Hello me. Remember me?

I’ve just had a chance encounter with myself from 8 months ago. 

Today being 1st January, I woke up once again resolving to keep a diary.

I’ve been here before. In 1989 my granny gave me a pretty notebook for Christmas and I immediately started using it as a diary ‘dedicated to my first grandchild’. It was supposed to be a bit of social history, documenting the life of a 12 year old girl growing up in Ipswich in the 1990s. Unfortunately for my first-born grandchild, the life of that 12 year old growing up in Ipswich in the 1990s was mind-numbingly dull. Even I knew it. By 3rd January, I had ‘decided to write shorter accounts of the days, as I think it is boring and I don’t have enough time’. Didn’t stop me going on to describe in riveting detail how the whole family (except for dad) decided to go to Norwich for the day and I got a shirt and a belt, both from Next. 

As I’ve got older, I’ve turned to diary writing as a way to capture my thoughts and feelings rather than describing day-to-day events. The wretchedness of unrequited teenage love (fills a whole book). My gap year (fills about 2 pages). The wonder of pregnancy. The ups and downs of motherhood. So why not do the same for the world we’re living in right now? We keep being told we’re living in unprecedented times, so it might be useful to record my personal response to all this strangeness. 

Yes, I thought, I shall do this. And I shall start today. So I picked up a small black notebook I found in my bedside table and opened it, ready to pen my first profound words of 2021. 

What I found was evidence of my startling lack of originality. Because it turns out I had this bright idea already, back in April…


CORONAVIRUS DIARY

Thursday 30th April 2020

Today I shed my first tears of lockdown. In some ways I’m pleased it’s taken this long. 6, 7 weeks I think it’s been now. For the most part we’ve coped really well. The odd flared temper, girls having some emotional ups and downs, days when we feel more cross and snappy than others, sure, but basically doing alright. The girls are OK. Work is OK. The house is OK. Our health is OK. Our whole life is OK – better than OK in so many ways. But today I was not OK.

It started yesterday when I felt the panic rising. I’d spent too much of Monday and Tuesday nipping away from my desk to help the girls with their school work. I loved overseeing what they were doing and making sure they had plenty of structure and direction. We made 3D hand drawings together. I gave them detailed lesson plans and timings to work through. I broke off to explain an assignment or let them explain their work to me. All the things I want to be doing. But the price of that is falling behind on my own work. And so, as today’s deadlines loomed, I ran out of energy to do another 2 hours of lesson planning late into the evening. Another day would go by with the girls not completing their daily Powerpoint – not in itself so important, except they feel lost and aimless and confused on days when they’re left to fend for themselves. And so I worried and didn’t get enough sleep. When I woke up this morning I felt sluggish and low. Knowing I should get up and go for a run, but barely able to drag myself out of bed. 

By 8.30am it had become apparent that my phone had got into the washing machine with the bedsheets. I didn’t know how to drain the machine to open it. Isla and Rory came to help and ask questions I couldn’t answer. Irritation rising. The washing machine wouldn’t turn back on at all. Phone stuck inside. Washing machine dead. Fretfulness rising. I barked at Isla and told her I didn’t want her there. Not cruelly, but bluntly. It will have hurt her. I did eventually get the phone out, but that was dead too. Without any grace, I stomped about trying to find out how to fix it. An earrings stem bent and broke when I tried using it to open the phone’s battery part. The children squabbled while I tried to research answers online. Fury rising. “I’m going to scream, I’m going to scream!” I had a strong impulse to get up, go out and take an enormously long walk. But no, I had deadlines to meet. I went to my desk, took a deep breath and plunged in. The girls were left to work out what to do that day, and within minutes I could hear them scrapping again.

Two hours later I’d had enough. I needed fresh air and a change of scene, so Isla and I cycled to the village to post a birthday card. That was lovely actually. An easy ride on quiet roads, the earth and trees pungent with rain on parched leaves. But before long we were back and working.

By 3.30 my articles were written and submitted and I’d had a good meeting about some website copy and wireframes. That should have given me a sense of relief and unburdening, but a work email from earlier that day was weighing on me. Advance warning of tough times ahead. An acknowledgement that it would be tough for staff with families. But there won’t be any specific news until Monday. Will they furlough me? Make me redundant? Cut my hours or my pay? In lots of ways I would happily take furlough. Released from this constant juggle between being a worker, a parent and a teacher. I’d have time to devote to the girls, the garden and the house. And to myself. But faced with the possibility of being so dispensible, I felt pretty devastated. So the anxiety hovered. When Rory came in to check on me he found me searching for a new phone online and getting nowhere. He put his hands on my sagging shoulders and rested his head on top of mine. That was it. The floodgates opened. All my strength and pride and resilience collapsed and poured out. I was not OK. 

