I was on the brink of joining an amateur dramatics group and auditioning for a role in the Christmas production of Aladdin when I finally concluded that I am in the midst of some kind of midlife crisis.

I’d volunteered as a Brownie leader a month or so before, which I’d let slide because I actually like making peppermint creams and hanging out with children who still find joy in life, but pantomime? No.

The trouble I’ve had is that at no specific point do I feel like I am actually IN crisis. No switches have been flipped, I’ve not lost it in Waitrose and swept a shelf of artisan artichokes onto the floor or anything, and yet… for quite a while now something has been OFF.

When I tried to explain it to a friend at the weekend it sounded kind of lame.

‘I just feel kind of BLAH,’ I said, ‘like the stuff that used to feel meaningful just doesn’t. Every day is FINE – I get on with things and I enjoy stuff on one level, but I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. I kind of thought by now that I would KNOW, that something would have clicked in. But what if it doesn’t? I used to feel like I had time to decide things and make stuff happen, but what if this is it? I feel like I’ve trapped myself.’

I sighed a bit.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘I just don’t know. I swing from the urge, albeit brief usually, to make a grand life plan and act upon it, to just wanting to run away in a mobile library.’

It sounded kind of whingy to be honest.

Midlife unravelling

Mood courtesy of Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Luckily it turns out that I’m not alone in feeling like this. My friend confided that she’s felt the same for a while now, like she just wants to jack everything in and move to France and write novels and not think about anything. What I found really interesting is that although we are similar ages, we are at very different life stages with our families, and so it can’t be just about children growing up.

‘Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,’ I said.

‘It sounds,’ she said, ‘like more of a midlife unravelling.’ View Post

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How are you meant to feel when you stand in a gas chamber?

You look around the damp underground room and you try to imagine 700 people all crammed in, half starved, clinging to the promise of hot soup after having been made to strip naked and leave their clothes outside on the stones.

You walk through to the next room and see where the corpses of murdered, innocent people were then burned, one after another, sending foul smelling smoke up through the chimneys for the other prisoners in the camp to see.

How are you meant to feel?

When I told people I wanted to visit Auschwitz as one of my 40 things to do before I turn 40 I got a mixed reaction. Some people, you could tell, could think of nothing worse. Either they just didn’t want to be made to think about it, or perhaps they felt it was disrespectful to pay for the privilege of being led around a site where hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

Others wished me luck.

‘It was the most harrowing experience of my life,’ they told me.

‘So traumatic,’ they said.

It has been something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as I’ve read quite a bit about life (and death) in concentration camps, and there is something that just feels so IMPORTANT about it. It’s such a massive part of our recent history as human beings, and it’s so horrific.

I imagined that it would be just as harrowing and traumatic as everyone was telling me, that perhaps I would feel overwhelmed, unable to deal with coming face to face with it.

We arrived and walked through those infamous gates at Auschwitz One – ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – and I waited for the feelings to come. I stood still and quiet and waited to feel the horror of what had happened. I tried to picture the prisoners, walking through these gates, feeling scared but potentially optimistic, oblivious to what lay ahead.

Nothing came. View Post

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I was doing a bit of research this week for a new list.

As you may know, back in 2013 (GAH!) I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I turned 40, an event which has rather crept up on me and appears to be happening THIS APRIL.

I’ll be writing more about that at some point, but in the meantime I have started thinking about my next list – 50 things to do before 50. Obviously it will include things like ‘stagger about a bit at the fact that I am in my 40s’, but I also want it to have some fun and unusual things on it, so I was doing some Googling.

I happened upon this list from American Cosmopolitan, (which I should have realised was a bad sign), of ‘50 things every woman should do before she dies.’

Given the publication, I guess I should have expected things like ‘learn to give the perfect blow job at the same time as achieving the dream thigh gap with this one miracle exercise’, but it still made me cross.

