The Final Blog: it’s all over!

This time last year, full of wine and good cheer, I somewhat foolishly made the promise to (by midnight on 31st December 2013) achieve 50 tasks in the year of my 50th birthday. So, with one hour to go until the clock strikes 12, how have I done?

1. Take Italian lessons in readiness for a trip to Montepulciano in May. *DONE
2. Climb to the Whispering gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral. *DONE
3. Take a helicopter ride. (I never quite got my act together on this one)
4. Re-vamp my skin and makeup routines. *DONE
5. Go on a course/lesson to learn how to ride a bike safely. *DONE
6. Volunteer 12 times over the year. * DONE
7. Read ’1984′ by George Orwell. * (Well I’ve been trying for the last 29 years so no surprise that I didn’t manage it this year)
8. Read 50 books and review them on http://www.goodreads.com. *(I read and reviewed 40)
9. Use only cash for one month (bar standing orders and direct debits). *DONE
10. Contact everyone on Christmas card list personally instead of sending a card. Donate money saved to a charity. * DONE
11. Enjoy dinner at Michel Roux’s Le Gavroche. *DONE
12. Go on a London walking tour. *DONE
13. Attend a cake decorating course. * DONE (ish)
14. Send book to publisher! (it’s a terrible book anyway!)
15. Write a travel article and get it published. (Does Trip Advisor count?)
16. Learn to swim a length. *DONE
17. Take an art class. *DONE
18. Take a singing lesson. (Here’s one I regret not having a stab at)
19. Have laser eye surgery. (I made the appointment but completely lost my nerve😦 )
20. Be colour analysed by a professional. *DONE
21. Set up a book club. *DONE
22. Go to see ‘Singalong a Sound of Music’. *DONE
23. Go to see a ballet. *DONE
24. Attend a meditation course/ go on retreat. *DONE
25. Scan all my photos from the last 50 years! (It might help if I knew how to scan!)
26. One night a week without TV. *DONE. – (The easiest task of all)
27. Learn a new word every week and use it. *(Got completely fed up and tongue tied with this one!)
28. Write a will. *DONE
29. Get my teeth whitened. *PUT BRACES ON! (Whitening to follow)
30. Visit the Hindu Temple in Neasden, London *DONE
31. Do something cultural once a month. *DONE
32. Write a blog. *DONE!!!!
33. Do a Race for Life. *DONE
34. See the Northern lights. *DONE
35. Liverpool – Beatle Tour. *DONE
36. Do a walking tour abroad. *DONE
37. Win a competition. (Entering one or two might have helped with this task)
38. Be in the public gallery at a court hearing. *DONE
39. Learn to hoola hoop for a minute. *DONE
40. Visit the Louvre in Paris. *DONE
41. Be in the audience of a TV show *DONE
42. Tour of Grand Central Station, New York (Maybe next year)
43. Learn to perfect a magic trick! *DONE
44. Go on a spontaneous trip with no itinerary. (I regret not doing this. Maybe next year)
45. Listen to a debate at the House of Commons *DONE
46. See a performance at the Minack Theatre in Penzance. *DONE
47. Spend an evening at a comedy club. *DONE
48. Attempt the Telegraph Cryptic Crossword every Saturday * DONE
49. Plan 60 new things to do by the time I’m 60 ( no blog, I promise) (You must be joking!)
50. ????Any suggestions? Something completely spontaneous. I need help with this one please! (Thankfully no one came up with anything!)

I have had an incredible, action packed year. Although I didn’t achieve all 50, I had a good try and had plenty of fun along the way. I have met some wonderful people and seen some fantastic places.

Thank you all for encouraging me to complete the tasks, for joining me in doing them and for reading all about them in this blog.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.

Love,

Joanne xx

Blog Number 41: Visit the Louvre in Paris

The moment I arrived at Gare-Du-Nord station in Paris last weekend, the memories of my last visit to that very same station came flooding back.

It was the summer of 1982, the weather was hot and humid. The heat was overbearing. I was completely broke and hungry as I had spent every penny I had drinking and dancing my way around Europe for several months.

And now I was heading home to mum’s home cooking and a much needed bath. But not just yet! I had missed the last train to the connecting ferry (no Eurostar in those days) and was abandoned penniless in Paris.

So what happened? Well, that’s a story to be shared with you over a bottle of wine in 2014. Let’s make sure we catch up.

This trip? Well, it was lovely but very different. I was lucky enough to stay in a nice hotel, I drank nice French wine and ate gorgeous French food. I visited The Louvre and remembered to bring my magnifying glass to view the famous Mona Lisa!

But I will never forget that first trip and how I managed to arrive back in London full of good food and nice wine. My guardian angel was certainly with me that night!

Blog Number 40: see a performance at the Minack Theatre in Penzance

I can’t quite believe that it has taken me four months to write this blog as it was one of the most enjoyable tasks on the 50by50 list. I had never even heard of the Minack Theatre in Penzance when it was recommended as a task to include by one of my colleagues.

The theatre is open to the elements being set on a slope above a sheer drop into the Atlantic. Its creation was the vision of one woman who virtually built it singlehandedly. She, along with her gardener, cut the granite for the stage and seats by hand from a pile of tumbled boulders. The stones were inched into place and the terraces were in-filled with earth, small stones and pebbles shovelled down from the higher ledges.

I went to see Wuthering Heights and I can tell you that as night fell, the cries of Heathcliffe were all the more haunting against this stunning backdrop.

