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Challenge #30 – completed!

4 Jan

In the dying hours of 2019, I completed the latest of my 40 Before 40 challenges. Okay, that is slightly over-dramatic. I completed it at about noon on the 31st December 2019 because I had the day off and I was feel guilty that I hadn’t really done anything productive. But I finally solved my Rubik’s cube.

I have tried it a few times in the past and got more and more frustrated with it. It seemed like I managed to get part of it completed but then ‘messed’ up another side that I had already completed. This time I sat down and and completed the whole thing in one sitting. If I ‘messed’ up parts that were finished, I took a deep breath and started again.

Back together again!

I probably sound like a genius but I’m not – I did use a guide to solve the cube that I found online. The chances of you winning the lottery is much, much more plausible that being able to solve it just by randomly turning the sides. In fact, it took Rubik (the Hungarian inventor of the puzzle) more than 6 months to solve it himself.

Even with instructions it was tricky and I had to concentrate to make sure I was doing the next step correctly. And there are certain steps that you need to do in order to complete it. First you need to start with getting a white cross in position and then getting the correct corner pieces in position. I didn’t know that the middle square in a 3×3 cube doesn’t move so that determines what ‘face’ it is. You can’t just complete the white face without the corner and edge pieces being in the right place.

A lot of the solving of the puzzle is based on algorithms. When you see people on TV solving them in a matter of seconds, they must have memorized all of the algorithms previously and then just move the pieces in accordance to the moves they have memorized. It took me ages longer than the person who has the world record for solving a Rubik’s cube (4.22 seconds in case you were wondering) but I did it. I can’t actually put into words how satisfying it was when I turned the side for one last time and realised that it was finished.

I had thought that this could be a party trick of mine. I could take a Rubik’s cube with me to parties to impress friends and family by magically solving the cube. Or even show strangers on the bus, after all it doesn’t take up that much room in my handbag. The reality is that I would probably produce the cube and then spend another hour sitting in a corner, swearing quietly to myself while everyone slowly loses interest. So my search for a part trick continues but there is one less challenge on my list…

Challenge #28 – completed

13 Dec

I have cashed in my Christmas present from last year and can also mark another one of my challenges as completed! This was a very enjoyable challenge but that might be because during its completion I go happier and happier. Over the past two weeks I have spent 6 hours learning about and tasting wine on a wine degustation course.

Both of the evenings began with a smell test. There were 12 different scents that we had to try to identify. It was incredibly difficult because you don’t have any context to place the smell. You convince yourself that you can smell X but when you are told that Y is the answer you instantly know that Y is correct. On the first evening I got one out of 12 correct and the second evening I got 3 out of 12. The lecturer told us that you can get better at identifying aromas but it takes a lot of practice. He also explained our recognition of smell and aromas is heavily linked to the environment that we grew up in. For example, if you always ate watermelon as a child on holiday, the smell is linked to your memories and is much more easy to recognise than someone who does have this smell linked to a memory. The weird thing was that both myself and my boyfriend were convinced one of the smells was rose but it was actually hay. I guess I will be getting a bunch of hay for Valentine’s Day because neither of us can tell the difference.

The first evening focused on the world of wine, what conditions were best for growing wine and how to assess wines with all of your senses. We were shown how you should taste the wines and what differences you can look out for in different wines: “Do you also get the heady scent of mushrooms and coffee, darling?” We blind tasted 8 different wines during this evening. Some of them I didn’t like at all. My favourite of the whole evening turned out to be a 7 CHF  (or 5 GBP) bottle. 

The second evening focused on wine and food. I knew that on food programmes that wine is paired with specific meals and ingredients but I never knew why. Depending on what wine you pair with which foods the whole flavour of the wine can change. We tried this out by drinking wine on its own, then after eating a dried tomato and then after eating salt. How our perception of the wine changed with each combination was incredible. There is no way that you would think the wine was the same. Last year we went to a independent wine fair in Strasbourg and ate some strong, stinky cheese in between tasting wine. We now know that this has a huge effect on how the wine tastes so we might have a shock when we come to drink some of those bottles and they taste completely different to what we thought.

