Challenge No 45 – Safari


So hello again, it has been some time.  But some things are worth waiting for and this challenge was one of them!!

Michaela and I have been friends since we were 11 years old and started school together at Senacre Secondary, Maidstone….the mathematicians amongst you will work out that that is….a very long time ago, in fact now over 40 years which seems an impossibility.  We were unable to complete our challenge during our 50th year (we were born 6 days apart) but I certainly did not mind….in fact I am extremely happy to stretch out the celebration. 

Growing up my Dad encouraged, and sat with me, to watch all African nature programmes, Billy Smarts Circus (to see the elephants and the lions) and talked with a passion and longing about these animals.  He even took me to Port Lympne Zoo on my 18th birthday to see the elephants, gorillas and other animals which was a wonderful day.  However, his only visit to Africa was during the Second World War; and that was to Egypt.  Since he passed away I have always thought how much I would love to go on Safari, and honour his memory by seeing these fabulous creatures in their natural surroundings.  As yet this has not been possible.  So, when Michaela said to me about her love of Giraffes and how would I like to do a UK glamping safari (at Port Lympne no less) this seemed a wonderful and fortuitous step in the right direction.   

We arrived at the Zoo on a beautifully sunny September day and spent some time looking at the gorillas before our tour started.  After our bags were tagged and taken away we went on a safari of the park with the extremely knowledgeable Jack as our guide.  We learnt about the Aspinal breeding programmes for Rhinos, saw cute spider monkeys, were greeted eagerly by the new wolf brothers and then saw the Giraffes for the first time. 

Because… the experience we had fixed upon was a stay at Giraffe Lodge (and what a great decision that turned out to be).  There were welcome drinks, we were shown to our tents (ours overlooked the waterhole and out across Hythe, Dymchurch and out to Dungeness…but it looked so different with the Zebra, Elan and deer grazing across the land….positively African) so we decided to have a pre-dinner gin and tonic, a snack and sit on our veranda enjoying the splendid views…and what a view as the giraffe began their elegant drifting across the horizon.  We later enjoyed a wonderful South African inspired brai with good company, a log fire at the Lodge and then strolled outside as the sky was perfectly clear. We could see Mars and Jupiter plus many constellations clearly in the sky…a perfect end to a wonderful first day.

We had chosen to leave the flaps of our tent open so we could appreciate the view and the autumn chill meant we both slept well (or that may have been the tipples we imbibed!!). Regardless, as the sun gently rose the following morning our tent was filled with soft very early morning light and so we got up to look out….WOW….an ethereal mist had fallen and was wrapping the tops of trees and clinging to shrubs, had obscured any sign of buildings or roads and I truly found it magical…We stayed for a few minutes, cold but taking it all in when what should appear to our left but the floating majesty of a giraffe.  It glided into view and was followed slowing and regally by three more large male giraffes.  We watched, captivated….not believing our good fortune.  In their own time they walked past, stopping and stripping the odd branch, make their way past the water hole, past us and off again out of sight.  What they left behind were two very content, overwhelmed and blessed women!!

And our break was not even over…we had a much needed “nice cup of tea” to deal with the excitement and then later a fabulous cooked breakfast.  What superb and friendly staff work here, guides, chefs, hostess’, drivers…everyone!!   So we then had to pack and take our second part of the safari which lead us past the hilarious ostriches and down to the giraffe paddock. 

Here we were able to feed them ourselves…..what a treat.  Their sheer height is inspiring, their delicate eyelashes are endearing and large, dexterous tongues would then grip and strip the branches of all their leaves (their strength left you thinking you might go up in the air too).  We learnt about their habits, diet, interesting stride pattern and many other facts.  It really was a most enjoyable and informative end to the trip.  

And this is such an edited version; I cant begin to include how much Michaela and I  discussed our hopes and dreams, laughed, reminisced, shared and were just comfortably silent ….the way true friends can be.  It was a fabulous challenge as it allowed us to spend ‘time’ together….the most precious of commodities.  So thank you Micky…for a great experience, for that lasting image of the emerging giraffe through the dawn light and for being a super friend.