Half an hour later, the girls were at supper, a plate of chicken goujons, waffles and baked beans unceremoniously plonked in front of them, and I was on a Zoom call with J and B, large glass of wine in hand. I’m not good at admitting weakness or failure, and I don’t like oversharing my negative feelings, but it was so good to chat it all out with those wonderful women, never feeling judged, only supported, understood and encouraged.

Tomorrow will be a better day. Being Friday, I will be entirely at the beck and call of the girls. We will do school work together. I will not attempt to do that while also cleaning the kitchen or checking work emails. I will play with them, go outside with them, do their piano practice with them. I will cuddle them, watch them, laugh with them, listen to them, admire and adore them. And I will be very much OK again.


The funny thing is, I had completely forgotten about that episode until I read about it. There could be several reasons for it not standing out in the memory. One being that it turned out not to be an isolated event. As we’ve stumbled through this pandemic, I’ve had other, much more spectacular crashes, collapses and crises of confidence than this wobble. 

But I also like to think I forgot about it because I had written it down.

At the outset, I was clearly giving myself a fairly hard time, having set myself some unattainable standards and berating myself for malfunctions outside my control. But look – even in the space of 6½ scrawled pages, which must have taken no more than 15 minutes to write, I progressed from morose self-flagellation to Annie-esque optimism. 

I can’t remember if the sun did indeed come out tomorrow. The fact is, I didn’t write an entry for Friday 1stMay, or any day after that. My entire CORONAVIRUS DIARY consists of that one entry. But I take solace from that. The diary had served its first purpose.

I say first purpose because lots of people will tell you that the writing of the diary is the therapeutic bit – offloading it, purging the bad stuff, letting confused thoughts coalesce, giving shape to muddled ideas. 

But I’m starting to think that the real therapy – a diary’s second purpose – is in discovering it later down the line. Reading your own thoughts back to yourself. Reacquainting yourself with the struggles and the triumphs as you experienced them in those moments. Observing yourself from a distance. And in doing so, getting to know yourself just a little better. 

I reckon (having considered this for at least half an hour) that there are two rules to making this work. 

Rule 1: Never write for anyone but yourself. Not future grandchildren, not readers of a blog. To be able to read an old diary without cringing to death, you need to write completely unselfconsciously. This is especially good news for anyone reading this. I’ll continue with my intermittent curative diary writing, but I won’t be publishing any more entries on here. 

Rule two: Write as infrequently and irregularly as possible, adding an entry only when you’re moved to and not because it’s a daily discipline. It’s so much more fun to chance upon a journal you had forgotten all about. And occasionally, something you wrote a long time ago might just surprise you. 

5th January 1990 

In the afternoon something sad hung over me like a big black cloud. I don’t know why it was. But there’s only one way to get it out of your system. Write down exactly how you’re feeling, read it, take 3 deep breaths, smile and go and have a chat with someone, even if it’s only with your reflection.

31 years later, it looks like I might be about to take my own advice.

After the Arctic, the Beast from the East

The following statement will do absolutely nothing for my street credibility, but here it comes: I like going to church.

Not any old church of course. I like going to aesthetically pleasing church with soaring Gothic vaults, stained glass windows and lots of candles. Where the clergy wear glittering robes and move from A to B in a procession, ideally featuring incense. I like going to church when its choir sings soul-stirring anthems with scrunchy chords and old-fashioned hymns with descants. I like church with coffee in the hall afterwards where nice people talk to other nice people wearing a similar ensemble of corduroy trousers and beige knitwear.

It must be my Anglo-Catholic upbringing. (You can take the vicar’s daughter out of church, etc.)

I suppose the same goes for the Church itself. It can easily get complacent. Turn inwards not outwards. Settle into a pattern that’s all very cosy and familiar.

But then a few weeks ago, the Beast from the East came along and kicked the church I go to into a far less comfortable zone.

