31 January 2016

the best of sketches in travel january

There is a glimmer of hope as February approaches. The nights are starting to draw out; slowly but noticeable. Spring is just around the corner and will be here before you know it. Before all that, January saw Sketches have its usual eclectic mix of travel related posts, music and just a sprinkling of silliness. So as is the norm and in no particular order we give you our January best.

bullet train
The Shinkansen - part of the Shopper Lottie Article
European Life Magazine - This months feature looked at a product I originally featured on the blog, Swig Luxury Flasks. The perfect accessory for the luxury adventurer among you. Find out more here, Swig luxury flasks

hip flasks
Swig Luxury Flasks
Shopper Lottie Magazine - Japan features very prominently in my life, well I did live there, and for this magazine I've decided to do some articles on this wonderful country. Expect mentions of manga, trains and oh..vending machines! Click on the link here for more 5 Reasons to add Japan to your bucket list 

Said the Maiden - In December we featured the folk band Said the Maiden and to round off our collaboration we looked at their recent EP release 'Of maids and mariners'. Well worth checking out Of Maids and Mariners

folk music
Said the Maiden publicity shot from Of Maids and Mariners
Sketches and stories - In a new monthly feature we're going to do a travel related doodle and explain the story behind it. First up was a recent trip to a small independent record store. With small music venues on the decline it was a fabulous place to watch the folk group mentioned above perform live. Small venues and independent record stores must remain and we need to support them when we can. Check it out here Travel doodles

I also threw out there one of my Spike Milligan inspired short stories. Most definitely not to his high standards but I hope it will make you laugh or perhaps cry in pain! Check that one out here Short Stories


So there we go another packed month full of fun, tips and reasons to get exploring. Next month should be another interesting one as we feature a new folk artist, continuing with our doodles and delve into the world of catering. 

As always thank you for your support, and if you are new to the blog then I would be delighted if you joined us (click on any of the social media links) on this ever expanding journey. 

26 January 2016

walking around london

The Marble Arch Circle
To really see a city its always best to explore it on foot. No matter how good a tour bus and guide maybe, the satisfaction of discovering a place for yourself is one of travels great joys. Sketches is going to feature London heavily this year and what better way to look at this amazing city than offer some fun and interesting; off the peg walks. 


First stop the Arch
Today's walking tour is a simple circular route, that could either take a couple of hours or the whole day depending what you do. Your starting point is at Marble Arch (on the Central line). Take in the arch and then head down Park Lane. On route you can look at the opulent houses and hotels. Look at the car showrooms and dream of driving off in the latest Aston Martin. 

London architecture
Park Lanes Modern Architecture  

London attractions
Duke of Wellington Memorial 

At Park Lanes end is the Wellington Monument. Going through the walking subway tunnel to the monument gives you an artistic history lesson about the Duke. So make sure to allow some time to look at the artwork and read the history. Once done its a slow walk down Piccadilly. If you dare there are some hidden treasures to be found off-piste. Cafes and exclusive shops are waiting for you. You'll also find some more famous places (see below) and a number of boutique shops or have a browse around the Royal Academy of Arts? Plenty there to keep you occupied. 

The Worlds most famous hotel?
Piccadilly Circus
Once you reach the circus you need to head up Regents street and then along Oxford and Bond Streettaking in some of London's premier shopping haunts. Just off Regents Street; along Heddon Street in fact, is the shrine to the late David Bowie (see below). Then once you've paid your respects how about a visit to Hamley's for the kids (or adults, lets be honest). Onto Oxford street and the end is then insight. Its the little climb up the slope in Bond street back to the Arch, passing Selfridges as you go.

Heddon Street
The memorial to David Bowie - the exact spot where the famous front cover for Ziggy Stardust was taken. 

Artwork just off Regents Street

In Conclusion 
Its a simple to follow walk (there are signs) but one that will reveal many of London's treasures. The contrast from the expensive shops of Mayfair to the sudden switch of the mainstream in Regents Street is all to clear to see. Selfridges, Fortnum and Masons gives way to the high street named brands. Whatever your tastes or budget this is a walk that all should try, whatever the weather. Happy walking!


