Caribbean challenge

And, as always, stay smiling and live life to the full…

P1 COVER LD4 lowIt’s been a horrific time in the Caribbean. Hurricanes Irma and Maria have battered the region, leaving thousands homeless.

Producing the latest issue of ZiNG (the inflight magazine of Caribbean airline LIAT) at this time was tricky – and, of course, completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But we had to assess how we dealt with disaster – which hit right at the end of our production schedule. A few articles had to be tweaked, and the forward features plan rewritten, to make sure upcoming issues of the magazine can be as much help as possible to communities trying to rebuild.

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Walking in air

Then it happens. Dave opens the throttle and I’m whooping with abandon. I can’t help it. And then we’re up, and I whoop louder. Yell and wheeze and holler and splutter, my euphoria battling the onrushing wind. We spend 10 minutes or so in the air (though it feels longer), Dave tossing me like a plaything over fields of golden rapeseed and rippling green…

BL_WINGWALKING_055The things you do to earn a buck. When an editor asked if I’d like to give wing walking a try, I felt I couldn’t really say no. I sort-of wanted to (you want me to stand ON TOP of a FLYING plane??!). But these opportunities are rare so I said yes and then tried to forget all about it until the moment I was strapped to a beautiful Boeing Stearman, propellor picking up speed just below my feet.

It was, in short, an amazing experience. And one that I was delighted to write about both for Boundless (the magazine of the Civil Service Motoring Association) and for the Telegraph. The only problem is, how do you follow that?

Image by Oliver Edwards

Rail writings

Trains are a little bit like time machines. There’s just something about them that seems able to whisk us back to a bygone age when travel was new, exciting and overspilling with possibilities and romance…

519Trlhp8+LI love a good train trip. India, the USA, Switzerland, Clapham Junction… So a little earlier this year, I was thrilled at the publication of my second book, A History of the World in 500 Railway Journeys.

The rail rides compiled here tell the stories of our planet, from trips through ancient canyons to pootles along lines built by prisoners during the Second World War. Fascinating to research and, hopefully, an enjoyable read!

King of news

We will crush many myths. Not only the one about the horned helmets…

MonarchNewsPassport, Monarch Airlines’ inflight magazine, was given a new look recently. And the publisher asked me if I’d put together the new-look news section.

It was good to forage around the Monarch route network, looking for fun, topical and relevant stories, working out what would suit the client AND make a good read. It was a bit finger-in-the-air for the first issue, but having been asked to do the same for the following one, I was able to be a bit more creative and devise some regular formats, which I’ll hopefully get the chance to develop over time.

And who doesn’t love a story about Vikings?

Walking with the crowds

There was a lot of mud. There were bodies in bright outfits all shuffling together. And it was certainly noisy – the wind hollered and buffeted like heavy metal at full volume. But there ended the likeness to a traditional British festival. Up on the top of Mynydd Troed in February, I’d joined ramblers rather than ravers for this outdoors celebration, the Crickhowell Walking Festival. No camping. Better food. And a chance to discover whether countryside hiking – often undertaken to escape the crowds – is actually best done with other people.

crickhowell-walking-festival2-largeA walking festival, in Wales, in winter? A supremely soggy but super commission!

Walking festivals seem to be cropping up all over the place these days, and – as someone who usually prefers to walk alone – I was keen to find out what the fuss was about. So I pitched a piece on Crickhowell Walking Festival to the Telegraph, which involved heading to south Wales on a damp weekend to get out into the hills with a load of other people.

The result? Rain, of course. As well as excellent food and company, and the sort of scenery that’s a joy to behold  – and leaves you vowing to return on a weekend with better weather.

Accompanying the main first person piece was a round-up of other great walking festivals across the UK this year. Time to start planning…

Best Loved West

As the wave hits, I spin and splutter. Fingers of freezing water sneak beneath my rubber armour. Blinking through the white-frothed blue, I see an even bigger swell bearing down, about to deliver another salty slap. Here it comes… Boooooooooooooooooof!

double-jump-768x467I love the West Country. I feel privileged to live in it. And would count walking around the edge of it (via the South West Coast Path) one of the best things I have ever done.

I also thoroughly enjoyed leaping off it, when I went coasteering along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. So it was a delight to write about this wet-n-wild experience for the latest Best Loved Hotel and Travel Guide. If my words inspire one more person to don a wetsuit and fling themselves (safely) amid the wild waves and ancient rocks, it will be a job well done!

Stone me!

Sitting atop a 180-year-old stallion, just off Britain’s ancient Ridgeway, I watched a man meditating inside an extraterrestrial doodle. From my vantage, by the rump of a huge chalk figure – Hackpen Hill’s White Horse – I saw the man stroll amid a crop circle of alien (or prankster?) flattened wheat before pausing in the centre to commune, I presumed, with Martians or Mother Nature. This is the sort of thing that happens when you go walking in Wiltshire, a county whose maps are scrawled with more gothic font than you can wave a dowsing rod at.

IMG_4593It’s funny. Sometimes you can spend an age coming up with exotic feature ideas about far-flung lands in an attempt to secure that editor’s commission. Then sometimes you just happen to go on a lovely little local walk, for fun, and subsequently manage to sell multiple pieces without even thinking about it.

When the boyfriend and I set off on the Great Stones Way (which runs from ‘exotic’ Swindon to Salisbury), it was for his belated birthday present. But I thought I’d take my notebook, just in case…

As so often happens when you’re not supposed to be travelling for work, the trip turned out to be a great story. When we got home, I pinged out a few emails and managed to place pieces with the Telegraph (extracted above), Wanderlust, Wild-Bounds.com and English Heritage. The perfect scenario.

So the moral of this tale? Obviously I need to pitch more stories on Swindon!