Rat and Mouse’s Epic adventure: a special birthday blog for Sarah Haworth

Ten years ago today, myself and the inimitable Sarah Haworth woke up in a hotel in Mumbai. A hotel that had cost us £2.30 for the night according to Hostelworld, but that we were informed on arrival was actually going to cost us £23, and we’d not actually made a reservation. It was 3am, we were in Mumbai, and we had nowhere to stay. They could find us a room, but were pretty incredulous that we would believe a room could cost £2.30, even in India. £11.50 each for a nights’ sleep was over our budget so in the morning we had to move on. It was the 18th January 2005, it was Sarah’s 25th birthday, we’d been in India less than 12 hours, and we were already incapable of booking a nights’ accommodation without a hiccup. It was going to be a long 8 months…

As a special birthday present to Sarah, I wanted to try and piece together what I could remember of this most memorable of birthdays, so I’ve gone back through the journals, the albums and the deep caverns of my memory, to hopefully give her a laugh as she has a civilised and leisurely 35th birthday breakfast in a cottage in Wales with her fiancé and 2 year old daughter. How the times have changed.

The day before Sarah’s birthday in 2005 we’d set off on our epic adventure. I’d never really had any desire to travel up to that point. I’d been on some lovely holidays to the Canary Islands with my family, and I’d been to Kavos with the girls (the less said about that the better), but I was hardly an intrepid explorer. I did however, have the desire to evade getting a ‘proper’ job for a little bit longer. Six months after I graduated and I was still showing no signs of knowing what I was doing, and the days and weeks spent drinking Stella between, and sometimes during, shifts at the Bear were mounting up. So I decided to go travelling. Yes, that’s a good idea, I’ll quit smoking and start saving and then in a year I’ll go travelling. My new friend Sarah from the Bear, and part of the Thursday night pint and a kebab up Colne crew, was also interested, but at this stage it was all just chat. So I exchanged the fags for three chocolate bars a shift and the money started adding up. We didn’t even have the internet at home at that point so I’m not entirely sure what my research consisted of. I knew I wanted to go to Vietnam and the Grand Canyon, the latter based entirely on watching Thelma and Louise, the former, I’ve no idea why. Sarah on the other hand was cultured. She’d been to Istanbul (not the one up Colne), and she’d been spat at. Before I knew it our travel plans consisted of 8 months, 4 continents, countries I can now admit that I’d never even heard of then (Laos?), and it would begin with a month in India. A nice easy start.

We’d said an emotional farewell to our families at Heathrow and boarded a ten hour flight to Mumbai. Well, Sarah’s had, mine put me on a National Express in Manchester and left John to sort me out from London onwards. He expressed a degree of concern about if I would manage for 8 months with just one bag, and then decided just to get me leathered and I could worry about it when I arrived. We did decide at some point during the night that I didn’t need to take the plastic knives and forks that my Mum had sent me with, a decision which may have been regretted later down the line.

So that’s how we came to be surrounded by, according to my journal, shanty towns, street fires, gangs, rancid water and bodies. They weren’t bodies, they were people asleep on the side of the road, but you have to remember I’d barely left Europe apart from a brief jaunt to Disney World, and saw more of the world in the 45 minute taxi ride from the airport than I had in 21 years. After switching hotels to a place that was within budget, but the room didn’t have a ceiling, and that you wouldn’t have been able to lie down horizontally in without having to bend, we went out to enjoy our first day in India.

According to my journal Sarah was by this point ‘quite frightened’, and I was quite alarmed by having to go everywhere on foot. Looking back at the photos I was a tad more ‘portly’ in those days, and hadn’t thought that purchasing some Jesus sandals from Millets in Burnley the week before gave Sarah free rein to make me walk everywhere. Later in our journey this included walking 8 miles from Agra train station to the Taj Mahal, walking past men with actual guns, because we didn’t want to pay for a taxi. Looking back it’s laughable as rickshaws were pence, but we had 8 months to get through on a few grand apiece, so it had to be done.

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We spent the day consulting ‘The Bible’ that is the Lonely Planet, eating cake and wandering aimlessly through market stalls, Sarah fighting her inner hippy by not buying any bells, incense and scarves, and then finally, getting ripped off. We fully expected to get ripped off at some point on our journey, just not less than 24 hours in. We were trying to buy tickets for our onward journey to Goa the following day as we’d decided the best way to deal with India, was on a beach. It was the oldest trick in the book, a lady approached us at the train station, told us the ticket office was shut, but she could take us to a man that could sort out some tickets. Then she told us we were pretty, which given that we were at the start of 8 months without make up and in a combination of ten pieces of clothing that made up our entire wardrobe, was music to our ears. Ten minutes later, we had double priced tickets and one very happy Indian woman named Sandy was rubbing her hands together.

