greenbottletree











Oh, check me out, writing this less than an hour before 1st March.  Unfortunately, this exemplary demonstration of organisation and timeliness is not a particularly accurate summary of February and my plans for focus and progress.

(Original list is at the bottom of this post)

  1. Already done *smug*.
  2. I eventually got into my website, having mis-remembered my password, which I argue is different to having forgotten it.  I set the bar low as the achievement of cracking my password felt so real I did nothing more on my website than rejoice in having accessed it.  Does it count that I definitely thought about what I wanted to do with it a lot more than in January?  Weak, I know.
  3. Progress report on a par with last month, ie I’ve changed my work pattern but all that will end in a mere matter of days.  This needs to be worked on with uncharacteristic displays of productivity.
  4. I am writing this from Dubai and spent virtually all of February in hotels where I have indulged in buffets for up to three meals a day.  In summary, I must have meant “gain” 14lb.  In which case, well done me, I’m making good progress.
  5. Overachieving for the second month running, with 365 days of travel and portraits going well due to the fact I’ve been travelling so much, though still a bit wimpy about asking people to take their  photo.  But all in all, one of the few definite successes.
  6. I read The Girl on the Train (the murder element seemed a bit too 1980s familiar but it was an easy read), I thought I’d read another book too but if I did I’ve somehow forgotten.   I’m now reading The  Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (enjoying it a lot but I’m slightly worried it could be disappointing by the end).  I’m optimistic I’ll finish The Miniaturist and maybe even another book.  I’m feeling quietly confident about the reading of 12 books this year, already being almost a a third of the way there.
  7. I’m starting to think I’ve cracked this one as my mobile is now almost always on silent, though I have fallen back into my bad habit of reading messages and mails while walking.  Annoying habit and I need to stop.
  8. Very surprisingly, I did get rid of the five items of clothing I’d said I should do for February.  A more thorough sort is in order for March.  A credible hint of accomplishment.
  9. Again, I’ve been in Doha and Dubai and still not had a picnic, though in Doha I got a bit stressed by all the rules written out along the Corniche (earmarked picnic area) and thought I might not be allowed to eat there anyway (seriously, not exaggerating).  How hard is it to have a picnic, especially being in hot countries?  No, wait, it rained a few days in Doha, it’s rained a few days in Dubai, London and Guernsey have been wet and/or cold so what opportunities have I had?  Does an ice cream count?  No, thought not.  I did eat the top of a lunch baguette while walking in Guernsey.  Surely that counts as a picnic?  Fail.  Again.
  10. I’ve definitely not eaten as much fish in February as January but I’ve undoubtedly had more than usual.  Another success, though not exactly a sense of victory to have eaten a few fish dishes.  I really am setting myself some unexciting challenges this year.
  11. No tax return updates and my current receipt collection is even more disorganised than usual.  Oh well, got a bit of time for this one, sort of.
  12. What was I thinking putting a Christmas shopping thing on my 2017 To Do list?  ie no, of course I haven’t done any Christmas shopping.

—————————————————–

 

The original list:

  1. One new country
  2. Website with clear purpose
  3. Quit steno
  4. Lose 14lb
  5. New 365 Instagram
  6. Read 12 books
  7. Mobile on silent more
  8. Reduce amount of clothes
  9. More picnics
  10. More fish
  11. Tax in May
  12. Christmas shopping by November
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mde

Battered cod, curly fries and lemon pepper dip at Reykjavik Fish Restaurant

It’s 2nd February and I’ve just read my optimistic January post.  I thought that with monthly updates I’d be able to keep in mind what it is that I hoped to do over a month.  I clearly don’t know myself well enough, I need daily reminders!  Hoping for more focus in February, here follows what I was supposed to do and did do in January and what I WILL do for February.

  1. What a start, I stayed in Qatar last month, which was a new country.  Check me out, one month in and one resolution ticked off.  Maybe it’s not going so badly after all?!
  2. Turns out I thought a small amount of progress was likely on my website. Zilch, absolutely nothing, in fact I don’t even think I looked at it.  Big fail.  I will set the same ludicrously achievable aim for February.
  3. Quitting steno wasn’t looking likely for January, likewise February. But for January and February I have taken time off and completely changed my working pattern, so actually I take that back and feel I have done something to alter my working life.  Next month onwards will be the big test for this one.
  4. Losing weight in January, just no. Also, I had one holiday and two work trips so have been away most of January and very much in dangerous buffet breakfast territory.  I have also eaten out far more than I’ve cooked at home.  To which end, I haven’t even dared set foot on scales.  For February, I am currently away from home and will be again later in the month too.  I will go easy on the buffet breakfasts and abstain from desserts (most days).  I do not hold out much hope for even maintaining last year’s weight let alone losing anything.
  5. Totally overachieving on this one! My 365 Instagram projects are for 365 portraits and 365 days of travel.  As I have been away most of 2017, the travel days have exceeded days of the month and I’ve taken a few portraits, though I am far from embracing the idea of approaching people to take their photo, having only done it a few times and otherwise just taken two photos of people I know.  I am confident a habit is forming and these two Instagram projects will continue as planned, though I need to take more portraits.
  6. I read an Icelandic crime fiction novel, Strange Shores, by Arnaldur Indridason, which I should get bonus points for reading while I was in Reykjavik! I am also almost at the end of The Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany.  I have enjoyed/am enjoying both.  I should aim high and try for another two novels over February.
  7. Total success. My phone is now almost always on silent and as a result I check it much less and feel less mobile-dependent.
  8. Does it count that I’ve got rid of a pair of jeans that had worn thin in an inappropriate place? No, probably not.  Didn’t expect to start reducing clothes and didn’t.  Oh dear, I did buy some new clothes though.  Right, that’s it, I will get rid of at least five items of clothing in February.
  9. More picnics. I’ve missed some good opportunities for this as I was in Qatar and UAE with temperatures in the mid to high 20s.  I’d be pushing credibility to say that I did at least eat at a few restaurants and cafes sitting outdoors.  I did though!  I did have a breakfast pastry standing outside in light snow in Reykjavik.  That semi counts.  No, I can see I’m scraping the barrel.    At least one February picnic is in order.
  10. To eat more fish, overachieved. I ate way more fish in January than I usually eat in about six months, though aided enormously by a week in Reykjavik, almost two weeks in Gulf states and being in Guernsey for the end of January, so four seaside locations.  I’ve had hammour, cod, haddock, lobster, prawns, squid, wolffish, scallops, mussels, seatrout, salmon, crab.  “More fish” is a bit loose so I’ll aim for at least once a week for February, which sounds a bit pathetic but is more than I’d usually eat.
  11. I repeat my “pff” for having completed my tax return by May. At the very least, I’m sure I could manage to update my receipts up until now.
  12. Christmas shopping by November, I haven’t yet started, unsurprisingly. But, that said, being abroad is a good opportunity to buy a few presents so maybe in February I could stockpile anything if something looks suitable for someone in particular.  But it feels far too early for stockpiling so I won’t let myself feel bad if I make no progress on this.