If you have a highlight in any of these areas you'd like to share, then please drop a comment. It'd be great to hear about your favourite places.   

22 January 2016

short stories

The Cat that didn't have nine lives

Some years back I wrote a number of silly short stories and called the book "The Hippopotamus". Some of those stories went down well with those that read them. So as we are having a bit of fun this January with our posts on Sketches, we thought why not publish some of them for your viewing pleasure. So first up is probably the most popular. The Cat that didn't have nine lives. I hope you enjoy and please leave a comment. 

Ginger was a black tabby cat.
He was small and had lots of fur.
Anyone who visited him said how lovely he looked, and he used to get fed the most wonderful food. He was a well loved cat. 
Every now and then he would wander off to explore.
On one such occasion he got lost. 
His family presumed him lost forever.
One year later he found his way back home only to discover that a motorway had been built on his house and the family had been relocated.
Not realizing what a motorway was he tried to cross the road. 
Unfortunately he got knocked over by a 10 ton truck!
Somehow Ginger hadn't been given nine lives! 

15 January 2016

travel doodles #1

"Empire Records" 
A doodle or drawing can speak a thousand words! Well hopefully it can? In a new feature Sketches has decided to do a short post each month that features a doodle and the story behind the picture. Call it a way to flex those creative juices, perhaps raise debate and above all look at travel and all that it entails from a slightly different viewpoint. So first up a record shop!

Empire Records
This is a small independent record shop in the heart of the ancient city of St Albans in Hertfordshire, England. It's tucked away in a corner of a small shopping area, close to the cathedral. So although not easy to find, you won't be disappointed when you do. This little gem of a shop is perhaps among only a few independent record shops still going in that region. A crying shame really as there is so much pleasure in browsing through old records. Vinyl is king in this store, so a specialists haven.  
"Hannah's Violin" 
Last weekend this mecca to the vinyl was turned into a music venue. If you have been following recent posts you will know that I've been championing the folk group Said the Maiden. The shop was the launch site of their new EP 'Of maids and mariners'. The group played a short set (wonderfully performed), showcasing the new songs and some older numbers from their back catalog. The setting was perfect and it was a pleasure to be there. 

Being in a small space really highlighted the wonder of live, intimate performances and showed that real talent exists beyond the glitz of TV shows. All hail to that I say...


8 January 2016

of maids and mariners

Fair Maidens - Said the Maiden Interview Part 3
A few weeks ago we featured the folk trio Said the Maiden and mentioned that they were about to release their new EP 'Of Maids and Mariners'. This week sees that release and Sketches has caught up with the band to talk about the release and also the trials and tribulations of touring and what's ahead in the coming year. So I hope you enjoy our insight into the life of an aspiring and talented folk group. 

Said the Maiden by Garry Collar
Festival Fever
The buzz of playing live is surely one of the main reasons most bands exist. Said the Maiden are certainly no exception when it comes to this as they play live regularly from folk clubs to cafe / bars and festivals. Before the turn of the year they played at the Great British Folk Festival in the seaside town of Skegness. This is probably the last major music festival held in the UK and is certainly a big deal in the folk music scene of Britain. It just so happens that Said the Maidens' 30 minute set went down a storm.

And as a consequence they have been invited back to play on one of the main stages in 2016. This means they will be on the same stage as some well established acts such as Billy Bragg (who headlined in 2015). So with a guaranteed slot at that festival and a number of other festivals already booked as well as folk club appearances for the coming year the touring calendar is filling up.

So do The Maidens enjoy touring? It was an resounding yes. Tiredness being the only downside it seems. Well when you are traveling to different corners of the country and holding down a full time job its not hard to see why tiredness would be an issue. Within the folk world its not unusual for an act when touring to stay over at an organizer or volunteers house. No posh hotels for these Maidens! On the whole people are very accommodating and welcoming. And the group were quick to point out that its these people that make touring so special. So although they currently don't do a string of dates. It's mainly one-off gigs, touring is at the heart of this band. 

