Saturday, 31 May 2014

#110: Do something completely out of my comfort zone

Photo: Alex Lentati / Evening Standard

As you may have gathered, Balls are not something I'm particularly familiar with. Apart from a few fancy dances in my teens, I have tended to avoid posh frock situations -- especially ones where floor length gowns are the norm. So what better way to cross off 'Do something out of my comfort zone' than to attend a fancy military members club's Coronation Ball.

My dance card -- I'm serious.

Being from New York, I'm familiar enough with certain protocols to know generally what not to do in certain situations and so when a colleague's 'plus one' dropped out he thought I wouldn't embarrass him too much (at least not unintentionally, he joked). Under normal circumstances, I would have politely declined and happily stayed home to wash my hair or scrub the toilet, but knowing I could cross this off the list I forced myself to dress up all pretty like and join in.

Boy was it posh. I heard accents I've only heard on TV from the royal family. (There may have been relatives in attendance.) But it was also a laugh: Bag pipers, toasts galore, and singing (I felt like I was at last night of the proms) not to mention bowling, dancing, photo booths and fancy dress costumes. I'm not saying it's something I'd like to do every weekend, but as an American (and now also Englishwoman) I appreciated the pomp and circumstance in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Queen's Coronation. God save the Queen indeed.  
*Can I get back in my jeans now, please? 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sunday, 25 May 2014

#105: Swim in a natural hot spring

Photo credit: Gareth Marlow / Flickr

When I originally put this on my list, I had Iceland and soaking in a hot spring in winter weather in mind. However...

It's not like I have the opportunity to swim in hot springs regularly so when I learned Santorini had it's own hot spring, I had to give it a go.
Photo credit: Tobias Schorr 

To get there, you have to take a short boat trip, then jump off the deck of the boat and swim for 100meters to the shallow, brown waters where the hot spring is. Well not warm as so much lukewarm, but local lore claims the waters work wonders for the skin and there were many people smothering their bodies with the brown slimy mud. *no thanks* It was only on the swim back to the boat, reentering the cold water of the Aegan Sea that I realised how hot the water actually was.

I think the best part though was jumping off the boat like a kid again...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

#249: Not date for 3 months

In the immediate aftermath of my break up I was a wreck. I knew I shouldn't get involved with anyone and I tried really hard to not end up in a rebound relationship. Despite my best intentions, however, I did get involved with someone...and ended up hurting a lovely, caring person in the process.

I regret that deeply and sincerely. I wish I had been stronger and had held my boundaries more firm, but I was a shattered shell of a person at the time. In the face of being actively pursued, I wasn't strong enough to stand up for the space and time that, in retrospect, I needed to properly heal. I have to live with myself and the fact that I hurt someone that I care about but realised too late was not going to work out romantically long-term.

One of the lessons I've learned through this process is that if you want to go speed dating (item #20 on my list), or dating in general, do yourself and others a favour and wait until you have your shit sorted out before getting serious. You're only kidding yourself and setting up yourself and, more importantly, some innocent person for further heartbreak.

In my defence, I thought I would never meet anyone and when I did, didn't think it would get serious. But it did. I'm not proud of myself but everything I did I honestly did with the best of intentions...I just happened to be completely and utterly naive about how I would feel as my wounded heart healed.

It's been 3 months since I ended things with ex #2 and I'm making progress towards an even longer goal every day that passes.

The last 3 months have been a revelation. Without focusing on dating or meeting someone to date, I've freed my time to focus on making new friendships, having fun and building up a life for myself outside of being in a couple. Sure it's lonely sometimes, but I've come to remember how much I actually like my own company. I'm finding that I'm having to force myself out of the house to be social, rather than the other way around. That said it is taking a significant amount of willpower at times because there are some lovely people out there, but I know it's for the best. And since it's on The List, it's something I have to stick to.

I feel like I'm in a really good place now. A place where I know what I want and don't want, and I'm not going to get involved with someone unless it really feels right. It may take many months or many years, and possibly never, but I'm ok with just me if that's what it comes to. I've realised I'm not so bad to be around after all...

Photo: Bacho / Shutterstock

Friday, 23 May 2014

#104: Hike an active volcano

Photo : Klearchos Kapoutsis

Santorini is an extraordinary island in the Aegean and is home to Greece's last active volcano. The entire center of the circular island sank into the sea during the tremendous volcanic explosion of 3,500 years ago. The eruption caused tidal waves which virtually wiped out the advanced Minoan civilization of Crete, 70 miles south. What remains today of Santorini is the large crescent shaped island enclosing a west bay, the largest caldera on earth (7 x 14) miles. After a short boat trip, a steep 30 mins walk will take you to the rim of the crater on the island of Nea Kameni, which features many amazing lava formations and fantastic views of Santorini’s cliff top villages. The volcano still smoulders (slightly) today.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

#103: Read a BBC top 100 book

I read a lot as a kid, and growing up it seemed that I had to read The Great Gatsby almost every year for school. As a relatively short book about 1920s New York, it was a story that fascinated and challenged me: The green lights at the end of the dock? Dr. TJ Eckleburg's god-like eyes watching over everything? 1920s New York intimidated yet intrigued me.

