Guilty Pleasures

Have you answered this weeks Booking Through Thursday Meme?

It’s my question! I’m so pleased they liked my meme enough to use it. In fact, I’m positively delighted that they used it! (Which is why I’m urgently sharing my news with you now!)

My question is:

What book(s) have you read that you’re secretly ashamed to admit?

Some of you already know my answer… but for those of you who don’t here’s a re-blog…

Book Swap Guilt

I don’t read chick lit. I’ll read just about anything: fiction, history, thrillers, sci-fi, the occasional biography, anything, except chick lit.

The first time I noticed this particular book in the book swap area I sniggered, then shuddered. I wondered “Who would bring that in?” Personally I’d have donated it to charity shop rather than publically confess a penchant for romantic tosh. But that’s just me. I’m an action-flick kinda gal.

I pass the book swap pile daily and frequently skim the spines for new titles. This book has been there for several weeks now. No one has touched it. Even the spine is un-creased. (Perhaps its previous owner didn’t read it after all).

Each time I passed it I would inwardly shake my head and think “Urgh! No-one is going to take that. They’d be too embarrassed for a start”. Even the picture on the cover makes me cringe. Then yesterday, inexplicably without any warning, a little voice in my head said “Oh go on then”.

WHAT?!

Where did that come?!

I was mortified the idea had sprung from my own brain. I checked left and right to make sure no one had seen it reflected in my face. I walked away quickly and sat at my desk. Fingers on keys. Eyes on the screen. I told myself no. NO. I have never, ever, wanted to read anything by this author, popular as she is.

I have never, ever, wanted to read this particular book. I don’t want to read it. I don’t. I really honestly and truly don’t.

(Deep breath)

But I’m going to. I didn’t decide that right away. On my journey home last night I found myself thinking: If I do take it I can’t let anyone see me take it: I’ll need something to hide it in. Perhaps I should wait until the office is empty… But what if people see me acting suspiciously? They might think I’m stealing! What if I’m subjected to a handbag search? How could I not look guilty?

! ! !

Where were these thoughts coming from?

Again I checked around me in case someone was monitoring my facial expressions. I’d clearly lost my senses. What was wrong with me? Was I seriously considering taking and reading a book that makes me wince at the thought of it? I took a few deep breaths, considered it for a while then reasoned that I might as well.

It is right that I should feel embarrassed? It’s only a book for goodness sake! I don’t even know what the book is about. Do other people feel this shame about chick lit?

Is this normal?

I feel a need to conduct some experiments, to give me a reason, an excuse for reading it: Perhaps I should take it out in public areas, on a train or in a café, just to observe how other people react to it. Will they snigger? Will they judge me harshly on my dubious choice? Will they smile at me but ooze pity from their eyes? More to the point, could I bring myself to be seen with it in public?

As I sat in the canteen I wanted to air these questions: Share my dilemma and consider the responses. I couldn’t. Our book swap is anonymous. I don’t know who the donor is and I couldn’t risk making them feel uncomfortable if they overheard me. I’m grateful other people are willing to swap books. I really am. I certainly wouldn’t want to scare anyone off. So instead I’m sitting here quietly, biding my time.

Tonight, when the office lights dim and most people have gone home, into my pre-prepared black plastic carrier-bag I’m going to slip a pristine copy of a Jilly Cooper.

All comments (and mocking) most welcome. 🙂

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What Makes Britain so Brilliant?

“A lot of things actually. Far too many to mention them all…” so said the 4-page Carling advertisement covering this morning’s free Metro newspaper.

Reading their list brightened my rainy Mancunian morning, so if you don’t mind I’d like to share it with you.

60 YEARS, 60 REASONS

Since it’s the Queen’s Jubilee (and we’re about to have a FOUR DAY WEEKEND to celebrate – Yippee!) here are 60 reasons, one for each year of her reign (shamelessly reproduced without permission…)

  1. Marmite. Mmm…yuck.
  2. Our devotion to our wonderfully gripping soap operas.
  3. Vivienne Westwood’s heels. It’s worth the pain.
  4. The Earl of Sandwich’s groundbreaking concept of putting a savoury filling between two pieces of bread.
  5. Glastonbury – mud and all.
  6. Our modesty – we never boast about how great we are, apart from today.
  7. The pound and our reluctance to adopt the Euro.
  8. The best selling music artists in the world are our very own: The Beatles.
  9. Our politeness – no matter how irritated we get, we are always too British to say anything.
  10. Kate Middleton and her sister.
  11. The Great British Summer (don’t forget the brolly).
  12. Driving on the left (the right way to do it).
  13. No matter where you are in Britain, you’re never far from a pub.
  14. Any excuse for a cup of tea.
  15. Curry, the unofficial national dish, with a pint of cold larger.
  16. We don’t moan because we’re miserable, we moan because it makes us happy.
  17. Our international language. Travelling abroad is a doddle.
  18. The Queen and her graceful wave.
  19. The Great British countryside, when you’re not stuck behind a tractor.
  20. Freedom of speech.
  21. Deep fried food. Fish, sausages, Mars bars… absolutely anything.

