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Top 10… books

DK Eyewitness

Colourful illustrated guidebooks that hit the spot to give the reader an excellent overview of towns, cities and the local attractions along with brief details of where to eat and where to stay.

Favourites are the guidebooks relating to Portugal and Spain.

Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain – Quentin Letts

Journalist Quentin Letts aims carefully and highlights fifty targets. Some may surprise you whilst others may well be regarded as very suitable for inclusion in such a work!

Greece On My Wheels – Edward Enfield

Yes, that’s Harry Enfield’s dad.

Edward Enfield has written several books on his cycling exploits around Europe, but this was the first that I’d read by him and it’s on the list of books to read once more.

Hamish’s Mountain Walk – Hamish Brown

A classic book on hillwalking and backpacking around Scotland. One of those books that I read years ago and took lessons from, especially when it came to choosing and using lightweight camping and walking equipment.

An excellent read too!

Lonely Planet

Use paper versions when planning a trip, usually in conjunction with the equivalent Rough Guide (the latter’s city guides beat the LP versions hands down IMHO!).

There have been times when I’ve cursed their layouts (maps pages away from area info in two editions of the Portugal guide for example) and there have been one or three places that we won’t be returning to – allegedly!

My Dining Hell – Jay Rayner

The Observer’s restaurant critic’s collection of past reviews is a joy to read – unless you own one of the places visited!

Rough Guides

I don’t always agree with what’s written, but the appropriate Rough Guide is bought in paper format and used in conjunction with the same area’s Lonely Planet when planning a trip.

I regularly use paper area, city and country guides plus eBook only city or island guides.

The Descent Of Man – Grayson Perry

This is the newest book on the list and one of the few books in my collection that I have in both hardback and Kindle editions.

Not my usual type of reading by any means, but a book that has a lot to say about modern life and is engaging enough to read in one sitting.

The Moon’s A Ballon – David Niven

I first read this back in the late 1970s and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again a couple of years ago. A classic autobiography with loads of anecdotes about Niven himself and his life in Hollywood.

Another book from this list that’s going to get another reading soon.

These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach

You may not recognise the title, but you may well have heard of the film that was largely based on this novel – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel..

A few changes were made along the way from the printed page to digital screens, but it still hits the spot…

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TV or not TV, that is the question…

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Just coast to show…

Now that most of the wall to wall sports coverage is out of the way, television in the UK is getting back to what passes for normal over here.

There’s no chance of me watching either Strictly or Bake Off, but a few old favourites have materialised on BBC2 and the Travel Channel recently.

The Travel Channel has been showing a selection of classic Palin travels and I’ve ended up re-watching episodes of Himalaya and Around The World In Eighty Days, even though I’ve seen them before and have both the books and the DVDs of each series too.

Both were rather watchable, as was the first episode of the Michael Portillo vehicle Great Continental Railway Journeys that was on BBC2 last night.

Whilst Portillo is still a political commentator, to my mind he’s made his mark as the presenter of his programmes on the joys of travelling by train in various parts of the world.

Yes, his choice of jackets can be rather flamboyant, but his love of rail travel shines through. Last night’s show involved travelling around Switzerland, something that I did back in the 1980’s.

After a night or two in Geneva, the rail passes were pressed into action to get us to Interlaken where a tent was pitched to use as or Swiss base.

When the sun was out, it was time to head into the mountains. When it wasn’t, it was time to hit the cities.

Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Zermatt and the Jungfrau were stops on sunny days, whilst Zurich, Basel and Berne were stops on our city days.

Portillo also visited Montreux, one stop that we didn’t make on that 80’s trip, but I did stop off on the Lake Geneva shoreline a few years later although there was no smoke on the water during that visit…

Portillo’s next stop? Morocco, but whether he calls in at Rick’s Cafe American is yet to be revealed!

And finally we have Coast.

There are a few boxed sets of this on the shelves downstairs, but I must admit to being a little disappointed when the new series started last week.

The reason? The mix of new footage was good, but there were too many clips from previous series for my liking. I will take a look at tonight’s instalment to see whether things improve, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for a new segment to appear and to appeal to regular viewers…

Mind you, I gather that Neil Oliver has also made Coast New Zealand, so hopefully that will be coming our way soon.

On a different note, watching the footage of Geneva on Great Continental Railway Journeys brought back memories of wandering around that city.

Most of it was written up for a travel piece in The Northern Echo newspaper back in the day.

What did surprise me was that one line stayed in the article and was published in all its glory.

It referred to an observation made whilst walking from our digs to the railway station for the train to Geneva Airport

The ladies of the night working the day shift.

