Archives for posts with tag: New Challenges

Such a cliché, but for me, this is late-life rather than mid-life crisis talk and something I thought about doing to celebrate turning fifty, a whole decade ago (so not something I’m rushing into, so to speak). The choice then, was three-fold – sports car, visit terracotta warriors or blow-out party. And the party was fab… a real show-stopping, humdinger of a celebration which I loved.

But being the greedy girl I am, I still hankered after that car.

To be fair, I did get one spin of the wheel when I took possession of a friend’s beloved MG when he very sadly ‘passed over the rainbow’. I had great fun for a couple of months, racing around Welsh lanes,  hearing the birds and smelling the trees, before putting it into winter storage. I was hooked, but this car wasn’t suitable for a daily seventy-mile commute. It’s a collectable – a fragile lady in need of renovation and I need to respect her age.

And so for the last couple of months His Nibbs has very kindly been keeping an eye on the market, all to no avail. Until last weekend, when a rather smart MX5 popped up on his radar. ‘Fancy a run down to Bournemouth to look at a car?’ he casually asked over toast and marmalade. Did I heck!

It took a little longer than we anticipated to hit the outskirts of Bournemouth, in fact it was nearly dusk. His Nibbs was a little concerned at looking over a car in the dark but there was sufficient daylight left for me to make a test drive, lose my head and hand over the dosh. I adjusted the mirrors, waited while His Nibbs cautiously fasten his seat-belt, and roared off the forecourt in the direction of home.  

For the last year I’ve enjoyed driving an automatic car. Who would have imagined that twelve months of life with an automatic gearbox would cancel out the experience of thirty-eight years of using a manual gearbox? His Nibbs gamely sat through a few hours of kangaroo leaps and lurching roars until we reached Bath. By the time we pulled up outside our favourite burger bar, I was a coiled spring, totally focused on the gear-stick and the array of instruments on the dashboard which all seemed to work in reverse order. I unpeeled my fingers from the steering wheel, unpeeled my body from the tiny bucket seat and gratefully unpeeled the wrapper from my garlic mayo burger. This was indeed, a new challenge. How  was I going to tame the little beast before riding it to work the following morning?

2MX5

So now I have my convertible… my lovely fun car in Soul Red. Each morning is a challenge, roaring along the M4 on my commute, dodging the wheels of the big trucks and weaving my way through the traffic. It’s a noisy ride – the radio is set to full volume for me to catch the news headlines, but I love every minute. I’ve stepped out of my comfort-zone (literally – the Jag was like riding in a duvet), and I can’t wait for the warm weather and the hood to come down. By which time, the yodelling practice will be pretty first class!  

I’ve always wanted to yodel. Raised on Heidi and the Sound of Music, the reverberation of those throaty gurgles fills me with unexplained delight and makes me feel five years old again. So there was never any doubt that this would be the Number One challenge on my list of new things to achieve this year.

I casually dropped it into the conversation while trying to make small talk at a recent party. I was talking to the husband of a friend; a rather retiring bloke, not much given to socialising and someone I don’t know particularly well. I hoped it would be an ice breaker… it was.

‘I’m going to undertake sixty new challenges, this year,’ I started.

‘You realise that’s more than one a week,’ he replied, in seemingly disbelief. Put like this, it did appear a daunting task. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and recklessly revealed my number one quest. He raised an eyebrow over his wineglass and without missing a beat replied, ‘I can yodel.’

I scanned his face. Was he making a joke? ‘My grandfather taught me,’ he added. I giggled a little nervously, still not quite sure whether he was pulling my leg. This was a line from a song… a yodelling song, wasn’t it? ‘The thing with yodelling,’ he continued, ‘is to be confident. Frank Ifield… he was a good yodeller. I’ve got a couple of his records. You can borrow them, if you like.’ If a giant chicken had knocked me over, I couldn’t have been more stunned. This was the first person with whom I’d shared my ambition. Surely this was a good omen, a sign to step out of my comfort zone and have a go.

But how to set about it? Do yodelling teachers advertise? Are there night classes? Or would this be a DIY task? I searched the internet for inspiration and found none. It soon became evident that if I wanted to learn, I would have to teach myself. There is scant learning material available and this, mostly American in origin, but I had the bit between my teeth and plumped for an audiobook by Cathy Fink and Tod Whittemore. Before I could have second thoughts, I hit the ‘Buy it Now’ button and made my purchase.

