New Thing 20 : Shears Yard Sunday Lunch

TLDR : more a dinner place than a lazy lunch, but very tasty.

This was a last minute Father’s Day booking after our plans to go hiking were ruined by the rain.

I’d normally pick a cosy pub to visit with my Dad so this exposed brick, converted warehouse wasn’t my first choice. I personally thought it was more suited to an evening meal than a chilled out lunch, however the food was excellent.

We both had the Sunday roast with beer and some bread to nibble on. It was a sun-dried tomato and parsnip bread with a marmite butter so although it was tasty I feel like you don’t need to mess with bread so a little unnecessary for the sake of being fancy.

The roast itself was delicious, the meat comes from Sykes House Farm who are a local butcher that also stock Michelin star restaurants. Nice big Yorkshire pudding and all the good stuff.

For dessert I had a chocolate brownie with an iced miso sorbet type thing. I love miso and any kind of salty chocolate mix so this was good for me.

Rating this a 9 out of 10, with one point unfairly knocked off because I fancied somewhere more chilled out for Sunday lunch.

New Thing 19 : Henry Moore Institute

TLDR : maybe it is crap, maybe I am not cultured enough for modern art.

I appreciate I didn’t give The Tetley a good review so I maybe should have learned my lesson and given up on modern art. However it was Father’s Day and raining so options were limited.

The Henry Moore Institute is apparently “one of the most important galleries in the country” according to Leeds List, who lie, and presumably don’t leave Leeds. Henry Moore himself is a sculpture artist who has made some interesting work, unfortunately Henry Moore’s work never ended up at the Henry Moore Institute.

No thanks grain tanks

As you can see at the top image some grain tanks ended up there, representing over farming. Except they didn’t really do anything with them, they were just grain tanks, which was pretty underwhelming.

Ek The idea of the current exhibits is that they are moveable – and the grain tanks are technically moveable. However they require an HGV and heavy machinery to move so they don’t exactly fit the brief and I didn’t quite understand why they were there.

Actual moveable art

Inside they had a piece of wood, the story behind it was that the artist left her family behind in Europe in the 1930s to move to America. Whilst living in New York she wasn’t able to see them so she carved wood to remind herself of them. So it fits the brief of people moving and is also an object that can be moved.

But still, it is very much just wood, that looks a lot like wood (and presumably not remotely like her family) so it was a bit of a stretch for my imagination.

Keeping it real

The artist behind this piece was saying something about how children’s toys are garish and take over your life. And whilst I have never sympathised with a piece of artwork more, I also feel there could maybe be a little more meaning to the work?

It just seems strange to me that someone could think, ah fuck these toys are annoying me, then sew some massive sheets of fabric together and blow some air in it and get it into a “very important gallery”.

And yet a trendy looking twenty year old definitely stared at it thoughtfully for a good ten minutes, so what do I know.

Art with actual meaning

There were a few pieces of work which were all suitcases with tiny sculptures in, reflecting the artist’s own experience of leaving Syria as a refugee.

Looking at them closely there was meaning to each piece and it was very intricate. It also fit the brief of the exhibition, I just expected more art that was relevant and interesting to look at and had some real meaning to it.

Rating : although it was a bit crap I’m giving it 3 out of 10. 1 point for being free, 1 point for the guy dedicated to staring at a blow up toy for 10 minutes and 1 point for having one interesting piece of art.

New Thing 18 : Hiking with a toddler

TLDR : multiple adults and a fun route required.

We did a loop around including Great Longstone and the Monsal Trail. As we passed through the village and Thornbridge Hall there were opportunities to grab ice lollies and a picnic. Thornbridge Hall itself looked fun with a big play area and cafe but it was packed out so I was glad to be heading off hiking.

The Monsal Trail is a big wide track so handy for families as you can cycle or take a pram. The track used to be a railway so there was a tunnel running through the hill, which we needed as it was a nice break from the heat.

We just did a sling walk so we weren’t stuck on the main trail, which was good as after we crossed this huge bridge we trekked down a steep route to get to the river.

We had a picnic stop by the bridge then walked under and had a splash in the shallow bit of the river then walked up to the main route over the bridge again.

After another steep route after the bridge we were rewarded with this view, then just another 15 minutes back to our campsite.

Rating : We didn’t go for a long or challenging walk, but even so I would have been way too tired carrying Emily on my own on a hot day. Plus the navigation would have been stressful. But as a group trip this was really fun and had lots of variety to keep Emily interested so 10 out of 10.

