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cof

One, if not the, best lunch of December (sadly not one of my work lunches but no other lunch was worthy of a photo and I used the one photo of a December work lunch, bao, for my November post.  How lunch should be in my world – fish meze at Wheeler’s Oyster Bar, Whitstable)

Wow, it’s 1st January 2017.  “Wow” because it’s surprising that I’m actually writing on the date I intended to and that somehow 2016 and my 12 months of challenges and treats is now behind me.  I have never, ever kept up anything that resembles new year’s resolutions, yet by setting myself challenges I have managed to do it and I am ludicrously pleased with myself.

For December, being the last month, I thought a month of treats would be in order so I decided that instead of taking my own lunch to work every day I would have lunch out, no sandwiches, somewhere different every day of work in December.  I had 13 days of lunches over December and by lunch number three the novelty had worn off.  By about day seven I spent most of the morning distracted by thoughts of where I could possibly eat next that would be more exciting than the last lunch.  It ended up being more of a chore than a joy.

I did manage to eat somewhere different every day, all in London, though I doubt I will remember all 13.  In the order they come to mind:

1. Pret a Manger, Fetter Lane (an unexpectedly memorable ham hock macaroni cheese, my number four best lunch of the month)

2. Gino D’Acamopo- My Pasta Bar, Fleet Street (an uninspiring pasta dish that served solely to puff me up and make me sluggish all afternoon)

3. Tsuru, Broadgate (an ok sushi box)

4. Koshari Street, St Martin’s Lane (very tasty, hearty Egyptian street food, koshari/kushari, number three favourite but only just pipped to two by Banh Mi Bay’s pho)

5. On the Bab, Ludgate Broadway (exceptional South Korean bao.  I’d ordered a beef bulgogi “in the bun” but actually ended up with fried chicken “in the bun” – SOOOOOO good, definitely the best lunch, and also the messiest)

6. Eat, Fetter lane (tastier than expected truffle macaroni cheese, but a bit samey even by macaroni cheese standards)

7. Banh Mi Bay, Cannon Street (excellent, warming bowl of beef pho, a very close second to On the Bab)

8. Coco di Mama, Fleet Street (a very bland carbonara that made me feel desperately sorry for myself)

9.  Tuckers, Fetter Lane (A bit of a find on Fetter Lane, a cheap and cheerful caff.  I had a jacket potato with beans and cheese for just over £3, which was far too generous and filling (I obviously devoured it all enthusiastically) and made me spectacularly yawny for the rest of the day, about which I’m not complaining because it hit the spot perfectly)

10 -13.  So lacking in excitement I can’t think where I ate, but one of those was definitely a snack-based lunch due to a very short lunch break and no non-repetitious or appealing lunch places around.

All in all, I now have renewed enthusiasm for my own random and varied packed lunches (also far less stressful than having to find something interesting to eat over short lunch breaks), a sense of disappointment and shock over how much bland and overpriced food there is on offer and a realisation of just how many food chains there are duplicated over a small area in central London compared to independent eateries.

This is the end of my year of challenges and treats and, as I now have a conviction that I can do new year resolutions with my new-found discipline, I have written a 2017 To Do List of 12 things … but as I pause having written that, I fear I need to set myself monthly deadlines to achieve anything.

In many respects, 2016 was a year of learning about my potential self-discipline.  I am a few days off completing 365 days of posting a photo a day on Instagram, all of which have been taken and posted on the same day, so no sneaky stock pile of photos.  I never thought I’d manage it every single day, let alone to get to 365 days (three days to go).  Likewise, I didn’t think I would set myself AND complete 12 challenges for the year.  I have surprised myself with some I have enjoyed/found more difficult than expected.  For example, I really enjoyed learning the capital cities (I’m horrified to report that I need to refresh my memory as a lot I have forgotten already), I found it difficult to read for 30 minutes a day and had to do a lot of catch up days and I didn’t enjoy the treat of lunches out.  I knew sorting my photos and recipes would be a bit tedious, but I did it.

Alongside all that, I also vowed to do something to pamper myself at least once a month.  I have never had so many pedicures, I had a few massages, my eyebrows were more frequently shaped than ever before … but I never had a spa weekend, disappointingly, which I thought would be an obvious pampering treat.