Still, we were grateful the next day when we were on board a train with both seats and a table, sat next to a family who were only to happy to share their food and see us safely onto the next leg of our trip. A train journey a couple of weeks later was not so luxurious, safe or pleasant, we saw a man shitting on the ground, and a man rubbed his crotch against Sarah for the whole journey. So Sandy, if you’re still at Mumbai Central station ripping off new arrivals, good on you. Those few hours eating samosas on the way to Goa were probably the most decadent of our whole time in India, and we have you to thank for that.

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After the lavish train journey we had a few relaxing days on the beach in Palolem, Goa, getting offered drugs, yoga classes and scooters, whilst scoffing at the seasoned travellers and their ridiculous hippy clothes. Little did we know that less than a month later we too would be getting Reiki, tarot readings, piercings and wearing fishermans pants. What followed Goa would take far too long to recall, and would possibly only interest myself and Sarah, but hopefully this little snippet will have taken her back in time ten years and made her smile as she drinks her chai this morning.

Maybe in July I’ll retell the story of how we spent my birthday, suffering mild altitude sickness in La Paz, Bolivia, and opening my birthday gifts of a llama foetus and a bowler hat. Thanks Fran and Crofty, to this day I do not know how I managed to leave the foetus in the bin in the hostel…

Editor’s note: No llamas were harmed during the celebrating of my birthday. Llama foetuses are sold in Bolivian markets as an offering to the goddess Pachamama. They also make a horrific birthday present for hungover friends with altitude sickness. If I’d wanted to harm a llama, it would have been the one which tried to mount me and Fran as we walked back from watching a sunrise.

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Students vs. semi-professionals

It’s Freshers Week and Oxford Road is absolutely heaving with students morning, noon and night. After a peaceful summer of walking to and from work relatively alone, I’ve spent this week zig zagging around excitable teenagers who are either drunk, recovering from being drunk, or planning to become drunk shortly. I must sound like I’m jealous, and I suppose part of me is. Having been told this week that making my car fit to drive will cost me £400, it is slightly frustrating seeing swarms of giddy youngsters with quiffs and crop tops pile into the pubs, interest free overdrafts lining their pockets. I went to uni with a girl who once used her overdraft to spend £400 on a skirt. In retrospect, unless she left her graduation ceremony and walked straight into a lucrative career with PricewaterhouseCoopers, I expect this is a spending strategy she’s lived to regret.

The students have certainly given me plenty of food for thought as I creep between traffic lights on my way home, food being the operative word. The whole road has been full of people flyering and shouting, trying to drag unwitting students into food outlets, and yesterday even onto a promotional bus. I’d have probably been on the bus myself if I’d have actually heard what they were saying, but unfortunately I thought they were saying ‘Do you want free mangos?’. As I can take or leave a mango I carried on walking, only to find out later that they were actually offering free Nandos. All you had to do was get on the bus and declare your love for Nandos at the top of your voice. Having certainly done worse things for a free meal I was a little disappointed I’d missed the opportunity.

Today was brilliant, I actually got mistaken for a student. 6 weeks without cigarettes has obviously returned my skin to it’s youthful glory. Either that or I was simply caught up in the thick of it and was the only person who wasn’t already holding a Subway wrapper. So at some point before the end of September, which looking back if I remember rightly by this point in the year 2000 I’d already spent most of my student loan in HMV, I am entitled to a free Subway cookie. That will certainly keep the students going through October?

It’s just got me thinking what a difference 14 years makes. They’re wandering about with pizzas, at lunchtime. How reckless! They clearly don’t realise that once you hit 3o and start worrying about getting your 5 a day, body fat percentage, and dying young, that you don’t eat pizzas unless it’s the weekend! And if you’re going to eat something so decadent as a takeaway, then for crying out loud don’t do it at lunchtime! These treats must be kept for an evening or the equilibrium of the world will be thrown off kilter. When I was at uni I don’t remember drinking water. In fact I don’t remember drinking water until about 5 years ago, and that was because Ailsa questioned how I still functioned when all I drank was Coke. Now my work output is hampered by my constant need for the loo because of my obsession with staying hydrated. Are the students worrying about this as they wander about yelling Nandos at the tops of their voices? I doubt it. They don’t need to quit smoking yet as they’ve not discovered that it gets harder and harder to breathe running upstairs, because at 18 you can smoke 2o a day and still comfortably go circuit training.

