That time I ate lobster… Again (apparently)

When I was writing my 30 before 30 list, however many months ago it was now, I had originally come up with mainly food-based life goals. In fact I’d go so far as to say all 30 were things like “discover best burger ever” and “discover the best cake ever” and “discover the best pizza ever”. Basically a list of  “discovering” the best [insert food here]. And all I meant by “discover” was go around eating lots of burger/cake/pizza and deciding which, in my opinion, is the best.

It’s not that my list of food sampling tasks didn’t appeal (although it was less 30 before 30 and more Man V Food), but  eating a massive amount of food didn’t exactly tick the big empty box marked “life aspirations” so a redraft was in order.

Whilst most of my non-ambitious eating goals got scrapped, I kept a couple of food-based things on the list and one of those things was to eat lobster. Thinking about it now, I can’t think of more specific reason for putting it on the list other than “because I’ve never eaten lobster before”. There’s a sort of hype around this clawed…  *checks Wikipedia*…  sea crustacean, perhaps because it’s notoriously expensive, and perhaps that’s because it’s insanely delicious. Whatever the reason, I wanted to try it for the first time before I turned 30 and it made the list.

And so, during a recent holiday to Rhodes, Greece the moment presented itself. During our stay, we’d had a few good meals, and a few not so good meals, which was mainly due to a mistranslation on the menu – meaning that when I ordered the food I wanted, I got something else entirely (like a crab salad without crab and a greek salad without the salad). Sometimes, I just didn’t know what I was ordering – even when the menu had pictures to illustrate.

"Stuffed"

“Stuffed”

"Chummus"

“Chummus”

So when it was lobster night at our hotel, I siezed the opportunity and booked a table. The meal was a whopping seven-courses. The main course (somewhere around course number four) was Lobster Thermidor – lobster flesh cooked with other stuff and baked in the shell (I think). I can confirm that it was most certainly delicious. Although half a bottle of wine and a glass of Champagne may have influenced my final judgement and I almost certainly can’t remember what it tasted like. But I remember enjoying it. So that’s a good thing.

When I arrived home, I did that thing everyone does when they come back from holiday: I bored my friends and family to death with holiday stories and showed them all 450 of my holiday photos. A couple of hours in I retold the story of the lobster night to my mum:

Me: So, the hotel was having a lobster night, and we went because I’ve never eaten lobster before…

Mum: Except for that time in France…

Me: Wha?!

Mum: When you were little, and we went on holiday to France…. Mind you, we might have told you it was something else so that you’d eat it. Like when we told you calamari were “round fishfingers” and that duck wasn’t the same as the ducks that swim about on the duck pond.

That round fishfingers/ducks not being the same as ducks on the duckpond story is one of those family stories that has been told approximately 2000 times, and accurately conveys exactly how gullible/non-questioning/overly-trusting I was as a child. And as an adult approaching 30, I’m not sure what the long term damaging effects of these lies are. Chickens you eat and chickens that run around clucking are the same thing, right?

To conclude: I added eating lobster to my list of things to do before 30 and now I have knowingly eaten lobster (even though I can’t really remember what it tastes like) I can strike that off the list. Yes, I’m still counting it even though I unknowingly ate lobster as a child, possibly under the guise of “scampi but without the breadcrumbs”.

 

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Seriously… Where?

Over on A Force For Good, Stoo, Rik and myself have been discussing the pros and cons of 90s classic edutainment (edutaintional??) video game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” For the record (and without totally spoiling the review) none of us know where in the world Carmen Sandiego is. But what we do know is that we’re all crap at geography. If you fancy reading what we had to say about the game (or knowing more about how you can sharpen your geography skills in a fun and interactive way) then click here.

carmen3b

This isn’t really a post, it’s a puppy update. Or “Pupdate”…

Remember my post on how I randomly got a puppy? I posted a picture of Izzy when she was all sleepy, small and cute.

ABC in tact

She’s grown quite a lot since then, and got a lot more energy (and more teeth) so all of her toys have taken a bit of a hammering. I think the ABC toy (pictured above) has had it the worst.

Poor ABC

That was a couple of weeks ago.

This is a picture of Izzy now. In the left hand corner you’ll notice a scrap of fabric. The ABC toy is no more.

ABC remains

Poor ABC toy.

30 Before 30: #10 Go Sledging

If you’re daft enough to follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, you should. I’m really very good at Twittering), you’ll know that on Friday and Saturday I was sulking because even though it was snowing in the UK, it hadn’t snowed enough for me to go sledging. To be more accurate – it had snowed enough to facilitate sledging almost everywhere else, but not where I live.

