#54: Write a poem and publish it on the internet

I thought this would be an easy one! But I have been wrestling with it for weeks. Turns out it is not that easy a) to find inspiration, or b) to find an internet site that will publish it. Many of them have several months’ lead in time from submitting a work of brilliance to seeing it included on one of the many poetry forums.

In any case, I couldn’t think of anything to write. Nor find a genre that I am comfortable with.

‘I can’t think of anything to write a poem about’, I complained, plaintively last night. ‘Why don’t you do one about the pandas shagging at Edinburgh Zoo?’ suggested my other half. He can always be relied upon for a random idea. And in the absence of any other ideas, that is what I have done. And here it is:

Edinburgh’s first panda bear
is ready to mate, but beware:
Much hope is riding
on Mr Panda deciding
That he wishes to stick one up there.

She has but one chance in a year
A mistake will cost everyone dear.
The world and his dog
All gather agog
To see if he cares to come near.

A large scientific task force
Seek to influence nature’s course
With diets and tablets
And panda porn pamphlets
To part panda seed from its source

We have only the two panda bears
On loan from the east for 10 years
We must get them boffing
Or the zoo will be coughing
Up money, for nothing but tears.

Good heavens. I really must get a job soon.

#53: Sing karaoke

This was a very unexpected evening. And another much dreaded challenge turned to surprising success! (Success defined here in terms of fun, rather than singing quality, as you’ll see!)

I had been intending to go far, far from home for this one, to hide in some grotty bar and embarrass myself in front of people who I would at least never have to face again. Regular followers will be well aware that my vocal chords have not been privy to the finest training.

But then, walking past our village pub, what should I see but an advert on the chalk board outside, for karaoke, this very weekend. And with heavy heart I realised what I must do…

The babysitter was booked, the husband’s support enlisted. Alas, the friends were all indisposed that night (apart from one late recruit who unexpectedly proved a great karaoke talent!)

As proceedings kicked off, the only act was a trio of 8 year olds. Having initiated the party, they were taken home to bed, and we thought we might just get away with singing our duet to an empty room and scurrying home. But it was not to be.

We put our names on the list. We stepped up to the mike. We listened to the lengthy intro and almost missed the start. Then we burst into a horrifying rendition of ‘Love lifts us up where we belong’ by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. Happily(?) it was all captured on film. I defy anyone to listen to it through to the end!

The room began to fill – more from curiosity than a desire to hear more. But at least we set the bar so low, that no one could fear stepping up! The event gathered pace as more people ventured near. We were a small but committed group! There was never any lull in volunteers.

The beer flowed. The songs kept coming. We made new friends. We became the very best of friends! We signed one another up for increasingly difficult songs. Unlikely duets were forged; group performances came together. Employees of the local garage were in fine voice. Some of the elders of the village were tempted to participate, and applauded most generously. ‘Ring of Fire’ by Jonny Cash brought everyone to their feet. The landlord himself got up and rapped, to the crowd’s delight.

Even after my challenge was more than met, I found myself part of a line up offering Bohemian Rhapsody; and later a squealingly poor rendition of ‘Whole New World’, (that romantic tune from Aladdin, for any aficionados of Disney films). It really didn’t suit my voice! (Though it is hard to think of any song that would.)

In the small hours of Sunday morning, the landlord played ‘Hit the road Jack’ and turned the lights up. The performers exited reluctantly, hugging and congratulating one another, quite overwhelmed with real ale and one another’s brilliance. It was just an enormously good laugh. One of those nights that puts a smile on your face whenever you think of it! Hooray for the karaoke!

#50: Do something unique and special with each of my children (part 2)

The eldest had a day off school this week. It is always a hard one to call, she had seemed peaky, but by 9.30 it was hard to see there was very much wrong.

But in any case, it presented a rare opportunity for some one to one time with her. And she could not believe her luck when I suggested we do painting together, at an easel, outside, so that we could copy what we saw in the garden. I envisaged the two of us, passing a happy morning, companionably dunking our brushes, chatting of this and that, assessing the light on the branches… but of course she is 5. What actually happened was that I abandoned my own craft to sit next to her, advising on how to dunk the brush in water without then streaking the whole canvas with too-runny paint. But that was nice too.
painting cakey
Regarding subject matter, I had envisaged replicating the cherry blossom, the willow tree opposite, a cloud bespeckled sky, that kind of thing. Caitlin chose to immortalise the trampoline. Ah well. Who is to say what is art, after all? Perhaps it is indeed this:
caitlin's art
I suppose we will have to put it on the wall now. Heavens.

