Cheese, wine and tumble dryer fluff

So #50Before50 has kicked off. I’ll be honest and say I am already totally obsessed with the challenge but, so what? Why not? There are far worse things to spend time doing and the focus is good for me. Just over a week since conceiving my idea, I have already ticked off 2.6% of the list. Yes, that’s right, I have spreadsheets, note books, notes on my phone and photos – all to document this adventure because, of course, not only am I getting older and forgetful but I also have the comedy show to do at the end so I need to gather material. There may even be a book in it. You never know… I’ve been posting my photos to Instagram and tagging wineries, cafes, cheese companies and so on, in the vain hope that at some point over the next couple of years I’ll be noticed. There will need to be some sponsorship for the children’s party and, perhaps people will become interested in what I’m up to and help out.

15 of the 51 items on my list have more than one element. For example, there are 50 cheeses, 50 sunsets, 100 wines, 50 places and things to do in New Zealand and one of those is to visit all 26 Monopoly board places. Therefore, altogether there are 861 individual things to do. I realise I already know 2 people called Helen Evans to whom to send birthday cards in 2020 and I can already say Happy Birthday in 3 languages. This week I’ve seen two sunrises, eaten one cheese and drunk 11 different wines. I’ve collected one handful of tumble dryer fluff for the cushion I am going to make. It all adds up.

Tumble dryer fluff
The first handful of tumble dryer fluff has been collected!

Next I will work on a timeline. Some of the things can be worked on right away; others need to be left until my 50th year or close to my birthday. Some of them need to be done in a particular order. I’d definitely much rather do the nude modelling after I’ve reached 50-something kg! Ditto for walking down the street after having my body painted. And there’s no point having the bra made until I’ve had the breast reduction. But yoga I can do now while the water-based activities will need to wait until the weather is warmer. As for the sunrises, a friend’s father pointed out that I can see one every day when I do the Lapland trip as the sun doesn’t get up until 11.30am. That was music to my ears!

The amazing thing about the challenge is that people are following my example and it’s catching on. My sister is now doing 40 things before her 40th birthday and she only has 10 months to go and one of her friends is also joining in! A friend and previous colleague is also doing his own #50Before50. I’m really chuffed. Of course my own challenge started after hearing about my friend Sonja doing her 30 things before 30. When I add the hashtag #50Before50 on social media, I see other people around the world doing wonderful things like climbing mountains and one even had a photo shoot with Annie Liebovitz. I don’t think I will be scaling those heights, but you never know… People have been really open to joining in and helping out. I wanted to photograph every bottle of wine which is easy at home or friends’ houses and even some bars, but it isn’t common to see the bottle at a cafe or restaurant. I’ve been asking waiters if they’ll bring me the bottle and everyone has obliged so far – one was working his first day and thought it was brilliant; one poured the wine with great aplomb and arranged the bottle with the candles and flowers from the table and another asked to follow me on Instagram. Mardi at The Nail Studio, who has been doing my nails for ages, was totally fine with choosing me a random colour for my manicure. She reassured me there are at least 50 colours available without me resorting to fluoro yellow and she’s even going to come to some dinners with me. I’ve found volunteers to come to my first Auckland restaurant from the Metro list, people have been nominating their favourite charities so I can add them to the charity list and friends have set about recommending places to do the yoga, surfing, flying a chopper or plane and so on. It’s almost infectious!

This week I was working in Hawke’s Bay and staying with my really good friend Jenny. She is one of the biggest hearted people I know. She took me under her wing very early on in my time in NZ and she has been one of my biggest supporters over the years. Jenny will definitely be reading this and she won’t mind me saying that she is perhaps not quite so adventurous. But, she’s been egging me on over the past few days with ticking some things off the list. She even stood in the middle of the road to get a photo of me under the Marine Parade sign in Napier as this is one of the Monopoly streets. We’ve been to some of our favourite restaurant haunts – Pipi’s in Havelock North and Mister D in Napier, along with Hunger Monger in Napier which was a new one for us. At every one people have been unfailingly kind and accommodating. As I go to the Bay several times a year for work and pleasure, I hope to do more of my adventures with Jenny and other local friends and I also hope to persuade her further afield. I’m sure she’s always wanted to walk the Inca trail…

