Pulled a pint behind the bar!

beer

In the past week, I managed to tick off another challenge……pull a pint behind a bar. Just like the time in my 30s when I asked a policeman in the middle of Leicester Square, London if I could sit in the back of his police car, it just goes to show that people are often more than happy to help if you explain that you’d like to do something.

Last week, I was out for dinner with friends and got talking about my challenges. The restaurant was fairly quiet and when I read out to them about having never pulled a pint behind the bar, my friends and I though it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask if I could and the waitress was more than happy for me to do it. My first attempt was rather funny as it appeared as if I had filled the pint glass with milk! So much head and really not a lot of beer! But my second attempt was far better after being shown how to pull a pint properly. So, yay, another one done!

Next week, I’m planning on seeing the Christmas Coca Cola lorry down in Brighton which I am just buzzing about!!!! Am very excited about that one and I’ve also emailed a group about doing some voluntary work with adults who have learning difficulties, Down Syndrome, etc. My plan is to do at least 50 hours and with the group meeting one evening a week, that’ll be me set up for the next 6 months or so. Still waiting about the ukulele lessons but, with 2017 nearly through, I feel as if I’ve made a good start. 2018 will hopefully see a bit of travel going on!

Thursford Christmas Spectacular…..amazing!!!!!

It is clear to see why the Thursford Christmas Spectacular tends to get booked up months in advance!!! If you like Forty Second Street, Top Hat, River Dance, etc., and REALLY like Christmas, it’s well worth the trek to the Norfolk village. The grounds are turned into an old fashioned Christmas scene with quaint shops and a trip around Fantasy Land with moving penguins, polar bears and bears makes you feel like you’re a child again!! In all, over 6,500,000 lights are used. And then there’s a 3 hour show!!

The show involves West End standard performers with top notch dancers and singers in glittering costumes. The organist on the Wurlitzer has been as Thursford for the past 37 years and 40 years at Blackpool tower. The juggler was surprisingly impressive and the compère was hilarious. It was a super long day getting there and back but we’ll definitely go again next year. Wow wow wow!!!!!!!!

Doing the Hallowe’en thing at Hell-fire Caves, Buckinghamshire

And they say that daytime TV is bad for you! Yes, I often have the TV on when I’m at home and it’s literally in the background as I spend hours (and I mean hours and hours) writing reports for my job. I do worry sometimes when my husband and kids say goodbye to me in the morning as I sit on the sofa only for them to come back hours later and find me sitting in exactly in the same position. I do move! And I HAVE been working! But I find that having ‘noise’ around me helps me concentrate.

Anyway, in the last couple of weeks, there was some BBC1 programme to do with antiques and they did some filming from Hell-fire Caves in Buckinghamshire. Now, if you haven’t heard of the Hell-fire Club, it was a group set up in the 18th century for high profile people (especially those in politics) who wanted to participate in immoral acts. So, the caves were created for such meetings to be held away from prying eyes. And, when I saw it on TV, it seemed like an interesting place to venture over to as one of my 50 things to do before I turn 50 is to go in a cave. But I panic in closed-in spaces like lifts, small rooms, etc and so this would be a challenge that would be taking me way out of my comfort zone.

With it being Hallowe’en in just a few days’ time, I thought it would be packed but thankfully it was quiet. Hell-fire is a network of caves cut into the Buckinghamshire hillside and the sides of the cave were clammy. It was kinda disconcerting how there were ties on the cave roof to stop it from collapsing! I have to admit that I did scream a couple of times! Naturally, it was very dark in there and I didn’t notice that there was someone in front of me until he moved….. very embarrassing when I had to then apologise for screaming in his ear! And there were families there out of my eye-sight where the dads thought it’d be fun to scare their kids by making them jump and scream…..and me!

So, I’m really pleased I went. Being self-employed and super busy, I always have reports to be written and it’s the first time in about 4 years that I’ve nothing to do!

Day 6 in France: back in Calais but I had a blast!

The only thing left that I wanted to do was to go up to the Pink Granite Coast but, with it bucketing down with rain when I woke up, I thought I could just take my time to head back to Calais and start the journey home. Another deciding factor was that I didn’t fancy finding myself in the River Rance by the holiday home! Reversing each day out of the short driveway, tow path and about 3 feet of verge has been tight, even with my rear view camera so doing it in the dark early tomorrow morning wouldn’t have been much fun!

