, his grandmother's eternity ring, which we hope is Welsh gold. I have been invited to tonight's Prom by another true Welshman called Hywel Davies. 'That's my name!' he says.

At the concert I meet a couple rooted in the Portobello music recording scene. The man started his career during school holidays at the age of 14; by 17 he was watching Ginger Baker shoot up in the studio.

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