I didn’t have to wait long. Within two days I collected my parcel from the local Amazon locker and excitedly opened the package. I was a little disappointed to find a flimsy booklet of half a dozen typed sheets (we’re talking vintage Imperial here, for those of you old enough to know what that is), bound together with a plastic spiral spine. This was not encouraging.

There were two CD also included, so I slipped the first one into the car CD player. The country-folk tones of Cathy and Tod yodelled out of the car’s speakers followed by a promise to teach me the secrets of American yodelling if I undertook to follow their method and practised regularly. They claimed that the best place to practice was in the car, driving down the freeway, where the novice yodeller was less likely to disturb their fellow neighbour (or His Nibbs, in this case).

So I’m following their advice and taking my lessons in the car, during those private journeys to and from work. If you happen to pass me on the M4 motorway on one of these dark winter mornings, be glad your car windows are wound up against the cold morning air and my rookie hollering. I’ll let you know how I get along!

Home from a challenging trip to Iceland, I’m feeling adventurous and idly toss around alternative ideas for our Whitsun Break. For the last few years, we’ve joined my sister at the Hay Literary Festival and enjoyed camping on the fringe of the town. But now, my head is buzzing and I’m thinking of a slightly different type of break… more an expedition. ‘Why don’t we climb Ben Nevis?’ I hear the words drift over the rustle of the Sunday newspaper (yes, we still buy hardcopy) and crunch of wholemeal toast. ‘Well,’ replied His Nibbs, a little startled, ‘It’s quite a challenge, but you feel a tremendous sense of achievement when you get to the top.’

His Nibbs has done the trek twice, so knows what he’s talking about. And there’ll be more about how this might turn into an item on the list in a later posting. Meanwhile, feeling fired up and enthusiastic, I suggest we take a gentle Sunday stroll to the top of one of our local ‘hills’, The Skirrid. It’s something I’ve never done and definitely one to goThe Skirrid on my list. The subject of Owen Sheers’ poetry, it spreads above the town of Abergavenny, dominating the landscape. Nearly everyone I know has walked up The Skirrid, except me. And if everyone else can do it, then I can too.

Clad in our new ‘Icelandic Weather Wear’ we park in the National Trust carpark at the foot of the landmark. It’s rather satisfying to use our membership cards to get free parking – given that we’ve spent £250 on membership in the last two years and not visited a single National Trust property. There’s a simple map at the start of the footpath and we decide to take the gentle option to the top.

Mistake No.1. don’t attempt to walk briskly and eat at the same time. Feeling peckish, I start to munch an apple, just as the path begins to climb. I’m soon breathless and fall behind before we’ve even reached the first gate. This does not bode well, but I conceal my concern, ditch the apple and follow His Nibbs down a track to the left, towards woodland. Within minutes we’re in splendid isolation. A hawk flies overhead and the market town of Abergavenny unfolds before us. It’s wonderful. I’m lost in the stark skeletons of the silver birches, the vibrant moss and lichen and the shadow of the clouds on the valley floor.

And then we hit the mud.

I mean serious mud. Thick, slurry-like and ankle deep. I’m wearing walking boots, but His Nibbs is wearing wellies – a debate on the merits of each we had before leaving home. Now, I’m envying his choice of footwear because the mud gets worse. We trudge on, eyes now more focused on footholds rather than the view; slipping and skidding along the track. Now the wellies have no grip and the boots try to bury themselves in the mud, tugging at my ankles, reluctant to release themselves from the brown, peaty sludge. It’s like the Somme without duckboards, but we’ve reached the point of no return, so we venture on, hoping that we’ll find higher, drier ground. We don’t. The challenge goes on, and on. We pass a few hardy souls, coming from the opposite direction, who warn of the terrible condition of the track ahead, but we’ve no choice now, but to complete our circuit towards the summit. We are now both agreed that the wellies were a bad choice. His Nibbs slips and slides like Bambi on the ice until the inevitable happens and he finally ends up on his arse in the mud. This was the moment of defeat. I know we’re not going to make the summit today. We’re both exhausted by the effort of wading through the mud. The sun is setting in our eyes and blinded, we stumble on towards our new goal… the carpark.

Stripping off at the car, I nervously mentioned Ben Nevis. ‘It doesn’t bode well, if we can’t get to the top of The Skirrid’, I venture. But His Nibbs, humour restored by a chocolate rice cake, is reassuring. ‘The thing with Ben Nevis, is,’ he says encouragingly, ‘there’s no f****** mud!’

So climbing The Skirrid is still on the list of things to do this year – hopefully before we attempt Ben Nevis. I think we’ll save it for a drier day.

 

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