Here are some of the things that American Cosmopolitan thinks we should aspire to, some KEY LIFE GOALS for women:

  • Put a streak in your hair, or dye all of it
  • Learn to make one full meal
  • Eat dessert for breakfast
  • Eat a huge piece of cake (or candy bar or ice cream cone or whatever your favourite dessert is) and feel wonderful about it
  • Make a whole cake for no reason other than to sit there and attack it with forks alone/with your roommate/boyfriend
  • Just completely lose it at customer service when they’re being dicks  
  • Spend an entire day eating nothing but crap
  • Speak in public

krispy kreme

Well, I think already we are feeling EMPOWERED aren’t we ladies?? View Post

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Can you believe it’s nearly FOUR WHOLE YEARS since I made my list of 40 things I want to do before I’m 40? It’s come around pretty quick hasn’t it? I’m 39 next week, which means I only have a year to finish the list.

If you click on the link you’ll see that I’ve updated the original post, and have so far completed 23 things on the list. Not too bad you might think, but the last 17 are rather on the expensive side – buy a house, get married, ride on the Orient Express, that sort of thing.

All totally doable in a year right?

*ARGH!*

To make me feel a little bit better about things, I thought I’d tackle one of the items that didn’t involve booking flights and cook a cheese soufflé.

I put ‘cook a soufflé’ on the list because it has always held a certain mystery for me. Soufflés are one of those things that are notoriously difficult to make, and they feel so grown-up. I don’t especially go in for dinner parties or anything, but if I did, I would be the envy of all the other dinner party hosts if I whipped out a soufflé to start.

It turns out though that soufflés are actually pretty easy, unless I just had beginners luck, so why not have a go and become a soufflé master? View Post

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4 x 4 driving experience Buyagift berkshire 4 x 4

Hoorah!

One more down, only about another 68 to go on my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40! Okay, so it can’t be 68, as there are only 40 on my list, but it feels a bit like it at the moment. I’m 38 next month, which means I’m nearly three years into the project and I’ve not done even half of them. Still, plenty of time, let’s not panic.

So, 4 x 4 driving. It’s all that muddy stuff – up hills, wheels spinning, splashing through puddles. Good, wholesome fun. I had my experience courtesy of Buyagift, who sell all manner of amazing experiences and adventures, so firstly, thank you very much to Buyagift.

Let’s get straight down to it then, no need for false modesty here – I ROCK at 4 x 4 off road driving. Seriously, my throttle control is impeccable. The instructor even said I did ‘remarkably well’, and went to great pains to tell me that I was doing much better than the two men who had gone before me that day, as though I would be surprised by that, dur. View Post

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photography tips

 

I have a list of 40 things to do before I’m 40. You know all about it already right? Come on, of course you do, have you been paying no attention?

On my list is to learn to take a decent photo. I’ve felt for a long time that my photography is the thing that lets down my blog. I can string a sentence together, sure, but so many other blogs I look at have decent sentences and ace photos too. Proper photos, on white backgrounds – collections of beautiful objects, flowers casually placed in jam jars, or breakfasts that look actually like works of art rather than badly lit piles of sick on a plate.

I know how important the visual side of things is online, and I’d just love to know how to do it properly. I bought a half decent camera a couple of years ago – an entry level DSLR, a Nikon D3100 – but I’ve never learnt how to use it properly, and so always end up taking photos on my phone.

To give you a flavour of just how much help I need, here are some examples of my Instagram photography over the years. Bear in mind that these are the photos I have felt are good enough to put on Instagram: View Post

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Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?

I’m not going to be doing anything dull like loosing weight or giving up TV – I prefer my resolutions to be a bit more positive, and about trying new things rather than depriving myself of existing ones. My resolution this year is to crack the hell on with my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40.

When I made the list on my 35th birthday, it felt like I had all the time in the world, and yet here I am, turning 38 in a few months, and I have only so far completed 13. In my defence, some of them were big ones, like visiting every county in the UK and drinking a milkshake in an American diner, (actually in America), but I’m still going to have to put some effort in to catch up with myself a bit.

drinking a milkshake in an American diner - 40 things before 40

What’s more pressing though, and what I really need your help with, is finishing the list – at the moment I only have 32 of the 40 items. This was deliberate at first, because I knew that extra ideas would come to me as I went along, but I feel that nearly three years in, I really should have finished compiling the list at least.

So, I’m after some ideas. 

I have some pretty big things left on the list still, so what I’d really like are some smaller, cheaper, more unusual tasks, more along the lines of making my own lemon curd or sending a message in a bottle. I’m thinking new skills, unusual but UK based places to visit, fun challenges – basically things that would make a nice day out, and nothing scary or tough, as it’s meant to be a fun challenge.