It may have been a book I read many times, but it has been about ten years since I last picked it up. Looking at the list of BBC top books, there are a number of classics I'd like to read (or reread) but I thought I'd dust off the old copy and settle in for a day.

It's like catching up with an old friend. What a treat it is to get lost in a great book.

Monday, 19 May 2014

#102: Go to Santorini, Greece

What better way to put my new passport to use than to go away on holiday. And not just any holiday. A trip to Santorini Greece, otherwise known as honeymooner's paradise. 6 months ago the idea of being in a place like this would have been unthinkable. I would have been miserable and missing the Ex. Fast forward, and now it's bliss incarnate: quiet and peaceful, sunny and gorgeous. Though it's not exclusively geared towards couples, it's easy to see why they flock here. It's wonderful.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

#246: Help a friend

A new friend of mine was recently selected to stand for local council by one of the big 5 political parties. The race in question was not really suppose to be very competitive as it has always been won by one party, but nonetheless my friend was taking a stand for her beliefs and doing her part to participate in the democratic process. 

She needed help getting the word out about her candidacy and what she stood for.

She asked for my and other friends' help. In addition to providing some social media and marketing advice, I also hit the streets going door-to-door leafletting. While my friend didn't win, her results were the second best in London for her party, which was significantly above expectations. While this was purely down to her, it was great to be able to lend my friend a hand when needed. 
Photos: Docstop media, BasPhoto /

#100: Get my UK Passport

I've reached 100!

After almost 10 years of living in the UK, I finally got my first UK passport. After years of having a student visa, highly skilled migrant worker visa (my parents were so proud to learn I was considered a migrant worker), taking the citizenship test, becoming a citizen in 2011 and filling out all the forms along the way, I somehow never quite got around to making it truly official by getting a passport. I can still travel on my US passport, so there was never any particular urgency and there were a lot of forms to fill out, pictures to be notarised and queues to stand in.

I had flirted with getting my passport over the years, but I never quite got around to it, much like my Ex and I who lived together for 9 years and spoke of getting married but never (apparently) actually made a lifetime commitment to each other. It was official, but not official. I was a citizen but without proof. When push came to shove and I was at border control having to choose what lane I go down, 'EU citizen' or 'Other', I had no choice but to take my flash American Blue passport and join the 'Others' in line.

So now I've jumped through all the hoops, queues and waiting rooms and can officially travel as a Brit. God help you.

A fitting way to reach #100

I've hit 100!

Photo credit: Bertold Werkmann / Shutterstock

When I started my list on 1st Jan, the thought of getting out of bed was daunting, let alone getting out and doing 100 new/different things. After all, that's 2 new/different things a week for a year. For the creature of habit that I was -- combined with the emptiness that comes from being left for another woman -- the idea of doing anything, let alone 100, was a real stretch.

Fast forward 5 1/2 months and I've hit my target and am keeping going. Here's to 200+ things in 2013...

(ps: I'm running out of good things to do. If you have any ideas, please send my way. I need more things to try!)

Friday, 16 May 2014

#99: Join an adult sport league

I had so much fun a few weeks ago playing tennis for the first time in years that I've been back out on the courts a few more times since. My game is not really improving much, however, so I've joined a 6 week class/league to meet new people and improve my game. So now through mid-July you can be find me out on the tennis courts one evening a week (and on Sundays).

Thursday, 15 May 2014

#98: Have a BBQ

Photo: Dzinnik Darius / Shuttestock

Like many Americans, I love a good BBQ. Not just the food, but the atmosphere: friends getting together for casual drinks and food. Barbecue is a way of life and something that I really look forward to in the spring/summer. But for me it's not just reserved for the hot weather. As a kid growing up, when it snowed my parents put me to work with the snow shovel, not to clear the walk out front, but to clear a path to the BBQ so we could cook dinner. Blizzards may not be circle around the barbie weather, but there's no bad time to light up a grill.

On a nice summer evening, however, there is nothing better than grilling outside and enjoying great company and time with friends and family in a relaxing, casual way that you just can't have around a formal dining table.

With spring now sprung and summer encroaching upon us, I foresee many more BBQs in my future.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

#97: Be quoted in the FT for work

Photo credit: Palto / Shutterstock

I sometimes speak to journalists or write a response to a journalist inquiry about my company's policies or products. These are usually done on a 'ghostwritten' basis, meaning I say/write them and it gets attributed to my boss or someone else in the company. So to have my words attributed actually to me doesn't usually happen. Frankly it wasn't a very interesting story, I was slightly misquoted and it was FT Adviser not the pure FT, but close enough. Task completed.

Monday, 12 May 2014

#96: Experience London's South Bank

London's South Bank is a 2 mile stretch along the bank of the River Thames that is a significant arts and entertainment area. The Southbank Centre comprises the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Hayward. The Royal National Theatre and BFI Southbank are located adjacent to the east, but are not part of the centre. County Hall is no longer used as the seat of London government and has been converted to house the Sea Life London Aquarium, the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, the London Film Museum and outside is home to The London Eye, and overlooks the Houses of Parliament on the opposite side of the river. It's a great place to spend a day, particularly a nice, sunny spring day.