We existed on microwaved pasta and Dolmio stir in sauces when we lived in halls. When we got our own house in second year we upped the ante and progressed to Chicken Tonight on a regular basis, honey and mustard was a favourite. For very special occasions there were mini chicken kievs, which as anyone who lived at Manor House Road will tell you, if you ate them without my permission, there were tears. Eating wasn’t cheating, it was just a necessity. When I was at uni we didn’t photograph everything we ate and upload it straight to twitter (#foodporn). I’d like to point out though that I have been photographing my food for years, but mainly because I’m greedy rather than I’m trying to be cool. I like the before shot, usually a plate filled with large cuts of meat, and then after, clutching my belly, sweating but triumphant. I digress…

Now, food is IN. Being a foodie is bang on trend. The people that I sat on kitchen floors with eating pasta out of a microwave dish are the same people that now own Agas and go to Michelin starred restaurants…one of them even worked in one according to Facebook. I know people who would spend as much on going out for an evening meal as they once would on a week in Kavos. I’m not knocking it, I bloody love it. Most of my money goes on eating and I love the fact that I can talk about burgers for half an hour without the automatic assumption being that I’m getting ready for a gastric band. On one of mine and Chris’s first dates we spent a long time talking about our favourite foods…and I mean a long time. It was #hot. 

Tuesday night in my student days was ska night, and we used to go to a night called ‘Get your skates on’ at Northumbria Union and try our best to skank. It usually involved illegal vodka from Mr V’s offy before hand and a highly questionable burger from Munchies on the way home. Last Tuesday night? I came home and cooked pork loins stuffed with sage, mozzerella and wrapped in parma ham, served with crushed potatoes and broccoli with chilli. I went to three shops to try and find fresh sage, and it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I even shared the recipe for the broccoli on facebook. It was an ‘I’ve changed’ moment.

In all seriousness though, I wouldn’t go back. For a start the thought of drinking shots of vodka at 40p makes me feel nauseous, though I would love to be able to go out with a fiver and come home with change. The idea of being on a revolving dancefloor is also making me nauseous, despite some of my fondest uni memories stemming from there. We’re spoilt with some of the best pub/restaurants I’ve ever been to in Pendle and the Ribble Valley, and Remas is bloody good too. I’ve then got every single cuisine going on my doorstep as soon as I step foot out of work…that’s if I don’t get trampled by students on their way to Nandos as I go. The best thing is I can pay for it out of my wage and not out of an overdraft that no-one really bends over backwards to tell you that you have to pay back. I don’t have to drink vodka redbull just because it’s the cheapest thing behind the bar, and my illegal vodka days are (I think) long behind me.

But tonight, in memory of my student days, I went to McDonalds after work and had myself a meal deal. I had intended to make a chorizo couscous dish and then watch the Bake Off, but for the sake of nostalgia I headed straight for the golden arches. We used to have competitions at the one on the high street in Newcastle, winner was who could eat the most 79p hamburgers in one sitting. To be honest though I’ve felt slightly unpleasant ever since, and watching the 17 year old Martha on the Bake Off (who has written a dissertation this week as well as keep her place in the competition) has just made me feel like the most unaccomplished individual on earth. I bet she doesn’t eat McDonalds. 

So maybe I am slightly jealous of the students, but tomorrow as I walk to work past piles of sick, green faces and empty Dominos boxes, I will be ever so slightly smug instead.

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A summer of firsts

It feels slightly strange to be sat here with the curtains drawn and the heating on when I can still smell suncream, but here we are.

It’s been a glorious British summer, topped off with two scorching weeks in Europe, so it’s only fair that I’d be slightly disgruntled this morning when my alarm went off and it was still perfect darkness outside. It might be warm enough to go out without a coat at lunchtime, but it’s definitely autumn, and it wouldn’t surprise me if next week it was suddenly winter without any warning whatsoever.

It’s been a chaotic summer even by my standards, and just as I’ve dragged the slow cooker recipes out of hibernation and fallen back in love with my fleece pants I’ve looked at the calendar and realised that it’s looking like a hectic autumn too.

How to describe it all…well, I’m conscious of not blogging since the sun came out, but I’m also conscious of going on all night, so here goes, the abridged version of this summer’s activities…

A weekend at the seaside just in time to greet the sunshine, fish, chips, pint pots, power cuts, painful flip flops for a coastal walk whilst getting ravaged by a plague of furious flies, eating scallops for the first time…

Two beautiful English countryside weddings, more scallops, the most stunning brides and dapper grooms. Before the weddings came the hens, for Terri, a Caribbean Queen veil, prosecco and jaeger bombs, for Janine…stripy t-shirts, bobble hats and Europe’s longest zip wire. The less said about the stag do the better, though it was a relief that Chris returned from his first mountain biking experience since high school little more than saddle sore.

