Alyson Sheldrake was one of my first contacts in the world of blogging. A very generous lady,she extended the hand of friendship to me when she realised I was struggling with some technical issues, despite running two blogs of her own and creating wonderful art.
Her Algarve blog caught my eye initially. Packed with interesting and highly informative articles on the Algarve, we developed a gentle rivalry over where we’d been and what we’d seen en route. Then I discovered that she was also responsible for The Thought Palette, a bit more thought provoking and covering everything from philosophy to art. Six word Saturday drew me in, and then of course the personal A-Z challenge. Though this was Julie Dawn Fox’s brainchild, Alyson committed herself wholeheartedly to developing the challenge and giving help wherever it’s needed.
She has boundless energy and enthusiasm, not to mention talent. Evidence of this, if any were needed, is the coming Art and Photography exhibition, from 14-18th April at the Holiday Inn in Armacao de Pera. Understandably Alyson is very excited about this- her first ever exhibition. When Alyson asked me whether I would like to take part in a series of interviews for her blog I was flattered. While thinking up my own answers, I thought it might be a good idea to turn the tables on her, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the results.
1 Why did you start to write your blog?
My Algarve Blog http://algarveblog.net/ was inspired by Ben at his Moving to Portugal blog as I found this such a useful resource as we planned our own move to live here in the Algarve – it was great to find someone who had already ‘been there and done it’ and it inspired me to start my own blog. I cannot believe that my Algarve blog has been running for a year now and even won an international award!
I also started my second blog The Thought Palette http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/ a few months later as I wanted to have a blog that gave me a wider remit to be able to write about all sorts of things that inspired or challenged me.
2 Why did you choose Portugal to live?
We fell in love with the sleepy fishing village of Ferragudo about eight years ago after a last-minute unplanned holiday to the area; and five years ago we managed to finalise our plans to sell up in the UK and buy our house out here. It then took over four years of planning and plotting to actually move out here.
3 What do you love most about where you live?
I love the people, our neighbours are all Portuguese and so friendly, helpful and gentle. The weather, obviously, but also the peace, slower pace of life, fantastic light for photography and painting, and the great simple food. I also love being able to sit outdoors in the sunshine and enjoy a leisurely lunch, listening to the birds in the trees and feeling the warm sun on my face!
4 Tell me about your art and paintings
I am like a small child skipping down on Christmas morning to open her presents every day that I can go downstairs and open the door to my very own studio! I have always painted but had been struggling to find any time at all to commit to this with a full time job – so being able to devote all of my time to this now is very special to me. I have spent the last few months painting virtually every day; and I have found my own ‘style’ has started to develop very naturally.
I love painting with acrylics, on a finely prepared gesso surfaced board – I really dislike canvas! I like to portray light and colour, with a mixture of detailed ‘realistic’ painting sections combined with more simple colour and shape – lots of people have seen my work and cannot ‘label’ it – I like that!
My husband Dave has been busy with his camera too and I am so proud of the quality of his photographs and enthusiasm for his work. We still have much to learn and develop further and the journey so far has been wonderful.
I am also so excited that we are about to have our first ‘solo’ exhibition here in the Algarve – you can find out more about our work and the exhibition here A3 Art website (link) http://www.a3art.co.uk/section596752.html
5 Quick choice:
- Mac or PC?
- PC – I love the sleek design of a Mac but have not been tempted yet!
- Starter or dessert?
- Dessert every time!
- Early morning or late night?
- Erm, neither! I’m so not a morning person, but I also like going to bed and reading too!
- Air con or log fire?
- We don’t have either here – but a log fire would win for me – crackling and welcoming
6 What book(s) are you reading now?
I’ve just enjoyed both Pentecost and Prophecy by Joanna (J F) Penn; and I am currently reading ‘Three Thousand Miles for a Wish: the true story of a young woman’s quest to find happiness’ by Safiya Hussain – this is a really well written story of a young girl as she embarks on the Hajj and enters the world of ancient Islamic practice and devotion. I’ve also just discovered Brenda Youngerman – so there’s lots more on my Kindle to read!
7 Do you have a role model or someone who has inspired you?
I have started a new blog series – My Personal A to Z of Art – (link) http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/my-personal-a-z-challenge/my-a-to-z-of-art/
For each letter of the alphabet I will be sharing the artists that inspire me – with some surprises along the way!
8 What blogs and web-sites do you read regularly?
I am enjoying so many of the A to Z Challenges; and also Six Word Saturday has introduced me to so many new blogs – I have now set up my WordPress account so that I don’t receive any emails for new blog posts anymore – there are too many! I prefer to go to ‘my blogs’ and have a more leisurely read over a cup of tea in the morning!
