Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Friday, 2 February 2018

On the nursery slopes

One of the main purposes of this lifelist exercise is to try things that I'm no good at, and probably never will be - but have a lot of fun doing it, and push the boundaries of what I think I can do. This activity definitely came into that category.

Lovely friend Kim booked this 'taster session' on the Norwich dry ski slope for me as a birthday gift. I knew I was nervous, but until I saw the slopes I didn't realise quite how nervous. Watching people coming down the 'real' pistes (as opposed to the 'nursery' version that we were using) was alarming and exciting.

Once again, my inner control freak looked at the speed of descent and panicked... much to Kim's amusement, as she's used to me normally being pretty confident in most circumstances.

However, we had an excellent tutor (Toby) for our little group, and once I'd tried one (very brief) descent without mishap, I realised just how much fun it could be. We had several goes down the slope - mainly using the slowing 'snow plough' position. I couldn't manage the 'bunny hops' - testing the balance - at all, but Kim did them beautifully. I only fell over once, which in something like 8 descents or so wasn't too bad.

I still find it pretty difficult to imagine being swift and confident on real slopes... but I can completely understand the appeal, and especially that of skiing on real snow among glorious scenery. I might just give it a try some day - and if I do, I'll be back to visit the lovely guys at the Norfolk Snowsports Club for training. Watch this space.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Getting my skates on

I had somehow managed to get through my entire childhood (and life so far) without trying either form of skating - ice or roller. I suspect that my 'control-freak' tendencies have a lot to do with this; any kind of skating involves a lot of trust and not a little 'gung-ho' attitude.

However, when I saw that the regular 'pop-up' rink was visiting Norwich again across the Christmas-New Year period, I reckoned it was time to try it out. I put a call out on Facebook, and as a result was joined by my lovely friends Kim (regular buddy for most of my fitness activites, especially walking, for the last decade); Christine (a happy meeting through the Mother Nature's Diet group), and Andree (lovely colleague from local small business networks). Andree being the most experienced, she showed us the basics and helped us out beautifully. We were watched and photographed by two husbands (mine and Christine's).

Kim had skated before too - many years ago, but it didn't stop her showing loads of confidence and as a result doing a great job. She's definitely got the gung-ho attitude. (It also meant she fell over more often!)

Christine managed to strike out on her own very competently after a few circuits. I kept hanging on to the side for a lot longer...

Although I left the side eventually, I didn't manage to strike out on my own at all on this occasion - the thing I couldn't get the hang of was the movement to push off and hence travel under my own steam,  rather than using the side of the rink to pull along, or using the propulsion of my friends holding my hands. I think if (when) I give it another go, I'll probably get over that mental block and manage a bit better. I think, however, I did display a style all of my own... :D

(Click here for the ten-second video of the above moment...)

It was a wonderful moment when we (briefly) moved out together - although as it was a small rink, we were quickly told not to keep a row of four, as we took up too much space! Made a great photo, though, and sums up a wonderful occasion.

Meantime, however, this was an enormously enjoyable evening, spent with some fabulous and patient friends (and ending with an excellent Thai meal as a day-late birthday celebration for me).

I'm so glad I gave it a try, and we've promised a return visit when the rink returns to the Castle Gardens next winter. Watch this space.

Full album of photographs here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Walk 1000 miles: my medal

As my monthly mileage targets have increased (60 miles from March 2015, 70 from March 2016 and 80 from March 2017) so, of course, has my twelve-month total. I was especially pleased recently to realise that this meant that in the twelve months starting on 1 December 2016, I'd finally exceeded 1,000 miles in 12 months.

I'm a member of the Facebook group that exists to celebrate and encourage exactly this goal. I have to say, when I started, I couldn't imagine myself managing 1,000 miles in a year!

So when I published this achievement to the group, it was lovely to have this posted to the comments...

Thank you to Walk 1000 Miles and Country Walking Magazine for such a fabulous initiative. Changing the world, and our health and well-being, one step at a time.

Ambulo ergo sum, indeed.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Climbing mountains

Two mountains in two days. An extraordinarily kind period of weather in late October. A group of eight of us (plus the adorable Max-the-dog) climbed Blencathra and Skiddaw, near Keswick in the Lake District. An experience I never dreamed of, and views that literally made me weep at times.

I was invited by my good friend James, a fellow member of the local theatrical fraternity and in particular the Sewell Barn Theatre, and we were joined by several of his friends across two days. The first day involved six of us (two of whom split from the main group to climb a more challenging route!) climbing Blencathra; and a further two people joined us for Skiddaw on day two.

I was the oldest (by a couple of years) and one of the least experienced. The members of the group were wonderful, keeping an eye out for everybody, taking it at a pace that we could all manage, sharing resources and encouragement. Oh, and of course, Max the dog (a beautifully behaved, nine-month-old, JRTxStaffie), who belongs to Ed but soon decided that it was his job to supervise the whole team.

