Let’s Go Abroad

The Easter holidays had arrived, and I had decided to visit my parents in Spain (proper Spanish Spain in the mountains, I explain this every time as I subconsciously fear people imagining us as classic Brits abroad. Maybe we really are and just don’t know it). I hadn’t been out that way since I had got my dog the previous summer. I still didn’t have a post teaching plan but was very much looking forward to some down time and maybe putting in some serious thought on the subject.

xativa sketch_edit

Teaching abroad wasn’t an option I had considered seriously mostly due to being kind of over it by this point. However,  as I was in Spain anyway, I emailed the local international school and asked to have a look around. I had no frame of reference for teaching in Spain, what were the conditions like, working hours, salary, student mentality etc, it was worth looking into. The school  were more than happy for me to visit. They gave me a guided tour followed by asking me if I would come for an interview for a physics position they had available immediately. I thought, Why not?, so turned up at beautiful marbled school all shiny and slippery and expensive looking, designed to impress parents into spending large amounts of money to educate their children there.

I gave a spectacular interview.

I never heard from them again.

I didn’t want to work there anyway.

No really I didn’t. The pay was less than the UK, the working hours and holidays were similar, the workload was maybe lighter, there was a language barrier and general differences in behaviour expectations. From my point of view the pupils were chatty and rude. It didn’t seem like a great alternative to teaching in the UK.

So there you are, this isn’t a tale about taking a teaching job in Spain, rather a mini tale of being ghosted by a Spanish school after they asked me to interview.

Immediately after my Spain interview I knew it wasn’t for me so I sat outside in the Spanish sun and googled where in the world is it best to teach. On a random list, somewhere near the top was listed Kazakhstan with a link to a job advert in Astana and I thought why not? So I spent the next hour filling in their application form and sent it off.

This was the one and only application form I had submitted since handing in my notice.

So how’d that pan out? I’ll tell you next time.

bocairent sketch

The Futures I Didn’t Choose

I have a “retire by 40” plan.

It’s not very complicated.

It has 3 steps:

  • earn as much as I can
  • spend as little as possible
  • invest as securely and profitably as I am able.

Not particularly ground-breaking I hear you say, but I feel that by having this aim I am more conscious of my financial decisions and so should, in theory, at least end up retiring earlier than if I didn’t have a plan.

Now I didn’t have a job I would need to come up with a new way to earn as much as I could.

Options I considered for my future included:

  • Running away on my boat
  • Mooring somewhere permanently and tutoring
  • Starting a city farm/microgreens farm
  • Starting a small flower shop
  • Starting a small coffee bean shop
  • Teaching abroad
  • Opening an independent cinema
  • Getting another geophysics related job
  • Painting/crafting and selling at markets/online
  • Doing a Masters abroad in Big data or Remote sensing
  • Online study of Big data or Remote sensing
  • Carbooting

Running away

Running away on my boat was tempting, but sadly not a long-term solution on its own. Even without having to pay long-term mooring fees I would need to pay for diesel and the general boat upkeep and so would eventually need some sort of income. I could combine this with selling paintings and other creations or carbooting which may provide sufficient income to prevent using my savings too quickly. Tutoring was also a lucrative side-line, one I had pursued whilst teaching and could easily continue but would require a more stable location or to branch into online tutoring. Irregular methods of income like these could also provide the time for online study giving wider career options in the future, plus I just really love learning new things.

Sadly for now, this is not a tale about escaping the rat-race and living an idyllic life on the waterways, maybe one day.

watercolour boats

Starting a business

With savings in the bank it may have been the perfect time to start some form of business. I spent a fair amount of time researching various ideas. The cinema, although a dream I’ve had for a while, my savings would not cover and I couldn’t find a viable building available on the market. The flower shop idea smelt good and included the perfect perishable product but after considering the early mornings, markets and general hassle I realised I wasn’t actually that interested in flowers. It was at this stage the coffee bean shop idea occurred to me. It too smells great and is a consumable, and in the current age there is a lot of interest in different beans and roasts, I still think this idea could be a good future plan, maybe for my next adventure.