I have also not watched any television all year, not even catch-up.  I’ve missed it a few times and have seen write-ups about a few things I wished I could have seen but, otherwise, I haven’t found it difficult.  I don’t even know when I’ll reinstate a TV in our home.

Finally, I had wanted to read at least one book per month.  Epic fail.  I have written down seven books I’ve read this year but I think I’ve forgotten one.  Very lame not to have managed to read 12.

I wanted to visit at least one new country, I did: United Arab Emirates (in fact I went there twice, unexpectedly, first for a holiday then for work).

Oh well, I’ll see how I get on with my 2017 list and maybe if I write about that at the end of each month, I can chart my progress and hope that encourages me to not only get through a year of doing things I want to do despite their being challenging, but also further ensure ongoing self-discipline, something I had always felt I wasn’t at all good at demonstrating.

 

 

 

 

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It would appear that most of my SMS messages are sent and read while I’m walking and that trying not to do so means a massive extension to my journey time due to stops “needed” to read or write.  For the first three weeks of my month of “no texts while walking”, I was stopping regularly and annoying myself in the process.  Then it came to me to turn my phone to silent.  Genius is sometimes very simple.

There shouldn’t be anything challenging about refraining from attending to my mobile phone, but for me there was.  When I eventually twigged that my phone on silent prevents a sense of urgency to instantly read and respond to messages, I also reduced my walk times and realised I was testing my redundant, dimmed memory by not sending messages the second I thought of something.

This was a straightforward challenge that I set myself because I really was fed up of using my phone while walking.  It has not been life-changing and indeed I seem to just stop walking now rather than carrying on, which is only a minor improvement, but I have been rather enjoying not being distracted by my phone when it’s on silent.  I also oddly enjoy testing my memory a bit by postponing the writing of things I’ve just thought to share or ask.

All in all, a mildly interesting challenge that has served to emphasise what I already knew, that I am far too dependent on and obsessed with my mobile phone.

cofDecember being the last of my 12 challenges or treats for 2016, it’s definitely treat time.  As I usually bring my own lunch to work, for the month of December I’m not only going to eat out for every lunch I have on work days but I’m going to eat somewhere different every time, with emphasis on non-sandwich lunches.

 



october-recipe-book[Smug/saddo alert]  I am now the embarrassingly proud creator and owner of an A4 plastic-sleeve-folder (many of the plastic sleeves being original Woolworths, I’ll have you know) of recipes I most often use and like.  I even typed them out, over 40 of them.  And I found packets of unused index tabs so I’ve placed them in alphabetical order.  In fact, it’s been a gift that keeps on giving on more levels than expected.

I started this “sort my recipes out” project thinking it would largely entail literal cutting and pasting and hole punching of recipe clippings.  [I actually do feel a bit sad getting so excited and enthusiastic about this challenge]  That’s how it started and I found it tedious and, flicking through the recipes I had in the two folders I have been filling for years, I realised most recipes had never been used, I didn’t remember I had them and there was no logical way to file them that I would remember where they were.

My productivity levels dropped to non-existent by the middle of the month and I started thinking of ways to justify abandoning this challenge.  I didn’t have any enthusiasm for the files’ layout, the haphazard and inconsistent order and format, and knew I would look at the files no more than I had done previously.

Having failed to come up with more convincing reasons not to complete the challenge, I reluctantly started photocopying a couple of pages in a recipe book to reignite a semblance of progress.  However, the dark font on dark paper within a small, fat recipe book resulted in a copy, no exaggeration, that had a murky outline of part of my hand, a jaunty angle that cut off the measures required and anyway I could barely read the dark-on-dark page.  In an uncharacteristic bout of quick-thinking, I decided to type those particular recipes out.  I then thought about frequently used recipes from my vast cookery book collection and had a sudden epiphany that I could type out all my favourites.

It took me most of a Saturday on an unexpected roll and probably another day’s worth of “work” over a few days to choose them and type them out, but I now have my favourite recipes in that file, have used about five of them that I hadn’t used in a while and have put them in an order that makes sense to me, like “Fish” recipes together under “F” as opposed to being under “C” for cod or “S” for sea bass”, for example [inwardly I cringe at my smug OCDness here].  I have even started writing notes on them as I use them, eg my recent spaghetti carbonara prompted an advisory not to bother making it if there isn’t enough Parmesan and/or pancetta (bland, it transpires).  It turns out I have an inner organised self, though I can appreciate there is a fine line between being a bit anal and being organised.