New Thing 17 : Glamping

TLDR : Stayed in the fanciest tent on a lovely campsite because I am too high maintenance for actual camping.

Back in June we had a couple of nights break with my sister, her boyfriend and my dad.

Although the idea of camping is fun I am permanently cold so need a tent fitted with a radiator and log burner. Whereas my sister can survive a couple of nights in a tent with no heating, fortunately Dale Farm Campsite do both.

This was where we stayed:

Each plot is marked out with loads of free space and wild flowers marking each area, if you like camping information then there were plenty of water taps dotted around and space to park by your tent. There was a 10pm quiet rule and no music to be played, so good for families and people who don’t want to be around annoying noisy groups.

My sister stayed at the top of the hill which didn’t have many plots so it was even more spread out and quiet, but look at the view:

The campsite had just renovated a barn into the shower / toilet / pot wash so everything was new. They also had a mini farm shop (with an honesty box / honesty PayPal account) to buy local bacon, sausages and egg, as well as fire pits to hire.

As it is a working farm we were surrounded by fields of sheep and cows, the barn is up against the camping field so we got to see all of the lambs being herded in one morning. It is also just an excellent location, surrounded by rolling hills and no noise other than the birds. The site itself was kept really well:

We had great weather so had a BBQ, outdoor full English breakfast and plenty of time sat by the fire playing games.

It was a short walk from the Monsal Trail and a 15 minute drive to Chatsworth so really handy, we also walked to the pub one night so everyone got to have a drink.

Overall it was the perfect compromise for a child who loves the idea of camping with a parent who is completely unable to handle actual camping.

Rating : for anyone else 10 out of 10, for high maintenance people who cannot sleep well unless the room is pitch black and the perfect temperature 8 out of 10.

New Thing 16 : Chatsworth Farm

TLDR : if Disney did stately home farms they would make this. Bloody loved it.

As you can see from the photos I was biased by the gorgeous weather we had in June. But I still think it is excellent.

Just pulling up to the estate I was a little mind blown by the size of the place. The huge parkland and ancient oak trees, the ridiculous sized house, enormous fountains in the background.

A little history

I say a little as it really is a little. The Chatsworth family come from Bess of Hardwick who lived within view of the estate at Hardwick Hall. Born to an impoverished family she ended up being the second wealthiest woman of her time, after Elizabeth the 1st, as she survived four different wealthy husbands and raked in the inheritance every time.

When Bess married her second husband (20 years older and very rich) she didn’t fancy his land in Suffolk so convinced him to buy Chatsworth in her home of Derbyshire. At this point he was Sir William Cavendish but later their descendents became Dukes and got insanely wealthy and built the huge Chatsworth, running out of bricks and having to take a load from the Old Hardwick Hall which is still in ruins now.

For a while they used Chatsworth as a prison for Mary Queen of Scots. And the only interesting thing I know since then is Debo Mitford (quite a long bit after).

Debo is one of six sisters:

  • Nancy wrote The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate
  • Pamela divorced her millionaire husband so she could spend the rest of her life with an Italian horsewoman (contraversial for an Edwardian born woman)
  • Diana married a fascist and spent time in Holloway prison
  • Unity was obsessed with Hitler and shot herself in the head when Britain declared war on Germany
  • Decca was a communist

Debo initially seemed the boring one. She married a second son who wasn’t due to have much money and her family could barely afford her wedding trousseau. But three years after marrying Andrew his elder brother died in the war and they then became Duke and Duchess.

As well as a novelist who was involved in politics she loved the estate and used to hang out in the farm shop and give people tips on how to cook a joint of meat. The family own ridiculous property including Bolton Abbey and the numerous hotels and pubs, some of which she insisted be decorated in crazy bright colours she thought would be fun.

Unfortunately she died a few years ago, at 95 years old, so you won’t meet her in the shop now.

Back to the point

When you park up the first place you pass through is the courtyard. It’s technically just somewhere for the family to leave their horses and carriages, but it is insane. People get married in the stables, there is a huge cafe, restaurant, multiple shops, loads of outside seating and statues and water features.

In the context of a huge tourist attraction it makes sense, but it is a bit mind blowing to think it was originally just somewhere to house one family’s horses.

We didn’t go in the actual house and grounds as the farm seems more toddler appropriate, and you do not have time to do it all.

The farm itself is set up the hill a little, presumably to not get in the way of the view from the house. Even though it is a tucked away working unit, you can tell it was used by a wealthy family as all the buildings are still fancy (for a farm).

Covid meant the shop was closed but there was a coffee shop with decent espresso and ice cream.