Both days were blessed with wonderful weather. In both cases, the summit was shrouded in cloud, but we didn't miss much in the way of views, as we had clear and beautiful views within a very short time in both directions.

Click on the links below to view photographs and route for each of the two days.

Blencathra - Thursday 26 October
868 metres / 2847 feet

Skiddaw - Friday 27 October
931 metres / 3054 feet

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Upside-down in a hamster wheel

This was quite a special and unusual experience. It didn't figure on my original list, for the simple reason I'd never heard of it. Through my connections with the world of circus aerial hooping, I came across this extraordinary activity, and was fascinated to know more: German Wheel.

The basic kit is a construction of two parallel wheels, linked with metal handles and foot straps in various places. The trick is to control the wheel in various ways, from a simple cartwheel to vaulting over the wheel to two-person activities to sitting on the crossbars to one-handed spins... and so on. This video gives you a general flavour.

As far as I can work out, there's only the one group in the UK that offers training in this exciting activity; so I was fortunate that it was at least in East Anglia, at the Kesgrave Sports Centre in Ipswich (albeit almost 2 hours away from me). I'm told that people travel to the weekly sessions from all over the country - one lass was known to drive from Barnsley to Ipswich for a two-hour session and then drive back again...

I was excited to attend a half-day introduction to the activity. The tutors - Anna, James, John and Konrad - were friendly, professional and passionate: a winning combination. They take great care and lots of time with each member of the group, whether total beginner or seasoned acrobat.

It requires a fair level of fitness, and there's an intensive warm up to start with. It's challenging and sometimes painful - the weight on the feet in the straps as one turns upside-down, tightly attached (obviously), results in some bruising; and the use of the arms throughout tests the biceps and triceps to the max. The control of the wheel when you're constantly changing direction takes a lot of concentration - and the potential speed of movement can be scary to the point of nausea.

However, on getting accustomed to all this unusual use of the body, the sense of achievement when one manages a solo cartwheel for the first time - two revolutions down the hall - is pretty extraordinary.

I met some other fabulous people on the day, too - a couple of familiar faces from my 'budgie-hooping' sessions, and others who ranged from beginners like myself to experienced and intrepid wheelers. I made friends with Daniele,whose yoga background made her a natural, and we tried out some joint moves...

This was one of the greatest challenges I've taken on so far.  There have been moments during my Life List where a real stomach-churning fear has floored me initially - but I've usually managed to overcome it. There was the first time I tried breathing through the tube of a snorkel, and through the scuba rig; there was the first leap off a high tree-mounted platform into a cargo net or along a zip wire. The first time I turned upside-down in the German Wheel was one of those - but it was amazing how quickly I got accustomed to it. With practice and experience, I might bring at least a tiny bit more poise and confidence to the activity - although I doubt I'd ever reach the extraordinary heights achieved by experts like the four tutors. (Look up Konrad on YouTube to see what I mean.)

It's a long way for me to travel, but I don't eliminate the possibility of doing it again. The charges for the regular classes are exceptionally reasonable, the people friendly and professional, and the feeling of achievement amazing. Meantime, this was a fabulous and memorable experience that I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Click here for a few photographs of the day

Click here for the full playlist of my short videos

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Walk a marathon: we did it

I did it. I walked a marathon - or, as it turned out, 28 miles - with nine amazing people (and two support drivers).

It all started last August, when my good friend and mentor Karl Whitfield, of Mother Nature's Diet, spotted my ambition on this life list to 'walk a marathon'. Basically, he called my bluff. He sent me a choice of routes, a choice of dates, a training schedule, and made sure it happened. And I'm so glad he did.

I started gradually increasing my walking mileage, and was proud of a fifteen-mile walk across the bridges of London in September 2016. However, in late February 2017, training began in earnest, with my good friend and fitness partner of many years, Kim.  Click here to see details of our training along the Norfolk Coastal Path.


Having spent the four months from the end of February to the end of May following Karl's schedule of walks, from 11.5 miles to just under 23 miles, we felt ready and confident for our 'marathon plus'.

We met up the night before to share supper in Wendover, spent the night in an agreeable AirBNB a few miles away, and then gathered for a 6.30am start on the Saturday morning. Our two drivers, Joe and Selwyn, bid us farewell, and we set off on a mild, initially cloudy, warm morning (the sun came out very soon, and remained with us right until the final half-mile).

As Karl had predicted, there were some moderate hills in the first few miles. It was well worth it when, after just 1.5 miles, we arrived at the Coombe Hill monument, with its sensational views across the countryside - I believe at least three counties were visible.

I was excited to see large numbers of red kites - brought back from the brink of extinction in just the last few decades - above us for much of the walk.