As for November, I struggled to think what to do as I felt it was time for a month of treats and I seem to favour challenges.  I thought about making plans to meet up with friends I haven’t seen recently, but that didn’t feel appropriate for a challenge; I’ll do that anyway.  I thought about not shopping in supermarkets, but on 1st November, while still pondering what to do for the month, I bought some ingredients from a supermarket.  I then thought about the many things I do that annoy me …

I spend too much time walking while texting and emailing or looking at social media.  I hate that I do that, so I will refrain from reading or “typing” on my mobile while walking.  I will answer the phone if it rings but I will not make any calls unless I’m standing or sitting.  I will look at Google Maps if I need it but otherwise, beyond taking photos and looking at the time, I will not use my mobile phone while walking for the month of November.

 



cof

Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Japanese; September has been a great month for variety and experimentation, but only three to-be-repeated dishes from two books, both of which didn’t even come from any of the cookery books whose existence I was trying to justify, having never been previously used, with this month’s challenge.

1.Lamb Biryani (Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour). Fairly high faff for low joy levels,servescof 6-8 which meant too many leftovers meals, good crunchy rice base but too much salt (not entirely my error) and all round disappointing.  Won’t be using this recipe again.

2.Coorg-style Chicken Curry (Lemongrass and Ginger, Leemei Tan). Not too challenging to make but I can’t even remember if I particularly liked it.  I think it was nice but lacking excitement.  Won’t be using this recipe again.

3. Sea Bream on Rice, Sea Bream Sashimi Salad and Seaweed Salad (as one meal) mde(Tokyo Cult Recipes, Maori Murota). Having lived in Japan for two and a half years, the ingredients seemed authentic and familiar.  I liked the dressing on the seaweed salad, the sea bream that was on rice was fairly nice but I was reminded that there are a lot of Japanese flavours and ingredients I don’t care for.  I wasn’t enamoured by this meal.  Won’t be using this recipe again.

4. Kushari (Egyptian pasta, rice, lentils and tomato sauce) (Lonely Planet, The World’s Best Street Food). In fairness, I have used and enjoyed two or three recipes from this book before.  This dish is one I’ve eaten out and loved.  Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed this too, including all leftover incarnations.  The tomato sauce is amazing and I will use that for other dishes.  I will also make kushari again.  I will be using this recipe again.

5. Mother-in-Law’s Tas Kebab (a Middle Eastern comfort food dish of chicken, vegetable, potato and fruit casserole of sorts) (Snackistan, Sally Butcher).  Basically a casserole with a lot of good ingredients that lent itself very well to two varied leftovers meals.  Tasty, good for making as a massive dish to use for other meals.  Not as exciting as the number of tasty ingredients would suggest, but a nice dish.  I liked the layering with celery, onion and leek on the bottom then chicken, veg and prunes.  I would use this recipe again if I had lots of vegetables to use up.

6. Ringan Mattar (aubergine and pea curry) and Coriander Rice (Hansa’s Indian Vegetarian Cookbook). I made these dishes on 1st October, but I’d bought the ingredients and planned it in September so I felt that it counted as part of my September challenge.  I had low expectations from a simple aubergine and pea curry with a mere 13 basic ingredients (including water) but I loved it.  I don’t care for rice, never have, so had even lower expectations for coriander rice, which is basically cooked basmati rice briefly fried in ghee, garlic, cumin seeds, fresh coriander, onion and salt.    I loved it.  A rice dish.  I can barely contemplate plain boiled rice without the extra stage of cooling then re-heating with the other ingredients.  Seriously, that good.  I will be making both dishes again.  Hansa’s restaurant in Leeds is one of my favourite places to eat in the whole world, I don’t know why I have only ever made one recipe from this book (I didn’t have some of the ingredients so my plan B recipe, as I recall, wasn’t particularly memorable).  I will be using these recipes and this book a lot from now on.