Oh…and for reminding me that if I want something to happen I must make it happen…so today Kent……the future……AFRICA!!! So be like this baboon and …keep your eyes peeled for what comes next…


baboon 3



floating majesty

ethereal mist

No 5: Have meaningful 1:1 time with my family and friends


I am sure we all find that before we know it time has vanished and we don’t seem to quite get around to what it was we wanted to achieve.  My 50@50 experience taught me that if you really want something you have to prioritise it and make it happen.  Chris and I have become quite good at marking out time for quality 1:1; as avid board gamers (Carcassonne, Dominion, Hansa, Le Havre, Orleans, Crib etc) one night a week is set aside for this and one weekend a month we try to declare as “keep free” so we can walk, garden, watch films, go to shows etc and this works well for us.  However, it is much harder to find time to create memories and spend time with our family and friends which is why I made this one of my 12 in 12. 

In particular it is important to me to see my children, who are now grown up and have their own lives.  We have just had our annual Poker Night which I so look forward to and guarantees we all get together in the early part of the year.  Poker is such a fun game (unless you are first out which me or Chris normally are as the kids surpassed us in skill very early on) and this year…for the first time EVER…..Chris won.  We started playing when Matt and Kate became teenagers and as most parents know that can be a difficult time to find things that everyone wants to do….Poker was that middle ground for us and we all loved it.  A chance to chat, laugh and be competitive. Even better is that now the following day normally involves a family walk (grandchildren too) which I think is one of the things I most love doing.

Also this month saw Kate and I venture off to Finland together in search of the Northern Lights.  This was such an amazing time and Kate is a great travel companion.  We packed so much into this short break and it reaffirmed our close bond.  I trusted her whilst she drove the snowmobile (we wont talk about the slight toppling into fluffy snow …they  categorically never told me not to lean over LOL!!) through reindeer filled forests and likewise she trusted me whilst I mushed the dog sleigh across the frozen Lake Inari (one of the best experiences I have ever had and one which I would do again in a heartbeat given the chance).  On our last night we snuggled up in our Bubble Cabin with a glass of fizz and were fortunate enough to watch a magical display of the northern lights playing across the sky.  I will never forget this experience and it is exactly the sort of thing I had in my mind when I added this goal to my list. 


Matt however has two young children and therefore time is of a premium and it is harder to achieve these 1:1 times.  Please don’t tell him but as its his birthday next month I think part of his present will therefore have to be a mother/son experience…I just cant decide quite yet what it is to be mwhahahhaha…….

I certainly feel on a roll now and am pleased to say that I have a few other great things booked up already this year that I am particularly looking forward to sharing with friends and family.  Loathing January as I do….and unluckily for Chris I get really miserable….. I have discovered that a brilliant antidote is to organise things for later in the year and this is my top tip, it certainly made me much happier.

So 2 down and 10 to go…..


Treasure Baskets – stimulating play for babies and toddlers


I thought I would write a quick blog about this topic as, for whatever reason, this great idea never seems to get talked about much.  I learnt about ‘treasure baskets’ whilst undertaking my degree in Early Childhood Studies.  And now that I am starting to look after my second granddaughter, Lara, one day a week I am excited about making and sharing these baskets with her, as I did with her sister.

Simply put these baskets are a group of specifically chosen natural (real world) objects collected together and presented to a child for them to safely explore (see photo above).  It is a form of heuristic play which means the child learns for themselves, without adult intervention ( unless for safety reasons). It is very cheap, can be easily changed, adapted, themed and provides wonderful stimulation for a young child.

So why bother when there are a plethora of toys on the market? If I were to challenge you to close your eyes and touch, smell and feel many of the modern toys they would probably on the whole elicit the same results..smooth, plastic, cold.  Many are excellent and certainly earn their place in the toy box. However,  the contents of a treasure basket are textured, scented, noisy, hard, heavy or light etc and are more interesting because of it. 

