I'm el_staplador and this is my dedicated 101 in 1001 journal. If you're not familiar with the concept of 101 in 1001, the clue's in the name: I've set myself 101 tasks to complete in 1001 days. You can find my list on the official site, but if you'd like more information on any of my goals, click on the appropriate link in this post.
My 101 days begin on 28th November 2010 and finish on 26th August 2013.
( Click to see the list )
Recently, thanks to a conversation with the Rector, I've had a revelation about my relationship with the phrase 'I ought to...' - it's hugely unhelpful. It kills all sense of perspective, batters my self-esteem, and, ironically, tends to end up with my getting much less done than I would have done had I not been swamped with things I 'ought to be' doing.
Sadly, a lot of things on my 101 list are on there because I feel 'I ought to' do them - or are things that I no longer have much interest in, but feel 'I ought to' do because they're on the list. This saddens me a little when I think of all the trouble I went to setting this list up, but there you go.
I want to release myself from 'I ought to'. I don't want this to be some dull worthy self-improvement programme. At the same time, I want to acknowledge that the 101 format has been, and continues to be, very helpful to me. It gives me permission to have fun, and to spend money on having fun. I'm not so convinced about the 1001 part of it, though. I want to give myself room to grow, and to give my goals time to happen when they want to, not to force them.
For example: on my last list, begun in 2007, ended in 2010, I had 'Become a competent cyclist'. In my mind that was going to involve me riding Auntie Suzie's bike round and round Stoke Park until I had learned to signal without falling off. What has actually happened is that over the last four months I have done a bit of lateral thinking, acquired two tricycles, and am now at the point where I cycle to work at least four days a week. Some goals need me to be in a different place, a place I couldn't imagine when I wrote the list.
And this is another thing. I never quite accounted for my tendency to develop wild obsessions at a moment's notice. For example, since I started this list I have become very interested in: letterboxing, carving stamps out of rubbers, cycling, watching other people cycling, writing extremely long Prisoner of Zenda fanfic, and did I mention cycling? All of those could be the basis for some fantastic 101 goals, and I suppose I could go in and replace some other goals I'm fed up with, but... I don't know. It just seems too fiddly, and not what I need to be doing.
So I'm going to quit. Or, rather, I'm going to keep the list as an aide-memoire, but lose the time limits and the sense of obligation. After all, the things I really want to do, I will do. The things that really need to be done, I will do. Several of the things that were on the longlist but didn't make it here because they were too personal, or too scary, I've actually managed to do. I may continue to add goals.
Even thinking about giving up has felt liberating. I no longer have to keep wading through this terrible translation of 'Feathered Serpent' by Xu Xiaobin just because she was the only X author in the library. I can stop watching TED talks, which mostly make me feel guilty about Not Doing More To Change The World. I do not have to do boring stuff because I feel I ought to. (I might need to do boring stuff because it needs doing, but that's another story.)
This journal will stay. I will still be mentally ticking off goals, and I will come and post about them when I do. When I've done everything that I'm likely to do, I'll rethink.
And I still want to go up in a hot air balloon.
After Mary, Mother of God, the saint who gets the most screentime in the Church's year is St John the Baptist. He has a Sunday in Advent dedicated to him, as well as his death - and his birth. This is good news for the alto in the church choir, because this gives you three, possibly four, opportunities over the course of the year to sing Gibbons' fantastic verse anthem This is the Record of John.
Traditionally this is countertenor territory, but over a number of years a variation has evolved in our choir in which the solo line is split between two altos, one male, one female, in which the narrative parts ('This is the record of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?, and he confessed and denied not, and said plainly...') are sung by the contralto, representing John the Evangelist, and the parts that John the Baptist says ('I am not the Christ') are sung by the countertenor. This sounds as if it should be terribly awkward, but it actually works very well, giving the anthem the feeling of an oratorio in miniature.
I should have sung this in Advent, at the Advent Carol Service and then on the third Sunday. I'm not being bolshy: I actually was down to sing it, but I got the 'flu and had no voice until Christmas, which was immensely frustrating. This, however, is where John the Baptist and his plethora of festivals come in handy. Today is the feast of the birth of John the Baptist; it's a major saint's day and he gets a collect and appropriate readings. And an anthem.