'Of Maids and Mariners'
This coming Sunday (January 10th) sees the band officially launch their new EP 'Of Maids and Mariners'. The main song can be heard below. The event is being held at 1pm at an independent record shop (Empire Records) in the ancient Hertfordshire town of St Albans. As well as launching the EP they will be playing a live set, and the event is free! So if you are in the area, then why not pop along and witness an intimate gig. Sketches will be there to cover it and will feature a post next week. 

The Next Step
After the launch the band have a new and exciting project coming up in the Spring. Along with a number of other folk musicians; including some well know acts, the group are going to be a part of a "super group" called The Company of Players. For a week they are staying in a house in the Peak District and jamming. What will come out is anyone's guess at the moment; a single? an album? That we will have to wait and see. What its shows is that the band is ambitious and looking to spread their wings into new ventures. To find out more then please go to their page which is given here (The Company of Players). 

Said the Maiden
There is no doubting the commitment Hannah, Jess and Kathy give to their craft. When you speak with them it's very clear that they are extremely passionate about what they do and are very conscious about the direction they want to take. Hard graft, many hours of travel and real dedication are the words that string to mind. It is for these reasons that we need to support them and others like them. All hail The Maidens and may they reap the success they richly deserve. If you would like to know more about them then please click on the link http://www.saidthemaiden.co.uk/

I need to take this opportunity to thank Said the Maiden (Hannah, Jess and Kathy) for their time and patience. It's been an honour to work with them.   

5 January 2016

5 reasons to get out and about this january

If there is any month that you should really get out and about, then January is that month. The excesses of the festive period have long gone and now is the time to burn those calories off, get the head clear and start those New Year Resolutions. If you are familiar with our monthly posts you will know that the reasons are well within your own reach. So lets get out there and see what January throws at us.  

Head out for a bracing winter walk

T is for Theatre - January is low season for the theatre world and its the time to find some bargains. You'll have to hunt for them but the following website may help. So time to pick your favourite musical or play and head to the West End of London for a magical experience. The sight Get into London Theatre is a great place to have a browse. Follow the link for more http://www.getintolondontheatre.co.uk/

B is for Boat - An annual fixture that seems to have been etched upon me is the London Boat Show (mainly due to the wonderful cartoonist Giles who would often feature it in his annuals), held at the Excel Centre in the heart of the Docklands. Running from the 8th - 17th you can indulge yourself in all things marine and dream of taking that yacht around the Med or in the Caribbean.    

W is for Walks - What better way to burn off the Christmas excesses than a winter stroll? If the weather allows then why not enjoy a bracing winter walk, taking in perhaps a visit to the pub for a warm winter brew. It's a reoccurring theme on Sketches but its the best way to really experience the UK and see our wonderful countryside. And if the weather is bright and crisp it will just add to the experience. 

"A winters day" by the author 
S is for Star Gazing: In the mid winter there are many nights when the skies clear and we get the chance to see the beautiful night sky. There's plenty going on and what with Tim Peake (the first UK astronaut to be based on the International Space Station) currently hurtling around the globe, now is as good as any to do some night viewing. What better way to appreciate the beauty of space with a little late night peek?  

S is for Shopping - Sales, sales, sales. Walk around any high street or shopping centre and every shop will be tempting you to part with your cash. So why not turn them into a tourist experience? Selfridges is a great place to wonder, Harrods and Liberty also vie for your attention. They are as much a tourist attraction as a shop to spend your money in. 

Inside Selfridges
January is often seen as a quiet month, certainly seems to be here in the UK. The weather isn't the greatest to start with and many of us are getting over the festive excesses. That shouldn't stop you from at least venturing out a little and doing some free activities, looking up at the stars, go for a walk or look for a bargain. And if visiting the UK it's a great time to sample the culture, without the crowds. So lets get out and about....enjoy! 

What will you be doing this January? Why not let us know via the social media buttons.



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