Out of the cold…

There’s nothing like a distinctly challenging night in the Arctic to change the way you look at people sleeping rough. (I say ‘sleeping rough’ deliberately, rather than ‘sleeping on the street’ or ‘homeless’. Sleeping rough doesn’t disguise the fact that it’s horrible. It might equally be called sleeping cold, or sleeping scared. If you can get to sleep at all.)

Like most people, I don’t relish the thought of anyone suffering a night on the streets in any circumstances, never mind sub-zero temperatures. But now the horror is a little more vivid. It was bad enough for me when I was wrapped in the security of being amongst friends and trained guides, and the comfort of knowing that I only had to get through that one night and the ordeal would be over. So when the Beast loomed, I couldn’t help thinking of all those rough sleepers I see in Edinburgh’s west end and wondering what would become of them.

I wondered, but I did nothing.

But St John’s Church on Princes St did.

In response to the extreme weather, the clergy decided to open the doors round the clock for anyone – homeless, hungry or stranded – to come in, help themselves to a simple meal and a warm brew, and find a place to sleep.

The call went out and volunteers came from charities, social enterprises and the church congregation itself. Local businesses donated food. Bundles of warm clothes appeared at the church door.

One evening I dropped by for a meeting and saw what was going on. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since.

… and into the warm

I was greeted at the door by one of the volunteers from a nearby kirk. Dressed in bright colours and a broad smile, she joked about her “various mental health problems” in a way only someone with various mental health problems can, before peeling off down the south aisle singing, “If you’re happy and you know it, thank your meds…”

I wandered on up the nave. In the low light of the church there was a hum of activity. It was warm. It was calm. A lady was serving food and drinks from a table in the back corner. There was a rail of jackets and jumpers that anyone could help themselves to. Small groups huddled in pews all around the church, clutching cups of warm soup. Church pews aren’t very well suited to sitting and conversing, so people sat in contorted positions to talk to each other over the wooden barriers.

Most of them were men under 40. There was a handful of women.

Sleeping bags had been laid out on the carpets at the front of the church, in the children’s corner and in the chapel. The long cushions from the communion rail were being used as mattresses in whatever space people could find.

I stepped into the sanctuary. One man was sitting on the steps to the pulpit, head bowed. Another was sitting in the choir stalls, staring up at the vast organ pipes, lost in his own world. I don’t know if he was having a moment of spiritual enlightenment or in a drunken stupor. The thing is, it didn’t matter. This was his home for the night and nobody was judging.

A man staggered down from the high altar shouting something incoherent. He wasn’t angry, he was just shouting. Everyone ignored him.

No part of the church was out of bounds. There was no sense that anyone could come in as long as they tucked themselves away in a corner. It was as much their church as anyone’s, and they were asked to make themselves at home. So they did.

When it was time for a church service, nothing changed. During choral evensong on Sunday night, the congregation doubled as the usual church-goers joined the homeless community. Prayers were intoned. The congregation mumbled along. Some of the guests joined in, others moseyed around with cups of chicken broth. The choir sang the regular canticles, responses and anthem to a harmony of snores and random yelps. They sang the Magnificat: “He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away.”

The uncomfortable truth

I had wondered, but I had done nothing – paralysed by indecision and other excuses. So now all I can do is tell the story of what I saw that week, and hope it reminds people that churches can do very real, courageous and important things.

I was humbled and awed by the speed with which the church responded to that crisis. No creeping decision by committee, no bureaucratic implementation process. Just a human response to need.

They could, so they did.

The life of St John’s looked very big that week. I’ve never been prouder of the place I go to church – however uncool that makes me sound.

 

The crushing disappointment of being right

I always said I didn’t like camping. Not for a summer holiday. Not at a music festival. Not even in my back garden. The mere thought of that small, enclosed space was enough to make me shudder. So when I did finally go camping, on a frozen lake in -34°C, it should have come as no surprise that things didn’t go too well.

Here’s what happened.

PART 1: TREK

Day 1 of our Arctic trek could not have been more glorious. At 9am, rigged up with harnesses, pulks and walking poles, hand warmers in our mitts and a spring in our step, we walked from our hotel down to the frozen Ounasjoki river. The sun was coming up and the sky was blue and clear. Not a breath of wind. It was bloody cold, but as we were marching at a decent pace I soon started to feel the warmth in my core working its way out to my extremities.

Everything was covered in snow. As the sun lifted, the landscape glistened as though laced with tiny crystals. The wide river was lined on both sides with delicate snow-covered birch trees, the minimalism punctuated by the occasional wooden summer house; daubs of falu red, ochre and turquoise on the otherwise white canvas.