I was terrified, and, unusually for me, became more terrified as the piece went on. I fluffed most of my entries but the director covered those lapses, and made a fairly decent sound on the whole. I have received a number of compliments, anyway, so I think the congregation didn't notice the bad bits. On balance I'm feeling reasonably good about how I did. And what better piece than this to end this goal?
This photo was, or at least might have been (there are several, and I can't remember now which I chose), my submission for a competition to appear on Woking RSPCA's Christmas card. It didn't win, but it is by far the most interesting of my competition entries - of which there are now at least five. Apart from ones previously referenced on this blog, I have attempted to win a Kindle and a pair of Interrail tickets, and probably some other things that I've forgotten about.
Apart from that first winning entry, nothing has materialised (I wasn't really expecting it to, if I'm frank...) and I'm not really sure that much has changed for me. I will probably go back to not really bothering.
Readers of el_staplador have been bored to tears by my incessant rambling about my new toy, seen above. It is a Trailmate de Soto tricycle; it has no gears and is bloody hard work to ride, and, occasionally, terrifying.
I have started riding it the six miles to work (also the six miles back again). I have something of a love-hate relationship with it. At times it is only bloody-mindedness and the knowledge that I'm saving myself six quid a day that keeps me going. Yesterday I didn't ride it because - well, did you see the weather? (For such as didn't, it was tipping it down, and windy with it - one of my colleagues had a tree branch come down in front of her car.)
What I did do yesterday, which I haven't done for ages, was to spend 50 minutes on Wii Fit. And I remembered why I haven't been on it recently. Boredom, dear internet, boredom. I enjoy it for the first week or so, then I remember how to beat all the activities, the irritating tunes get stuck in my head, and I give up again.
And so I've decided to do something that I'd previously ruled out: I'm going to include physical activity done outside Wii Fit. (I hadn't, for example, been recording the time I spent swimming - though I've not done much of that recently, either.) I asked myself why I had ruled it out - and the answer is, it feels like cheating. A little rational reflection confirmed that this is completely ridiculous - five minutes triking is far harder work than five minutes flapping my arms around pretending to be a chicken.
I suppose that I am worried about over-reporting myself. This is also silly - Wii Fit over-reports anyway. But that's my brain for you (my unfortunate pilgrimage partner used to say that I had a 'Protestant walk ethic'). I've made the following compromise:
On days when I ride to and from work (and I'm unlikely to ride only one way, being reluctant to leave the thing locked to a station cycle stand overnight) I'll record one hour's activity on Wii Fit. This is definitely under-reporting, but even so I reckon I'll easily make the four hundred hours. I don't stand a hope of completing this goal otherwise - and what is it about but getting more exercise and becoming more aware of my body?
(This is me on a trike a few years ago, on honeymoon in France)
I have another definite goal in mind with all this getting fit. I've booked two weeks off work in August, when I'm going to walk the Offa's Dyke path. The recommended pattern takes twelve days. I'm thinking of taking a rest day in Knighton (approximately half way, and a few miles from the house where I grew up) but even so I couldn't do such a long way in my current state. So there; that's something to work towards.
I'm also well aware that I have a couple of days to write up on the Canterbury pilgrimage - I've collected another one and a half walkers, and have been going rather slowly as a result. More on that later.
... that I'd never been to Ireland before, so my long weekend in Dublin completed goal 41. As you'll have worked out from the previous post, I did a fair bit of walking - always my favourite way of getting to know a new city. I also did a few touristy things: I went on a tour of Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells with some other BookCrossers; I visited all three cathedrals. I was going to go to the National Museum of Ireland but I only got round to thinking of it on Monday and it was closed. Mostly, though, I wandered.
Ireland is on the 'to go back to' list.
So far I have spent about four days of my life in Dublin. This is one of them. Specifically, this is Sunday 15th April 2012, the final day of the 2012 BookCrossing convention, which was the reason for my being in Dublin in the first place - well, that and the cheap rail'n'sail deal, and a desire to see the world.
