30 December 2016

tremendous travels, the years best bits

Review of the 2016

Well that's been one heck of a year hasn't it? To be honest, and I'm sure there are many of you who feel the same, its quite nice to say "good riddance" to it. Let's hope that 2017 will be a better year, full of hope, and success. From a Sketches point of view it has been an incredible year. The blog has continued to grow, through your support, and my ideas are flowing, hence we've got plenty in the tank for next year!  For our final post of the year we pick out the best bits, or my favourite articles. There were many I haven't included, such as the interviews with three folk musicians; Alison Reynolds, Matthew Shepherd and Kelly Oliver. My thanks to them for their patience and willingness to be interviewed. Also my new series Beyond the Back Garden, but more of that next year. 

I'd also like to take this opportunity to say, 

"Thank You"

to everyone for their support, wherever you are. From Russia to Brazil, America to Germany, Israel to Japan, I'm eternally grateful for your readership. So in no particular order here are Sketches in Travel's best bits.

travel
From Venice to Vienna - all pictures by the author 

Travel - Europe 

Although our travelling was mainly confined to UK shores, (no bad thing), we did managed to venture into Europe twice, Italy and Austria to be precise. Taking in Venice and the Tuscan capital of Florence (Firenze) and Vienna. Beautiful cities for very different reasons. Each are packed full of history, grand buildings, art and culture. Great coffee, wonderful food and exciting attractions. Click on the links to read more and see why I thought this.

Venice  - Walking the Streets of Venice 
FlorenceFlorence Bound 
ViennaA little Guide to Vienna 

So where we will travel to next year? Who knows but you can be certain that adventures will be had, delicious food eaten and one or two photos taken. 

Exploring England 

Back in the UK three areas featured. London with our Walk the.. series, Swanage and The Cotswolds, in particular Stroud and Gloucester. They were a lot of fun to write and a particular highlight was walking the Laurie Lee Way, near Stroud. The weather was perfect, the scenery stunning, and it brought home the joys of his book and the countryside it was set in. See below the picture for links to those posts. 

looking at london
London - all pictures by the author 

The Walk the series....

London featured prominently in my posts this year. Especially with a new series of posts called Walk the.. I wanted to see London from a different perspective, so what better way than walking it! The three featured to date take in mainly the central district, although the South Bank walk did head down to Greenwich. No better way to see the city in my opinion. Links below. 

Walk the... Circle line 
Walk the... South Bank 
Walk the... Shopping Streets


As mentioned before we headed West and South, taking in some of the very best scenery our fair country has to offer. The weather was fabulous, (we do get good weather sometimes!) Making for wonderful excursions. Trust me by tapping below.

Gloucester... A day out in Gloucester
Stroud... Stroud
Swanage... Why you need to go to Swanage now

The UK has so much to offer, whatever the weather. In 2017 we're going to make sure we continue to discover and enjoy what our own backyard can offer. 

Swanage
Swanage, Corfe and Gloucester - all photos by the author 

Thank You, Whoever you are 

So that's it for another year. Tremendous travels for sure. I think what this year has demonstrated is that you don't have to visit exotic places and be travelling all the time to have great experiences. Day trips are just as valid as longer vacations. Perhaps we all need to look around our local areas more, see what we have to offer as much as another country? 

Well onto a new year. Arnold will return, as will our new character Sidney. Beyond the Back Garden will develop, and Walk the.. series has some adventures lined up.  Onwards we go...continuing to create Sketches in Travel

Happy traveling everyone and may I wish everyone a great 2017.
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22 December 2016

proudly introducing you to next years exciting sketches project

Sidney the Squirrel 

Let me introduce you to someone who is going to become a huge part of my life, and hopefully yours in 2017. Sidney is a new character that takes centre stage in a story that will be released next year. Whether its in book form or another format, Sidney is coming and you'll be able to follow his development here. We have no publisher to date, so its a personal journey, that whatever the outcome, will be a life affirming and enjoyable ride. 

squirrel

The image (well the sneaky peek at it!) is a glimpse of a rough squirrel sketch that will become Sidney. This is a collaboration with artist Emma Shepherd (she did the artwork for her brother, Matthew Shepherd's By the Sea EP, which I featured in a post in the summer.) She will be bringing the story to life through her wonderful artwork. 

Its a project that is really exciting us both, and we wanted to wet your appetite with a glimpse at the early stages of its development. Then from time to time we're update you on the books progress. The story is written, perhaps needing some more editing and Emma is working her magic on turning this sketch into the first of the many images that will be used in the book. Hopefully we're be able to give you a preview soon. 

