50 Things, because I’m worth it.

2015 is the year I’m going to treat myself to 50 things I’ve always wanted to do, or just will really enjoy. I’m 50 in June and making this list to look forward to has definitely softened the blow.

Every other dating profile says ‘I don’t look or feel my age’ but it’s true, most of us don’t. So I can’t say these things will be sensible or grown up, but I’m going to enjoy this year until my bank is bled dry. And it should keep me so busy I won’t need to worry about dating. In fact, if I’m still single at the end of the year I’m going to get a dog and call it Proxy BF.

So, here goes:

1. Buy a magnum.magnum

Really? What am I thinking? I have no idea but I love champagne and this feels suitably decadent. I’ve not drunk it yet, but that wasn’t the point. Can’t imagine it’ll still be in my larder in 2016.

2. Prashad.

The delicious vegetarian restaurant that won Gordon Ramsay’s Indian of the year a while ago.

My mate Dusti took me to their tiny corner cafe oprashad2n a Bradford housing estate many years ago. The food was amazing and incredibly cheap. My mouth still waters when I remember my first bite of a savoury cake flavoured with mustard seeds called dhokra. So I went this year to their new Drighlington place with some very good mates and it’s still delicious but not so cheap. Sign of the times (and fame).

50 Things part 9

30 Cheerful chilli 30 CheerfulChilli_Logo

Walk on Otley Chevin then eat delicious veggie food is my kind of day. Though the servings were so big I should’ve saved the walk till after. The ‘experimental’ gig in a Bradford cellar was not the best followup to a vaguely romantic meal. I had to leave C there after 10 minutes of earsplitting noise, er, music. I destroy my hearing for no man, even if it was our first gig together.

31. Fewston Reservoir

Sunny walk around Fewston reminded me of my free festival days. I used to come wild camping here with a bottle of whisky, a manboy and a sleeping bag. What else would we need? We also came to a tiny festival here once, where I was nearly driven off the side of the road by an irate local, who objected to lots of dirty crusties having fun. 3 bolts of lightning hit each other a few feet away from my tent. Exciting times.31 fewston

32. Castlerigg

My favourite stone circle by far, just outside Keswick. The views all around are so amazing I don’t attempt to capture them on film. 360 degrees of mountains and sky, usually with all weathers featuring somewhere. The Bald Hiker has some beautiful pics, including this one.

Castlerigg by The Bald Hiker

Castlerigg by The Bald Hiker

I was a bit surprised to see an ice cream van up here. I’ve come for several solstices over the years and more recently the rangers have been very keen to get rid of us as soon as the sun’s up. Maybe paying customers are different.

33. Solfest glamping

Solfest is a nice little festival in the NW which has a great healing area I sometimes work in with the Travelling Homeopaths Collective. THC logoI decided to treat myself to a squrt (tiny yurt) with bed and bedding supplied. It saved a lot of faffing, but cost a LOT and sadly couldn’t dampen the earthshaking qualities of the allnight dubstep bass. My earplugs didn’t either.

34. Reflexology

34.  reflexologyOne of highlight of Solfest was a session with Edie ‘In Safe Hands’. It was wonderful lying back in the sun having my feet massaged. We then had an hour or so chat which was more like therapy. I was surprised to find myself telling her about my (dead) mum, an old betrayal and many other things. She said she could feel I was holding on to something and later that night I decided to just stop and go with whatever came along. I then spent an idyllic weekend feeling in lurve with C, which is NOT like me at all. Was great fun, but not sure I can keep it up. My critical parent is never far away, which reminds me of ‘Games People Play’ by Eric Berne. Great book.

50 Things part 8

26. Butterfly House

Hot and humid day in Leeds, why not go to Tropical World? Well, the clue’s in the name, it was almost unbearably hot. Butterflies everywhere, chasing each other around. Beautiful.

Flowers outside Tropical World, Leeds.

Flowers outside Tropical World, Leeds.

I love the meerkats but can’t help feeling sorry for them. They’re so hardwired to be on the lookout that they must be living on adrenaline stuck in a glass box surrounded by constant ‘danger’. They seem to do the sentry thing halfheartedly and there’s nowt else for them to do. Poor things, just for our entertainment.

