#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.

#44: Take the children to the beach for a day trip, just me and them. Have fun without spending money

I had a vision for this one. I was going to take my brood to Brean Down, and have a lovely day out in nature, running on beaches, fishing in rock pools, taking photos, observing sea birds, picnicking in the dunes.  How delightful.

Within seconds of being left alone with them, it all went massively awry.

I suggested the beach. Massive excitement. I mentioned an hour in the car to get there. Absolute mutiny and utter refusal. No one would go. They are all well aware that there is a fake beach 5 minutes up the road, and that is where they wanted to be. Nothing else would do. Everyone howled. My resolve weakened.

I wondered though. The downside of the local fake beach is the £10 entry fee, hence it involves spending money. But. What if we cycled in the back way, and thus avoided the car parking charge? That would be a triumph for frugality, and also create an adventure, because the beach is 2 miles from home, and the bikes are very small.   I put the plan to the people in charge. They were mad for it! I stressed the need for unwavering sensible behaviour, as the ride would involve real roads. They assured me they were equal to it. No one would make a fuss about not being at the front. No one would cycle into someone else’s wheels and knock them sideways and giggle about it. No one would have a hissy fit because they couldn’t get up the hill. All would be serene, grown up, and responsible. I beamed at them proudly. What could go wrong?

I cycled at the back, to slow approaching traffic. That inevitably put someone at the front who held but a tenuous grasp on the concept of left and right, making directional control difficult. I stressed the need to stop wherever white lines were painted across the road. This led to multiple unnecessary stops, at any and every form of paintwork, but better too careful than the opposite. We got up the hill. We executed 2 junctions. We were on fire!

bikers 

A mile and a half in though, morale was drooping. A head wind was not helping. The road was long. I called a halt in a layby, and dished out the chocolate.
biking break
I had thought this ride took 10 minutes, and we were already nearly an hour into it.   We sat on some rocks. I delivered my most motivational of pep talks. 3 angry faces stared back at me, unmoved. I promised an icecream upon arrival at the beach. That did the trick. (Though it rather undermined the ‘spend no money’ bit.)

Back on our bikes and on we went. An hour and a half after leaving home, we had achieved the beach.  A triumph!

Immediately upon arrival, all their clothes came off, with scant regard for propriety. We were at the beach after all, and would need our swim suits on. Never mind that it is mid-March, cloudy, and the red flag is flying over the water, a clear hint that swimming is discouraged. But the brood got togged up, and in a fit of ingenuity, took their buckets, began gathering water from the lake, and pouring it into a corner of the sandpit to create a pool big enough to splash in. Various other children were recruited to the project, including, thankfully, a family that we are very good friends with. It was already apparent that my cycling party would not be equal to making the journey home. Luckily I was able to leave the children with the friends while I shot home for the car.   The eldest crashed off her bike while I was absent, landing in a bramble bush and soaking one side of herself in the lake. Many tears. We returned home somewhat chastened by the whole escapade!   Mummy solo day care is not what it once was!  I must be out of practice now they are all at school. But at least I only spent £6!

#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!)

#41: Strike up conversation with a stranger in a pub

I am not sure if this counts, because I did it at an event that was designed for getting to know people… but it might have to do, because the days are passing by too fast!

We went to a ‘meet your fellow Twinners’ evening in the local pub (which several have pointed out sounds ominously like some sort of swinging event, but I can assure you it is nothing of the sort). It involves a bus load of folk from our village travelling half way down France to spend 3 nights with some random French people, on a kind of whole family French Exchange type arrangement. I have signed my family up for this extravaganza over Easter weekend.

The pub night was the preamble, and so I was able to strike up chat with the founder members of village twinning; the current organisers of village twinning, and with 4 (count ‘em) other parents of school age children who are also up for French high jinx. And I don’t think I gave myself away as too much of a buffoon, but it is early days – plenty of time for that in a few weeks when we are all bolting red wine and enjoying a crepe!

#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

#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!