The List: Number 118 – Ride a Camel

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While I was in Dahab, in Egypt, I booked a Bedouin trip into the local mountains. There was a BBQ (BEST mountain food I’d ever eaten, hands down), and we climbed the peaks and watched the stars. And we rode in on Camels.

Now, let me tell you that every rumor that you have heard about camels being grumpy is true. They are like grumpy, horrible old men that smell bad and want to be somewhere else. Anywhere else.

They don’t like being patted. They don’t like carrying people. They don’t like being told where to go, and definitely don’t like being told that they have to stop eating that garbage to walk up a hill with me on it’s back. Otherwise they were perfectly darling. Except that it was uncomfortable. Not like riding a horse at all. Their gait was strange, and watching them unfold as they stood up made them seem like Mother Nature’s transformers.

Still, I did. Consider 118 Done!

The List: Number 114 – See Monet’s Water Lillies in person.

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I’m not an art buff, and I don’t know much about art history, either. What I knew about Monet’s Water Lillies was that he painted many gorgeous oil paintings of a water lilly pond in his garden. I loved the idea of someone exploring the same subject over and over again, and these are meant to be amazing. I knew that in Paris the Musée de l’Orangerie has on display some of the larger murals of the series. I had planned to cross this off there, in Paris.

Instead I stumbled across one rather blindly at the Tate Modern here in London. My mind was quite blown, and I hadn’t quite realised how many of these there were. In the last thirty years of his life, Monet painted approximately 250 Water Lillies paintings. And they are on display in museums all over the place.

I was shocked to come across the one that I did, and I wasn’t quite sure I was seeing what I thought I was. The little placard on the side removed any ambiguity. I sat, and I admired for a good long while. Taking the time to look, and think. To wonder.

It was a pretty profound moment for me. Sometimes I put things on The List and hope that they will be great. That I’ll get what I want out of them, hope that they will in some way enrich my life, provide perspective, and growth. Make me a better person. A more interesting person. I wasn’t sure that seeing a painting would do that, except that it did. I can’t (and won’t try) to explain how, but it did.

Number 114 on The List, done.

The List: Number 94 – Grow Strawberries

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I spent one afternoon in the sun digging up a patch, mixing in fertiliser, putting plants in the ground, getting my knees dirty. And a few months later, with diligent watering and an awful lot of waiting + dancing around in the garden I was rewarded with strawberries.



I can’t even begin to explain the satisfaction and delight I got out of a growing these.

So yes, Number 94 on The List, Done!

The List: Number 15 – Go to a Music Festival in Europe. One of those ones where you have to wear gumboots.

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Over the long weekend just gone, I took an extra two days and went to The Reading Fest. (Pronounced “Redding”). The line up? Epic. The White Lies. Frank Turner. Offspring. The Strokes. Jimmy Eat World. Muse. My Chemical Romance. Friendly Fires. Taking Back Sunday. The Naked + Famous. The Streets. Panic! At the Disco. Ed Sheeran. And more. So so so many more. I was amped, and very much looking forward to it.

But, it was my first festival and I had no idea what to expect. I was a little naive to say the least.

I brought a 40L pack from the interwebs (40L ended up being plenty, despite all my fears and trepidations that’d I’d over pack + not be able to carry it or worse, not have enough space). I went a fifth in for some tents, and brought myself a sleeping bag + a stretcher. And early (very early, considering I’d made the mistake of hitting up Angel the night before. I didn’t even make it back to my own bed) I showed up with all my gear hungover but enthusiastic to the buses outside Embankment. Taking the Coach? Best idea ever. Plenty of time for sleeping, and, being dropped off at the gate, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost. Brilliant.

The rest of the day was to getting ourselves sorted with wristbands (they stamp metal things on it so you can’t get it off again) and setting up camp in our little corner of tent city. I’d brought a flag and everything. Life was great! The grass was still green, our gummies were still clean, and it hadn’t started raining yet. We found friends of friends who had a gazebo, a camp fire and shared their strongbow with us. The Glory Hole (the toilets. A gender shared short drop) wasn’t so horrific at this point, and we’d explored the many food places and they looked promising. We were off to a great start!

Festival Day 1

By now the skies had opened, and I’d realised that the gumboot requirement? Not a joke. The mud was ridiculous. It was gloopy, it was well over ankle deep, and it was everywhere. I’d never worn gumboots in any other fashion than ironically before. It was a bit mental. Also, we realised that we’d put up our tent over a dip. And that it was a badly designed tent. The inside sections were enclosed, but the middle section was just a pegged down ground sheet. Useless when the ground underneath was a giant puddle.