Here's what I saw on 15th April:
( 70 photos under the cut )
Here's what I saw on 15th April:
( 70 photos under the cut )
A few weeks ago I went to the health food shop in Guildford (yes, it has one - and doesn't have a Waitrose yet - sometimes I wonder if I'm living in a parallel universe). I came out with a bag of honey cashews (not relevant to this post), a box of nettle tea and a bar of carob - both of which are on the Omnivore's Hundred. (The list says 'carob chips', but I think the form doesn't really make much difference...)
I hated the carob. I think it was the most horrible thing I've ever tasted. I ate about four squares - the last three were to see if the previous one had really been as nasty as I thought.
The problem with carob (apart from the taste, I mean, which is obviously subjective, and you might love it) is that it's marketed as an alternative to chocolate, but the only thing that it cuts out is the caffeine. The fat is still there, and it needs quite a lot of sweetener to make it palatable. And probably less than 5% of my daily caffeine intake comes from chocolate. So, really, I don't see any point in my eating carob.
The nettle tea, by contrast, tasted quite pleasantly of grass clippings and has joined the colony of herbal and fruit teabags in my desk drawer at work.
The cake above is a babka, a traditional Polish Easter cake. My partner, whose grandmother was Polish, has been enthusiastically rediscovering his heritage this year. This involves baking babka, dyeing hard-boiled eggs red with onion skins, buying vast quantities of cheese and smoked sausage, and taking the whole lot to church to get it blessed.
After various false starts, he discovered that the local Roman Catholic church, St Dunstan's, was actually holding a proper Swiecone, the blessing service, on Easter Saturday, so off we went.
I'm not sure what I was expecting - four or five Babcias with a cake each, perhaps. But this was huge - the church was full to bursting, mostly with young families, each bringing a basket of goodies. These were piled into a small mountain on the chancel steps. And I suddenly realised - of course; this is what you do at Easter if you're Polish and Catholic - which is something I don't think I'd ever appreciated before.
The priest seemed a bit bewildered, but played along gamely. The service was conducted in about equal parts Polish and English, so I was quite bewildered myself, but fortunately the congregation didn't have to do much beyond say 'Amen' in logical places.
Even if I didn't understand much of the service, I appreciated the principles behind it. The affluent world has horribly skewed attitudes to food, and it was very good to go to an event where food was appreciated as a blessing. I'd like to learn a little more Polish and go back next year. The chances of my converting to Roman Catholicism are approximately zilch, but this seemed like a very friendly, lively, congregation, and I'm glad to know it exists near me.
I only realised when we were half-way there that this would tidy up goal 14. I never got round to writing up my visit to the Friends Meeting House last summer, but the Quakers were a very friendly bunch and I may well go back there before the 1001 days are over. Anyhow, St Mary's, the Friends, and St Dunstan's together make this goal complete.
Z najlepszymi zyczeniami Wielkanocnymi. (With best wishes for Easter)
I woke up with a hangover today. Last night I drank a couple of glasses of red wine. I'd eaten a few liqueur chocolates through the day. Still, if you abstain from alcohol in Lent, a hangover on Easter Monday morning is hardly surprising.
Yes: from 22nd February to 1st April I drank no alcohol; for form's sake I had a small glass of wine at the final meal of the Lent course on 2nd April, and then nothing again until Easter Day, 8th April. (Pro-tip: do this sort of thing during Lent, and nobody assumes it's because you're pregnant.) It was both easier and harder than I expected. I don't drink much in the ordinary way of things; we make a point of not drinking at home unless it's a special occasion, so the crunch point was always going to be the social situations.
And there were plenty of social situations. Over the month of March I went to: a family party, three church meals (and this is the Church of England; forget everything you ever heard about Christians not drinking), the pub with work, the pub with my partner, Maidstone with my mother for a long walk - all situations where I'd usually have a drink or three. The only thing I missed was the church wine-and-discussion evening, being ill or something.
And, while it felt odd not to have a drink in my hand, I coped with the general chit-chat and social awkwardness much better than I expected. I'd always assumed that I needed a bit of alcohol to let my guard down a bit, but actually the party atmosphere does it for me. I also discovered that the way I get tired and grumpy towards the end of a party has nothing to do with what I've drunk: I got tired and grumpy towards the end of my father's 70th birthday party just because I was tired and grumpy.