We strode along this river for 13km, walking side by side and chatting amiably. Dry snow underfoot made the going quite easy. The pulks slid along behind us and we quickly forgot they were even there. Every hour or so we stopped to rehydrate and grab a handful of snacks. The men peed at the side of the track. The women looked away, but enviously. That was a hurdle we too would have to face before too long…

Just as the river setting might have started to get a little predictable, we turned off to join a steep path into the woods. The pulks were suddenly weighty behind us, but the scenery was so picturesque that we didn’t care. We passed through a silent village where the roofs were iced a metre thick, then on up through a forest of fir trees laden and drooping with heavy clumps of snow. At the crest of each incline, we were rewarded with the sight of the low sun slanting across unspoilt quilts of white, making the trees and even the air itself sparkle.

snowscape

On we ploughed, delighting in the dazzling views. The going became trickier as we descended the wooded hillside, the track only as wide as our pulks with deep, soft drifts on either side – about thigh deep, as I found out pretty quickly when I stepped off the path. No matter, the snow was dry and brushed straight off. Here the trail undulated through the sapling firs, so we held the fronts of our pulks to navigate the steep drops while pushing through low branches poised to pour their snowy load on the unsuspecting trekker.

Eventually we emerged onto lake Sinettäjärvi – the home straight, just 8km to go. We had walked so well as a group that we’d made it to this point in record time. Legs were tired, but spirits were high. I know mine were.

As the setting sun turned the sky purple and pink before dipping to indigo, we pressed on until we saw the light of a campfire flickering within a clearing on the wooded shore. On the frozen lake itself, a row of tiny tents.

PART 2: CAMP

“Dump your pulk, grab your down jacket, spork and mug and get yourself warm by the fire!” came the instruction, and who were we to argue. Soup and stew were served. We sat around the roaring flames recounting our favourite parts of the day, with much patting on backs for such a well-walked trek.

By about 9.30pm we were ready to turn in. And this must be where something went awry for me. We had already inflated our roll mats and shaken out our sleeping bags. Nobody had more extreme-rated kit than me – thanks to Fi who had lent me her top dollar RAB expedition sleeping bag and down jacket. So, as bitterly cold as it was on the lake, all I had to do was get into the sleeping bag as quickly as possible and all would be fine.

tents on the frozen lake

The trick with bedtime, when you’re camping in severely low temperatures, is to get into your sleeping bag while your body is warm. It’s a total faff, especially when you have little experience of getting in and out of tents. And it’s dark. And your headtorch has suddenly decided to die.

You have to half climb into the tent, then, with your feet still outside, take off your walking boots, clean the snow off them, put them into a dry bag, and bring them into your sleeping bag with you so they don’t freeze overnight. Oh, and you’ll also need your gloves, clothes you might want to put on during the night or the following morning, and extra foot and hand warmers tucked into socks and pockets. Quickly zip up the tent. Then shuggle yourself into the sleeping bag, bring the hood up over your head (with hat), and tighten the cords until there’s just a tiny hole round your face. Then go to sleep.

Except I didn’t go to sleep.

Whether I spent too long dealing with my boots while the tent was open, or I wasn’t warm enough to start with, or I just have terrible circulation, I don’t know. But after three hours of wriggling my fingers and toes, with uncontrollable shivers spreading through my body, I began to feel sick. I realised I needed to get myself warm again, which meant climbing out of this icy cocoon, fumbling in the dark to find my boots and jacket, then stumbling back up to camp to try and rekindle the fire.

This I did at 1.30am, along with another trekker who was suffering from the cold. Thankfully Les, Rick, Jo and Neil (our brilliant trekking guides) came to our aid. They soon had a roaring blaze going and were enquiring into my exact symptoms. They plied me with tepid sweet tea – possibly the most disgusting yet welcome drink to ever pass my lips.

At 3.30am they checked my feet for frost nip and gave me the all-clear.

At 4am they layered me up with extra insulation and took me down to the tent. Now I was wearing base layers top and bottom, a fleece, a trekking jacket, a second pair of thick leggings, insulated slippers, a hat and my RAB expedition down jacket, with hand warmers tucked in every pocket. Jo bundled me into the sleeping bag with my boots, then zipped up the tent.

I had never felt so comfortable, warm and cosy. I shut my eyes and waited for sleep.