Sledging is one of my 30 before 30. It’s not that I haven’t been sledging before, I have – I did lots of sledging when I was a kid and when it used to snow lots. But that’s exactly the point. Maybe, when I was younger, I assumed that it would snow every year, and every year I could go sledging. Maybe I never quite realised that sometimes, it wouldn’t snow at all. And maybe I failed to realise that as I grew up, sledging would become much less of a priority and that there would even come a time where I might be considered “too old” to go sledging. Somehow, I’d never factored any of this in.

The last time I remember going sledging was with my brother in a nearby field. We built ramps out of the snow and even though I was so cold I felt like my fingers were going to drop off (despite the gigantic mittens my mum had sent me outside with), it was the most fun ever and it’s one of my fondest childhood memories.

After that, there was a bit of a snow lull for quite a few years. I mean it would get cold, it would get icy, it might even snow but it was only ever an icing-sugar dusting and would be gone again within a day or so.

Childhood disappeared, quickly followed by my teens and as I hit my twenties I realised I was growing up and there wouldn’t be another opportunity to go sledging, y’know because, I was becoming an “adult”. Worse still, I wouldn’t be able to go sledging with my brother in the field near our house because he was already an adult. A proper one. With a job and everything. Also, my parents had moved house so we didn’t live near that field anymore. And also the sledge went to a charity shop when my parents moved house. All things considered, it didn’t look I was going to go sledging ever again.

So I just got on with being a grown up. Soon, I had a job and paid taxes and went to the supermarket for my weekly shop and did things like report the faulty boiler to the landlord. Maturity brings a certain amount of responsibility. The older you get, the more responsibilities you get. The more responsibility you get, the less childish amazing fun stuff you can do. That’s just science.

Responsibility graph

Then, when I was in my mid-twenties, we had two really snowy winters. It was so snowy in both of those years, that I landed a WHOLE DAY off work in each year.

But I did not go sledging.

Perhaps, by this point, I’d admitted defeat. I must have waited twenty years for it to snow enough to go sledging with my brother and now we were adults and it wasn’t going to happen. So I just stayed home and watched DVDs.

Then we had a couple snow-free winters, and I kept catching myself looking out of the window and hoping it would snow enough to go sledging. So when I wrote my 30 before 30 list, I decided that ‘going sledging’ should definitely go on there. If it snowed again before I was 30, I would definitely go sledging and just get it out of my system.

So, fast-forward to Sunday. The light spattering of snow we’d had here was already disolving into a grey, icy mush. It looked very much like another sledge-free winter was going to pass me by.

Then my friend (also called Jo)and I arranged to take our dogs for a walk in a small town near the pennines… Where there was substantially more snow. “Shall I bring the sledge?” she asked.

This is all very mathmatical and complicated, so please consult the equation below:

Snow equation

Finally, I went sledging.

And I was chased my puppy Izzy (the one wearing a high-visibility dog coat) and my friend Jo’s dog, Dillon (the dog shaped one).

Sledging with dogs

30 Before 30: #1 Register with the Anthony Nolan trust

I thought I should give an update as to where I am with my 30 Before 30 list because I’ve actually ticked something off. And it’s an important one too. In fact, when I first wrote the list, I bumped this one up to the top and promised myself that whatever happened, I would complete this thing first.

For various reasons, I’ve been going to register with the Anthony Nolan trust for a long while. But it quickly became one of those things that I just never got around to doing. The Anthony Nolan trust is a charity supporting people with blood cancer who need stem cell or bone marrow transplants. Being on the register means that the folks at Anthony Nolan can match the donors on their register with people who need a transplant and y’know, save more lives. But they always need more people. More people, under the age of 30, to register as a donor.

There are lots of myths surrounding bone marrow transplant: that the process involves having a limb snapped off so that the bone marrow can be scooped out and it’s THE MOST PAINFUL THING EVER, and you might not ever recover from the procedure.

That might be a bit of an exaggeration – except for the “IT’S THE MOST PAINFUL THING EVER” bit on the end, because the second you mention bone marrow transplant, that’s usually the first thing people say after screwing their face up. Usually people who probably know nothing about it but heard somebody else say that once, and so they feel they should pass the information on.

If you’re a regular(ish) reader of this blog, or if you’re someone who knows me, you’ll be roughly aware that I’m not a very brave or confident person. Hearing that the charitable thing I wanted to do was possibly THE MOST PAINFUL THING EVER was, admittedly, a little off-putting.