Before coming away, I had visions of learning to cook, watch Call the Midwife and starting my new Open University module…I didn’t do any of these! Thank goodness for microwaves and jacket potatoes!! And I never did find the tin opener for the soup I had brought with me and I only found the dinner plates last night….don’t ask!! I’ve a long way to go if I wish to become a domestic goddess. Hubby has said that we could order in an Indian takeaway tonight…..I’m hungry!

But, with French radio on, I found myself picking up the odd word here and there on the news. It’s funny how your ears start to tune into a language and you realise that you still remember some parts of your GCSE French, even if I scraped a grade C! It was a blessing to have British tv on in the evenings that helped to fill the silence in the house, even if it was Danny Dyer in EastEnders! I thought that Dermot O’Leary on the radio at Dover port on Saturday morning would be the last British voice I’d hear all week.  I strung together no more than about 4 French words, most notably ‘fromage et jambon’ in the cafe and ‘ce n’est pas ma maison’ to the lady who came to read the water meter at the holiday home before I left. We were both using our phones to try translate what we wanted to say which we found very funny! And we never found the meter!

Having never lived alone (I went straight from living at home with parents to the church for our wedding to the honeymoon and then to our house), I got on surprisingly well with me!! I think a holiday alone needs some patience and acceptance for who you are and I’m quite used to my own company working alone. But I will be so so glad to walk through the door to my hubby and kids this evening!

So, in pursuit of my 50 challenges, I next need to follow up on having ukulele lessons and find a project to do 50 hours of voluntary work. Whilst it’s great to have space, I miss being part of a team so time to make some changes with my work when I get home. Even if I stay self-employed, I need to do something non-work related where I’m getting out of the house every week.

Would I go on holiday on my own again? Yes…..but I’d much prefer to go away with others. Time to plan the 2018 Eastern Europe road trip with hubby and ‘Amsterdamage’ with Ellie ❤️❤️❤️

Day 5 in France: the medieval town of Dinan

The last time I came to Brittany was when I was 11 years old on a school trip and I know that Dinan was one of the highlights although I couldn’t remember why. Well, now I know!! This millennium-old town is full of top heavy wooden buildings on cobbled streets and walking round takes you back to yesteryear. After a walk round and a bite to eat, I ventured down to the port of Dinan where riverside restaurants and bars tempt you in! And then a boat trip on the River Rance to Lehon through one lock. English commentary too. Now, time to chill!!

                              

Day 4 in France: The Palace of Versailles

           
Something I wanted to do on holiday was to visit a French palace or castle. There’s a castle about an hour away from here (Josselin) which looks perfectly pleasant but if I’m going to do something cool, I need to push the boat out…..and drive. It wasn’t until I woke up after a solid 11 hours’ sleep that I just thought ‘Come on. Let’s just do it’. It took around 4 hours to get to Versailles and the last part of the journey wasn’t fun!! A confusing road system despite the sat nav, armed police outside the palace and just the mayhem. But I got there and I’m very glad that I did.

The palace is beautiful with every wall and ceiling adorned with art. I think it may be reasonably quiet as I didn’t get there until around 3pm but it was packed. There are audio guide so tell you about its history and you can see the gardens too. So, I’m really glad I went and it’s another thing ticked off my list.

With today being the midpoint of my holiday, it made sense to do the long drive but the next couple of days will be nearer to ‘home’. I still have some plans but they’re weather-dependent and tide-dependent. There are also lots of tourist things that run only to the end of September that would have been good. There is an attraction nearby which basically links to a deep seated fear of a particular animal and I’m so terrified of this animal that I can’t even write the name here. Yeah, a massive fear!! Would be incredible if I actually confronted this fear of this animal which isn’t something you’d normally see in England. Still deciding how brave I am!

Still haven’t mastered any notable cooking so I think I will be coming back 7lbs lighter which wouldn’t be surprise after all the walking!