The original list:

  1. One new country
  2. Website with clear purpose
  3. Quit steno
  4. Lose 14lb
  5. New 365 Instagram
  6. Read 12 books
  7. Mobile on silent more
  8. Reduce amount of clothes
  9. More picnics
  10. More fish
  11. Tax in May
  12. Christmas shopping by November


mde2017 has started well.  I made my To Do list ahead of 1st January on a pin board of a type I’d wanted for years and years (the joy of Christmas gift suggestion lists – yes, I know there’s a touch of smugness and pretension about it!).  I know myself well enough to know that a list on a scrap of paper or within a notepad will be forgotten about/ignored within days of 1st January enthusiasm for a year of brilliance.  So here is my list of things I want to do in 2017.

They are in no order, I am sharing them at least in part because I need every possible assistance in getting them done (I hope a monthly update might be good motivation) and they are all things that I really want to do and many I’ve “thought about doing” for years, mainly 3, 4, 11 and 12.

Unfortunately, I ran out of Ss and Es so I had to alter a few things and use some full stops as a ditto symbol and a $ for S.

For January, I wildly hope to do the following, the numbers corresponding to the board in the photo:

  1. Possible, surprisingly.
  2. A small amount of progress likely.
  3. Not going to happen yet, this being something I’ve planned to do for years.  I fear this could be as likely as 4 below.
  4. No, I need to get back to pre-Christmas-excess levels before I can even contemplate the diet/exercise horror.  I fear this is the item I am least likely to adhere to.
  5. Posted Day 1 of a portrait challenge (but 365 days over however many years it could take) and Day 1 of a 365 days of travel challenge to follow (to last however many years it takes to have 365 days abroad or not in the immediate vicinity of London and the south east!), so both will have started this month.
  6. I’m aiming for two – yes, overachiever potential!
  7. Already embracing this and feeling good about it, particularly since turning notifications off.
  8. Unlikely to start in January.
  9. Brr, winter, but I’m hoping for at least one outdoor meal.
  10. I’m going to Iceland this month so there will definitely be more fish in my diet, including the best lobster soup ever.
  11. Pff, I’m still recovering from not long having completed the last tax return.
  12. Unlikely.  Very unlikely.


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.

 

 

 

 



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?!



Eight Michelin stars in a small mountain resort and The Ablyazov Syndicate (film)

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With a population of around 15,000, the small Black Forest town of Baiersbronn has two three-Michelin-starred restaurants and one two-starred.  I would like not to be unduly influenced by reviews and stars, but there is something hugely appealing about a small town in the midst of forest and mountains with so many supposedly exceptional places to eat and that it is in Germany, which is not a country I particularly  associate with  fantastic food.  The thought of a week in a mountain resort, ideally staying at the Bareiss hotel, with a meal at one of each of these places every two days … yes, I would rather like that.

Restaurant Bareiss (3*)

https://www.bareiss.com/en/restaurants/restaurant-bareiss.html

Schwarzwaldstube (3*)

http://www.traube-tonbach.de/en/schwarzwaldstube-restaurant

Schlossberg (2*)

http://www.hotel-sackmann.de/en/gourmet-worlds/schlossberg/


For probably all my court reporting colleagues, the name Ablyazov will incite a groan at the very least.  From our perspective, this is litigation that has gone on for years, it’s a challenging job to transcribe and it’s full of names not immediately obvious to us how to spell.

I had an interesting chat with a barrister who I recognised from that case.  He asked whether I had seen “The Ablyazov Sydincate”, which he said made for an interesting viewing.  Yes, a documentary film has been made about Ablyazov, billed as the “story of one of the biggest bank frauds in history and the man behind it”.

For anyone not familiar with Mukhtar Ablyazov, watch this or have a look on Wikipedia.  I have not yet watched the film but I do have some insights from the many court hearings I’ve listened to and the Wikipedia information is the kind of read you’d expect only to suspend belief over in a James Bond film.  Also of interest is the Blair brothers’ involvement in this seeming game of crime, violence, politics and staggering amounts of money.



et cetera