Saturday, 31 August 2013

I am going to be 30

In 21 short months I will turn 30. I feel quite good about it, but nonetheless it is quite momentous to move into a new decade of ones life. I remember turning 10 and the fuss that was made of being 'double figures', but I don't remember much about turning 20. Presumably this is because it fell in the middle of a few year phase of hard nights, crap jobs and unrealistic expectations. Turning 30 excites me. I'm a much more reflective and self-aware person now, I think I'll look back on my twenties proudly, but with an eagerness to get stuck into the serious business of being three decades old.

I am no stranger to goal setting. When I started blogging back in 2008, lots of bloggers took part in a challenge to do 101 Things in 1001 Days (roughly 2 years and 9 months). I spent weeks coming up with ideas, only to abandon the project after a few months because my goals were either too big (read 500 books) or boringly small (sort out the kitchen cupboards), or difficult to keep track of (bake 1001 cupcakes - hard to count when you eat them as quickly as I do). So with this past failure in mind I've made sure my 30 things fit with SMART criteria, a project management framework used when setting objectives. Why yes, I am ON IT, thank you very much.

S - Specific - Each item is clear and simple, there are no vague 'get fit' or 'be happier' goals.
M - Measurable - Pass X, finish Y, do Z. Some goals have a numerical target. I like numbers. Goals like 'drink more water' or 'see my friends more often' are harder to quantify.
A - Achievable - Whilst it would be interesting, you won't see 'become a millionaire' or 'go to space' on this list. Everything I've chosen is something I could realistically do, some I could tick off tomorrow, some will take a bit longer, but everything is possible within 21 months.
R - Relevant - This list is all about me, and the things I want to do before I turn 30, rather than the things I feel like I should do, or society tells me I should do.
T - Time-bound - Well, that'll be the 21 months then. Best hop to it!

So, here is my carefully crafted list. I'd love to hear what you think, especially if you can help with any of my goals, so do leave a comment below!

1. Pass my driving test
In all my adult life I've lived in city centres and had no need to learn to drive. I still live in a city centre but I'm starting to crave things in my life that would be easier with access to a car. I think that 21 months is enough time to learn and pass, but I'm also a bit wimpy about driving and so I know it'll be a challenge.

2. Buy property
My sister and I are hoping to buy a place together. Really early stages but it would be great to own some property by the time I turn 30.

3. Complete a 90k first draft of a book
I'm not really ready to talk about this because I think it's the height of vulgarity to bang on about writing a book when in reality you've just got a few scenes scribbled out. Finishing uni in two weeks will free up a lot of time to work on this goal. I'm not expecting to knock out a bestseller but I want to embrace the experience of writing a novel, even if nobody ever reads it.

4. Finish my patchwork quilt project
I started an ambitious patchwork quilt project over a year ago and haven't touched it in months. I'd love to see it finished and think this will be a perfect winter project.

5. Make some money from my blog
I'd like to focus some time on building a more professional blog, buying a domain, improving the design and content. It's something I've never tried before and it 's a long way off but it would be nice to get to a point where I earn a small income from it that at least covers my costs.

6. Mentor two women
I've had a lot of great support and advice in getting to where I am in my career. I'd like to support two other women to take the next steps in theirs.

7. Paint a portrait of my boyfriend
To be clear, I don't paint and I don't draw. In fact, I don't think I'm very artistic at all but we recently went to see the BP Portrait Award at the National Gallery and I loved it so much that I want to give it a go. How arrogant is that? Girl looks at portrait and thinks "I can do that!" I don't expect it to be good, but I think I'll enjoy trying. And he agreed!

8. Present publicly
I've had a few opportunities to present at events and conferences this year and I'd like to take that more seriously and develop my presenting skills.

9. Raise £1000 for charity
I work for a charity, and I know how important donations are and the difference they can make. I'm not sure what the best way to do this will be but I've got a few ideas for events that should help rack up a nice amount.