  22. Some of the very best museums and galleries on the planet. Free.
  23. The national tendency to cheer the underdog and ridicule the mighty.
  24. We apologise way too much. Sorry about that.
  25. Crisps. We eat more of them, in more varieties, than the whole of Europe put together.
  26. Shakespeare. When thou can understandeth it.
  27. Sir David Attenborough and his soothing voice on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
  28. British strawberries, perfect with cream.
  29. Our cobbled streets, watch your heels ladies.
  30. Chips with fish, or cheese, or beans, or pies, or steaks, or curries or in a sandwich. Chips with pretty much everything.
  31. We know the importance of a good queue.
  32. Beans on toast, brilliant no matter what your age.
  33. Courtroom WigCourtroom wigs. Our great way of making very smart people look very silly.
  34. Pantomimes. The jokes never seen to get old.
  35. No matter how cold it gets it will never keep us from our nights out.
  36. HP sauce. Chuck it on everything.
  37. The 3pm Saturday kick off.
  38. Cream teas. In case you’re wondering, Cornish is jam first, Devon is cream first.
  39. Jellied eels. And jelly. Though not necessarily together.
  40. Beer gardens. Because we love our beer and we love our gardens.
  41. Saying ‘I’m fine’ no matter how we feel.
  42. A love of mowing the lawn.
  43. Plugs with switches. Amazingly nowhere else seems to do this.
  44. Tolerating nearly everything, but banning hosepipes.
  45. Llanfairpwllgyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllantysiliogogogoch in North Wales. Just wait till your sat nav tries that one.
  46. World Cup, 1966. We’ll be clinging to it forever.
  47. Egg and soldiers. Those brave and tasty souls.
  48. The BBC. The only time you’re not constantly reaching for the fast-forward      button.
  49. Our British seasides. Watch out for the seagulls.
  50. Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland.
  51. Prime Minister’s Question Time. A no-holds-barred, public bashing for whoever’s in charge. Every week.
  52. The Full English breakfast. Served all day.
  53. The weather. Although we get less of it than almost anywhere, it’s still the major talking point.
  54. 99 FlakeThe 99 flake.
  55. Morris dancing. We know how to move it 15th Century style.
  56. Allotments. Our very own little patch of the countryside.
  57. Our love of everything pickled.
  58. Carry On films. Oooer Missus.
  59. Our talent. Be it our artists, musicians, directors or just dancing dogs.
  60. And finally…

(Seeing as the list was a Carling advert I’m sure you can figure their last one out).

Happy Bank Holiday / Queen’s Jubilee / Weekend everyone!

Do you agree with the list? What are your plans this weekend?

All comments are welcome 🙂

Stockport Air Raid Shelters

DAY ZERO UPDATE

Those of you who have been following my Day Zero Project progress have probably been wondering what’s been going on these past few months. I haven’t posted an update in so long you probably thought I’d abandoned the challenge.

Well I haven’t.

Progress has slowed considerably due to other commitments but I’m still hacking away at it as and when I can. I’m about 150 days into the challenge and so far I have completed 18 challenges. Thank goodness I have until May 2014 to complete them all.

One of my challenges was to visit Stockport’s Air Raid Shelter on Chestergate. Ever since the air raid shelter opened to the public as a museum in 1996 I’ve wanted to go inside – Something I’ve told anyone who’d listen repeatedly over the years. One Saturday morning it finally happened.

16 seater toiletsAIR RAID SHELTER

When the shelters first opened in 1939, they were the largest purpose built civilian air raid shelters in the country. Four sets of underground tunnels, almost one mile in length, were carved into the natural sandstone cliffs of Stockport centre and provided shelter for 6,500 civilians during the Second World War.

The shelters were fitted with basic amenities: electric lights, benches and bunk beds, flushing 16-seater toilets, first aid post and sick bay, plus separate facilities for nursing mothers. Thanks to the “luxurious” standard of accommodation the shelters were ironically nicknamed the Chestergate Hotel. You can imagine it was fairly cosy down there.

LABYRINTH

After years of procrastination it was almost on impulse that three of us ventured inside. We couldn’t believe our luck when we discovered we had the underground labyrinth to ourselves. (It pays to go early, apparently).

After listening to an introduction in the tiny audio-visual room our guide answered our questions then disappeared leaving us alone to explore the tunnels. Of course, only the bits with the electric lighting re-installed were open. (Everything of use was stolen from the tunnels after the War – including the lights). It is possible to explore the remaining tunnels by torch-light, subject to booking, but when we were there those tunnels were temptingly locked behind big metal gates.

ARTEFACTS

Artefacts from the time, such as benches, three tier bunk beds and gas masks, have been reinstated so visitors can get a feel for what life was like during the War. My Dad remembered seeing similar artefacts growing up and appreciated seeing them in context. (“Oh, so that’s what that’s for!”)

I think our guide expected us to wander through the tunnels and be out the other side within 15 minutes or so. It’s not as though we had to queue for anything after all. We actually spent a good 90 minutes down there, soaking up the atmosphere and playing spot the motion / light sensor. Our guide was beginning to get worried.

CHRISTMAS IN THE TUNNELS

It’s too late now of course, but Stockport Air Raid Shelter had special events over the Christmas period, such as Carol singing in the tunnels, with a festive feast of wartime favourites, followed by free wine and mince pies. On other days children were invited to ‘follow the good fairy’ through the tunnels in search of Santa and were treated with 1940s wartime gifts, provided they brought a sock or stocking to put them in. I don’t know about you but I’m disappointed I didn’t go!