Reasons for Sidney

Why am I introducing Sidney to you now? Well we're going to get serious, and personal for a moment. This year has seen a dramatic change in my life, my thoughts and my outlook on life. The way I write too. I had never really suffered from anxiety or depression before, well I didn't think so anyway. Having experienced it now, I can say its truly horrible. Writing has become my release, from trying to improve this blog, and the stories I've been working on. They have helped me through the dark days and the pain. I feel more inspired now than ever before, and Sidney is the next step on that creative path. I wanted to write a story for my son, this will be that story. 

Follow the Journey 

So at various points throughout the creative process we're be giving you snippets of Sidney's development and what is happening with the book, the publishing etc. Call it our version of Pledge Music, without the pledge! We're show you some of the writing, and the artwork. I do hope you're be a part of this process? 

So look out 2017, Sidney is on the way. May I also take this moment to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. You're amazing.


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12 December 2016

festive frolics

Beyond the Back Garden 

Welcome to the first in a new series that will run monthly throughout 2017 and beyond? Beyond the Back Garden will take a candid look at life in the rural setting of the Chiltern Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty that London's outskirts gently touch. I'll be of on adventures, meeting some of the regions characters, exploring its nooks and crannies. So settle back with a glass of pre Christmas sherry, and enjoy the first edition. Which has a distinctly festive feel to it. Although you wouldn't realise that when the first picture is of a sheep! 

live nativity

Ewe do you think you are! 

Its not often that you get the chance to walk a sheep up your local high street! 

Well that's exactly what happened this Saturday, as our local village set about getting into the true spirit of Christmas, by hosting its third 'Live Nativity.' Live because it features all manor of animals including the sheep above, whose name has long since left my memory. Robert? Beatrice? No gone! 

The animals form just a small part of the 'organised mayhem' that is our nativity. Not my words, words from observers. Who thoroughly enjoyed it, I may add. It goes like this; there are scenes of key stages in the nativity story. Mary & Joseph heading to Bethlehem. The Kings setting out to follow the star, and our little moment as the shepherds. Each scene takes place in a different part of the village, and visitors are guided through by a narrator with a sound system. The crowds, and there were many this time, follow the donkey on its journey, dodge cars as they cross roads and enjoy the individual scenes.  St Francis of Assisi back in 1223 created the first nativity scene. I wonder what he'd make of ours?

live nativity

'Catch that sheep!'

I'd like to think that we were the stars, but we weren't. The animals take centre stage. Especially the sheep that decided it had had enough and bolted over the fence! Caught magnificently by one of the support team before it was headed off into the gloom (typically cloudy with some drizzle) or possibly the pub! Lines delivered or should I say 'ad-libbed!' we proceeded or the sheep proceeding to lead us up the high street toward the final, and most significant scene, the nativity. Goats, the donkey (showing its arse!) and an alpaca mingled with the crowds, and a real life, stand in, baby Jesus. Carols were sung, mince pies & tea had as the finale.


On a Serious Note 

A Live Nativity is a wonderful way to get the Christmas story across, in a setting that's not restricted by religious boundaries, i.e. a church. It's in the open air, available for all, young and old. It's great fun, people sing, laugh and it helps bring the community together. So what's not to like about it? 

There are many of these events being held around the UK and the world. The US seems particularly keen. I'd recommend it to everyone. Although having always performed (well tried too!), its hard to tell exactly what the rest of it was like. I hear it goes down a storm each year.  Roll on next year, more ad-libs and escaping sheep and plenty of Christmas cheer! 

christmas

Festive Frolics 

The following day our village, which by the way is on the edge of the Chilterns, about an hours train ride from the big city, held its first Christmas street festival. It wasn't that large, so I'm not going to compare it to the larger Christmas markets dotted about our fair land and beyond into Europe. This was our little one and although small it was a great start. It attracted a good crowd, so here's hoping for bigger and better next year. Here in no particular order is what I thought..

Christmas festival

* Stalls - a mix of the tacky, to the handcrafted. Perhaps could have done with a few more European style stalls? 

* Rides - strictly for the little ones. Although if I'd have gone on it I'd probably have been sick! Reminds me of a ride I took at Brighton Pier. I got spun around so much, at the request of those I was with! I spent the next two or three hours lying on Brighton's pebbly beach trying to recover! Never, never again! 