10. Run 10km
I did this once a few years ago but would love to do another one.

11. Walk 30km
My guy and I both love to walk and have recently decided to take it more seriously (as in, two weekends back we walked 19km, last weekend we walked 16km). With a bit of planning we'd like to take on a 30k walk and hopefully soon.

12. Cycle 50km
And in the vein of being active, why not throw in a cycle challenge too. This is probably the toughest of the three because I don't actually have a bike at the moment. We'll see how it goes!

13. Shoot portraits of 30 friends
I have an excellent DSLR that I don't make enough effort to use. And also I want to better document the time I spend with my far away friends.

14. Send 30 handwritten letters
I really like to write letters (and also receive them). If you are a person who might like to receive a letter at some point over the next 21 months please email [email protected]

15. Go on a trip alone
I have a wonderful friend Kate who took a solo trip to Mallorca this year. Ever since I've been thinking that that would be quite a brave and personally challenging thing to do so I'm going to give it a bash.

16. Go wild swimming
On the occasions I've done this I've felt more alive than ever so I'd like to make the effort to make it happen. Even though I am a major wimp when it comes to the sea and cold water.

17. Go tree climbing
This was a favourite childhood activity, why do we then give it up as adults? I need more tree climbing in my life.

18. Visit 5 new cocktail bars
Quite obvious this one! I do like a good cocktail and London has no shortage of places to imbibe them.

19. Visit Highgate Cemetery
I've wanted to go ever since I moved to London but still haven't made it.

20. Visit Highclere Castle
This is where Downton Abbey is filmed. No further explanation needed really.

21. Visit Bletchley Park
I am quite fascinated by code-breaking so I really want to go and visit Bletchley Park and learn about how it helped during WW2.

23. Walk 3 of the London Underground lines
When I moved to London my guy gave me Mark Mason's book, Walk The Lines and we've been meaning to do some of these routes ourselves, walking entire tube lines, overground, from start to finish. We're both quite nerdy about the tube so it would be great to do at least 3 of them over the next 20 months.

24. Bake 10 types of bread
Previous attempts at baking bread have been quite successful so I'd like to start trying more adventurous recipes.

25. Homebrew some nice wine
I've got some homemade rhubarb wine ageing at the moment but I fear it's a bit ropey and so I'd like to give it another go and produce something I'd be proud to share with friends. My guy bought me some winemaking books for my birthday so they'll come in handy for this challenge!

26. Go fruit picking
As a kid I loved going to pick-your-own strawberry farms and have wanted to go back for years. We picked wild blackberries on a recent walk and that inspired this task.

27. Learn to make Yorkshire Puddings
Despite Yorkshire puds being one of my favourite foods ever, I've never made them. I mean, who am I to doubt good old Aunt Bessie? But really, this feels like a skill I should acquire and so I hope to master it ASAP!

28. Buy a watch
I haven't worn a watch for years but would like to start wearing one again. The biggest part of this challenge will be choosing one that I like and want to wear every day.

29. Learn to shuffle cards
Card games are an embarrassment as I drop the deck, send cards flying, bend the edges. I don't know how I haven't learnt this already but it's about time I nailed it.

30. Spend a night in a gorgeous country house hotel
The Secret Escapes newsletter is entirely responsible for this one because I've become obsessed with country retreats and spa weekends lately, something I normally wouldn't splash out on (plus not having a car doesn't help) but I'd really like to make this happen before I'm 30. Or perhaps this will be a final item to tick off to celebrate leaving my 20's in style.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

I need some space

I live in London. I love living in London. The people, the places, the history, the food, I love it all. (Especially the food.)

And yet, London takes something from me. Every day, I sacrifice a little bit of my energy for a life in this wonderful city.

I take a busy route to work and everyone and everything moves quickly. Now, I'm a fast walker but there's no denying that a commuting crowd is fraught, a heaving throng that you must just embrace and get stuck into lest you alternatively despair forever. People bump into you, barge past, cars drive a little too close, buses pretend you don't exist, cyclists appear out of nowhere. Lord help me if it rains for there is nothing as dangerous as a Londoner armed with an umbrella.