Day 3 in France: shopping, a zoo and Mont St Michel 😍

Sometimes on a Sunday evening at home, I wish a large supermarket is open so that I can pop in to get some essentials but it turns out that shops in France just don’t open on Sundays or, if they do, they close by lunchtime. So I thought I was going to battle crowds at the hypermarket at 10.30 on a Monday morning but it turned out to be ever so quiet. However, within moments of qwalking in, I just knew that Mike would be very glad that we don’t have this hypermarket at home. It sells everything!!! I was actually very reserved and frivolous purchases extended only to a couple of stationery files as you can never have too stationery. But I might go back later this week. And meat…..well, they sell everything which is made very clear through the pictures of the happy animals just above where their dead counterparts lie….horse, rabbit, duck…. I bought some blue Gouda cheese (and I mean Chelsea Football Club blue) which I’ll take home with me and eggs that have come from some animal. Not sure which 🤔

Bourbansais Zoo


Next stop was a visit to Bourbansais Zoo……and I got to see a red panda which was my number one animal I wanted to see. Feeding popcorn to the goats was cool and I saw lions, lynxes, wallabies, meerkats, otters…….
Mont St Michel


Oh wow. Well, I got the photo so that’s part of another challenge met. The streets make you feel like you’re on the set of Harry Potter’s Dragon Alley and it’s just pure magic. Having got the free shuttle bus from the car park, I thought I’d upgrade to a horse drawn carriage on the way back. Met three American ladies who were really lovely and in fact invited me to dinner….bless!!!

Day 2 in France. Wobbly night but great afternoon :)

It turns out that a fridge-freezer has the capability to make you think you’re about to become the latest statistic for the local police force. Yesterday evening, I could hear a series of knocking sounds coming from behind me….at gone 10pm….at a glass door where people can walk up the terrace and see what I’m doing. I froze, fearful that this isolated house would be easy pickings for a robbery or such like. As Mike guessed when I phoned him (and starting thinking that this solo holiday malarkey was a bad plan), it was the fridge-freezer. Phew!! I have to say that as night fell, I found myself rattling around the house which sleeps 6 people and wondering whether I would have been booking a touring holiday…perhaps down to Andorra stopping off at various places. I’d booked a large house as I wanted to feel like I could breathe and not be in a tiny cottage….but I woke up feeling better.

First, I had clients who flew up from the south of France to see me so I can now say that I’ve gone international!!! Most people seeing this will know that I’m a special needs consultant (www.smdyslexia.co.uk) but I’m now fully booked until February, hence my need to get away ringing phones and enquiries. The people today were amazingly charming and a joy to be with ❤
Valley of the Saints, Carnoet


And then I was off exploring. I travelled to one of my ’50 things’….the Valley of the Saints in Carnoet which is an art installation of 1,000 French saint statues which is being dubbed France’s Easter Island. There are roughly 300 so far and it was pretty good even though I was fighting the rain and the muddiest car park! One of the photos in particular shows the scale of the statues.

Saint Malo Grand Aquarium in, er, Saint Malo

     

But my favourite part of today? Saint Malo Grand Aquarium. Oh….wow!!!, I mean, sharks, sea turtles, jelly fish, piranhas, etc., etc., and the smiliest ray!!! But I’m declaring a last minute ’50 things to my list…..challenge my claustrophobia. I, Sarah, went in a submersible that may not have gone that deep but I was under the water for what felt like 15 minutes. It was a typical ride where you clamber on as the carousel continues to move but I then had to go down a narrow staircase to a dark round room where I was on my own, looking out at the seaside through the port window. As my family knows, I’m terrified of tunnels and, where possible, I hold my breathe until I’m under direct daylight. So today was a biggie.

‘Home’ now……X Factor tonight and I’ll set out on my adventures in the morning x

Day 1 in France and quite a day!

This is it! I’ve come on holiday on my own. I have to say that I had really mixed feelings last night – a combination of excitement about doing something really cool but then also thinking can I survive a week without family and friends. Consequently, I had 3 hours sleep….oops! The ferry from Dover to Calais was without doubt the rockiest I’ve ever experienced so I was very glad to set foot on solid ground. It’s been about 8 years since I’ve driven on the other side of the road but once you negotiate the first roundabout and first slip road onto the motorway, it’s a doddle! French roads are very quiet unless you’re in a city although the toll booth were (kinda) funny/a pain as being a right hand driver, I had to keep getting out of my car, race around it to the machine on the left hand side, collect a ticket/pay, acknowledge that I’ve probably delayed the driver behind me for a whole 20 seconds, get back in and then fumble over my seat belt!. But toll roads are worth it.