This knowledge is good to know for future tasting and it means that even though we have different tastes in wines we can ‘alter’ the flavour of the wine with what we eat with it.

We were also shown how temperature effects wine, how long it is best to store wine and how the wine glass can also affect how a wine tastes. There was also an instructional video about how to open a sparkling wine bottle with a bread knife. I will be trying that outside in the summer with a very inexpensive bottle in case it goes wrong. There was a huge amount of information packed into both of the evenings. The course was in German so I also learnt some new words related to food and wine.

I’m so glad that I had this on my list. I’m far from being an expert in wine but I know that the most expensive wines are not always the best and what I can eat to make a wine more pleasant for my palette.

 

Challenge #26 – update

3 Dec

It’s been a long time since I sat down to learn more origami but I finally got round to it this week. I don’t feel stressed out at the moment even though Christmas is fast approaching but I have found it very calming. I thought maybe I would sit down and do two designs and then leave it there for another time but I was enjoying it so much that I ended up sitting down for a good hour and a half. It’s all rock and roll at my place!

I have also discovered the amazing world of inflatable origami where you make all the folds, blow into the paper and make the final reveal. My favourite and best creation this time is my amazing Pikachu. I could happily make hundreds of them. In fairness I should have made him (is he a he?) on yellower paper but it’s obvious who it is meant to be.

Here are the other things I made. Most of them are animals but I’ve made other cool things too.

In the top picture I made a paper cup (that holds water), a samurai hat, a boat, a goldfish a windmill and the world’s tiniest plane. On the bottom picture I made a butterfly, lion, bird, snail, elephant and a crane (that’s a bit drunk and wouldn’t stand up for the photo).

In the last photo is a flower that ended up being a lot bigger than I thought it would be!

That is not to say that it has all been plain sailing. I tried a few more complicated designs and failed in spectacular fashion. Like the dinosaur that I got part way through and lost hope with and the umbrella that didn’t go to plan. I think I will come back to them in the next round because they do look cool – I just have to make sure that I can make them. I have a feeling there might be frustrating times ahead.

I now only have 15 more designs to learn to finish this challenge.

A washout of a weekend

27 Nov

At the weekend I visited my 34th European country – Monaco. Okay, technically it’s a principality but it is recognised as a European state.

I would say that Monaco looked exactly like it did in the travel books but it didn’t. It just so happened that last weekend the French Riviera was battered by storms. Having grown up in North West England I’m used to rain but it’s been a long time since I experienced rain that heavy and relentless.

We were staying in Nice for the weekend but took the 20 minute train journey to Monaco. I can imagine that Monaco is a very beautiful place with its palm trees swaying gently in the breeze and the sun beating down but nowhere is beautiful when there are gale force winds and rain coming down sideways.

This isn’t what is looked like in the guide book!

When the weather is so bad, it’s hard to look round and enjoy anything. By this point my shoes and socks were soaked through and I had to buy a new pair. But I decided to wait until we got back to Nice where there are high street shops. 

There wasn’t just water streaming from the skies either. We had a drink and something to eat in the bistro of Cafe de Paris. My eyes began to water when I saw that we were being charged 9 Euros for half a lager! That made me appreciate how inexpensive Zurich prices are! 

The one good thing about the weather was that the Monte Carlo Casino looked very dramatic against the dark and stormy skies.

Although it wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for, on reflection not many people would have seen Monaco in such dramatic weather. I often use the phrase “it doesn’t rain in a pub” as a fall back plan if the weather is wet. I was proved wrong this time as every building we went into had water pouring through the ceilings. And I mean everywhere – the airport, Cafe de Paris, our hotel and shopping centres.