October’s challenge has emerged from my looking at cookery books and experimenting with new recipes.  As with my photo-sorting challenge, putting favourite recipes into one place has always been something I’ve been “meaning to do for ages”.  So October’s challenge is to collate recipes I either love and/or regularly use and to add those I like the look of.

I went through a phase for up to two years of buying lots of food magazines.  They are currently piled up and rarely used.  If I get time (hmm), I’d like to cut out and keep the recipes that interest me and throw out the magazines.  I’ve been reading Marie Kondo’s Joy of Tidying so I am on a bit of a stuff-sorting mission, but I think it’ll take a while to go through them in addition to sorting the c200 books I have.  Who knows, maybe I’ll surprise myself with my productivity for this challenge, particularly as it genuinely is something I’ve wanted to do for years.

Hopefully, by November I will have two recipe folders (I have a barely started large folder and a small folder, though I should possibly think of a reason for using one or the other based on something more scientific than “big recipe pages” and “small recipe pages”) full of my favourite and most interesting recipes.  I will then be ready for a decadent month of doing something majorly treaty and not as time consuming in November.



How hard can it be to set aside 30 minutes a day to read a book?  I even chose a holiday month, knowing I’d have time on the beach/by the pool to read.  Two one-week holidays in August, four books packed for each and no books started for holiday one and I made it through three chapters over holiday two just because I felt really bad about not having read anything for a fortnight.

What went wrong?  If it’s day time, I’m not in a particularly comfy chair or on a train and I’m not distracted by eavesdropping other people’s conversations, I can read.  Oh, and if I’m not too hot, not too cold, not too tired …  But trying to read on a sun lounger/beach towel is nigh on impossible for me as a nap is so much more of a pressing and inviting need.  Likewise, once ready for bed, my eyes get heavy and if I can manage to hold the book up for long enough to find where I want to read from, I only seem to re-read the same paragraphs, knowing not a word of it has been absorbed.

I love reading, it just seems that I need very specific circumstances to achieve half an hour a day devoted to reading.  The most I read was, annoyingly, on 1st September at a near empty airport (I sat a long way away from everyone else) while my flight progressed from delayed to cancelled.  Conditions were good.  It was quiet, the seat wasn’t particularly comfy and the wait was so long that I’d already reached saturation levels emailing, Facebooking and using my phone to complain about being stuck at a barely-used airport in the middle of desert, ie no phone distraction.

So, yes, a round the houses way of admitting a second consecutive challenge fail.

Surely my September challenge will be a success, with even a possibility to overachieve.

Recipe BooksI have a lot of cookery books (uh oh, just registered that I am maintaining an ill-fated book/reading theme), many of which I have merely looked at but never used, for no obvious reason.  I have selected ten that I particularly like and I am going to set myself the challenge of following recipes in at least five of them over September.  See, that’s got to be realistic … right?!



sdr

Slightly organised photo floor-takeover

I have failed to complete my July photo challenge in time.  I’m on a bit of a roll though and hope to (sort of) finish two or three days late.

I took the photo to illustrate where I was in the photo-sorting process at the end of July.  Since then I have made use of an excess of A4 plastic wallets and small coloured stickers.  Most photos are now either in their correct year pile, awaiting confirmation from friends as to when they got married/when certain holidays were taken, or are in their “probably that year” pile. 

I have not felt inspired to sort them for albums or display, though a lot of my favourite holidays and experiences are already in albums and my digital photos are sort of dealt with by being in albums on my computer. 

I separated photos into 22 years, ending in 2014, which seems to have been the last year I printed a load of digital photos and used one of my film cameras.

Quite a few people who know I’ve been trying to sort photos have said that they want to do this but that they imagine it would take too long.  I have wanted to do this for years and ended up thinking that if I set myself a challenge within a month, I would stand a chance of completing it.  I also predicted I would feel nostalgic and melancholy, which I was kind of dreading.

Although I’m writing this before I’ve finished, it hasn’t gone at all how I expected.  I decided to sort them chronologically, which would have been fine had I heeded my mum’s advice to always label and date photos.  There then materialised some obvious groupings, eg I lived in Japan for two and a half years and the photos that aren’t in albums are nigh on impossible for me to date, so a “Japan years” plastic wallet (wallets) now exists.  Likewise for my time at university in Reading and then Mississippi and for the years I had a very sociable allotment.