SEE IT YOURSELF!

I’ve written about Manchester’s underground tunnel tours before and I still think they’re worth a look, however if you only want to visit one set of underground tunnels in the area make Stockport’s Air Raid Shelter your priority. Believe me, it was £4 well spent.  

Click on the photographs to see larger (clearer) versions.

My photographs from the day are all dark and gloomy. If you’d like to see some colourful photos of Stockport’s Air Raid Shelters (Brinksway deep level shelter and Dodge Hill deep level shelter) take a look at 28dayslater – The UK UE Urbex Urban Exploration Forum.

Neglected. Eroded. Derelict. (Manchester: Post Apocalypse)

Manchester Meanders has been much neglected these past few weeks. ‘Tis the season to be jolly but I’m rushed off my feet both at work and at home.

I should be writing about the Christmas Markets, the lights, the charity Santa Runs, Santa’s Steam Train, the 2 for 1 cocktails at my beloved ‘The North Pole’, the ice skating rink at Spinningfields, reviewing the much anticipated opening of the Oast House, Christmas shopping / bargain hunting and the humorous and unusual ways window designers are trying to tempt us into their stores.

There are so many wonderful cheery things I could, should and want to write about…

…but the thing that stopped me in my tracks and evoked such emotion that I HAD to write today, even though I don’t really have the time right now, is James Chadderton’s exhibition at Incognito Gallery, Northern Quarter.

AFTER AN APOCALYPSE

This morning, before my first brew of the day, I browsed the BBC News website and clicked on a link called Manchester After An Apocalypse. The images that flashed on my screen were a stark and disturbing contrast to the backdrop of tinsel, trees-lights and Secret Santa parcels. I was staggered and speechless.

THE PALACE THEATRE

James Chadderton's photo from Mmanchester Apocalypse - Palace Theatre

The first digitally altered image to confront me was of the Palace Theatre on Oxford Street. It was so unexpected and alien it took a moment for me to register what I was looking at.

THE HACIENDA

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_hacienda

Most of us have seen post-apocalyptic images before, either in films or in computer games. In fact, Chadderton cited films, books and games as his inspiration to show Manchester as a “human devoid wasteland where the buildings have been left to decay”.

THE URBIS

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_urbis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be honest, I’m usually desensitised to such things. Perhaps these images stunned me more because it’s MY beloved city that has been depicted in this way.

“James Chadderton has smashed Manchester up. The Town Hall is a blasted husk, the Palace Theatre is wrecked. Urbis, the best of the sequence, is a shattered shell. There are no people, they are killed or gone, the streets are empty. Manchester is dead.” Jonathan Schofield, Manchester Confidential

THE PRINTWORKS

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_printworks

Perhaps it wasn’t just the contrast with the winter festivities that disturbed me: Two nights ago I read ‘When God Was a Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman for my book club. We each took something different away from the book – But to me it was a story of hope and despair, childhood enchantment and innocence lost, against a backdrop of real life events – Events which many readers, like myself, gravely remember.

I won’t review the book here,* I’ll just tell you that my recent recollections of the real life heart wrenching events mentioned within those pages are probably what caused my mind to jump to memories of the aftermath of the Manchester IRA bombing and the lawlessness of the rioting and looting earlier this year, rather than simply admiring Chadderton’s semi-fictional cityscapes with curiosity and awe from the outset.

THE BIG WHEEL

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_wheel

Jonathan Schofield, writing for Manchester Confidential wrote: “[James Chadderton’s] digitally delivered images are fun to view and allow Mancunians to contemplate the fall of their own city. They could be the perfect Christmas present for the twisted mind.”

‘Fun to view’ – FUN? It’s not a sentiment that I share. I absolutely WILL go to this exhibition: I will admire the inventiveness and imagination of the artist and I absolutely WILL be buying the postcards to remember it by, but as for ‘fun’ or a ‘perfect Christmas present’ (albeit for the twisted mind) – I think not.

So much for Christmas cheer.

BEAUTIFUL MANCHESTER

Don’t get me wrong – I think these images are fantastic – I just don’t be hanging them on my living room wall.

If like me you prefer your photographs of Manchester to be a little less morose check out Andrew Brooks’ website, (the photographer who very kindly gave permission for the use of his Manchester at Night piece as the Manchester Meanders header image) and Aidan O’Rourke  – Both of whom are celebrated Mancunian photographers whose work I absolutely adore and wouldn’t hesitate to cover my walls with!

What were your thoughts when you first saw James Chadderton’s images? Do you plan to visit the exhibition?

All comments are welcome. 🙂

  • *Read Lou’s book club review of When God was a Rabbit here 
  • Manchester: Post Apocalypse is showing at Incognito Gallery, 5 Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, M1 1DN. Phone: 0161 228 7999.
  • The gallery is open Monday-Saturday 10am-5.30pm, Sunday noon-4pm.
  • Large framed and signed prints – £350; Smaller prints – £135; Postcards – £2.

Accidental Activist

Monkey and a Shrub

Monkey and a Shrub: Guerrilla Gardeners in a Manchester Protest in 2007. Photo borrowed from the BBC News Website.