On the other hand, there were days when I really fancied a pint. So there you go.
Since the beginning of February, I've also been happily taking lunch into work every single day. This never happens, and I'm really impressed. What I do is make up a large batch of soup on Sunday evening, either on the hob or in the slow cooker, and buy a packet of rolls on my way into work on Monday morning. Every day I take a bowlful of soup into work in a plastic tub, and heat it up in the microwave at lunchtime.
Once I'd got away from the idea that it had to be sandwiches, it was easy. I hate making sandwiches. Having to put that much effort in every day? No chance. But reducing the major effort to once a week, and making the minor effort something I do every day, so I can get into a routine, has worked really well.
I spent the weekend with a group from my church at Ladywell Convent in Godalming - about ten miles from home, and a world away from my day-to-day life. I didn't envisage going with church, having had it in my head that it was something I'd have to do alone, but actually it was a great group and we got on very well. It was a beautiful weekend to do it, and I've returned feeling thoroughly refreshed and generally positive in ways that are very difficult to explain.
Here, shamelessly copy/pasted from my personal journal, are some things I learned:
- I can get there from the wrong side of London in under two hours;
- Jeffrey John is awesome;
- the thing in my head that tells me that nobody likes me and the people that claim to love me are either deluded and lying is a bad thing, and is itself lying. It looks like a tapeworm.
- Julian of Norwich knew what she was talking about.
- sometimes it is a really good idea to take a box of tissues in with you to the Eucharist;
- nuns actually do conduct their lives to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein;
- I do not need to be so afraid of myself;
- I do not need to assume that, just because I want something, it must be bad for me;
- I do not need to be so afraid of other people;
- even bad art can be effective;
- the difference between this weekend and others was not that I didn't do much, but that I didn't feel guilty about not doing very much...
Completed. I must do this again.
Why yes, this is what I look like when I'm on the train to Basingstoke. This one time, anyway. (Tip: if you ever need to do something really stupid in public, do it on a commuter train. Nobody will look at you.) And, while I didn't take this picture, I did tie that tie - as you can probably see, it being a bit of a mess.
This was on the way to my Pa's seventieth birthday party. It was a very good party. I also sang the tenor line of my great-great-great-grandfather's most celebrated work (The Moon Hath Raised Her Lamp Above, from The Lily of Killarney. Here is a recording - sadly I don't sound much like John McCormack).
In an odd way, I feel like I have fulfilled a long-held ambition - singing tenor, in drag, reviving underappreciated Victoriana. I'm not counting it as a solo at a public event, my family and friends being used to my showing off, but it does complete two other goals:
- 83. Learn how to tie a bow tie (it stayed done up all evening, which is good enough for me)
- 100. Buy a monocle (and, more to the point, wear it in public)
... particularly when it's February. And then half of March.
I've completed quite a few goals recently, but have been too busy working on other goals to write them up. And my camera has broken, which is a disaster. Also I bought a trike, which is distracting.
Anyhow, during the month of February I ran a BookCrossing release challenge for LGBT History Month. Five people took part, releasing a total of 22 books - and I released a few myself. I've posted prizes to the two winners, and have been asked to run this again next year.
... and all of the chanteuses are simple honest floozies...
Upon re-reading my statement of intent for this goal, I note with some amusement that I was planning to take advantage of all the theatres that I can reach so easily now that I'm living in Surrey. Well, so far in this challenge I have been to three theatrical performances, two of them in a church - and one on the Isle of Wight.
Yes, on Monday I found myself back in Shanklin Theatre, where I began my short-lived and undistinguished career in amateur operatics as a dresser backstage in The Merry Widow. (I subsequently appeared in the chorus of several of the Savoy Operas, and eventually had a couple of lines to myself in The Gipsy Baron.)
As it happens, I was going to see The Merry Widow, but this time presented by Opera della Luna. My father and brother had been to see their production of The Sorcerer at the Theatre Royal, Winchester, and raved about it. Besides, I have always had a soft spot for The Merry Widow - 1900s Paris! Huge hats! Women doing what the hell they like! - and so I decided that obviously it was a good idea to commute from Ventnor to Guildford on Tuesday morning for the sake of going to the theatre on Monday night. (Actually it wasn't as bad as I expected - just over two hours. But never mind that.)
