Monday, 25 March 2019

The Lost Book of Adventure

This is a book review with a difference; instead of analysing it and giving you a blow by blow account of what to expect from it, I'm going to show you how much fun we had with it and let you make up your own minds.

The book in question is "The Lost Book of Adventure".  It's written by an "Unknown Adventurer", edited by Teddy Keen, published by Quarto Publishing and is absolutely perfect for adventurers of all ages.

The notes were discovered buried deep in the Amazon jungle and they provide all the guidance you need for living a life of adventure.  Things like...

How to make an emergency sling for an injured arm using your fleece:

I'm preparing my Oscars acceptance speech.

 The best position to adopt if you need an outdoors poo:

(They perhaps had something a little less public in mind!)

How to make a rucksack from a pair of trousers:

How to make an emergency toothbrush from a nearby twig:

As well as being choc-full of brilliant ideas and advice the book is superbly illustrated and is a joy to hold and flick through.  (I am a book nerd and I squealed with excitement when I first saw it.)  When we were out taking the photos for this blog we got chatting to a couple who, quite rightly, wondered what the hell we were doing and they went away with the title noted down so they could buy it for their grandkids. It's that sort of book - it just delights you from the moment you first see it.

I also think it's incredibly well priced at £20 and has the look and feel of a much more expensive book.  You can find more information about it here - and make sure you're following me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) over the next week or so as I'll be giving one away in a competition.  Happy adventuring!

Friday, 22 March 2019

50 at 50

A couple of years ago I celebrated a "significant birthday" though, frankly, every birthday is significant - life is tough and every additional twelve months completed with your sanity in tact (even if only just) is worth celebrating.  Lots of my friends have been hitting the same milestone too and it's interesting how it affects some more than others.  I worry that perhaps I haven't been introspective enough, or used it as an opportunity to re-evaluate my life choices and what I plan to do with the time I have left.  So, I had a good long think and came up with this list - 50 things about turning 50, some of them philosophical, others less so.  Feel free to add more of your own.
View from my 50th birthday hideaway