Last week I wrote about my intention to create a secret garden somewhere in Manchester city centre. Guerrilla Gardening certainly isn’t new but I’m a newbie at it. In my blog I mentioned NQG: Northern Quarter Greening group who have been guerrilla gardening throughout the city centre all year. They are true Guerrilla Gardeners: Many mornings I woke up to find an empty patch of land was suddenly filled with bedding plants to liven up my walk to work. I intend to join them, if they’ll have me.

I published the article on Saturday. Two days later I received an email that should have thrilled me: BBC Radio Manchester had been in touch to invite me to be interviewed on air about taking part in International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I’m a wallflower. I like to stay in the background and never take centre stage. If you read this piece you’ll know how painfully shy I was growing up and how it took years to crawl out of my shell. They say everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. I don’t want it.

ABJECT TERROR

The few people I told about the interview were ecstatic. They went beyond enthusiasm and excitement; they were bouncing off the walls with delight. I on the other hand felt abject terror. The more people delighted in telling me what a fantastic opportunity it was the more I felt myself withdrawing into my shell. I felt sick. I was shaking. The idea of speaking on the radio absolutely petrified me. I have never ever wanted to speak on the radio. I knew it was a privilege to be asked, but as for actually doing it – Not in this lifetime.

DECISION TIME

The fear lingered for hours. My colleagues wouldn’t let the subject drop. Whenever I managed to put it out of my mind for a while someone would bring it up again. I kept telling them “No chance. I’m not doing it. Nothing you can say will talk me into it” and then I thought about my Day Zero List.

Number 83: Agree to do something I really don’t want to do. Being interviewed live on the radio is something I really, really, REALLY did not want to do.

So I agreed to do it.

Beswick at BreakfastI tentatively emailed the producer. My hands were probably shaking as I typed. I enquired what they expected from the interview and whether it would be live or [fingers crossed] recorded so if I screwed it up we could start again.

The next day I received an email giving me a get out of jail free card; the producer told me it would be live (Sorry!) and that their reporter Kevin would take good care of me. Or, if I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t have to.

WAITING

Sometimes the anticipation is the worst part. Every day this week I have had an internal debate over whether to go through with it or whether to pull out. I could feel panic rising within me whenever I thought about it. I had already agreed and didn’t want to let anyone down so I knew I wouldn’t pull out, but knowing that I could and life would go on was comforting.

I needed this week. If on Monday they had asked could we interview on Tuesday I couldn’t have done it. I needed this week to calm my nerves and convince myself it would be OK. It didn’t help that I felt like a fraud: The NQG group have worked hard all year and here I was, a newbie, coming in and stealing their thunder.

ILLEGAL

It didn’t help that guerrilla gardening is illegal either. Was I really going to publicly announce my plan to engage in an illegal activity? It’s hard to imagine being prosecuted for having civic pride and wanting to improve the look and feel of your neighbourhood but it could happen.

THE DAY BEFORE

Yesterday I still didn’t know whether it was on or not. I had suggested a time and a place for the interview but there had been no solid confirmation. Was I relieved that I might not have to do it? Hmm, I was unsure. For days I had been brainwashing myself into thinking I could do it. Did I feel cheated at loosing the opportunity? Yes, relieved but cheated.

My challenge was to ‘agree to do’ something I really didn’t want to do. I had ‘agreed’ to do it. Would the fact I didn’t actually do it mean that it wouldn’t count? It’s hard to imagine another such opportunity which would make me recoil in fear, as per the challenge, short of a TV interview that is.

At about 2 pm my phone rang. It was Kevin, a BBC journalist, my interviewer. Challenge 83 was back on track.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Last night I met Lou’s book group in Matt and Phreds. It was my first visit since the smoking ban was introduced. It was much brighter than I remember, but as I discovered Thursday night is salsa lesson night, so the lights were on. I’d been expecting darkness and jazz.

Before I arrived Dave informed the group of my impending live humiliation. I struggled to drink just 2 bottles of beer or to eat the delicious pizzas. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but was the deal: Buy 2 bottles of beer get 2 bottles of beer plus 2 pizzas free? What a bargain! I’ll go there again!) What I really needed was an alcohol free early night.

SHOWTIME!

I was woken up at 2.30 am and again at 5 am, after which I couldn’t get back to sleep. Feeling groggy and sick with nerves I found I had developed a cough in the night. It was as though my body was fighting me every step of the way telling me to pull out; cancel; abort.

Kevin from BBC Radio Manchester

Kevin from BBC Radio Manchester

At 8.30 am I met Kevin at a secret location. We chatted about a lot of things on the run up to the live slot – mainly to calm my nerves. We talked about Manchester Meanders and about being shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards. (Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I really appreciate it!) We talked about Manchester’s events and the Day Zero Project. We talked a lot about Guerrilla Gardening, after all that’s why we were there.

We ran through the procedure of the interview: Kevin told me how he planned to introduce the piece and the type of questions he was going to ask. We had 3 or 4 ‘dress rehearsals’ so I wouldn’t be frozen with terror and revert to nodding silently when it was time to speak on air.

Nerves came in waves. Whenever Kevin needed to adjust the microphone or test the equipment, or when he listened to voices in his headphones, I felt the butterflies taking flight. I hopped from one leg to the other and took slow deep breaths.