And this was indeed a very good production. Opera della Luna have reduced the cast to eight and the orchestra to seven, one of whom doubles as a non-speaking character. The orchestra is tucked into a corner of the stage, where it effectively suggested a palm court trio at the series of parties that are the setting of The Merry Widow. Elsewhere, puppets and mannequins made up numbers; it was all very clever.
The translation and production combined found and emphasised a very cynical edge to the libretto, which cut through the musical schmaltz beautifully, making the indifferent slush that I first saw into something savage and witty. The Merry Widow is about sex and money, and nobody was trying to explain that away. It is also about class and gender - not for one moment were we allowed to forget that Hanna started out as a 'peasant girl'. It is about the double standard. Chez Maxim, ever present in the dialogue, and, later in the flesh, reminds us of the value assigned to women in this society. The Maxim's scene was hilarious (and a very clever use of the limited cast) but also rubbed in the uncomfortable truth.
Oh yes, and the singing was great, too. I loved it.
February in our church is a month of mixed frustration, curiosity and wonder. It's the month when the Guildford Shakespeare Company moves in and transforms the building into a theatre. For three weeks the vestry is full of velvet and lace and metal crates, choir practice happens in the parish hall, huge lights appear in unexpected places, and half the church is inaccessible. Seventeenth century English crops up a lot. Depending on the sort of church you're used to, some of that might be normal. Some of it, not so much. It is all par for the course when every day of those three weeks, Sundays excepted, is going to see a performance of some Shakespearean tragedy.
Anyway, I do make a point of going to the performances. (I keep meaning to go to GSC's summer performances, too, which are outdoors, but I've never yet got round to it.) This year's tragedy is Richard III, a play I had a passing acquaintance with. (Read it twice, spent a couple of hours teaching time on it at university, seen the Ian McKellan film.) This was a convincing performance, set in goodness knows when (Richmond appears in desert combats and a pristine white trench coat crawling with gold braid, sometimes both at the same time) and that not mattering at all.
What struck me particularly this time round was the extent to which Richard makes the audience complicit in his plot - and it is his plot, in more ways than one. He is the only person who seems to be able to tell us what is going on in this twisted mess of Woodvilles and Plantagenets, and so we cling to him almost gratefully, no matter that we know exactly who he is and what he's in it for. (Except, of course, we don't.) Because, to tell the truth, none of the other characters is a paragon of virtue, not until they're dead. Even the young Duke of York is a horrible little brat.
And then Richard loses us. He has to, and then poor old Richmond has to do his best not to look like a deus ex machina. In this performance it happened in the scene with Buckingham and the crowd (enter Richard between two priests and all that). It was clever. They made us the crowd. It's all very well to watch other people being manipulated, but when it's happening to you, and you can see it happening, they tend to lose your sympathy.
If it sounds as if this was all about Richard, well, it was, really. He was made, as I've hinted, a very engaging character - a relatively young actor, with a wonderfully twisted sense of fun about him. After him Queen Margaret stands out most in my mind, and then Elizabeth Woodville. (There is, after all, a small advantage to female underrepresentation, and those two really are fantastic characters. I would love there to be more about Margaret.)
The church setting lends itself very well to use as a theatre. Though it's two hundred years later than Shakespeare, the subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) use of the church fixtures and decorations works helpfully to frame the action within the Christian-centric society that Shakespeare portrays. (I will be impressed, though, if they ever do Antony and Cleopatra in there.)
In other news, I've just received the programme for the retreat I'll be going on in March. It looks good. And I had a solo verse in a responsorial psalm on Sunday.
- Running a BookCrossing challenge for LGBT History Month. Nobody seems to have released anything yet, but it's early days, and I haven't managed to release anything either, so I can't talk. I have, however, begun to gather some goodies together to make prizes for the lucky winners.
- Having another go at writing 1001 words every day. The same rules apply as last time: journal entries, on or offline, and additions to my own writing projects, will count towards this; comments on other people's posts, or forum posts, won't.