They were the first weddings I’ve ever been to where a spontaneous dance off erupted between courses, and where a groom beat boxes during his speech. Needless to stay the instigators of both of these things were one and the same. I’ve also never been to a wedding where the best man handed out a copy of ‘Turkish Meat’, it’s not exaggerating to say they were amongst the most unique weddings I’ve had the privilege of being invited to.

It’s the first summer that I’ve been on a holiday that I did absolutely nothing, to the point that even lifting my book up seemed like an actual effort, and sometimes I just had to put it down and go back to sleep. By contrast though, I also went on a holiday and kayaked 15km. It hurt. I didn’t realise just how much it could possibly hurt using your upper body strength for such a long period. It’s actually quite frightening when you come round a bend and are in the middle of a huge lake, and it’s down to your own arms to get you across it. Luckily there was a bar at the side of the river that you could paddle up to, have some super strength Polish beers, a huge escalope and a few cigarettes and you got a second wind for at least 200m.

It’s the first time I’ve been to a festival and not ended up with a face like a slapped backside because it was muddy. I was wearing high-vis waterproof pants and a poncho for ages 4-11 so I was well equipped. It’s the first festival I’ve showered at, though not the first or last that I’ve whimpered before the end. In my defence, I had done 3 days and nights without a moan but hit the wall when Example came on and I’d only managed three lukewarm beers all day.

As well as the weddings there’s been three big birthdays, a christening, two engagements, a pregnancy, a birth…and everyone I know who doesn’t live in Barrowford all came to visit within a two week period.

In short, it’s been quite a summer. We’ve even managed to attend a four week boot camp during this time so despite four months of indulgence I can still fit through my front door.

So what for autumn and winter? The plan is as ever, less TV (easy to say after watching an entire series of Californication yesterday) and more adventures, though as much as it pains me Judith Chalmers doesn’t have anything else booked in yet. This needs remedying, for blog purposes if nothing else at all…

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That mountain I almost climbed (also known as ‘The curse of Wasdale Head’)

Is it really nearly three months since I last blogged? Well, back by no demand whatsoever, here I am. I think that means that I’ve broken practically all of my resolutions so far. In my defence it’s because I’ve been keeping resolution number 10, the secret unmentionable that I couldn’t reveal in my last post, which was to work hard in my new job. Well I’ve been working hard and commuting hard, and as a result I’ve turned into someone who goes to bed at 9.30pm and complains all the time. I must admit I’ve been quite enjoying the new hours I’ve been keeping, until it hits the weekend and staying up after midnight polishes me off for about three days. The commute, well that’s a blog post all to itself, especially after my two hour journey home last night avoiding burning cars, premiership parade road closures and a woman in a Honda trying to cross into the same lane as I was from the other direction. Hairy.

The career move has prompted a bit of a rebudgeting strategy though. Petrol to Manchester isn’t cheap, but luckily Aldi prosecco is, so I’ve not been suffering too greatly. It did worry me though that I’d be unable to carry on writing a blog about adventures, holidays and travel if I couldn’t afford to go on them, but it would appear that turning into a pensioner and being asleep more than I’m awake put paid to my blog career several weeks ago. Anyway despite this, I’ve got more excursions planned than my grandma this year (who has an incredible social life and will probably be on twitter soon) so I thought I’d share my latest outing.

This weekend, we braved Wasdale Head again. If anyone read the blog about Great Gable, some of this will be familiar information. However if you didn’t, to recap, we went to Wasdale Head two years ago to climb Great Gable and all that stopped there being a murder in the fells was 50 Shades of Grey. The mountain remained unclimbed. Until this weekend?

A few years ago me and Nicky realised we shared a love of walking. I say love, she loves it, I love reading, writing and talking about it, though am usually too hungover to do it with any kind of gusto or frequency. We began meeting up a couple of times a year for a good hike, starting with Pendle, then venturing to the Lakes, before deciding to crank it up a notch.

After saying she would never go up Ben Nevis again we somehow ended up booking 4 nights in a bunkhouse at the foot of it, and had made detailed plans for our trip including a spreadsheet for who was going to bring the cans of Coke and Mars Bars. The day before my trip my new boyfriend (who you may have heard me mention in previous posts…) decided to spend all morning reading me articles about people falling off Ben Nevis, people casually strolling off Ben Nevis, and people blowing off Ben Nevis. Apparently there is some tremendous gully up there called Five Finger Gully and because of poor visibility, snow cover, and people like me who listen to their guide book when it says to not attempt mountains without a compass, but has no idea how to use an actual compass, people tend to fall down this gully. This spoilt the excitement that had been building for my first walking holiday, and turned into sheer dread when Chris handed me two bright orange survival bags, just in case, and told me to keep them in my rucksack. About half an hour later it transpired that Chris had never been up Ben Nevis, he’d just once met someone who had, so I decided to push the fear to one side and go out for lunch with the girls.

