50firsts2012and13

A review of 50 first experiences

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.

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"

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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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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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Fifty 31 and 32 – visited Pollock’s Toy Museum and ate a pie in Battersea Pie Station

15th March – a lovely day in London with Diana, where we made the most of our knowledge of London streets to get repeatedly lost, including the area immediately next to Tottenham Court Road (“I can’t believe I’m a Londoner– we’d better ask a foreigner for directions,” said Diana). But also a day to re-discover a lovely street full of curious craft shops, including a shop full of knitted household objects (where I particularly coveted a standard lamp that looked like it was clad in a giant striped sock) – and to discover other parts of London we didn’t know. This included the fabulous atmospheric Pollock’s Toy Museum in Fitzrovia, where we wandered up tight little stairways to discover delightful mechanical toys from Edwardian times, rooms in miniature created from matchboxes, and glaring china dolls with not a smile amongst them. We chatted to the only other visitor there, a man with a briefcase who was taking ‘an hour off’, who said that his child had screamed when he’d taken him to see the teddy bears, and we could see his point – sitting, standing and lying behind a floor to ceiling glass panel, they seemed entirely menacing. The atmosphere was so charged, with all these silent watching figures and games waiting to be played, and the layers of rooms (uneven floors, with one hearth that went back to 17th century) so maze-like, it felt that we could have been anywhere, in any country. Escaping, at around 3, we returned back to the inner sanctum, Covent Garden, for a pie each at the wonderfully named Battersea Pie Station, which didn’t quite live up to its namesake in size, but did produce an extremely nice butternut squash and feta, and lamb and rosemary pie, with peas on the side.

Marks: 10/10 – for atmosphere and flavour and living up to everything I’d hoped these would (I really need to be more discerning about my marking system).