The Great Manchester Scavenger Hunt

Danger Moo-seWhen was the last time you went on a scavenger hunt? I think my last proper one was the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004. That is, unless you count the Manchester Art Crawl I attempted last year. Then of course there are bar crawls and Northern Quarter café crawls: Do you think they count?

The idea of scavenger hunts has played on my mind for several months now. One of my Day Zero Project challenges is to create a hunt of my own, or to take part in one at least.


Poor PlanningManchester Confidential trialled a bizarre one last year: ‘A Tour of Uninteresting Objects’. The fact it claimed to be uninteresting made me very interested indeed. I hoped they would run the tour again and they did, as part of the Stairs WaterfallManchester Histories Festival, but I discovered it too late and missed it again. 

I’m not sure whether I would find the whole hunt entertaining but the name of it intrigues me. I already Diversionknow where to find these little gems… but like many Blockbuster movies I fear they’ve revealed all their best bits in the advertising.


Photo from USA Today of Hayley Atwell filming on Dale Street in Manchester.With a little research I’m sure movie locations could be turned into a hunt. It’s no coincidence that Hollywood keeps returning to Manchester to film: We’re told the Northern Quarter looks a lot like old New York. Captain America was filmed near Piccadilly Basin last year; Alfie was filmed near the old Smithfield Market a few years earlier; and Sherlock Holmes was filmed in-between the two, both in location and in time, with additional scenes at the Town Hall.


Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield

Photo: Dave Schofield

An Architectural Treasure Hunt took place alongside the Manchester International Festival in 2011. We are lucky to have eclectic and unusual architecture throughout the city centre to match Manchester’s rich and varied heritage. Most of the time all you need to do is look up.

We have our fair share of eye-sores too; Beetham Tower might be iconic but urgh! What were they thinking?


Manchester Town Hall, John Rylands Library and the Manchester Museum all offer mini scavenger hunts within their walls.Northern Quarter Space Invaider

Moving outdoors, Manchester city centre had 47 Space Invaders hidden amongst its streets. Unfortunately several have been painted over but I know where a few still remain. Using this map I’m sure I could find more.


Perhaps Manchester’s newest scavenger hunt is Farrow & Ball’s 50 bird boxes, which were painted and installed for National Nest Box Week. (14th to 21st February) I read that Farrow & Ball have a pallet of 132 colours for exterior paint so in my mind I visualised an array of brightly coloured, patterned and embellished bManchester Bird Boxird boxes, decorated to rival the Manchester Cow Parade.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered all 50 boxes had been painted off-white. (Technically, they’re painted in ‘Pigeon’ and ‘Dove’ to follow the bird theme). I’m sure they had their reasons but I can’t help thinking it was a wasted opportunity. I’m not going to track down 50 white boxes but if they had been brightly painted, by members of the public or school children perhaps, then I might have given it a go. Maybe I should suggest it to them for next year.


So when was the last time you went on a Scavenger Hunt? Do you have any suggestions I should incorporate into my own hunt? I’m open to ideas.

All comments are welcome 🙂  


Hitting the Wall

What did you fear growing up? Was there anything that terrified you so much that you’ve never tried it since? I’m not talking about phobias here: I’m talking about real, [almost] rational and legitimate fears.Edale stream

I had several, most of which stemmed from school trips. Between the impressionable and personality defining ages of about 9 and 13, school trips involved adventure holidays at Welshpool in Wales and Edale in the Peak District. These beautiful, parentless locations were the backdrop to our attempts at a variety of challenging and often exhilarating activities – most of which I’ve virtually forgotten.

Rock ClimbingIn fact, I barely remember my achievements, but I vividly remember the scary parts. I remember that I dreaded rock climbing most of all. The idea of putting my life in the hands of another pre-pubescent child was terrifying, as was being responsible for another’s life when I had to hold their safety-line in return.

I remember how small and baby-faced the boy responsible for my line looked: He was a full 5 inches shorter than me, the youngest and smallest in the class; I remember him looking up at me, nearly as frightened as I was, with his pale wide eyes and pudgy freckled ginger features.

I somehow managed to get to the top of the cliff despite fear oozing out through every pore. I loved climbing trees but standing before a rock face I became weak and scared of heights. I was always relieved when the climb was over. I eventually reached the top once at each location but that was it: Once was more than enough.

The only part of the climbing experience I enjoyed was the abseiling. I felt proud when the tutors commended me on my natural ability… It was more fluke than skill but I didn’t admit that at the time.

The terror I associated with rock climbing prevented me from trying it again as an adult. I’ve was never tempted, until I wrote my Day Zero List.


I didn’t just pluck this particular challenge out of the air: I ran in the Manchester Urbanathlon to raise money for Forever Manchester, which rekindled my thoughts about Urbanathlonclimbing.

Yes, I know I’ve mentioned it before, twice, possibly even three times, and yes I probably will mention it again: The Urbanathlon is “a silly yet challenging urban obstacle course where competitors run, wade, scramble, slip, slide and dangle to the finish line in sweaty, soaking, mud-splattered splendour.”

