Tag Archives: entertainment

My First Tough Mudder

I was only doing this in memory of my colleague.

I have raised over £100 sponsorship, so it was worth it.

We set off in the morning with a van full of sleepy colleagues.

I imagined a series of obstacles and mud in between, maybe five, and imagined that it would be over in about 30 minutes.

It took hours.

Luckily it wasn’t very cold as we got soaked in mud-water trenches, scratched by stones from mud which had been worn away, stung by nettles, burned by electricity and got blisters from trying to do monkey bars.

But what made it worth it were all my colleagues pulling together, waiting at every obstacle for stragglers and ensuring everyone got through it.

I soon forgot about my aversion to dirt as I had to crawl through it under cargo nets and barbed wire.

I challenged my fear of heights by climbing a giant cargo net with nothing underneath. My legs shook and I felt sick but I managed it. I could do this because we were supporting each other every step of the way, sometimes literally.

There’s no “I” in team and the group is only as strong as its weakest link. That day we did not have one and the only injury was an electrical burn (that bit needs closing down) and a pulled muscle.

If you would like to donate, the link is here.

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August 4, 2019 · 6:46 pm

My first spot of bouldering

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I am only working half-days this week as I am about to start a new job.

So far in my afternoons off I have been shopping, watched the Christopher Robin film and eaten out.

Yesterday I tried bouldering for the first time. It is surprisingly harder than climbing with ropes. You have to hold your weight up with your arms at times and climb down once you are at the summit, if you can.

I wanted to do climbing with an automatic belay, but unfortunately my demonstration was too rocky. I had forgotten how to put a harness on, so I was not allowed.

I managed to do the easiest route, but that was hard enough. Those are the blue chunks you can see on the picture. After an hour, my limbs were aching and I was tired. Climbing is a full-body workout and tones you all over. It is also good for stretching out your back if you get backache. I watched an instructor nimbly demonstrate with ease, bulging biceps and incredible flexibility as she flung herself around like a spider, hugging the fake rock.

The session was only £8 as I still get student rate. It was £10 standard price.

Some use bouldering as therapy and you can even get it prescribed by a doctor. This could be because it allows you to concentrate solely on your route, the location of your hands and feet and your next move. It is a form of mindfulness – being present in the moment.

I then went to netball and we won the match. It was a great feeling because we fought so hard for it. I had the advantage, as my opponent was smaller and slower.

Get down to your local bouldering wall and have a go!

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Fountains Abbey

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As soon as you walk down the hill, the tower emerges in all its glory. Then you see the columns and arches soaring into the sky.

Fountains Abbey is a skeleton of its former glory, yet one of the best preserved ruins in Britain. You need to spend all day in this UNESCO World Heritage site in Ripon.

After admiring the ruins you can explore the 18th and 19th century follies in the landscaped grounds.

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The abbey was built in 1132, the result of a religious divide amongst monks in York.

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You could ring the bell of the mill that ran here until 1927.

The small group that settled here were more conservative, believing that Benedictine monks should live more closely to the rules laid down by the Bible.

Eking out a living on the verge of starvation, they sold wool to pay for their upkeep.

The Abbey would not have survived without France. Money and supplies were sent over from there when they joined the Cistercian Order. They lived in silence, suffering cold temperatures with only brief respite at the fire.

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They suffered from the Plague and finally from Henry VIII’s pillaging. He sold it to a nobleman in the 1500s, after arranging for the roof to be removed and sold.

In the 19th century it fell into ruin before being restored, which is still an ongoing project.

It costs £1,000,000 to run each year with the combined forces of The National Trust and English Heritage.

To discover more about its history, visit this WordPress page.

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August 31, 2018 · 7:01 pm

My First “Airbnb” Experience

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For my birthday I was going to see Prodigy in London with a friend. I was delighted that my cousin had decided to join us.

It was the weekend before the event so there were hardly any places left in the bed and breakfast (bnb) houses we were looking at. Only the expensive or low-rated options were left and the nearest hotel was 5 miles away.

A “B ‘n B” breakthrough

“What can we do?” I asked my cousin “this place only has a single room left! and this one is a bit too expensive isn’t it.”

My cousin would know best as she was an experienced traveller. On a break in between her Masters degree she had gone to Spain spontaneously on her own. She is a student and I am saving for a big holiday (of course I will blog about it) so we are both skint. We had already shelled out £50 for the gig ticket.

“Well…” she replied “when I was in Madrid I stayed in a really nice air bnb place. It was really cheap and overlooking the main plaza! It would have been really expensive to stay at a hotel in that location.”

“What is air bnb?” I asked. I vaguely recollected an advert on it.