Blog Number 39: cramming them all in before the End of the year!

Working in a school has its advantages. There are many hidden talents and plenty of great opportunities to learn new things –

Visit the Hindu Temple in Neasden

It was an honour to be welcomed into this beautiful and sacred building on a visit with our Y4 class.

The Temple is a sight to behold and the story of how each individual piece was carefully transported from far off places around the world and assembled together like a complex version of a jigsaw is incredible. This trip to North West London is well worth making.

Go on a cake decorating course

I can now make mince pies courtesy of our school chef, Joe, who was trained at the Ritz. We have hidden talents at our school. It’s not quite a ‘cake decorating course’ but it’s close enough – well I had to stick the stars on top!

Learn a magic trick

Little did I know that my colleague Margaret is a budding ‘Paula Daniels’. She taught me a trick with a piece of string, which I performed for the rest of the staff on our Christmas night out. Apart from the string becoming entangled in my braces, it was worthy of a standing ovation. Where the view that teachers are nerdy individuals who don’t know how to enjoy themselves came from I’ll never know!

Blog Number 38: Set up a Book Club.

As a child, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five was like an extension of my family. I lived through each and every adventure with them and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a new story. I have never lost my love of reading and I like nothing better than to immerse myself in a good book.

When I put this task on the list, I imagined myself discussing the merits of an interesting novel over a glass of wine or two with friends. But when I was asked by one of the Y6 pupils to start up a book club at school, I said yes straight away. Why? Because if I have to listen to one more child talk about how they spend their free time endlessly playing computer games, I will sink into a depression.

Our club meets every week to read and discuss our latest book choice. We have all joined Brent’s amazing new library and the librarian is incredibly knowledgable about children’s novels and what appeals. We can borrow e-books for our kindles or iPads (technology does have its uses!)

I have been reintroduced to the world of children’s fiction and I love it! If you don’t already, please visit your library. If we stop using them they will disappear😦 The books are free so all we need is our imagination.

Rant over!😉😉

My book of the year? ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes. A truly brilliant read!

Blog Number 37: Do something cultural once a month

August – An interesting article was written in the Telegraph entitled ‘Top 50 tell-tale signs of aging revealed’. Here’s the link –

50 tell-tale signs of aging

I can’t quite believe it but I did number 48 in August. I won’t let slip how many others I can say ‘yes’ to. It’s depressing!

September – I had never eaten tasted sushi let alone made it so this class was a complete step into the unknown. At the end of two entertaining hours, I could not only make it but I could eat it with chopsticks! Details of the classes can be found at http://makikosano.co.uk and are great fun.

A special thank you to my friend Maria who treated me for my (never-ending) birthday.

20131229-190538.jpg

October – I attended a beautiful candlelit Vivaldi Concert in St Martins in the Fields. The setting was beautiful and the music stunning but I was a little put off by the lady next to me who kept asking where Frankie Valli was… 😉

November – I’ve forgotten what I did. Er, isn’t that number 23 in the Telegraph article?

December – I remember visiting Kew a Gardens when it was a penny to get in. Although inflation seems to have hit it big time (by my calculations – 135,000 per cent in less than 40 years), today’s entrance fee is worth every penny! I visited the Christmas market and walked the mile-long illuminated trail, drank mulled wine and ate mince pies. A truly lovely start to the Christmas festivities. A huge thank you to my friend Ewa who arranged this.

(By the way, a little Christmas brain teaser – what is the current entrance fee?)

Blog Number 36: something cultural for July (a very late blog!)

The celebration of my birthday continued well on to the end of the month when I returned to my Irish roots and visited Inchydoney Lodge & Spa in Cork, Ireland. This fantastic hotel caters for angels and sinners alike. The clean-living hotel and spa is linked (by a dimly lit, highly secretive corridor) to a let it all hang loose, drink and eat as much as you want pub!

When you feel like breaking out of the calorie counting, exercise busting spa, you can sneak furtively along through the corridor to order your devilish delights. Mine’s a pint of the black stuff. So where’s the culture I hear you ask? That comes courtesy of Dave the guitarist who entertains the crowd with his endless repertoire of a mix of Irish cultural music and pop songs. At about 10pm each night, the tables are pushed back and the inner disco diva in you is brought alive. Forget the lettuce leaves and calorie counting- there’s no better way to bust the flab than this, I promise you.

A huge belated thanks to the 11 truly fabulous friends who joined me on this trip. It wouldn’t have been half as much fun without you🙂

Blog Number 35: Use only cash for one month

AN APOLOGETIC WARNING: There may be a flurry of emails coming through. My 50by50 year is almost up and I need to get blogging!

Well, I’m almost there. I have resisted the urge to burn the plastic this month (what a month to choose!) My credit card company has phoned me twice in a panic to check that I’m still alive but there is not a smidgen of red to be found in my bank statement and for once I have money left over at the end of the month.

I did all my online shopping in November so Christmas shopping was a breeze this year. So what was the hardest thing about this task? It was definitely handing over £50+ cash every ten days or so for petrol. I can’t eat it, wear it or enjoy it so what a waste of my hard earned money. Ah, perhaps now’s the time to dust off my bike and make use of my new found cycling skills…

NB: This was a very useful task and one I’ll try to continue. It has certainly made me think twice about whether or not I need that ‘must have’ pair of shoes/dress/top… It’s always harder to hand over hard earned cash than a piece of plastic. Everyone should try it for at least a month. You’ll be surprised at how much money you save.