A review of 50 first experiences

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I’ve never….

DSCN0474DSCN0015The start of something newbeen to Rio, the moon, John O’Groats,

…read War and Peace,

…seen a manatee, driven a Jaguar, swum the Channel.

But then again, they’ve not all been personal ambitions.

This year, though, I want to change some of this. Turning 50 in June, and somewhat belatedly getting my gear into action, I’ve decided to try and write about 50 first experiences. With this blog as one of them. They’re not all going to be big things – I haven’t the money. I’m also not going to write myself a list in advance as that’s a fairly certain way of setting myself up to fail – in panic, it might get me trying things I really don’t want to, like buying leather trousers, or getting a tattoo. Instead, I’m going to look around me for new experiences as I go, and give each a mark out of 10. It’ll keep me on my toes, especially as it’s September already, but I’m hoping it’ll remind me to take more notice of what goes on around me, and reflect on this.


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14 June – I achieved my target of 50 firsts a few days ago, but in fact there were quite a few more firsts that it didn’t feel right to share in this way. This was the first time I sat in a funeral car. Once was for my lovely stepfather, who died last October, and the other time was for my dear Nana, who died on 11 February at the age of 98. I suppose it’s what happens when you reach 50 – more evidence of how short life can be, and how quickly it can pass you by. More people to miss.

Is it okay to share this? I’m not sure – a blog is that weird thing between a facebook post and a diary entry, like writing for someone looking over your shoulder. The point of this challenge was not to do big things (or brag about them) but to notice what is around me. And on reflection that did start to happen. I spent a lot of time looking up events and places where I live, and began to appreciate that York is a city where lots of small and community events are happening all over the place. I took myself out of my comfort zone a few times, and I also did most of the challenges with friends and family, which meant a lot to me. I didn’t visit John O’Groats, but I sponsored someone who did a coast to coast cycle ride and someone else who took part in the Live Below the (Poverty) Line challenge – challenge by proxy, maybe.

Anyway, it’s one year since I turned 50 so I’m putting this blog on Facebook for any friends to read – or not.
I still haven’t been to Rio, the moon or John O’Groats, read War and Peace, seen a manatee, driven a Jaguar or swum the Channel.
But there’s always next year.

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First 49 and 50 – henna tattoo and manicure

5 and 11 June – It’s the first time I’ve grown all my nails – how embarrassing is that! So this was a small, rather vain, celebration of the fact – just before I reach the end of being 50.

Marks: 9/10 – I love the purple nailvarnish and now the gingeriness of the henna has gone down, am getting rather fond

Tried lots of angles but none of them flattering

Tried lots of angles but none of them flattering

of my little tattoo by my extremely talented student Mehazabin.

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First 48 – ‘invested’ in a bookshop

30 May – This year I keep hearing about bookshops, pubs and other community places offering shares – what a great idea, especially during a recession. So, inspired by Lucy Mangan I went onto the website of Bookbarn in Bristol and joined crowdcube to make my investment. To be honest, I didn’t invest much at all (recession, and all that) but I rather like that feeling of being an investor/shareholder – especially in a bookshop.  Now, all I’ve got to do is visit the place and buy a book.

First 46 – visiting Bruges

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26-28 May –  A mini break to fit four days’ sightseeing and eating into one and a half days. Mission accomplished. Special little treat to myself was staying in Boathotel de Barge, in a room with a view of the canal complete with geese.

Marks: 10/10 – next time I’ll have to do marks out of 50, I think.  Highlights: mussels and chips in the main square, climbing to the top of The Belfry, eating north sea shrimp and dried orange slices dipped in chocolate.View of the canal from my cabin was made slightly less special by a hissing goose. Chocolate orange slices now my favourite treat.

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First 45 – sheepshearing

I could probably do with a  bit of a trim, too

I could probably do with a bit of a trim, too

21 May – At the last book group I mentioned my 50 firsts challenge. I know, they said. How about sheepshearing, with Liz’s sheep? Then Gillian could teach you how to spin the wool, and Sandra could teach you how to knit it. A huge thanks to Liz who entrusted me (under son Guy’s supervision and tutelage) with precious sheep and very sharp shears. Challenge 1: catch the sheep; challenge 2: get it on its back and gripped between your legs. Neither challenge actually met by me, but the will was there.

Marks: 10/10 I didn’t shear a whole sheep, but learned a lot on what was for a change a perfect balmy summer evening. Guy deserves a medal for his patience. I even came away with a bit of wool for spinning.

First 44 – Goodbye Lenin in York Cold War Bunker

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<img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-240" alt="bunker protection equipment"

18 May – This was part of Museums at Night, which I found out about thanks to Diana, who sent me a clipping of new things to try. Somewhat disappointed by the fact that most of the ‘at night’ events finished before 8pm, but very excited about the venue for a great cold war film. Martin couldn’t believe he’d grown up in York and never known there was a cold war bunker http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/york-cold-war-bunker/ especially as it isn’t exactly inconspicuous (shouldn’t a cold war bunker be a bit more discreet than this?) Expecting a bit of a tour, we were rather surprised at being sat down in front of a documentary on the cold war, complete with chilling images of the after effects of a nuclear war. Was this meant to be entertainment? A tour of the operations room came next. Sombre faced, we waited to be awed by the technology and knowledge that went into protecting us all from nuclear disaster, only to be faced with equipment that looked like it had been put together in a metalwork class. By 12-year olds. With monitors and dials created by the weaker students. Then it was back to the chilly underground cell that was the cinema, to watch Goodbye Lenin – love this film!

Marks: 10/10 brilliant venue, brilliant idea.

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