“Is it that one where you sleep on people’s sofas? cos I’m not doing that!”

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I had spent one night on a sofa and hadn’t slept a wink as I tried to find a way to get my long legs spread out without having the arm of the sofa digging in. There wasn’t enough width to curl up. It was a nightmare and there was no chance of it being a dream. I had emerged from that student house looking like I’d spent the night in a hedge, and that probably would have been more comfortable.

My cultured cousin laughed. “No it’s not that one! Though I think there is one like that. It’s called couch-surfing isn’t it? This is similar but you get a proper bed.”

“A proper bed? isn’t that the same as a proper bed and breakfast then?”

“It’s like that but it’s where someone rents out their spare room. You get to meet lots of different people doing it and the ones I’ve met have all been lovely. You don’t always get breakfast but they’re usually in good locations.”

I was intrigued. The other choices were pretty limited so I thought we should give it a try.

You just needed an email address and password to set up an account and it was free. You could search by country as well as by city.

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The places were advertised with a picture of the bedroom with the Google map location on the right. Perfect. We looked and most of the good places were taken but there was one that stood out.

London Luxury

The photograph that I liked featured a beautiful white “Victorian” bathroom with a vintage bath (a new bath in an old style, not a tin one). The house looked modern and spacious for London. Not only that but it was a 10 minute walk from the venue. There was a paragraph or two about the owner, a smiling middle-aged lady who had travelled around Ecuador and liked the theatre. There were good reviews and it wasn’t too expensive.

The house was close to the station and my cousin was already there.

As I walked up to the stained-glass front door I felt a bit nervous. It seemed odd to walk in to a stranger’s house and stay there like one of their friends or family. But my anxiety subsided when our host opened the door and greeted me, grinning from ear to ear.

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She was a warm, friendly lady with a healthy glow and a slight tan. She served us tea and sat with us in their airy conservatory with a view onto a verdant garden. There was a little shed at the end and a trellis with flowering plants.

My cousin looked relaxed and had enjoyed a pleasant chat. I had not expected such peace and quiet. But it was a privileged residential area and of course, only parts of (mostly inner) London are chaotic, dirty and noisy.

I felt that I needed a shower on arrival to the house, as I had been on the Tube and became conscious of the grimy soot sticking to me. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. That and the gig atmosphere turned the bathwater grey the next day.

Double delight

We were amused that we were sharing a double bed. We had dark wooden drawers and a wardrobe to match, with a fluffy turquoise carpet and curtains tied back. I laid down some ground rules – no farting in bed and no trespassing over the middle line. My cousin broke both rules by the next morning.

We got glittered-up for the rave and headed out. We clip-clopped in our heels through the drizzle along rows of tall neat Victorian houses, shivering. Pretty soon we felt rather lost and decided that we would turn back after ten minutes.

“Did you see the pictures in the bathroom?” my cousin asked.

“Yes, interesting weren’t they!” I replied. There had been pictures of the couple in skimpy 1930s-style carbaret outfits with feathers and pearls.

“Do you think they’re swingers?” my cousin giggled.

“No it’s just fancy dress.”

“Yes but there was more than one of them like that.” We laughed.

Fortunately after a 20 minute totter we found the pub our host had directed us too. But as it was 9pm they had closed for food so we went to the takeaway opposite. It took ten minutes but the kofta kebab was well worth it. As we were late we had to eat waiting for a taxi, sheltering under a tree from the relentless rain.

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The Gig – Prodigy the-prodigy

I enjoyed the band, especially the classics that reminded me of student days. Thousands filled the hall with a high ceiling and the lighting was great but unfortunately the sound at the gig was focussed at the front and there were no speakers further back. The sound system was clearly not built or configured for the electronic music either. One of the band did make an effort to remedy this by coming near us to sing (or rather shout, it is that kind of music) on a mini stage in the middle, dreadlocks swinging. Cheers erupted around us as people surged forward. Eyes bulged and hands shot up to follow the beat.

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The hyperactive crowd fully compensated for the muffled performance when he went back, as they thrashed around with reckless abandon. Beer flew everywhere and drenched us. The air was thick with the smell of that and foul body odours. Every so often I had to move as I would end up in a cloud of it and I decided that I’d grown out of grunge.

Pint pouring

When my cousin had a pint poured down her she lost it, turning round and shouting at the miscreant. He apologised and moved away. She angrily said to the man behind him “I hope you’re not going to pour that down me too!”. This started a conversation which went very well and she ended up on the bearded bloke’s shoulders waving her arms around.

We rocked out until the early hours, leaving as the orange streetlight sky started to pale. It was about 4 when we finally went to sleep after a hushed chinwag.