New books and sparkies…

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Yes, it’s Tavira again – one of the first pics to appear on wisepacking.

Most of the morning has been taken up in going back for the future.

No, I haven’t taken delivery of a DeLorean, but I have been going back to the roots of wisepacking and looking at early posts from 2014.

Little did I know how it would develop. There have been a few hiccups, but I wouldn’t have guessed that visitors would come from all over the globe.

I expected views from the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and others from the usual suspects, but I didn’t expect views from Nepal, Turks & Caicos, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador, Qatar, American Samoa and South Sudan.

The reason I’m going back to wisepacking’s roots is simple – there’s a work in progress which involves taking a look at what I’ve written over the last two years, updating it, editing and ensuring that the spelling is in English English rather than the American English that my word processing software keeps trying to correct it to…

Some 15,000 words are in the document file and I suspect that the end result may be around three times that word count.

The plan is to publish a Kindle book when the backpacker travel season kicks in and to update/upgrade or remake/remodel when necessary.

It’s just a short posting today as there’s a sparky (electrician to the uninitiated) coming along to look at the house lights after a problem occurred on Saturday afternoon.

We’re not dancing in the dark, but wandering around upstairs is being done carefully pace the sun’s gone down. Fortunately we have a street light out the front, so leaving the blind open on the landing helps overnight.

We’re not going to have power or indeed Wi-Fi later on, so the writing is done for now, the email needs to be checked and the Kindle pulled out when the power goes off.

In the beginning…

Okay, what started it all?

My first visit to the Lake District some 42 years ago as part of my Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award expedition training. The venture had been arranged through school and our expedition trainers from Number 3 Army Youth Team, Royal Engineers. It was also the first trip away that didn’t involve any kind of parental presence!

We stayed in premises near The Golden Rule pub in Ambleside – a bunkhouse with basic cooking and washing facilities and enough beds for the Army guys, us and the teachers who had given up their weekend off to supervise us.

Yes, it was an all-male affair at that hut back in the early 1970s as the female contingent were staying at Ambleside Youth Hostel on the shores of Lake Windermere and they were doing different walks to us.

If memory serves me right, our first walk was over Scandale Pass to Brotherswater and then back over to Ambleside via Kirkstone Pass Inn. As we were all under age and there were teachers with us, there wasn’t the chance to down a pint at lunchtime, so thoughts were more focussed on the map reading and the surrounding countryside rather than staying on our feet and pointing ourselves in the right direction.

The odd half was enjoyed later in the day though after the walk as we cleaned up, ate at the baked potato bar in Ambleside and then hit some licensed premises without any teachers in tow…

Was it Worthington E or Watney’s Red Barrel? The name of the brew is lost in time, but the half went down well and my sensible head took over and ensured that it wasn’t followed by another one.

The second day’s walking was somewhat easier – over Loughrigg and back before getting back into Ambleside, picking up our holdalls and getting the bus back home.

That first trip wasn’t the last one as most of us went on our first camping venture for the Award – to Neaum Crag camp site near Skelwith Bridge. Then came a winter venture based at Ambleside Youth Hostel with a day on Fairfield and a snowball fight with the teachers on Loughrigg… But I’d already been bitten by the bug on that first trip.

In the years since then I’ve walked in the UK, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, France, Spain, done some climbing and biking, headed out on cross-country skis in Norway, Austria, Scotland and County Durham and travelled to a few other places too to see what’s out there.

I’ve also been an instructor for a local authority where part of my remit was to train youngsters up for the expedition section of The Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award and last, but not least, I became a writer on a range of walking and other outdoor/travel titles and worked on the magazine that had helped nurture my early interest in the outdoors – Climber.

When the latter came calling, i’d successfully gone from rock to rock as I’d been a music writer for a few years too doing live reviews, album reviews and interviews too. Oh, and had managed a trio of bands too. 160 bands in a year? That’ll do nicely!

The skills learned in the 1970s and at Glenmore Lodge when I did my Mountain Leader training in the 1980s are still used, but not as often as they used to be after a stroke a few years ago. Sometimes I can do thirteen miles in a day, sometimes it’s four – it just depends on how I’m feeling at the time. The memories don’t go away though as I found out when Caroline and I headed to the Lakes last year.

We’d found an apartment near Ambleside whilst trawling the internet for accommodation. Small, comfortable and just what we needed to do some walking, photography or cycling as the leaves changed colour in time for Autumn.

By sheer coincidence, the apartment was part of the complex at Neaum Crag near Skelwith Bridge that emerged when the camp site I’d visited in the 1970s was closed down in the 1980s….