Last Day of my 50@50 blog

 

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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 ❤️

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Glamping in a Yurt – challenge No 36

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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!!!

http://www.mallinson.co.uk/glamping.html

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!!!

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Use my fishing rod – Challenge No 19

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When Chris and I moved to a rural village in the Weald of Kent almost 5 years ago I expressed to Chris an interest in taking up fishing and before I knew it a rod and equipment appeared as a present which was very thoughtful.  However, at that point I had thought living in the country would be quiet, idyllic and there would be plenty of days to fill…..how wrong could I have been.  Country living is fabulous….but full to the brim with things to do and so I have, as yet, not quite got around to starting fishing.  I therefore added it to my 50@50 challenge list to kick start me, and then sought out someone to teach me.

And, rather bravely I think, in stepped Dan, a great friend from the village who kindly gave up his evening to explain to me the rudiments of fishing and how to set up my rod.  And wow what a great teacher; he was patient, funny, encouraging and within five minutes we had our first strike.  Firstly we tried a rig set up with the bait on the bottom ( excuse me if my terminology is not quite right) and we swung rather than cast to get into a close position by some reeds.  On this occasion I landed a 2-3lb carp, we were up and running and we were all stunned at how quick we had caught a fish.

We were fishing at Shirkoak Fisheries which is a fabulous, family friendly establishment and tranquil and beautiful this evening.

http://www.shirkoak.co.uk

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Dan then showed me how to set up my own rod with a float and hook.  We used sweetcorn as bait and once more I was off, side casting as we did not need to be too far out (the lake is well stocked so ideal for beginners) and also because whilst a lovely evening the wind was getting up.  After a few false strikes, I began to realise the difference between a nibble, the wind moving the float and a proper bite!! I then caught a small mirror carp which Dan explained how to let out some line, play the fish, give it time to wear itself out and then reel in.  It was so exciting and when I had landed the fish it was beautiful.  In the water they can look quite dull, but once pulled from the water their scales shine iridescent in the light…quite stunning.  I wanted to be able to take the hooks out properly and I was showed how to do this causing as little damage as possible.

We then moved onto surface fishing where you throw quite a bit of bread onto the surface (once the Ducks had gone) and then secure a largish piece on your hook and place it near the bait on the water.  So many carp came to the surface then it was hard to concentrate on which was your piece of bread as my eyes were darting everyone…..and this is when it happened.  I actually have a fishermans tale about the ‘one that got away’…..the ‘big one’.  I struck and could tell instantly that it was large as the rod bent and I needed two hands to just hold it.  I let out some line and it swam close, left, stayed still then thrashed to the right, I began to bring it in but I think amateurishly too soon as…….snap…..it was gone.  My arms were aching and the adrenalin was genuinely flowing.  It was certainly this big!!!….please visualise my arms stretched out to their extremity 😉🎣🐟 and whilst disappointed it was gone, I had enjoyed the battle ; 1-0 to the ‘beast of Shirkoak’.

We carried on, enjoying some food, good conversation and a drink or two and I managed to land 9 fish in total in 3 hours. Thanks go to Chris our official photographer, bag carrier and occasional landing net attendant.  Near the end of the evening Dan and I even managed to have a catch on each rod simultaneously which truly was the icing on an already delicious, if somewhat fishy,  cake.

Thanks Dan for passing on your obvious love of fishing, your enthusiasm and knowledge.  I love that you know so much about the fish, what is best for them, how to handle them and a general respect for nature ( ensuring we don’t litter etc) all of which I really respect.  Please excuse the pun……but I am hooked….and already I now have a fishing date with my son lined up so no excuse to stop now.  Especially as It would seem I have been interested for quite some years ( My brother Paul, my sister Nicky and me….worrying that this is black and white!!!!)

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Make a lemon meringue pie from scratch – Challenge number 16

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It may seem a strange start to this 50@50 challenge but I would like you to meet my mum, Freda May Davis, nee Noakes ( please see photos below).  I absolutely can’t express just how much I owe to this tremendous lady.  She is so talented at cooking (her cream horns are legendary), sewing, wall papering, making children smile, gardening…I could endlessly go on.   And she has passed on much of this to me….or at least….some of it….as she also spoilt me rotten growing up.  Her attitude then was ( and mine too) “you are a long time an adult so go have a care free, fun-filled life whilst you can”.  So I did 😄.

