I’ve never been one for New Year resolutions. But following a fairly busy time celebrating the festive season I decided not to drink alcohol for a month. Fairly ordinary I know, but let’s see how I feel at the end of the month. To compensate I opted to do something a bit different. In the interests of trying new things I asked a friend (thanks Taskmaster Chris!) to help me out. I suggested that he send me something new to try each day. We joked this could be a bit mundane, like ‘eat baked beans’, but might also be quite amusing, or even educational and possibly mind expanding. So this blog post details the various tasks and things I have tried over the month… (there are only 28 days as we started late)
Day 1 Task – Eat baked beans
Baked beans on toast. Not new but it’s been a while. Verdict: Lidl value beans aren’t bad.
Day 2 Task – Read a poem before bed
I googled ‘best ever poems’ and after ruling out ones that were incomprehensible, including some Shakespeare sonnets, I settled on The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. It seemed to resonate with me. I also read the analysis which gave me additional perspective. Verdict: I should read more poetry.
Day 3 Task – Try a new cheese
Ok this is easy. Me and my Taskmaster Chris are big cheese fans. As my degree research project, 20 years ago, investigated blue cheese I opted for a Highland Blue. Verdict: Soft, creamy and mild; an entry level blue cheese. Develops well after a few days.
Day 4 Task – Listen to a song you’ve never heard before
As a fairly recent convert to new music (see earlier posts) this should be easy. A Spotify search for ‘great songs you’ve never heard’ led me to a fair few playlists. I listened to a range of artists but my favourite was by a band called Nordic Giants, the song was Together. Verdict: I liked this a lot. Apparently they are excellent live too.
Day 5 Task – Watch McMafia
I don’t watch drama on TV much, and hadn’t seen previous episodes so I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Verdict: This was quite violent in places and there was plenty of tension. Don’t think I’ll watch it again though.
Day 6 Task – Watch Rita Pierson’s TED talk
TED talks are really good. I’ve used them in teaching and learnt a lot about presenting from watching them. I’ve never seen this talk but several teachers I spoke to knew it well. Verdict: This talk is inspiring. I didn’t agree with everything Rita said but will share with students.
Day 7 Task – Read ‘Existentialism Is a Humanism’ by Jean-Paul Sartre
This was a challenge. I’ve not read much philosophy and this was an interesting introduction. But I persevered. Chris asked if I picked out a particular quote. I had and it turned out to be the section that preceded the section Chris liked. Verdict: Not sure if I’m a convert to philosophy yet. But I might revisit this essay again.
Day 8 Task – Call a friend I’ve not spoken to for a while
Well this is a lovely idea! I randomly scrolled through my contacts. I tried a former football team mate, Fordy, sadly no answer (though he called me back later). Tried another former Garnett Bohemians team mate, Churchy this time, no answer again, so left a message (he rang me the next day). Finally succeeded in speaking to Dr Rich, a mate from uni. We chatted about work, family and when we are going to meet up again. Verdict: I need to call more people, more often. And I will. You should. Do it now!
Day 9 Task – Watch a foreign language film
I’ve seen a few Spanish films before and thought watching another one might be a good learning experience (I have a very basic grasp of conversational Spanish, and need to practise more). However, I drew a blank on Netflix, but did find the Oscar winning Japanese film, Departures. Verdict: I would never have picked this film normally but I really liked it. It gave me was a fleeting but fascinating insight into a culture I know very little about. And the really unusual subject matter is handled with amazing sensitivity.
Day 10 Task – Draw a picture… of the sea
This is unexpected. In school when I decided not to pursue art beyond the age of 13 my teacher thanked me and wished me well, I suspect with a sense of relief. And I can’t remember the last time I did anything ‘arty’. Luckily I have some friends who could give some advice. Cue an impromptu art lesson. Verdict: I didn’t draw, I created, using things from the kitchen. And I really, really enjoyed doing this, and I think it’s rather good.
Day 11 Task – Watch an old film
Given the relatively young age of my Taskmaster most films I’ve seen probably class as old. Chris suggested Brief Encounter but I couldn’t get it. Then I remembered Chris often talked about Annie Hall, which I only knew about beacause it beat Star Wars to the best film Oscar in 1977. So I thought it might be time to see what it was like. And it was released before my first birthday, so I think it is pretty old. Verdict: Woody Allen starts the movie talking about turning 40. There were quite a few other parts I could relate to as well. It’s a good film. Better than Star Wars? Not sure…
Day 12 Task – Try meditation
I do yoga but thought this was a bit out my comfort zone. I googled a meditation website and picked ‘Meditation for Moving On’ (seemed appropriate), then set the audio guide away. Verdict: It is harder than you think to clear your mind. Although it must have worked as a I drifted off to sleep for a short while. I think I’ll give this a try again. Especially when I’m feeling stressed.
