The Tower by the Bay

The Tower by the Bay, 1976

The Tower by the Bay, 1976

I completed the painting above during 1976, but not at school. I apologize for the poor quality; not only has the poster paint I used decayed over time, but the painting was also folded into four at some point!

The scene depicted is completely imaginary, and doesn’t attempt to represent any real place. I’m not sure why I chose to do this particular work at home; perhaps I just felt that my schoolteachers would demand to know what it was supposed to represent, and I wouldn’t be able to explain!

Today (October 25th) is International Artist Day, so I thought it appropriate to feature some of my artwork in this post, even if it’s not of “professional” standard on this occasion.

If my painting above represents anything, then I suppose that it was intended to show my “ideal location”, from my viewpoint as a teenager. Looking closely, the “tower block” in the image has a sign on the side saying “Europa”, so presumably it was supposed to be a hotel somewhere in Europe. At that age, I had no experience of independent living, so it probably seemed to me that the only alternative to living with my parents was to stay in a hotel!

The city on the horizon, with its illuminated seaside promenade, is of course loosely based on views of my home town of Scarborough (as shown below in my 1977 photo). However, at that time, there were no modern “tower blocks” such as the one in my painting near the sea in Scarborough (although there was such a building—Ebor House—in the nearby resort of Bridlington, which was in the news just recently for the wrong reasons).

Scarborough South Bay at Night, 1977

Scarborough South Bay at Night, 1977

I seem to have spent a lot of time detailing the interiors of the rooms in the hotel, which I could have avoided simply by painting the curtains closed!

Slightly more than ten years after I painted the image above, I unexpectedly found myself in a seaside location that reminded me of that imaginary scene, although it was not anywhere in Europe.

Realizing the Dream

The photo below, which I took during my first visit to California in October 1987, shows the Metro Tower in Foster City, as seen from one of the lagoon bridges. At that time, the Metro Tower, which had only just been completed, had the distinction of being the tallest building between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Foster City, California, in 1987

Foster City, California, in 1987

During the first evening that I arrived in California, I found myself very disoriented, because I thought that the tower and lagoon in front of it were facing westwards towards the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Foster City faces San Francisco Bay, and thus eastwards. I had to consult maps to figure out why the sea seemed to be on both sides!

I’m afraid that once again the picture quality is very poor, but I could not in fact go back and take the same photograph today, because other large buildings now surround the Metro Tower, as shown in the nearest-available Google Street View today.

As I mentioned in a previous post, after emigrating to California later in 1987, I did rent an apartment in Foster City, and lived there for about 18 months. It was a pleasant place to live, and the sheer modernity of the surroundings was a refreshing change from everywhere that I’d previously lived.

Not a Premonition

I realize that, in view of what happened to me later on, it’s possible to interpret my teenage painting as some kind of “premonition” regarding the place where I would find myself living as an adult (and someone did in fact suggest that).

However, in general I see no evidence that premonitions, in the sense of someone being able to know what will happen in the future, are possible (if only because the future of the universe is inherently not knowable). You may be able to make a very good guess as to what will happen in the future, based on the current circumstances, but it’s only ever a prediction. (This is, of course, exactly what weather forecasters do every day.)

In the case of my painting, I think the reality is just the opposite. Having unexpectedly found myself in California, Foster City particularly appealed to me because it was so reminiscent of the scene in my earlier painting. Thus, I took action to fulfill aspects of the fantasy that I’d had as a teenager, and made it real.

In fact, seeing it that way seems better than believing in some kind of premonition, because I was able to take action to change my life in the way that I wanted it to be, rather than accepting whatever situation I found myself born into.

The Tower by the Bay, 1976

The Tower by the Bay, 1976

Of Lost Maps & Lost Towns

East Yorkshire Wall Map, Bridlington, 1977

East Yorkshire Wall Map, Bridlington, 1977

The Map shown above in my 1977 photograph was for many years displayed on a wall that overlooked the Promenade Bus Station in Bridlington. I was recently scanning some old photographs, and that led me to wonder what had become of the map, and indeed the bus station below it.

At the time of my birth, Bridlington was in the county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, then, in 1974, that became part of the unloved county of Humberside. In 1996, Humberside was abolished, and Bridlington found itself once again in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The local bus company in Bridlington was, and still is, East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS), which created and maintained the map. EYMS is perhaps most famous for the unique “Gothic” roofs of its double-deck buses, which were specially shaped to fit through the North Bar in the East Riding county town of Beverley. (See this article for a photo of one of the gothic buses squeezing through the bar.) Built in the 15th century, Beverley Bar still exists today, as shown in my 2007 photo below, and is the only remaining brick-built town gate in Britain.

Beverley Bar, 2007

Beverley Bar, 2007

The photo below shows a general view of Bridlington bus station at around the same time as the color photo of the map above.

Bridlington Promenade Bus Station, 1977

Bridlington Promenade Bus Station, 1977

EYMS built the bus station during the 1930s, and the main building was finished in pleasant blue and cream tiles, reflecting the company’s bus liveries, which also used shades of blue and cream.

Unfortunately, the privatization of the British bus industry during the 1980s made such town-centre sites prime targets for sale and redevelopment, as the privatized companies saw opportunities to “externalize their costs” by selling off their own premises and stopping their vehicles on the streets instead, causing further traffic congestion.

Bridlington Bus Station suffered this fate, and closed down years ago, but I wondered what had become of the site. Looking on Google Streetview, I was initially unable to spot any evidence of the location. Eventually, however, I noticed that, even though the station is gone, the building on which the map was painted still exists, and is now a very tatty branch of Boots. Here is the latest Streetview image.

For convenience, here’s an excerpt from that view. You can see the gable end of the building on which the map was painted, and even the finial is still there!

Site of Bridlington Promenade Bus Station

Site of Bridlington Promenade Bus Station

As you can see, the “Promenades” shopping center has been built over the site of the Bus Station. I’m not sure it’s much of an improvement…

They Keep Losing Towns Too!

The East Riding of Yorkshire actually continues to suffer more significant losses of property than just Bridlington Bus Station and its map.

As a teenager, I was a fairly frequent visitor to Scarborough Library, which had some obscure old books about Yorkshire history.

One of these books was “The Lost Towns of the Yorkshire Coast” by Thomas Sheppard, published in 1912. The book describes the severe coastal erosion in East Yorkshire, south of Bridlington. While Bridlington itself is built on the same chalk that forms the Flamborough promontory, the area southwards to Spurn Point (called Holderness) is a soft glacial moraine, which the sea is eroding away very quickly.

The map below is from the frontispiece of the 1912 book, and shows the medieval and modern coastlines of the county. The loss of entire towns due to erosion is quite obvious.

Lost Towns of East Yorkshire

Lost Towns of East Yorkshire

Short of building a sea wall all the way along the coastline, the erosion process is really unstoppable. In the future, there will presumably be some towns and villages sitting on peninsulas where defences have been built locally (such as at Withernsea), but the remainder of Holderness will eventually just be washed away.

The most recent losses of property have been around Aldbrough, as shown in these photos. See it while you can!

Incidentally, Beverley in Yorkshire has no connection to Beverly Hills in California, although the different spellings do sometimes trip people up!