As this blog isn’t about Ben Nevis I’ll keep it brief, but as I’m writing this now you will know that I didn’t fall off Five Finger Gully. To be honest I think we had more trouble on our ‘training’ walk the day before when we attempted a little known mountain called Stob Ban, ended up climbing up a particularly un-navigable waterfall, whilst wearing walking pants that didn’t fit and were cutting off circulation, and had a sheer rock face to finish that didn’t look at all appealing.

Ben Nevis was a breeze in comparison, just relentless zig zagging for what seemed like hours until we hit the snowy section, when all I can say is, I’m glad we had Mars Bars and Nicky knows her stuff. After being able to see nothing all the way up, shortly after starting our descent the clouds blew over for about ten minutes and we had the perfect view out over the rest of the mountain range and the Lochs below. You could say it was like God lent us his eyes…

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We rounded off the day, and the holiday, getting drunk with some squaddies from Doncaster in the Ben Nevis Inn and with me falling out of my bunk bed in the middle of the night after too much Stella. Happy days.

The reason I mention all this is because this weekend we had arranged to meet Nicky and Gina in the Lakes, to continue our plan to conquer the highest mountains in the UK. Last year we did Snowdon, and experienced pretty much every season going on the way up, before having a similar holy experience at the top and getting ‘the view’.

Sadly, this weekend was not the case. The problem with trying to combine the diaries of three women and a man who watches football, is that you have to book these things fairly far in advance. So you know for a fact that when it comes to said weekend it’s going to be pissing it down. When we have a glorious weekend for walking one of the aforementioned people is likely to be at a christening, a wedding, on the Turf, visiting family, suffering from a Saturday night, or at a Backstreet Boys gig. Ever the optimists, myself and Chris booked to stay at the same campsite that was home to the Diamond Jubilee Disaster, but we had learnt – we were staying in a pod.

It was clear that it was all going to be doomed. For a start the plan was to be at the campsite by 9pm on the Friday night, walk up Scafell Pike with the girls on Saturday, and then mosey up Great Gable on the Sunday before the 3 hour journey home, just so I could tick it off my list.

We didn’t get into the pod until just before 11pm, after having to reverse Chris’s new shiny car for over a mile down a bridleway that I thought the campsite might be at the end of. It had been raining all week. I’ve become fairly scared of low fog in recent years (why do we get less brave the older we get??), Nicky’s waterproof pants had ripped, and the forecast wasn’t positive for the weekend. It wasn’t looking good.

So of course, we didn’t go up Scafell Pike. And we didn’t go up Great Gable. Instead on Sunday we had two cups of tea and a bacon butty and decided to drive home the ‘scenic way’ instead of exerting ourselves in the cold drizzle and potentially run the risk of needing a survival bag.

On Saturday though we did do Julia Bradbury and Wainwright proud, with a beautiful 6 mile walk up hill and down dale, passing through woods filled with bluebells, a traumatised cow, and even got the view out to Great Gable from the picture that inspired this so far fruitless mission. Plus if the fog had have come down lower, Nicky’s day-glo gloves would have certainly got us rescued.

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My whiny teenage mutterings aside about being cold and damp, there was something wonderful about a weekend camping and being outside. It’s a brilliant excuse not to wash your hair, or yourself, for a couple of days and not feel remotely guilty about it. You don’t get phone signal so you are saved from the clutches of Facebook, Twitter and Clarets Mad for a few hours at least. I also meant I went into work yesterday rosy cheeked, well rested, and feeling pretty wholesome.

However I’m still looking forward to this weekend being in a cottage. Mainly because I won’t have to put walking boots and a kagool on to go to the toilet. Unfortunately there is very little chance of just nipping up Great Gable from Whitby, so it’s going to have to remain on the list for now.

I am confident though that we will do it at some point in our lives. It really wasn’t the weekend for it, and our walking quartet will come together again and tackle many mountains when the time is right. Chris is reading a copy of Outdoor Fitness as we speak…we mean business.

So it’s going to be third time lucky, or maybe we really are just cursed when it comes to Wasdale Head…

 

 

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Spend a little, live a lot

Lucky for everyone I’ve nearly come to the end of telling everyone my resolutions. Seeing as it’s February and I’ve not really put anything to place to achieve any of them, it would suggest that I’m not taking it that seriously anyway. But hey, I will leave things neat and tidy and get up to number 10 tonight…then I can start talking about something else.

