50firsts2012and13

A review of 50 first experiences


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First 41 – holding baby lambs less than a day old.

So new!

So new!

21 April – What a weekend – drama, tragedy, and now a Sunday evening spent with cute little animals with wonky legs and wobbly tails who hadn’t quite worked out how to feed from their mum. Liz rang me around 6 to say that a set of twins had been born three hours before and triplets that morning, and then dropped by in the car to give me a lift out to the field so that I could see them and take photos. I don’t think she or Adam banked on me taking quite so many photos! The lambs were so new were still learning where to suck to get milk, which included trying out Adam’s bare leg and Liz’s shoes before Liz persuaded them they might get more from suckling Mum. It was a beautiful evening and we walked up the end of the field to count the sheep and then back again, as the sunset gathered and the lambs curled up by their new mothers.

Marks: 10/10 – really should have put the camera down and just revelled in the experience itself. Thanks to Liz and Adam who passed no comment at all on my embarrassing behaviour.


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First 40 – Bizet’s Carmen at the opera

20 April – Such a cultural weekend! Great frocks, memorable music, passion and sophistication. I’ve seen several musicals, plus modern opera in the form of Gilbert & Sullivan, and several years ago watched this opera on tv as part of a Carmen season, but this was the first time I’d seen a non-amateur /live production with an international Mezzo-Soprano (Nadezhda Stoianova). Not to mention a real live donkey in the first act! Luckily for me, too, there were quite a few empty seats so I was able to move from cheap seats right at the back to substantially more expensive seats at the front of the circle.

Marks: 9/10 – this is going to sound so plebeian but there was something about the operatic singing that detracted from the real pathos of Carmen’s situation. I wonder if others seeing opera for the first time feel the same? Also, I would have been completely carried away with the drama if the theatre hadn’t taken it upon itself to have four – yes, four – intervals. Two loo breaks, and two intervals long enough for a G&T had the effect of keeping us constantly aware that we were just vulgar onlookers rather than active participants in Carmen’s tragedy. Shame, really.


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First 39 – attended a community cinema

19 April – South Bank Community Cinema to watch All that Jazz. How could I have gone the last two years without knowing there was a community cinema? Hall decked out with tables, candles, and a nice little bar. Bought myself a glass of wine and sat at the back where I chatted to lovely volunteer who tried to persuade me to come to AGM (never made it).

Marks: 7/10 – rather self-indulgent film but Rod Steiger did an excellent job as a tortured, womanising showman – a nice change from his better-known role as a shark-battling detective.


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First 38 – seeing 37 plays in 97 minutes

4 April – 37 Shakespeare plays, and the chance to sway Ophelia from her watery grave by tuning into her unconscious (three rows of grinning idiots waving their arms and chanting “Maybe, maybe not” – who wouldn’t change their mind about suicide?) with the Reduced Shakespeare Company at York’s Theatre Royal. Strange sense of déjà vue – I’m sure this is a first, but had a peculiar sense that I’d watched a summary of Hamlet done backwards – how unlikely is that! Loved being given a task to try to bring Ophelia to her senses though sadly, the inevitable was still inevitable.

Marks: 10/10 for novelty, especially improvised speeded up version of drowning done with a glass of water.


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First 37 – seeing/hearing Britain’s first female poet laureate

24 March – Carol Ann Duffy was accompanied by poet ‘songsters’ Little Machine at the Theatre Royal as part of York Literary Festival. A lovely, if rather chilly, afternoon spent with Gillian, with Carol Ann Duffy’s poems reaching all the parts you hope poetry will reach. And how refreshing to have a female poet laureate.

Marks: 9/10. Carol Ann Duffy was great but seemed a bit subdued due to a cold. Little Machine – great idea, and nice eclectic mix, but some of it seemed a bit forced. Lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, though.


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First 36 – a letter to my great, great, great… nieces and nephews

23rd March – The York History Project urn is due to be opened in 200 years (that’s if someone doesn’t dig it up to put down a carpark) but in the meantime was in the main city library, ready to be filled with personal ‘records’ as they’re called. I didn’t read the criteria properly, because I only found out about it the day before it was due to be sealed, and was in a rush to get somewhere else – it was only afterwards, checking the website, that I found out all contributions were meant to be about York. To be fair, my little memory stick did include a couple of photos of the field opposite my house, but I was more interested in my great, great, great (how many do I need?) nieces and nephews discovering a tiny connection to their great, great … aunty Sarah – and writing a personal message to them. I wonder if the people who sealed the urn checked the memory sticks enclosed (there was also a photo of me, Mum, Becky and Julia all dressed up at the Ritz! SO-not-about-York!) and chuck some out, or think, here’s a handy memory stick I could use? I suppose I’ll never know.

Marks: 10/10 for posterity value. Possibly.


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First 35 – appearing in the audience on BBC Question Time

21 March: I’d only applied the week before to the programme, so was very surprised to get a call on the way to my car to say I’d got a place and what was my first question going to be. In the end, my two questions were: With the imminent arrival of people from Romania and Bulgaria, and pressure on everyone to find a job, why is the government cutting funding for classes in basic English? And In the current climate (meteorological and financial) can the panel give their 3 reasons to be cheerful. Neither were selected but it was a fascinating evening. David Dimbleby, who came to chat to us before the programme, was charming, approachable, and funny. Mrs militant-Tory-keep-those-scroungers-out attached herself to me at the coffee part and then insisted we sat together near the front, where my other neighbour was a very large nineteen year old lad who had his legs spread as wide as they could get and his arm in my face most of the time trying to get on the telly. There were a few like that, I suppose. Before the programme I got chatting to a 16-year-old hoping to study Politics at uni, who was there with his mum and very keen to ask Michael Gove a question – and as far as I could see from watching it on the tv later , had his hand up the entire time, in vain. The warmer was brilliant – a panel made up of audience members, who were sharp and professional and handled the audience’s question with wit and real expertise. One of them, a photogenic student from York University, managed to ask two questions during the actual programme, and later admitted to me in the loos that she was president of the students’ union, which accounted for her confidence (she didn’t say that last bit). Michael Gove, on the panel, was rather odious, and talked over most of the programme – I’m sure there are normally more questions than there were this time from the audience. Although I didn’t get my first question asked, I did try to ask another similar one when it looked like the right opportunity, but I was too slow – worried about sounding blustery and out of my depth, I wrote my question down on paper, and lost the moment.

Marks: 10/10 – even the bus back was an experience, since it only held those of us who’d appeared on the programme. Felt like a special little clique as we each got off.