This is definitely not a tale of taking on a brave new business venture in a difficult economic climate, rather a tale of pipe-dreams without any real substance, but who knows maybe one day I’ll flesh one of them out.

A proper job

Re-entering the world of geophysics seemed to many to be the obvious choice. My degree was in geophysics and before I became a teacher I worked for a couple of companies as a geophysicist. The difficulty with this option was that most of my experience was in the oil industry and quite frankly it bored me to tears. I had no intention of returning to a dull, 9-5 office job. Consequently It would be best to gain some current training in a different area of geophysics which lead back to online or university study.

This is also not a tale about doing the sensible, grown up thing and getting a stable job in an industry I’m familiar with. Frankly who would want to write about that, let alone read about it.

magcmb
Radial magnetic field at CMB (University of Liverpool)

Studying

Going back to university was tempting as I love getting a new piece of paper with my name on, no really, not being sarcastic, I love getting qualifications. Initially I looked specifically at overseas masters as many of them have no course fees, however most would be costly in other ways, mainly living expenses. So I moved on to considering UK based courses, they weren’t free, but if I studied at a university near a canal network I could live on my boat and so save considerably on living costs. After a bit more thought and a few spreadsheets I concluded the amount spent on course fees, plus living expenses, plus the amount lost due to not earning that year, added up to a sum that would require many years to recoup in theoretical extra earnings. As I mentioned earlier, I love learning new things so I would enjoy the process, but it would likely put a dent in my “retire by 40” plan.

In case you were wondering, this isn’t a tale about becoming a mature student, retraining, fulfilling my potential and achieving my career goals. I mean that might be worth writing and reading about, but nope, just wasn’t feeling it.

So if these are the futures I didn’t choose, what did I do? I’ll tell you next time.

Daily doodles – the best of the rest

Way, way back, at the end of 2015 I started a daily doodle challenge. I did complete the challenge however never did get around to posting the doodles for the second half of the year. So here is a best of the rest from that challenge. During this time I discovered Posca pens and thoroughly enjoyed developing a new style which has become integral to a lot of what I do currently (more on this coming soon).

Quitting My Teaching Job!

At the start of these tales I was a 29 year old physics teacher in the UK. I lived happily on my narrowboat on the edge of the Cotswolds with my lovely dog Margot named after Margot Leadbetter (The Good Life). Getting to this stage had involved many spur of the moment decisions based on whims and impulse and I can’t say I regret any of them. Maybe I’ll tell you about some of them one day, but I feel I have to start somewhere so here’s as good a point as any.

cirencester market sketch

Quitting

I hadn’t always been a teacher and knew from the start I wasn’t going to be a teacher for long. As much as I enjoyed working with my colleagues, conditions in British schools are not conducive to an enjoyable career. So after a 1.5 years teaching I handed in my notice, I’d say it was on a whim, but I’d been thinking about it for a while, I was just waiting for January to pass so I could be sure it wasn’t January blues talking.

I’ve found that once people know you’ve quit they all have some variation of the same question:

“What are you going to do next?”

I didn’t have a clue and this seemed to confuse and concern them. They couldn’t grasp the idea of just quitting, it didn’t make sense. I must do something, I would need a job surely, wasn’t I worried about that. I wasn’t really. I’ve always kept an eye on my finances, lived carefully and saved a good percentage of my income. I would never have allowed myself to quit if I wasn’t confident I could support myself. I had my boat, my mooring and my savings, plus no mortgage, no kids, no partner and few bills, I was accountable to no-one and pretty much sorted.

Of course, inevitably I did do something and next post I will let you in on some of the myriad of possibilities I considered.

night docks

A Long Overdue Daily Doodle 23 day update (June 2016)

It has been ages since I uploaded me daily doodles. Rest assured I have been doodling daily, it just seemed such a hassle to scan them all in, but finally I have managed it, at least for June. I’m still enjoying the use of my tanned scrapbook, and the new Posca pens. In fact I treated myself to set so I now have more than just black and white.