This week when I looked after Lara I presented her with a ‘touch’ treasure basket…she simply loved it.  She physically shook with excitement when she picked up some of the items.  Whilst she totally disregarded some things, conversely she spent absolutely ages on others ( her choice) specifically touching, tasting, scrunching and comparing grease proof paper and baking foil.  She also loved rolling, sucking, lifting and squeezing the lemon…repeatedly returning to it.  I can’t wait for next week so we can repeat the experience.  I get so much pleasure from simply observing her as she explores, frowning with concentration and then giggling with delight, all the time learning.  I am grateful to her parents who gave me kind permission to include photos of her playing with her basket so you can get the idea.

Below is an excellent book should you want more information about how to make up these baskets.  I often include it as part of my present to anyone who has just had children.

Or alternatively here is a website with more information about them


No 7 – make time in my day for the music that I like


Ok….so music!!! Having spent the day yesterday with my youngest granddaughter, who is 9 months old, it reminded me how the enjoyment in making and listening to sound seems ingrained in us.  She shook her rattles and maracas, bashed her toys like drums, clapped her hands and smacked her lips as loudly as she could for the physical and musical pleasure….pure delight to watch, listen and join in with.  I enjoyed this morning listening to the birds singing, the water gushing into the pond and now the swooshing of the dishwasher…we are surrounded by music it would seem.

However my particular aim was to make time in the day to listen to the music I like.  Having turned 50 last year my tastes are varied and have altered ( like my reading material) but my CDs, unlike my books, do not reflect that.  I mainly listen to classic FM (and Jo Wiley on Radio 2) which is a wave of calming and then rousing music but it is not always what I need.  So I have bought my portable CD player into the kitchen and have purchased some new CDs to start me off (I have also preordered Rag’n’bone mans ‘human’  album)


1. Dean Martin (this time I’m swinging) how I loved him in a western movie

2. The Best of Jools Holland – rhythm and blues at its best

3. The very best of Kirsty MacColl ( a replacement for my much listened to and scratched copy) I am an 80s girl at heart and her lyrics are phenomenal

4.  Seasick Steve – Walkin’ Man – new for me but I just love his blues sound

It has been great listening to these and brightens my day, matching the music to the task, emotion, weather etc and I have listened to lots of my other cds too rediscovering my love for Freshlygrounds’ Nomvulu album particularly.

This has also been surprisingly cheap with most of the CD’s being around £5 (much cheaper than a book).So this brings me to my issues…actual CDs versus downloads.  I enjoy the physicality of choosing a Cd from the shelf, looking at the artwork, remembering the associations, listening to it in its entirety which I just dont get from choosing on the iPod.  But…..the iPod has the Bose speakers 🔊!!  And there is the dilemma…quality of sound or quality of experience??  For travelling and the garden listening via my phone, iPod etc is brilliant…but indoors??? Maybe the answer is I need a Bose CD player for my next birthday (… oh and a record player as I so want to listen to my albums too haha).

I am already glad I wrote my list…as this music has made me happy.

A new year and a new list!!

Over the past few months I have enjoyed a respite from my hectic but very enjoyable 50@50 challenges.  I don’t intend to repeat the experience this year with 51 challenges, however I do love lists; the comfort and order they provide, ticking them off (even secretly adding things already done just to feel the pleasure of crossing them off…sad I know) and then re-writing them…Yes I confess to being a compulsive list writer.  Whilst many of my lists in the past have been no more than meaningless doodles actually writing a public ‘challenge’ list was much more motivational and not only shaped my last 12 months but shaped me too.  So I have decided to have a 12in12 year (12 challenges in 12 months) which starts today….and here is my list

  1.  Join a village club
  2. Reduce/cut out gluten
  3. go on a 3+ day walk
  4. be spontaneous
  5. Have meaningful 1:1 time with family and friends
  6. Start donating blood again
  7. make time for music in my life (listen to all types of music I like)
  8. learn to cook a decent curry from scratch
  9. dont overfill my calendar…leave free time
  10. read alternate fiction/non fiction (can be one chapter)
  11. properly catalogue the wildlife in my garden
  12. visit somewhere new

This is not a list to set the world alight with its originality but is a personal and achievable one which has developed as part of my  new 50+ Ideology (which I am not articulate enough to put into words but comes from the feeling of wanting to be the best person I can be). So wish me luck and hopefully there will be lots of ticking off ✅

Happy New Year to you all


Visit the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan – Challenge No 20


Well hello again everyone.  I have to admit I have missed blogging my escapades so here I am to regale you with the fun, frolics and frustrations that took place on my recent trip.

