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

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

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

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

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

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?