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2019 in Numbers

30 Dec

As the year and decade is coming to a close, I thought it would be good to review my year in numbers as I did last year.

So here it is:

  • 102 is the number of books I have read in 2019. I have no idea how I have managed to do this. At the start of the year, I wasn’t working so I did have more time to read but I also had a break half way through the year where I hardly read anything for 2 months. This means I covered a huge 30’208 pages over the course of the year and the longest book I read was Gone With The Wind. I want to set myself a challenge reading goal for next year but I also want to dedicate more time to writing so I will have to put some thought into that.
  • I visited 7 new countries in Europe this year: Leichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. I now only need to visit 6 more and my challenge to visit 40 countries before I am 40 will be completed. So far, I don’t have any definite plans to visit any countries that are on my list but that will most likely change.
  • Talking of challenges, this year I have completed 7 more challenges from my list and 3 of them are very, very nearly finished. Of the challenges that I have completed this year, my favourite was paragliding in Interlaken in the summer.
  • I competed in 2 international netball tournaments this year which is incredible when I only started playing netball again at the start of this year. It would have been 3 but I was in the Ukraine exploring Chernobyl when the tournament in Amsterdam was held.
  • I have run 270km this year and cycled 223km. I would like to think that I can easily beat these totals in 2020 but that means that I have to lose some weight and stay injury free.
  • I have completed 4 short stories. This is a mini-miracle because for years I haven’t been able to finish any story I have started. I am now planning on completing a collection of short stories early next year. I also made a rough plan of a novel which I might revisit next year as well.
  • I started a new job and have already been there for 6 months.
  • I’ve had one of my photos published in the Swiss inflight magazine and one of my tweets appeared on the BBC Sports website during Wimbledon fortnight.
  • Most recently our family celebrated not one but two important birthdays with both of my grandparents reaching their 90th birthdays.

2019 was a great year. I have managed to tick more things off my list and stayed happy and healthy for the most part. Who knows what 2020 will bring. There is only one way to find out.

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A great reason to celebrate

23 Dec

In a few days it will be Christmas Day. For the first time in seven years, I won’t be altering the lyrics of Chris Rea’s hit song to “Flying Home for Christmas”. I am staying in Switzerland for Christmas and New Year. It’s a strange feeling, not getting everything packed and psyching myself up for battling through the huge lines at security and passport control.

The truth is that I feel like my Christmas was a couple of weekends ago. We went back to the UK to attend my grandparents’ 90th birthday party. Having one grandparent turn 90 is amazing, never mind both of them within a day of each other. My grandma is actually one day older than my granddad. It was a great reason to celebrate: so often people are too busy to meet up and never quite get round to doing it.

I was trying to think about all of the changes that they would have seen within their lifetime and my head hurt after a while because a list of everything that has changed in the last 90 years is pages upon pages long. And they are even up with technology – they check my blog to see what I am up to on a regular basis!

I can’t remember the last time that all of our family was in the same room at the same time. It was so nice to see and catch up with everyone before the real panic of Christmas kicked in. We had dinner together and because, it was a basically a Christmas dinner with Brussel sprouts, Christmas crackers and mince pies, I feel like I haven’t missed out on a traditional English Christmas. At least this time I didn’t fall asleep in front of the TV after drinking too much Bucks Fizz before 11am!

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Celebrating with Grandma and Granddad – can you spot the 90-year-olds?

I was hoping that staying in Switzerland would mean that I would be guaranteed a white Christmas but the weather is far too warm to snow in the city at the moment. It looks like it might snow next week. In the meantime I will be eating lots of Fondue and Raclette which are traditional winter eats here. It does make a change from eating dry turkey for the next two weeks but the apartment will definitely smell like smelly socks for a week.

Wherever you are and whomever you are with, I wish you a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season.

Shooting success!

11 Dec

This year I set myself a goal of getting a result of more than 70 out of 100 at a shooting competition. Before last weekend I had shot 69 a grand total of 3 times! I had almost given up hope of ever getting 70.

All that changed at the very last meeting of the year. Somehow I finished the day with a total of 79! To say I was surprised was an understatement. I was also over-the-moon happy and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it since.