1.  You are still alive.  This is an awesome feat.  By 50 you realise that some of your friends haven't made it this far so be glad you have.  That puts the rest of the list into perspective.
2.  You become more aware of the people around you who love you.  Because you will have loved and lost, and lost loved ones, this matters more as you get older.
3.  Things are not worse now than they were when we were younger.  I grew up near Birmingham and remember the IRA pub bombs.  I also clearly remember the Harrods bomb, the miners strikes and the Wapping riots, among many other awful things. Crap things happened back then too.
4.  Keep embracing technology.  It's happening whether you embrace it or not so dive in.  How we access music and films has changed but isn't that a good thing?  Gone are the days of only three channels to choose from, all of which end before midnight.
5. Yes, your body will begin to fall apart.  Slowly at first, but that's the nature of life.  Things will either ache, leak or sprout hairs unexpectedly.
6.  Your mindset is key.  I know folks who think they're old in their 60s and others who are partying well into their 80s.  Sir Chris Bonnington climbed the Old Man of Hoy on his 80th birthday and Helen Mirren is kicking ass at 73.  Keep your mind strong and your body has a fighting chance.
7. Your alcohol tolerance will drop.  This is not fair I know, but it's a fact.  Gone are the days when I could polish off a bottle of wine followed by a round or two of shots.  Thinking about it, this may be connected to why I can no longer hold my drink. After years of abuse my liver is revolting in every sense of the word.
8. Your interests will most likely change.  I now find I am less interested in who's number 1 in the charts and more interested in keeping slugs off my lettuces.  The 18 year old me would be mortified.
9. Your friends will change and you will change your friends.Thanks to social media you may find yourself back in touch with people you were at school with. Folks you wouldn't ordinarily have kept in touch with. In many cases this is a good thing but it occasionally throws up the odd character who idolises Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins.  This is what the "unfriend" button is for.
10. Your priorities shift.  Racing up the career ladder becomes less of an issue for most and is replaced with cooking up plans to retire early.  Also your priorities for a good night out shift from "where are the cheapest drinks" to "where's the most convenient free parking"
11.  Repeat after me: Millennials are not all bad.  Yes, they may have a reputation for being "entitled narcissists" but, as Generation X-ers we were all labelled as "the MTV generation" and "workshy cynics" and we did OK didn't we?  Well, mostly...
20-something me
12.  You will generally be more relaxed about stuff and less stressed about "what that cow in accounts said about your fella".  We are generally better at picking our battles.  And winning them.
13. Your energy levels will drop.  When I think back to some of the crazy hours and stunts I pulled in my 20s I have a hard time believing I am the same person.  As age increases so afternoon naps become more appealing.
14. Grey hair.  It will come to most of us as we near the big 5-0.  According to the TV ads we should be ashamed of it and hide it at every opportunity.  It's not the colour that bothers me, it's the fact that mine stick out like demented pubes.  Smooth, sleek hair is definitely a thing of the past.
15. You are more prone to getting set in your ways. "Older people" have a reputation for not dealing well with change, we are more likely to cling to habits for no better reason than "we've always done it that way."  This is not a good thing.  Even I can embrace change - Friday night is Chippy Tea night but last week I had my chips on Thursday night instead.  Go me!
16. Younger men will make you feel like a dirty old woman.  When I heard Liam Hemsworth had married Mylie Cyrus I complained bitterly.  Then I realised I was old enough to be his mother.  Then I poured myself a drink and looked up the word 'Cougar'...
17.  The menopause.  I can't speak for men here but for women it's definitely an interesting time.  On the plus side there are no more period pains and associated monthly mood swings.  On the down side there are hot flushes and a bad moods that last for weeks and, occasionally, months at a time. Sadly, where chocolate and chick flicks may have worked in the past, now the chocolate just makes us fat leaving us to swear and curse at the skinny young girl in the film and wonder if we were ever that thin.
18. Be kind to yourself.  We live in a society that worships youth and that is not a good thing. Growing old is a privilege not a sin so accept your grey hairs, even if they do occasionally sprout from your chin.
19.  Learn new stuff.  In the past week someone said to me "I'm 56, I'm too old. I don't want any more education." How sad is that?  I honestly cannot imagine not wanting to keep learning.  I will never know it all, but that's not going to stop me trying.
20. Loo breaks.  Visiting the loo at least twice a night will now be a thing.  I've also started viewing toilets like petrol stations - don't go past one if you think you might need one as you never know where the next one will be.
21.  Fashions change but so does our own sense of style.  Personally I am long past trying to squeeze my ass into the latest skinny jeans and far happier wearing stuff that allows me to wolf down a huge plate of chips without feeling like I'm being sliced in two.
22.  You will have a lot of accumulated crap.  The fashion this year is to de-clutter but I like a bit of clutter.  A shell from a holiday on the north coast of Scotland, a plastic nose pencil sharpener won with my nephews on the 2p machines in Blackpool and a Moomin mug given to me by Steve which I refuse to use.  It's not clutter, it's memories.
23. Oddly I've found that my stamina has improved in some ways.  Where I used to race off like a puppy off the lead, now I'm more likely to pace myself and think about the entire journey rather than just the first 500 yards.