We spent the rest of the weekend in Nice, enjoying a 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, French food, shopping and generally attempting to stay dry.

I now only have 6 more countries to visit in Europe before I can strike this challenge off my list. I don’t have the next destination planned yet but I hope to be visiting some new places in 2020.

Challenge #34 – completed

22 Nov

I can’t quite believe that I have successfully completed this challenge. I have been trying to do this challenge for most of my life. After a long, hard slog and struggle, I have stopped biting my nails. Finally.

The problem I had with trying to stop biting my nails was that I didn’t just have one trigger. I would bite my nails if I was bored, anxious, stressed or excited so it wasn’t like I could avoid situations where I was all of the above to stop myself from doing it. It’s a bit like knowing that you will ruin your diet if you have biscuits in the cupboards at home so you stop buying them completely to avoid temptation. The problem I had was that even if I didn’t buy the biscuits, I still had cake, chocolate and donuts lurching in the background to derail me.

Over the years I’ve tried so many things to try to stop. When I was younger I bought that stuff that’s like clear nail polish but tastes awful if you put it anywhere near your mouth. The problem was as soon as you wash your hands the stuff came off so it turned me into a compulsive handwasher instead of an anti-nail biter. Also if you put it on and ate something like a sandwich before it had completely dried, it made the food taste revoluting.

I also tried wearing an elastic band on my wrist so that I could pluck it every time I had the compulsion to bite. I guess it’s similar to electric shock treatment. You get something unpleasant when you demonstrate undesirable behaviour so that you change your behaviour. In theory it sounds like an easy solution but I kept forgetting to put a elastic band on my wrist so I had no way of shocking myself.

I even had false nails about 10 years ago but I found it irritating to type on a computer or open drink cans and it ruined my natural nails underneath so I decided it wasn’t worth the money.

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Now I haven’t bitten my nails for last 5 months and I’m wearing nail polish for the first time in years. It wasn’t worth painting nails that were bitten down to the quick. I have finally kicked the habit because of the accumulation of shame. I started playing netball again this year and the first thing that you do before any tournament is show the umpires your nails – you shouldn’t be able to see the nail over the top of the finger if your palm is facing towards you in case you cause another player an injury. Having to present my hands to a strange was embarrassing when all my team mates had perfectly manicured nails.

Then five months ago I started a new job. I knew that I would be paraded around the office, like a dog that’s taken first prize at Crufts, and introduced to people. I didn’t want them to notice my fingernails and be hesitant to shake my hand. First impressions count and I didn’t want to be judged before I had even logged onto a computer.

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to kick this habit. Apart from it being unhygienic and unsightly, it’s also very painful when you accidentally rip off a bit of skin and it bleeds. It takes longer than you would think for it to heal because you are using your hands every day. I think knowing that I didn’t want to put myself through any unnecessary pain helped me to succeed.

I always think that biting your nails is something that most people do for a bit when they’re a kid and then they grow out of it. It might be later than planned but I have definitely grown out of it. Though I may have slightly replaced one habit with another. I have noticed that I tend twist my earrings more often that I used to especially when I am bored or thinking. But that’s at least more hygienic than the alternative.

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Note: these are not my nails. I don’t have the patience to use 5 different colours on one hand

 

40 Before 40: Challenge #35 update

26 Oct

I am now half-way through my challenge to read 40 non-fiction books. Here are the latest 10 books that I’ve read for the challenge.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

This was such an interesting book about how the actress Leah Remini was raised by her parents in Scientology, how the religion controlled her life and how she was finally able to leave the religion behind. (I am, of course, using religion in a very loose sense of the word). I found it fascinating that she managed to leave the organisation. I have seen documentaries in which people discuss that they are completely trapped and, despite terrible circumstances, they aren’t able to escape. It was a very honest account but I can imagine that for legal reasons a lot of detail was left out.

