Hello 2013

My ideal way of spending today would have been tramping through the wilds of Hampstead Heath. (In the style of a Richard Curtis film, complete with co-ordinated winter knitwear and a handsome man on my arm, obviously.) However, that wasn’t to be, so instead I spent it watching donkeys, cheerleaders, Storm Troopers, Games Makers and kites fly through the streets of Piccadilly. (Clarification: only the kites were flying, everyone else had their feet firmly on the ground, apart from the unicyclers of Hackney and stilt-walkers of Barking.)

Ballooooons!

Impressive kites, no? 

It was the London New Years Day Parade, a rather bizarre event that goes on for a phenomenal length of time and features a competition between London’s boroughs as to has the best float – my money was on Merton. (Yes, that’s a borough!) A friend’s boyfriend was one of the Games Makers, so I kept her company during the two hour wait on the cold streets before his appearance. I already have one numb toe – by the time we left I had eight!

That would be the donkey breeding society. No, I had no idea either.
(Their marching was accompanied by a rendition of ‘Little Donkey’. Awesome!)

The point of this introduction is to say that, should I be collecting them, attending the parade would be a 2013 First. However, I’m virtually certain that I won’t be doing that this year. It’s been three years and my motivation to try new things has grown beyond belief (I believe Easter’s foray into snail eating might be the pinnacle of this), so it’s served its purpose. I’m an awful lot readier to try something out than I was when 2010 dawned. It’s also inspired a lot of other people to keep track of their own firsts – my mum, for example, is now recording her ’60 Firsts’. I’m fairly sure it’s not a list of 60 things she’ll do for the first time, but in fact things she’ll do for the first time now that she’s 60 (like having a pedicure and getting her senior citizen’s railcard).

As I’m sure I’ve said before, I don’t do resolutions. Once I’m back at work, my commitment to My Fitness Pal (the best calorie counting app out there, in my humble opinion) will resume; I have a new gym membership – but that’s thanks to a special offer I can actually afford; and my current mission to sort certain aspects of my life out began several weeks ago and is non-calendar related. However, I do like a challenge, and thus I’m grateful to Jenni for her suggestion of something I should do in 2013.

It’s not massively original, but it is something I’ll enjoy and ought not to be too challenging – it’s simply a 365 day photo challenge. There’s no theme, the idea is basically to capture something beautiful (or just interesting, failing that, it’ll be food…) in the ordinary-ness of every day. (I’ll admit that my days aren’t always the most ordinary, but still, the principle’s there.) It’s being facilitated by the rather fabulous new Flickr app (the acquisition of which I think gained three extra months on my pro membership). I may try and round up the photos on a regular basis, but otherwise they’ll have their own set on Flickr and will inevitably get tweeted.

And what of 2013? Well, there are already a number of adventures in the pipeline…

  • Next month I’ll be visiting Africa for the very first time, specifically, Uganda. It’s super exciting and I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity by Tearfund. There will be more (much more) about this soon – in fact, I’ll probably bore you all rigid talking about it!
  • Easter sees a return to Chateau Duffy. (Want to come too?)
  • Fingers crossed I’ll be heading back to Texas at some point in the summer (I’ve got a bit of a research project brewing).
  • Then there’s the ongoing adventure that is vicar training, though 2013 sees the beginning of the end with the commencement of curacy hunting. Scary stuff!

The other thing that 2013 holds is the launch of lizclutterbuck.com! I promise! I know this has been a very, very long time coming. (I was chastised recently by a friend for not getting my act together – I’m now worried that this will be a massive disappointment to all who are eagerly awaiting it.) Basically, it’s been in my hands for over a month and hopefully in the next few days I’ll be able to send word to my web designer that my part’s done, and it’s time to begin the final stage of the process. It definitely needs to be up and running pre-Uganda, so there’s at least a deadline! (However, I am getting this as a freebie, so there are limits to how quickly this can happen. Needless to say, I’m extremely grateful.)

Farewell 2012

My mother has tweeted to complain about my lack of blogging over the holiday season, so I feel compelled to post something before the year is out. (Ironically, I suspect she might also have complained had I spent much of the four days we had together at Christmas with my face behind a screen, chronicling our adventures.) In fact, since I returned from the shire, I’ve been busy…

Well, not that busy. I’ve had the flat to myself; an edict against any form of healthy eating (until tomorrow); a stash of iPlayered Christmas goodies; a season of Glee; and a sudden passion to cover the flat’s walls with pictures. (Oh, and the small matter of two essays.) All in all, not a bad way to spend a few days of solitude.

