Tag Archives: 40Before40

Disappointments and small victories

11 Mar

I was so excited on Thursday because I was ready to tick off one more item off my #40Before40 list. Unfortunately, the paragliding we had scheduled to do in Iquique was cancelled because the wind was too strong.

I was disappointed but obviously in the interest of health and safety it was the best thing to do. The guy whose company it was actually explained to us the reasons why and said he really wanted to take us up there.

As a Brit, I find it a little bit strange that sports get cancelled because of weather, particularly “a bit of wind”. I’m pretty sure as a teenager that I took part in athletics competitions in hail and I definitely played hockey in 2 inches of snow.

We will try again at the next available paragliding place on our trip.

The bitter taste of disappointment was sweetened a little when we went sandboarding in the evening instead. If you know my #40Before40 list as well as I do, you will know that one item on the list is to try snowboarding.

Although they are not quite the same, it’s given me a bit of an idea about what I am up against.

I wasn’t 100% happy with the lack of instruction that we were given. Everyone else in the group had snowboarded before and I think that it would have been good to be able to have some tips of what to do.

It was quite exhausting because you had to walk up the sand dunes after every run and re-wax the bottom of the board with a candle before going down again. Obviously you don’t have to do this with a snowboard.

Also there was no aprés-ski available – no small bar at the bottom of the hill where you can get a beer or two. I will never not admit that I am more of a social winter sports person than any sort of winter sport athlete!

Still it gives me a bit of hope that I should be able to enjoy snowboarding to a small degree when I finally take the plunge and try it. That will have to be next season now as the snow will have gone by the time we get back. Only around 8 months to wait…

40 Before 40: Challenge #29

3 Mar

Challenge #29 on my list was to read all the books on the 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. This is a list of 40 books by female authors, the majority of whom, to my shame, I am not familiar with or even heard of.

At the start of the challenge, I had already read 4 of the books on the list, mainly because we were forced to read them at school and not necessarily because I was particularly interested in reading them.

As I have got older, I tend to read only contemporary books. There are quite a few older books on the list, like Little Women and Jane Eyre. To be blunt, I wasn’t looking forward to reading these at all. It was always hard work reading them as a young adult.

For this update, I have read two of these “older” books and I have to say that I have really enjoyed them. Below are some of my comments about the books that I have read from the list.

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector

This is one of the authors from the list that I haven’t heard of. She is actually Brazilian and the book was originally written in Portuguese. Before I started to read the book, I found out that her writing style has been compared to that of James Joyce, who made famous the stream of consciousness narrative style. In fact, the title of the book is actually a quote from Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I enjoyed reading Joyce for my English Literature A-Level exam so I was hopeful that I would also find this book enjoyable.

The main character is Joana and the story provides flashbacks between her childhood, her adolescence and present day. It tells the story of her relationship with her husband and their divorce (which must have been scandalous to read in the 1940s) and the woman, who her husband gets pregnant. In one part of the book, Joana meets with this woman, Lidia, who she knows is having an affair with her husband. Her reaction was a bit strange as she is not particularly bothered by this.

I really enjoyed this book. Sometimes the book was hard to follow because it flipped between different times but some of the descriptions and the writing was incredible.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

I had this book as a child but I only managed to ever read a couple of chapters of it. It is perhaps one of the most famous books on the whole list. The story is of a group of four sisters, who are growing up during the time of the American Civil War. Their father is away working as a pastor and the four girls and their mother are left at home waiting for news about his return.

The four young women have very different characters and personalities: one is a tomboy; another very quiet and interested in art; another the mother figure of the group, when their mother is absent; one is very shy and musical.

The story tells what becomes of the sisters as they grow up, which includes marriages, deaths, births, work and extensive trips to Europe.

The BBC showed an adaptation of the book between Christmas and New Year. As it was after I had read the book, I thought it might be a good idea to watch it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps the characters didn’t look as I thought they would have done. I also found the American accents a bit uncomfortable. As I was reading the book, I did have the tendency to forget that the story was set in America and not in England and so it sounded a bit funny to my ears. I only got about 20 minutes into the programme and I decided to stop. I guess, in this case, the book was better than the screenplay.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

I always find this book confusing. Is it Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronte or Charlotte Bronte written by Jane Eyre? Again I think that this was a book I had when I was younger that stayed on my book shelf unread. In the end I really enjoyed this book, so it was a shame that I had left it so long to read this book.

As many books from this era begin, Jane Eyre is an orphan, who is unwanted by her uncle’s family, who she is put into the care of. Eventually, she is sent away to a boarding school, where she is educated and thrives, but not before she watches her best friend in the world die of consumption. She goes on to be a teacher at the boarding school but, after getting a job as a governess of a child in a private house.

Jane falls in love with the Master of the house and is due to marry him until the wedding is stopped because Mr Rochester is already married. His wife is actually a lunatic who lives in the attic (all very bizarre). Jane leaves in the middle of the night because she does not want to become his mistress. Exhausted and hungry, she comes across a house where the people take pity on her and nurse her back to health. The new Master of the house gives her the job of a new governess of a school for poor children. He wants to marry her but she is still thinking about what happened to her Mr Rochester, who she still loves and always will. She goes off in search of him to see what has happened to him and… I won’t spoil the whole thing. You can read it yourself.

I liked the book because, although it was a romance, it wasn’t too over the top. I think a lot of books talk about love as it is some magical spell that transforms people suddenly, when in most cases love is a lot more dignified and isn’t necessarily know to the beholder immediately.

Also I learnt the word “lugubrious” which means looking or sounding sad or dismal. This is my new favourite word. If I was still at school, I would be desperate to get this into one of my exam scripts. I might try to get it into one of my short stories.

I have now read 7 out of the 40 books that I need to complete this challenge. I am so glad that I decided to have this one my list. I’m really enjoying it.




40 Before 40: Challenge #8

24 Feb

Here is an update about my #40Before40: Challenge #8, in which I am attempting to watch all of the Top 250 Films as rated by iMDB.

These are the films I have managed to watch recently:

5. 12 Angry Men

I had never heard of this film before, but what a film it was! It’s a really interesting look at a jury deliberating on the fate of a man on trial. I was captivated because, although the film begins with the judge saying his final words before dismissing the jury to agree on the verdict, the audience never once hears from the defendant or any of the lawyers. We only hear the discussions of the jury and what they remember from hearing at the trial. The case looks clear cut until one of the jury has doubts that the defendant is guilty and this leads to intense discussions about the notions of proof and doubt. I would highly recommend this film, if you haven’t already seen it.

49. Memento

I realised as soon as I sat down to watch this that I had seen this before: As I have so many left on my list to watch and I can remember clearly what happened in the film, I decided not to watch it. If I have time at the end, I will probably watch it again. It is a great film though about a man who had a condition where he can’t remember anything. Which is ironic because I couldn’t remember seeing it.

52. The Great Dictator

I have never seen any Charlie Chaplin films before and I was surprised by how much I liked it and by how funny it was. We are often shocked by things that comedians say or do today but this film shows that this has been the case for decades. The film essentially parodies Hitler, who saw himself as a great dictator. It was filmed during the time of the Second World War, which I find quite shocking with some of the impressions and suggestions that Chaplin makes. Chaplin plays both the role of the Great Dictator (a dictator of the fictional Tomainian) and a Jewish barber, who experiences trouble with his memory after saving the life of a pilot. I read later that Chaplin cast himself as a Jew because Hitler had mistakenly thought that he was Jewish. It was very satirical on many levels. I think that there is another Chaplin film on the list to watch and I am very much looking forward to watching that as well.

143. Casino

This film had a sort of an Ocean’s Eleven feel about it and at the start I had the feeling that it was going to run on similar lines. It was a typical gangster-type film with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, whom I can never watch without thinking of the Home Alone movies. I think that I liked the film overall but for me the film was a touch too long (two minutes short of three hours). I’m not sure if a shorter film would have taken away from the feel of the film or not but I guess that is a question that the director and the producers have to make. It also stars Sharon Stone as a former prostitute/coke head, who is married to Robert DeNiro’s character and you know that she is going to be trouble right from the off, even though he clearly loves and trusts her implicitly. In my opinion, this is the best role I have seen Stone play, though I am not sure that I would be able to name any other films that she was in off the top of my head.

153. La La Land

I love musicals but I am not so sure that I loved this film. If I am being honest, I don’t get why this film was such a big deal at the Oscars. The plot at the beginning was a bit too predictable: struggling actress who works in a coffee shop means musician who is having his creativity stifled by the industry hate each other but then end up dating. I can’t decide if I thought the ending was genius or a bit pathetic. It definitely wasn’t a traditional Hollywood ending and I’m still deciding how the ending made me feel and how I should interpret it. I did, however, love Ryan Gosling’s tap dancing.