When Kevin started his introduction for the final time (It’s going out live!) I had to make a conscience effort to ignore the microphone and look at Kevin: Look at Kevin; Talk to Kevin; Ignore everything else. Just as it started a man walked past less than a metre from us. [Ignore him Sammy! Ignore him!]

At 8:59 am it was all over. I wasn’t traumatised. My voice didn’t shake ludicrously as I expected it would. I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself, I don’t think.

We didn’t cover the ground we’d planned to cover. In fact, I’m not entirely sure we talked about International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day (this Sunday) which was the whole point of the interview. I think I mentioned NQG and The Secret Garden but I’m not sure.

From the initial email we expected the interview to last 10 minutes but during our ‘rehearsals’ the slot was pushed back by 5 minutes, cutting the interview time in half. Kevin expected it to last 3 minutes. The studio overran slightly and as they had to play a jingle at a specific time exactly the final interview probably only lasted about 2 minutes. We might even have been cut off at the end. I have no idea what I did or didn’t say in that time.

The interview is available online but I haven’t listened to it.

I’m not sure if I want to.

I’m going to give you the link now but you have to promise to be kind. OK?

The interview was on Beswick at Breakfast on 07/10/2011. Our interview was right at the end of the show.

As I accidentally became an activist for guerrilla gardening please show your support by planting tulips this Sunday for International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day!

Challenge 83: TICK!

All comments are welcome. 🙂

Five Down, Ninety-Six To Go

101 in 1001 LogoI am now on day 26 of the 101 / 1001 challenge. Since my last update I have completed 4 challenges. Yippee!

The first challenge I completed, right at the start of the project, was Number 79: Persuade someone to join the Day Zero Challenge. That one is well and truly DONE. Since my last update I have talked a third person into signing up, who has in turn persuaded three other people to join in, plus Louise published her list yesterday.

I think I have nine willing volunteers in my pyramid scheme now. Cha-ching! (Or at least itwould be if I start rewarding myself cash for each new person who joins).

Before I go into which four I have completed, let us first look at the works in progress:

BooksIN PROGRESS

Number 26: I have read 10.1 cm of books – that’s about 6% of my height. My new phone has a little inbuilt-ruler-gadget-thingy which is proving very useful for this challenge.

(I went camping at the weekend – in the rain and cold. We could have left at any point but I had borrowed a book from another camper so I refused to leave until I had finished reading it. It gave me a further 2.2 cm).

I’ve also spent a small fortune on second hand books recently. If I just read books on my Kindle I would never complete the challenge. How many Kindles would I need to stack up to reach my height? Have you seen how thin they are?

Bear Grylls eating ZebraNumber 50: The challenge to eat 10 new unusual foods might not be as difficult as I first thought. I have discovered some crazy online shops that sell unusual meats, such as zebra, camel, python, rattle-snake and crocodile. Plus the Manchester Arndale market doesn’t do too badly either. From there I can buy pigeon, pig trotters, cow stomach, razor clams and shark, occasionally. I haven’t actually started this challenge. But I will. One day.

Number 56: I have attempted to curl my hair twice since starting the challenge. The second time I was even able to show my face in public. Alright, so I still looked messy and I was only visiting family but I am getting there. I just hope that incidents don’t go hand in hand with improvement. The first time I curled my own hair I looked dreadful. I brushed it out immediately but at least I didn’t burn myself. The second time it looked ok-ish, but in the process I burned my ear repeatedly and accidently grabbed the curling-wand with my un-heatproof-gloved hand. Ouch.

In brief, I have also:

  • Bookcrossed 5 out of 20 books (Number 29)
  • Sent off for my photocard driving licence again. (Number 81) My challenge was simply to fill in the form and send it off, which I have done twice now. I’m unwilling to tick this one off until I receive everything back safe and sound.
  • I have written my diary in 6 words for 36 out of 101 days so far (Number 86)
  • And Melanie has offered to write a guest blog piece for me (Number 88). I look forward to receiving that in my inbox at some point over the next 2.7 years.

MR PIGEON

Number 55: I became pretty obsessive about the Rubix Cube on my phone for about 3 days last week. After watching 4 or 5 hours of tutorials on Youtube and having written 10 pages of notes I managed to solve my first Rubix Cube. Hurray! When I went to tick it off my list however I realised my challenge was to ‘learn how to solve’, not just solve using instructions. Doh! So that one is still a work in progress.

I received an email yesterday from the Ebay seller who is sending me an actual Rubix Cube to work with. I ordered it weeks ago but it still hasn’t arrived. The email said:

“Mr. Pigeon informed us that he has completed 75% of its journey and preparing to land in a few days time. We are really concern that your item arrives on time and in good condition. Kindly keep we informed once you have received the item. If you have received your items please ignore this email, our pigeon must be have worked all the way out to get your products delivered.”

Homing PigeonHow sweet! A pigeon is carrying it all the way from China! At least that explains why it’s taken nearly a month. They should have used Owls. Harry Potter’s mail never took this long.

Soooo, now to the four challenges I have completed:

MAKE OVER – TICK!

Number 18: I won a makeover and photo shoot several months ago from one of the numerous makeover-photography places in Manchester. (There are dozens, seriously). When I won I thought I would wait a few months, take on a strict fitness routine, loose weight, look great, you know – that sort of thing. It didn’t happen. I love food too much so dieting was never going to happen. I could have exercised more but something always got in the way: Laziness, mainly. Plus a touch of procrastination.