Lest We Forget
Lest We Forget – the flower pot in Napier filled with poppies for ANZAC Day

Wines consumed (8 whites; 3 reds):

  • Cable Bay 2012 Viognier
  • Mission Estate 2016 Syrah
  • Gibbston Valley 2010 Pinot noir – I’ve been cellaring this one for years so it was great to open it at last and a relief to find it was totally sublime
  • Loveblock 2017 Sauvignon blanc – thanks to the lovely people at my local cafe Deco
  • Clearview 2014 Viognier
  • Vidal 2017 Sauvignon blanc
  • Julicher 2017 Riesling – thanks to the staff at Hunger Monger
  • Amisfield Lakes Hayes 2017 Pinot gris – drunk at my favourite Hawkes Bay restaurant Pipi’s where the waiter was super helpful
  • Mud House 2017 Sauvignon blanc
  • Peregrine 2017 Pinot gris – thanks to Rosie at Mister D in Napier who was fabulous
  • Te Mata 2017 Syrah – also at Mister D and consumed with my first cheese…

Not included on the list of wines is the Montana pinot gris I drank at a friend’s house. Turns out that despite this vineyard being one of New Zealand’s oldest and one which put NZ sauvignon blanc (and hence wine in general) on the international map, they have decided to import grapes from Australia! I guess this explains why they have reverted to using their Montana label which disappeared when they re-branded a few years ago as Brancott Estate. Each to their own but Australian wines are not included in the challenge so off the list they go!

Montana Pinot Gris
Montana Pinot Gris. Not a New Zealand wine, so excluded from the challenge!

Cheese eaten (1 so far):

  • Origin Earth Washed Rind – beautifully presented and accompanied by the most lovely homemade crackers and quince jam at Mister D
Cheese # 1
Cheese number 1 – Origin Earth Washed Rind, eaten at Mister D’s Dining in Napier

Nail polish colours (1 so far):

  • Denim Patch

Monopoly NZ places visited (1 so far):

People called Helen Evans to whom to send birthday cards in 2020 (2 so far):

  • My sister-in-law
  • The lady in the student office at the University to gets my mail by mistake

Happy Birthday languages (4 so far):

  • English
  • Welsh
  • French
  • Te Reo Māori

Sunrises seen: 2 so far

Not a bad start, even if I do say so myself. Do enjoy the video. I recorded it on Marine Parade but the wind from the sea caused havoc. The first bit is fine then it totally falls apart but that gives it the usual rustic charm…

Until next time xx

A disaster on the teeny tiny hill and a puncture

I’m an owl. I go to bed late and as much as I’ve tried retraining myself over the years to become a dove, it always fails. My most successful attempts have been on returning from Europe when jet lag tends to help me achieve a brief dove-like state but it is always short lived. Those people who retire by 9.30pm and get up at 5am are a source of envy but an enigma to me. I’d love to be like them and they’re always so smug, but failure always catches up with me. I try regularly to go to bed at 9.30pm but I never actually get there before midnight despite the fact it is just around the corner from the living room in my very small house. The combination of my owl status and my fondness for procrastination always conspire against me. I am also queen of the snooze button. I’ve literally tried everything – putting my alarm across the other side of the room, keeping my bedroom cold, drinking a litre of water before I go to bed and so on. Nothing works. It takes my setting the alarm every 5 minutes for at least an hour before I can even think about swinging a leg over the side of the bed. And I may as well forget it in winter as the slightest chill in the room is such a disincentive to rising. I love my bed and I love it especially in the mornings. So it is a challenge to get up in time for the gym 3 mornings a week and it never gets easier.