27. Lakes

Being chauffered around beautiful mountains, lakes, scary passes (especially Hardknott). Throw in a 4 star hotel offer (Low Wood Bay) and the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. Bliss. We also looked for several neolithic stone sites mentioned in Julian Cope’s Gazetteer, but forgot to bring the OS map so managed not to find any of them. windermere

We did find the Blackwell arts n crafts house, which was beautiful. Am now musing on how to incorporate some into my own. First step DECLUTTER.

28. Massage

A birthday present from a friend. Home visit, massage, job done. Thanks Rita.

29. Isle of Lewis

I’ve wanted to visit Callanish stone circle for years. Maybe having my birthday on the summer solstice has given me my interest in standing stones. They’re also usually in beautiful places and I remember leaning against one at Stonehenge thinking it was amazingly big when I was 10. Such a shame what they’ve done to it now. Little did I know that Callanish has 3 circles within walking distance of each other, plus on Lewis they seem to be everywhere. As were golden eagles, beautiful beaches, rainbows, Harris tweed, art galleries, fields of buttercups, stone age buildings. Not sure why there is so much pampas grass blowing in the wind (let’s not go down the Comic Strip presents route).

Pampas blowing in the wind on Lewis.

Pampas blowing in the wind on Lewis.

We visited an amazing bothy built on a cliff edge, attended an art opening, sewed some more of Jasia’s wedding quilt (ongoing for 4 years now) and did a lot of laughing. Thanks to Helen for the marathon drive, and for taking us to the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum. Perfect pit stop.

This year has involved catching up with so many old friends and reminiscing, but I’ve decided that that needs to be balanced by looking forwards, making plans and new memories. There are still 31 things on my list to fit in this year, which is becoming more of a challenge than I expected. A good one though :)

Dating epilogue

The following contains cliches for which I can only apologise and assure you that every word is true.

So, I deleted all my online dating profiles in May this year having decided I wasn’t enjoying it and that I really don’t need a man to make me happy. Life has been wonderful recently, in part because the 50 Things list is giving me something to look forward to every week.

3 weeks later I was doing some cava training before my big birthday (which was a great success- I managed to drink and dance till 6am without serious repercussions) and I ended up at the pub. You can probably guess what happened next. Yes, in the age old tradition I dragged a man home whilst blind drunk. I’ve known him vaguely for years, but we’ve never spoken more than a sentence to each other that I can recall. And yet, in the midst of the drunken blur I saw something I liked (may have been his dimples).cava_

Anyway, turns out we share a love of fiction, hammocks and making dice decisions amongst other things. I won’t bore you with all the details, except to say that I’ve never dated a grownup before. He can drive, make tea and even offers to pay his own way. What a revelation. He’s not only accompanied me on some of my 50 Things, he IS one of them.

Being brought up in a family of humanoid computers I don’t naturally touch people or express much emotion. We were happy and secure with no need to talk about it. And yet here I am publicly saying I like another human being. Eek! Must be my hormones, or some chance mix of pheromones.

We both passed our monthly review and I guess we’re now in a honeymoon period. Long may it last.

50 Things part 7

20 Car I knew if I waited long enough a friend would provide. So I now have a shiny blue micra. The dents are like cute dimples, the kangarooing stopped after a few days. I’ve got a ticket to drive and I’m gonna use it.20 car

21 Afternoon in hammock. First sunny June day with an enormous hangover, I lay in my hammock being rocked by the wind. Nowt more to say. 21 hammock

22 Nowt to see here. Ahem.

23 Cream Tea 1: Sunshine Bakery. 23. Cream tea 1 Sunshine Bakery

Biggest tastiest sarnies I’ve ever had as part of a cream tea. Followed by quiche, scones, cupcakes n brownies. Thank goddess they let us take loads home. Gorgeous little place in Chapel A in Leeds. Get yerself down there.

24 Party

My last big blowout I believe, though the gathering of the clans reminded me I’ve been saying that since I was 30 (when I spent a week raving in Ireland with the mighty Smokescreen). I had such a fantastic weekend with old and new mates, fuelled by cava and nostalgia, laughing and dancing to Lula and the Bebops and Lords of Poundland aka Leeds 6 Allstars.

The one and only Harry Bowie

The one and only Harry Bowie

David Bowie sent a gravelly voiced clone and everyone sang ‘You’ve got a friend’ with me, which made my eyes leak. Sometimes the hangover is well worth it.

