Get rid of ANOTHER half of our possessions

Regular readers may recall that I have already done this once. So now we are getting down to some tougher decision making. Everything that remains has already survived one drastic cull!

But, as homelessness looms, we have to judge what we really value enough to cart round to storage, keep there for months, and then cart elsewhere and unpack again. Anything that we neither like nor use nor value for sentimental reasons, has already gone. Now we are looking at things we can profit from selling, things too heavy to move, things we can really do without, things that are specific to the home we are in, things we don’t absolutely love.

So, all the sofas are sold, one dining table, several bikes, all manner of cheap and unattractive storage items. The fridge freezer, the washing machine. Chests of drawers, dining chairs, boxes and boxes of books, kids toys, spare curtains from previous houses … Anything that might be useful ‘one day’ we have decided we will ditch and buy again if we ever need to. We do not need to fill our lives and space with contingency items. The weight of owning all this crap is itself oppressive. Shoes for the children to ‘grow into’. Shoes that I might one day wear again, but haven’t worn for years. Clothing that might be useful, in certain scenarios that will probably never arise. Outdated electronic apparatus that we spent too much on but is now obsolete. All gone.

At the end of it all, Ebay has been the main winner. Them, and the pikey community of Blunsdon who ransacked my car boot sale for little more than pence. But overall we are up several hundred pounds, and our skeleton possessions are stored in 2 cars and a friend’s spare room. I am not sure whether to be embarrassed or proud that everything I own can fit into a room she doesn’t even need to use.

The children have been stoic in the face of downsizing. Rosie ran in one day with her drawing paper and pens in hand – ‘Mummy Mummy! Where is the table!?’ I had to confess it was gone. She lay on the floor with her colouring book and got on with it. Eva went to get the milk from the fridge… and found the fridge no longer there. She located the milk in the coolbag and had her breakfast on the floor. As the sofas reduced in number, they all squashed up on one… when that went they sat on camping chairs to watch TV. Then the floor. When the TV went, they played on the trampoline. The trampoline went, and they hunted for caterpillars. There is always something. Caitlin has struggled a little with the absence of her more treasured possession. ‘Mummy, where is my Miaow Cat? You have sold it Mummy, I know you have!!’ (Actually I really haven’t. The miaow cat is genuinely lost, but nothing will persuade her of my innocence in the matter.)

It has been a liberating exercise, though we still feel we have too much. And it is also kind of depressing. I am disgusted at the amount of ‘stuff’ we have amassed in the last 20 years, and how little any of it is really worth, to me or anyone. The car boot was a miserable display of the detritus of modern life, crap that people have bought to make themselves or their children happy, which is offered, for a few pence, to anyone who wishes to take it into their lives, where again, it may make someone smile for five minutes, before becoming oppressive tat that weighs us down, gets in the way, and distracts us from anything of real worth or meaning in our lives. Down with ‘stuff’!

What a terrible load of arse. Let’s never go shopping again.

Eating all the food in the house

The challenge is done, and the cupboards are bare. We have had some highs and lows!

All the usual favourites were gone in a handful of days. The children began to feel the lack. No pain au chocolats for breakfast. No more crunchy cereal. No ‘proper’ toast. No pitta breads left for the packed lunches. No more chicken nuggets, or bolognaise.

Breakfast was not a disaster for some time. We still had porridge (with sugar or syrup, once the honey was gone), and Weetabix. Even after all the favourites are gone, these 2 are acceptable alternatives.

Lunches were more challenging. They quickly deteriorated to a mix of dry bread, buttered crackers, and hunks of cheese. But we still had fruit. And the box of chocolate treats will outlast all our other supplies, so the lunches can end on a happy note, even if the main content is bleak.

Dinners have been the difficult time. A bag of rotting carrots was salvaged and souped, with lentils. A sack of frozen bread rolls converted into croutons. A disappointing risotto was fashioned from nothing but rice and frozen prawns. A strange Catalan fish curry with some frozen Pollock and more prawns (An enormous value-pack of prawns has haunted us for some time, you see). My tuna and olive pasta sauce was a surprising hit with the children, once they finally tasted it (after they had stared at it miserably for 40 minutes and eventually realised it was not going anywhere). All the beans in the cupboard created a flatulence-enhancing casserole. Then school requested donations for the local foodbank, and that pretty much cleaned us out of tinned produce!

