#99: Drink a yard of ale

The yard had been put on the list by a very dear university friend. Having had his challenge accepted, he offered to buy me the vessel as a birthday gift. What more splendid present could one receive for a 40th?! I am very happy for that to set the tone for my next decade!

But tragedy struck, for the morning of the party came, and the yard glass was duly delivered, but alas, the buffoons had smashed it in transit, into a thousand tiny pieces! Our best efforts to source a replacement were doomed to failure. Disaster!

I really should have drunk the equivalent amount of ale out of a bucket or something, but alas, I was too addled to think of that at the time.

So, thwarted, at number 99! Would you believe it!!!???? The yard will have to be completed retrospectively, at the earliest opportunity. Do not worry, it will happen. After all I have been meaning to do one since I was 18.

And it is most likely a blessing in disguise for the 40th weekend, or I probably would have erased the entire party from my memory. (And created a disturbing image for the children, of Mummy chundering brown ale into a bucket, egged on by all the grown ups of their acquaintance.)

Never fear though readers, it will not be forgotten. Stand by for the postscript, at some point soon!

#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!

#97: Aqua Aerobics

I managed to squeeze this one in this morning, in between preparations for #98 – organise a party in my own honour!

Thus I spent the last day of my 30s back in the company of the retired community. 15 people gathered in the pool; the vast majority were over weight and over 60. There were some substantial swimming costumes in evidence.

Nonetheless, they were a cheery bunch, though not hugely compliant: the softly spoken lad who ran the class had his work cut out.

Round the pool we went in one direction, then the other. Forwards, backwards, sideways, and then jumping, which reduced the water level considerably. We all got weights and moved them around the pool. It was definitely ‘exercise’; though it didn’t seem to be winning the battle against the bingo wings.

The last 15 minutes saw a relay race that involved everyone lunging from one end of the pool to the other. Everyone was cheating unashamedly.

By the end I noticed I was the only one to have got my hair wet! But it was jolly enough. I have made a note to return in 2035.

#98 is to organise a party in my own honour (the mighty 40th bash scheduled for the morrow); #99 is to attempt the yard of ale (a worthy finale; hopefully to be performed during #98) – and then #100 is to turn all the material into some sort of book. So this is the last report of my 4th decade!

#96: Buy a meal for a homeless person

This has been more difficult than you would imagine. I am rather privileged I suppose, in that homeless people seem to be in short supply around these parts. I asked around, and was told of one that had been sighted in Cirencester, but alas when I headed there to find him there was no sign.

I spent yesterday morning driving around the centre of Swindon in search of someone to offer a lunch to, but to no avail. (I saw several people who looked as if they may well have unmet social needs, but nobody seemed homeless beyond doubt. And one doesn’t wish to offend.)

So, I made up a food parcel, and sent it into Bristol with Dave this morning. Delegation is not really in the spirit of the 100 list, but what else to do, at this stage!? I made the lunch myself at least, and a homeless person will be fed, so hopefully it kind of comes to the same thing.

Dave reports that he found 2 men sleeping near his workplace and deposited the offering. They were too groggy to really acknowledge it, due to having their lunch delivered at 7am, but in Dave’s judgement they may have looked at him with ‘grateful eyes’.

We will never know if it was eaten, but it can’t do any harm anyway! Maybe I should make an extra packed lunch on a more regular basis?

#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…

#94: Go to a nightclub and actually dance

The ‘most avoided’ challenges are coming thick and fast this week! And once again, thank Heavens for mates who can be persuaded into joining such enterprises!

I have no weekends left, so the offer I put out to my local acquaintance was the opportunity to go clubbing, in Cirencester, on a school night. Apparently this mid week event is ‘popular with students of the agricultural college’. I checked whether student status was compulsory, and was assured that EVERYONE is welcome to ReVA on a Wednesday. Nor would we need student cards to take advantage of the extraordinarily well-priced drinks.