I love gardening, plants and all things green so it has been a wish for quite some while to visit these two gardens; however they are a very long way away.  Chris, my husband, has been brilliant this year supporting me and accompanying me on many of my challenges but he put his foot down on this one and understandably said you are on your own!!  So how does a now 50+woman who does not drive (well…only back from the pub) get from Kent to Cornwall?  Answer…..on a coach trip!!!!

So, I was the only person on the coach trip who was a single traveller…what a larry!!  But most of the people were completely delightful and in particular I met Betty and Don who made my holiday; how I aspire to be like them…adventurous, full of fun, open and honest…and such globe trotters(despite being nearly 80).  There were however huge drawbacks to this trip which I wont dwell upon and bore you with, except to say…unnecessary hours beyond belief on the coach, plus 4 hours there and back (each day!!) to get to the gardens and not long enough in the gardens, little time to explore Torquay and ‘interesting’ meals and entertainment. But that said I was the youngest by some few years and I guess the holiday was not aimed at me!! So…..on to the fabulous bit…

First day (after an unusually early awakening and a brisk sunrise walk around Torquay beach followed by far too many slices of fried bread) was Heligan.  I can not adequately explain how much I loved this garden.  It was ‘lost’/allowed to become overgrown after WW1 and had been uncovered and restored over the last 25 years (an interesting story in itself).  It is lush, tropical in places yet has retained the feeling of a proper British Large House garden too which is a very clever feat.  There is a rope bridge over what can only be described as ‘beasts’ of gunnera in the tropical garden (and yes I may have foolishly bought one…agghhh) and it is approx. 3 degrees warmer down there too.  There are plenty of walks, a walled garden full of vegetables and fruit, stunning and unusual plants, sculptures…..this girl was in heaven.  And, surprisingly, such a joy to be on my own and be able to please myself where I went and how long I stayed to browse or take photos.  Whilst I am a social creature I have surprised myself this year by just how much I like being solitary and enjoy my own company.  The most moving part of Heligan though is their connection with the former garden staff who went off to WW1, some returned and some did not.  They have photos, descriptions and pay homage to these early creators/custodians of the garden in a wonderful way and it adds tremendously to the visit to the garden.  I think of myself as a transient guardian of my own garden and so I could relate to these men who are remembered and honoured not only for their sacrifice but also for the legacy of the garden they helped create.  I would urge anyone who gets the opportunity to got to this garden.

Day Two and after an early shock of the fire alarm going off whilst I am stood dripping and naked having just stepped out of the shower (don’t even ask where that story goes!!) we were off to Eden, via Bodmin Moor for some random reason. And WOW  what a bold impression it makes when you first view it.  It is so hard to think of the transformation that has taken place on this site.  It took me back to watching Space 1999 as a kid where huge biome pods were on desolate Moonbase Alpha.  I walked around the wild Cornwall path first which was full of planting that you could take back home and utilize.  I then spotted the skywire and felt that in the spirit of my earlier 50@50 challenges I just had to have a go. Its Englands longest and fastest zip wire experience, over 100m above ground (see the photo of sky below and a tiny dot of a person flying through it) What a thrill and what an amazing view of the Eden site….it made my day.  I then ventured into the Rainforest Biome which felt like stepping into another country…the sounds, warmth, plants.  The whole concept is informative and evocative.  Next was the Mediterranean Biome which I found rather underwhelming (yet it does house a great café for future note) so if I were to visit again I would reverse the order I visited them in.  Overall it was an amazing place to visit and such a fantastic weekend of photography potential.  I could not cover all of it …but on reflection it was not as memorable to me as Heligan…which elicits a more personal response and is more engaging.  My biggest regret was not having time to shop….wow Eden and Heligan both have the best garden shops I have EVER seen….plants, gifts, books, toys, fresh produce, food…did I mention plants??!!

