I recently had a milestone birthday and my long-term relationship ended. Starting my life over again, I made a list of 100+ things I’ve been meaning to do but never quite made the time. People have asked what I've done and what's on my list. So here it is. Follow me as I complete the things on my Break Up Bucket List. Now updated to 300+ things on my New Life List.
Now this truly is something I've been meaning to do for years. I tried to give blood years ago in New York, but my iron levels were low on the day so I wasn't allowed. This time however, I'm happy to say I was successful! It so easy to do. Sign up today:
Why, you might ask? Why would a grown up get a fish tank? I don't know and am kind of asking myself the same question. All I know is that I've been thinking/talking about getting one for years, but my Ex was not interested...and if my Ex was not interested that meant that it didn't happen.
I had a fish tank when I was a kid and I liked it. Cleaning it was a bit of a faff, but I remember overall liking having the tank. Over the last few years I've been spending some time in places that have big fish tanks and I've been mesmerized. I've found the time spent really relaxing...and if I can be relaxed in my dentist's waiting room then surely that must mean I'd be even more relaxed in my own home. At least this is my hope.
Now I just need to wait 2 weeks to put the fish in.
One of my more geeky items on my list was to visit Bletchley Park, home to Britain's WW2 code breaking operation where agents sought to break Hitler's Enigma codes and which until the 1980s had been kept top secret. The movie Enigma was based around the work done at BP. Security was so great there that a story is told that a married couple – sworn to secrecy - never knew until the 1970’s that they were both code-breakers at Bletchley Park at the same time.
Readers of this blog will know that I enjoy a nice cocktail or two. As a consequence, I have a number of drink-related items on The List, from wine tasting to drinking at The Savoy, to having Martinis at The Dukes. I used to bartend to make extra cash when I was in college and I have been known to bring my cocktail shaker with me to a party to be able to make a cosmo, mojito, margarita and the like. I do enjoy a nice martini, but despite this bartending background, I'd never actually made a martini before. I always found them so mysterious: Dirty/Twist, Shaken/Stirred, Dry/Wet, Vodka/Gin...there are so many different variations I never really understood what it all meant before or how to make them. I thought it was about time I learned.
Our bartender Jon was amazing. He talked us through the history of the drink, described the different variations of martinis, and then gave us 3 rounds to try and taste: 1-Dry, Stirred. 2-Wet, Shaken. 3-Reverse Vesper, Shaken.
After the class we also tried a smokey martini, which is made with 15ml of Aldbeg whiskey. By that point in time I was feeling no pain and was wondering why my drink wasn't served in the larger glass on the bar...Thank goodness it wasn't or I may not have made it home!
Having achieved my goal of not dating for 3 months in June, I've now made it to 6 months without going on a single date. Not only have I not been looking to date, in the odd circumstance that someone has expressed an interest, I've politely declined. This is a very big step for me for a number of reasons.
First of all, I don't like saying no or letting people down and so I find it difficult to turn down a date because I worry I'm going to hurt someone's feelings. I can appreciate the courage it takes to admit to someone that you like them and/or want to get to know them better. I'm incredibly shy myself underneath it all and find it really difficult to ask someone out, so I do truly appreciate it when someone has the courage to ask me out. Also, I generally have pretty low self esteem. I don't understand why someone would like me and I'm SO NOT used to being liked and fancied, that as a result I sometimes end up spending too much time with the wrong people because I don't think anyone else would ever want me.
It's only taken me 40 years to realise that:
A) I can be genuinely flattered by being asked out, but also let someone down gently, at the same time.
B) I can be likeable at times (when I'm not being stubborn, difficult or generally a pain in the ass).
C) When I put some effort in, I have the potential to be attractive to a small subset of people occasionally.
D) I deserve to be with someone who treats me well, who loves me and who I'm madly in love with as well.
My self-imposed moratorium on dating has also allowed me to make some great new friends and to build up a life outside of being in a couple. I feel like I'm in a great place where I have a good idea what I want and don't want, as well as what I deserve, and I don't want to get involved with someone unless it really feels right. Of course there's a danger that I'm going to be too cautious and see warning signs where none exist, but if that means I stay single for an extended period of time then I'm ok with that too.
Now that I've ticked this off the list, I may go on an occasional date -- after all there are some interesting and attractive people out there. However, I'm not going out of my way for a date. I'll only go if it really feels right.
My next goal on this theme is to not get into a serious relationship for a year...so only 6 more months to go for that!
There are not many people in this world who wouldn't be happy to win the Lottery. The problem is so few people actually do win. Because the odds are not good, I have a better chance of being killed by lightening (not just merely being struck by lightening) than winning, I don't usually play on a regular basis. When the amount in question becomes so substantial that I and my extended family could live comfortably without having to work again (in non-charitable jobs at least) I will sometimes take a punt.
With this one on the list and the jackpot at £45m, I thought I'd give it a go. You have to be in it to win it, right?
For me, nothing beats hanging out in a beach chair, cocktail in hand relaxing with friends. It's a key part of summer that allows me to store up goodwill for the cold, rainy winter ahead. Living in a city sometimes means that certain rights of passage, like going to the beach, are missed however.
Not necessarily anymore. A few years ago a local venue, The Roundhouse, started turning it's parking lot into a makeshift beach, complete with deck chairs and tiki bars. While I've been before, I wanted to go back again. It was a really enjoyable time.
When I first moved to the UK I found it strange how many English people spoke of going for a walk or 'a Ramble'. As an American, I thought that they meant going for a casual stroll, maybe around the block or something. It took me a while to understand that 'Rambling' is a past time for many people and that instead of walking, it's closer to what Americans would call hiking. The law in the UK allows for a Right to Roam which means that there are many public footpaths/trails across much of the country, including along the coast, where the public can walk across private land.