Some of my ‘classic’ blogs include:
Jeff Goins – http://goinswriter.com/ – Mr Inspiring!
Tamara Out Loud – http://tamaraoutloud.com/ I love her quirky take on life
Robert Brault – http://www.robertbrault.com/ I love his quotes!
9 For people new to your blogs, where should they start?
Just dive in there and see what catches your eye – and maybe check out the About Us page too. I’ve tried to create some more pages now which collate interesting posts together – so try My A to Z of Portugal http://algarveblog.net/my-a-z-of-portugal/ or Places to Go http://algarveblog.net/places-to-go/ on Algarve Blog; and My A to Z of Art http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/my-personal-a-z-challenge/my-a-to-z-of-art/ on The Thought Palette.
10 What is your favourite meal to order in a restaurant?
I’d have to travel for this one, I’d have Salada do Polvo (octopus salad) for a starter from the little restaurant near the beach in Burgau; rabbit stew from a little restaurant we love in Odeceixe, and then mousse de caramel from Toc Toc’s in Ferragudo… with a nice glass of red wine (Monte Velho is good!)
11 What were your best subjects at school, and do they relate to your work now?
P.E. English and Art – So I took a degree in sport, a teaching qualification PGCE in PE and English, and then joined the Police, working my way out and into senior education roles, including working as a Director of Education for the Church of England! Finally I am now able to concentrate on my painting and art, and I am loving every minute.
12 Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about starting their own blog?
Go for it – but have a ‘theme’ and a purpose – and consider something like WordPress as an easy way of hosting and designing a site. But beware it has limitations if you want to expand or have more control over what you want to do with your blog in the longer term.
And definitely think about joining the A to Z Challenge – website link http://myatozchallenge.com/ – I’ve found this a brilliant way of giving your blog a purpose and ‘theme’ to follow. You will also meet a lovely community of other supportive bloggers!
13 Where else can we find you on the web or in print – any books, articles, Facebook or Twitter account?
You can see our art and photography on our web-site http://www.a3art.co.uk and you can find us on Facebook A3-Art. I’m also starting to draft out my first book – but it will take a while I am sure! I’m also thinking of expanding my current writing commitments and would be open to any suitable suggestions!
14 Can you share one thing about yourself that we would never know about you from reading your blog?
I’m still a huge fan of John Barrowman! I met him once and it took me about a week to recover!
15 For people considering a move to live abroad, what would you recommend they do first?
Visit the place lots of times first – at different times of the year, not just during the ‘holiday times’ – i.e. see what it’s like in winter! Ask lots of people lots of questions, and maybe plan to rent first, if you can, to see if you like it enough to want to live there.
16 Can you name three favourite places you would recommend people visit if they are on holiday here in the Algarve?
Ferragudo, Silves and the West Coast.
17 What would be your favourite way to spend a weekend that you had all to yourself?
I’d have a lie in of course! Then decide where I am going to eat out (Toc Toc’s in the village will probably win for me!) as I am rubbish at cooking! Then download a new book to read, walk to the beach and settle down to enjoy the sunshine! Probably a chick-flick on the Sunday night after another meal out and walk with my camera… and maybe no internet for the whole weekend for a change!
That’s the reality – the fantasy would be front row seats at a John Mayer concert followed by dinner with John Barrowman (hee hee I can dream right?!)
18 Can you speak any other languages and what would you recommend for people wanting to learn a new language?
Oh I wish it was better! We are not frightened to ‘have a go’ now and we have found the Portuguese are very friendly and will always try to help you – usually by speaking English which doesn’t help us learn the language! We have found the Michel Thomas CDs very good as a starting point.
19 What is your favourite:
- ‘What Dreams May Come’ – a little known Robin Williams film; or Shakespeare in Love
- ‘Wind in the Willows’ – Kenneth Grahame
- Sugarland, John Mayer, Katie Melua, Norah Jones, Tricia Yearwood – there’s a long list and a very eclectic playlist on my iPod!
- Before I left my last job I was a real gadget girl with all the latest toys, but now I would have to say it is my camera.
20 And finally, where do you think you will be in five years’ time, and what will you be doing?
Hopefully still living here in the Algarve; working as a professional artist, with regular exhibitions shared jointly with Dave and his photographs; and with the same relaxed enjoyable lifestyle we enjoy now. And still writing and enjoying my blogs too!
Hope you all enjoyed the interview as much as I did. Thank you Alyson for taking time to supply the answers and the lovely photos (big hug for Dave). I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing you every success for the future. Hope the exhibition knocks their socks off!
You can read also Alyson’s interview with me http://algarveblog.net/2012/03/08/interviewing-restless-jo/ My photos are North east coast so not so sunny!