I have thrown out hundreds of photos, mainly out of focus, of (uninteresting) location unknown and generally awful/repetitive ones.  I still have hundreds more though. 

cof

Time-wise, I didn’t get going until almost half way through July, so in some respects it’s not surprising I didn’t finish.  I started in earnest by taking them all out of packets and piling them up.  I then spent a few days pondering the task of sorting them as impossible.  I wrote out a year on a piece of paper for the years I figured needed sorting, 22 of them, and started trying to sort them into piles within the years.  That was when I started emailing and texting a lot of friends to ask when they got married, had children, when we went on holiday, etc.  It’s been a very good month for catching up and reminiscing with a few people I hadn’t been in touch with for a few months or so.  I then sorted them into events or sort of clusters and wrote a sticker to go on the plastic bag for the event.  This hasn’t amounted to as much labelling as it might sound like occurred and was one of the easiest aspects of dealing with the chronology.

Surprisingly, I haven’t dwelled on certain pictures or the joys of my rose-tinted 20s, but I have found it interesting how large some piles are compared to others.   My largest piles of photos, a lot of which are travel photos, have actually been in my 30s. 

Another surprise is that, looking at friends more than me, a lot of them, the vast majority, look better now they’re older than when I first met them in their teens or early 20s.  Looking at them from a chronological perspective is really interesting.  I can see individual styles forming and it’s really unexpected and fascinating to see.  Pretty much all of us have gone up and down in weight too and it’s also interesting to see how much of a difference that makes to who looks best when.

To feel I have completed the challenge, albeit now late, I would like the rest of them to be in the labelled plastic wallets (eight years to go) and back in the dreaded huge white box that there is no way I can now abandon!  However, I don’t feel inclined to do anything with the photos and I feel more detached from these photos than I could have imagined possible before starting this.

Once I’ve thought more about my emerging controversial thoughts on photos, I think I probably will do something with a few of the photos; I just don’t know what yet.

For my August challenge, as I will have little or no work, I thought something suitably holiday-esque would be in order and, as I’ve been trying to read the same book for three months, I decided to read for at least 30 minutes every day in August.  It may not sound like a challenge but, now I have a shorter commute than from either Folkestone or Whitstable, when I read most mornings and evenings, I barely read now and I have never been good at reading at night time because I’m always sleepy and neither want nor need to read.  I am too good at using free time just sitting and staring into space so maybe this will get me using my sitting and staring time more productively.  Surely I can’t fail this month’s challenge?!



I am perilousl­­­­y close to smugness as, yes, I can now reel off the 199 capital cities I decided to learn for June’s challenge. 

Not only do I now know the capitals but, after about two weeks of not being able to retain the names of about a third of the capital cities, I realised that attempting to establish a photographic memory was futile.  I then started to be a bit more creative with my connections.  For example, Palau, being an island in the midst of the Pacific must surely be muddy, thus the capital is Negerulmud.  Similarly, I could not get Podgorica in my head as being the capital of Montenegro.  In the end, I got it with “-gro” as being key and I did grasp that the capital was then PodGORica.  Tenuous at best, but it worked.

I am ludicrously pleased with myself and have been informing people of the capital of countries they mention.  I suspect this could be considered annoying.  Bring on the quizzes and obscure capital questions … while I can still remember them, rather than just remember that I used to know them.

At the beginning of June, I convinced myself I would never be able to retain the countries and corresponding capitals, let alone spell them.  Around about week two/three, it suddenly clicked into place and I have enjoyed the learning process, despite it being a straightforward, uncomplicated memory challenge.

DSC05651For July, I want to deal with another kind of photographic memory, as I plan to sort through a massive box of my photos.  I have photos in various places but, as this box is so big, I want to be fairly realistic and just aim to sort through that.  That will mean sorting them into categories, most likely: throw; put in an album; frame; keep in packets.  I am not going to aim to do the framing, album-making, etc, by the end of July, just get them ready. 

In an ideal world, this will lead to the rest of my photos being organised at a later date and some DSC05650albums/pictures created.  Unfortunately, I predict bouts of melancholy about the passing of time, how slim/young/carefree etc I used to be.  However, a bonus would be to get rid of the enormous box they’re in to make some room in the far-too-full cupboard (I may even be shamed into addressing the accessibility issues with the cupboard) in which it currently occupies almost half the spare floor space.   

