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).

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.

Sugarsweethoneypie
‘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.

50 Things part 4

  1. ‘Making’ by Thomas Heatherwick

I treated myself to a beautiful book by the man that designed the Rolling Bridge at Paddington Basin. It’s so simple, effective and beautiful. Free to visit if you have a bit of spare time in London. You can walk across it, watch it roll up and marvel at the geometry.

Making book

Making book

The Rolling Bridge.

heatherwick_studio_lightbox_rolling_bridge

  1. Krakow visit.

What a lovely place. Poles seem very proud of their country, which makes a pleasant change from English cynicism, my own included.

I can’t recommend Travelzoo enough- really cheap offers in decent hotels. We also got a trip round Auschwitz which I’ve been meaning to get around to. There’s nowt I can say to express the impact and my sheer inability to believe what humans can do.

Anyway, on our tourist itinerary were the salt mine- very impressive; many churches and Nowa Huta, the Brutalist social realism dream.

Detail from St Francis church

Detail from St Francis church

My favourite church was Church of St. Francis of Assisi which is covered with Art Nouveau wallpapers. I thought one of the stained glass windows featured a man with a huge afro, but on reflection I think that was a shadow inside his halo. I’ve no idea- there’s no guessing what Polish words mean. The Lord’s Ark is pretty special too, built by volunteers, with it’s bit of moon rutile, shrapnel and a stone from the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican.

I won’t bore you with meals we had, but there’s plenty of very good veggie food in Krakow, particularly at Pod Norenami and Czerwone Korale.

  1. Sowing seeds seedlingsI mean to do this every year, but April comes around and I’ve not flexed my green fingers. So this year I’ve sowed some sweet peas courtesy of Katie JH and some poached egg plants and they’ve germinated! It’s like magic. I am the proud nurturer of some baby seedlings. I sincerely hope I don’t kill them.
  1. 1965 is a fine vintagetree 1965I treated myself and a few fine friends who are 50 this year to necklaces made from 1965 pennies.My friend Stuart has been making jewellery from old coins for many years and selling them at festivals, but he’s finally got a shop in Hebden Bridge- shameless plug for ‘Not a Full Shilling ‘.

    All handmade by a lovely man.

50 Things part 3

3. My friend Katie gave me a ‘Garland lampshade‘ from Habitat, I’m not sure if they make them any more. garland

I love it, it makes me happy every time I see it, which is many times a day as I spend much of winter in my bedroom, the warmest room in the house. Garland is basically a sheet of metal carved into leaves and flowers in a twisty turny garland which you drape around a light garland 2bulb. I can’t see me ever getting it untangled now it’s up. There’s something alive about it- the way tendrils seem to be escaping in all directions. And it’s so dainty. Not my usual thing at all.

Habitat reminds me of childhood in my parents’ weird flat roofed house which looked like a shoe box. We had loads of Habitat furniture, which I think has made me love straight lines, blocks of colour, simple things that do what you need. I’ve got 3 sets of Habitat cubes around my house, one of which I’ve been carting around since I left home in the early 80s. Hmm, maybe I should write an ode to Habitat to play on my ukulele.

Interlude:

My bank just cancelled a VISA payment due to ‘unusual patterns of spending’, as in I’ve actually been buying things this year. I usually go to Spain twice a year to stay with mates and buy food, books n booze. That’s about it, so no wonder they were suspicious. It’s been fun so far, but I don’t know how people keep up with fashion, it seems like a stupid waste of time and money to me.

4. What better to do on a cold hungover winter weekend than watch the final series of Breaking Bad?

bb 5