I think shooting is a lot like golf from a psychological point of view: the more relaxed you are, the easier it is. It’s so easy to overthink it. Because I had all but given up on hitting my target and wasn’t trying to get a great result, I was more relaxed. It’s pretty hard to be relaxed when you are holding something that could blow someone’s head off but you know what I mean.

Even though I am still happy with the result, there is a tiny part of me that is kicking myself that my last shot was a 6. One point higher and I would have reached the 80 mark. I guess I will have to wait to reach that milestone next year.

I won 2nd place for the women’s section of the competition. Ok, only 2 of us took part so that’s not so impressive. I won a Grittibänz as a prize. A Grittibänz is a delicious, baked man that it traditionally sold around Christmas time in Switzerland.

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My prize!

I would have ended up in 7th place if the men and women’s sections were combined meaning that I beat quite a few men who have been shooting all their lives. Now that’s impressive!

WriteCon 2019

7 Dec

This time last week I was at WriteCon in Zurich. It’s an informal conference that happens every year in Zurich which allows writers to connect and provides a number of workshops throughout the day. I’ve been meaning to attend for the last two years but something has always cropped up so I haven’t been able to go. I was determined to go this year.

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And go I did. The first workshop that I attended was led by Jason Donald, who has published two novels and is now working in screen writing. The aim of the workshop was to talk about how to edit your work and freshen up pieces in your second draft. The ticket price was worth it for this workshop alone. I learnt a lot of new things and interesting ways to look at things I have written. I wanted to rush straight home and look at some of the things that I had written the day before. The advice was so practical and completely made sense to me. I also gained confidence from talking to Jason about the feeling that I have that my writing doesn’t ‘fit’ into a specific genre and about how I have started writing a book but have abandoned it to write a collection of short stories. He had exactly the same feelings and his first book started off as a collection of short stories which he eventually wrote together when he realised that there was an underlying theme to all of the stories. Perhaps I am on the right path…

After the lunch break I went to a workshop called “Pathways to Publishing”. I anticipated this would be a general discussion about how to decide between self-publishing and a traditional publishing route and what the pros and cons of both was. It turned out it was mainly a discussion about traditional publishing. It was interesting because I learnt how little an author earns per book that is sold and I also learnt that authors get paid every time a book of theirs is taken out of a library (which helped my guilty conscious when I borrow books rather than buying them).

I was surprised how many people had a negative impression of novels that are self-published. Many famous authors self-published their work, like Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and Stephen King. So long as the book is well-written I don’t see the problem with it. I think self-published novels get a bad press when they haven’t been edited properly and people have self-published just to say that they have had a book published. I am still trying to decide what I think is best to do but I need to write the book first!

All in all, I’m glad I went. I met some more writers and learnt some things that I have already been able to use when I am writing. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I have my book finished.

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Farewell November

30 Nov

Let’s all say it together so that it’s out of the way: ‘How on earth is it the end of November already?’

This time in a few weeks we will all be stuffed with food, chocolates and booze wondering how on earth we are going to shed the weight so we can get back into our trousers to go back to work at the start of January. When we do go back to work in January, we will be in a new decade. This is a little too much for my brain to process at this point in time.

I feel like this month has been more relaxed than previous months but I’ve managed to do cool things this month that I have enjoyed.

Here is what I got up to in November:

  • After a long absence from the stage, I made my long awaited comeback. My drama group had a performance to share what we had learnt during the course. It was terrifyingly nerve-wrecking but a huge amount of fun and I was glad that some of my friends took time out of their busy lives to come and see it.
  • I finished my swimming course. I also learnt so much doing this and I sort of got used to the early mornings. Without having the motivation of the course, I actually haven’t been swimming once since finishing it but I have promised that I will go at least once a week between now and Christmas.
  • I finished my writing course and I am now working on a collection of short stories which I hope I will be able to publish in early spring next year.
  • I had a nice break in the sun in Tenerife with my mum. I was able to go running most mornings and drink a decent amount of local beer. We also went on a stargazing trip but, because it was cloudy, we didn’t see any stars. We just ended up cold and wanting to get back into the warm bus.
  • I joined the esteemed ranks of a non-nail biter after failing for year after year and, in doing so, completed Challenge #34 of my 40 Before 40 challenge.
  • And I visited my 34th European country when we visited a very wet and windy Monaco.

