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.


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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 25 – tried Ethiopian food

19th January – The lovely Debbie’s send-off and fundraiser to support her VSO placement in Ethiopia was an Ethiopian-flavoured evening with food and quizzes. Have to admit to being a bit cliquey and staying with the people I knew, which meant they saw how little I really know about world affairs. Did I get even one question right? But lovely food – a sort of dry spicyness I’d definitely like to try again – and a great evening. Publishing this two months into Debbie’s placement – my inspirational friend who probably packs 50 firsts into most of her regular weeks!

Marks: 10/10 for entertainment value, pace, company, and food. Hard questions!

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First 14 – Sarsaparilla and cornbread

25th October –As part of a college event for Black History month tried sarsaparilla and cornbread for the first time.  Just seeing the label on the bottle conjured up stories by Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain and Harper Lee; images of hampers full of root beer and peanut butter sandwiches at the World Trade Fair, of  families sitting up to a scrubbed wooden table for a breakfast of cornbread and grits, of children diving from bridges into brown flowing rivers, of swinging saloon doors and big skirts, dust and sawdust.

Marks: 4/10.  Perhaps the effect would have been different if I’d tasted these under a hot sky, or in a big old southern American kitchen, with the creak of a swing on the porch outside. Trying them as I did in a large and rather empty college hall, they were just a bit too ordinary. The sarsaparilla had a good syrupy smell but tasted a bit like flat coke; the cornbread was too salty. Disappointing.


Firsts 1-10 (at this rate I might even be able to make it 100!)

with the great Bill Bragg

with the great Bill Bragg

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First 1 and 2

23rd June – Whisked away for a weekend by Elaine – to see Julius Caesar at Stratford on Avon and to Asthall Manor to see an amazing exhibition of sculpture in stone. Elaine had to sprint from the car to make it to the theatre on time, but the play was almost like an assault, it was so gripping. A lovely friend and a brilliant weekend.

Marks: 10/10

Highlights: last night jamming session by the musicians in the foyer, post-play; chatting in the car; Anthony Turner’s, Dominic Welch’s and Luke Dickinson’s lovely pieces; the best treehouse in the world,  in the grounds of Asthall Manor; tea in the tent afterwards.

First 3

30th June – Plans to go paragliding on hold due to bad weather, but decided to stay in the B&B anyway, and enjoyed chocolate covered raspberries and prosecco in a jacuzzi with Ollie. 

Marks: 6/10

Highlights: Prosecco and choc covered raspberries delicious. Downside: not that relaxing as bath a bit narrow so jets caused a minor flood.

First 4

16th July – tea at the Ritz with my mum and two sisters – the first time with all of us as a family and came at just the right time for all of us.

Marks: 9.5/10

Highlights: sandwiches, chat,  frocks. Half a point lost because we didn’t manage all the cakes.

First 5

August – week in Crete. Two balconies, lots of Greek salad, sunshine.

Marks: 7.5/10 Nice area, enjoyable times, but just not amazing.

First 6,7,8

17-19 August – Galtres Festival  – mixture of folk and acoustic music. Lots of time spent in Arts Barge tent. Had photo taken with Billy Bragg (bit of a rush job as Adam Ant about to take the stage meant signing tent had to close). Saw the Buzzcocks – close your eyes and it could have been 1978.

Marks: 8/10

Highlights: last night dancing like mad things to 360.  Beer. Buzzcocks – definitely Buzzcocks.

First 9

2nd Sept – Learnt to fly!  After embarrassment of constantly getting the strings tangled every time I moved, couldn’t keep the grin off my face the whole time I was in the air.

Marks: 10.5/10

Highlights: all of it!

First 10

9th Sept – canoing in a 2-person kayak with Ollie 3 miles up the river from my house. Saw the weir for the first time after living here for 12 years. More tiring and harder on my back than I’d expected, but would do it again.

Marks: 8/10

Highlights: resting the oars to take in the view – basically, the bit that didn’t include actual canoeing.