Wednesday, 30 September 2009

#3 Do a project with the Tuesday Club at the Camden Society

Apologies for my complete lack of communication recently. What do you mean, you didn't notice? Oh.

So I have been sidetracked - by list-type and non-list-type stuff, admittedly. One of the huge things I did recently was help organise Twestival Local London, a big fundraising event organised by people via Twitter. This event was for the NSPCC, and their Childline helpline particularly. I volunteered because I like to help, and I thought it would be a good experience. And it was. Elizabeth Varley, the main organiser, was a particular inspiration - calm, unrelentingly upbeat and energetic, really knew her stuff and thought on her feet and generally pulled together a great event on practically nothing. I hope we shall remain friends.

In fact, I should probably write a whole post about Twestival at some point, as I learned an awful lot from it.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. The point (YES, I HAVE ONE) is that I have ticked another thing off my list! For the past six weeks or so, I have been helping out with the Monday Club at the Camden Society. Yes, I know I said the Tuesday Club, but they're the same thing only on different nights, and they needed more help with the Monday Club.

The Camden Society provides services for adults and children with learning difficulties around London. The Monday Club is a social group that provides company, activities, fun and learning in a safe, accepting environment. It's lovely being involved with such a worthwhile cause.

The first few weeks were really daunting. I just sort of hovered round the edges while the bedlam went on around me. And it is bedlam. There's about 20-30 adults of varying learning difficulties, ranging from the functioning autistic guys to the wheelchair-bound, non-verbal people who have their full-time carers with them. We do a range of activities - painting, cooking, watching films, bowling, anything they can do for cheap or free where everyone can be supervised easily.

It's hard work, I'll be honest. It takes all your concentration to make sure no one is hurting themselves, or wetting themselves or stealing anything. But as the weeks progress and they all start trusting me more, I'm starting to feel like a valuable addition to the team. It's still a struggle to get myself up there on a Monday night after a long day at work, but I always enjoy it while I'm there. Plus it's great experience for my Psychology studies, which I start next week. Yep - that's more news, I guess - I'm starting an OU course in Psychology next week, which is both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Hopefully by the time this 30th year is up, I will be much closer to doing a job I am suited for. Fingers crossed I can find the time and motivation to fit it all in...

Monday, 24 August 2009

An update

So, I should have ticked 'skydiving' off my list by now if everything had gone to plan. But, erm, it didn't. I hadn't considered the fact that the darn weather might have played havoc with our attempt.
So we turned up at the airfield at nine, thinking we were doing pretty well to get there so early. Some people had been there since six, so we were already last in the queue.
Oh well, we thought - we'll still jump at about three or four o'clock - fine.
One plane load went up. We watched how high they went and my heart started thumping - the plane was a speck in the sky - properly high. Then the wind started. And didn't stop. We also had some rain, just so we could no longer even be sitting outside. We watched daytime telly, and drank too much tea. We got trained at one point, which got our hopes up a lot, but then it soon became obvious that there just wasn't enough time to fit us in even if the weather had got better immediately.
So, with heavy hearts we made our way back to London to our waiting work colleagues who had all come out to celebrate with us. It was a bit like a scene from a bad soap plot where someone has a surprise party thrown for them and then reveals they've failed their driving test/exams/pregnancy test/whatever. "Take off the party hats, lads!"
We're hoping to re-book for next week, but I will let you know AFTER I have done it this time.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

My final ever post?

*WARNING: This gets a little soppy. It's mostly to be read in the event of my death, please*

So, after months of waiting, my skydive is now upon us. I think most people who know me will be breathing a sigh of relief, given how much I have banged on about it, pestering for sponsorship, making jokes about my imminent tragic death and so on. All day people have asked me if I am nervous, and told me I must be mad, and "just imagine that feeling of sitting at the open door and looking down" and I have just thought SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP. I realise that everyone means well, but frankly, I don't want to hear it. Also - those of you who joked about bouncing if the parachute failed, or to 'break a leg' (oh ha ha ha ha), just imagine how you'll feel if something tragic does happen, and that's the last thing you've said to me. Just imagine.

It has become a strange tradition in our family that I phone everyone before getting on a flight, especially a long haul one, in case I don't come back. That way I get to tell them I love them and that would have been our last conversation. I say 'strange' as we're not a family that dwells much on death. I'm not sure what my parents want for their funerals, for example. Maybe it's because I have been raised with no faith (GODLESS as one awful Brownie leader once called me), it means that I have always believed that when you die, that's it. No glorious light to walk towards, no Heaven to reward me for all my good deeds, nor any Hell to punish me for my awful, blasphemous thoughts and actions. Nope, just the end of electrical impulses going through my heart, the slowing down of my breathing, the switching off of my wondrous, glorious brain (that's not me being cocky - I think the human brain is one of the most astounding things ever created).

So I spoke to both of my parents tonight, and my sister. I didn't call the brothers, and that's not because I love them any less, but I do speak to them less, so they would find it really weird if I suddenly called them out of the blue. I talked to my sister about her job, my job, Edinburgh Festival. I talked to my Dad about his cat, his nerd test result (Geek Lord, as if we didn't know already) and the Bank Holiday weekend plans. And then I talked to Ma. As always, the most emotional of the family (probably equally tied with me in terms of tears spilled generally, both of sadness and of joy), she gave me a lump in my throat saying how proud she was of me, how I was always in her heart, how she had loved me for every second since the moment I was born.