December will be full on as it always is. Work will be busy and my diary is looking full as it stands, unless I do my classic thing and make last minute cancellations!

I hope you had a great November and you are looking forward to celebrating the festive season.

The Name Game

20 Nov

Recently I found this on social media and I can honestly say I have never related to something more:

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I get at least five work emails a day that are addressed to someone with a name that is similar to mine but isn’t spelt quite the same. I fail to see how hard it is to copy my name from my email address and/or especially when I have orginally sent an email and signed it using the correct spelling of my name. After so many years, I am fairly sure that I know how to spell it, even if everyone else doesn’t care.

One of the hardest things about living in a non-English speaking country is that my name isn’t that common. I find myself in a constant Groundhog Day timewarp when I introduce myself to someone new. Conversations invariably go like this:

Me: Hi I’m Lyndsay

Them: Lesley?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Lizzy?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Chelsea?

Me (getting more irrate): No, you’re getting colder. It’s Lyndsay, like Lindsey Vonn (*famous American downhill skier who all the Swiss are in love with*).

Them: Oh. She’s my favourite skier. Can you ski as well as she can?

Me: Considering I’ve never been to the Olympics or been a World Champion, I’m going to have to go with a definite “no” on that one.

I’m not sure what I would do if it wasn’t for Lindsey Vonn. I’d probably end up changing my name just to make things easier.

I also have the misfortunate of having a very similar first and last name to a famous American actress, who I am sometimes confused with. Apparently, in the local paper my name was given as said actress in reference to a shooting competition that I took part in. I say “apparently” because I was too embarrassed to look at it.

Someone I met told me that she has a technique for remembering names: when you meet someone for the first time think of someone or something that has a similiar name. When she was about to tell me which actress she was thinking of when she shook my hand, I told her not to dare utter that name to me. Perhaps, slightly melodramatic but still…

I’m not saying that it isn’t nice to have a unusual name but people should at least make an attempt to spell it correctly. I can’t count the number of times an employer of mine has spelt my name wrong on official documents, such as contracts or bank cards. Think how embarrassing it is to have to contact HR and explain that you would love to accept their job offer but “Can you please spell my name right or I won’t sign the contract?”

I’ve also noticed that no one ever calls me by my nickname anymore; only people who knew me when I used to live in the UK. Okay, Lyndz isn’t much of a nickname but with Lyndsay being so hard to get right, I don’t have a chance of shortened form of my name.

All I’m saying is that it’s important to watch your p’s and q’s but if you’re writing to me make sure you watch your y’s and a’s as well.

The show must go on

8 Nov

I started going to a drama workshop once a week at the start of September, which culminated in a performance that we made for family and friends on Wednesday. I found an ad on Instagram and I decided to give it a go.

I have don’t anything like this before and I worked out that the last time I was in a play or performance was back in 1994. Yes, I am that old!

I’ve said in a previous blog post that a few weeks into the course I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it or not. I couldn’t deny that it was interesting and I was learning things about drama and theatre that I hadn’t even considered before. I also learnt how dedicated you have to be to create something from nothing. But it wasn’t until we started putting things together that it all started to make sense.

We didn’t have much time to put together the performance and rehearse it properly. In fact we only finished it on the day of the performance about an hour beforehand the audience began to arrive. It would have been good to have more time to perfect things but I’m starting to learn that nothing will ever be perfect.

I was so nervous about perform. Hearing the audience stirring in their seats while we were anxiously pacing around back stage was unsettling. I had a monologue to perform among other lines I had to learn and I was terrified of forgetting them.

I’m glad to say we pulling it off without a hitch! The show lasted about 20 minutes but it felt like twenty seconds! I managed to get through the whole thing without forgetting my lines!

I was completely overwhelmed with some of the comments that people made to me after the show. I wasn’t expecting people to be so kind and positive. I’m so glad I decided to join the group. I’ve met great people and learnt a huge amount!

There is another course running in 2020 with the same theatre company and I am now trying to make up my mind if I want to continue with acting or do something else. It’s going to be a hard decision to make!