My Liverpool Story  by Steven Gerrard

I actually bought this as a gift for my brother but then he told me I’d already given it to him for Christmas so I decided to read it myself. I thought that this book was also very honest – relationships with managers and fellow players were discussed, revealing not always happy memories. There were hundreds of good quality photos in the book as well which made the book about double the size that it could have been if it just contained text.

The Things I Talk About When I am Running by Haruki Murakami

This is a relatively short book about how the author decided to leave his successful business to become an author. He is also a very good amateur runner anf triathlete. The book is about how his success in both writing and running haven’t come naturally to him and he has had to find way for him to get better at both disciplines. He makes lots of comparision between running and writing that I really appreciated, as I don’t consider myself to be a natural runner (even though I enjoy it) and I am working hard at becoming a better writer.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

There is a lot of hype about this book, especially with the increased awareness of mental health issues. It looks at modern life and how social media and technology can make us feel more disconnected than connected. The book made me realise that I am probably not as affected by modern technology than other people. I am more than happy to not have internet for a week when I am on holiday and you will never find me more happy than when I have my head in a book and I’m blocking the rest of the world out.

The Krays: The Prison Years by David Meikle and Kate Beal Blyth

This book made me realise that I constantly mix up the Kray twins and Ronnie Briggs, one of the great train robbers. This book was meant to be able the time that the twins spent in prison but there was quite a lot about how they ending up getting caught and their background. It was interest and also quite depressing to hear how much “freedom” they had in prison because of who they were and their relationships with celebrities.

A Woman’s Guide to Triathlon: The Things Men Will Never Tell You About the Sport by Eva Mauer

I have been thinking about taking part in a triathlon. I’ve even signed up to a swimming course to help improve my front crawl technique. So I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it told me that much that I didn’t already know. I mainly wanted to know about how to practice the transistion phases but there wasn’t a great deal of information on that. I also didn’t understand why it was a woman’s guide to triatholon. There wasn’t anything in the book that would have been specific to a woman and not a man. A bit of a disappointment.

Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray

I’ve never been completely convinced that men and women do behave so differently from one another but after reading this I’ve changed my mind. It was a really interesting read and a lot of the examples were so recognisable that it was scary. The book was written in the mid-90s so it was a slightly outdated. I also have another couple of books by John Gray that I want to read for this challenge.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

This is a famous book and I don’t know what to think about it. It says that thinking positively can attract what you want to your life. I completely agree that the more positive you are, the more good things will happen to you. But then wouldn’t everyone have everything that they wanted if this was true. I do think some of the exercises are worth giving a go and seeing what happens. But I think to get the full benefit you need to 100% commit to that way of thinking.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was the funniest book I have read in a long, long time. I was roaring with laughter. It is also the most tragically heartbreak book that I have read in a long, long time as well. It is the diary of a junior doctor working on the maternity ward. You know from the start that the author ended up leaving the profession and in the penultimate chapter you find out why. I felt queasy when I read it. It was a sobering end to an account of how overworked and underpaid NHS staff are. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

Mindfulness Pocketbook by Gill Hasson

It was a book about how to become more mindful in daily life with exercises to help improve health, mood and attitudes among other things. I would say that 80% of the book wasn’t useful to me but there are definitely some tips and exercises that I will use.

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A weekend in Kiev

15 Oct

Over the weekend I was visited my 33rd European country – Ukraine. It seems that there are always political news stories about Ukraine and I confess that I don’t read enough to know 100% what all the implications are.

A few people gave me raised eyebrows when I mentioned where I was spending the weekend but that didn’t stop me from having a great weekend in Kiev.

Kiev city

Kiev is a very smart modern city. I loved the old style buildings from the Soviet era mixed in with the new. The city was vibrant and full of life. All of the churches we saw were incredibly stunning. We didn’t realise that it was the start of a long public holiday when we arrived and on Saturday the Main street was closed to traffic. Being able to stroll down the street of a European capitol city and enjoy music and fire-eaters is something special.