I had tickets to the Udderbelly Festival at Southbank Centre - an 8 week summer festival of the brightest comedy, circus, family and cabaret shows. We enjoyed a pitcher of Pimms in front of a giant inflatable purple cow before a LOL comedy show. Utter belly laughs...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

#245: Watch a debate in Parliament / House of Commons

My parents being in town meant that it was a perfect opportunity to tick this one off the List. I've been to the Parliament and the House of Commons before and, given my parents are political junkies back home, thought they'd like to see how things are done on this side of the pond. Besides, Americans love all that old building and tradition my parents were both interested and impressed.

We went to the Vistor's Gallery, which is a balcony overlooking the main chamber, and heard a debate on whether private landlords should be required to have fire detectors or not. It wasn't necessarily a riveting, edge-of-your-seat debate, but it did give my parents (and me) a glimpse into the nuances and reality of actual governance.

Another one I'm glad was on the list because I don't think I would have done this otherwise.

#95: Run through a fountain

There's a fountain right outside Wembley Arena. Different sections of it go on and off quickly, but at different times, all with different colours lighting each spout. After a very fun evening, it was time to tick off another task on the list. Despite the fact that it was very cold, the fountain beaconed and called me, knowing that it was on 'the list.' It was staring me in the face so I could not back down. I ran through it. I got very wet. We laughed.

Photo credit: Jocelyn Bain Hogg

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

#244: Take my parents to Paris

I continue to try to make good on resolution 168: See my parents more, and being on gardening leave I invited my mom and dad for a visit. For 10 days. In my small place.

*record scratch*

As soon as the invite was accepted I realised I really needed to make this list item happen or else we were all going to get on each other's nerves by the end of their trip. I'm so glad I did because I can honestly say I've never had such an enjoyable time with my parents.

It was a fun, and funny, trip. Americans in Paris=Many cringeworthy Griswold moments, like this:
But it was a trip that none of us will ever forget. I'm so glad and lucky to have been able to do this with my parents.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

#93: Play a round of golf

Some say golf ruins a nice walk, for me it's a nice day spent at the beach.
(I'll let you guess which photo was taken first...)

Sunday, 4 May 2014

#242: Give someone my phone number when/if asked

Ok, I should clarify this by saying I'm not out there just handing my number out to anyone that will take it, like a street 'chugger' handing out fundraising flyers. I'm talking about the 'being out at a party/bar/restaurant and talking to someone who seems normal' kind of number sharing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't get asked for my details often but on the odd occasion when I do, I revert back to adolescent behaviour. My first response is to panic and think of a way out of giving my details...because the person in question obviously has a screw loose to even consider wanting to speak to me again! It's my own take on that famous Groucho Marx saying, "I don't want to belong to a club that will accept me as a member." I realise however that not wanting to date or be friends with someone that's interested in me will doom me to being alone forever so I've vowed to try to fight this inclination.

The awkward surprise stage follows shortly behind the panic stage, where I bumble and mumble something all the while trying to bide precious seconds to think about whether I really want to see this person again. My default is generally 'no freaking way' and then go grade-school on the poor soul by giving them numbers but messing up one or two digits.
Times have changed since I was last dating/meeting new people, however, and I've learned that Facebook and cell phones/text make this 'trick' obsolete. Which is a good thing because I should really act like the grown woman I am and not the 16 year old I sometimes feel like.

Appreciation stage follows, as I realise I should be incredibly grateful that someone had both the interest and courage to ask.

In the instance in question, my gut response was to not give out my details, but I knew that was no way to meet new friends and interesting people so knowing this was on the list I shared my actual number. I'm only looking for friendship at the moment and that was cool with them so we have agreed to meet up with that in mind.

With this one down, the next step is for me to ask for someone's number.

I'm not holding my breath... that one could take a while.

Photos: Shutterstock/cartoonresource, BWFalsome

#92: Visit London Zoo

I live relatively nearby and pass the zoo often, but can't remember when the last time I went there, so this has been on my list for a while. When the zoo announced a one week only exclusive after-hours access to the zoo’s brand new exhibit Tiger Territory, along with outdoor viewing of the movie the Life of Pi I thought I could kill two birds with one stone...Then I realised I was going to a zoo and killing birds probably wouldn't be allowed (so I went to another outdoor cinema to fulfil that task, see #89).

Life of Pi… Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning magical tale of hope, wonder, survival and the power of the human spirit has been celebrated by critics all over the world.

A lovely, if freezing, evening touring the new Tiger enclosure and watching The Life of Pi.

Friday, 2 May 2014

#89: See a movie outside

Movies are great, but there's something special about watching a movie outdoors. Everyman Cinema showing of Thelma & Louise at KXFS as part of their 'the best road movies ever made' season. Complete with Champagne.