Healthy host

Four hours later I was woken by the sound of the front door closing as our healthy host ran to the gym. As you do on a Saturday morning. I was impressed but seriously sleepy and dozed off until an hour before our checkout time. It was a quiet area and we were in a little guest room down our own hallway with our own bathroom at the other end.

After a bath I felt rejuvenated (and much cleaner). We had a nice chat with our host, who was back from her early morning workout, and her husband. They were a good-looking, kind and knowledgeable pair. I felt guilty when I asked her if I had woken her up and she said she had heard the door shut when we came in. She assured me that it was fine and we were very quiet. She said she was a light sleeper.

We left in search of the nearest pub breakfast. As we stumbled along I decided that although I would not be going to a Prodigy gig again, I would definitely be staying with airbnb for my next trip…

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A sentimental space film with gravity – Interstellar

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* Spoiler-free*

Last night after my friend’s home-made pizza we went to see Interstellar. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The IMAX experience was worth it but take ear plugs – the rocket sound was so loud you could feel it! It was as if you were in the spaceship with them.

The visual effects were amazing but sadly it was ruined by a soppy story about the father-daughter bond. It was a good idea but it was given too much attention and became quite nauseous, frustrating to watch and laughable. They could have edited quite a bit and spent time developing the plot instead. Scenes were either rushed or long without much happening, Family relationships were played out repeatedly, it was trying too hard.

Much has been made of the logical inaccuracies of the plot which I think is unfair – it is a work of art not a documentary. No-one seems to complain about this in action movies such as James Bond, where he has a heart attack and keeps going.

Many of the characters, aside from the main ones. had very little script and were therefore mere sketches.

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The music by industry legend Hans Zimmer contributed to the film’s atmosphere well and the acting was first class, especially by Matthew McConaughey, who appeared to have got into character by losing weight.

It is somewhat similar to Gravity except it has less action and is more focused around its main characters. It would have benefited from being 3D but was impressive in provoking questions about the big picture – our place in the universe and how important our relationship to our family and environment is.

I could see why people liked it – it was a tear-jerker with plenty of scenes of love and loss. But it was only the depiction of space that I enjoyed.

It’s great timing seeing as we’ve just landed a probe on a comet. What an incredible feat of maths, science and engineering. Just 50 years or so ago it was inconceivable that we would even land on the moon.

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My First Office Choir

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Last week I was finally added in to a Christmas choir e-mail. I thought I’d give it a go.

I pictured a grand room with a piano. Where would this be in an office block? When I went to the reception, the man said “it’s in Conference room 2, down the corridor to your left”.

In there stood a grey-haired man in a tweed jacket. It was a small room with a long table in it and lots of chairs. That was it. We introduced ourselves and I asked where the toilets were.

“There’s only one on this floor” he replied “disabled loo. It’s down the corridor to your right”. The lights were off and he didn’t know where the switch was, so I went across in the dark. Thankfully the lights were on down the corridor and it was round the corner, past cycling clothes on hangars.

Gradually the room filled and we all sat down. I was surprised as this constricts the diaphragm. Hardly ideal.

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A cleaning lady popped in “is it cold in here? cos the fan’s on, yeah that red light. Press that button if you want it off”.

The lady next to me explained “the boiler broke yesterday”. But the room was so small that it was really warm.

One lady was saying “soprano? sit on that side please”. I am an alto so I was sitting opposite the “enemy”. Sopranos are always more numerous and drown us out. They also get the majority of the tune.

Suddenly a bottle-blonde lady wearing glasses crashed in carrying a massive piece of what looked like metal. She set the keyboard up at the end of the table.

Our choir manager introduced herself. “Sorry if I am patronising” she said, “I last managed a choir about 7 years ago and they were all kids.”

“Do we have any tenors?” None of the three greying men replied. Next to Mr Tweed sat Mr Choirmaster wearing a meticulously ironed black suit and crisp white shirt, with glasses perched on the edge of his nose.

Next to him was Mr Tenor, wearing an imperious expression and sitting bolt upright.

A Scottish lady said “well I’ll just have to be tenor again, like last year”. Jonathan, you’ll have to join me again cos I can’t manage all the low notes”. The bass grumpily agreed.

“Hopefully there’ll be more next week” a lady said, “38 said they were interested but we only have 15 here. Still, that’s a lot more than last year!”orchistra-300x204

“Right has everyone got their orange and green books” The younger manager in the floral summer dress asked. Everyone got their immaculate “Songs for Choir” books out. I was given one by Mr Tenor to share – that hadn’t been on the e-mail.