Alongside my complete lack of confidence are feelings of guilt. So you can imagine how conflicted I was feeling having already half-decided that I was going to register and at the same time being terrified about it being the most painful thing ever. To illustrate my point, it all looks a little something like this:Inner Conflict

I went round and round in circles for a long while until eventually, I told myself to stop toying with the idea. I was either definitely going to register or I definitely wasn’t. So I went on to the Anthony Nolan site and did the research for myself (which included watching this little animation all about what’s involved in the donation process). After spending a good couple of hours clicking through the site, my mind was made up.

I realised I had to do it. And what’s more, I wanted to. Even though I don’t like hospitals, and I have a low pain threshold, and I don’t like blood or operations and I’m incredibly squeamish. I shrugged all that off and filled in the form, because the only thing worse than registering after everything I’d learned about the process would be to not register.

My stem cells could be used to help someone whose own immune system is failing. Those stem cells could potentially save someone’s life, and what I realised was that however painful or uncomfortable the donation process was – it could save the life of someone who had been through far, far worse.

So before Christmas, I registered. Last week I got my official donor card.

Huzzah!

If I only did one thing on my list before I turned 30, it would most definitely be this one.

A New Year’s Revelation

It’s the start of a new year. There are lots of people jogging (everywhere, all the time), because it’s that time of year where we punish ourselves for our vices and decide that by this time next year, we will most definitely be a much better person.

I tell myself to be a much better person at the beginning of every week, never mind the beginning of every year. And every time I decide to go forth and become an infinitely better person, the whole thing quickly falls apart and I soon end up feeling much worse than I did to begin with.

This year, I’ve decided not to set myself up for failure and I haven’t made any  New Year’s resolutions. There are two reasons I always totally flunk at New Year’s resolutions:

1. I expect to see changes in myself almost immediately after deciding that I’m going to change.

Life changes 1 

2. My resolutions tend to be a bit vague and immeasurable like “Be healthy” or “Be less shit at everything”.

New year's resolutions

A while ago I wrote this post about how much I wanted to be someone totally different – someone who wakes up at dawn to do yoga, someone who is creative, productive and successful, someone who has deep philosophical conversations, someone who… (the list goes on). I have to be honest with myself: I AM NEVER going to be someone who wakes up bright and early, and does Yoga while reading… I dunno, Plato or whatever. What’s more, I’m actually okay with the fact I will never be this person.

Change shouldn’t about shoe-horning myself into a personality that doesn’t fit. My ideal version of myself – the clever, healthy, active creative with a mind that’s totally Zen – is not me. It’s never going to be me. If I became this person – the “perfect Me” – and I met perfect Me at a party, I would most probably want to punch perfect Me in the face. When I really think about it, perfect Me isn’t someone I would want to spend a lot of time with. I wouldn’t know what to talk to perfect Me about. In fact, perfect Me is probably someone I would bitch about behind their back. I would roll my eyes whenever perfect Me was talking. Perfect me probably wears Lycra and goes jogging. Perfect Me is probably a fussy eater… And that’s pretty much a deal breaker.

The more I thought about it, the more the perfect Me became less perfect and more smug and annoying. I realised that I don’t really like perfect Me at all. And if I don’t like the perfect version of myself, then why tell myself to become that person in the first place?

I started to wonder what was really so terrible about my imperfect life to make me feel like I had to become this Lycra-wearing object of perfection.

I decided to review what I’d achieved in 2012. While I realise that I didn’t make any particularly massive leaps forward with my life, in review, I think I achieved a fair amount. I completed the taught seminars on my MA, where I also made loads of new friends, I re-connected with old friends, I started writing for a couple of websites, I started writing a new novel and I (admittedly, in a totally random and seemingly impulsive manner) bought a dog.

And while none of my 2012 accomplishments have earned me an impressive salary, or landed me a publishing deal, or got me into some Lycra trousers, I’m safe in the knowledge that, in the very least, I’m heading in the right direction.

In the end, I decided to stop tormenting myself with thoughts of having a massive life overhaul and of becoming a person I don’t really want to be. And while there’s still a lot of room for change in my life, ultimately, I’m doing okay. Most people are doing okay. And that’s okay.

So while I’m still fully committed to trying new things and continuing with my 30 Before 30 list, I’m also not pretending that by the end of 2013, I will be a fit and healthy, intellectual, best-selling novelist with zero financial worries and a buzzing social life. All I want to get out of this year is to learn to be more appreciative of the things I have got and to just keep chipping away, slowly but surely, at the things I really want.