My parents came for dinner, and I almost cracked, but realised I could make pastry and therefore a quiche with the last of the eggs and a lump of blue cheese that was in truth a little past its best. Quite remarkable hospitality!

A christmas pudding was a surprising choice for June, but it was taking up valuable cupboard space. (It didn’t seem right to give it to the foodbank!)

Once we were down to a sack of rice and a shelfful of spices, I declared the experiment done. No one was malnourished, and we have found a few more dishes and combinations that are acceptable to the small people.

But most triumphantly, I avoided the supermarket for nearly a month. I have just been again, and proved my theory that simply crossing the threshold of Tesco is enough to relieve me of £100. I don’t think I have ever escaped for less!

#98: Organise a party in my own honour

This was kind of a big deal for me. I am more than happy with the logistics of organising an event (I managed charity events for many years); but asking people to come to something that is frankly, all about Me, is very different. But, I never did a 30th party, or a 21st party, or an 18th party; and 40 has somehow become an even bigger deal than it was supposed to, on account of becoming the culmination of the 100 challenges project. So I thought, some kind of occasion needs to be made of it. But it needed to be something in keeping with me, not some scary posh affair!

So it came to pass that I welcomed about 90 people aged 0-70 to an overcast field in the southern reaches of Gloucestershire on Saturday. Many friends old and new, family members, in laws… it had it all. The whole affair was chaotic, unpolished, amusing, bizarre and riddled with minor cockups, in true Ginger Legend style.

The planned marquee was destroyed in the attempt to erect it the day before. I did source another, but couldn’t quite be bothered to put it up, so our only shelter was a gazebo and our own coats. A barbeque was brilliantly managed by I know not who, for I was too busy drinking and mingling to remember to light it. The salads, which I had remembered to organise, arrived about half an hour after everyone had eaten. Such were the minor imperfections that might have caused stress had I been less drunk.

The single best thing about the whole escapade, was how much fun the children had, embracing the joys of the natural environment. I had considered bouncy castles, magicians and the like, but decided against, and trusted instead to the power of the simple stick. And hooray for that decision, because although there must have been 40 kids there, we barely saw them. They clambered up hills and slid down them again. They collected worms and built worm houses. They gathered sticks. They climbed trees. They appeared unexpectedly on occasion from the hedgerows. They mixed, and played, and looked out for each other, and if they were actually scrapping like dogs we never knew it, because they kept entirely out of our way. Which is a win:win situation for adults and kids alike!

A game of rounders followed the food, but the preponderance of under 5s rendered it mildly absurd, and highly emotional. Far more rounders were scored than the level of talent truly merited. But no matter. The game was abruptly aborted upon realising the time, for at 7pm, the Barn Dance was to begin.

The largest keg of ale that money could buy had already been demolished, so we all repaired to the bar. The Barn Dance Band absolutely could not have looked more the part. Morris Wintle was blessed with the most astonishing crop of facial hair: he looked like a young Father Christmas.
morris wintle
Ginger beard protruded equally in every direction, even his eyes were almost hidden by it. He was accompanied by a folky, hippy-looking lady doing the calling. And the children loved it! So much so, that most of the adults sat out, thinking this was a kids event. Which isn’t at all what I’d had in mind, but no matter.

The kids danced til 9pm, whereupon we handed them over to the care of the Field Babysitters – a team of 3 legendary ladies, hired to patrol the field full of slumbering offspring. They did a sterling job.

The barn dance band was dispatched around 9 (to the relief of most, I suspect). And we settled to a mix of drinking, chatting, milling, and occasionally when the tunes provoked it, leaping to our feet and throwing ourselves euphorically around the ‘dance floor’.

It was a curious setting for a party; the barn had not in any way altered its look from day to evening, so we were dancing next to a display of vegetables and other farm produce. When a particularly banging tune came on, the vegetables, and, inexplicably, a stack of spades, were all available to be fashioned as impromptu guitars and microphones.
dancing at 40th
me and dave dancing at 40th
It was a suitably rustic affair for my taste. Everyone was in wellies and waterproofs, leaping around a barn with their arms full of root vegetables. Happy 40th to me! I am extremely chuffed to know so many people who are willing to spend a weekend in such a way, and to give every appearance of having a thoroughly good time!