I have never doubted this. I know exactly how lucky I am to have such a supportive and loving family, no matter how much the craziness and the shouting and the arguing annoys me at times. I have never wondered whether they would be there for me, and I try not to take that for granted. I also have a network of lovely, lovely friends, some of whom now live a long way from me geographically, but remain in my life because they're so damn brilliant. I try to remember this as well, whenever my day gets crappy and the petty things build up. We've all had our moments - those days where nothing seems to go to plan, and you just have to take a step back and appreciate what you DO have.

So, just so you all know, I want to be cremated at Mourn Hill in Winchester. If possible, I would like to have my ashes scattered off Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, preferably on a sunny day (not likely in Bristol, to be fair), and if I could blow back into the faces of a few random people who happen to be passing by at the time, that would at least give you all a smile.

I have a great life, and I am very lucky. I love you all.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

#28 Go to the Whispering Gallery in St Paul's

When you live in a city, you very rarely actually do the touristy things that city is famous for. I have never seen the Crown Jewels. I was a small child the last time we went to the Tower of London. And I must have looked at St Paul's dozens of times from across the river at Tate Modern and thought "I should really go back there". And so I did.

Yesterday, my friend Alex and I found ourselves inside one of Christopher Wren's most famous creations. Despite it being a sunny Saturday in August, it wasn't completely overwhelmed with people as I had feared it would be. It really is an awe-inspiring structure - vast, ornate, beautiful. The famous dome is huge, and massively high - it goes up to a top point of about a hundred metres inside. The ceilings are decorated in gold imagery, with the dome itself being painted with scenes from St Paul's life.

In this dome is the whispering gallery, so called because you are supposed to be able to whisper on one side and be able to hear it on the opposite side of the dome due to that damn pesky science stuff. We couldn't really try this out for a couple of reasons - it was already quite noisy up there and the sweaty palms that Alex was experiencing weren't from being in a highly religious space, but a small amount of vertigo that I didn't know about before. We then climbed up to the external viewing platform of the Stone Gallery at around fifty metres up and then continued our climb to the smaller external viewing platform of the Golden Gallery at around eighty metres up. From here, you could see the Crystal Palace television aerial and Wembley Stadium in the distance, and there were spectacular views of the City and the South Bank - wonderful stuff.

There was only really one negative aspect to our visit - the fact that you were not allowed to take photos, even without a flash, and the officious and humourless way this was enforced by the stewards. Yes, they're probably dealing with more idiots every day than you or I could possibly imagine, but they were just so dour and severe when telling us off that they made me a little bit angry. A certain type of Christian that doesn't act in a particularly 'Christian' way.

Anyway, all in all it was completely worth it, especially as Alex lied and got us in on student rates. We are most definitely going to Hell for that one.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Other activities

In the spirit of doing things I don't normally do, I have put something I have written where people might actually see it. I have written a post for the lovely Stuart Waterman of Lucky Voice for their blog - here it is on their website.
Fame at last!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Week 10: #33 Go to a music festival

For someone who loves her live music as much as I do, it may come as a surprise that I have very little time for music festivals. I have only been to two 'proper' ones in my life, one of which was only on during the night so we went home during the day and showered and changed and ate, which is kind of cheating, really. It was in Spain, so the nights were balmy and you could get away with just wearing a t-shirt, and it didn't rain, which suits me all over. The other festival experience was The Big Chill which fits with my middle-class sensibilities. I enjoyed it, but mostly because I made my boyfriend at the time pack the inflatable mattress and duvet - I am a rubbish camper. And while the music was good, and the company fun, I also managed to get sunstroke on the first day. Imagine queuing for those Portaloos when you can't keep anything down - not even water, seriously. Or lying in a tent with your head throbbing and the ceiling spinning and knowing there are countless guy-ropes between you and somewhere to be sick in the pitch black of night.

I think it's a couple of things that put me off festivals, mostly that I am not good with crowds. While I love the feeling of being in the middle of an audience at a gig, it's having them around when you want to eat, or go to the loo, or just GET anywhere, that gets to me. I think it's something to do with the claustrophobia I keep under control most of the time - this big group of people control what I can and can't do just by their sheer number. This is why Notting Hill Carnival would be SHEER HELL for me.

So, I cheat and go to one-day festivals in London. I get to decide when I leave, I get to sleep at home - everyone's a winner. Yesterday we (my friend Kate and I) went to Lovebox in London's glamorous Victoria Park in trendy (*cough*) Hackney. It was a good day, though I could have done without the rain halfway through, and being particularly tired after another busy week. We got there just in time for VV Brown, who was really very good, and then wandered over to the smaller stage to watch MPHO (who I still don't know how to pronounce) who was also soulful and really owned the stage. There we bumped into a colleague from work, Simon, and his friend Kristen, who was very pleasant. We then just headed back to the main stage for the rest of the day, where we chatted through Rumble Strips, bopped along to Florence & The Machine (who looked BRILLIANT), tutted at N*E*R*D getting all the pretty ladies onstage to dance with them, and cheered and bounced and sang along to Duran Duran, who I don't think have aged in the last twenty years.

There were a few problems with the day - I was aware that I had other friends I was supposed to find but mobiles weren't working properly, so we kept missing each other. The toilets were rubbish, and having urinals in the middle of banks of toilets meant that there were lots of blokes weeing very close to you when you were queuing - drunk blokes, at that. And the crowd was just a bit trendy for my liking - one more pair of neon sunglasses, and I swear they would have been stamped on.

So I am glad I went, but even gladder that I wasn't at Latitude this weekend in the rain - imagine camping in this...

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Oh, and another thing...

I have arranged my skydive for 21st August. I am doing it to raise money for Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research, so feel free to sponsor me here: