It was wet. We’d caught the 345 from the south, crossed the glossy, nighttime river and got off at Fulham Road, intending to see a film but all that appealed was Lincoln and neither of us was really in the mood. We wandered down the road and drifted into Daunt, as you do. Out of the weather, wooden floors, nice books, knowledgable if slightly pretentious young shop assistants delighted not to be working for Waterstones: you can’t really go wrong.
Eavesdropping. The shop assistant spoke about moving to Sweden and the Atkins diet in the same paragraph. I’m not sure how you do that but at the time it made sense. Somewhere else, a South African explained the origins of Afrikaans to his partner – they seemed so interesting I wished we could all go out for a drink.
Then I came upon London, You’re Beautiful, the latest offering from artist David Gentleman, published in 2012 by Penguin. Perhaps you have seen it, perhaps you have a copy already. Even if you don’t know his name, if you have been to England, I can almost guarantee you have encountered his work, which includes the Underground mural at Charing Cross station, the oak-leaf graphic for National Trust as well as, to my interest, graphics for Stop the War Coalition.
Detailing the artist’s year across the city, the book features gorgeous watercolours and pen drawings of elements that are immediately recognisable: Camden hoodies, packed trains, traffic circles and bridges, iconic buildings and dreamy waterscapes of Regent’s Canal and the river we had just crossed.
Here’s a lovely publicity clip from Penguin in which Gentleman, now in his 80s, explains how he compiled the book through the seasons. Do have a look – it really is beautiful.