Enjoy this set of doodles whilst you can, because July brings with it  bit of an uninspired spell. But before we get there, appreciate the bright, vivid colours of this lot, because I have. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but it would have to be either the pig, the chicken or the jaguar.

Oil Pastels & Posca Pens, A Daily Doodle Update- 19 Day Update (May – June 2016)

19 more daily doodles lie ahead. A great highlight of this bunch is some new art materials. I got my hands on a 36 pack of Faber-Castel oil pastels second hand (hardly used) for 3 Euro! I used to love working in oil pastels, they give such bold colours, and there is a childish, hands-on feel to them that makes me smile; they’re kind of like a more sophisticated version of wax crayons.

I also splashed on on 2 Posca paint pens. I’d heard such great things about their versatility and thickness of pigment I thought I’d give them a go. I bought a white one about 2 mm thick and a black about 1 mm thick. The black is great, though my scratchy toned scrap book I’ve been using is a bit hard on the nib, but the white is a little disappointing. The pigment is a bit weak and Doesn’t really paint over dark colours as well as I’d hoped. One of my greatest missions in life is to find the perfect white pen/pencil for art highlights, as yet I haven’t found it.

I’m trying to cut down on animations based doodles, but there’s still a few; they’re a comfortable fall back when I don’t know what to do. They’re also relatively easy, look clean and tidy with little effort and I am inherently lazy; they are the easy option. There’s a couple more architectural type doodles,  these are a newly discovered favorite of mine. I have only really started to draw buildings this year so I have the daily doodle challenge to thank for this discovery.

So without further ado, here are 19 doodles, judge for yourself whether the new art supplies were worth my excitement.

The 52 Week Illustration Challenge – April and May 2016

Here are 2 months of illustration challenge entries. They are still losing out to my daily doodles for time and effort but some of them turn out well. In fact once more I have been one of the picks of the week! All but one of the entries over the last 2 months I have drawn from imagination, which I consider to be progress. Only the magpie was based on a photo, and even that got suitably altered.

The prompts were as follows: week 14 – camping, week 15- ocean, week 16- mirror, week 17 – collector, week 18- grandmother, week 19 – adventure, week 20 – still life and week 21 – ink.

Week 21 – ink is the week for which my image was selected as a pick of the week. You can check out the 52 week illustration challenge blog here to see the other chosen images for that week and all the other weeks.

Daily Doodle – 19 Day Update (May 2016)

A bit of a mixed bag the last few weeks. There’s been a few practice days and a few sketches that I spent a long time on. I’m still drawing a lot of movie and T.V. based pictures, but I’ve branched out and started trying to use toned paper; it’s amazing, why didn’t I use it before! You may have to take my word for it though as it doesn’t photograph very well.

I have created my very first sketchbook tour video on youtube, so if you want to hear what i have to say about my first sketchbook of daily doodles then click sketchbook tour video.

I have also done my first time-lapse video of a full sketch, in this case it is the peregrine falcon from 07/05/16. You can find this at Falcon time-lapse video.

Check out the videos, like, comment and share if you feel so inclined.

 

What If? By Randall Munroe – A Book Review

Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions.

What If? is a book I had seen around and wanted for quite a long time, the times I’d seen it I was usually on a self-imposed book buying ban for one reason or another. Eventually I gave in and bought and I’m so glad I did. It comes from the creator of XKCD, a humorous science focused comic (there are some sketches below). It markets itself as answering absurd hypothetical question in a serious scientific way and it really does, the science seems sound and the questions are, as promised, ridiculous. But the best thing about this book is its sense of humour. It’s so easy for a science based book to be dry, particularly when it’s full of theory, but not this one. The captions, notes, measurements, images all raise a smile one way or another.

