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 

Change is afoot

“How’s the training going?”
If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that, I’d have raised a fairly hefty sum for CHAS by now. (Justgiving page here if you’re interested.)
Well… I’ve managed a total of three 10+ mile walks since January. I’ve also printed off and thumbed through the 39 page training schedule provided by Breaking Strain Events. Clearly I am not remotely ready for this Arctic trek. But with just over four months to go, I’m sensing a shift in momentum.

The other week, for example, I bit the bullet and went to buy a pair of high performance trekking boots. This turned out to be an unexpectedly emotional experience.

I should probably point out that I am not and never have been a shoe fanatic. I’m just not that into them. From the last 40 years, I can count on one foot the shoes that have lingered in the memory.

There were the sky blue Clarks with a single bar across the ankle. They were the first pair I had without a T-bar, and were so pretty they required me to stare at my feet as I walked.

And the burgundy patent party shoes with cut away sides. I was no 7 year old fashionista, but even I knew that shoes with no sides was completely brilliant.

And that was it really for the next 24 years, until the day Rory and I got engaged. (Exactly 10 years ago today as it happens.)

We were holidaying in Australia and had had a rare tiff about nothing much, so I’d hopped huffily onto the boat from Manley to downtown Sydney to make myself feel better with some retail therapy. I spotted a pair of totally impractical, off-white, suede high heels with diamante-encrusted bows, tried them on, asked the price, calculated the exchange rate the wrong way and discovered too late that I’d spent £250 on them instead of £75. Ouch.

Later, after Rory had proposed to me by the opera house, overlooking the glittering harbour (the romantic devil), those ridiculously expensive shoes took on an extra significance. I still have them somewhere, battered, scuffed and unwearable. They are the only shoes I have ever been remotely sentimental about.

Until now.

What happened in Go Outdoors

Go Outdoors in Edinburgh has an entire wall of serious hiking shoes, boots and trainers. There must be about 50 of them, all pointing northwards like an indomitable right-footed army. To someone like me, this wall is as alien and forbidding as the Eiger, but as my eyes trailed wildly across it I found myself thinking: somewhere in this crowded ballroom is the chosen pair; the boots that will accompany me to the Arctic.

It occurred to me that I was going to form a bond with one (or presumably two) of these sturdy, graceless boots. They would be my future training buddies. My companions on this trek of a lifetime. My sole mates. (Oh come on, you have to allow me one corny pun per post.)

After several fittings and with the advice of the very helpful man in Go Outdoors, I eventually settled on a pair of Mammut Ayako High GTX®. Whatever that means. The product literature tells me that I have opted for supreme functionality, with Base Fit®, Goretex membrane, Feetmap climate regulation, motion control, heel support, 3-zone lacing, Vibram Mulaz outsole and integrated Nespresso machine with milk frother.

They’re going to keep my feet comfy and dry, basically. They’re also a rather fetching shade of aquamarine with magenta detailing. Ooooh.

These boots were made for walking

For the first week, the Mammuts stayed in their box. I’d pop open the lid occasionally and peek at them. Unworn, unsullied, they looked so nice. But deep down I knew these boots had a greater purpose than looking pristine in their packaging. So out they came: time for us to get to know each other.

IMG_4021
Unworn, unsullied, they look so nice.

For our first outing I took my boots to the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy. (While I admired saintly faces bathed in divine light, my boots preferred the grimy, bulbous toes of dying martyrs.)

Then my boots took me for a muddy walk along the Rocheid Path beside the Water of Leith. Better, thought the Mammuts. But hardly arduous.

Our next excursion will be this weekend’s 30K training walk in Glen Tress with an overnight camp. I’m actually looking forward to it. In fact, I’m hoping for awful weather and punishing terrain so I can put these bad boys to the test. And that’s not something I ever expected to say.

So yes, my friends, change is afoot. Just look at my feet.

 

I am taking on this Arctic challenge in aid of Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS). If you’d like to donate to this amazing charity, you can do so on my justgiving page. Thank you!

I’m going on an Arctic trek. Sorry, what?

You heard me. An Arctic trek.

I don’t, as a rule, do the camping thing.

I don’t take much exercise.

I don’t particularly like the cold.

So what could possibly go wrong on a 3 day, 50 mile trek into the Arctic Circle, dragging a pulk through snow and ice and sleeping under canvas in -30°?

I’ve decided the only way to confront this impending disaster is to blog my way through it. Because if I’m actually going to make this crazy journey, you (dear reader) can jolly well come with me.

 

P.S. The lovely illustrations you will see on this blog are by Kayleigh McCallum 

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