Monuments

I love that many Eastern European countries have lots of monuments and memorials to people and battles that we’re not so aware of in Western Europe. I think one of my favourite monuments was in Kiev. It was called the People’s Friendship Arch. It’s beautifully made and commemorates the 1’500th year since the city of Kiev was established.

Chernobyl

The highlight of the trip was a full day tour of Chernobyl. I haven’t seen the HBO series and before going I didn’t know a great deal about the disaster and what actually happened. The tragedy happened during my lifetime but I was only 4 so I don’t remember news reports at the time.

You can only visit Chernobyl if you have a guide because specific areas are still dangerous and there are no road signs so I can imagine it would be easy to get lost if you don’t know where you are going.

We joined a group tour and our tour guide was fantastic. She could answer all the questions we put to her and had a great sense of humour which, in a case like this, must help to keep you sane.

The videos and photos that you have seen of creepy dolls, abandoned school buildings and former inhabited places overgrown by weeds and vegetation are true. I think my overwhelming feeling was of sadness. Not only did people leave a thriving new city which had the very first supermarket in the whole of the Ukraine but they thought that they would be coming back to their homes in a few days. The land we visited will never be inhabited again because, on a long-term basis, it’s not safe for human habitation.

We were regularly checked for radiation poisoning but I felt this was more a bit of entertainment than anything else. We had a dosimeter with us the whole time that told us how much radiation we had been exposed to. For the whole day we had been exposed to the same amount of radiation as you would be exposed to on a one hour flight. Also if you were contaminated, what could you do? You can’t take a pill to change it. What’s done is done.

 

 

Food and drink

No trip away is complete without sampling the local food and drink. We stumbled upon a local microbrewery and decided to have a beer tasting which included 6 beers.

We also tried borsch – a traditional beetroot soup, khachapuri – originally a Georgian dish and delicious dumplings! Now I’m back home it’s definitely time for a few salads to compensate for how much I ate.

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Passport Stamps

Of course, one of the most exciting things about visiting a country that isn’t in the EU is that I got another two stamps in my passport.

In November I will be heading to Tenerife for some winter sun and then to Nice and Monaco, which will become the 34th country I have visited in Europe.

Bonus Round – Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 – completed

29 Sep

I have officially finished the bonus round of the Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 after I completed the initial round last month.

Again I have managed to read some great books that I wouldn’t have read if I wasn’t taking part in the challenge. Here is a short breakdown of the 10 books I picked for the bonus round:

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Freebie (any book that is at least 200 pages long):

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

This was a great book. I had no idea what this was about until I started reading it (I bought it last year when it was on offer in a bookshop). The theme of the book was very topical. It explores what it means to be a British Muslim and how conflict and betrayal can happen to anyone at any time. The characters were very believable and the ending was tragically beautiful

A book beginning with “F”:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

This is one of the most bizarre books I have ever read. I’m still not sure exactly to make of the book. It is a completely barking mad story based in truth that tells the drug-addled of a journalist in the desert. Completely entertaining and very disconcerting at the same time!

A book with “rain”, “thunder” or “lightning” in the title:

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I liked this book. I was quite an easy read, in that it was a book written for yound adults and was even a Newberry Award Winner. But in another sense, it was a hard read because of its themes of racism and how hard life was living in the southern US in the 1930s. The characters were realistic – some I hated, some I really liked because of how the author had described them.

A book with a building on the cover:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The book started with a house on fire and the disappearance of the youngest daughter of the family, who is suspected of starting the fire. The rest of the book is an explanation about what happened before to get to this point of the story. The way the book was written was very clever. The author also explores a lot of ethical issues dealing with parenting, surrogacy and adoption. It was very thought provoking and I loved the characters and how relatable they were.

A book written by an author who has an initial in their name:

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

This is the type of book that I would love to be able to write. I only put it down to sleep and go to work. It was a page-turner! It is clear from the beginning that the narrator isn’t 100% reliable in what she is telling the read which made it intriguing from the very start. There were so many plot twists and turns that the book kept me guessing right until the very end. A great read.