Suddenly we launched into sight-singing. The petite alto blonde and I were just trying to sing from the same hymn sheet, launching into tunes without a keyboard clue. Us three altos were singing as loudly as possible but we were deafened by the shrill sopranos. We were also singing the wrong notes as neither of us were great at sight-singing. That’s Grade 6 theory and part of the reason I stopped there. We struggled to negotiate the atonal scores of John Rutter. He should have left carols alone.

Mrs Choir Manager said “I can’t play the piano very well so I’m just helping you out with the note bashing”. Later, “oh I can’t play that bit so sing it instead”. At one point Mr Tenor said “oh I have a great example of how this one goes! listen everyone I’ve got a recording of us singing it down the pub”. Mrs Choir Manager tried hard to hide her annoyance as Mr Tenor held his Apple Iphone aloft. The sound was tinny and although we tried to sing along we had to stop after a few bars.

I enjoyed my chaotic choral meeting. If you can hold a tune join one, it’s great fun and a good way to meet people.

Click here to listen to some classic choir carols.

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My First 18-Rated Cinema Experience

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That final scene was hardly worth it. My first 18 film was “Dirty Harry“. Clint Eastwood played a seriously unhinged individual wreaking violent revenge in horrific ways. I still can’t get the scene out of my head where he shoots a guy in each limb from close range.

But for some reason I just couldn’t tear my eyes away.

Even a Certificate-15 that I saw at school at 14 (state school incompetence could be unbelievable) took me weeks to recover from.

“I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” was about a serial-killer wielding a massive hook and you can guess how his victims met their excruciating ends. We have an old house that makes noises at night. It was windy and every creak was the psycho coming up the stairs. Every shadow was his cape. I started screaming and mum embarrassingly complained to the school that I’d lost nights of sleep over a film that I was a whole year too young for. The teacher retorted that “none of the other kids had had a problem with it”. We then watched a horror film at home “Don’t Look Now”, again about a serial-killer (clearly a subject I need to avoid). Once again I spent at least a week of disturbed nights imagining I was next.

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Following this I decided that Certificate 15s had to be vetted first and 18s were definitely off-limits.

Partly to blame for my ridiculously realistic and detailed imagination are my parents, who have never had a television.

I can still remember the euphoria in the house when videos were put onto CDs and we could finally watch them on the computer. For the first time we had access to films outside of the cinema (which we went to about once a year) and friends’ houses. Dad was very much into what I term the “Roald Dahl philosophy” which was that screens killed the imagination (I think he wrote this in one of his autobiographies, which I highly recommend).

This is true. Children growing up today are deprived of the ability to imagine, to “make-believe”. It’s all too easy to dump them in front of a screen and let that do the work. But our favourite time of the day was story-time. Dad would be back from work, we’d get cosy and he would create new and exciting worlds full of weird and wonderful characters with different voices. We used to beg for “one more chapter! just one more!”.

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Copyright Disney/Pixar – This scene in Despicable Me 2 shows a typical night in our family.

I used to have incredibly powerful dreams which felt as if a film had come to life in my head. There I was ducking from the searchlight of a helicopter, dodging bullets whilst escaping enemy spies. I’d wake up with adrenaline and sometimes I’d go back to sleep and see what else happened. I even wrote some of them down.

Anyway, last week my boyfriend came back from work talking about this “Gone Girl” film. Quite a few of his colleagues had been discussing it and he thought it sounded interesting. We looked into it and I realised it was 18-Rated.

My first instinct was to say I wasn’t interested. But I was. I also wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

When we went it was clear that reviews had had a similar effect on the packed audience. That or they’d heard Ben Affleck was naked in it (which definitely would have persuaded me and yes, it is worth watching for “that” shower scene).

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Copyright Fox Movies.  The man behind “Gone Girl” is David Fincher, director of Fight Club which apparently also featured an intricate plot. However I stopped watching it due to the constant violence.

As far as 18’s go Gone Girl wasn’t bad and it was a highly entertaining evening. There was a clear warning about the gruesome bit when a sharp implement was picked up. I looked away but the sound effects were bad enough. So I observed reactions instead. My boyfriend stared wide-eyed at the screen holding his breath, white knuckles clutching the armrest. Everyone else was watching in a similar fashion. I asked him when it was over and thankfully it wasn’t a long scene.

I was still a little traumatised by the thriller aspect of the film the next day, getting flashbacks as my brain processed it. It was a story with lots of twists and turns that made you puzzle about it afterwards. I like features that make you do that. The size of cinema screens really gets you involved too.

Would I see another Certificate-18?

Probably not. I don’t need cheap tactics like blood and gore or god forbid, car chases, to get drawn into a film. I need a clever engaging plot (“Gone Girl” was excellent in this regard), well-developed characters and an interesting script. That’s all.

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