  1. Puffins

    Post party road trip to find some puffins in my new car with my newly discovered toyboy. Could life get any better? We decided to be spontaneous, ie not prebook on the internet, hence had an hour or so in Seahouses thinking we might be sleeping in the aforesaid car. But no, chance intervened and we ended up in ‘Farne Island BnB’ with the lovely Michael who was incredibly friendly and regaled us with tales of submarine living plus the essential local gossip. We were so lucky.

    The boat trip to see puffins was great, a bit like swaying around in the hammock, but surrounded by men of a certain age carrying HUGE camera lenses. I’ve never seen anything like it. Yep, top birding season explained the lack of local rooms. It turns out puffins are cartoon characters, popping up out of their burrows, walking like little automatons, or doing a panto version of pimp rolling. It was rather upsetting watching them being mugged by 3 or 4 gulls to steal the sand eels straight their mouths. I can’t understand why they stay there under those conditions. We also saw bizarre looking razorbills and several other types of bird, including the legendary arctic terns divebombing people’s heads. I could’ve stayed there for hours.

    We finished the trip by driving for miles through the beautiful Northumbria National Park eyeing up the sheep and dreaming of Sightseers, to catch the 32 second performance by the Silver Swan automaton at Bowes Museum.

Birthday poem by Ruthless.

‘In her Monsoon frocks Jane really rocks
Except fer when she’s wearing sandals with socks
And it’s her 51st year and she’s 50 and and still groovy
With her cream teas and homeopathy
And her courgette and strawberry cake
Which was a real beauty and not a fake
Just like our Jane who is nothing but ace
And even tho she’s not into drum and bass
She loves her David Bowie and Poldark
And reading Germaine Green after dark
Oh Janie Jane we love you, menopause n’all
Let’s raise out glasses and drink to her y’all’

NB. I don’t mind a bit of Drum n Bass. Particularly ‘Woman that rolls’ by Aphrodite.

50 Things part 6

14. Spa Finally made it to a Champneys spa, which was lovely but my heart remains at Ragdale Hall. There’s sommat about being told to dress for dinner that gets my back up. I spent 2 nights with my remaining friends from school. We all lead very different lives from each other, but an underlying friendship remains. Yoga, meditation, steam room, massage, I feel incredibly relaxed. Mmmmmm

15. Kneehigh Theatre show I love Kneehigh and they didn’t let me down. Lovely afternoon shopping in Manchester then wandering Salford Quays. Rebecca had the usual ingredients of fantastic musicians and high drama mixed in with essential laughs. Beautiful. If you ever get the chance to see anything by them go! One day I’ll see them at home down in Cornwall (maybe on my 60 list).

The Wild Bride by Kneehigh Theatre (my fave)

The Wild Bride by Kneehigh Theatre (my fave)

16 Tharavadu with Calderdaleites Old vegan mates from over the hills, there’s only one place to take them in Leeds for coconutty goodness- Tharavadu. 16 TharavaduTotally delicious. Conversation ranged from gnomes via fracking to the death of an old friend. Getting old is not all good. Our mutual friend the male whore was MIA, which meant we missed out on his usual outrageous stories. The lunch offer here is amazing value at £5. Yes, £5! 17. WHC I’ve been staying at the Women Holiday Centre in Horton-in-Ribblesdale since the 80s, when I was an idealistic young feminist hippy. I’ve not changed much TBH. The holiday centre was set up in 1980 as a charitable co-operative, to provide affordable holidays in an old Rectory, with a sliding scale for payments according to income. The lowest charge for one night, including food, is kept at the daily rate of benefit entitlement. For my ’50’ visit we booked the whole house for a group of friends and chilled, cooked and shared meals, laughed hysterically, shared X rated stories, gave each other ‘advice’, did the silliest Pilates session I’ve ever seen and even managed some countryside walks, some up Pen Y Ghent.. There’s something magical about women only space and I don’t get enough of it these days. I’m not going to post any pics because what happens there most definitely stays there.

18 Luxembourg

Lovely pic of downtown Luxembourg by my sis

Lovely pic of downtown Luxembourg by my sis

Trip with my sister to visit cousins, Aunt and Uncle, who live in and around Luxembourg.It’s hard to keep up with family when they live so far away. What a lovely place- clean, green, spacious and comfortably wealthy. Hal the workforce come over the borders every morning. In one afternoon we went to France and Germany, then mosied up the Moselle to Trier, an amazing place full of history and UNESCO sites.