Still, I wasn’t going to spend all day in my tent, I was armed with a green poncho to keep the rain off, and was otherwise happy. Eventually the sun came out, too. I wrote out my list of ‘too see’ bands on my leg (paying 10 quid for a lanyard wasn’t going to happen, sorry). Mona first, in the NME tent. I love giant circus tents. Had a great feel to it. I managed to push my way into the crowd, and when Naked + Famous came up? Yeah, I was a the barrier.

Afterwards I met up with a few friends, one of which made my afternoon delightful by sharing his jager with me. Bless the 6ft ginger welshmen. My afternoon is a bit blurry after that. I remember dancing around to Patrick Wolf. I know I messed up the Leg Schedule and missed both Rise Against + Metronomy. I know I met an incredibly drunk 16 year old (one who couldn’t get his shirt on right) who tried to talk rugby with me (hard when I don’t care very much) and told me I didn’t look a day over 21. I laughed at him, and then he shared his vodka with me. I know that I met a group of boys, of whom I remember very little. One of them got in my phone as ‘Cute Guy from Reading’ and the texts that followed were all sorts of amusing. I know that I did end up in the crowd to watch Offspring, and I met a boy named Matt. An Australian, I think.

Offspring? All sorts of amazing. It was like being transported back to the 90s. And it only got better. We hit up Noah and The Whale, and The White Lies. I may have danced my little behind off all by myself. Possibly because by now I had well succumbed to that 16 year old boys vodka. And the jager. And the Red Bull + Vodkas Cute Boy from Reading had brought me. Fun times. It explains why I have no photos of The White Lies + Noah and The Whale. And after that? My Chemical Romance. Got my emo on. Right up until the alcohol wore off, and I left half way through the gig to crash.

Pretty successful first day, I think!

Festival Day 2

By now the Hell Hole was to be avoided at all costs, and we all held it together until we could get to the arena to use flushing facilities at 11. I was definitely feeling the effects of the previous days alcholic fuelled one man dance party, I was over the mud, and was a bit disappointed at the efficiency of wet wipes. The puddle in the middle of tent smelt like a marsh, and sleeping in a tent meant freezing nights and ridiculous hot mornings. I wasn’t sure what I’d let myself in for exactly, but there was going to be another 3 days of it.

I wrote out my bands on my leg, and there were only two today. Jimmy Eat World (who I have a soft spot for. Sweetness reminds me of Lyth + his 4am wake ups. Though, there is no love for 4am wake ups) and the Strokes. though, to be fair, I put the Strokes on my leg only to fill up the space a bit. I spent the day mostly following other people around. Organising the phone charging roster at the locker. There may have been a moment of panic when I thought I might miss the Jimmy Eat World set while I waited for an Irish girl who naively told me she was going to ‘quickly’ visit the facilities. Lady, for any flushing technology there is a line a dozen strong. There is no quick happening there. Rest assured I didn’t miss the said band, and skipped out through the mud to meet the other half of the crew.

Still, it wasn’t a bad day. I ate silly amounts of watermelon + pad thai. The sun came out + we all wore silly coloured sunglasses. I met my friend + his handy jager stash. By the end of the night I was Mayor of the Main Stage. I’d watched some young youths scavenge things out of the bins and laughed at them, both from disbelief and amusement. It was a good day for sounds too. There was the Pigeon Detectives, the Two Door Cinema Club. Jimmy Eat World (so much love) and the National. However, after The National I went back to the tent to change. And then I couldn’t make self leave again, I just couldn’t. I put jeans on, and climbed into my sleeping bag and crashed. I woke up long enough to enjoy the end of The Strokes set from where I lay, and called it a night.

Festival Day 3

By now I’d long stopped worrying about what I looked like. I was covered in mud. I smelt suspect. My gummies were wet inside + out, and I’d been wearing the same pair of shorts for the last four days. And I’d completely turned over to practical clothing. I rocked thermals like it was no ones business. The Hell Hole was now something you avoided at all costs, the mud was still everywhere (just a different consistency), and we’d had another epic night of freezing followed by omgtooHOT when the sun rose, and another day of eating expensive fried crap. Oh humanity. Still, at this point you give up caring. A few more days, whatever. You get on with it. I almost had a run in with Cute Boy from Reading, but my phone died before it happened. Sorry Cute Boy from Reading. All your very sweet talk was for naught. I’m impressed with the charm these youngin’s have though. Where did he learn to txt like that? Madness.