If I was going to accept the prize I had to take it by the end of August. I just about squeezed it in by taking last Friday off work. When I booked the photo shoot I didn’t know it was going to coincide with We Love MCR Day. When I found out I thought ‘Great! I have the whole day off to enjoy it’.

Of course it didn’t quiet work out: Photo shoots always take longer than you expect, so I didn’t get to Exchange Square for 5 pm to tie a love-note to a balloon to release en mass at 5.30 pm. (Sulk!) I was looking forward to Number 77 but I’ll just have to buy a balloon another time.

World Book Night 2012WORLD BOOK NIGHT – TICK!

Number 30: The deadline for April 2012s World Book Night is upon us so I spent a lot of time last month deliberating on which 10 books to nominate.

For those of you who haven’t heard of World Book Night, it is Bookcrossing but on a huge scale.

World Book Night 2011For those of you who don’t know what Bookcrossing is, it means to leave a book in a public place for someone else to find, read, then leave in a public place for the next person to find. Feel free to look at my bookshelf here.

To Bookcross you register each book individually on the website then write the number and a brief message inside the book. Whoever finds it and reads the message can type the unique registration number into the bookcrossing website and leave a ‘Journal Entry.’ In theory you can follow your books journey around the world though the messages people leave. I think I’ve only ever received 4 messages but I live in hope.

So back to my challenge: World Book Night asked people to nominate 10 books to be Bookcrossed next April. Last year they gave away 40,000 books around the UK all in one night. In addition to nominating 10 books I have registered my interest to be one of the bookcrossers on the night. Fingers crossed that they pick me.

BE NOMINATED AS A TORCH BEARER – TICK!

CongratulationsNumber 91: (Yes, this is a new one). Those of you who live in the UK will have seen countless advertisements asking you to nominate a torch bearer for the London Olympics in 2012.

You were asked to nominate someone who does a lot of charity work or is active in the community. I secretly wanted to be nominated but I didn’t tell anyone. I do a lot of fundraising and volunteering so why not? I’m probably too old, ok I’ll admit that. 80% of torch bearers will be under 24 so it’s unlikely that I’ll actually get to the carry the torch, but I’m delighted to have been nominated. Thank you. 🙂

HappyBEING HAPPY – TICK!

Number 90: My fourth and final task this week was to list 101 things that make me happy. It’s quite personal so I’m not going to share my list, but I have written it. Honest.

It’s wonderful being so easily pleased!

 

How are you all getting on with your lists?

All comments are welcome. 🙂

One Down, One Hundred To Go

I am now on the 10th day of the 101/1001 challenge. I have completed ONE task.

Despite being giddy and excitable in anticipation of the challenges I haven’t actually managed to achieve very much.

Or have I?

I have only completed one task but I’ve been discussing the challenges at length, weighing up my options and putting feelers out for some of the others. It seems everyone I show my list to wants to help me achieve my goals.

A few people have presented an easy way out. For example, I was enthusiastically encouraged to make fish cakes decorated in tartar sauce, thus completing tasks 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45 all in one fell swoop.

I won’t.

I don’t want the challenges to be easy. I’ll feel cheated if they’re easy. Experience has taught me that you only get out what you put in. For the challenges to be worthwhile and memorable I need to put thought and effort into each individual one.

If I was willing to cheat I could claim I’ve completed number 44: Learn how to bake and ice fancy cupcakes. You see, Blondie gave me an impromptu lesson last night but to be honest it was a farce:

First Attempt at Cup CakesI measured too much butter. I didn’t beat the butter before adding the sugar. Blondie added too much milk so we added more of the other ingredients randomly to compensate. The mixture was still too runny so we put it in the freezer to solidify. The biggest cheat of all is that Blondie did most of it for me, except for icing the buns.

Number 44: Well and truly FAILED. (Oops, I mean IN PROGRESS).

FIRST COMPLETE!

1001 days to complete 101 challenges: That works out at one challenge every 10 days.

Yesterday, on day 9, I really thought I was going to fail to tick anything off in my first segment. That was until Melanie from Silly Wrong but Vivid Right saved me by publishing her own Day Zero list.

It could be argued that I had already passed this challenge when Manchester’s Artistic Son signed up, but as he was so easily persuaded and published his list before I did I felt cheated. Now that I have inspired 2 people independently I can confidently say: Number 79 – TICK!

Although I have completed the challenge I will continue to persuade others to join in. I really thought that task would be much harder. Complete yes, but was it too easy? How about 101 new joiners on a pyramid scheme? What is the policy on bonus points anyway?

REJECTION

The task I assumed I would complete first was number 81: Send off for a photocard driving licence. That should be simple enough, right? I filled in the form, took and attached a passport photograph, gave them my passport details, did everything they asked of me – then they rejected my form. I was disappointed to say the least. Dave made the mistake of asking what was wrong with my application: You can read my rant here…

IN PROGRESS

Several of my challenges are now in progress. Look at the Day Zero Project Tab for the full update:

  • I have read 5.7 cm worth of books towards reading my height (26);
  • I have ordered a Rubix Cube from Ebay (55);
  • I have stacks of used stamps ready to be cut out and donated to charity (34);
  • I am 21 days into writing a Diary In Six Words each day for 101 days (86). (I started this task on the day I decided to take the challenge. Day one reads “Started writing my Day Zero List.” That isn’t cheating, surely?)
  • I have registered 8 out of 10 books for World Book Night and I’m open to suggestions for what to nominate for the remaining two;
  • Plus I’ve started a few of the ‘list writing’ challenges.