The animals were pretty friendly and we could feed this guy:

And his little mates:

I got a bit keen and took a stupid amount of animal photos that day. But there were plenty of things for Instagram addicts, for example this shiny red tractor:

Toddler fun things

Photo opportunities aside it was really fun for children. They had an area set aside with cars and tractors that we spent way too much time in.

Up the hill again there was a huge play area with big kit for older kids with big climbing and zip lines:

But they also had a really good toddler area with a huge sandpit with a hand pump coming out of the stream running along the back:

Rating : 10 out of 10

New Thing 15 : A fancy waterfall picnic

I’m not sure if this justifies a full post as the title says it all.

All my Lake District posts are confusingly spread out over months, but this is back to the Lake District trip again.

The last day I was pretty achey after the trip up Blen Cathra so we just did a little walk up Aira Force. It’s National Trust owned so there is easy parking with a shop and toilets and an easy route running along the waterfalls.

We stopped maybe mid way up which was nice and quiet. As it was a 40th birthday we had champagne, nibbles, birthday cake and coffee.

Rating :

8 out of 10

(points deducted for me forgetting the nice blanket and the sun not coming out)

New Thing 14: Saw a shooting star

TLDR : went to the Lakes, got a bath, looked up, saw a shooting star.

I saw a shooting star, I’m not sure if this is a new thing as if I saw one before I probably assumed it was a helicopter.

But this time I was with a person who has a PhD in star related things and if he accepted my description as a shooting star then it’s going on the list.

By itself it isn’t that exciting. It looked like that two second bit where you see a firework shoot through the sky before it explodes. However it started from the middle of the sky and ended shortly after in the middle of the sky.

Now it doesn’t sound like much but in the context of having a romantic evening in the middle of the Lake District it was pretty cool.

Rating :

All I did was look up at the sky as I was chilling in the bath so effort versus reward alone this one gets a 10 out of 10.

Dangers of Doing New Things

Content warning : Just a massive whinge including disgusting descriptions of my bum infection. Enjoy.

My recent blogs have been pretty emotionally neutral lately so I think I can justify a massive ranty moan.

Coming out of lockdown and deciding to try new things and be an “interesting” person has absolutely fucked me over.

Sleep deprived, life exhausted mothers of toddlers do not get to be interesting people who do fun new things. Those who try it get a bum infection the size of a golf ball that leaks blood and pus for three weeks straight (and I do NOT exaggerate).

It was all going so well a month or two ago, pole dancing and mountain hikes and art galleries. Steak for breakfast. I think a little potter around a museum followed by a coffee is not to blame.

Running is evil

During the long boring lockdown at the start of this year I tried couch to 5k. It is hard to find time to go running but squeezing it into lunch breaks and child free Sundays the odd time was relatively satisfying. However only a few runs in I got a cold that lasted on and off for six weeks. Not even a proper, time off work justifying cold. Just a feel crap whilst going about everyday life cold.

Pole dancing is the worst

Like a fool I decided cardio isn’t for me but pole dancing would be fun… as exercise that is fun doesn’t count as exercise and therefore cannot hurt you.

Wrong.

Pole dancers are insane muscle machines. And whilst my left arm can prop a chunky toddler up for a while, my body is otherwise a flimsy, exercise hating squish. I felt so wobbly and nauseous after the sessions and then the following days walking like I had an embarrassing bum problem. I then had a genuine embarrassing bum problem.

It started with a sore little red spot which I didn’t think much of one Saturday morning. Sunday morning I was getting sore and whiney. Monday and Tuesday I was sitting wonky and fighting the urge not to compain the office due to the piss taking that would follow.

All the time it was getting bigger and redder and more swollen. When I called the doctor on Tuesday they wanted a bum selfie so I had to balance my phone on the windowsill in the shower room and take the most unflattering photo of my life.

Trying to get back to my desk before anyone questioned what I was doing I forgot to clear my screen…so my colleagues may potentially have seen it. No one assumes you have a huge swollen growth on your bum cheek (and the GP wants a photo), so it looked like I was sending sexy photos with absolutely no awareness of what is in fact sexy.

The GP gave me a double dose of antibiotics with did nothing to reduce the swelling and by Wednesday I had diarrhoea and thrush to add on to the fact I could no longer sit down. So Thursday and Friday were spent lying on my side in bed, doing a single hand type on a laptop, while a hot compress balanced on my ever growing swollen bum cheek.

The swelling was so big and sore all I could do was waddle around the house in baggy jogging bottoms, swearing all the way. I assumed it was a boil, which can get really painful.

