#40: Potter a cup or plate

Well this was a very pleasant morning. I enjoy the creative process, but I suspect that my approach is far too speedy and slap dash to ever create anything truly worthwhile.

A group of 8 ladies gathered at the Gateway Café in South Cerney. Some of us visibly over excited by the free tea and cake that was offered as part of the deal. Bridget showed us the various techniques that we might want to apply, and some finished pieces of her own: bowls, dishes, birds, feathers, flowers. All looked professional and lovely. The techniques looked quite easy. We were keen to begin.

Before long it was all going wrong for several people. The marbled effect failed to marble. The thin bowls were so thin the clay split. The colours smudged, the birds faces caved in… disappointment was palpable.

I had not gone in with great expectations, so I was happy to chuck some clay about and see what happened. Predictably, I created several deeply unimpressive pieces.

Others had greater ambitions, and more persistence, and indeed more artistic talent. One lady created this marvellous owl:
Another fashioned a splendid bird:
I meanwhile, threw together an oddly marbled bowl thing, a sort of stripy ash tray with uneven edges, and 3 quite brilliant faces which I have grand plans of turning into a fridge magnet each for the children. (Why is it that my craft activities are still at child level even when I have not a child in sight?) Ah well. I expect they will be delighted.
pottery, me3 faces
A happy morning’s work though. And literally more cake than I could eat – now that doesn’t happen often.

#39: Paint a picture

I have done it!  I didn’t think I could do painting!  But I have created a spring-like scene, not unlike (though in truth not very like either) a spectacle to be found at the corner of our garden.  And what a lovely time it was – at least for the minute and a half that I spent on it before the children demanded their own paints and canvases, and then the children from next door hopped over the wall to join in, and suddenly glitter and paint was everywhere and the whole exercise descended into thinly veiled carnage.    

But still, I fashioned a recognisable tree in the space of half an hour.   And with no more than a set of children’s gammy paints, and a £2 canvas from Lidl.  Imagine what could happen with a nice set of watercolours and a bit of painting tuition!  I feel a whole new creative streak coming on.  Oh yes. 


#38: Go to a Tantra workshop

‘No need to worry’ said one of the helpers, as we were hanging up our coats in the very large meeting room of a London hotel. ‘There won’t be any nudity or intercourse tonight’. Good Lord! I hadn’t even imagined there might be! Is that supposed to be reassuring???

Shortly afterwards 30 of us were sitting in a circle, introducing ourselves, and offering 3 words about how we felt at this point. Anxious, nervous, open, and curious came up again and again. One lady professed herself ‘discombobulated’ which broke up the repetition splendidly.
tantra room
A few minutes later, we were all standing in a space on our own, bouncing up and down to some music. Feet remained on the floor, we bounced from the knees. Direction came via a microphone from the course facilitator. We jiggled, and bounced, and vibrated and wobbled, and generally got into the zone. Most people closed their eyes, the better to lose themselves. (It was hard not to be somewhat self-conscious otherwise). We must have bounced for at least 20 minutes. It has a curiously liberating effect.

That exercise was, I soon discovered, the most enjoyable of the whole night. It got more intimate and risky from that point in, but our leader was true to his word – no one was naked, or copulating. Which was nice.

Next we had to gyrate our pelvises in circles, and after some minutes of this, move towards another participant, and introduce pelvises, without words. It was kind of funny, but it seemed it wasn’t supposed to be funny, and thus appearing to find it funny might actually show one to be in some way repressed or deficient. It was one of the harder social situations to read, I found.

We were to imagine a bowl in our pelvic region, sloshing with liquid. We were to give it a name. It really was a very unusual evening. Pelvic bowls were christened and introduced around the room. Boris, meet Brian. Keith, meet Wendy.

Later exercises involved communicating by staring at length into one another’s eyes; a lengthy bout of back to back rubbing; and an uncomfortably long session of guided face stroking. It would have been an altogether nicer experience if I had taken my husband along! But alas, he was ‘busy with work’. (In fact, the whole list might have been considerably riskier if he had not had power of veto at an early stage. Anything involving nudity or experimentation was removed, and replaced with suggestions such as ‘be silent for an entire day’. I think we might safely assume we have passed the first flush of romance!)

Anyway, the Tantra verdict? An interesting experiment, but probably not something for me!

#37: Knit a pair of socks

I am not sure whether to thank or curse whoever put the confounded socks on the list. It has been a project of many false starts.

First I chanced upon a ‘sock knitting kit’ in Lidl for less than £5, and thought my luck was in. It came with wool, needles and instructions, and I hastened home to get started.

Well that was a month ago. Closer inspection revealed that the instructions assumed a basic knowledge of knitting that I was lacking. The pattern was written in some sort of code. Nothing to explain how the wool got on the needles, or indeed why there were 4 needles. Utterly incomprehensible.

Back to square one. And so I did the only thing that one can really do when faced with an insurmountable housewifely task – I asked my mum. She produced a sack of knitting needles, 2 balls of wall, and a pattern for baby’s booties. That would do, I thought. Youtube educated me in how to cast on; and I was off! Thought the whole job would be concluded before I returned from the Czech Republic.

Alas. This pattern too descended into gobbledygook. ‘With RS facing, knit up 10 sts up first side of instep, work across 10 instep sts thus: K2 tog twice, K2 (sL 1 K K1 psso) … what the ****?

I took it all home again, and asked my mum. She studied my efforts. Then professed the entire piece to be so riddled with errors that it was beyond her powers to salvage anything from it. Start again, was the maternal advice.

I consulted you tube, and found a baffling array of methods involving circular needles, double ended needles… all manner of suggestions that baffled and confused me. And each method threatened to take many hours.