Day three was my biggest day. Taking Back Sunday. Frank Turner. Friendly Fires. Panic! At the Disco. Ed Sheeran. The Streets. 2manydjs. Flogging Molly. Muse. My leg was much happier than yesterday, filled with bands and times and places. To be fair it was the day of conflicts. Do I see Friendly Fires or Panic! At the Disco? (Panic, I’d already seen Friendly Fires earlier on in the year). Ed? Or The Streets? I worked out my game plan with Phe, when even scheduled in a lunch break + a time to change before it got too cold.

I threw my hands in the air with Taking Back Sunday. I fell head over heels for Frank. Again. Everytime I see him I fall a little more for him. I managed to convert Phe too, and we rocked out near the front with some young English youths who tried to talk Rugby with us. Again. Because that’s how it goes – they hear our accent, ask where we’re from and then talk rugby. Still, they had a thing for Frank too, and knew all the words so I was cool to rock out with them. I rocked out at Panic, too. I danced my little behind off, first in what seemed like a safe distance away from the front without being miles away, but it soon became a press, a complete mad house. I wasn’t fan enough, so we pulled out (and almost walked into another death circle) and danced near the edge of the tent. Danced like I was back in Second Year. I was that girl who knew all the words and was flailing happily about. Fun times.

We missed Ed because Ed? Way more popular than Reading Fest gave him credit for. We couldn’t even get close to the tent. So we wandered off and came across Frank! Again! He was playing as a special guest. Two sets, I was a happy happy girl and rocked out with Phe to a man who stole my heart with his voice. He’s a charming guy, Frank. Adore him. Afterwards we hit up The Streets (who were great, actually) and Flogging Molly (who were also brilliant). We danced to 2manydjs as we got dinner. And we sat on the ground and enjoyed Muse’s light show. Was a brilliant brilliant day. Possibly my favourite of the three. Not a bad way to end the Reading Fest!

The Day We Left

Monday was a bank holiday. We had to be packed up + out at the coaches at some time that meant we all had to be up by a ridiculous 8am. Turns out that when your tent is overheating 8am is a perfectly fine time to wake up, even if you’ve spent all weekend dancing around like a mad person. So the crew got ourselves all sorted, packed up the tents, admired our ‘tidy kiwi’ mentality against that of the english youths which seemed to be ‘I’m gross and disgusting’. True story. Even worse was when we realised that the campsites were abandoned.

They had left their rubbish, their tents and sleeping bags and blow up beds, chairs, gazebos, everything that they could live without. They just left it. That inconsiderate, careless attitude really got me quite upset. I couldn’t understand why they would be so wasteful. Why they would spend the money and then just dump everything. That they didn’t care that someone else was going to have to come along and clean up after them. And that it wasn’t just one or two groups, but basically the entire tent city?

It was really heartbreaking, and made me pretty furious. So furious that while I waited for the crew to be done? I cleaned up something eight large bags of rubbish from the areas right next to us. It felt like such a useless gesture but it was better than doing nothing. It made me feel better to be doing something, anyway. Then things got better, and I helped myself to an abandoned tent. Packed it down into it’s tent bag which had been left handily by the door, and took it home with me. Apparently I wasn’t the only who did so either. I saw a few other people packing down tents that clearly weren’t theirs.

So yes. It was an interesting experience. The music part? Brilliant. I have never been more excited or stoked to see so many awesome bands in one weekend. There was much dancing to be had, much singing at the top of my lungs, jumping up and down, hands in the air. The festival part? I was sad at the couldn’t-give-a-fuck attitude of so many of the people. The people who threw bottles of urine into the crowd cause the were too lazy to hit up the facilities. The people who started death circles and pushed others around unnecessarily. The people who left their tents, and stole our flag. It was a mixed bag, if nothing else. And I won’t lie, I was glad to be heading home. I was covered in mud, exhausted, slightly indignant at other festival goers, but otherwise happy. It was a (mostly) good festival.

So yes. I’m going to say Number 15 on The List? Done!

Photo credit – Some of the photos have been shamelessly stolen from Phe, Margo + Underwood. Cheers hey, you guys are absolute rockstars 🙂

The List: Number 2 – Learn to Kitesurf

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It’s summer in London. And the reason you know it’s summer is because sometimes it’s too hot to sleep with your duvet on, and you don’t get too cold if you forget your coat + walk outside in just a cardigan. To delight in this summery weather, Liz + Rob came down to London to meet me, and then we went down to Bournemouth for a long weekend. And I had my first series of kitesurfing lessons. Conveniently Number 2 on The List.

And it was BRILLIANT.