While in Cornwall, I took advantage of the dramatic coast line and rambled along the cliffs. I even had champagne as the sun set. Very nice.
Regular readers will understand how infrequently I 'properly' exercise. I've been able to keep the weight I've lost off for the most part, but it's a struggle. So I know I really need to actively work out more. I know, I know, I know...but I'm sorry Nike, I just don't do it.
In an effort to try to at least be more aware of how sedentary I can be, I got myself a wearable activity tracker...basically it's a pedometer built into a bracelet that wireless tracks and reports how many steps I do and how far I walk. After a few days of wearing it, I was shocked at how little I moved in a day. No wonder it took so long to tick this off the list!
But with my handy new gadget helping to spur me on, I was finally able to tick this one off. Next step(s) to run 10 miles...but that will take a lot more time and training.
My golf game stinks, particularly my short game. So pitch and putt, while frustrating, is probably what I should be doing to practice instead of going to a driving range. Overlooking Bude's two main beaches, this particular course had amazing views. If only all places had views like this, my golf game would be much better.
Selfridges is an iconic department store. Located in the heart of London it's rooftop garden boasts lovely views. During the summer they do something interesting with the space. A few years ago, they had a miniature golf course there...but that came and went before I had a chance to check it out.
So when summer rolled around this year I vowed I wouldn't let another summer go without seeing it.
This year they turned the space into a pop-up restaurant from my new favourite local restaurant, Q grill. American BBQ at it's London best, Q Grill opened in Camden in March 2014 and I fell in love with it. With Summer's end approaching surprisingly quickly I knew my window to do this one was closing fast. Unfortunately it was raining when I went (as usual for British summer) so the views weren't quite the same, but it was a fun evening.
The surf in Bude, Cornwall where I went Body Boarding
One of the last things I did with my Ex before we split was to go surfing in Bude, Cornwall. While I never quite made it to standing on a surf board (and found surfing a little too tiring), I did come away from the weekend vowing to get back in the sea more often, and specifically, to go Body Boarding.
Fast forward 11 months and I made it back to the sea complete with wetsuit and Body Board. I had forgotten just how much fun body boarding is. It brought me back to my childhood on the New Jersey shore, jumping to clear waves and paddling furiously to try to make it to the sweet spot where the wave would take me all the way in. (The downside of which was that I had to labour all the way back out to the breaks again...it was so much easier when I was younger!) I'm thrilled to have come back and done this. I highly recommend!!!
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I really struggled to buy my Ex out of the house. At the time, the idea of losing my home as well as my love and my life was more than I thought I could handle. Luckily, I was able to arrange the financing required, but it wasn't without pain. While I do enjoy an occasional splurge, I've always been fairly frugal with money because I know how hard and long I work to earn it. Living without any safety net of savings makes me uncomfortable and so I wanted to find ways to top up the coffers a bit more quickly and efficiently.
One of those ways was to rent my spare/guest room out. So I finally arranged for someone to stay in my flat, for a limited amount of time, earning a bit of cash to put towards an emergency fund. I've had to make some costly repairs and other improvements before the place could be considered habitable for a paid renter, but I hope to be in a more comfortable financial position going forward.
Having lived in New York City and London, I have a wide and diverse set of friends (myself included) and so while I've certainly heard about big Pride celebrations, I had never really been to a proper all day Pride festival before. Having been told Brighton Pride is one of the best and welcoming to gays and straights (and everyone in between), I decided to join some friends for a festive 24 hour summer party and tick this off the list.
Photo credit: Alice Bell
It all started around 11am with the start of the parade, then moved to Preston Park for an all day concert, followed by everybody and their dog going to the Village Street Party on St James’s Street and on to some dance club to be taught how to dance by a group of gorgeous gay men.
There were feather boas and rainbows aplenty. And cake. And even yummy rainbow cake:
And so on this day everyone was gay (as in happy).
Sometimes when you're in a relationship, your other half isn't interested in watching the same kinds of things you are. This means there are whole series or sporting events that you miss. My Ex and I had pretty similar tastes in TV shows, to be fair, but there were still some notable exceptions. For my List, I had made a note to catch up on the key ones I missed over the years.
What I've found since making the List, however, is that there are also times when I intend to watch that new 'must-see' show but I've been so busy and otherwise engaged that I've just plain missed it on my own accord. Life gets in the way. As it should.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but being single I actually haven't been watching TV very much, if at all. This is a great thing, in theory, as I've been out enjoying and living life. Entire popular TV series have come (and many cases gone) without me seeing them: Mad Men to True Blood; Modern Family to Orange is the New Black; different X Factor, Great British Bake off and Real Housewives series.
While on the one hand this is laudable, I've found that there's only so long that I can be so disconnected from key cultural interests without the unintended consequence of actually feeling quite isolated from modern society. I've found watercooler moments and ice-breaking small talk are much harder without such common, safe topics of conversation. When my new friends and coworkers banter about this show or that, I have nothing to add to the conversation but blank stares and idle curiosity.
So with the aim to get through at least one of the key series everyone around me seems to be talking about, I packed myself away to binge-watch Orange is the New Black, and have been sucked into NetFlix as a result.
As the seasons turn and with Autumn and Winter on the horizon, I suspect I'll be able to tick off many more series in months to come. Photo credit: Zastolskiy Victor / Shutterstock
Reaching the halfway point of summer, I realised that the British weather being what it is, I should tick this one off my list sooner rather than later. And what better excuse to have a picnic than going to watch a(nother) movie outside!