A review of 50 first experiences

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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.


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First 33 – learned woodturning with the Amazings

All my own work - sadly, I accidentally deleted all the pictures of the workshop session

All my own work – sadly, I accidentally deleted all the pictures of the workshop session

26 March – A while ago I came upon a list of things to do in London, and discovered the Amazings, which is a group of older people who are turning their passion into training for others. It took my fancy because 1) I found a class on woodturning which looked very exciting and 2) I liked the idea of being taught by a group called the Amazings. So this was the reality: over the course of 4 wonderful hours, Mr Amazing, AKA 65-year old woodturner Paul, taught ten novices how to use a lathe and various tools to turn ten misshapen lumps of wood into ten beautiful little bowls. The session was held in a workshop in the Camden Shed, a venue owned by a fellow Amazing who is keen for more people to benefit from this sharing of passions and wisdom, and we were helped by Phil’s 9-year-old grandson Alfie – yes, that’s NINE years old – who has been turning for five years. I have to say it was an amazing day – supported by the fact that everyone said the word ‘amazing’ at least once every five minutes. During a break I asked Alfie what he wanted to be when he was older and he said “I’m going to follow the path” – imagine being that certain (not to mention cool) at 9! Another first – if it’s broadcast – will be being interviewed for Canadian radio about why I decided to try an ‘Amazings event’. Only slightly marred by the interviewer pointing out I was old enough to run an event myself.

Marks: 10/10 for inspiration and sheer amazingness. I should really dock it a point for the fact that the website describes ‘elders’ as people over 50, but that would be petty, wouldn’t it?

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First 12 – Creating a personal blog

This blog. Took me a whole day I should have spent working. Much fannying about, 8 cups of tea, 6 biscuits, one maltloaf as I tried to get it to look like I wanted it to.

Marks: 6/10 for actually getting down to it. Downsides: inability to understand instructions on setting up properly; could be a massive draw on my already obsessive need to spend hours on tiny details.


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.