19 Germaine Greer

The lovely Germaine

The lovely Germaine

At last I saw her in the flesh speaking at Otley Courthouse. I love her outspokenness, her public changing of her mind when she feels like it, her thoughtful musing on the lot of women. She’s definitely mellowed, which is allowed at 76 I think. Perhaps matured is a better word. I dunno, she might hate that. She was talking about women disappearing worldwide, where are all they all? Aborted, killed as babies, even worse? Or is there something causing more males babies to develop than females? Is anyone looking?

Dating 6.

Hurrah, I’ve deleted my profiles and it’s such a relief. I’ll never find out what the men at New Scientist do to homeopaths, which can only be a good thing. Had a last date at the Peoples History Museum in Manchester which was very interesting, but oh so depressing. All those fantastic achievements like setting up the Welfare State and NHS … and now we’re seeing them being sold off. Anyway great place to go, it’s free, but possibly not on a first date. It probably beats the one I had at a PTSD exhibition. If you want to read more about middle aged women trying to date @GreyStellaGrey in the Saturday Guardian is doing it all  from the beginning – very similar experiences. I’m far too busy enjoying my 50 things to spend any more time worrying about being single.

50 things part 5

  1. Red Ladder Theatre show. red ladder we're not going back  This year it was ‘We’re not going back‘ at City Varieties in Leeds. You can google this fantastic old venue and Red Ladder, who are trying to raise money to carry on after losing all their funding in one fell swoop. Why, we don’t know. Maybe the funders don’t like radical lefty singalongs, or perhaps Red Ladder didn’t jump through the required hoops, being rebellious types :) I think they’re absolutely brilliant. Great stories, songs and politics all in one. Crossed fingers they’ll still be around to entertain me next year.Anyway, this one was about wives during the miners’ strike. I much prefer my history at a personal level, where I can understand how people were affected day to day.
  1. Meanwood Trail to Goldenacre ParkI haven’t walked this route for years and we certainly picked our time. We set off from the Ridge in a blizzard but by the time we reached the ring road the sun was out on a gorgeous spring afternoon. We got lost in Adel, as always (why doesn’t someone sort out the signage? This has been going on for over 20 years, it’s not just me). For each step forward the mud forced half a step back, so by the time we got to Goldenacre my legs were barely working. Never have I been so glad to see the X84 busI’m going to do this again when the mud is gone and am determined to walk back, arthritic knee or not.
  1. Yorkshire Wildlife Park
    Our designated driver honestly thought we were going for a gentle Yorkshire walk, maybe taking in some squirrels and the odd primrose. It was hilarious when we got to the YWP near Donny to be greeted by roars of a lion (unbelievably loud). I won’t list all the animals there, as I recommend you go yourself. They seem to have enough space to be happy and most are endangered in the wild. My favourites were the painted dogs and the two lemur gangs who’d fallen out: the ringtails vs the brown. With a special mention for Viktor the polar bear. YWP painted dogsWe also paid a visit to Rothwell (Leventhorpe) vineyard on the way back to buy some Leeds bubbly. Who woulda thought?
  1. Budapest

My friend J, who used to live next door to me in Zambia when I was one, was working on a tv series in Budapest, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to visit with my sister. This was the first, and possibly only, time I was picked up by a man with my name on a sign at the airport. It was a pretty short visit, but we managed to walk for miles, back and forward on bridges across the Danube, up to the castle district in Buda (St Matyas church is beautiful inside); take refreshment in the Chocolate cafe, the very posh but touristy New York cafe in Dobolos Hotel, tea n cake at Angelika’s under St Anne’s church (style over substance); cheese n wine in a gorgeous wine bar near the Opera House. I won’t go on. One day I’ll write a vegetarian food guide to the world, when I find someone to pay me.

We also went to a classical concert in St Stephen’s Basilica which is not something I’d normally do but Mozart’s requiem sounded amazing in there and the woman singing Ave maria had the most incredible voice. I could literally feel it ballooning towards me like a blast from a firebreather.

The things we fancy on our next visit include the Pinball museum, a sap and possibly firing an AK47 at a firing range- why the hell not?

13. Get a gardener

After 20+ years of battling Japanese knotweed (successfully) and bindweed in my ‘wild’ garden I finally paid someone to come and help me. Fantastic! I much prefer gardening with someone else, it feels companionable, whereas going out on my own feels like work. I felt inspired to do a bit more several times afterwards- small and often. I am so glad I’ve done it.