Day 13 Task – Take photos
I like taking photos but do it very rarely. I spent some time looking around campus. Verdict: You can decide. I like quite the montage below.
Day 14 Task – Listen to Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas
Well this is something I’d never have done without Chris’s encouragement. Apparently he drinks in a pub that Dylan Thomas frequented. He also suggested I try the Richard Burton version. Verdict: Not really my ‘cup of tea’. Quite surreal.
Day 15 Task – Look up the dictionary of obscure sorrows
This was unusual. I like investigating words, especially new ones. Verdict: I’m not sure I need all these words. But ‘onism’ resonated with me. It means: ‘the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time’.
Day 16 Task – Learn a cooking skill
I enjoy cooking so this should be fun. I also watch Great British Bake-off and am always intrigued by spinning sugar. So I thought I’ll give that a bash. Verdict: Biggest failure yet. The lack of a sugar thermometer didn’t help. But either way this is a lot harder than it looks on TV. Think I need to try something simpler. (* I revisited this Task and made some quite good chocolate mousse).
Day 17 and 18 Task – Write a poem
This was a tough challenge. Chris gave me a choice: sestina or sonnet, I had to admit I knew what neither were. So I was directed to write a sestina. Luckily the internet can teach you anything. The next couple of days were spent working on my poem. Then I sent it to off to Chris for criticism. Verdict: I really enjoyed this, and learnt a great deal. Chris liked it too.
Day 19 Task – Perform a handstand
Not good as I have a sore arm, from playing American football (that’s a #humblebrag I know). Therefore a handstand was out of the question. But instead, with aid of the wall and a cushion, I managed a headstand. Verdict: I’m going to work on this. It would make a cool party trick if I could get the hang of it.
Day 20 Task – Choose a motto
I don’t really know where to start with this one. I run through a few options. Have a quick look online. Then decide to go with a cliche, based on my background in teaching. Verdict: My motto is ‘It’s your own time you’re wasting’. Don’t know if I’ll use this much!
Day 21 Task – Write your own eulogy
This is a bit dark… I’ve been meaning to rewrite my will so I could put this in at the same time. Ok then I’ll try this. Verdict: Actually this was quite fun. I think planning ahead like this isn’t such a bad idea.
Day 22 Task – Do origami
As a teacher of Primary school teachers this could be really useful. A friend gives me a origami set and I decide to try a butterfly. Verdict: After a bit of thinking, and careful reading of instructions, I work out how to make the butterfly. It is quite good, I am pleased with myself 🙂
Day 23 Task – Research your family history
This Task represents a challenge as my own father has already researched a couple of branches of the family tree. So I spend some time reading these and enjoy finding out about people I never knew. Then someone points out that my dad has only researched the paternal lines. Verdict: I am going to try and research the maternal line from my mother, and her mother.
Day 24 Task – Improve your swimming
Talking to the Taskmaster on the way to have a swim we discuss tumble turns and perfecting front crawl. I’m a breast stroker so side to side crawl breathing is my challenge. Verdict: After 30 minutes of gasping for breath I’ve managed to drink a good quantity of pool water. This is gong to take some time to perfect.
Day 25 Task – Get from a random Wikipedia page to the page on Custard Creams by following links
Off I go to Wikipedia, hit the random article button and I start with the Capture of Mametz, then Western Front, next United Kingdom, then Manchester, to Trafford Park, and The Co-operative, next Fairtrade, and then Tea, on to Tea Party, and Biscuits and finally, after about 45 minutes, I reach Custard Cream! Verdict: What a buzz! What a great game! I loved this.
Day 26 Task – Tell me (Chris, the Taskmaster) a bedtime story
I’m glad the month is coming to a close. These are getting a little bizarre! Anyway let’s give this a bash… Using Jack & the Beanstalk for inspiration I retold the story of Kris, his cow (Shearer) and a Magic pastie tree. Chris the Task Master’s verdict: ‘What a journey’ (I think he went to bed happy).
Day 27 Task – Listen to the Art Teacher by Rufus Wainright
Another music based Task. It sounds like it is an interesting song, but not one I’d have listened to normally. Verdict: It’s ok.
Day 28 Task – Write a love letter… to myself
Well this is uncomfortable. But it is my last challenge. Back to google for some encouragement, there are a lot of examples there. Verdict: I’m not publishing this. But it was an experience.
Now I think I need a drink. Seriously though, I got so much more from this than I expected. Thanks Chris!