whatif2

If you’re not a scientist and are worried it will be over your head, I think you’ll cope. It’s written in a very accessible manner, explained in a way that anyone with a sense of logic, or passing familiarity with school level science will understand where the solutions are coming from. It’s not filled with numbers and formulas, but more with concepts, ideas and expansion of everyday occurrences, usually the explanations link to experiences the average reader will likely be familiar with. That being said, there were still occasional moments where I would read a sentence and need to read several times before any of the words made sense; ‘If a bullet with the density of a neutron star were fired from a handgun (ignoring the how) at the Earth’s surface, would the Earth be destroyed?’

whatif

So what sort of questions are covered by What If? I won’t tell you everything that’s in the book, I’d hate to take away the element of surprise, but I’ll tell you a few of the questions answered:

·  How many humans would a rampaging T-Rex need to eat each day? The sort of question we all want to know the answer to

·  How much force power can Yoda output? Quantifying Sci-Fi for the sci-fi fans out there.

·  If you call a random phone number and say “God Bless you,” what are the chances that the person who answered just sneezed? I love statistics and the maths of randomness so this really appealed to me, and frankly the idea just made me laugh.

·   When (if ever) did the sun finally set on the British Empire? I definitely learnt something here, as a Brit myself this was highly interesting.

Some of the questions do have relevance, though you may struggle to believe me looking at the list above. Some relate to Facebook, data transfer, and computing capacity of humans verses computers. Over all it’s a fascinating collection of questions with equally intriguing answers. Such a wide range of ideas are covered that I frequently learnt new things, some may even come in useful one day, who knows.

whatif1

The arrangement of the book in to well defined questions and answers means you can just read the one’s that interest you – though frankly even the ones you wouldn’t naturally be interested in are still fascinating. It also means it’s easy to pick up and put down, it’s not really a binge read type book, I wouldn’t recommend trying to read it all straight, you can’t help but stop and ponder some of the ideas, you’d probably miss out if you didn’t take your time. I read it across a few weeks simultaneously with a fictional book and it worked well or me.

I mentioned the humour in the book, I don’t know why I was surprised by this as I have come across the XKCD comics before and so really should have expected a similar lightness to ‘What If?’ A piece of advice when reading this book, read the notes, read the captions, read every single word on every page as there is likely to be a nugget hiding, even the disclaimer at the start made me smile. Not all of the jokes are hidden, sometimes it’s open silliness. At one point Randall shows his working and final answer using distance measurements in units of giraffes just because he can. The cartoons throughout are also worth taking a proper look at, they have the classic XKCD style to them.

giraffe

Throughout the book, on most pages, are little numbered superscripts that direct you to a note at the bottom of the page, as any good scientific document would; If you read these you may find a relevant more heavily scientific piece of information, or instead some nonsense or ramblings from the author. For example on one page the text is as follows: ‘Nobody has ever lost all of the DNA,2’ If you check the note at the bottom of the page you would find the extremely useful information as follows: ‘2 I don’t have a citation for this, but I feel we would have heard about it.’

In between the questions answered are occasional pages of ‘Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox.’ All the questions answered had been submitted by the public, but amongst the ones chosen to be answered were many that were not chosen to be answered, looking at these little collections you can probably see why. Again it helps to keep the book light and manageable.

whatif3

So in Summary this book is great, I thoroughly recommend it. It is the most enjoyable science based non-fiction book I have ever read. If you like Randall Munroe, XKCD, science in any way, or just a touch of daftness then I reckon you’d like this book too.

If you want to check out some science based comics from XKCD, the website is http://xkcd.com/

cloud

Daily Doodle – 21 Day Update (most of April 2016)

I have spent the last several weeks in Spain and consequently I have been working with very limited supplies. I’ve particularly been focusing on line work, and cross hatching which I think suited the available materials better and I think I’m getting the hang of it. You may notice that there are quite a few uninspired pictures in this collection, I just haven’t been feeling it, never mind. There are a few I like, generally those based on animations, but also my attempt at Bellatrix Lestrange.