First stop was at the Commonwealth War Graves in Bayeux. I didn’t know what to expect except that it was one of my 50 things that I wanted to do before I turned 50. But nothing can prepare you for standing in midst of over 4,500 graves. Each grave, one person, one family torn apart. And what I found really choking to be honest was just seeing the ages. I’ve 17 and 19 year old children and there were many graves there of young people their ages. It’s quite a sight. And I’d encourage you to take a moment one weekend to find one wherever you are.

I then headed towards Brittany and got SO excited when I could see Mont St. Michel in the distance just reaching toward the sky. Nothing can prepare you for the rather Hogwarts appearance from a distance. I was keen to get to my house before dark so although I detoured a bit to get a closer look but I’ll be back there later this week. A free shuttle bus takes you from the car park to the mount.

And now I’m here. I’ll post photos of the house on my blog on my last day here but it’s just amazing! Incredible views and a stunning house! I’m actually working here tomorrow as I’ve clients flying up from the south of France but then I’ll see how the weather’s doing and will go. Oh, and I need to buy some food!! Happy weekend x

A new month. Let’s make it count!

After working pretty much solidly for 6 years, I’d decided to take off most of October….the benefits of being self-employed! And there’s no point just sitting around and slowly getting sucked up into a routine of waking up late, drifting from one TV programme into another and, before knowing it, finding that November is here! As well as my impending holiday to France that starts next Saturday, I’m about to embark on a second 1st degree with the OU so I’ve equipped myself with an assortment of new stationery, fancy highlighters, pristine folders, etc. to get myself into student mode.

I think it’s time to make more progress with my ’50 things to do before I turn 50′ list which I started exactly 2 months ago. In the next couple of weeks, I will have ticked off ‘going on holiday on my own’, ‘visit a Commonwealth War Grave’ and have reached all the TripAdvisor goals. But here is my current list:

Experiences completed so far: paid for a stranger’s meal, saw an original Banksy work, visited the Roman Baths and saw the Magna Carta 

Experiences in progress: try 50 new foods, watch the IMDB top 50 films as of 01.08.17, explore 10 UK cities, visit all of England’s 48 ceremonial counties  and, on TripAdvisor, reach 5,000 readers, share 500 photos, write 50 reviews and obtain 5 helpful votes

But here are the ones to still to tick off: go on holiday on my own,  visit a Commonwealth War Grave, cook a roast dinner, visit 3 Venices (Venice in Italy, Little Venice in London and Little Venice in Colmar, France), walk the London Marathon route, complete an IKEA hack, take a photo of Mont St. Michel/France and St. Michael’s Mount/Cornwall, eat at Dans le Noir, London, complete a beginner’s course to learn a new language, do 50 hours of voluntary work, knit a blanket for charity, spend time with a zoo keeper feeding the animals, operate a drone, donate blood, spend time with a blacksmith in a forge making an object, have a professional manicure, drive along Hardnott Pass in the Lake District, pull a pint behind a bar, do a snow angel, go to a drive-in movie, build a wall, have high tea at a special venue, watch a sporting event at the Olympic stadium in London, do my dream drive (through Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Croatia), go in a cave, go to a festival, go to a desert, drive along Route 66, visit the tar pits in Los Angeles, take a photo of the 9 3/4 Harry Potter platform sign at Kings Cross Station, London, serve food to the homeless, set foot on Africa, set foot on South America, sew a zip into a piece of clothing, go on a cruise, operate a pneumatic drill, learn to play something on a ukulele. 

You may have noticed that I don’t yet have 50 things on my list but I find that these things evolve. And I’d also love to get to 1 million hits on my blog. When I did my ’40 things to do before I turn 40′, I eventually got over 250,000 hits over a period of 2 years so I’m hoping that with 5 years to go and lots more blogging ahead that I might just get to hit that 1 million mark….perhaps!

So, once I’m back from France, it’s time to chase up on my email a couple of days ago about ukulele lessons that I will might do with one of my kids, make contact with an organisation about doing some voluntary work and perhaps explore another city. Oh, and if anyone is about to use a pneumatic drill, let me know!