Crossing Paths – a daily commute (part 1)

Tambourine manDachshund GuyI walk to and from work every day; a good 40 minute march.  It’s a great way to wake up on a dark winter’s morning when getting out of bed is an effort and your bowl of porridge hasn’t quite started to kick in.   I stick my earplugs in and listen to one of 4 Podcasts.  BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, BBC 4’s Saturday Live, BBC 4’s Mid-week or Helen and Olly’s Answermethispodcast.com.  The latter tempers the former and is not for sensitive ears.

As you would expect, I pass the same people day after day and ponder their being:  what are they like?  Do they have a partner?  Where do they work?  Why are they wearing that? Gosh I love their dog, maybe I’ll stop them so I can stroke it….

I decided to draw a few of the characters to give you a flavour – I recently  showed the drawings to a friend who walks the same route, albeit a little earlier than me.  She recognised most of the people, so I’m satisfied that I’ve managed to capture them fairly accurately.  She even shared one or two of her own commuter people. Now she texts me in the morning to say…hey, I passed ‘Greggs Man’, and I respond to say ‘I think I passed red-headed-duvet-jacket lady’!

So the next couple of posts are just sketches (no polishing) of some of the… <sings> “people that I meet when I’m walking down the street…they’re the people that I meet….each day!” (Sesame Street, People in your Neighbourhood)

Cephalopod Encounters

OctopusesDid you know that the plural of octopus is octopuses or octopodes? Me neither. According to the dictionary, octopi is definitely wrong.

I’ve recently come to learn that octopuses are AWESOME! During our holiday in Greece we bumped into an octopus on three separate occasions. The waters around Kefalonia are crystal clear and bursting with interesting marine life; perfect for snorkeling. So, on one bright, warm day we headed out on an excursion with Jamie, a marine biologist, whose main area of study was octopuses, hence my sudden interest in them.

Our transportation for the day was a traditional Greek working boat or Kaiki which sailed us around the coast, stopping along the way to drop anchor so we could learn about urchins, starfish, eels, sea cucumbers and octopuses. Jamie, kept us rapt with tales of Greek mythology, mafia and marine life in between our snorkeling adventures when were left to explore the bays and mingle with the fish.

Within moments of taking our first dip into the water I stumbled upon an octopus gliding across the seabed – what luck! I squealed with excitement through my snorkel and called for Jamie who swiftly caught it, but not before it squirted us with ink and wowed us with its ability to change a variety of colours in a matter of seconds.

Back on board the boat, we stood over the little guy who eyeballed intently before trying to climb out of the temporary aquarium using its suckers. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, I couldn’t help touching it. It probably goes without saying that feeling an octopus’s tentacles wrap around your hand is weird and slightly alarming – for a moment I thought it might never let go. After a few interesting octopus anecdotes we put him back in the water and watched him swim away.

Here are some things I learnt:

  • An octopus can get through a hole the size of a ten pence piece (if you don’t believe me, I found a video on YouTube. Essentially, if its eyes can get through a hole, then so can the rest of it
  • Their tentacles will grow back should they accidentally lose one in a fight or to prey
  • They make little nests that look like miniature fortresses
  • They live about two years
  • They can survive out of the water for 3-5 minutes (possibly more?)
  • After mating, the male dies
  • Greek people love to eat them 😦

Below: A photo I took from the end of the pier near our apartment in Fiscardo – this chap was happily minding his own business.

Octopus

 

Below: our transportation for the day.

 

The boat

A Brit Abroad

Greece_ToiletsI promised to share more cartoons of my recent Greek holiday and so…  If you’re not a frequent visitor of the Aegean and Ionian islands (or indeed parts of mainland Greece), you may not be aware aware that the sewerage system is somewhat antiquated and unable to cope with anything other than organic matter.  Therefore, every toilet is equipped with a bin into which all non-organic matter must be placed.

This took some getting used to and on several occasions I found myself accidentally contravening the rules of the washroom in a moment of distraction.   I feared for the town as pieces of my paper found their way into the system to clog a rusty pipe or wrap around a vital bit of machinery.  I imagined embarrassing scenarios; a flooded apartment, surly looking Greek men with plungers tutting menacingly and me plaintively muttering “it wasn’t me Gov”.

I found myself chanting ‘PAPER IN THE BIN. PAPER IN THE BIN’ in order to focus the mind and the memory before every trip to the loo.  Thankfully we were all spared the potential messy consequences of my action and on my return to the UK, I vowed never to take our sewerage system for granted.

Next week – encounters with a cephalopod!

I’ve been away

A combination of lack of inspiration, a new job, holidays and general laziness have been conspiring against me over the past few months.  I’ve hardly put pen to paper except to doodle in the margins of my notepad during exceptionally boring meetings.

I envy those comic artists and illustrators who manage to pour their creativity onto paper  week in and week out; keeping the masses entertained with unwavering dedication.

I recently took time out to holiday in Greece. Kefalonia to be precise.  Despite my love of crisp autumnal mornings and streets scattered with crunchy brown and yellow leaves (if we’re lucky – usually it’s soggy, wet, mouldy leaf litter and unpredictable weather), I think a short stint in warmer climes is good for the soul.

Every day for a week, I tentatively opened the curtains (as I would do in the UK) wondering whether the skies would be dark and foreboding, and every day I was delighted by clear blue skies and golden sunrise.