And like that, the end of the year is upon us! The New Year’s Eve grinch has firmly taken hold of me this year, and I see little point in ridiculous celebrations, but it seems appropriate to reflect upon the year on which the sun is currently setting. Reviews of the year can be a little bit dull, but perhaps I can liven it up a bit? Or, perhaps I will just deliberately be dull and write mine in the style of a round-robin Christmas letter? This year I reached the grown-up landmark of receiving my very first one in the post (from San Diego in fact – and it was not in the least bit dull), but did also get to read the basket of epistles that my parents receive on an annual basis.

The 2012 Firsts – more of them anon too…

Ok, I tried writing a round-robin style thing and it didn’t go anywhere. Either I’m spectacularly dull, or the fact that I write a blog completely defeats the point of writing one! I did say to someone the other day that if/when I reach that stage of life, I’ll just put a hyperlink in my Christmas cards. Perhaps it’s simply worth collating a few of my favourite things from 2012? (I’m currently watching The Sound of Music – it inspired a particularly insipid paragraph of my letter.) Follow the links if you care to, that’s where the interesting stuff will be…

Favourite birthday party:
Celebrating my mother’s own diamond jubilee the same weekend as the Queen’s – complete with surprise guests and a trip to the Titanic dockyard. (Oh yes, I know how to have a great time!)

Favourite treasure hunt experience:
The eggs. How we loved the eggs. Sure, the Olympic trail with mascots Mandeville & Wenlock was fun (especially when playing the Statue Game) but the eggs were an eggcellent obsession.

Favourite overseas adventure:
One word: Texas. Yes, there have also been three trips to France, but Texas exceeded all expectations and yielded one experience that is still, 6 months on, my highlight of the year – lying in the rapids at Mo Ranch contemplating the world.

Favourite international sporting event that took place in London:
There’s not much that can beat Wimbledon in my world, but the Olympics (and Paralympics) beat it hollow this year. I was nearly in tears the other day watching The 50 Greatest Olympic Moments, such were the memories it evoked. Simply an amazing summer.

Favourite ‘Church of England makes a massive mistake’ moment:
This might seem like an odd favourite thing, but however ridiculous the women bishops vote was, the aftermath has proved to be very interesting (and there’s a whole other blog post on this subject that’ll be posted in the new year).

Favourite instance of sharing space with a celebrity:
Sure, I’ve shared a tipi with JLS; a branch of Leon with Simon Mayo; an auditorium with literary greats; watched Lady Grantham’s (Downton) band play; and was sat behind Victoria Coren at HIGNFY, but the winner has to be watching Robert Redford being interviewed in front of me during a live Wittertainment broadcast. Robert Redford = film royalty.

Favourite day of acting like a child, despite being 31:
Harry Potter day. Utterly no contest.

It’s been great, but already 2013 looks set to be exciting – but more of that tomorrow. For now, let’s remember what’s made 2012 wonderful and rejoice in it.

So that was 2011…

Looking back, 2011 was something of an epic year…
The spring saw me face a big challenge and pass – meaning that the summer involved moving house and the autumn included a new job and a new life as a trainee vicar. Big changes, but good ones.

I don’t do resolutions, but it is useful to look back on the year that’s ended and look ahead (positively) to the coming one. On Saturday morning I held a (somewhat epic) brunch at which my friend Becki asked the room two questions:
(i) What will you leave behind in 2011?
(ii) What will you take up in 2012?
I like that kind of an attitude to the progression of time. January is a good time to feel free of the things that may have made last year hard, or that we don’t want to taint this year; it’s also an ideal time to move in to new things. No, I’m not going to share my answers, but suffice to say that the friends in the room were affirming in their enthusiasm for them.

Counting the blessings of the past year is also a much more constructive way to look back. I was really touched to hear via Twitter that my vicar’s daughter had included me on her list of 2011 blessings – she and the rest of her family are definitely on mine! Thinking about it on New Year’s Day, these would have to be some of the others:

  • Vicar School friends (and Christmas Jumpers).
  • New colleagues and friends at my new church.
  • Staying in touch (and becoming better friends) with ex-colleagues and church people.
  • The Matroyshka House community. 
  • Living in central London. 
Then, of course, there are The Firsts. It’s now two years since I came up with the concept, and it’s one that’s connected with a lot of people. In fact, I discovered last week that my friend’s mum had used it as the basis for their family Christmas letter this year! I hope she won’t mind me quoting its opening paragraph:

Someone we know keeps a list of firsts in her life; from momentous, I never thought I’d do that occasions, to small events such as visiting a new coffee house or trying a new food. Anne jotted down a few of hers for 2011 and it is easy to remember the more significant events but not so easy to remember the smaller ones. However the recording of firsts has helped her realise how rich life can be in the big and the small. So in 2012 she has resolved to record every first, if the shrinking grey matter can remember if something is indeed a first, but does this matter if the experience is a positive one. Not all firsts are good, and neither are all firsts lasts. Oh dear getting deep now!

