The last event of the break, my dad’s 88th birthday.
New years day, a brass band in the livingroom.
Angus visited from France.
Catching up with old school pals in Dunfermline. The same as we were, a little more tired but a little better at communication.
Innes hid behind the sofa for the Queen’s speech.
Fun box was fun.
The only person on a plane to London City the week before Christmas.
Actually these are the things I did in between riding the bike and painting portraits, in preparation for cycling from London to Cannes in March. I’ll show you the portraits next time.
Sitting in Leeds in the evening sunshine drawing a rapidly changing city. There are thirty of us taking part in a workshop at the launch of a sketching competition in memory of the late Denis Mason Jones. I’ve done a little talk on why I think sketching is important for designers.
Very enthusiastic people, very enjoyable night. In Gatwick. I’m not that fond of flying, but I do like the relentless cheeriness of the European easyjet staff. They seem to enjoy this more than is entirely credible.
When the ‘quine’ wobbled through reception at 5.00pm, belly hanging out over her pyjama bottoms, leather bomber jacket, no shoes, trailing a toilet roll, I sensed this was going to be a little different from my normal night in a Travelodge.
The next morning, checking out, I mentioned to reception that I couldn’t hear the rowdy night in the street outside for the party going on in the corridor. “Aberdeen at the weekend sir, I can only apologise.”
We spent the day recovering in a beautiful, if unfinished, family house on a farm.
“Which way’s the countryside?” said Innes (he’s a city boy, like me) so we went for a walk to show him.
The next day was back to normal life between London and Edinburgh.
I fulfilled an ambition and got myself to Africa, to Accra in Ghana.
KLM from Amsterdam was good and handy from Edinburgh. They only took my bags as far as Amsterdam though so I was less keen on them after that. Tip for next time: put the malaria pills in your hand luggage.
I knew about Star beer from supporting Ghana in this summer’s world cup. I knew about the $600k flats like this scheme by AHMM too. Security objected to me sketching. I’ve been told ‘no photographs’ before but never ‘no sketches’. In the bar, they told me the expensive flats are for the diaspora to invest in and rent out to expense account NGO’s. The NGO’s skew the economy, but Accra is a safe base from which to access the rest of west Africa so it’s part of what’s driving growth.
For the number of people, there aren’t that many buildings. Despite the heat, life takes place in the streets.
You need a 4×4 to tackle the unmade roads, and to help with the potholes on the better ones. We were driven around by Ebeneezer who made Accra seem a fairly straight forward place to navigate, the opposite of it’s reputation.
Ghana has an emerging middle class. It’s largely being housed in concrete boxes with little shade and no insulation. If you pick up a stone, it burns your hand. The people are living in ovens, cooled down by air conditioning.
Great streets and a thoughtful scheme at Pokuase, built in the ’90s by African Concrete Products. Given how much construction is going on, and how much the Africans love concrete (it doesn’t succumb to termites), this should be a brilliant business.
We visited the plant.
Arguably, the site huts are a better design than most of the housing. They have a nice big roof to keep off the heat and the rain. We are by the sea and the small central courtyard catches the sea breezes effectively. It’s not a match for air conditioning but that doesn’t work all the time anyway, so it’s a mistake to rely on it.
One of the things the government can’t organise is enough power for the whole city, so every second night they switch it off in your part of town. It makes you realise how lucky we are that the Victorians sorted out our infrastructure. Accra has no central sewage system, no public transport and terrible roads. The place is growing but the Ceedi lost 30% of it’s value against the dollar in six months. For sustainable growth you need good infrastructure (since Roman times).
Too soon, it was time to come home. I left behind people worried about the health crisis lurking on the other side of the border. I wish them all well, and a good future beyond that.
Lots on, loads to do, too many choices. We’ve been spending time with clients working out the right thing to do. A little less action, a bit more consideration.Load, aim, fire, as Bernard used to say.
This an office building for sale for residential conversion. There are loads of these around: we are working on four just now. The best ones make better flats than what we end up with when flats are designed from scratch: spacious, lots of light, generous ceiling heights. They’re the ones you want, avoid the others.
I was on the long list for the AJ sketching competition so went along to Saint Gobain’s innovation centre to see the work of the winners and talk about sketching. Felicity Steers won.Watching football in the pub after.Earlier in the week the kids dressed up to get into Deep Sea World for free and we visited the hospital (coincidentally).My long listed sketch was this one.
Everything changes in the week before Christmas: travel is less predictable, work is what happens between nights out, there’s loads to finish and there are things to reflect on. Santa was in the departure lounge when my plane was on time… …nobody quite so interesting when it was delayed, in Bristol.
We won a couple of cracking jobs in the last week, setting us up nicely for next year, and adding an extra level of excitement to the Christmas party. We need to learn from those we know who are doing things well around us, like Argent at Kings Cross. They work hard to keep the place busy and bustling whilst construction is going on all around. A few of the buildings are really attractive too. This has different proportions to most office structures you see, and attractive cast columns.
It’s all really busy, but if you want to spin your talents into a successful business career you could do worse than look to Jackie Stewart for inspiration. This is his Tyrell 003, in which he won the Formula One World Championship 40 years ago this year.Then Alison, a few days past her due date, came round and we talked about far more important events all together.
We went to Port de Soller for a few days.
The view across the bay.