The weather was gorgeous (sun, blue skies, warm water, wind) for it. It was addictive, and fun and just amazing. Having a kite propel you through the water? A stupid amount of fun. I learnt how to body drag downwind and upwind, I learnt how to control a kite, and I learnt how to get up on a board and propel myself down the beach. Best fun ever.

One thing they don’t tell you, though, is what you’re really doing is learning to NOT faceplant in the water. The kite is a pretty powerful thing and you’re forever adjusting it to suit the variable wind speed. And when you don’t get it quite right? Well, if you’re like me you’ll go flying through the air and faceplant. True Story. I have the whiplash to prove it. My legs + feet are all cut up from landing on and walking into various shells and underwater hidden nasty things, and I even have a scrape on my face from when I faceplanted head first into sand. Awesome.

Still, I’m stoked enough with this to cross it off: I can get up, I can kitesurf down the beach + up the beach, I can stop in a manner that’s safe, and if I lose my board I know how to use my kite to body drag through the water to pick it up. It’s an amazing sport, and I’m ecstatic that I gave it a go. There will be more kitesurfing in the future. In the next few weeks, if I get my way. Brilliant, I can’t wait!

Number 2. Done!

The List: Number 113 – Make Jam

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It’s Raspberry Season in Wearne. Which means meandering through the garden and picking the sweet berries as you go. It means pink fingertips and seeds between teeth. It means raspberry and apple crumbles and it means sweet little mouthfuls of goodness. I didn’t know that spring would be as sweet as this.

It also meant that I could make Jam! Something I’d been meaning to do for ages, but never had the chance. So out I went in my pair of gummies, and I spent half an hour in the garden picking and eating raspberries. Making jam is very, very simple. Ridiculously simple. You take a tablespoon of water, one part berries, and an equal part of jam sugar and put them all in a pot. And then you heat it, and leave it. Literally as easy as that.

When you scoop out a bit onto a room temperature plate and you can turn the plate upside down without the jam moving, it’s officially jam! Good for putting in a jar + eating.

Yay! Number 113, done!

The List: Number 5 – Move to London

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So, I’ve done it. I have an NI number, which was easier to wrangle than I thought it would be. I have a job, where I work with people from all around Europe. I have a place, which is cute + cosy and in a very London part of the world. I catch the tube an awful lot (and have been squished and pushed and prodded as more people try squeeze onto the train) and I meet people in bars for cocktails. I’ve learnt to ignore pub food completely, and that any night of the week there is a happy gig happening somewhere to dance around to. I’ve stumbled upon Space Invader pieces and am trying really hard to like baked beans + mushy peas.

I walk the streets often, and past landmarks like Big Ben and the London Eye, like The Gherkin and the British Museum. I don’t use the red phone booths, but I do use occasionally the big red double decker buses. I mock the chav accent because it grates on my ears, in a similar manner to the rough Australian outback accent does. I’ve celebrated Pancake Day (a day in which I ate nothing but pancakes. What a great day!), and I’ll use this amazing city as a hub for more amazing travel (Italy! France!) and when the Royal Wedding happens I’m more than keen to take that day off and raise a toast to the happy couple.

I’ve been caught out on a number occasions for my use of the words pants instead of trousers, or jandals instead of flip flops, and I have worked out which of the laundry degerant I like and which I do not. I’ve learnt not to drink the water straight from the tap, and how to use those weird low-flow water heater shower contraptions. I own an oyster card + can walk through a busy crowd (mostly) unmolested. I’m getting better at understanding different accents, and refraining from throwing myself at boys with Irish ones.

I’ve done it, you guys. I travelled 18800 kilometres away from home, and moved myself to London.

Photo note: This is by far my most favourite London Touristy shot. It’s not even anywhere, really. It was taken outside Somerset House, when The Fourth Quarter + I were trying to walk along the river and got ourselves lost. I do have touristy photos of Big Ben, the London Eye, and St Pauls but none quite capture my London tourist experience like this one.

The List, Number 5 – done!

London calls me a stranger, a traveller. This is now my home, my home.
I’m burning on the back streets here sitting in the back seat, and I’m blazing on the street
And what I do isn’t up to you, and if the city never sleeps then that makes two
– Ed Sheeran, The City

The List: Number 8 – Get a tattoo

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Last year me and Heidi (from Stress Sponge) had lots and lots of discussions about ink. We agreed that as ‘Get a tattoo’ was on both our lists, we should do it together. It made me a little more brave about getting inked up.

I knew wanted something small, something that felt quite frivolous. I didn’t want there to be this big cliché behind my ink. There wasn’t going to be some big story about how much it meant to me, about how it reminded me to be young or old, or less/more responsible, or about how its dedicated to someone I love. (It’s entirely possible I’ve spent way too much time on Fuck yeah, Tattoos!) I wasn’t going to have any of that melodramatic anything behind my ink. It was something for me.