#95: Learn to play a musical instrument

It was pointed out to me, a number of times in response to the first published list, that this isn’t exactly the work of five minutes. So the task is far from completed, but what I have managed, is to learn fully 6 chords on the guitar, which is more than enough to give a (very) poor rendition of ‘You look wonderful tonight’. I am supported here by Dave and Rosie on ukulele, and Caitlin on guitar, while Eva films. I’m afraid both the music and cinematography are absolutely awful.

You will see that Dave rather carries that performance(!), so we then had another go, this time without him. It is perhaps rather hard to make out my guitar playing over all the singing that is going on, but I assure you it was happening. Not well, and not in time, but happening.

No doubt I could take my musical career to higher levels, given time and dedication, but since I lack both, it may well end here…

#91: Light a fire and cook my dinner on it

This was entirely brilliant. We were on the south coast of Cornwall, on a totally beautiful and empty beach, ready to bivvy for the night after an afternoon’s boating, and my task was to make fire, and cook dinner. (Luckily we had anticipated failing to catch any fish, and packed some ingredients from the cupboards at home).

So, entirely unilaterally, I foraged for wood, built my fire, lit it, and tended it into a roaring toasty blaze. I prepared my ingredients and brewed up a remarkable pasta /pesto extravaganza, with mushrooms and chorizo. The fire blazed. The waves crashed. The sun was setting. All was right with the world.
cooking on fire

fire
As I tended my quite brilliant fire, I realised I was indeed, doing everything entirely myself. And I wondered how on earth it could be, that Dave could bring himself to leave the fire making to someone else. (For that is why it is on the list: I have become so accustomed to him taking over all such endeavours, that I rarely have any need to test my own survival skills.)
dinner from fire
But now, I have done it, and no doubt you’ll agree that I am clearly gifted at outdoor living. I will probably be asked to do a TV show soon, a kind of female Ray Mears. Such were the happy thoughts going round in my head as I assembled the meal. But when I looked around to summons David for his tea, I realised why I had been allowed to proceed unbothered. For he had been building his own fire, except he had built a fire that he could charge his mobile phone on. I am not joking.
davids fire
Still. No one likes a smart arse.

#90: Attempt kayak surfing

Over the bank holiday Dave and I had a free pass, to go sea kayaking around the coast of Cornwall. Which was absolutely lush. I have failed absolutely to master the eskimo rolling which was supposed to be one of my challenges, but I guess you have to take opportunities as they present themselves. The sea was too rough for an effective lesson on rolling, but conditions were totally ideal for learning to surf the waves in a boat.

Basically you paddle in front of the wave, the wave lifts you, you put in a stern rudder, then you either power into the shore like a legend or you spin round 90 degrees and come off the wave, then paddle back out to sea and start again.

Or, as I discovered, there is a third way. The wave takes you, you stick the paddle somewhere at random, whereupon you are unceremoniously deposited on the bottom of the ocean. You exit the boat, cursing as cold water penetrates your clothing from every angle, hopefully retrieve paddle and kayak, and retreat to dry land to rectify matters.

This was my preferred method on most attempts. The first day I caught a couple of waves without mishap. But for most of the time, I was upside down. It begins well:
kayak surf 1
It continues well…
kayak surf 2
And then, ah yes – over I go.
kayak surf 3
Ah well. There is some value I suppose, in that it takes the fear out of capsizing. Once I had been in once it didn’t matter if it happened again, and again! So we had a thoroughly enjoyable morning of it!

#85: Seek out some honest feedback about my blog

I have really loved doing this project over the last few months. I have loved all the random experiences that have come my way. And I have especially loved writing about them. And one thing I love even more than all that, is hearing that people have enjoyed reading it.

So I am thinking, only a couple of weeks are left. What then? Might there be some way of making more of it? Not just doing more ridiculous antics, but expanding the whole idea into something more… But what?

Well I don’t quite know what, but it is with such fledgeling ideas in mind, that I have crafted a survey, to find out what folk think of it, more specifically than ‘I like it’ or ‘its crap’.

And you can take the survey here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZMYSHDX

I am massively grateful to anyone who can take a moment to fill it in. I won’t know who has said what, but really appreciate any feedback. It should only take a few minutes, and you can skip questions if you have nothing to say about them.

Huge thanks as always to anyone who can help me with this. Also any shares on social media much appreciated!

Thank you