I am now back home and having recovered from excessive fried bread (too good for words) and a very numb bottom I am looking afresh at my garden….where to put the gunnera?  Should I dig up all the lawn and make a tropical paradise?  Should I speak nicely to my brothers and ask them to build a giant wall around my whole garden…who would not love a walled garden?  Should I knock down the barn and build a tropical biome?  Should I make my garden a showcase for sculpture?  Should I………..

Off now to purchase a lottery ticket !!!



Last Day of my 50@50 blog



So here I am….50!!! 

I decided to set the alarm for 4.45am and get up to see the dawn of my 50th birthday ( which turns out to be much earlier than sunrise!!!) and Mother Nature did not let me down.  There were a few stars twinkling in the sky, no plane trails and I could clearly see the bats flitting around my head and then finally going to roost under the tiles, just below the cowl in the oast.  And then it happened….a shooting star!!  I know it’s daft but I burst into tears….it was so unexpected and beautiful…..I decided it was meant for me and made a wish on it. The birds then started to sing ( although a moorhen was the first to call), followed by chickens, cows mooing, rabbits hopping away and the air then filled with a swirl of crows.  As the sun rose I got out of the hot tub and headed across the field opposite (yes in my swimming costume…but then I felt even too silly for me so went and got dressed and returned) and watched as mist lifted off the fields and the golden light spread…ethereal magic.  I then watered the garden and had a chat with cocky, roosting up in his tree, who seemed very bemused by the fact that I was up before him and flew into the neighbours garden in disgust!! I then saw all the photos Chris had posted on Facebook…how lucky I am to have a man I love as much as him…he even decorated the table for me with balloon, sprinkles, a banner and, quite excitingly, some presents.  Best of all I know he has baked me a cake!

But now, this challenge is coming to a close and I just want to thank everyone who has followed me, left messages, comments and taken part in all my 50@50 challenges.  Whilst I did this blog for myself, everyone’s reaction has made it something beyond belief.  This month alone I will have over 1000 views….which is madness!! It has been very hard sometimes to be so open and honest with myself ( and therefore with everyone) but it has been soooooo worth it.  Simply, thank you, ….for coming on my 50@50 trip and if I have inspired you ( which kindly so many of you say I have) then I am truly touched and that is such a bonus as I have had a blast!!!  I have one more challenge to complete today hopefully but whilst reflecting in the hot tub this morning (gosh the thoughts and memories were great) I want to leave you with this, which sums up how this year has left me feeling….

the only thing that limits me is my attitude…the only thing that frees me is my actions ❤️


Glamping in a Yurt – challenge No 36


This girl don’t camp!!!  However I realised that I was missing out on so many of the things I truly love by not. Such a dilemma….until the wonderful glamping revolution took over and since them I have just not quite got around to doing it ( as with sooooo many other things); hence the addition to my 50@50 list.  There was also some strong resistance on the part of Chris who said unless I added it to the list he would not do it with me…..but I am now wondering if that was a bit of reverse psychology…he is sooo cunning 😉.

It was a last minute booking so whilst there was not a yurt available we booked a bell tent.  The site we stayed in was amazing and I have attached the link below. If you want true luxury,  check out their new treehouse…OMG!!!

I defy anyone NOT to have a great time at this place.  It was tranquil, our tent was secluded and after the best nights sleep I had had in months we rolled back the tent flaps and I gazed out over a sea of green.  The trees were busy with birds ( tree creepers and robins) and the pond had a moorhen scuttling across it and huge, diaphanous dragonflies flitting over it too…..a true Eden.  Our Bell tent was so comfortable with a king size bed, it had a wood burner inside and a bar b q/fire pit outside, table and hammock.  The site was cleverly laid out so it felt so quiet, even though we were only a very short distance from the main cooking tent, communal fire pit and wash facilities.