FARM HAND

I wrote earlier that people are volunteering to help me achieve my goals: I honestly thought number 82 (shear a sheep and / or feed a lamb and / or milk a cow) was going to be a wild card. I didn’t even know where to start with it and yet as soon as I mentioned it someone piped up and started making plans to speak to local farmers on my behalf. How unexpected and fantastic! Do you know who is sorting this one out for me? My Mum.

My MUM!

How wonderful is my Mum?!

I really should bake her a cake. (Number 45).

x

All comments welcome. 🙂

A Sad Day in Manchester

I hoped Manchester wouldn’t suffer copycat rioting. Lots of rumours and lies were reported via Twitter and Facebook on Monday night but nothing actually happened, so when reports started coming in again on Tuesday I was optimistic that they weren’t true.

Artwork by Emmeline Pidgen published by The MirrorI left work early in case the riot vans really were gathering on Oldham Street. I didn’t see any. I walked through the Northern Quarter without incident. Most shops, bars and restaurants had either closed early or pulled their shutters down with customers inside. Every snippet of conversation I overheard predicted a long and troublesome night. There was tension in the air and a sense of dread but as far as I could tell nothing was actually happening.

The quiet didn’t last. Sirens, tactical aid units, police vans and helicopters were out in force to add to what turned out to be a very noisy night. I didn’t see any trouble. I heard it. At one point we ventured outside to move the car to a more secure location; On seeing an ominous horde of hooded youths heading our way we retreated quickly to the safety of our apartment.

I spent half of the night on the phone reassuring family and friends that we were safe. The other half of the night was spent following the unfolding events on twitter.

Twitter: @wes078Wessel: Only in the UK could rioters in £100 trainers organising things on £300 smartphones claim to be in poverty… #londonriots #manchesterriots

The frustrating thing about last night’s chaos is there was no reason for it. They weren’t protesting about anything. People weren’t taking to the streets for something they believed in.

The city centre was flooded with bored kids who had seen looting and vandalism on the news; they wanted in on the action. They thought it looked fun. They thought they could steal ‘free stuff’ and get away with it. They weren’t trying to make a statement. They weren’t trying to change anything. They trashed our beautiful city, for fun.

Twitter: @Harrietgregory: Quote from Waterstone’s employee on the news: “We’ll stay open, if they steal some books they might learn something” #londonriots

I could go on but other bloggers have already summed it up for me:

Oneapostophe wrote:

“The ‘protesters’ in Manchester weren’t outside the police station, or the civil justice building, or the town hall. They were looting shoe shops and electronic stores and clothes shops and engaging in a series of acts of nihilistic destruction, simply because they could. That’s a crime spree, not a protest, and the fact that so many people – young people – apparently see smashing windows, setting fires and stealing stuff as a viable form of entertainment says something fairly unpleasant about our society.”

Jonny Opinion wrote:

“The evening’s incidents weren’t so much riots as spontaneous exercises in radical consumerism. Manchester is not a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It looks a little worse for wear, considering, but that’s how it made its name in the first place. No biggie. As one teenager, his sound bite looped this morning on BBC Radio Manchester forever, put it, “why are you going to miss the opportunity to get free stuff that’s worth, like, loads of money?”.

THE BIG CLEAN UP

The Manchester Clean UpIt didn’t take long for the people of Manchester to unite and start planning the clean up: @RiotCleanUpManc quickly claimed over 8,000 followers and arranged for volunteers to meet at Piccadilly Gardens at 9 am with gloves, brushes and bin bags to boot. I wanted to join them.

Meanwhile @NQStreetParty made plans for a fundraiser for businesses in the Northern Quarter which had been hit by the vandals (any excuse for a street party or baking contest). A similar fundraiser is being planned for Afflecks.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

The quaintest development on Twitter and Facebook was the emergence of “Operation Cup of Tea”; a tongue in cheek Facebook group where people uploaded photographs of themselves staying in for a brew instead of ransacking the streets. How very British!

Twitter: @theleica: Apparently someone tried to use Facebook to organise a riot in Plymouth. Police RSVP’d as attending. #OperationCupOfTea

You have to love the British sense of humour.

Despite pockets of mindless thugs, who will hopefully all be identified and charged, Manchester is a very proud city with real sense of community. Shame on the idiots who thought they could damage our city and our reputation and get away with it. (And that’s why lemmings don’t have green hair – Oh wait, different conversation: The Code BBC2 at 9pm)

Were you caught up in any of the trouble? What was your experience of the ‘rioting’? Did you volunteer for the clean up?

Day Zero Project

101 in 1001 LogoInspired by The Laughing Housewife, Sarsm and Corkscrewboo-hoo I have decided to undertake the Day Zero Project, otherwise known as the 101/1001 Challenge.

The Challenge:

Complete 101 preset personal challenges in a period of 1001 days. Challenges must be specific and unambiguous, realistic and demanding.