By the way, my sister has an irrational dislike and fear of owls. This has made me realise that they’ve been omnipresent for the last few years. You can’t even buy a decent tea towel without an obligatory owl festooned upon it. Recently however, I feel they may be on the wane in favour of unicorns. Unfortunately my sister doesn’t like unicorns either. It’s a double whammy for the poor love but at least provides the rest of us with birthday and Christmas buying fodder. What a fussy one! She will kill me when she reads this…

You can understand therefore that getting up needlessly early is the worst kind of torture for me. And so it was today. “Don’t be late” said Sam, my boxing trainer at the gym. “I have someone else directly after you”. I managed to leave the house on time, gym kit on, work bags in the car, cats fed and watered, house alarm set and so on. So, imagine my disappointment when I was a few hundred metres down the road and I heard a sadly familiar noise. I had a puncture. As I was not far from home, I drove back. I thought that at least I could try and sort it out from the comfort of my own home rather than beside the road. At first I thought my workmen could help when they arrived (yes, the renovations continue still) but then I thought no, I’d rather they finish the endless renovations this side of 2018. So after a shower, I called the AA and waited patiently. Actually, they were very efficient. You don’t even need to speak to a human to get them to come and a friendly man called Chris appeared quickly. However the wheel was changed to one of those space saver jobbies so my next port of call was a tyre shop where I remained for the rest of the morning, my work time ebbing away along with far more dollars than I wanted to relinquish. They’re never pleasant places are they? A waiting room of torn leatherette chairs and decades-old magazines and a toilet which looked like it had not been cleaned since the last millennium where a “hover pee” was definitely the order of the day. As I sat there waiting, I thought fleetingly that at least it was the Italian branded car that had suffered this fate and not my bike because if I had a puncture on the 2 wheeled vehicle, I would literally have no idea what to do other than walk back to from where I had set out. I must resolve to put this right, I thought casually. I shall learn to change a tyre. I am really not sure how I thought I would learn this but at least the intention was there.

So, imagine my shock, when on ascending the teeny tiny hill this evening, I lost my bike chain. There are 3 things I have been dreading on the bike, other than failure of course: the chain coming off, a puncture and falling off. Not knowing what to do about the fact that at the front of my bike the chain seemed to not be around any of the 3 cogs (is that what they’re called?) but rather was flapping loosely in the breeze, I initially thought I’d just get back on regardless and give it a go in case I’d made a terrible mistake. I had not. Then I realised I had no choice but to walk the bike 4.5 km to the start of the trail, where I had parked. After a few metres I came to the realisation that this was ridiculous and forced myself to have a proper look at the bike and to really think about how I might be able to re-connect the chain. And I managed it – even without resorting to Google. My hands were filthy, but the chain was back on and I could resume my cycling. It felt like a triumph.

So, a puncture and a chain disconnection in one day but maybe not how I can completely imagined these events unfolding. Now all I need is a fall…

In other news. I have received paperwork from the charity organising the trek. There is the usual stuff about insurance, visas and ethical tourism. But then there is the packing list. This is always most enlightening. For example:

  • Underwear (or undwear as they’ve typed). Do I really need to be told to pack my kecks? I’m highly unlikely to forget underwear. It feels so strange when you forget and head out of the house without any, floppy bits a-swinging in the breeze, that you instantly remember. It’s like putting milk on a shopping list. But thanks for the reminder anyway
  • Thermal socks. Hmmm. It will be more than 30 degree celsius most days
  • Jogging shoes. No thanks. Cycling 470 kms is enough without resorting to jogging on holiday
  • Cycling gloves to avoid sunburnt hands. Well that’s helpful as I’d never have thought of that as a potential problem
  • Travel towel. Sorry, I’m not falling for that old chestnut again. They’re so small and non absorbent you can only dry one bum cheek and it gets so wet you may as well throw the damned thing away. I’d rather manage with a flannel or drip drying
  • Pannier or handle bar bag. I wonder if I show up with my small bag if someone will finally show me how it actually fits on a bike?
  • Cycle helmet. Hmmm, you said they were provided
  • Toe clips. What are they?
  • Bike shoes. Ditto?
  • Bike pedals. I really, really hope you haven’t rented bikes without pedals for us
  • Bike saddle. Same
  • Gel seat. Well yes, the catastrophists are so concerned about my nether regions that I’d already thought of that one
  • Playing cards. OK, is this the 20th century still?

But I know exactly what will happen. I’ll feel I should take it all anyway just in case and end up with the world’s largest case then only ever use about 10 per cent of it. But, it’s a start and they haven’t mentioned bringing any resuscitation equipment so maybe it’s not so bad after all.

Thanks to those who have already made donations. I already have enough for more than one bike. I am truly grateful. Here is the site for anyone else feeling jolly and generous this festive season!

Right, my next post and video will be my festive message to you all. You have been warned xx