It was one of those lovely Sunday mornings in a January London – very bright but very cold.
There was I, at peace with the world, propped up against a lamppost, with all my sketching gear in a bag on the pavement next to me. I was drawing one of those superb Georgian houses in Lees Place, just off Park Lane and – as it turned out - just around the corner from Grosvenor Square.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car slowly approaching. It was red and had a large blue badge on the door. Any Londoner will know that this car will contain members of the Met. Police.
The car stopped next to me. The driver’s window whirred down and presented me with the view of a rather burly policeman. “Good morning, Sir. Would you mind telling me what you are doing?”
As I didn’t relish a free lift to Paddington Police Station, I resisted a few uncomplimentary ideas that came into my head for a reply.
“I’m drawing that house over there”, I replied. “May I see your sketchbook, please, Sir?” I handed over the book. The policeman proceeded to look through it, page by page. He then passed it to his equally burly companion who also proceeded to look through it, page by page. He handed back the sketchbook but didn’t ask to look in my bag.
“Are you planning to be here long, Sir?” enquired the driver. “Until I either finish the drawing or freeze to death – whichever comes soonest” I replied.
“Why don’t you move along now, Sir?” came the reply with more than a slight edge of authority in his question.
On enquiring why, I was politely informed that: “Just around the corner, Sir, you will see the American Embassy. Your presence, Sir, in what is a very sensitive area has been reported to the Police as appearing to be suspicious - Sir. I strongly suggest - Sir, that you pack up and leave immediately – Sir.”
So I picked up my bag (with camera intact) and went on my way in that very bright but very cold London Sunday morning in January - suitably told off.
Oh, the joys of painting on location!