It’s unintentional, but the rest of them relate to eating. I could do as Shaun T says and do Insanity every day but even then, if I’m going to continue eating with gay abandon it’s unlikely I’m going to be able to waft around in a bikini this summer looking athletic. So I might as well carry on munching…

No. 7 – Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant

This was another one that was on the ‘before I’m 30’ list. I think one of the main reasons it didn’t happen was because we spent most of last year on holiday, and therefore with little leftover money to spend on extravagant food.

I thought I’d got a quick win with this though when making the list, as Michael Caines came on TV and started talking about his two Michelin stars. Brilliant I thought, I’ve already eaten at his restaurant in Manchester in 2012 (despite finding the whole experience quite unnerving). I’ve never had a glass of wine explained to me in as much detail. I suspect though that this is my lack of food and drink culture shining through, given that I’m very comfortable with questionable boiled burgers. Still, as it was a special lunchtime taster deal, it was a good opportunity to try a new food without worrying too much about the cost or the volume, seeing as I was only going to get a wafer thin piece of it. (I tried salmon linguine and it tasted like grit. But I digress).

It transpires that whilst it has two stars, he didn’t use either of them that day, and we were in one of his chain hotel restaurants which means that in the grand scheme of things, no tick off the list. A lovely dining experience none the less, though I believe we went to Subway before getting the x43 home.

So I still need to enjoy this experience if I’m to achieve my goal. The main problem I’ll have though is that if you’re shelling out for a Michelin starred restaurant you’re generally going to go with your most loved one for a real treat. However my loved one has pretty high standards when it comes to portion size, and has been known on more than one occasion to order a kebab after eating a perfectly reasonably sized evening meal, so I think the Michelin experience may end up being a test of my persuasion skills. If I was ever going to coax him into this you’d think my big birthday would have been my angle, so alas, this may remain on the list for another decade before I get the tick.

No. 8 – Reduce food shopping bills

The thinking behind this was quite straightforward, and to coin the phrase of my new favourite supermarket, spend a little live a lot, we’ve decided to try and make our money go even further this year.

It all started quite innocently. The less we waste on takeaways, and vegetables that we throw away, and buying butties at work when we could be making them, the more we’ve got to spend on holidays and beer and general merriment. (I mean, to save for a house deposit and other adult enterprises.)

Unfortunately this new ‘project’ quickly became the subject of my obsession, and now in just under 4 weeks I’ve turned into one of those people with far too much time on their hands, who goes into two or even three different stores to identify where items are the cheapest, then tells everybody they’ve ever met (and the whole online blogging community) how good they are at finding bargains. It’s been our primary topic of conversation for a good fortnight. I’ve started buying packets of butty meat based on exactly how many slices we’re going to use that week. I’ve eaten things I don’t even want, just to not throw them away. In short, I’ve turned into a complete lunatic. I’ve been walking round Aldi grinning to myself about the prices, exclaiming at the fact that ‘they even sell flowers’, and then working out exactly how many ml of premium German lager I will get if I buy six small bottles or four large. I’ve been in Lidl at 8am just because Lurpak is cheapest there. It was a surreal experience, I’m not sure it was even open when I walked in. I’ve made, and eaten, a pretty disgusting soup, just because I didn’t want to throw away the one leftover parsnip from Christmas Day. It was mid Jan at this point. However, for the first time in a very long time, I’ve not over spent this month. And the third holiday of the year has been booked. So I might have turned into an unstoppable bargain hunting weirdo who talks about food constantly, but I clearly am doing something right financially…

No. 9 Blog fortnightly about trying new things

Hmm. Well this started off as just ‘blogging fortnightly’. Which was fair enough, but the more I read online, the more it tells me you have to have a theme to keep people reading. Considering this started off as a running blog, but I stopped running, then a holiday blog, but it became winter, I felt that I needed something a bit more sustainable. It was suggested that I travel across the country eating and rating burgers, but that didn’t really fit in with Shaun T’s ethos, so I got to a bit of an impasse. I refuse to blog about how much TV I’ve been watching this year, because it’s ridiculous, I don’t know how I’ve got anything else done (by the way House of Cards? Only watched one episode and I’m already itching to finish this and crack on). So, it’s going to be me and my quest to become more adult in my food tastes. Given that I arrived at high school having never eaten strawberries, I didn’t like lamb until about 3 years ago, and seafood still completely terrifies me, I think it’s fair to say I’m not particularly adventurous. However this is going to change. Especially seeing as I’m now frequenting continental supermarkets that sell things like roll mops and canned haggis.

So watch this space. But if I ever eat a roll mop I think I’ll be wanting more than a blog post on it, I think I’ll want some kind of medal.

And finally… No. 10…

Well number ten is another story. Another blog, another time, maybe after some roll mops and a prawn cocktail…

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Insanity, Dickens & Twitter. What a combo.