But instead of sleep, I got heart palpitations. My pulse was racing, like the beginning of a panic attack. Then the shivers began again. Numbness spread from my right hip to my foot. I bashed at the leg to get the blood moving. I bashed so hard I found a whopping bruise there the following day, but I hadn’t felt a thing at the time.

Sleep never came.

I resisted as long as I could, then reluctantly heaved myself once again from the tent and returned to the camp fire. The worst of it was having to wake the guides only a couple of hours since I’d last left them. They too had to rise and dress carefully, forcing themselves quickly out of sleep and into warmth. I felt so guilty.

I saw them conferring in a huddle and knew what was coming. With no sleep and even a mild risk that I could develop hypothermia, I would have to be taken off trail. “Extricated” they call it.

I was devastated.

I gave Sarah a hug, failing to fight the tears as I thought of her continuing this adventure without me. Then I left.

PART 3: FINISH

Extrication didn’t come without some positives. The crazed snowmobile ride up a steep wooded hillside, ducking under branches and clinging on for dear life was actually a highlight of the whole trip. As was the warm shower that followed. And the relief of knowing I wouldn’t have to face another night in a tent.

But mostly I felt such a failure.

I thought of all those people at home wishing me luck, willing me on and longing to hear how it went. What will I say?

I thought of all that training and planning and prepping. For what? I always thought this challenge would be tough, but I didn’t think I’d ever fail to complete it. And suddenly there I was back in the hotel in Rovaniemi without so much as a blister or a twinged muscle.

I thought of all the others soldiering on out there, completing the trek. How will I face them? The next day, those of us who had left the trek early (I was not alone) would take a taxi up to the Arctic Snow Hotel, stride out across the lake to meet our intrepid friends and walk the last half mile with them to the finish line. For that, I would have to summon a very different kind of courage, to bury my humiliation and enjoy everyone’s elation – graciously celebrating the achievement I had so desperately wanted for myself.

That experience was actually far more joyous than I had anticipated. Seeing Sarah staggering towards me through the snow was an amazing moment, and I felt genuine pride, delight and awe in seeing her cross the line. But I can’t say it wasn’t tinged with envy.

CHAS finnish line.JPG

I knew I should console myself that it wasn’t my fault; that no amount of training could have prepared my body for that cold; that I could not have brought better kit (other than that ruddy headtorch); that this challenge was always about taking myself outside my comfort zone, whether or not I completed it, and that I had done. But in the immediate aftermath, none of that felt like any consolation at all.

The only consolation is that I was right all along: I do not do camping.

Can’t walk now, I’ve got a list to write

If you’ve ever dipped into the pages of Who’s Who, you may know that each eminent person featured gets to state their recreations alongside their professional or social importance. My grandfather (a diplomat) put ‘mending things’ amongst his hobbies. My dad (cathedral dean) has ‘playing the piano and looking out of the window’. Barry Humphries (no relation, but it’s my favourite one) says: ‘kissing, inventing Australia, painting beautifully.’

Should my life ever be big enough to warrant an entry in Who’s Who, I think my recreations might have to include ‘writing lists’.

Because I do love a list.

Crossing off
A tent is not all we share: spotted in the downstairs loo of my fellow trekker Sarah (aussieinthearctic.com)

There are, of course, different types of list. There are the ones that read like collections, inventories or compilations. I keep a few like that. You know, my top ten favourite films, books worth reading, all the boys I’ve ever kissed.

The lists I really like, though, are the type where you can tick items off. Planning lists. Lists of intentions. To-do lists.

One of the best things about preparing for this trek is that I’m surrounded by lists. Checklists, kit lists, shopping lists. Lists of things I need to do, stuff I need to buy, questions I need to ask.

So many lists, in fact, that I’ve had to employ my very best list management techniques to keep me right. In case you’re not versed in superior list writing, I’ll quickly share some of my personal expertise in this area. It’s pretty useful.