Earlier I mentioned a 'marathon plus' ... Karl didn't want to run the risk of us coming in just under the 26.2 mile marathon target ("another quarter of a mile! Round the block!") - so in planning the route, he aimed for 27 miles. However, at the last minute we also agreed to add a short diversion (about six miles into the walk) half-a-mile each way off the path down into Princes Risborough, where there was our final chance for a shop, a cafe and a public loo - as opposed to the dodging-behind-trees we did for the rest of the day. Which brought it up to 28 miles. (Or 28.8, or 29, or 29.5, depending on which walker's GPS you choose to believe! Mine was 28.07, so that's what I'm going with.)

Our planned lunch stop was (somewhat unromantically) just after walking through a sub-M40 underpass. This, in fact, was well over halfway, being at just under 16 miles in. Our drivers met up with us - Selwyn having got there some time before decided to walk out a mile or two to meet us and then accompany us to the cars - and we restocked with sock changes, extra water and food. Before setting off again. we took what's probably my favourite group photograph of the day.

As we moved into the final five miles, the dogged determination is evident.

As Jason pointed out, at least when you're coming down a mountain you have a clear idea of where the finish line is! But we kept going...

Finally, we reached the bridge over the river at Wallingford, where family and friends were waiting for us in the riverside pub.

This was a completely remarkable day and an amazing achievement for all concerned. Five men, five women, ranging in age from 30 to 65, all levels of fitness but one level of determination, and we all made it. We arrived about 12.5 hours after setting off, although around 10 hours of that was actual walking time. Many of us knew each other already, but new friendships were forged. Once again, the lovely Karl had initiated, bullied, planned and encouraged, and we managed an extraordinary feat.

For Chris, Jane, John, Jason, Karl, Cristina, James, Kim and Rebecca - my heartfelt thanks and love for joining and supporting me in this endeavour. It's a day I will never forget and an achievement of which I will always be deeply proud.

If you're interested, you'll find the full album of photographs here, including some provided by my fellow walkers.

Update: the wonders of technology allow me to add the route in 3D using the geek-heaven Relive.


One final comment. I initially took on this challenge for myself personally. However, as various folks asked me if I was accepting sponsorship, I decided to donate any monies raised to Clare's Legacy Fund (details in this posting). At the time of writing (mid June), £520 has been raised online plus a further £98 in local cash donations. I know that Clare's indomitable spirit was with us, and she would have loved the day - being, as it was, fairly close to her own home near her beloved Cotswolds.

For friends, for challenges, for fitness, for love and for nature, I give grateful thanks.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Walk a marathon: the Norfolk Coastal Path

When I committed to training to 'walk a marathon', I was already walking a minimum of 70 miles each month by that time, usually around 3-4 miles per walk, with the occasional 5 miler, and a couple of 13 milers to train for the 15 mile sponsored London Bridges walk in September 2016.

Starting in February, work began in earnest when my fitness buddy Kim joined me. We decided that we would train by walking the whole of the Norfolk Coastal Path (around 85 miles, Hopton to Hunstanton) in sections, which we achieved in six chunks. We were joined on one of these by James and on two others by Rebecca - both of whom completed the final marathon walk with us.

Click on the links to see photographs of each of the walks, and on the map to view at larger size.

Sunday 26 February: Winterton-Happisburgh (11.5 miles)

Sunday 12 March: Winterton-Hopton (14.5 miles)

Sunday 26 March: Happisburgh-West Runton (16.1 miles)

Sunday 9 April: Stiffkey-Cromer (19.4 miles)

Sunday 14 May: Wells-Hunstanton (22.8 miles)

Saturday 20 May: Wells-Blakeney plus Blakeney Point (19.6 miles)

Each time we'd completed a walk, we said "we can't imagine walking any further..." - but we always did. Interestingly, the final five miles of the 'real thing' were the toughest - from mile 23 to 28 - and that was unknown territory at that point, as 22.8 was our furthest until then.

The coastal path is an extraordinary and wonderful landscape. Each section that we walked had its own remarkable character and atmosphere - and level of difficulty. The shingle beaches were the hardest, especially Blakeney Point - three miles in each direction mostly on heavy shingle. There's the uninspiring Great Yarmouth town centre, which then gives way to the rather lovely path alongside the industrial boatyards and down to glorious Gorleston. There's the fabulous marshes to the western end of the walk, around the Stiffkey-Wells stretch. There are hills (yes, really, in Norfolk!) in the Sheringham area, and Beeston Bump. There's the only bit of coastline in Norfolk where one can see a sunset directly across the sea: Hunstanton. There's the alarming coastal erosion around Happisburgh and west of there. There are walks across beaches, on dunes and inland, on shingle and on hard sand and on soft sand.

This was a pilgrimage of nature, enjoying and appreciating our beautiful county, pushing our physical boundaries further than we believed possible, and learning all the while. I am so delighted to have shared this remarkable experience with my lovely friend Kim, every step of the way, and look forward to new challenges together.