24. Some things will seem really old and hard to believe they happened within your lifetime.  Like Green Shield Stamps for example.  Or the Berlin Wall.  Or Professor Brian Cox being part of D-Ream...
25.  There will be a tendency to pop on the rosy tinted specs and remember long warm summers and 'proper' winters, but there were just as many wet grey days then as there are now but we remember the fun adventures we had outdoors with our mates, not the soggy days whinging in front of the tv.
26.  Hangovers hit harder and last longer.  There is no medical reason for this.  It is simply proof that god has a sick sense of humour or hates old people.  Or both.
Never too late to try new stuff
27.  You will feel the same inside.  I asked around my friends and most of us still feel "twenty something" in our minds.  I once interviewed a 96 year old Gwen Moffat and she said the same thing.  My brain still thinks I can do stuff that my body is no longer capable of.  Like eating a large greasy meal late at night and sleeping properly afterwards.  Not gonna happen.
28.  However old you are there are no "should be-s" as in "I should be dressing my age" or "By now I should be chairman of the board"  Life is what it is - just be glad you're alive to see it.
29.  It is NEVER too late to change your life or do something new.  Write a book, become and actor, take up painting.  Never, ever, EVER too late.  It's only too late when you're dead.
30.  You realise how fast time passes and how short life is but also...
31.  You realise how slow time passes and how long life is.  When you see a 20 year old rushing in to a huge life decision, all you can think is "you have your whole life ahead of you, there's no need to rush." but people probably told us that too when we were 20 and we probably didn't listen either.
32.  It's easier to become cynical.  We've seen boom and bust economies, watched governments rise and fall and fallen for far too many "easy family dinner" recipes that take 4 hours and demolish the kitchen.  Don't spoil the future by comparing it to the past.  Learn lessons, move on and give new ideas a chance.
33. Your body will begin emitting a new and exciting range of embarrassing noises when you least expect it.  Air will escape at inopportune moments and stomachs develop a mind of their own.  Should this occur in public I recommend staring in disgust at the person next to you.
34.  For each year you age the floor gets further away.  This is a scientific fact.
35.  We become less 'spur of the moment' and more 'are you sure you know where we can park?' This is not a good thing.  Go out one night without double checking the train times home.  Go on. I dare you.
36.  We generally become less dramatic.  When I see 20 somethings having a meltdown on social media or blowing things way out of proportion I generally smile and recall my own youthful meltdowns.  These days  I'm only likely to throw a hissy fit if Sainsbury's don't have my favourite Marmite flatbreads in stock and that, I think, is perfectly justified.
37.  The ticking clock becomes louder.  I don't mean we somehow develop horological superpowers, I mean we become more aware that our time is limited.  In our twenties we believe we can live for ever.  In our 50s we realise we can't.
"Must clench!"
38.  Your weight will go up because your metabolism will generally slow down.  Life is unfair like that.  Your 50 year old backside will be bigger than your 20 year old backside, but think of the fun you've had honing its perfect proportions.
39. Hair.  Some of it goes grey, some of it drops out, some of it grows in places it has never grown before.  Think of it as gods way of keeping us on our toes.
40.  Your memory, especially your short-term memory will decline.  You will forget what you walked into a room for, what you had for breakfast and the name of your first born.  You will also notice a tendency to repeat yourself.
41. We become more risk averse.  I noticed this when I went trampolining with my nephews,  In the past I would have hurled my self with wild abandon around the nets, now I'm more concerned with not weeing myself and scarring them for life.
42. You will tut more.  And roll your eyes.  And mutter "oh for god's sake".  I know you probably swore you'd never turn into an old fuddy duddy who sneers at the latest fashions but, seriously, what the HELL is going on with eyebrows these days?!
43.  You will most likely be more comfortable with yourself and less inclined to do things you don't want to simply to please others. Also known as "bugger off, I'm washing my hair and binge watching a boxed set of Frasier that night."
44. Your memory, especially your short-term memory will decline.  You will forget what you walked into a room for, what you had for breakfast and the name of your first born.  You will also notice a tendency to repeat yourself.
To hell with being a 'grown up'!
45.  It will become impossible to stand up, sit down or sip tea without making a noise or passing comment.
46.  You will begin to see toys from your childhood in a museum.  This is obviously cruel and there should be a law against it.  I remember seeing a Pippa doll in a museum.  To be fair it wasn't exactly like the one I had - mine had been modified by adding Action Man fatigues and a parachute.  But it still hurt.
47. The pop stars and movies stars you grew up with will have the bad manners to age at the same rate you do. Brad Pitt no longer looks like he did in Thelma and Louise and Simon le Bon is 60 now. 60! That just does not seem right.
48.  "Youngsters" i.e. anyone under 40, will be baffled by your references to the following things: cassette tapes, Texan bars, the TV show Magpie and why any young looking doctor is referred to as Dougie Howser
49.  You will never feel like a "proper adult", the kid in your head will keep telling you that everyone else is doing "adulting" better than you.  That voice is lying.
50.  You are never too old.  Growing old is a privilege denied to many. Life is precious and the possibilities are endless.  50 isn't old, 50 is only half way.  Quit finding excuses not to do stuff and start finding reasons to get stuck in.  We're only here once, we should make it count.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Through the Arched Window