It has to be said that reading this has actually made me decide to keep going with the Firsts lists. Other people list every book they’ve read, presumably partly to keep track of what they’ve read (or do they just do it to look clever?), so my habit of tracking Firsts will just be my version of that. If it helps me realise how rich and diverse my life is, that can only be a good thing!

Predictably, my next post will be a 2011 Firsts review, once I’ve had chance to properly evaluate the 79 listed…

Happy new year people! May you leave behind all that you want to in 2011 and feel free to take up what 2012 offers you.

The transition from 2010 to 2011

Unquestionably, one of my highlights of the past year was my 2010 Firsts list. It became quite a talking point amongst certain friends, with some joining in to help me tick things off the list and others becoming inspired to create their own. In fact, it captured some people’s imagination so much that on New Year’s Eve/Day I was awoken in my sick bed at 1am by someone tweeting about it (my phone likes to tell me when people mention me in tweets).

Actually, that tweet asked the question that several people have asked in recent weeks and becomes particularly relevant in these early days of 2011. What will happen to the 2010 Firsts now that it’s 2011?

I’ve given this quite a lot of thought and this is what I’ve come up with so far…

Hands-down, this has been the best project I’ve got stuck into. It’s opened up a wealth of opportunities, got me doing things I’d never normally consider and actively encouraged me to achieve things within a certain length of time.

A lot of it has been to do with confidence building – saying “yes” to things that I’d usually back away from. (This is not to say that there aren’t situations in which one should just say “no”…)

Keeping track of everything I’ve done for the first time is a nice way to record the passing of a year and reminds me of a range of places I’ve been, things I’ve done and people I’ve spent time with.

I want to keep doing things for the first time, to carry on saying yes (when appropriate) and to set myself challenges for the coming year. So I guess the answer to the question is that I’m working on a list for 2011. Some of the list will be things left over from last year (like going to Paris and taking driving tests), others will be new things – but I’m not quite ready to share just yet. This means that if you have any suggestions, I’m open to them – but I’ll ignore anything I’m definitely not up for, like bungy-jumping.

Oh, and for the next few days I may amuse myself by reviewing the 2010 Firsts list. Forgive me, it will be both self-indulgent and tedious, but my mind is still befuddled and this will be a good way to ease back into blogging.

Do you remember the first time?

I have a plan. One might call it something of a new year’s resolution, but as we know, I don’t believe in them. It’s more of a list – a nice list of nice things. At the moment it’s written in pink ink in the notes section of my Moleskine diary and is entitled ‘2010 Firsts’.

This list has already generated some amusement from amongst my inner circle of girl friends, relating to one particular first, which is quite categorically not on the list. In actual fact, it’s an eclectic list of utterly random things that I’ve never done before, but feel should happen in the next 12 months.

In some respects I’ve lived quite a sheltered life. (Heck, I hadn’t even tried mussels till last month!) I’m also flipping stubborn when I choose to be, so this year could be a great opportunity to overcome some idiotic barriers and have some fun at the same time.

I’ll spare you the whole list, partly because there’s some stuff on there that you really don’t need to know. But, what I am open to are new suggestions – I’m not saying I’d do something just because it’s suggested (I’m not stupid) but I’ll willingly consider anything. At the moment, ideas include:

  • Become a redhead (temporarily)
  • Audition for BV’s at church
  • Submit some writing for publication
  • Get waxed 
  • Go to Paris [Yes, this is shocking, I’ve never been to Paris – there is a story…]
  • Take my driving tests for the first time (theory & practical)
  • Get contact lenses
  • Take a dance class
  • Watch live ballet (Matthew Bourne for preference)
  • Go to a spa
It could include anything – books I’ve never read, films I’ve never watched, places I’ve never been…but the aim is to do at least one a week. Having said that, as I write, I realise that amounts to 52 new things, which is a lot, hmmmm. See, I really do need your help! 
And, in case you were wondering, as well as going on a rope swing and joining twitter last week, this week I did level 3 plank at pilates for the first time. I’ve only just stopped hurting.