Amongst other challenges the Urbanathlon forced me to face my climbing fears at least twice during the 5km race. 

About 4km into the race Blondie and I were suddenly presented with a seven foot vertical wall to scramble over. It might as well have been a twelve foot wall for the likelihood of me getting over it. My upper body strength is virtually nonexistent.

Blondie and I turned to the race marshal and asked in disbelief whether people were actually getting over it unaided. With a nod and a smile she replied “Yes off course”, just as three competitors caught up with us and hopped over without hesitation.


We looked at each other. We looked at the wall. It looked impossibly tall. Blondie backed up several paces and took a running jump. She managed to get her elbows over whilst her legs flailed about beneath her. Several failed attempts and four grazed knees later the marshal conceded that we were allowed to take a short detour around the wall and go through the gate to rejoin the race on the inside.

Detour? That sounded like cheating. Blondie and I looked at each other and shook our heads. One way or another we were both getting OVER that wall.  


Plan B: Blondie gave me a leg up. After the other obstacles we were both a little jelly-like so she manhandled me to the top in the least elegant way imaginable. Once I was safely seated on the wall Blondie took another running jump whilst I tried to pull her up from above. This clearly wasn’t going to work either so we embarked on Plan C: I dropped down the other side of the wall, followed the wall back around through the park and out through the exit, back to Blondie’s location to manhandle her over the wall. It wasn’t graceful but it worked.


After scrambling over a wall of haystacks and other random obstacles, prior to the two parked cars whose hoods we slid over Dukes of Hazzard style, we were suddenly faced with a climbing wall. My stomach clenched. My feet slowed.  

Ellie Howard on 40 degree board at Gorton Climbing CentreIt seems silly that I should be afraid of a climbing wall. The brightly coloured hand and foot holds are supposed to make it look easy and inviting but to me they look menacing.

With adrenalin pumping I barely had time to flinch: We both ran at the wall and were over it in seconds. I had no idea it could be that easy! All those years I’d wasted being afraid of climbing walls!  
I didn’t give the wall a second thought after that, until I came to write my Day Zero List. (The Day Zero Project is to complete 101 challenges in 1001 days). I added “Have a go at rock climbing / indoor wall climbing” to the list. I thought if I could climb a wall at the end of a 5 km obstacle course I could manage a nice easy session at a climbing club. I was wrong.
Gorton Climbing CentreWe have fantastic indoor and outdoor climbing facilities in and around Manchester. The Manchester Climbing Centre in Gorton looks spectacular with its climbing walls against the backdrop of stained glass windows and gothic architecture.
In the city centre you’ll find Rock Over Climbing just a few hundred yards from Victoria Rail Station.
There’s also a climbing wall inside the Chill Factore, should you feel a sudden urge to hone your climbing skills between skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing.
You can even try a moving climbing wall in the Trafford Centre at Laser Quest’s ‘The Rock’ if you get bored of shopping or have time to kill before your film starts in the cinema.
101/1001 CHALLENGE
I completed my climbing wall challenge. It wasn’t easy and I don’t plan to return any time soon. Blondie ran up the wall like Spiderwoman but I got stuck. Repeatedly. My torso ached for days. I couldn’t lift my arms above my head without wincing in pain for the best part of a week.
It was fun at first but once the muscle fatigue set in I didn’t stand a chance. I made the mistake of trying too long on one particular obstacle which sapped all my energy and strengh. I would have been better off climbing back down and starting again. I suppose I know for next time, if there is one.
I should probably work on my coordination and strength before I try another hour session. It’s possible to book 5 minute taster sessions to help build experience and confidence – A great idea for people like me – as long as you don’t need to go out of your way to get there. (Who in all honesty is going to travel all the way to the Chill Factore just for a 5 minute climbing session? It’s a nice idea even if it isn’t practical).
I had considered joining Manchester’s new climbing club with Large Outdoors. (Started in October 2011). They run a weekly club in association with the Manchester Climbing Centre. It’s open to both experienced climbers and those wanting to learn. Although I was tempted I think I’ll stick to hiking instead.

What did you fear growing up? Have you faced any childhood fears? Have you ever run in an Urbanathlon? Do you share my fear of climbing walls?

All comments are welcome 🙂

Mini Challenge (Win a prize!)

101 in 1001 LogoSince beginning the Day Zero Project on the 7th August last year I have completed 22 challenges.

Twenty-two Challenges!

In theory I should complete a challenge every 10 days, which puts me four challenges ahead of schedule. That’s not bad seeing as I didn’t complete any for two months in the middle.

(OK, so I progressed some of the longer challenges during that time, I just didn’t complete any).


ManchestersArtisticSon has his own Project Day Zero List but he’s in a slump. In an attempt to motivate himself to complete his tasks he has posted a competition to let readers have a go at some of his challenges.