* Warm wine - I didn't have any. £5 for a glass! Shocking. Please, £3 maybe, but £5. Can buy a bottle (just about) for that or gone home made my own and returned to the high street, cup in hand. 

* Extremely loud music - The local Estate Agent decided that the world needed to hear their festive choice of tunes. Some hit, most miss! It was loud. I wouldn't be surprised if passing aircraft, we're on the Heathrow & Luton flight path, didn't divert due to the sound waves or just because the choice in tunes would have ruined their flight!

* Lights - There were lots of lights, hence why I took pictures of them. Lights just add something don't they? Makes everything seem so warming and comforting. 

christmas festivals

Its all about lights isn't it? 

Street festivals are great. That's official. Alright this wasn't Notting Hill Carnival or the Day of the Dead parade. It was our little festival and I was proud of it. Throughout the land, in the cities and towns there will be others taking place. What's not to like about them? They get you out of your chair. They help the local economy, you see your neighbours! Street festivals and events like the Live Nativity help to keep rural communities going, so "All hail" to them and all the others dotted throughout the world. Festive frolics indeed. 
_____

Beyond the Back Garden will return in January. Thanks as always for your support and messages. Here's hoping you all have some festive frolics before the merriment of Christmas really kicks in. 



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2 December 2016

arnold 5

arnoldThe Never Ending Bed

"Time for bed young man," Mrs P. stated that evening. 

The events of the day had really taken their toll on young Arnold. Rubbish hippies and teachers with bad teeth were just about all he could handle in 24 hours! Although he was feeling much better, there was still a sense that not all had returned to normal. He felt like he could sleep for a week and mum wasn't best pleased with him!

Arnold opened the bedroom door and looked up at his vast bed. With Arnold being relatively short for a 5-year-old, everything seemed large, including his bed. He would always climb in at the bottom and work his way up to find his comfortable pillow. On this occasion, the bed appeared extra especially large, and as he climbed in he could see many tunnels leading off in different directions ahead, dark and menacing. He had so many choices. He looked left and right, forward and behind. 

"Which tunnel?" he said aloud. 

After some deliberation, he chose to head down the left tunnel. He crawled slowly into the darkness. Wondering what he would find at the end? A monster? A spider? Perhaps even Terry the hippy or Miss Jones's teeth!? He was about to discover. 

He crawled a little further, certain he could see small yellow piercing eyes staring at him. A little shiver went down the back of his spine. He was reluctant to go that way so turned to go back, discovering there were now three new tunnels to head down!

"What now?" Arnold thought. Try one of the three new tunnels? Although where would they lead? Decisions, decisions? He had no option and turned again to head towards the piercing eyes. 

He drew closer and closer, the tunnel becoming brighter as he approached a white screen of light, the eyes had thankfully disappeared. He popped his head out of the hole, discovering that he was halfway up his bed. Far below on the carpet, he could see yesterday's underpants, lying next to a pair of smelly socks, its smell rising to greet him. He then looked left and right, his bedroom door far in the distance. 

Suddenly he felt something brush his toes. He giggled a little but was also a little afraid. Again he felt the tingly feeling on his toes. Arnold had to be brave, so quickly went back under the covers to confront this new foe. He found nothing. Just a number of dark tunnels heading off in all directions. He must have imagined it? 

On he crawled, deeper and deeper into his bed, turning this way and that as each new tunnel came into view. After a short time, he could see light far ahead. This time the light was brighter, and he could see there was a large boulder-like object. Up the tunnel he crawled, suddenly arriving into the light. Ahead the boulder had become his pillow, and on the left his favourite teddy bear. Sitting there, smiling at him. His journey had ended in the never ending bed.

"You've made your bed a complete mess," Mrs P stated as she entered his room. "What have you been doing?" Re-arranging the covers and tucking Arnold in, giving him a big sloppy kiss for good measure. Arnold smiled back, clearly, all had been forgiven, life was back to normal. Or was it!?
_____

Arnold will return in 2017 with the second half of his adventures. So please keep a look out. Until then I hope you have enjoyed these tales? If so, please leave a comment it would be most welcome, oh and thank you as always for your support. You are amazing. 


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1 December 2016

arnold 4

Miss Jones

arnold

"Arnold are you ready?" Mrs P. called up the stairs.

