Tag Archives: 40 Before 40

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 #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.

Aloha October!

31 Oct

The months just get busier and busier. The long nights are back and once again I am kicking myself that I haven’t enjoyed the summer as much as I should have! I didn’t even go in the lake once this year which makes me so incredibly sad that I can’t really put it into words.

But I can’t complain because I have done a lot of cool stuff this month. Here is what I have been up to:

  • I’ve made some progress on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I visited another European country (Ukraine) this month and toured the Chernobyl exclusion zone and I have been busy reading some more non-fiction books
  • Shooting season is slowly drawing to a close but not before prize givings and end of season dinners
  • I now only have 2 exercises to finish of my online writing course which I have enjoyed – click here for a sample of an assignment I wrote if you missed it!
  • My drama workshop is also coming to a close. Next week we will have our “sharing of work” (because the word performance is far too scary) with family and friends. I’m nervous about performing a drama production in front of an audience since the first time since 1994 when I played a parent in our junior school play The Evacuees
  • I was sad to watch the last episode of Great British Back Off but it does mean that I get to have my Tuesday nights back for the rest of 2019.

November should be a little more relaxed as I will be sunning myself in the Canaries for 10 days to make sure that I get enough Vitamin D to last me for the rest of the year because, it may be Halloween today, but I really shouldn’t look like a vampire for more than half a calendar year.

Here is picture I took last weekend that really sums up October for me.

 

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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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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Weekend in Luxembourg

26 Jul

Last weekend we went to Luxembourg. I have never been before and as one of my challenges is to visit 40 countries in Europe it was time to change that. So Luxembourg is officially the 31st country that I have visited in Europe.

Luxembourg is a small country and, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot to see and do there so I was glad that we had decided to only make a weekend out of it. But the city itself is charming and very beautiful.

Here are some of the things that we did:

Free Walking Tour

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you will know that I am a big fan of taking a free walking tour in any and every city around the world. It was good that we did this on the first day so that we could get a good grasp of the city and find our bearings. It was during the tour I realised that the city really isn’t that big at all.

We visited St Michael’s Church during the tour. Mainly because of my education, I am a bit of a church geek and I was blown away by the stained glass window in this church. I know it sounds like a strange thing to say but the windows looked so modern even thought the church was one of the oldest in the city. Of course, it could be that the church had been recently renovated but they are still the nicest windows I have ever seen in a church.

 

The Bock Casements

On the outskirts of the city are the remains of the underground tunnels from a fortress. The fortress was built to help protect the city and over the centuries the enemy had tried to raze the fortress. Only a few towers from the fortress is still standing today but 17 kilometers of the casements or the tunnel of it are left. It was fun exploring what is left of the tunnels. Some of the tunnels were very narrow and I had to make sure constantly that I didn’t hit my head on the roof.

Beer and Food

I didn’t realise how many Luxembourgish beers there are. We tried a couple of them and were impressed! I found the prices of the drinks and the food as well to be very similar to Swiss prices. It definitely didn’t turn out to be a cheap holiday in that respect.

We didn’t try any specialities from Luxembourg on the food front but we did find a very nice sushi place for lunch one day and we had a meat and cheese board for dinner on the first night which was excellent.

Skaters

It’s always interesting to see how local people entertain themselves on a Saturday night. Luxembourg did not disappoint. We walked past a stakeboard shop that was holding an event. Basically the whole road was blocked off and they were staking down the road, hitting a ramp and then jumping over a bin and landing on the other side. Just when I thought I had seen it all, one of them decided to do this naked. It took the poor guy 4 times to land the jump on the other side of the bin. By the time he landed the jump to raptuous applause he was covered head to toe (and also in between) with grazes and brusies.

I have no idea why the police weren’t called to break up the disturbance but I was glad that they didn’t. The people who had “organised” this were relatively responsible and did stop proceedings to let traffic pass safely.

 

My next travels will be to Dublin in August (but I have already been to Ireland so that won’t count towards my list of 40) and then to Belgrade, Serbia in Septemeber.