1001 Days is about 2.75 years. This means I will have several seasons (and hopefully multiple opportunities) in which to complete the tasks.

Why am I doing this?:

Because it sounds fun. Because I take things for granted. Because as a child my dad told me to “Live Every Day of Your Life”.

It is actually quite difficult to write a list of 101 things you want to achieve in a relatively short period of time. I’ve already achieved a lot of things on my ‘some day’ list, such as doing a marathon, riding a horse in the sea, planting a tree, climbing a waterfall and learning the alphabet in sign language.

If you read my post The Next Step you will realise that I’m willing to try just about anything. Many of the items on my 101/1001 list were added on a whim. There are challenges that just popped into my head, sounded fun and I thought “OK, I can do that”. Although I had I never seriously considered them before I’m sure I will have fun along the way.

Other challenges on the list should encourage me to do my ‘some day’ items sooner rather than later. Others will stop me taking Manchester for granted, for example, I used to visit galleries regularly but don’t seem to find the time nowadays. Well now I have to – The clock is already ticking.

As I launch the list today I have only chosen 90 challenges. I am open to suggestions for the remaining 11. If you have any ideas for me or think you can help me with any of the challenges please get in touch.

Read my Day Zero Project List here

Wish me luck!

The Next Step

BECOMING ME

I was painfully shy as a child. I didn’t start out that way. I was always quite happy playing make-believe, building teepees and minding my own business. It wasn’t that I was afraid to be in the limelight I just wasn’t interested in it.

I remember hearing people commiserate saying “ooh, she’s very shy and quiet”. I also remember chastising them in my mind, growling “No I’m not! I’m just quiet! Why can’t adults tell the difference?!” At some point I must have started to believe them. I did indeed become very shy.

And quiet.

As I got older it started to hold me back. It wasn’t just that I didn’t talk much, I stopped doing things too. When you do things people pay attention and I didn’t want attention.

I realised the ‘shyness’ was holding me back. I deliberately put myself into situations where all eyes were on me and tried to convince myself that I wasn’t uncomfortable. It was difficult but it helped.

As I got older and more independent I developed new relationships, free from the judgments and disapproval I had endured as a child. That helped more. Each year I came out of my shell a little further but even then I missed out on activities I should have done at college or University.

ALL GROWN UP

About 18 months ago I decided I was old enough to do whatever I want. I no longer care when people stare. I laugh at myself and people laugh with me.

“We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing!” – Benjamin Franklin

With this realisation my life took a turn I hadn’t envisioned: Freed from the shackles of self-doubt and peer-pressure I began a spate of silly and challenging activities I hadn’t known I wanted to do.

Trees for Cities Winners, Official PhotographEARLY CHALLENGES

The first challenge was fairly mundane: I registered to run a 5 km Tree-athlon for Trees for Cities in Heaton Park. The first time I put on my trainers I expected to run for at least 10 minutes without stopping. I managed to run for 1 minute then gasped for 6.

I persevered, followed a fitness plan and completed the race in less than 30 minutes; planted a tree, had a picnic and watched a falconry display. (Heaton Park doesn’t do festivals by halves).

Next I set my sights on 10 km, but something else came up instead: Manchester was to host a new event called Shine, a Shine Night Marathonhalf and full marathon running / walking / skipping through the night. I approached a friend and asked if he would join me in a half marathon. He refused. He said “If you’re going to do something, do it properly.” So I did. I did the full marathon.

UrbanathlonTOUGHER CHALLENGES

I’d learned that I could run, albeit not particularly quickly. I decided distance wasn’t a challenge anymore so I needed a new type of challenge:

Have you heard of the Hardman contest? It’s ludicrous! They have you walking through fire and swimming in ice. I deliberated over it for a month but settled instead for a unique multidisciplinary urban obstacle course: the Manchester Urbanathlon.

If you read about the Urbanathlon on my Events Page you’ll know that “competitors run, wade, climb, crawl, slip, slide, scramble and dangle to the finish line, ensuring they complete the race in sweaty, soaking, mud-splattered splendour.”

Hardman aside, where else can you vault over derelict cars, scrambled up a giant haystack or inch your way through concrete pipes? I finished the race battered and bruised but I loved every minute. I would happily have clawed my way up the climbing wall again this year if I wasn’t attending a wedding on the same day.

Reverse Running, The Daily MailNext up was the 1 mile Reverse Running event, also known as retro-running. You can read about my experience in my earlier post here. If my description inspires you to try it yourself there is still time to enter: The race is taking place at Heaton Park on Sunday 14th August. You can register online or sign up on the day between 9 and 10 am.

THE NEXT CHALLENGE

You might wonder where I’m going with all this. To tell you the truth, I’ve gone off on a tangent somewhat. You see, when I sat down and started to type, my aim was to write an introduction to the Day Zero Project, otherwise known at 101/1001.

I have completely failed to do that haven’t I?101 in 1001 Logo

OK, I’ll be quick: My next challenge is to complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. The tasks must be specific with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined.

As you may have guessed my list is filled with things I probably should have done when I was a bit younger. Meh! I won’t let that stop me.

Rather than ramble on any longer I will save my list launch for another day. Sorry for the false alarm. Please continue to watch this space! :p