It was the day after the night before the Terry incident. Arnold woke to a spinning head. He had vague memories of what happened the night before, and he wasn't at all keen on getting ready for school. He weakly got out of bed, and stumbled towards the bathroom. Alan brushed past him heading in the opposite direction, laughing as he shut his bedroom door. Arnold slumped to the bathroom floor, too tired to care. Alan had missed out on the 'Terry Incident' as he was at his friend's house playing X-box games.

"Arnold!" Mrs P. called again. She was still fuming about last night and was in no mood to be messed about. "I'll give you five minutes young man. Now hurry up or you'll be late." With that she slammed the front door and sat in the car waiting for him. 

Arnold was more worried about thinking straight in class than a screaming mum! He changed as quickly as he could, and hurried down the stairs, grabbing his bag on his way out. Alan followed closely behind, still chuckling. 

"How's your head squirt?" Alan asked as they climbed into the car.
"That's enough", Mrs P. replied. The car journey was silent thereafter. 

They approached the school gates. An old man, Mr Hargrove the school caretaker waved them through. When the car pulled to a stop Mrs P turned to Arnold.

"Now listen to me Arnold. You are not in my good books at present, so I don't want you doing anything stupid today. Got me?"
"Yes mum," Arnold replied. Stumbling out of the car. His head still spinning.

He wobbled up to the huge glass doors and walked through. Stairs looked like they reached to the stars, corridors never ending. As he stood there daydreaming, he didn't at first feel the hand that was tapping his shoulder. 

"How is little Arnold today?" a caring voice asked. "You look like you are in a dream world. Come on, time to start class." And he was led towards his classroom by Miss Jones, his primary school teacher. Miss Jones was a kind teacher, slightly rounded but with a heart of gold. She cared deeply for the children, and was loved by all. She had one slight problem, well its not a problem, but it did give the children nightmares! You see Miss Jones had rotten teeth, and big black holes where teeth should have been! The children couldn't get Miss Jones teeth or lack of them out of their minds! 

For the first few hours Arnold sat in the classroom in a trance like state. Even the occasional advances of Tammy, a girl who had a crush on him, couldn't awaken him from his stupor. The effects of last night were having a strange effect on the appearance of Miss Jones teeth! They seemed enhanced and he couldn't get them out of his mind. At one point just before lunch Arnold started to have a good chuckle, a consequence of the evening before. The whole class turned and stared at him. Even Miss Jones's smile and rotting teeth had disappeared briefly. Her face now showing anger. Suddenly the class all jumped from their seats, trying to get a view of a now contorted Arnold, rolling around the floor laughing uncontrollably. He was heard mumbling about bad teeth, and that the teeth were attacking him. Everyone just stared, dumbfounded by the scene before them, entertained nevertheless. 

Miss Jones tried to gain some control of the situation, but the scene had deteriorated. A number of the kids had decided this was the perfect distraction to start a fight, which quickly turned into a brawl. A mix of boys and girls in a heap on the classroom floor. Arnold was still laughing, at everything it seemed. Miss Jones was losing her cool, not helped by Arnold repeatedly mentioning her lack of teeth between laughing fits! 

Outside Mr Hargrove was going about his business emptying the bins, when he heard the noise emanating from Miss Jones's classroom. As fast as his old legs could carry him, he ran across to the open classroom window, poking his broom through to try and stop the fight or at least distract the kids. One bright spark tried to pull it away from him, but he was too quick and had pulled the broom away, already making his way to the nearest door. It called for greater action. 

As he entered the classroom, waving the broom around like a sword. Order was soon restored as Mr Hargrove was rather handy with the broom and the mass of children soon retreated. Miss Jones flopped into her chair, exhausted and shaken. Unable to take in what had just happened. It wasn't long before the headmaster arrived, and after a brief meeting with Miss Jones dragged a still laughing Arnold from the room. 


10 Minutes later 

Sitting in Matron's office, she was flummoxed as to why Arnold was laughing, although the effects of whatever it was, were wearing off. Mrs P. was called and when she arrived Arnold had all but recovered from his laughing fit. Miss Jones however hadn't, and was sent home for the afternoon. As were a number of the children who had cuts and bruises from the brawl. It was all rather perplexing, and the Headmaster no matter how he tried couldn't quite explain what had happened. Mrs. P was all too clear on Arnold's state but wasn't in the mood to divulge the reasons at the moment. She dragged Arnold from the office to the waiting car. Terry had a lot to answer for, and she was going to speak her mind when she next saw him. She turned to talk to Arnold but he was already asleep on the back seat. 

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