So, that is another 5 movies off the list. I have now watched 90 and I have 160 left to watch. To me, it seems like I am making very little process with this list. I’m hoping in the next months, I can get quite a few more ticked off the list. I might have to have a big of a binge watch to start making a dent in the list!




40 Before 40: Challenge #4

24 Jan

My fourth challenge on my #40Before40 list is to enter a photography competition. On the face on it, this doesn’t seem to be a very hard challenge but, as with anything that has a creative element to it, it can sometimes be difficult to be objective and to assess something that you have created.

Also, I am very much an amateur photographer. I don’t claim to be an expert at all. I tend to just point and shoot what I see. I know that I have taken a few good photographs but this has often been as a result of good luck rather than good judgement.

I am a bit of a purist when it comes to photography. Lots of people spend hours and hours after taking a photograph using Photoshop and various other editing tools. People improve light and colours and, in my opinion, sometimes this means that the photo doesn’t look “real”.

Apart from cropping a few photos to make sure that they are better framed, I leave my photos well alone. The fact that I am not so familiar with all of these editing programmes also has a bit to do with it. A photo captures a certain point in time and it is often the case that an “imperfect” moment helps to give more character and a better impression than something that has been edited post-production.

It was hard choosing the photos to enter for the competition. The photos that I have been really proud of never look as impressive when you are trying to look at them through the eyes of a critic.

In the end, I decided to enter three photos. The competition was for photographers, both professionals and amateurs alike, who are based in Zurich and the surrounding areas. There was no limit on what images could be entered so long as the photograph was your own.

Two of pictures I entered were taken in Switzerland and one of them was taken when I was in Cambodia in April 2017.

Here is one of the photos, which I have called A Goat’s Eye View because why should birds get to see everything?

I very much doubt that the photos I have entered will make the shortlist of the Best 50 which are then exhibited to the public in Zurich. The public will then be able to vote for the winner. I will, of course, let you know if I do get a surprising result!

40 Before 40: Challenge #1

17 Jan

My first challenge for my #40Before40 is to pass the C2 Goethe German exam. On the European Framework of Languages this is the highest level and means that you are almost on the same level and understanding as a native speaker.

One of the reasons I moved to Switzerland was to learn a language. A lot of people I know, and I mean mainly British expats, don’t bother to learn the local languages. It is possible to survive working here in an international company where the preferred language is English. However, I feel it is a bit of a shame not to try to learn it because, I believe, your experience will be much better for it.

That is not to say that it is easy. I came here not knowing a word of German and now I still don’t think I know any of it some days. It requires a huge investment of time, brain power and perseverance. So, I have worked doggedly for the best part of four years and slowly but surely I am getting there.

I have now finished my C1 course. So that means I am one more level away from completing this challenge. If you have every been stuck on a level in Candy Crush, you will know that “just completing one more level” is not as easy as it sounds. I will begin the C2 level when I am back from my travels in March.

To become even a little bit closer to being considered as a native speaker, I know that I have to improve quite a bit. Mistakes are not looked upon kindly in the exam. Also I know that I need to work on managing my stress levels in the build up to the exam because it is pretty unbearable how stress I manage to get myself. I dare say it is worse for people who know me.

I am under no illusions that this could be hard to achieve but I am going to give it my best shot and see what happens. I have got this far so that has to mean something.

One thing that I found equally laughable and endearing is that a colleague of mine confessed that I have inspired her to take her German exams as well. I never thought that I would inspired anyone to do anything, let alone take German exams. From the sound of it, she is doing more work and preparation than I have for the last four years.

But as a former boss of mine once said: You only need to be one mark above the pass mark. Everything else is wasted effort.


#40Before40: Challenge #9

6 Jan

The ninth challenge on my #40Before40 list is to write a novel. This has been something that I have always wanted to do and I have always put off because of my lack of self confidence and a little bit of lack of discipline. When I was younger, I used to like writing stories and making things up but, as I have got older, I have found excuses not to do more writing but this is still a dream of mine.

A lot of people have looked at me in horror when I have told them that this is on the list. The main thing to remember is that it does have to be any good. I only have to write it. I never said anything about being published. This might be a bit of a cop out but this is definitely my line of thinking: get the thing written and then take it from there.