The What’s What of list writing
Idealists: lists that begin with one item that’s easy to complete. There’s nothing more discouraging than a great long list with nothing ticked off. On a really busy day, start your list with ‘have a shower’ or ‘write a list’. Getting that first task ticked off will give you a disproportionate sense of achievement.
(Also, there’s nothing wrong with retro-listing: adding an item to your list after you’ve actually done it, then ticking it straight off. In my book, this is another excellent morale-boosting technique.)
Cyclists: also known as rolling lists. This method involves starting a new list every day and rolling over any uncompleted tasks (of which there are usually several) onto the new list. Some of these tasks may be rolled over for weeks or even months. I have a to-do list that has featured ‘get leaky shower head fixed’ since July.
Environmentalists: Tasks and reminders scrawled on recycled scraps of paper / old envelopes / the backs of boring bank letters. Positively encouraged if you’re employing the cyclist method above.
Realists: proper handwritten lists, as opposed to digital ones. I have tried keeping a few lists on my phone, but as soon as I’ve done something it gets deleted. And then I can’t see the thing I’ve done. This is deeply unsatisfactory. The true joy of list-making is seeing what you’ve crossed off, not all the stuff you’ve still got to do.
Vocalists: memos made with the help of an Echo or similar. Doomed to failure, as exemplified by this attempt made earlier today:
Me: Alexa, make a to-do list.
Alexa: What’s the to-do?
Me: Phone the plumber.
Alexa: I’ve added bread to your shopping list.
Me: Add phone plumber to my to-do list.
Alexa: The time is 2.03pm.
Pointillists: lists that feature bullet points rather than numbers. I prefer bullets as they don’t denote priority, so I can write down and tick off my tasks in any old order. They also look prettier.
Mentalists: memorised lists. Completely useless. What were you thinking?

 

But I have digressed. Let’s look at the most pressing lists I have on the go right now and see how I’m getting on. (Bearing in mind that I leave for Finland in 26 days.)

Today’s to-do list
  • Eat breakfast
  • Buy Arctic kit (see separate kit list below)
  • Phone opticians: can I wear contact lenses in the Arctic without them freezing to my eyeballs?
  • Phone plumber
  • Prune buddleia
  • Iron school uniforms
  • Go on long walk
  • Promote justgiving page (only £117 needed to hit fundraising target)
  • Publish blog post about lists
The kit list
  • Sleeping bag rated to -40°C (extreme)
  • Roll mat
  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Trekking jacket
  • Micro-fleece
  • Merino base layers – upper and lower body
  • Trail trousers
  • Boots
  • Outer socks
  • Sock liners
  • Thermal gloves
  • Glove liners
  • Hat
  • Buff/neck scarf
  • 120L pulk bag
  • Goggles
  • Sunglasses
  • External charger
  • Headtorch
  • Spare batteries
  • Dry bags (multiple)
  • Walking poles (buy in Rovaniemi)
  • Drinking bottle
  • Nalgene bottle for night
  • Spork/spoon
  • First aid kit
  • Wash bag/towel/toothpaste/baby wipes
  • Hot packs (heat activated hand warmers)
  • Mug
  • Dental floss (acts as string for emergency repairs, spare boot laces etc)
  • Loo brush (for scraping snow off boots before taking them into tent)
  • Snacks (nuts, dried fruit, Haribo)
The bucket list

I suppose the ultimate to-do list is a bucket list.

I’ve never had a bucket list. I wonder why not. Do I think I’ve done everything I ever wanted to? (Spawned two perfect children, swum with dolphins, met the Queen; what else is there?) Is it a lack of curiosity about the world and all the experiences it has to offer? Have I got so stuck in my own little rut I’ve forgotten to dream? Or do I have dreams, but am confidently assuming I will get round to fulfilling them one day, just not now?

Some people write a bucket list when they lose someone close, too young, too suddenly, and they are filled with an urgent desire to make the most of their time on this earth. And they’re right. Why wait? Why assume I’ll be here to enjoy a long, adventure-filled retirement?

I’m going to stop being so complacent. I’m going to start a bucket list. And, according to the rules of good list making, I’ll start it off with a couple of items I have high hopes of ticking off before too long.

It’s by no means finished, but here’s how it’s shaping up so far:

  • Trek across the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland.
  • Camp under the Northern Lights.
  • Drive a train.
  • Go to Jerusalem.
  • Write a novel. (Only the writing of it – no need to get it published.)
  • Dance a tango in Buenos Aires.
  • Keep an orchid alive for more than 3 weeks.

Funnily enough, I’m not tempted to add ‘make a million’, ‘become an establishment figure’ or ‘Get into Who’s Who’ to that list.

I have a feeling my life will be perfectly big enough if I just fill it with small but wonderful things. (Here’s looking at you, kids.)

If you’d like to, you can support me by donating to CHAS via my justgiving page 

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