So, I thought, I’ll do it freestyle. Who needs a pattern!? If I knit a patch of wool in the shape of a sock, and then do another one, and stitch them together – surely that is a sock!? Why make it so hard!

So I did. And here it is.

And here it is again, actually on a foot.
sock on foot
I think we can all agree it is hardly worth investing time to complete the pair.

In conclusion then, socks are rather ambitious, but I am excited to have discovered the joys of knitting. It is a very surprising turn of events. Of all things that appeared among the 100 I did not expect knitting and busking to be topping the list for enjoyability! And yet, so it is. Astonishing.

#36: Build a den

When this went on the list I was envisaging a day out in the forest en famille, good wholesome family fun, fashioning windbreaks with rows of sticks, a grassy reed roof, a carpet of moss… that kind of thing. A day spent creating a thing of magnificence, all from the rich resources that nature has to offer.

But then opportunity knocked, and with less than 2 months to go, I opened the door with alacrity. It was a bright sunny day, we were playing in the garden, the kids had a friend round, I was desperate to knock off a few of the 100 but couldn’t leave the premises. Then suddenly, ‘Can we build a den mummy? In the garden?’ Indeed we could! Me and the youngest spent a happy half hour, fashioning an ingenious den. Two benches, a load of old bedding, some stones to hold it all in place; a carpet of hessian sacks, and then filled to bursting point with all the dolls and soft toys in the house. Perfect. Add a jug of juice and a few chocolate biscuits and that is a happy playdate, and can just about (if readers are minded to be generous) count as one of the 100.

#35: Learn some kind of useful DIY task

Ok, this is very lame, but I needed to bank a few at the weekend. Here are my coat hooks, erected with my own fair hand and some excitingly throbbing power tools.
coat hooks
And here are my dressing gown pegs.
I don’t think I will be invited onto a Channel 4 home makeover programme any time soon, but it is a start. And I quite like standing on a chair and wielding a noisy drill about the place, even if I do then have to seek advice as to whether I have got it in far enough. (oo er).

#34: Apply to be on a TV game show

This was actually very easy. I have just done it in 10 minutes. I googled ‘apply to be on a TV game show’, and found that Blockbusters is back and is recruiting. Yes, you remember it – ‘I’ll have a P please Bob’ (arf arf). I have just sent in my application form and photograph and I await news of my potential audition. Celebrity beckons! Though I suspect it would be on a channel so obscure that I am unlikely to be stopped in the street as a consequence.

Another one down. Just the 66 remain…

#33: Interact on social media for 3 hours

I have surely done this. I can’t think of a great deal of note to report, but I have been commenting all over the place, tweeting proactively, looking up friends of friends, inviting folk to be my friends, exchanging newsy messages with the people I get back in touch with… is there more to it than that? I have not yet plumbed the depths of completing quizzes to establish how welsh/northern/Londonish I am, but surely that is optional!?

Is there more? Do tell me! And does anyone use the Google + thing? Is that important? Guidance very welcome!

#32: Drive to the mountains and hike on my own

Well, the sun may be setting on my ‘mid to late thirties’ but I still have the banter of a 12 year old. So when planning this challenge, the only mountain worth considering was ‘Fan y Big’ – the most snicker-worthy summit in South Wales.

It may be surprising to folk who have known me a while to find this on the list – I have after all climbed Kili 5 times and led more tours up the Inca trail than I can remember – but this challenge was more about rediscovering the ‘me’ of yore. In more recent years, I rarely do anything a) on my own, or b) more than 10 miles from our village. If I do venture further afield it is usually for an organised event involving a load of other people.

So I promise it was a legitimate challenge, and not just a jolly. (Although having said that it was quite jolly once I got going)

It took an absurd amount of time to find the right place, due to my lack of planning and poor decision making (though really I should learn to plan for those, as they characterise most of my endeavours!) Wrong turns, no cash, forgot lunch, bought another lunch, more wrong turns, repeated stops to consult map, wrong car park….

No matter! Having left home before 6.30am, the sun was high in the sky by the time I was ready to climb at 9.30. That is, until I rounded the final corner, and entered a dense cloud, covering the very peak I had travelled so far to find. This was a problem, as my navigational skills are of a level that rather require being able to see where I am going.

I parked, and tried not to look too conspicuously clueless in front of the 40 army recruits who were engaged in some impressive venture with very large backpacks.

I set off up a steep climb by a waterfall. And I soon popped out the top of the cloud, to find a glorious sunny day, and lush views in every direction.
wales ridge view

In the main the path was obvious, though one stretch was across open country, and at one point I left my hat marking a junction to be sure of finding the right way home.

The summit of Fan y Big was nothing very obvious, a few rocks in a pile. But it was open, and spacious, with glorious views all around, and the schedule permitted a half hour kip in the sunshine, which was rather lovely for early March.
(see here the Standard Mountaineering Pose (SMP))

I cannot pretend it was a massively risky or hazardous venture, but it was lush to be out, and a tremendously satisfying way to fill the hours while the kids are at school… I think it would be much improved by taking some chums, and having an orienteering course under my belt. Might have to add those to the next list!

But it was great to get out and do this stuff again; proper hikes are too few and far between for me these days!

#31: Get up at 6am every day for a week, and do something productive

This was rubbish. Totally and utterly pants. I spent the whole week tired, grumpy, and shouting at the little people. There is no upside! I didn’t even manage to do anything very productive, unless you count the previous night’s washing up (abandoned in order to go to bed early).

Ah well. At least I have established once and for all that I am not a morning person. Plus everyone in my household now agrees that life is better when mummy is allowed to sleep. So it is a victory of sorts.