My suggestion met with a mix of enthusiasm and incredulity, but in the end, a small but committed party of 3 left the village at 9.55pm last night, to the astonishment of our friends and other halves, who were all going to bed. We popped into the pub for a couple of sharpeners, then it was on to the main event.

One of my friends was appalled to be recognised as soon as we walked in! We did not imagine we knew anyone at all in the 18-21 bracket these days, and certainly she almost fell over in astonishment to see him in that setting! She and her friends were all drinking an unpleasantly sweet looking concoction out of a jamjar, filled half full with gummi bears. How queer. We resisted that temptation and ordered a round of jager bombs instead. For £10 we were given 5. We realised we had not brought enough people. No matter. We got through them!

Each round cost £10 and consisted of 5 drinks to share between the 3 of us. A quick round each, and it was time to hit the dance floor. And imagine, the cage was vacant! We got involved. We were on fire!

For the first hour or so, we did not recognise any of the music. So we amused ourselves surveying the youth. We played a game of ‘If you really had to, who would you ‘do’?’ The more we considered it, the more preposterous the prospect seemed. Fresh faces abounded. No one looked a day over 20. There were really no contenders other than the security staff! (This was unlikely to be a problem, as we were not drawing any interest whatsoever from the younger clientele! Oh, and of course we are all happily married anyway.)

Around midnight, they played Teenage Dirtbag. And the 3 of us went wild! We had a whole dance floor to ourselves at this point, and we made most excellent use of it. We flung ourselves the full length of the space available, strutting, leaping, air guitar-ing, throwing out shapes. God we looked good. From then on, the 90s classics came thick and fast, and we paused only to see off another round of jager bombs.

I can offer some very poor imagery of our exploits:
20140508_005524 (Large)

me on dancefloor
I had taken the precaution of booking a cab for 1am, which we were all thankful for next morning. But we left wondering why on earth we spend our time going to sedate dinner parties these days. Why stop leaping around a dark room to some banging tunes?? Club night might become a regular event!

Certainly we were looking good….
me and adam in cage

#93: Go to a networking event (and speak to people)

This one was marvellous for reflecting upon how far I have come. A few years ago I went to a similar networking breakfast, and I tied myself in knots about it. I planned it weeks ahead of going. I crafted my objectives to achieve from it. I created a host of marketing materials to capitalise upon the opportunity. I drafted and redrafted a 40 second spiel, introducing myself. I rehearsed it to death. I timed myself saying it. I had it word perfect. Then I perfected saying it with a couple of ums and pauses, so that it would sound more natural. I got through the event (I even picked up a client), but it took me so long to recover from the whole ordeal that my marketing plan went woefully out of date.

This time, I looked online yesterday for a networking opportunity, found one, booked it, and turned up this morning. I thought up a spiel in the car on the way there, failed to write it down, and so made it up on the spot when my turn came. The whole thing was natural, easy, fun. I have arranged to meet someone for coffee, picked up a fistful of business cards, and enjoyed having half a dozen grey-headed entrepreneurs assure me there is a winning business to be found in my blogging and adventuring endeavours. I was composed, confident, colourful, interesting… a bit like a Ginger Legend in fact!
networking
I had to eat a lardy cooked breakfast that I didn’t want in the least, but otherwise there was no downside. The whole affair was compered by a helpful chap who explained the format and kept us to time. Everyone did a 40 second intro, then there was a pause to refresh our coffees, and we all arranged our 3 one-to-one meetings with anyone who we liked the sound of from the introductions. Then another chap did a 10 minute talk (about accessing government money for one’s business), then we all went into our pairs for the individual meetings. Each pair has 10 minutes to talk before swapping round. The whole thing is friendly, social, supportive, and completely unintimidating. I would recommend it to anyone who needs to network and hates the idea of it. It is structured enough that everyone is involved and no one gets to hide in a corner, but not so formal as to be fearsome. (www.4networking.biz)

I was almost persuaded to sign up for membership, until I did a quick reality check and remembered that I don’t yet have a business. Possibly there are a few steps to take first, before I launch my promotional activity. But I will be back!