Using the Camper Van as a base, we are attempting a bit of a seasonal round-trip, hoping the weather doesn't hit us too hard, though we have packed plenty of thermal clothing!
Dashing for a bus after we came off the motorway, I managed to leave some favourite bits of my sketching kit behind in the van (carefully stashed in a separate bag for ease of access!), so was obliged to improvise!
Manchester Christmas markets...hence the rush..., so I hurredly found a compromise hardback notebook and a cheap pencil set in a little newsagents and settled for using the blank flyleaves for some sketching - needs must!
Then, baffled by the crowds and rows of cabin stalls in Albert Square, failing to connect with people, and confronted by officialdom to boot, I chickened out and dived into an Italian wine bar down a side street, restoring myself with a glass of wine and finding some enjoyment in drawing stacks of funny hats outside the stall in the street!
I was obliged to improvise and use my standby kit - Kuretake Watercolour Brushpens and my black Pentel brushpen mostly, and I discovered a pocket brushpen (its converter filled with plain water) to use with my little pot of white gouache, although of course I
pen and wash techniques.
Still - useful practice, and I hoped to do better the next day! The bored stallholder wasn't selling many hats, and enquirers were merely whizzing past after a brief admiring look, so not much chance of 'people practice' while drawing!
Still, I was booked in at a hostel in the Northern Quarter, and was optimistic that advertised WiFi facilities would enable me to lay detailed plans !
I'm an experienced hosteller, so discovering that the lift to the fourth floor was for staff only was really the only difficulty I found here.
I could prepare food and make a hot drink (milk supplied - great!) in the self-catering kitchen, AND there was a chill-out room downstairs available 24hours (essential standby in case of snoring room companions!)
Some modern hostels provide curtained individual bunk berths, which provide optimum privacy as well as freedom, as one is much less likely to disturb anyone, and glaring 'top' dormitory lights can be screened out! However, as I was not familiar with this particular hostel, I had with me my own precautionary screening in the shape of a number of long scarves, and it wasn't long before I was comfortably ensconsed in my own personal 'cave'!
The contents of my sketching stool/knapsack came up trumps, for a change...here's the list!
1) Silk kimono/dressing gown - I've had this luxury for years. It's very comfortable, and packs small, and is a necessary in case of nightime trips to shared bathroom facilities! Said bathroom here proved an unexpected delight, furnished with amazing antique Victorian sanitary ware - a real rarity!
2) Night things - the bare minimum, including above-mentioned scarves, a small microfibre travel towel, toothbrush, and a flannel 'pocket' containing my soap, a little Led night light (not many hostels provide individual bed lights), ....oh, and an extension board, often offered for sharing between several dormitory occupants!
3) By far the biggest and heaviest items are a rather ancient and heavy Mac laptop - definitely in need of replacement at the earliest opportunity and a box of inks and paints (unusable without a paintbrush, which of course was in the camper van)
It didn't take me long to make myself some cocoa, plug everything in and retire for the night!
Blyth's Art Shop, where I indulged myself with a new sketch pad (brown paper is brilliant for sketching on, and these pads have super-stiff hard covers) and a Chinese mixed-hair brush.
Stevenson's Square provided the opportunity to paint some of the Autumn colours I was delighted to discover still remained on the trees, while 'Eastern Bloc' next door provided excellent pecan pie , hot drinks and an outside table to work at! Bliss!
A passer-by even took a photo of me from above!
I was even able to search out a camera shop for the computer peripheral I needed without too much difficulty , before catching the bus to Alderley Edge where we were camping. Amazingly , this tiny Caravan Club Certificated Location offers WiFi as well as hot water facilities and washing machines!