 



SAM_4623I’m ludicrously impressed with myself for not only going to the five cultural/entertainment events I’d set myself as a target for May but going to five different genres.

I had a mid-month panic that, three trips in, I was surely never going to find time to go to two more. But I did it, enjoyed it and have even been to the theatre and a small museum since May. Living in London, I could easily go to more events, many of which are free, and I would be happy to think this one-month challenge has reopened my eyes to a lot more of what London has to offer.

  1. Radical Book Fair, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross.

I thought I might not be radical enough for this and it was slightly out of my comfort zone of familiarity. Guess what? I really enjoyed it. The event was busy and suitably informal, with a delightful mix of people, including punks, hippies, academics and regular students and passers-by. I bought two books, talked to some small publishers and very much enjoyed seeing stall holders, mostly publishers, working hard to keep things in print, spread the word about certain issues and causes and keeping alive less mainstream politics, ideologies, etc.

  1. While walking home from the book fair, I passed The Art House on Lewisham Way and saw it was open and hosting a small exhibition. I would normally have walked past and merely wondered about it. I went in and ended up staying for about 20 minutes and having the artist explain to me the 20 photos/artworks. It was entitled Movenze: London Fragments of a Journey by Maurizio Trentin, an Italian artist experimenting with photography as art.

I am very much drawn to colour and, while his pictures didn’t initially appear to be about colour, his explanation made me realise they were. He took photos from London buses at night time, deliberately moving the camera during slow shutter speed so most images were, at least on first inspection, unidentifiable/blurred. The photos became more about the colours emitted from lights, whether TV screens, street and car lights or shop signs. He then sampled the colours and made geometric shapes from those colours over the top. It wasn’t the kind of art I’d have on my wall but I liked that I could distinguish shapes (oddly, mainly animals of the “oh, look, there’s a lion in that cloud” variety) amidst the blur, colours and geometric patterns and I really liked the idea of trying to identify where the colours could have come from. He said that for him it was about not just seeing night time as dark with nothing to see but really looking and seeing lots of different colours in the lights. Lovely concept and way of looking at things.

  1. Florence Foster Jenkins at the cinema in Hull, after work one evening. I knew a bit about Florence Foster Jenkins, mainly that David Bowie cited her record as one of his favourites (perhaps most influential? She really was a dreadful “singer”) and that she played a huge role in keeping the people of New York entertained with music during WWII, thanks to her financial support, providing public platforms and audiences for new singers and musicians and very much keeping a spirit of bon viveur alive in the city.

As for the film, it actually made me feel really miserable by the end. The thing that really got me is how her husband paid critics and her voice coach to declare her brilliant (listen to a real recording; Meryl Streep’s portrayal did not exaggerate her awfulness as much as you might expect) and hid any rogue bad reviews from her. For decades. I find that a really sad concept. On the positive side of things, she really did a lot for the music industry and morale.

  1. How the Other Half Loves, an Alan Ayckbourn play at Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, starring quite a few people I vaguely recognised from TV (good TV not reality TV). A friend and I met in Leicester Square to buy tickets for that evening, something I assumed I’d often do, living in London – yeah, right; this was the second time in 14 years. I fear I may have slightly railroaded him to see this (he was more for Mousetrap). I was drawn to it being a comedy and I naively expected to be laughing out loud throughout.

I enjoyed it more than my friend, who I think was being polite when he said during the interval, “I don’t like it”. Hey ho. It is set in 1969 about three couples who are connected through work and an affair. Confusion, misinformed allegations and meltdowns ensue and there is a suitable ending. I just didn’t find it funny or sharp enough. I did, however, like how two of the households were mixed within each of the two sets. For example, a long dinner table was half the working class type couple and the other half the more middle class couple, delineated by table cloth and table decoration style. Two key dinner parties on two consecutive nights with the third couple as guests at each were made into one scene … confusing? It was actually clever and well-orchestrated.

Disappointing as a comedy but it kept me entertained, if frustrated by the sense it could have been better. My friend would probably downgrade this review.