A book with an item of clothing in the title:

One, Two Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie

This is only the second Christie book that I have ever read – I read my first in the last reading challenge. I really enjoyed it. The book starts with a murder in a dentist practice and it soon transpires that the verdict of suicide that is given by the coronor isn’t correct. I had no idea who was responsible for the murders, which is always good in a murder mystery book.

A book set in India:

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I love the Disney movie version of this book but the book is nothing like the film. I normally don’t like a film version to alter from the book version too much but in this case the film is far better than the book. If all of the details from the book were used, there is no way that Disney would have been able to release the film as child-friendly. Ïf you haven’t read the book I won’t spoil it for you by pointing out the differences!

A book shortlisted for the Booker Prize:

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

This was another book that I bought a while ago in a book sale and haven’t got round to reading. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book but it had my interest from the very beginning. The story begins with the author explaining that this is a true stroy about a relative of his and how he was tried and executed for murder. I still don’t know if this is actually true or was just included to make the story more believable. It was very originally written. The first part of the book is told via a diary and the read really gets to understand the character and his motives. The rest of the book is told via official sources, such as lawyers and psychiatrists. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  

A book with a character who has supernatural powers: 

Firestarter by Stephen King

In a lot of this ways, this book reminded me of Carrie that I read in the first round of this reading challenge. The girl in the book has superpowers that allows her to make fires. She got these superpowers because her father and mother took part in a drugs trial when they were college students. The drug that they were injected with produce hallocinogenic powers. After her mother is killed, her and her father are on the run because the US government are trying to capture them so that they can make experiments on them. I can’t say it was the best Stephen King novel I have ever read but I did like the tension and the action when they were on the run from the government.

A book with the same title as a book in another genre:

Emma by Jane Austen

It’s not my favourite Jane Austen book by a long way and I have read at least three of her books over the past 12 months. I liked the character of Emma but I just thought the book went on for too long considering how much happened in it. I felt it lacked the drama of Pride and Prejudice and it was predictable what was going to happen.

 

A long weekend in Belgrade

26 Sep

Last weekend I was experiencing the delights of Belgrade in Serbia with a group of friends. Serbia is the 32nd country that I have visited in Europe, which means that I am slowly inching towards my goal of visiting 40 countries in Europe before I turn 40.

I was expecting Belgrade to be similar to Bucharest, where we visited in February this year but I was pleasantly surprised. The city is very modern and clean. I would even argue that it is nicer than many cities in the UK. I was glad that we had a Serbian native in the group; it meant that it was easier to communicate (though I am sure it would be ok to visit even if you didn’t know any Serbian) and we went to some cool places that weren’t crowded with tourists.

Here are some of the highlights from our trip:

Food

I felt like all we did was eat. Serbian cuisine is very hearty, full of meat, potatoes and general deliciousness. I was surprised that it was allowed to smoke in the restaurant that we ate in on the Friday night. It has been so long since I have eaten indoors at a place where smoking is allowed. The atmosphere was great, especially as there were musicians going from table to table throughout the evening. Luckily, they didn’t come and seranade our table! In Serbia there is a type of salad that is basically just cheese. So I am now a reformed salad dodger.

On Saturday morning we had a traditional Serbian breakfast which is savory pastries with spinach, cheese and meat, as well as a yoghurt drink. Somehow the breakfast didn’t fill us up and we decided to have a unlimited mezze-style lunch. The idea was that they bring you small plates of food until you tell them to stop. We managed to eat everything from the list and then ask them for more. It’s important to get your money’s worth on holiday.

We had an impressive all you can eat brunch on Sunday which left us completely stuffed and was, compared with Swiss standards, incredibly cheap. We definitely didn’t go hungry.

