Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not just on the cutting room floor!

# "Hey, hey, it's a working day... Hey, hey, it's a working day..." - Ben Folds (with Nick Hornby)

So here we are at the end of the year - it's personally been a good year for myself and my writing - I've managed to close the cover on my first adventure novel and begun work on my third with the working title "my gnome gnovel" (where's the second novel, I hear you ask? Well, wait for my 2013 Review and 2014 Preview posts in January and February next year to read more...) But the other great thing to come out of lucky '13 for me is that I've been fortunate enough to advance and hone my creative skills in the field of video editing, exploring the zany world of special effects and indulging my passion for all things film - and best of all, this was all during working at my "day job"...

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Summer of Cycling!

# "Destiny was calling Monday afternoon, Wednesday you'll be crawling and you'll pray to be there soon, with sports and wine, yeah, yeah... Sports and wine, no, no..." - Ben Folds Five

I don't really consider myself to be a "sporty" person - I like to casually dip in and out of playing badminton and enjoy swimming and running in my spare time as ways to help take my imagination off whichever scribbles I happen to be doodling with at any one time (although inevitably, my mind ALWAYS wanders back to my writing during these periods of exercise and exertion, but maybe that's the productive point of the distraction!) - anyway, recently I decided to invest in a new mode of transport to get myself to and from my day job as a way to break the boredom of taking the train and bus (and in an effort to at least "try" to get a bit fitter in my old age...)

So this month, I thought I'd bring a different kind of post with some photos of my two-wheeled adventures on a folding bike this past summer...  


(See if you can guess
exactly where these shots were taken!)


Friday, September 20, 2013

Adventures Past #5: Euro '03 - "The Good, the Bad and the Life-Changing"

# "Slow down, you crazy child and take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile... It's all right, you can afford to lose a day or two... When will you realise, Vienna waits for you?" # - Billy Joel


Using my blog journal this past summer to look back over our European trip of a decade ago, lots more memories have resurfaced about where we went and what happened over those fateful 2 months than were originally scribbled down in the articles I sent back home for a local newspaper...  I realised how much I'd actually missed out about the real day-to-day existence of a weary backpacker, living on a budget of 30 Euros a day, simply because for those article submissions, I only had a certain amount of word space to fit the whole adventure into...

So for this final look back, I wanted to give a bit more of a balanced view on our wide-eyed travels across the European continent, from the distance of a decade later, weighing up not just the good (and great) things that we came back from our trip having experienced, but also the not-so-good - yet, still everything that happened added to the experience and was certainly "character building" for the people we are today...


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Adventures Past #4: "On the Home Straight..."

# "I may take a holiday in Spain, leave my wings behind me...
Flush my worries down the drain and fly away to somewhere new..." - Counting Crows

10 years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to take a 2-month break
from "my day job" at the time and embark on an epic trip around Europe...
My travelling companion was the person who little did I realise then
would one day become my wife,
and we were travelling with the Busabout network.
I wrote a collection of articles en route and sent them back home
to the Northern Cross newspaper via small net cafes all around Europe...
These are those scribbles from the humble pen
of a wannabe European correspondent...
(C.G.Allan, Summer 2013)

(5th of July to 12th of August 2003 – “Italy & Spain, and Home again!”)

Like something from a sci-fi novel, these Venice pods
predicted the future fashion of 'glamping' by a decade!
In Venice we stayed at a campsite -  the first of three in Italy – and were pleasantly surprised at our cabin.  It was almost like a caravan back home!  The only thing that bugged us about the camping ground was the huge mosquitoes that lurked around looking for trouble.  We quickly bought some insect repellent to ward them off...

Venice was every bit how I imagined it would be – a maze of streets which we enjoyed getting lost in and beautiful buildings lining the waterlines.  The canals didn’t smell either, which was a great surprise to me after everyone warned us they would back home!

We found St. Mark’s Square after stopping at every shop to admire the Venetian glass-work and had our lunch on some steps there.   We shared our lunch with the many pigeons there who happily sat on our arms and pecked away at  the crumbs.

We got inside St. Mark’s Basilica itself after a huge queue and being checked that we were dressed appropriately.  Waiting to get inside was worth it because the interior of St. Mark’s is amazing, with gold being the main decorating feature...