As I mentioned, the key to this task is to get into a habit and develop discipline. It is possible to write a book in six months if you write a regular amount each day. November is also National Novel Writing Month, which was started in the States. In this challenge, you have to wrote about 1,500 words a day for the whole month of November, so that in the end you have a 45,000 word novel. 1,500 words a day is not a lot in theory. Of course, if you then come to a part of the story that you are having trouble with, it could take you an hour to write 200 words.

In an attempt to ease myself into this challenge and to develop my self disciple, I have joined a writing group. We meet every Wednesday at a very interesting place which describes itself as Bar, Bücher und Bühne (in English, Bar, Books and Stage). It’s a book stop but a café and bar and they also hold more creative and arty events, which is the stage part.

I was nervous at joining at first. I had never been to anything like this before but I already knew roughly the format of the session. To begin with we decide on a writing prompt and we have 15 minutes to write about it. A writing prompt is a topic or idea that you use to spark creative ideas and writing. It can be one word, a quotation or even a picture. For example, last week the prompt was “Christmas emergency”. At the end of the 15 minutes, we are free to share what we have written, if we want to. I haven’t yet shared anything that I have written. All of the other members of the group are far too good and I feel like I would sound a bit silly in comparison to what they have written. But they have been part of the group for a lot longer than me and a few of them have given up working to write. In my world that is living the dream.

It is always interesting to hear the different interpretations of the prompts. With “Christmas emergency” one girl wrote about someone going into labour, one guy wrote about the Christmas tree accidentally being set on fire and I wrote about someone opening a very expensive bottle of champagne by mistake. I guess this all depends on how you interpret the word “emergency”. I think this reveals a bit too much about my personal preferences.

After a break, we have between 30 and 40 minutes to write on something that we are working on. Some people work on novels, others on non-fiction articles and I am still yet to decide what I want to work on. I have some ideas for novels but I am a bit unsure if I should plan the whole novel out or just go for it and start writing. For the time being, I have been trying to work on some short stories, with varying degrees of success.

My main problem is that I can’t seem to finish anything. I get half way through a story and get stuck, not on what I want to write, but on how I want to write it and then I never finish it because I take this as a sign what I am writing can’t be all that good. One advantage of the group is being able to talk about these problems. One guy told me that every first draft is rubbish but you have to get something down on paper before you can begin to improve it. It is more than a good point; it’s the truth.

Having said that I have completed the first writing project I have started since I was at school. I have written a bedtime story book of short stories for my niece for Christmas. I am more than sure that no publisher would even consider looking at but my niece likes it and that is enough for me. Unfortunately, my children’s story book is not more than 50’000. So, the challenge is not yet complete. In the meantime, I will keep writing and look for inspiration for my first novel.


#40Before40: Challenge #39

15 Dec

For my penultimate challenge, I have set myself one of the hardest challenges. The challenge is to downsize; to get rid of anything that I don’t want or need. There is no caveat on how I get rid of things. I can give them away from free, donate them, sell them, recycle them or just bin them. However, I want to avoid the latter, especially if the item is still useable.

This challenge is one of the hardest for me because I have to be honest with myself about getting rid of things. It is easy just to think that I need or will want something in the future and end up keeping it when I know deep down that I have no intention of using it at all.

We will possibly be moved in the middle of next year so it seems like a good opportunity to downsize because we don’t have to move things that we don’t want. A lot of the sorting out into the “keep” or “bin” piles will probably happen in the packing for the move but I have already made a start.

I have taken two big bags of clothes to be recycled already. This is the tip of the iceberg. There are also old electronics sat in the cellar waiting to be taken to the recycling. I also have bags of books in the cellar that I have already ready. I can take these to a book shop to be resold. I don’t get any money for dropping them off but at least they will be out of my way and someone else can get pleasure from reading them. My problem is that, once I go there to drop the books off, I have a bit of a browse and I end up coming out with 3 new books to read. I have a lot of books to read that are currently sat in the cellar. Although I am coming round to the opinion that even if I gave up work for 12 months, I still wouldn’t be able to get through all the books that I have that I haven’t read. I tend to read about 40 books per year. I need to up this considerably if I want to avoid the situation of getting rid of books that I haven’t yet read. This situation would actually make me really sad.

I have also been making a conscious effort to use cosmetics products that I have and are either half-used or haven’t even been opened. I have made some space in the cupboard in the bathroom but it is a small drop in the ocean. It is amazing how many face creams and things that I have considering I never actually use them. I guess cosmetic companies do have great marketing. If I have bought these things that I have no interest in then they are doing something right.

The clearing out will continue. It is far from over but at least it is in progress.