Do you have any suggestions?

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“A satisfying nibble that offers a little of what you fancy.”

No not that, don’t be rude, I’m talking about cheese.

It’s how The Laughing Cow describe their new Mini Cravings – little cubes of cheese with only 14 calories each. They’re tasty too, coming in a variety of strong flavours including garlic and herb, three cheese, (because one cheese is never enough), and ham and herb. They come in packs of 24, so even if you eat all them at once, (which isn’t really the idea), you can probably still pass it off as a light lunch.

mini cravings laughing cow

 

Looking at the picture I had a little flashback to soft cheese I used to eat as a child that came in a pack with different flavours – possible triangles in a wheel. Do you remember those, or did I dream them?

Anyway, I was thinking about the whole idea of cravings, (cue seamless link into something else), and that whole idea of ‘a little bit of what you fancy’, and it reinforced for me how important it is to have things in your life that you do for yourself, cravings that you indulge. It could be a cube of ham and herb cheese, or it could be something bigger, like taking a few days away from everything once a year to reflect on your goals, ambitions and achievements.  View Post

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Have you ever been camping, and woken up in the middle of the night to find your air bed has sprung a slow puncture and your hip is resting gently on the hard ground?

Have you ever been a passenger in a car, where the driver has put his foot down sharply, leaving you feeling slightly queasy?

Now imagine those sensations blended together. Add in a gentle yet disconcerting sloshing sound, drink a bottle of wine, and there you are, on a water bed.

When I was growing up in the 1980s, water beds were the epitome of cool. They were a proper fad – suddenly everyone who was anyone, (i.e. no one I knew), had one, and I longed for one of my own. I imagined it would be amazing, like sleeping on a little boat, bobbing happily along a calm river.

It was not. View Post

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I had a check up on my list of 40 things to do before 40 the other day and had a mild panic. For a start, I only have 30 things on the list, which doesn’t feel quite comprehensive enough for a list of 40 things. I’m not so worried about that though, as I have purposely left space for random things that I knew I would forget about.

Slightly more concerning is the rate at which I am ticking them off. I made the list when I was 35, meaning I had to accomplish them at the rate of eight per year. I was 37 in April, which means I should have done at least 16 or 17 by now.

I have done nine.

Not cool.

Still, I have three years to go, so I will have to make sure the extra ten I’ve yet to add are simpler to achieve than some of the existing items. ‘Buy a house’ and ‘publish a book’ may have been a little ambitious.

A couple of months ago I did manage a trip to Bristol with Bee to tick off one more – place a bet in a casino. I included this on the list because I have watched and read so many James Bond films and books, and imagined that all casinos would be just like this – dashing men in suits, cocktails, me three stone lighter and wearing a floor length ball gown, that sort of thing. I researched the best UK casinos, fantasised briefly about a night out at the exclusive Ritz Casino, checked my bank balance and instead found myself in Millennium Square in Bristol at two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, wearing jeans. View Post

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I ticked this off my list of 40 things to do before 40 a little while ago, but have been waiting to write about it in the hope that my message in a bottle would be found by an exotic prince, held captive on a desert island miles away, but unfortunately that was not to be.

Instead, a month or two ago, I had an email that went like this…

message in a bottle

That’s not terribly exotic is it? Plus it was only about 4 miles from where we launched the bottle. I did reply, but heard nothing back. Possibly Mark was annoyed with me for littering the Somerset coastline when he was trying to tidy it up? The littering aspect was something that hadn’t really occurred to me when I added the challenge to the list, and I did feel pretty bad actively chucking a bottle into a river, but by that point I was committed. View Post

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With my 37th birthday fast approaching, I have been cracking on with my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40 and a couple of weeks ago my boyfriend took me to watch Bristol City play West Ham in the FA Cup – my first ever football match!

Bristol City football club

I was excited, but unsure of what to expect as I had two very different ideas of what a football match would be like. One was full of rowdy men, swearing ruthlessly and generally displaying the very worst that humankind has to offer. The other picture in my mind was of Topsy and Tim going along with Dad to their first ever football match, enjoying a wholesome day out shaking rattles, only having to deal briefly with one large and slightly ‘cross’ man who is standing behind them and getting a little overexcited when goals are scored. View Post

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