By Saturday I woke up feeling hot and sweaty and dizzy, my daily bum inspection showed that it wasn’t in fact one boil but a collection of four boils clustered together and the whole thing looked ready to burst. So I almost fainted. The pain was ridiculous, bearable lying on my side but walking around was comparable to childbirth. But I didn’t have to entertain and feed a toddler for the day during childbirth. So I called for reinforcements and my mum came over and I resumed lying on my side.

Finally in the morning there was a boil explosion and the pain relieved significantly. However there was a steady stream of blood for hours.

I initially thought I would wait it out, and frankly thought the sight of it would make me pass out if I moved anyway. After two hours diarrhoea joined the game so I waddled to the bathroom with a handful of kitchen towel to catch the blood. In the few seconds spent washing my hands when my bum was free it looked like someone had slashed a vein in my bathroom.

After most of a day spent waiting for my bum cheek to drain I gave up and put a dressing on but the story didn’t end there and I had three long, long weeks of changing dressings regularly as so much blood kept on draining out. Altogether I had about three weeks where I couldn’t sit down easily and only managed the two minute drive to nursery by balancing all my weight on my one healthy bum cheek.

So after three weeks of not sitting down, two weeks on antibiotics, three packs of Caneston duo and an unquantifiable amount of time on the toilet I finally had a healed wound.

Pole dancing doesn’t hate me, my body does

Before I give pole dancing a bad press, my tale of woe was not a result of rubbing my bare bum on a dirty pole. It was (and I should have learnt my lesson from attempting to learn to run) my body telling me to sit down and chill the fuck out.

Boils and carbuncles come from bacteria that lives on the skin naturally somehow getting into the skin, potentially from a small nick, ingrain hair or spot. If your immune system is struggling anyway it can turn into an infection, which is common for people with HIV or diabetes. And apparently exhausted mothers.

I’d like to say that this is almost an old memory but my ‘nurse’ Emily is constantly asking me ‘if my poorly bottom is feeling better’ which is one of the more embarrassing things a child can announce on public. So the fun just keeps coming.

And whilst I have had all the joys of being able to sit on my bum for the last month I’m now in a cycle of getting a nasty cold, feeling ropey and spending a weekend in bed, getting to the point of being nearly a well human and then getting ill again.

I can’t even find anyone to blame my most recent cold on, I’m just a mucusy, pissed off, barely functional zombie nowadays.

Excluding a trip to the cinema, every Sunday planned out for ‘fun new things’ has been spent in bed or on the sofa trying to pull together enough energy to survive the coming week.

So all in all I’m feeling a bit fed up and pessimistic about there ever being a time when my body will approve of working full time, with a big commute, managing a toddler alone and getting horribly interrupted sleep.

The good news is that my default mentality would be to wallow in self pity thinking poor me, poor single mother me, no one doing regular overnights so I can sleep, my life is so unfair. But I’m so bloody tired I just can’t be bothered with self pity anymore.

I just mindlessly scroll tik tok or find a ridiculous dating show on Netflix and then watch the more ridiculous reunion of the ridiculous dating show.

So becoming a functioning zombie with poor taste is a…kind of silver lining. Two years ago I was doing a lot of angry crying and getting jealous of 90% of the people on social media so I’m going to take functional zombie as progress.

New Thing 13: Cusworth Hall

TLDR: depending on how you see it either an amazing service station or a fairly average stately home.

I’d been meaning to visit for a while, mostly as it is free and I love free things. However this time we didn’t get to have the full visit as annoyingly they haven’t re-opened the museum.

We just had a potter around the outside, hung out with the ducks and swans for a bit then had a play on the play area.

The good bit and the bad bit of Cusworth is the location. The house is on a hill with a view…of Doncaster. Specifically Doncaster’s high rise council blocks. But this does mean it is close to the A1 so for a couple of minutes diversion really handy on a journey.

The playground is good with plenty of picnic benches and green space around but it is right next to the car park.

The house, cafe and toilets are only a couple of minutes walk from the play area and car park so a good place to spend an afternoon when you’re low on energy. Which I am, as I am basically a vehicle for shoulder rides at the minute.

It probably deserves a 6 out of 10 but I’m bumping it to an 8 as I really could not be bothered with unnecessary effort or expenditure on the day I visited.

Definitely a worthwhile new thing 👍🏻

New Thing 12: Rowntree Park and Reading Cafe

I am heavily biased by the gorgeous sunshine and the fact Emily was having an excellent time with her little friend. Both biased and distracted, as I was fairly focused on not losing a child into the pond / to be attacked by a goose or other park dangers.

