50firsts2012and13

A review of 50 first experiences


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First 43 – Dawn chorus walk

dawn walk henge

First 43 – 28th May at St Nicholas Fields Nature Reserve meant getting up at 3.30 to pack breakfast – with that holiday feeling as I got into the car in the dark. Driving past fields a little before 4am I heard the first bird start. A lovely little group with Cliff, in his seventies, pointing out the different birds.  I think I can now recognise great tit, wren and chiff chaff, though noisy blackbirds blocked out black cap.

Marks: 9/10 As a bird listening novice, I couldn’t quite enter into the thrill of identifying rare birds (“Follow that whitethroat!” sounded a bit worrying to me) but thoroughly enjoyed my dawn walk. Will definitely look out for it next year.

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First 42 – discovered the magic of Django Reinhardt

11 May and 7th June – This year, thanks to Gillian and Mark and their amazing guitar festival I was introduced to Django Reinhardt’s intoxicating French gypsy jazz guitar sound – the Remi Harris Quartet, who played at a tiny jazz club in Boston Spa where the audience brought along their sandwiches, and Djangologie, who performed on the first night of the Bishopthorpe Little Guitar Festival (2013 slogan: ‘not so little any more’. That hot, giddy sound gets into your bones.

Marks: 8/10 – need to hear more.


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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.