Royal College of Art student hostel, 14 Evelyn Gardens, South Kensington, spring 1973
“THIS PLACE is killing me on my feet, it’s so claustrophobic, the continual roar
of aircraft upstairs. How I long for open spaces and star bespringled skies. Why
stay in this dusty noisy polluted borough when there’s a galaxy and several hundred
million years of evolution to be looked at out there (as Captain Kirk would say).”
These are a couple of drawings from a student sketchbook, which I fished out of the
attic the other day to look out my sketches of Denby Grange colliery. While I enjoyed
painting, drawing, photography and a bit of printmaking at the Royal College of Art,
it’s not surprising that I found being stuck in the city for 10 or 12 weeks at a
time became a bit wearing. That reference to ‘killing me on my feet’ might have something
to do with my footwear: Indian army plimsols (brown) which cost me 30 pence at the
The sketchbook is short on dates and notes so I went back into the attic and found
my diary for that year:
Wednesday, 16th February, 1973
The diary often lurches into a rudimentary comic strip. Here’s me, a few weeks after
my 22nd birthday, in my room at the college hostel, having breakfast while listening
to a short reading on the radio from Joby, Stan Barstow’s novel set in my home town
of Horbury or a town very like Horbury, which was also Barstow’s home town (not Ossett
as he preferred to let journalists believe).
Later in the College Greenhouse
“Oh, I was just thinking I’ll go to Box Hill tomorrow.”
“You not abandoning the Physick Garden though?” asked my tutor John Norris Wood.
Thursdays at the Chelsea Physick Gardens was our regular day for drawing on location.
“No, its’ just that I haven’t been out of London for a fortnight now and I’m getting
rather fed up.”
The diary and sketchbook reveal that, having spent so much effort getting into a
London College, I then did everything I could to get out of the city on a weekend.
I spent most weekdays painting in the college greenhouse, which had free-flying tropical
birds, so I was ready for somewhere wilder than the Physick Garden. Like Box Hill
. . .
Drawing in one of the greenhouses at the Chelsea Physick Gardens, wearing those 30
Wednesday, 31st January, 1973:
‘Saw Princess Margaret in the (Royal) Park. She was visiting our College in the afternoon
but didn’t come up to see my painting.’