The only problem with this was that when I started going out seriously with Chris and I wanted to impress him I realised I would have to show him I could cook (and I hadnt a clue). So I invited him around for an anniversary meal of goodness knows what for starter, followed by roast chicken and lemon meringue pie for dessert (which I knew he loved)…. How hard could that be?? 😱.  As it turned out…not that hard at all when you have a Mary Berry equivalent as your sous chef .  Everything went swimmingly, my man was suitably impressed (as he had already suspected anyone who was as good a cook as my mum was bound to have an equally good cook as a daughter…oops) and before I knew it there was a ring on my finger and wedding bells faintly tinkling in our future.  So…a happy ever after story ❤️…..

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NOT!!!  It was only after we were married that Chris discovered the real truth of my cooking ability….ZERO.  I rang my mum every night for a month asking how long to boil eggs, how do you boil potatoes, what is the best way to roast a chicken, how do you make mince go brown, what is the difference between sun flower oil and vegetable oil…..you name it, I asked it and it didn’t end there.  I had no idea how to clean, could not change a light bulb, didn’t know how to use an iron, had never touched a lawn mower…..was bemused by the large white thing in the kitchen you were supposed to put clothes in to wash…really??….and the list went on and on….Chris patiently had to teach me how to do the lot…..poor man!!

So, this challenge is basically to say sorry to Chris.  Only now after almost 32 years of being a couple do I finally feel ready to attempt to make lemon meringue pie for him once again, but this time unassisted. I used this recipe

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3482/ultimate-lemon-meringue-pie

And my goodness what a faff!!  Making and rolling pastry out…easy ( even without a fancy food processor)……transferring it to the dish….impossible, unless it is meant to be in 1000 pieces. On the third time I had devised a cunning plan which meant it almost made it!!  I will let you look at the photos to see how I progressed…but I am pleased to say I did manage to get ‘something’ into the oven.

So Chris’ comments were…’it’s the lemonyest meringue I have had since the last one you made me….quite a zing.  Great pastry”

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In reality I am a passable cook and quite a good cake baker, but I don’t think I will be applying any time soon to the Great British Bake Off, and nor will I be making another lemon meringue pie again…….sorry!!!!  I am sure there is a moral to this story; I am just too busy ringing my mum to ask her to come and do the dishes and eating pie to work it out at this moment 😄

Watch a sunrise and /or sunset and sleep under the stars – Challenges No 25 and 12

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So it may be a bit late in the day but I decided to actually look up the definition of the word challenge and amongst other things it is this, according to my pocket Oxford Dictionary ( a 21st birthday present which I cherish and still regularly use)  :-

“a call to take part in [something] demanding or difficult and stimulating” 

And these 50@50 challenges easily fall into that remit!! Because….I have NEVER slept out under the stars…usually a nice comfy bed in a hotel for me, I most certainly have NEVER been for a wee outside and, as most of you know, I HATE getting up early so have seldom seen the sun rise.  Yet this is at total odds with the nature loving me who wants to see and experience as much as I can.

So, when Debbie suggested that as part of her ‘ connecting to nature’ challenge to me we were going to sleep out over night up on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire, in a bivvie (whatever that is…although I do know now!!), and that we would then get up to hear the dawn chorus (4.38 am) followed by watching the sunrise (5.18am) and morning meditation my heart leapt whilst my stomach churned…..was I up for it??

ABSOLUTELY.  We headed out after our lovely willow weaving day, where my fellow weavers had done their best with their oohs and aaahhhs about sleeping on the Moor ( a spiritual place full of unusual people, noises and rituals….. thanks ladies!!) to make me a tad nervous. If Debbie had not known what she had taken on before, she certainly did when it came to packing and she had to give me a step by step guide of what things were ( I might add I was very concerned when the matting looked remarkably coffin shaped) and how to pack them.  That done we headed out to the Moor, past the sign forbidding camping and fires

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( she made me break the law too 😱) and headed past the Nine Ladies Stone Circle.

http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/visits/stanton.php

It was about 9.45 and at half light, one night after a full moon, when we began to hear strange, guttural sounds coming from the direction of the stone circle, accompanied by our own nervous semi-giggle/WTF utterances.  It was then we saw two half naked men in the centre of the circle sparring…relief together with confusion washed over us (and thoughts of primitive sacrifices, gladiatorial fights, a scene from Women in Love, and maybe that this was their own challenge crossed my mind)….the scene was similar to this photo below which I found on the Internet

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So I now have to apologise to the weavers as they were right…it was a place to behold strange sights.  We walked on and tried not to disturb them and headed for our camp.  I cannot thank Debbie enough for what followed. She had previously found a great site (the entrance to which was marked by the carnage of a bird kill the previous night…not prearranged by Debbie I hasten to add), under a circle of birch trees and which already had a stone firepit made.  She had put walking sticks at the moor entrance which had still been there and collected firewood which she had stashed off the ground in the nook of some branches to dry….it was perfect.  We set up our bivvies ( which are waterproof covers for your sleeping bags thus negating the need for a tent), laughed, reflected, lit a fire, shared a cider, laughed some more and went to bed hoping the forecasted bad weather would stay away……..and with me still refusing to have a tinkle in the dark undergrowth.