- Seeing how far I get with the family guitar and a book entitled 'The Right Way to Play Guitar'.
- Going to see Richard III.
- Taking a packed lunch to work every day. (This is the one most likely to fall by the wayside, mostly because I only really decided to go for it today. On the other hand, this really is the time of year to make a big batch of soup in the slow cooker and take in a bowl's worth every day.)
Choosing such a short month as February to complete some of the 'Do X every day for a month' does feel like cheating, but it is at least a longer than average February. It's also a relatively quiet time work-wise and family-wise, and I think I've got a better chance of getting these goals done than I would in a lot of other months.
Here's my completed finger labyrinth. It's made from air-drying clay, the sort I used to make pots out of at primary school, and painted in watercolours and acrylics. I took my time making it - it's the sort of thing that shouldn't be rushed. I took a long time to realise that of course there should be a shell imprint in the middle, and it sat around unpainted for quite a long time before I worked out what colour it should be. You see, I wanted to get it right.
In retrospect, the blue and gold colour scheme was entirely predictable. I love blue and gold. I used a lot of both in my wedding. This is my current desktop picture. And it echoes medieval depictions of heaven.
There are some useful resources on labyrinths here, if you're interested in learning more.
(That's King Alfred there, on a very rainy Winchester New Year's Day. I almost always go to Winchester - my birthplace - on 1st January, not for any deep and meaningful communion with my own beginning, but because it is a likely place to meet my family, lifelong friends, and a whole lot of old buses.)
I have made one resolution that is specific to 2012: to have fun. Other than that, I'm going to keep plodding on with my 101 in 1001.
Here are the goals I completed in 2011:
81 - Buy a decent shredder
27 - Do a First Aid course
10 - Make wedding album/scrapbook
74 - Explore Bradford and associated family history
25 - Become a bone marrow donor
61 - Eat at a restaurant 6 times, 2 being new-to-me restaurants
99 - Make quilt for impending niecephew, and one to spare (it turned out to be a niece, and the spare one went to my friend's baby in October...)
87 - Have big 26th birthday gathering in Exeter
I also made significant progress on:
63 - Write 6 1000+ word fanfics. Technically I have written six such, but the sixth was a Yuletide treat and wasn't as extensive as I wanted it to be.
47 - Enter five competitions. I've entered four and won one, so far.
1 - Become a Mystery Worshipper and review three services. I've reviewed two so far.
49 - Hold a dinner party and a picnic. I had my dinner party; the picnic is still to come.
98 - Do 100 Snapshots project. I've taken about 65 out of the hundred so far.
6 - Sing four solos at church. Two down, two to go - and, most significantly, the director of music now knows I'm happy to take solos.
29 - Walk pilgrimage from home to Canterbury
100 - Buy a monocle. I've bought it, but I need to wear it somewhere in order to call this goal complete.
39 - Wild-release 101 books, including one that is of sentimental value to me - I've released 46 so far, including the one of sentimental value.
75 - Make a finger labyrinth - it just needs painting and varnishing.
and took smaller steps on various other ones, which I shan't itemise.
I've changed one goal. Here are all the others.
In 2012 I intend to:
- finish that sixth fanfic
- enter that fifth competition
- review that third service (are you noticing a pattern here?)
- take a picnic to an outdoor Shakespeare performance (I meant to do this in 2011, but never got my act together.)
- continue my pilgrimage walk as far as Canterbury.
- wear my monocle to my father's seventieth birthday party.
- run a BookCrossing challenge.
- go on a retreat
- read my heraldry book and learn how the Royal Arms works (and worked)
- watch more films
- see more things at the theatre
- make a scrapbook of friends' weddings (and decide what to do with the ones for those who have since split up, oh dear...)
- work out what to do with These Three Remain
- use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to write my Phyl book
- work out which motoring event I want to attend, and book it
- do the locavore tasks (not until summer, though)
- beg, borrow or steal a guitar, and begin to learn how to play it
- make washable sanitary pads
- get started on music theory
- have a big day in London riding on the Eye and visiting museums
- strip the paint off my chair
and, perhaps most importantly, take a hard look at all the goals that involve doing one thing over and over again, and see how invested in them I really am. I might need to rewrite a few.