OK, resolution no. 3 was temporarily broken. I’m back on track, so lets move swiftly on…

No. 4 – Try Insanity

The first I’d ever heard of Insanity was several months ago when I called in at my sisters for a brew. She wasn’t there, but her husband was, and he was doing something in front of the TV that was making him sweat. A lot. An alarming amount in fact. Once I’d stopped laughing and he’d stopped…(there’s no verb here that doesn’t make this sound even more like a sexual innuendo) we had a bit of a chat about what the hell he was doing. He was getting yelled at by some American guy called Shaun T, and if you wanted to get yelled at too, all you needed to do was a set of DVD’s that’d cost you about £100 off QVC and in 60 days time you’d look like an American underwear model. As if the money and the yelling didn’t put me off enough, the fact that you had to do it every day really did, so I added it to the place in my brain where I store thoughts of exercise much too intense for me. This is where spinning lives.

Then I started going to step classes last year. After weeks of putting it off because I thought I’d fly off my step, chin myself on the step and lose my teeth, I finally succumbed and joined Janine and Jane for 50 minutes of uncoordinated fun. But that wasn’t enough, a couple of months ago they started mentioning Insanity. Mentioned it several times in fact. My problem is that I’ll try most things once, like a challenge, and don’t like thinking I can’t do things, so even though I knew I’d absolutely hate it I somehow found myself agreeing to go in the New Year. This is the kind of mentality that found me briefly on a rounders team last year…but the less said the better on that chapter.

So two weeks ago, I went to Insanity. It wasn’t quite as bad as the Spinning class when I nearly fell off my bike and vomited in front of my dental hygienist, but it wasn’t pretty. As we got going under the disco lights with the old school dance music I was fairly enjoying myself and pretending we were at a party where I was just unfortunately wearing gym clothes. About ten minutes in I made the mistake of looking at my watch and devastated myself. It was well hard work. I had to get water every two minutes, I couldn’t lift my arms, knees or feet high enough, at any point, and I don’t like being yelled at. I tried to stand out of her eyesight (it wasn’t Shaun T teaching us it was Helen H) to avoid being yelled at but she’s got my number. She knows that I’m the kind of person who wants to go to a gym class, put very little effort in, then go home and eat an entire chocolate orange every evening and still lose weight. Alas, this is not the way Insanity works. You have to dig deeper, shout stuff about bananas yo’, and basically completely knacker yourself out until you drive home like a zombie and can’t lift your arms up to wash your hair. The good news is it makes Step feel pretty easy.

I’ve been twice now, so that means this resolution is well and truly ticked off and I’ve had a chocolate orange to celebrate.

No. 5 – Read Dickens

Right, this has been on the list for years, mainly because I’m quite embarrassed that I’ve got an English literature degree and have never read a Dickens novel. It was on the reading list for one of my modules at uni and I definitely got away without reading it somehow, so I need to put it right.

I’ve got Great Expectations lined up ready to go, but unfortunately I’ve convinced myself it’s going to be tough going, so I’ve procrastinated instead and watched a further 8 episodes of Orange is the new Black. That’s 8 hours I could have been reading amazing literature, achieving great abs and learning something, but instead I’ve spent that time with my earphones in watching a programme with titles like ‘Tit Punch’. It’s been fabulous. I’ve got 11 months to read Dickens…

And finally for this evening, No. 6 – Less Facebook, more Twitter

Not quite sure about this one, maybe because I thought it was more interesting to write about than ‘Have better dental hygiene’. That’s quite self-explanatory.

I think when I saw a workman in the Town Hall a few months ago and for some overwhelming reason thought I knew him, but realised I know him because I’m friends with his girlfriend on Facebook, I knew I was spending too much time on Facebook. And so is she, seriously.

So I decided to stop checking it compulsively every ten minutes to see if anyone had said anything, to anyone, that I might find interesting (she says whilst checking it), and instead start saying things of very little interest to anybody and everybody, all over Twitter.

And since hatching this plan I have lost 3 followers. I therefore declare resolutions 3 and 6 to be partial failures at this point, I intend to do much better at smoking and tweeting in February. Not smoking that is. 7-10 next week… I need to go and finish Orange is the new Bla…I mean, read Dickens.

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New years resolutions in full swing? Hmm…

Well at the risk of being uninventive, it makes sense to me to kickstart the year and the first blog in months with a piece about the New Year.

I started 2014 with pretty much the same ideas I have every new year. Eat less, drink less, smoke less, work out more, work harder, be more productive, and just generally be a better, more rounded and accomplished individual.