  1. Marilyn Monroe: The Legacy of a Legend exhibition, Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, London. This exhibition (25th May to 20th June 2016) is part of a small tour of Marilyn memorabilia that will be sold at auction in LA in November. It was free to view and in what is essentially the central area of the Design Centre, which is a very fancy shopping centre. I reiterate it was free and not in a venue designed to host exhibitions.

The dresses were not displayed on mannequins the size of Marilyn Monroe so they kind of hung off the mannequins. The information about the dresses was displayed in such a way you had to lean perilously over a barrier to stand a chance of reading the small print. The information was appropriate, with a few interesting anecdotes.

Jewellery, shoes, etc, were in glass display cases and letters duplicated and hanging so you could touch and read them. It was all lovely to see and has renewed my interest in Marilyn Monroe but it was a little disappointing for the reasons mentioned above.

So there it is, a break-down of my five cultural/entertainment outings for May, proof I really did complete my May challenge.

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As for June, I feel a need to test my memory so I have decided to learn the capitals of the world’s countries. I have settled on 199 countries, with the odd territory and disputed country in there, but I’m not going to include, for example, Guernsey or French Guiana (though I know St Peter Port and Cayenne already!).

Initial testing proved I hadn’t even heard of more than half the capitals, couldn’t spell quite a few and am fully aware my pronunciation leans heavily towards how it looks rather than an attempt to adopt accuracy. One week in, I’m making progress and can even spell Tegucigalpa and know which country it’s the capital of.

 



I’ve overachieved for April.  Instead of getting rid of 30 things that I reluctantly parted with, I made it to 32!  Believe it or not, I found this challenge quite hard because I wanted to get rid of stuff that had already passed the “worthy of being kept” test.

I say “test”, but I’ve not gone all “possessions down to 100 items” and I certainly don’t have the time to hold each item and justify its continued existence in my life.

All bar two of the items (which I threw out) will be taken to a charity shop and, no, I won’t rummage in the charity bag before it’s donated and retrieve things!

Up to now in 2016, I think I’ve placed more emphasis on the challenges than the treats so, as May is my birthday month, I have spent some time thinking about things I often wish I did more often.

May is going to be a month of culture and events, including theatre, exhibitions and cinema.  As there are sort of five weeks in May, I plan to attend (at least) five such experiences, so if any of my friends want a theatre/cinema/exhibition companion, I’m in.

I’m looking forward to this but I find myself mildly anxious that I won’t manage to achieve my target.  But, hey, I managed 31 days without crisps, so surely I can arrange and attend five cultural events.



I’m so annoyingly smug.  January, no alcohol.  Completed successfully.  February, write 29 letters.  Completed successfully.  March, no crisps.  Completed successfully … just.

As for my year of monthly pamper/spa treatments, I had a manicure, pedicure and massage in January (overachiever!).  February, a pedicure.  March, a massage.  And in April I’m already booked in for a massage.

Somehow, I appear to have failed with the book a month “that’ll be easy” challenge.  In January I read “a book” (Oh, ok, it was 50 Shades of Grey so I know it doesn’t count on a literary level, and for the record it was as awful as I’d been led to believe).   In February I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I really enjoyed.  For March, in my defence the month I moved house, I don’t think I’ve even opened a novel.  So now I need to catch up.

My year of no TV is going well and I have not watched television since New Year’s Eve 2015 and so far only missed it while staying in a hotel for work.  I have listened to the radio significantly more than I otherwise would have done and I’m really enjoying the change of news medium and listening to more music.

In terms of things I’ve never done before, I have had a room service dinner and room service afternoon tea.  One March morning, on impulse, I bought a ticket to see The Master Builder with Ralph Fiennes at The Old Vic for that day’s matinee.  I am drinking a £99 bottle of blended whiskey, both the high price and a blend being firsts.  I have now walked to work from home (albeit at my previous home, a mere one and a half hours’ walk rather than the two hours it would be from my new home), something I’d never even contemplated doing.

I have still not bought any new clothes, shoes, bags or accessories, other than from charity shops, since July 2015, although I haven’t even bought much from charity shops.

Maintaining smugness, I now enter April planning to get rid of 30 things that aren’t obviously rubbish.  I have so far managed to cull three things, but if I can manage not to eat crisps for a month, I can surely get rid of some of the excesses around the home.



et cetera