So here’s to 2013 – what I hope will be a slightly better year than 2012.

It’s Never Too Late to Surprise Yourself.

In my previous post I talked about the ways in which I I might try to move forward with my life. I wrote a list of 30 things that I wanted to do before I turn 30, giving myself just over a year to complete all of those things. This was to inspire change: to do things I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t, and generally saying ‘yes’ to… well… doing more things outside of sitting around eating pizza.

A few days after I (finally) posted my list of 30 before 30 post, I came home with this:

ABC

An 8-week-old border collie puppy. A very cute 8-week-old border collie puppy… that needs toilet training, constant attention and an endless amount of expensive safe-for-puppy toys to chew on.

Did I mention that this decision came three-weeks before Christmas?

And that various family members would be staying with me over the festive season?

And that (with the exception of my SIL) no one in my family actually likes dogs?

Did I mention that I was very much a ‘cat person’?

Until recently, I didn’t like dogs. I wouldn’t say that I hated dogs, but at times I felt like I strongly disliked them.  I don’t like it when they bark for ages for no reason. It annoys me that every time you eat near a dog they beg or weep or pester you. I don’t like visiting people who have dogs that attack you the second you walk through the door, especially if its owner is all “DON’T WORRY HE’S JUST BEING FRIENDLY” and the dog is midway through chewing your hand off or something.

It’s probably the dog-owners I have a problem with – especially if their dogs are badly trained. I’ve always found dog-owners a little bit insane detached from reality smelly eccentric. The main offenders are the ones who treat their dogs like people. Or the ones who wear jumpers with pictures of dogs on them. Or the ones who have dog ornaments or pictures of dogs in every room of their house… Especially if every room in their house smells of dog… Especially, if they smell of dog and don’t realise… And ESPECIALLY , if you smell of dog after spending any time with that person.

Dog-owners whose lives revolve around their dogs can sometimes end up a little bit bonkers.

Because dog owners can be a bit bonkers, it goes without saying that their dogs are also slightly bonkers.

And bonkers dogs are unpredictable. If a bonkers dog is the apple of its owner’s eye, then it can do no wrong. So if you’re a small, unsuspecting child happily playing in the park and out of nowhere a dog bites your trouser leg and refuses to let go, chances are, its owner will take no responsibility  for the dog’s actions and, instead, blame you – a small, innocent child (called Jo) playing on the swings.

It is the attitude of so many unhinged dog owners that led to my extreme dislike of dogs.

And then a month ago, out of nowhere, I decided that I should really own a dog. I don’t know how this thought even entered my head – I can only assume that some kind of Derren Brown mind-trickery took place. Anyway, once the spontaneous thought had taken hold, it started to snowball… Rapidly.

The next day, I arranged to go see some puppies that were for sale.

By the end of that day, I had bought a puppy.

Four days later, I was living with a puppy.

And the weirdest part was, no part of me thought that what I was doing was weird. Even though it directly contradicted everything I thought I knew about myself.

Last July I wrote a list of things I wanted to do before I was 30. It took me nearly six months to commit to the idea and actually write about it. Yet committing to the responsibility that is owning, raising and taking care of a dog on a daily basis for the next twelve (ish) years (from someone who has spent their whole life disliking dogs) was totally not a problem.

Owning a dog wasn’t one of the things on the 30 before 30 list. In no way was owning a dog part of my life plans. I never, ever thought I would want (let alone actually get) a dog.

Despite all that, I’m quietly confident that this was most definitely a brilliant idea.

Don’t get me wrong, raising a puppy is hard work. It’s pretty much non-stop, never-ending, wall-to-wall responsibility. She’s cute, but she needs the toilet every 25 seconds, wants to chew everything, be best-friends with everyone and sniff ALL THE THINGS.

I’m beginning to look constantly dishevelled and harassed. My hair is even more of a disaster than it normally is, and I no longer bother wearing make-up or nice clothes because there really isn’t any point. I’m beginning to realise that being a dog-owner doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be eccentric. It’s just that living with a puppy makes you appear a little bit like you’ve totally lost your mind.

I suspect that by this time next year, I’ll be sporting knitwear with a dog’s face on it. And not in an ironic, hipster way.

While I’ll admit to being slightly more bedraggled and chaotic than I usually am,  I’m actually very happy in my new role as dog-owner. Strangely, it’s given me a sense of purpose.

So going from disliking dogs to owning one (within a couple of days) has been a pretty strange  turn of events. On reflection, it makes me wonder what other surprises life might have in store for me. Or, more to the point, I wonder in what other ways I might surprise myself.