What could be better?…well the fact that we were in Dorset; one of my favourite counties and it meant we could head off and explore the Jurassic coastline.

I felt completely re-energised after our two day stay…our first night was spent chatting in the communal area with a father and son who were on the woodworking course making chairs (such an amazing bonding experience for them, that this was their fifth year I think they said, making various, progressively harder objects).  However the second night we spent by ourselves with the local cider (honesty box for all drinks from the fridge….refreshingly trusting), beer and port  and a bar of chocolate, by our tent and with a great fire..chatting, laughing, reminiscing and pinching ourselves at how lucky we were to have found this stunning site.

We are complete glamping converts.  Having found this amazing spot we now know that the setting is equally as important as a comfy bed….somewhere in some woods for us where we can have a midnight shower under a canopy of leaves with the Stars twinkling for lights and feel immersed in nature….it won’t be long before we are back!!!


Failures and deferrals!!


Whilst I have packed in a huge amount in these last 12 months I have to confess I have  not quite managed to tick everything off my list.  Here is a run down on the elusive ones:-

1:1 challenge with my school friend Michaela – Its on the drawing board for later this year….does a pamper day count as a challenge….answers on a postcard please?? 😉

See basking sharks challenge – I was soooo close!!  Poor sightings in Cornwall this year meant my plans changed and it had to be Oban, Scotland; one week long course clashed with an annual must attend event so we decided to go for a day trip….however at that point I took a step back and reflected.  To do it would end up, including travel and overnight accommodation expenses and a one day trip costing £500-£1,000.  So I took a deep breath and said… can wait…..and it can.  However I still intend to see them and look forward to that day.

Lose one and a half stone challenge –ok, ok….I guess I should have realised that with all the other things going on this was unlikely to happen.  However, I am glad I am back at Slimming World and I lost 10lb, but I have in the last two months put some of that back on.  I have spent most of the first 50 years battling with my weight so I guess for continuity purposes I should settle for spending the next 50 years doing the same!!! I have not given up though and intend to keep on fighting for a leaner, fitter me 😊

Visit the Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan – Chris put his foot down for this one and said absolutely not…so I had to think outside the box.  Therefore I am going in September (first one available) on an organised coach trip (which I am hoping will be full of lovely like-minded people who can teach me lots of gardening tips) – wish me luck 🍀

Record my mums favourite memories –unfortunately most of my visits this year have been predominantly taken up with doctors appointments or sorting medicine and the right time to start this has just not been there.  However I will do this…only the other day she was telling me about a doodle bug that landed on the kitchen table, and then about how they put their brother down the well in the bucket and the handle broke, how her Dad used to squeeze fresh cows milk directly into their mouths and that at dinner time with her grandparents the children had to sit in silence whilst her grandparents had a short post-meal sleep (obviously impossible)…..Gems like this can’t be lost so I will have to MAKE time this Autumn.

Finish my birthday garden bed – a good initial start but rain stopped play, especially as we are clay here in Woodchurch.  Followed by the dry spell which baked it means I have not had the right time to plant and so I have deferred it to either Autumn or Spring depending on the weather.  I would add that my garden has never looked worse so I either need to stop having so much fun (likely…as I can’t handle the pace) or get a smaller garden.

Start a sport again – this has been surprisingly hard.  I just can’t decide what to do.  My knee limits my options, and we do walk quite a lot; however I miss the competitive nature and comradary of sport.  So next week, once I have turned the magic 50 I am off to Tenterden Leisure Centre to take part in their 50+ sessions where they offer a variety of sports and I am hoping one will grab me.  If not, I will have no option but to try and get weeding acknowledged as a sport (and potential future Olympic event) as I have plenty of that to keep me busy!!

So, not too long a list…I hope you are not disappointed in my efforts!!