During the first couple of days, two things stood out.  The first, which I’ve drawn in this post, was the extraordinary number of ferrel cats.  Unbeknownst to me, Kefalonia is often referred to as the Island of Cats.   They are everywhere, lurking in alleyways, behind walls, under cars, in supermarkets, beneath bushes and in restaurants.  Always watching.  If you feel something brush against your leg or catch some movement out of the corner of your eye, it’s likely to be a cat slinking past you.  Not one meal was consumed without a handful of cats watching us put every forkful of food to our mouths.  This was the first thing that made me put pen to paper in weeks.

Cats

A little excerpt from my sketch pad! catsMy second observation (amongst others) will be covered in my next post or posts (depending on my mood) so stay tuned!

Close encounters of the herd kind

Image

close encountersLast weekend we headed down to Shropshire for a change of scenery and a spot of camping.  We’ve been camping every year for nearly 15 years and every year I’m filled with excitement at the ‘idea’ of communing with nature, cooking over an open stove and exploring my surroundings.  Somehow, the reality never quite lives up to the ‘idea’.  But, in a masochistic sort of way, I enjoy the uncomfortable sleeping, the 5am dawn chorus, the rain showers and leaky tents, the midges, the toilets located 5 minutes from your pitch and the cold nights etc.

This year was particularly cold after we forgot to bring some vital equipment, namely the sleeping bags (amongst other things).  Before you judge, I recently spoke to a friend who forgot the family tent on one trip, so my incompetency levels haven’t quite hit rock bottom.

This year our destination was The Buzzards a delightful little campsite (listed in Tiny Campsites, by Dixie Wills) on an organic smallholding.  Elaine, the owner, is full of beans and more than happy to help you with anything you may need (including sleeping bags!).  She handily sits on the tourism board for the area so can supply you with a leaflet or map for every nook and cranny worth visiting in the area.   If you fancy exploring some quintessentially English villages, taste testing cider, tromping around medieval ruins and beautiful countryside, then Shropshire is a good choice.

Now to the cartoon.  Yes this did happen.  We did get chased by a large herd of cows (approximately 22 of them) across two fields and over a fence.  I have video footage though it is mainly of the ground whizzing past as I run for safety – accompanied by a soundtrack of “wait for me” and “oh my God!” and lots of heavy breathing.  On reflection, I think the cows were more intent on getting a closer look at us, but having read numerous stories of people being trampled to death, I didn’t want to take any chances by facing up to them.  Except of course to film it!

Overheard on the bus

on the busI love people watching on the bus, you hear all sorts.  My other half came home chuckling the other day and told me about this conversation between a mother and her 5yr old(ish) child.  What a bizarre thing for a small child to think of.  Apparently it had the whole bus in hysterics.  I wonder if it is worth spending a week or so travelling around the city, drawing interesting conversations…

Holiday UK #10 – A Romantic Dinner

ship innThis is the last in my series of holiday cartoons.  There is no diary entry for this cartoon but it comes at the end of yesterday’s entry.  After a full day driving in the rain, we decided to dine in the comfort of a local pub at Lerryn, the Ship Inn.  It had Wifi so we spent several hours making up for lost time by updating Facebook, Twitter and checking emails.  Until this point we hadn’t really missed our electronic connection with the big, wide world but on a cold, drizzly evening, we couldn’t resist the temptation.

Holiday UK #9 – Aerial Crime

seagullExcerpt from holiday diary 1st July:

“Parked at the National Trust Car Park at Frogmore (157516) and made our way down to the coast at Lantivet Bay.  The sun was out and the sea was a beautiful turquoise, you could almost imagine you were in the Mediterranean.  On arrival at Polruan, we hopped on a water taxi to Fowey to join the throngs of German tourists and to tuck into a delicious smoked Mackerel and Beetroot Bagel from the delightful Lifebuoy Cafe.  We tried to take our usual “lunch with a view” photo (we have a series of these taken on various walks around the country) when a seagull swooped down from nowhere to grab my bagel.”  

Driving CornwallExcerpt from holiday diary 2nd July:

Windy and drizzling today – what a contrast to yesterday.  After a few false starts we end up on the way to the North Coast.  First stop, Rock. Well, the Rock pier car park for a loo stop.  Rock is a rather posh village on the other side of the estuary to Padstow (you can cross from Rock to Padstow on a foot ferry). The village is dotted with high end clothing stores, restaurants, bistros and cafes… 

…I was unimpressed by the drive to Polzeath – we didn’t really have a destination in mind.  The Bee Centre? Vineyards? Cider Farm?  We finally decide on Lanhydrock where we’ve been before, but in the dark on an impromptu ghost hunt with mum and dad.”

Holiday UK #8 – The Camel Trail

Camel TrailExcerpt from holiday diary 30th June:

“A leisurely breakfast on the first grey day we’ve had this holiday.  We walked from the campsite and our cosy camping pod at Ruthern Valley to the Camel Trail at Grogley Halt. Onwards to Wadebridge, dodging cyclists and taking in the Cornish countryside. At Wadebridge,  we hired bicycles and pedalled the remaining 5.5 miles of the trail to Padstow. A bit of a mooch around before being overwhelmed by the crowds jostling through the narrow streets, eating pasties, licking ice creams, nipping in and out of galleries and tat shops and generally taking in the atmosphere.  Rick Stein has really popularised this little seaside town much to the locals’ chagrin.”