The 10 challenges are: 

  • 3. Have an art exhibition. (Even if it’s just in your own home). 
  • 9. Make and encouraging / motivational banner and anonymously put it up. 
  • 23. Interview someone and write a story / poem about their life / experiences. 
  • 25. Cook a soufflé. 
  • 26. Make some Street Art. (We’re not encouraging you to break the law!) 
  • 54. Go on a demonstration / protest and if there isn’t one make one. 
  • 66. Set off Chinese Lanterns. 
  • 70. List a hundred things that make you happy. 
  • 74. Complete a colouring book.
  • 95. Have a T-shirt printed which advertises HIS blog (ManchestersArtisticSon)

Readers who undertake the challenge should record them in an interesting way then blog about it, adding a link in the comments on his blog. Alternatively you can email the entries to him at admin @ Manchestersartisticson.

The submission which makes him laugh / smile / cry the most will win. (Be sure to read the small print!)

We have until Sunday 12th February to have a go.

None of these challenges are on my own list so I plan to attempt a couple at least, just to change the pace.

I’ve already bought a colouring book and some felt tips… Do you think it would be cheating if I completed the book then put the coloured pages on display? Hmmm, it probably is… although it didn’t mention that particular scenario in the small print. 😉

Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield

Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield


  • A 6/8 print of the picture of your choice from his 365 project at
  • And “Nobody belongs here more than you” by Miranda July, which is a great collection of short stories.

Go on, have a go! It’ll be fun!

All comments are welcome 🙂

Stockport Air Raid Shelters


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.


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 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.


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!


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 🙂

Defective Baking

To be honest, I knew it wasn’t going well when it turned green. I’d followed the instructions exactly: It said “gradually add a few drops of blue food colouring (don’t add too much or the cake will look green.)” Well excuse me, but any yellow mixture is going go turn green if you add blue. It couldn’t be helped.

The Gingerbread House’s Battenburg turned green. Did I really expect mine to go differently? No. I looked at her photo and knew mine would go the same way. In hindsight I should have used white butter instead of yellow butter. When I was in Tesco’s surreptitiously buying a kilo of the stuff it just didn’t occur to me to peal back the wrapper to take a peek inside.

So my cake batter was green. Not the nice bluey-green Gingerbread House managed to achieve. Mine was more of a sickly pea-green. At least it didn’t curdle when I mixed the sugar, butter and egg. Oh wait, yes it did. The recipe said “If the mixture looks like it is curdling add a spoonful of the flour”, so I did. It didn’t help.

I probably should have used a proper cake tin. Instead I used a flimsy latex one from The Pound Shop. You’d think I’d have taken more care when putting it into the oven. It nearly ended up on the oven door. I caught it, just in time. I balanced the flimsy square on my left hand, the edges drooping on three sides threatening to overspill, whilst my right hand battled the oven rack.

Grabbing it with both hands wasn’t much better: the cake flopped into a V shape redistributing the mixture once again. (Note to self: Use a baking tray in future). I scrapped the mix back into the ‘tin’ and popped it in the oven.

I shouldn’t have opened that bottle of wine. I was home alone and baking on a Saturday night. I knew it was a mistake but I did it anyway. I thought I deserved it at that point. It couldn’t get much worse, could it? …

…That’s as far as my diary entry went for Saturday night.

I meant to finish writing about my disastrous Union Jack Battenberg and post it in a blog. I also meant to write about the wonderful chocolate / vanilla marble muffins I successfully scraped together. (Number 44: Tick!) The recipe said they were cupcakes. Who am I to My Chocolate Cup Cakesargue? If I’d known they were muffins I’d have used a muffin tin instead of a Yorkshire pudding tin, then maybe they wouldn’t have spread out and covered the tray. They still worked out well, considering. They look good though, right? They tasted good.

I also meant to write about the “Northern Quarter Loves You” festival which took place over the weekend. (2 day, 3 stages, 30 bands etc.) I wish I had the time to tell you about sitting outside Centro Bar on Tibb Street listening to J.P. Cooper and chatting with a fascinating ex-pat Mancunian who nearly died in the Boxing Day Tsunami, but survived with just one leg amputated.

I wanted to tell you how much I loved seeing Manchester come together like that: having fun, eating, drinking, dancing; and I wanted to debate the idea of having a NQ festival monthly, bi-annually or annually.

I just don’t have the time. Not this week. Instead here are some photos from the Northern Quarter Loves you festival.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you didn’t go – You missed out. If you did go – Tell me about it. 🙂

All comments welcome. 🙂

… P.S. We’re looking for a Canadian themed venue in Manchester for our next book club. Any ideas?

P.P.S. My cupcake photo isn’t suppost to be part of the slideshow but I don’t know how to remove it without removing it from this page completely. Just ignor that one! :-p

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:


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.


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:


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.


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. 🙂


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).


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?


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…


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.


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.


How wonderful is my Mum?!

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


All comments welcome. 🙂

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!