Monday, July 15, 2013

Adventures Past #3: "Eastward Ho!"

# "Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land... Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion!" # - Billy Joel

10 years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to take a 2-month break
from "my day job" at the time and embark on an epic trip around Europe...
My travelling companion was the person who little did I realise then
would one day become my wife,
and we were travelling with the Busabout network.
I wrote a collection of articles en route and sent them back home
to the Northern Cross newspaper via small net cafes all around Europe...
These are those scribbles from the humble pen
of a wannabe European correspondent...
(C.G.Allan, Summer 2013)

(Czech Republic to Munich - Tues 24th June to Fri 4th July, 2003)

Climbing the hills to the castle was a lasting memory...
We hit the Czech Republic on Tuesday the 24th of June after going through a check on the border with a guard who wanted to see all Canadian and Australian travel visas – apparently they can’t get into the country without one...

The first thing to get used to was the Czech currency – “Krone”.  £40 was about 1700 Krone!  It took me a while to get my head around this but I missed using the distinctive coins and notes once we moved on again.

The centre of city life in Prague
is the bustling Charles Bridge
I felt a bit under the weather on our first full day in Prague but we still went out into the city to do the touristy things and had a great time – it seems so safe here and there’s quite a laid back atmosphere as you walk around the old streets (apparently Prague was spared any bombing whatsoever during the War and it shows – the buildings are classical in every sense of the word!)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Adventures Past #2: "Goodbye White Cliffs"

# "I am an opera singer,  I sing in foreign lands...  I've sung for Kings in Europe... and emperors in Japan!" - Cake #

10 years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to take a 2-month break
from "my day job" at the time and embark on an epic trip around Europe...
My travelling companion was the person who little did I realise then
would one day become my wife,
and we were travelling with the Busabout network.
I wrote a collection of articles en route and sent them back home
to the Northern Cross newspaper via small net cafes all around Europe...
These are those scribbles from the humble pen
of a wannabe European correspondent...
(C.G.Allan, Summer 2013)

(Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin - Sunday 15th of June, 2003 to Tuesday 24th June, 2003)

Our European adventure has begun!  We began in Paris where we stayed in the Montmarte area.  It
Montmarte was where one of
our favourite films was set...
was rush hour when we arrived and it was a real culture shock to step off our cosy coach, where everyone spoke English, onto a French street bustling with mopeds and pedestrians who were all in a hurry to get somewhere.

Once we settled in and muddled our way through the supermarket, scouring our memories for our GCSE French skills, we found our way up to Sacre Coeur - the Church of "the Sacred Heart" which sits on top of a huge hill overlooking Paris.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Adventures Past #1: A Lang Waak Yem...

# "I can go to Europe, travel with my friends... I can blow a thousand deutsche marks to get drunk in a pub with some Australians...  Buy a giant backpack... Sew a flag on the back..." - Barenaked Ladies

A first date to remember...
seeing a highly recommended film!

12 years ago to the day I went on a nervous first date with someone who I could little imagine I'd be sharing many adventures with over the oncoming decades of my younger adult life. One such joint-adventure was a 2-month epic journey into mainland Europe that around 10 years ago we were just a few short weeks away from embarking on....

I've decided, since I think it's worth remembering such huge milestones in your life, to recount those travels here on the blog, so here it begins - "these are the voyages..." of two green but enthusiastic travellers...  It was a life-changing trip for both of us and just like a certain Mr. Wise of the Shire, it was a journey where I more often than not had moments of epiphany when I'd pause and realise: "This is the furthest I've ever been from home..." (but always with a big grin on my face!)

That epic trek a decade ago this summer was also where I began work a-proper on the "Zip book" (a sort of backstory "Bible" guide to the universe of my first adventure novel - to read more about this, go back to my Official Writing Homepage and click on an object which looks as if I've scribbled lots of space-style story notes on it...)  As I travelled around on the coaches that carried us from country to country, crossing borders and checkpoints, that first novel took form in some shiny notebooks... and the book as a whole, I believe, was shaped by my experiences on the continent...


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Getting Animated!