View from Virgin Train
I'm giving my age away a bit now, but I was always most excited by the arched window on Play School.  The journeys through the windows were always entertaining and educational, although I do recall lots of visits to milk bottling factories for some reason, and I'm sure we all learned loads.

These days windows are largely ignored.  I regularly take trains all over the country and most of the time folks have their faces in their phones while the landscape outside slips past unnoticed.  Travelling from A to B has become a chore to be done in the quickest time possible while the journey itself is simply an inconvenience.

View from train leaving Grange-over-Sands
Time really is money when it comes to travel; I recently took the train from Grange-over-Sands to Carlisle and was told it was cheaper for me to get a ticket which came back around the coast (which took much longer, covered more miles and, presumably therefore, required more driver's time and diesel) than it was for me to come back on the quick train via Lancaster.

I also regularly find myself working in offices with very little or no natural light, often buried deep in a basement and although I may find a day of that irritating, for me it's just a day, there are plenty of people who are working in those environments, disconnected from the outside, for 40 hours a week.  Of course sometimes I'm lucky enough to enjoy magnificent views, like this photo from a work project in Bahrain.  To be honest, now I think about it, maybe it is less distracting to be stuck in a basement...

Then there are the cheap hotels (of which I have stayed in many!) that will charge extra for a room with a window.  I recently booked a stay in an Easy Hotel which was £30 for a room without a window and £39.99 for a room with one.  I did wrestle with my conscience on that one because I splashed out for the window even though it was dark when I arrived so the curtains were drawn and the window was locked so it offered no means of escape in the event of a fire.  I find it hard to justify logically, I just needed a window to peek out of briefly the next morning.

And lets not forget cars which these days come with built in screens for the kids in the back to plug in, slap on the headphones and disappear into a virtual world of films or games.  When I was a kid we played all sorts of games on journeys (which were usually by bus as we didn't have a car) - counting cows, rearranging the number plates on cars to make new words or just generally looking at what was going on outside.  Whenever we took the bus from Birmingam to Coventry for a day out I always remember looking out for the archers in Meriden who were often out practising.  I also remember the excitement of watching the NEC being built - yes, I am indeed old!

But why on earth does all this matter?  I worry that people are becoming more and more disconnected from the outdoors when, even through an office window in the heart of the city, there are things to see - cloud formations, historical buildings or even a local tree or two to chart the passing of the seasons.  And I'm not knocking Virgin Trains onboard entertainment, but there are no films that can compete with a couple of hours of unadulterated British countryside.  Even Northern Rail, although their service is inexcusably abysmal, run trains through some of the most spectacular scenery in the British Isles.  The tickets may be overpriced but the views are free.

We're losing the art of gazing out of a window, we're forcing our minds to be active the entire time; playing apps, reading emails, catching up on spreadsheets and that's not good for our mental health or creativity. The greatest thinkers did just that, they thought.  The found time to let their minds drift and because of that great discoveries were made and fantastic works of art created.

In an attempt to fight back against the tide of screen staring I am declaring 19th March 2019, to be National "Look out of the Window Day" and would love you to join me by sharing photos through your window on social media using #ThroughMyWindow My plan is to try and flood social media with fantastic images and encourage more people to look out of the window and enjoy the view.

(Please note, I am encouraging you to look OUT of your own window not go peering into your neighbours windows taking photos!) 😀

To join in just share a photo on Twitter or Instagram add #ThroughMyWindow and tag me in @CumbrianRambler then we can all share and enjoy some wonderful scenery.  (You don't even have to wait until 19th March - we can start doing this today!)

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