As I lay down and looked up the leaves on the trees were swirling rhythmically, an ethereal mist formed over the top of the braken and swept coolly over my exposed face….not scary but magical. I will skip over my fidgeting and snoring as I am sure that only enhanced Debbie’s experience to no end, along with me asking loudly “are you awake?” as I wanted her to see the full moon as it cast its glow on us through the trees.  That was some time after 1am and it was then that Debbie’s keen ears heard voices…and approaching people walking through the moor and undergrowth…at that time of night and with the stillness we had no idea how close they were to us but the sounds finally subsided so we guessed they had moved away.  The mist had also gone and the movement in the trees reminded me now of my childhood kaleidoscope, constantly changing and lulling me off to a comfortable, deep sleep.

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Debbie awoke me and the birds started to joyously sing…note to self…learn bird songs!!! A curious robin came to investigate, a peacock called ( reminding me of home) and it was then time to temporarily abandon our camp and go and see the sunrise from the top of the moor.  When you witness this it is easy to understand why so many cultures worship and hold the sun in such high regard, why poets and lyricists write about it and how dependent our lives are upon this simple act….I felt humble as I basked in the increasing and dazzling warmth……yet inspired too.

We found a rock with a ledge and Debbie, an experienced yoga instructor, led us in a meditation which I choose to keep private.  We walked around the moor, past Rapunzels castle and other significant features, witnessed the skyline coming to life, enjoyed seeing both the moon and the sun up together and then ventured back to camp for a ‘nice cup of tea’, before heading off.

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Some statements are well over used…but this genuinely is an experience I will endeavour never to forget….it was a Challenge, an adventure, life affirming and absolutely worth losing a nights sleep in a comfy bed for.  I am slightly ashamed to say it…but I felt brave.  Thanks Debbie for such an uplifting experience.

Hahahahhaha…and yes…I even had a wee in the undergrowth !!!

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Willow Work (Complete a piece of art) – Challenge No 42 ( and No 7)

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There is always such a great pleasure in trying an activity for the time; it combines the fear you might be completely rubbish mingled with the hope you may absolutely love it.  I particularly enjoy creative art and even though my track record is littered with failed attempts….such as the disaster pottery lessons turned into and wishy washy water colours,  I am always excited to have a go at something new and just sometimes you hit the jackpot (in my case calligraphy).  So when Debbie, who is both my niece and friend, picked a day learning willow work as my challenge ( well part of my challenge but more about that later..) I was thrilled.

We were blessed with amazing weather and a group of 8 of us, together with our talented instructor  Carole (her web link is below), sat outside enjoying the breathtaking Derbyshire views from Debbie’s garden over Matlock and across to Stanton Moor….you could not fail to be inspired.

http://www.carolebeavis.co.uk/index.php

The majority of the group plumped for making free form light pods so Carol then guided us through how to make willow circlets, which we joined and built up then moulded holes. (The hilarity of this aspect can’t be recreated so I won’t even try, you can use your imaginations 😉).  As an all female group activity we bonded, relaxed, laughed, teased and the dynamic atmosphere reflected the ebb and flow of conversation and concentration.  I really enjoy male company but there is also something particularly pleasing about solely being in the company of people of your own gender and this day was a perfect example of that. Then, before our eyes strange pods appeared, all starting the same and somehow each taking on their own identity…tightly woven or lose and free, straight, curved and in my case…onion-shaped!!  We stopped for tea and cake ( too scrummy), then later again for a feast of a lunch which collectively was made and shared and fuelled us to continue.

Finally, our creations ( many light pods and one completely adorable puddle duck ) were complete, we had in and outed, woven, tied, secatoured, twisted and often doubted then been delighted and now….they were done.  And, without exception, they looked stunning.

And here I return to what I said at the beginning, as just sometimes you strike lucky and find something you love!! I LOVE willow weaving…it was accessible, so therapeutic, you could not really go wrong as there are so many small or large projects you can do producing functional and/or artistic pieces. It is a tactile, physical and, fortunately for me, Carole had enough willow for me to buy some and bring back to Kent so I can have another go soon.  A perfect day.