Drink

Serbian beer is very tasty and I was happy to try several different brands. We also managed to find a Serbian cider which was a bit too sweet for me. It reminded me of Kopparberg.

Schnapps are also popular but I’m not a fan of drinking schnapps in general so I avoided partaking whenever possible. We also did some late-night drinking in a couple of trendy places.

Churches and architecture

Churches seem to be everywhere in Belgrade. I love looking around churches and those that we saw at the weekend were some of the most ornately deocrated buildings that I have ever seen. One small chapel in the Belgrade fortress also sold bottled holy water, famed for its healing properties but I decided not to purchase one.

There are some incredible-looking administrative buildings in the capital and they are all lit up at night which I think makes them look even more stunning.

Markets

We visited a market, which was a fresh produce market but also incorporates a flea market. Thankfully, we had already eaten by the time we walked around the market so we weren’t tempted into buying anything. I found it interesting that there were meat stalls or butchers where you can order your meat and they will prepare it and cook it for you so it can be picked up later in the day. It seems like a really good idea.

Escape rooms

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed that I love an escape room. We managed to do two while we were in Belgrade. We finished the first one so quickly that we had time to do a second one. The employee was very impressed that we managed to solve both of the rooms so quickly. We almost beat the record for both of the rooms. She even suggested that we enter the Escape Room World Championships which I am sure would be great fun and would possibly be the only way I will be able to claim that I have competed in a World Championship! We’ll have to see if anything comes of that in the future.

The Beach

I was shocked that there was a beach in Belgrade but there is. Of course, the beach isn’t on the coastline to the sea because Serbia is a land-locked country. The beach is a man-made beach on a lake. The weather was beautiful and I would have definitely gone for a swim if time had allowed. It was just nice to relax in the sun with a cold drink.

Thanks to Stefan (translator and organiser extraordinaire), Mark, Araz and Markus for being great travel companions on this great weekend.

I will soon be visiting my 33rd country in Europe in two weeks when I go to Kiev for a long weekend.

Challenge #15 – completed!

11 Sep

I have just finished my fifteenth challenge on my 40 Before 40 list – to have something that I have written published. I can now officially call myself a published author!

Unfortunately, I am not publishing my debut novel (but I hope that will be coming soon) but a book of travel tips. I found the job online through a freelancing website and applied for it. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would to research and format the book but I finally handed it in last weekend. I got confirmation that the book has been accepted and will be published early this week.

I will get paid for the book, when it is released on Amazon in the next month or so. The amount of money won’t break the bank and that wasn’t the main motivation for doing it but it is a nice bonus.

Up until now, I have resisted marking this challenge as completed because I have had work published on other blogs, for example, but I have never been paid or rewarded in any way. I think part of being a published writer is that you get money for the work you have done.

It was interesting to take on a project like this because:

a) this type of writing was something completely new to me. I had a brief from the client that I needed to fulfil and a deadline when I had to submit by. A lot of the writing that I have done up until now has only been for me and, therefore, I haven’t had a hard deadline or a list of requirements to fulfil;

b) I was able to appreciate how much time and effort that goes into the researching, writing and editing process. These processes are very different from one another so you have to use different skills or learn them quite quickly;

c) my biggest problem with writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is that I find it hard to finish anything. I happily start writing about something but it soon goes downhill as I start thinking that what I’m writing makes no sense, isn’t good or both. I did want to stop this assignment. I was under no contractual obligation to complete it but I decided to push through and finally finish something. I am so glad that I did. I felt so satisfied that I had successfully completed the assignment. Plus, at the point in time when I thought about quitting I was about 75% of my way through. If I had’ve quit, it would’ve been a huge waste of effort.

I now feel more motivated to try and get some non-fiction writing projects and I seem to be gathering momentum with my fiction novel that has been parked out of sight and out of mind for a while.

If anyone would be interested in getting a copy of the book when it becomes available, please let me know. Though it will only be of use to you if you are planning on visiting a very specific place in Switzerland.

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