Originally I found a small little elephant that I liked. A sketch. I promptly put wings on him, printed him out, and put him everywhere. He was on my desk at work, on my bedroom mirror at home, in all the bathrooms I’d ever visited on a regular basis. I carried him around in my wallet, too. And for six months I looked at him. And I looked and I looked. And after a while I just kind of saw through him.

And then I came across John Tenniel’s Mad Hatter. And I fell head over heels, and I completely forgot about my little elephant with wings. My mad hatter just felt right. A few months later (with my ‘Move to London’ flight getting closer and closer) Heidi + I organised a consultation appointment with brilliant Emma from Demographics. A friend of ours had recommended her, and I felt much more comfortable with a recommendation than picking an artist at random.

When I agreed to the consultation, I’d forgotten completely that it would be the day after I had my wisdoms out. This meant I was high as a kite on all sorts of lovely drugs. So when Emma asked if I’d get him done now, right this very minute, I said yes.

And then I got him inked. Right then + there, just above my left ankle.

He’s cute, right? Getting tattooed wasn’t as bad as thought it would be. But then, high as a kite and all that. It was a bit like being scratched over and over.

Heidi got hers a few weeks later, and I made the mad drive over from the shore to be there. A cute little something that suited her wonderfully.

So yes. Number 8 on The List. Done!

The List: Number 58 – See the Leaning Tower of Pisa

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I flew into Pisa, and I had two hours before I needed to be Pisa Centrale to catch a crazy long train trip to little Chiusi Chianciano. Which meant that I had just enough time to catch a bus out to Piazza dei Miracoli, otherwise known as the Square of Miracles. It’s pretty brilliant, filled with many amazing buildings (like the Duomo Cathedral, a bell tower (which I think is called Campanil? Campanile?) and a few other amazing buildings which look pretty, but I can’t remember what they are called right at this moment.) There’s also the Leaning Tower of Pisa:

That little green blob is me.

It wasn’t quite as tall as I thought it would be. It’s something like 56 metres tall on the tallest side. Still, it was a pretty amazing place to be. I didn’t go up (I didn’t fancy walking up carrying all my gear) but I did listen in on a few tours at the bottom. Apparently Galileo threw two cannonballs of different sizes from the top, to show that they’d get to the bottom at the same time despite being different sizes. It’s only really confirmed by his secretary, which apparently isn’t credit enough. Still, they have a plaque in his honour, which is quite cool.

Sadly, I was super conscious about what would happen if I’d missed even one of my connections (possibly being stuck an any one of the many little italian towns between me + my destination), so I high tailed it to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the whole time there I was torn between leaving + seeing what I was there to see. Made for some quite anxious viewing. Next time I’d like to have a bit more time. Still, mostly I was glad to see the tower at all!

Number 58 – Done! Yeah!

The List: Number 108 – Go Paragliding

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Today* I went Paragliding. Over the French Alps. And it was PHENOMENAL. Positively one of the best 12 minutes I’ve ever spent. I wish it had been longer.

I rode up the lift (Roche de Mio) to meet a French Man: Phillipe, was his name. He had a lovely french accent, and a brilliant french attitude. I didn’t know what to expect, really. There was alot of talking, but in French. He spread out a gorgeous red, blue and white parachute behind us (which reminded me alot of when I went to watch Rob + John go Kitesurfing). He clipped me into a harness, and then clipped himself on.

We stood on the edge of a cliff, we did. I was nervous, we were up quite high (2739m above sea level). I was shaking a bit, looking over the edge, and I could feel the adrenline kicking in.

And then, quite suddenly, Phillipe told me to run. I wasn’t expecting this, because there was less than a metre between me and the cliff. I guess that was the point, but he did have to tell me twice. I pushed off, put my left foot down on the snow, and then my right foot hit nothing but air. And then we were soaring.

Literally, miles and miles above the world. The people became smaller than ants, the cable cars became thumb size, and oh how we flew!! Around in circles, close to the cliffs, over drops and valleys, with the wind whistling by, freezing my exposed cheeks (till I was clever enough to pull up my mask), fast and cold and brilliant.

All too soon we were over Belle Plagne, swirling around in circles, the same way birds do. And all too soon Phillipe was telling me to run in the air, and before I knew it my feet were back on the snow.

It was phenomenal, a giant rush, and I was on such a high the rest of the day. Brilliant.

Number 108 – Done!

* When I wrote this it was today. When I posted it it was not today.