#48: pick up all the litter on my street AND #49: Be a children’s entertainer

Time is slipping away from me, if 100 challenges are to be done by May. And the only answer is to start doubling up on them. So, I hatched a cunning plan to combine these two in one activity.

My husband and several other gentlemen of the village went away for the weekend. All the abandoned wives and children sought solace in numbers, and gathered together for a marathon 24 hour play date and sleepover. I volunteered to lead the first activity: a village litter pick-up, dressed as superheroes. It was inspired, as it enabled me to a)gain maximum value from the Bananaman investment, and b) create a slightly strange and dare I even say fun event from an activity that might otherwise have met with protest.

But it is marvellous how willingly the children accept such proposals. ‘We’re all going to dress up as superheroes and pick up all the litter in the village’. Of course we are. What else are Saturday afternoons for? 10 children ranging from 3-8 years embraced the prospect, and presented as instructed, variously dressed as Batman, Spiderman, a princess, a pirate, a ballerina, Mrs Incredible… I gave them each a carrier bag for their spoils. And a pep talk about how the village needs us. No litter must remain after our efforts. And off they all ran, in high spirits.

I had been anxious we’d fail to find any litter (for such is the nature of the very community-spirited village we hail from) – but once we started to look we found a surprising amount. They checked around bins, dug about in ditches, scraped up mushy paper. On occasion the refuse was so precariously positioned that only Bananaman could safely go in for it. Between us we filled about 8 carrier bags, enough for everyone to feel proud! And finished up in the park for some well deserved celebratory roundabouting. Happily we only bumped into one other family, and she was very understanding about it!
litter picking party
The hunt was followed by a feast of chicken nuggets, ice cream and cookies, a couple of hours of trampolining, endless table football contests, DVDs and stories.

But at bedtime a couple of the kids were asked what had been the best thing about the day. ‘Litter picking with Bananaman’ came the gratifying reply. Oh yes.

#43: Hire a personal shopper

The actual hiring was easy. A friend of a friend is a most excellent personal shopper, the marvellous Julie Ladhu, (www.julieladhu.co.uk), so it was just a case of making a phone call.

This was on the list because I have never been one to take great care or expense over my appearance. In fact since having children I am rarely sighted in anything grander than jeans and a top, and my idea of dressing up is wearing something clean. Comfort is everything. I once went to a dinner party with my slippers on. You get the picture.

So Julie had her work cut out. And she was more than equal to it! I spent a gloriously decadent day at her house, going through every item in my wardrobe, deciding what to keep, what to bin, what to reserve for gardening in, and what could be worn with what to achieve an overall look that was more sartorially pleasing than the status quo.

So phase one involved throwing literally all the clothes I own into the car, and driving up to London with them. My other half must have suspected I was doing a runner. Unfortunately the timings conspired so that I left home for the tantric sex workshop, taking my entire wardrobe with me. (I am not sure whether to put his lack of protest down to trust or indifference.)

But back to the shopping. Julie is some sort of magician, because I went from being convinced ‘I have no clothes’, to realising that in fact I only need to buy about 5 items in order to have dozens of decent outfits!

And what is even better, is that she then went out to find all the required items for me! And plenty of others besides.

So when we met again a week later, Julie had already mapped out the shops we would go to, the items she expected me to like there, and the things I could wear the new items with, for maximum effect.

We spent 2 hours power shopping, which was amazingly focused, and productive. I spent more money than I intended, but know that everything will be worn, everything suits me, and everything I bought means that more things I already own will not just be worn, but will look better. So I think it is money well spent. If I were richer, I would have no qualms at all about doing it several times a year, but even as a one off experience, it was very worthwhile – I have a much better idea how to ‘put myself together’! And I am converted to scarves!
personal shopper

Aside from the new clobber, I learnt much from the process. ‘Caroline’, Julie said to me firmly, ‘A top and trousers do not make an outfit.’

Well that was a revelation in itself. I have always assumed that if I am covered, I am ready. But it is undeniable that I do look better with a bit more detail. Some layering, a scarf, a statement necklace, that kind of thing.

Loved this one! (And would thoroughly recommend Julie if anyone is interested in the experience. She can work to any budget, and has no vested interest in what you buy, so you know that the items chosen are chosen purely with pleasing you in mind. Plus she is extraordinarily nice and fun!)

#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:
owl
Another fashioned a splendid bird:
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. 

 
paint