It took until 3pm on January 1st before I was stuffing myself with pie and peroni – admittedly with less vigour than I had been throughout Christmas, but it was hardly a flying start. However, I’m currently watching ‘Weight Loss Ward’ out of the corner of my eye and seen as I can get out of my house without a hoist, I’ve decided I’m not going to focus too much on the whole weight thing this year.

So what am I going to do differently? But of course, I’ve made some resolutions…

No.1 – Visit one new country

So this originally started as a blog about running. Then it became a blog about holidays and travel. Then somehow, it disintegrated into me talking mainly about food and drink. As ever my main goal in my life this year (now that I’ve finished Breaking Bad) is to go on as many holidays as possible. Unfortunately this has coincided with 2014 being a year that I need to spend less money. So my options are more limited shall we say than in previous years.

However, you could argue that having already booked one holiday last week, one mini break being booked in the next few days, and a further three holidays abroad, two long weekends and a festival all in the pipeline – I’ve either turned to crime or I’ve just decided to stop eating altogether so that I can spend every penny I earn on trips. I’ve had a lengthy conversation with CP about the benefits of shopping at Lidl, and prepared myself to spend another year wearing clothes I’ve had for some time, just to make these dreams a reality.

The problem is that all the planned trips, with the exception of one, are all to places I’ve already been to. So I’ve set myself up for a fall here unless Bez comes through and gets her 40th in Amsterdam sorted.

I think potentially going on 4 holidays, three long weekends and to a festival in one year will mean I can tick a box though? Bankrupt?

It’s all for the sake of the blog…

No. 2 – Climb Great Gable

Bit of a strange one this. In February 2012 we went to the Lakes. We decided, in a bid to behave more maturely, that we would buy ourselves a sensible adult piece of art (this is what grown ups do after all), rather than just spending all our money in the pub. So after about an hour sifting through every photo this particular photographer had taken we finally agreed on one of Wastwater, brooding, picturesque, and with Great Gable fairly prominently featuring. We thought we should probably climb it at some point, lest we were asked too many times why it was hung above the mantelpiece when we’d not even been.

Fast forward to the Diamond Jubilee weekend in June of that year. We’d spent the extended bank holiday weekend at Scott & Sally’s wedding just south of Doncaster, and then planned to make the 5 hour trip up to Wastwater to spend 3 nights camping, chilling, and climbing Great Gable.

This was a great plan, flawless in fact. Except this was the week that everyone who went camping either blew away or was flooded. Half of the campsites in Wales were ravaged by 70mph winds, Devon was nearly washed away, no-one in their right mind went camping. Except us. The 5 hour journey up to Wastwater was interesting enough given that I’d had to be put to bed at the wedding and felt, as Scott so aptly put it, ‘like I’d been dug up’. What followed didn’t improve matters.

It took 2 hours to put up a 3 man tent. This was no fun, and I say this from the point of view of someone who gave up after an hour and went and sat in the car reading ’50 Shades of Grey’. According to the angriest camper I’ve ever encountered (CP), the pegs weren’t working because the ground was too rocky, the driving rain wasn’t helping, nor were the flies, and neither was the fact that his assistant was sat in the car having lets face it, a rather entertaining read, and had no intention of getting out and getting done for not putting pegs in at the right angle.

Eventually something resembling a tent was up, only not one that you could cook your tea in, and not one you’d trust to sleep in, so we disappeared to the pub, only to be told there were no tables, all night. If you don’t know Wastwater, it’s probably the most remote part of the Lakes. We had to drive for 25 minutes to the nearest place we could eat at, which meant CP couldn’t drink, at a point when the thought of a pint was possibly the only thing keeping him from total meltdown. I was fine by the way.

Long story short, we got back to the tent, had the worst nights sleep we’ve ever had, got up at 7am, packed up, f**ked off. We spent the rest of the week at home, drying out the tent (which I’m surprised didn’t end up in Wastwater). I read the entire 50 Shades trilogy, and the week picked up considerably as a result…

But Great Gable is facing me as I sit here writing and it just feels appropriate that 2 years later we try again. Given that I claim walking to be one of my hobbies, and not reading semi pornographic fiction, I feel I owe it to myself to climb it this year. So watch this space.

Now no. 3 should really be watch less TV. Less e4, less repeats etc. However Chris has finally got to the point where he’s getting into boxsets as much as me, so at this point I must retire from blogging so we can watch Boardwalk Empire. We’ve got Game of Thrones to go at next and I’ve recently discovered Orange is the new Black, which I fear is going to write off any chance of me reading any books this month – thus ruining another of my resolutions.

So to finish on a high…

No.3 – Do not smoke any cigarettes

I thought that sounded less daunting than ‘Quit smoking’, for the hundredth time. It is 14th January and I can happily say, I have not smoked any cigarettes. So something is going right this year so far…

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