This was an inspired challenge by Debbie and I am so grateful she helped me to find another new hobby; however it was only part of her ‘connecting with nature’ challenge to me…..so stay tuned to find out how she then ended the day by completely taking me out of my comfort zone!!!!

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Have a Driving lesson/drive Chris home from the pub – Challenge No 15

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So, this may come as a surprise to some of you but I actually have passed my driving test and possess a full, clean licence (others will just be wondering….HOW 😉).  If you knew me when I was a driver, between the ages of 19-24, then it would be in Chris’ car ( which he used to lend me) and was very similar to the one below.  The only happy memory of driving I have was in this car, going to college with the window down, Tears for Fears blaring on the cassette and beating everyone off the lights.  

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The other, more numerous, memories are not so great, not feeling in control, nervousness every time I got in the car, flooding the engine, driving AND reversing over the front spoiler…I could go on!! My excuses were that my mum and my mother-in-law did not drive and, being ‘old school’ my Dad was not that helpful…no extra practice in his car and then refusing to get in a car with me as driver, even after I passed ( I guess he had his reasons) , not having my own car…..again,  I could go on.  Basically though I was not a good driver.  I remember clearly the day I ‘stopped’ driving; I had just had Matt and was off to visit a friend and within minutes the car broke down in the middle of Hartnup Street in Maidstone, where we lived, and some kind passers by pushed me off the road to safety. I felt so vulnerable and that was it – no more driving!!

I wont lie, I have tried having lessons once since then, very unsuccessfully, but felt that I owe it to Chris (who has been absolutely brilliant about my non driving status, as have my children) to try again, especially now we live more rural and it’s a 40 minute walk home from the pub.  So this is how my  50@50 Challenge came about; firstly to have a driving lesson with the aim then of driving Chris home from the pub.  I rang Julie, a local driving instructor and she has been brilliant…so calm, reassuring and she had me off through Tenterden on my first lesson, then through the outskirts of Ashford and she built up my confidence.  

http://tenterdendriving.co.uk

I then was put on our car’s insurance (not the Jag…and how ironic…the price went down by adding me…I am still chuckling over this).  I summoned the courage, which equates to Chris telling me I had to, and drove into the village, phew we made it.  Then, finally came the evening when Chris had 4 pints and it was my moment of truth.  He did an unusual amount of talking on the way home and my face shows I think how much I have to concentrate and how nervous I still am.  But,  we did it🚙🚙🚙. If it had not been for these 50@50 challenges, and casually reading how you are more likely to be successful at tasks if your age ends in a 9, I know I would never have even attempted driving again.  

 

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Am I ready for other passengers – No

Do I enjoy it – No

Will I go further than the village – Probably not

Am I going to keep trying – Yes (if Chris wants me to)

Am I pleased I tried – I AM THRILLED!!!!

 

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Take a generation photo series – Challenge No 3

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I first saw a generation photo like this done some years ago, I think in a digital camera magazine, although it could have been on ancestry uk, whichever, I kept a copy of it but never quite got around to doing it; hence it making it onto my 50@50 challenge list.  I loved doing this and it was relatively simple to achieve….(only a few incidents of crooked frame holding, broken glass, wrong wind direction and sun reflecting poorly etc etc 😉 ). Thanks go to Kate for taking the photo of me and my mum for not falling over!!!

It is a wonderful thing to have and cherish, but I now intend to adjust the idea.  I am going to find a photo of my lovely nanny Noakes for my mum to hold and then reverse the process, that way the generations can continue for as long as our family line does….my gift to future generations and branches of my family.  

Get one of my photos printed, published or hung – challenge No 24

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Don’t you just love it when you think something is going to be really hard and it turns out to be very easy!! This was the case with this challenge.  I love taking photos, especially nature and my grandchildren; mainly I do it for my own pleasure but I decided to set myself a 50@50 challenge to get one of my photos published, printed or hung.  I thought I might have to enter lots of competitions, give away a framed photo to our local pop-in centre or send weather photos to the TV station…but no!!  As part of Challenge No 31, where I went to see the starling murmurations at Brighton Pier, I took quite a nice photo of them…on my mobile phone of all things.  I belong to a Facebook photo sharing community so I popped the best photo on there and hey presto they chose it as the winning photo and therefore published it as their header photo ( temporarily I might add, but that is fine by me ). I  was so pleased, and surprised!!  

However it is good to have an easy tick off the list as I had not thought my 50@50 challenges means almost one a week and time is running out fast!!  Agggghhhhhh.  Some things are ongoing, some are planned and waiting to happen….others though still need organising and I think that is my next challenge….to make them happen.  Wish me luck 🍀