I can't stretch out in London.

My walk is along one of London's busiest routes and all the way along it there are disruptions. Road works, buildings being built, buildings being demolished, shops being refitted, pavements being resurfaced. It suffocates me and my fellow walking commuters, forces us all to walk in the narrow spaces they've left for us. Throw in some film crews, fundraisers and street preachers and you'll understand that getting to work has become something of an assault course for the senses.

Sometimes I get the bus and the notion of queueing (how British!) disappears entirely, the seats fill up quickly and there we are all mashed together in our shared onward journey. And yet, sometimes I don't exactly mind being mashed up against a stranger on public transport. Now let me explain, for I know that if I read that sentence written by anyone else I'd be doing some serious eyebrow raising. Rest assured, this is a far from sexual encounter, nor is it one I actively coerce.

Merely I am referring to the few seconds when two strangers (can be as many as five if you're on the tube) physically connect and for the briefest of moments I am reminded that we're all human. We're more than commuters. We're people, with feelings, and destinations and we are all on the journey together.

A brush of an arm, thighs pressed together as we're wedged in, a suited shoulder inches from my face. Were we all a little friendlier, come 5pm I'd be partial to just laying my head on that shoulder and having a wee chat about my day.

Often I get home and lie down on my floor and stretch my limbs all the way out just because I have felt so confined all the way home (and because it feels awesome). I push my belly right out because I have felt unable to take a proper deep breath (and because it feels awesome).

And yet, I don't hate the commute. I'm still thrilled to cross London Bridge each day and often I glance to my right in the morning and think of a departed friend who lived for the view of Tower Bridge. I like the grumpy businessmen in their multitudinous shades of grey, and the free paper peddlers, and the towering buildings.

But I do like to stretch out, and to be left with some energy, and for the horizon the be more than 100m away.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A story about wallpaper and aging

Last night I shared this story on Twitter and a few people asked me to blog it. So here it is, verbatim.

I would like to tell you a little story Twitter. It's about wallpaper. And aging.

My grandparents still live in the house my Mum grew up in. They're old now and my gran has full blown alzheimers so my Mum helps out.

She looks after my grandma while granda goes bowling (bowls not ten-pin) and runs errands and helps out around the house.

Grandma used to have free reign of the house until one night she escaped and the police brought her home at 4am in her nightie.

As the alzheimers has progressed, my grandma has been confined to four rooms so she doesn't hurt herself. One of these rooms is the hallway.

Now in this hallway, for as long as I can remember, there has been this quite naff foamy print wallpaper. It must have a name. I don't know.

When I was wee I used to like standing in the hallway running my fingers over the paper, trying to make a dent but not leaving a mark.

20 something years later, my grandma has taken to doing the same thing but on a more extreme level. She picks at the paper! (Naughty)

At first it was just a few bits but then Mum arrived one day to find she'd torn a huge strip of paper off the wall.

Luckily they had spare wallpaper but it was decided that she'd do it again and so Mum stripped the lovely foamy paper and painted the walls.

However, the porch entrance now has a different wall finish (shock horror!) and so it was decided that would be stripped and painted too.

So today my Mum spent hours stripping the wall only to discover five layers of paper, all the layers from throughout her childhood.

And I just find that to be such a lovely experience. And a sad one too. Mum remembers the layers but my grandma doesn't.

They still have amazing wallpaper in the kitchen. Here's me and my sister standing in front of it.

Holly and her sister in front of the vintage wallpaper in the kitchen

Praise for my amazing jumper please.

And here is me standing in front of the same wallpaper 20 years later.

Holly in front of the vintage kitchen wallpaper

Apparently foamy wallpaper is called anaglypta. It's well nice. [Google images]

And that is my story about wallpaper and aging. Thank you for listening.