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.
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
- Merino base layers – upper and lower body
- Trail trousers
- Outer socks
- Sock liners
- Thermal gloves
- Glove liners
- Buff/neck scarf
- 120L pulk bag
- External charger
- Spare batteries
- Dry bags (multiple)
- Walking poles (buy in Rovaniemi)
- Drinking bottle
- Nalgene bottle for night
- First aid kit
- Wash bag/towel/toothpaste/baby wipes
- Hot packs (heat activated hand warmers)
- 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