# "Alright... You go, 'Ooh-eeh, ooh-ah-ah, ting-tang wallah-wallah, bing-bang!' # - The Cartoons

Recently I had the chance (finally) to see the new Hollywood movie version of Tintin after receiving it on Blu-Ray for my birthday and missing it last year at the cinema.  Now, I've made no secret over the years that I'm a huge fan of all FOUR Indiana Jones films and the movie experience I had watching "The Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn" really captured the original sense of adventure that thrilled me as a wide-eye kid watching The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade... (no surprise that it was also Spielberg who directed Tintin too!)
There was a lot of talk of the phenomenon of the "uncanny valley" when this movie came out, where animation is deemed to have moved that bit closer to mimicking real life actors and even though it's beautifully rendered and conceived, as an audience we're left with a sort of sick feeling because the 'manequins' up on screen are too eerily close to humans...  It's a strange one to get your head around but also an interesting concept for a writer, always striving to use his art to imitate real life...  All I know is, the closeness of the imagery to reality allowed me as a popcorn-loving thrill-seeker to become more immersed in the overall story (well-constructed from a couple of Hergé's original books by, among others, the present Dr. Who and fine-scribe boss Steven Moffat)...


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Carry-on Scribbling!

# "Round here we're carving out our names... Round here we all look the same... Round here we talk just like lions, but we sacrifice just like lambs... Round here..." # - Counting Crows

Usually, on my daily journeys back and forwards to the day job, I can be seen with a small bump strapped across my back.  It’s not a baby papoose (not yet at least, and I’m not sure my day job would necessarily appreciate me taking a child into work) but a small backpack…  Over the years, since beginning my working life, and of course during my carefree student days, I’ve selected a weird and wonderful range of “man bags” to help carry my ideas and scribble notebooks around with me, including an old gas mask bag (blame Indy!) and what I thought at the time was a cool-looking satchel, but now I’ve finally settled on what one friend congratulated me on recently as “the smallest bag you could find”.

Although I like to carry such an attachment with me, not only for my writing but also to carry my bait box and whichever books I have on the go at any given time (I usually have one fiction novel that I’m reading but always also carry a couple of non-fiction/reference books with me to leaf through), lugging around a huge touring backpack would not be my idea of daily fun, thus my hunt for the small knapsack style backpack that I use today…

My real purpose here though isn’t to pass on my recommendations of the type of bag a writer could get for themselves, (although after almost losing a whole chapter and a few writing notebooks, leaving my backpack on a train last year, I’d recommend any writer to become attached to their bags just to avoid being lost for words!), but this post is more to just take some time to reflect on the objects that I carry within my bag.  Each of them are important personally to me, but the act of carrying them is I guess a weird mix of pilgrimage and practicality, and is analogous with my journey as an amateur scribbler, in this early part of my writing life…


Thursday, February 28, 2013

"13 for '13..." a 2013 Writing PREVIEW!

# "And if you're paralyzed by a voice in your head, it's the standing still that should be scaring you instead... Go on and... do it anyway... Do it anyway!" # - Ben Folds Five

The number 13 is a number that seems to send chills across the faces and down the spines of many of my friends, but for me it's always been something of a lucky number, a good omen and one to watch out for when I'm looking for signs to lead the way...  I used to live at Number 13 not so long ago and it was a lovely house to call my own first home, and this baker's dozen of a number regularly makes an appearance on our lottery numbers, adding to the list of hopeful "lucky" digits that might one day come our way...

It's because of this that I met the new year of 2013 with a hopeful smile and a feeling of "this could be the year"... (well, you never know, right?!) and it got me into the frame of mind of just what I'd like to achieve with my scribble obsessions over the next 12 months... 


Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Fiction... that's a Fact!" (the 2012 Writing REVIEW!)

# "Runaway train never going back, wrong way on a one way track, seems like I should be getting somewhere..." # - Soul Asylum

Here's how I always start my new year of scribbles - it's how I like to begin my tale and it's how the story always opens... a review of the past year of my writing... This isn't just a vain exercise to say, "Ooh, look what I've done over the last 12 months!", it actually helps a wannabe writer to begin to take stock of a year that's often flown past and you're left wondering where the time's gone and how little you think you've achieved towards that Holy Grail of a publishing deal or super agent to guide you towards that goal...  So that's why each January, here on the blog I make a point of looking back and championing a few of the things that are small steps for most people but giant leaps for this humble jotterer...