The park was made in the 1920s as a gift to the city from Joseph Rowntree (who gifted the rest of the world Fruit Pastilles and Smarties). If my A Level geography teacher was correct Joseph made the factories at one end of the parks and the houses at the other so the employees all stayed fit and had a bit of leisure time in their day.

I’ve been inside one of the Joseph Rowntree houses and they are like little country cottages. They are still saved for social housing as part of the charity and have very strict rules on trees and hedge sizes with big front gardens. This means the whole area feels like a pretty 1920s village rather than a council estate.

Rowntree Park runs close to the river Ouse so we walked along the river side and got some ice cream from a little ice cream boat moored up. With a two and three year old there was some swapping of cones to ensure everyone had the correct colour combinations which somehow ended up with me missing out on the rhubarb I was excited about…nothing to do with the park but I like to complain.

Linking up the main city to the park you can either cross the old bridge by Clifford’s Tower or walk further down the river to a big modern footbridge lined with deep benches. A few people were just chilling out there watching all the boats go by.

After balancing on walls we headed over to the Reading Cafe. This is a really cute little cafe upstairs, it is linked up to York Libraries so you can borrow a book while you’re there, but it also has decent coffee and good cake. The outdoor terrace was busy so we sat inside, but it was on the first floor with views across the ponds and park so a pretty spot to sit and relax.

Unfortunately no photos of the terrace as I mostly spent my time walking between the table and the toilets as toddlers are never quite sure if they need a wee or not.

The park itself had some Arts and Crafts type features. Little bridges and fake cottage style buildings.

There was a decent sized playground with a range of activities for different ages.

Super fun day. 10 out of 10.

New Thing 11: Franksters

My first new thing regret. So many excellent food options at White Rose shopping centre and I wasted my appetite on Franksters.

Someone online said it was a cross between Five Guys and Nandos. Absolute liars.

It is Burger King but twice as expensive and half as good. They don’t even have bacon.

They do serve halal though so I guess if you are Muslim and like wasting money you may enjoy.

Before I stop complaining I need to point out how sad this arcade is:

And how ashamed they should be about the blatent copying of Burger Kings most fabulous product:

1 out of 10 Franksters. Shame on you.

(… not even a big cup of coke)

New Thing 10: Pole Dancing

Really bloody hard.

So hard my whole body hurts and I am too tired to write in paragraphs. Here are the things I learnt about pole dancing in list format :

All kinds of pain

1. Accidental vulva pole collisions

It isn’t just your muscles that hurt, you may also whack your vulva against the pole and then your vulva / public bone will also hurt.

2. Chinese burn to the thighs

You don’t consider how soft the skin in the inside of your thighs is until you let go of the pole and your soft thigh skin friction burns it’s way down the pole.

3. Spine rub

I also didn’t realise what a bony spine I have. Specifically the base of my neck which has a big bone that rubbed on the floor when I tried to drag my big body up off the ground using my legs to grip up and pull my bum off the floor.

4. Inner knee bruises

I do not have enough pole dedication to sustain this injury, but one of the women had bruises on the insides of her knees from using them to grip the pole too hard. Ow.

Fun stuff

1. Super spinny

The pole spins around very easily so you only need a little tap of your foot to send you off spinning. Fun but also quite dizzying.

2. Crazy skills

I went to a mixed ability group and it was fun watching the experienced women spinning around upside down. And pretty impressive seeing their very toned arms.

3. Women are the best

The women either side of me were super friendly and chatty and told me how well I was doing, even though I’m pretty sure I was not. With it being a pole class men aren’t invited and whenever there is an all female activity I find there is normally a lovely welcoming and encouraging atmosphere, because obviously women are the best.

4. So much skin

It is easier to grip the pole with more skin out so most people had crop tops / sports bras and short shorts. Not everyone is super toned and skinny and it is nice to see normal sized women managing to do impressive things with their bodies.

Practical information

1. Sole pole

We all had a pole to ourselves (because of covid) and anti-bacterial wiped them down before we left. But I think in non covid times there are 2 to 3 per pole.

2. A bargain (I think)

My class was £8 for an hour but they do discounts for block bookings. We did a bit of warm up and stretching but other than that all pole time.

3. Big poles

It was in a converted industrial unit so the poles went up fairly high to the ceiling and some people could climb right up to the top in the warm up.

4. Chalky hands

Some people use liquid chalk (like climbers use) in order to grip the pole better if they are sweaty.

Overall

I wish I could say it was 10 out of 10, but as I wasn’t great at it and I’m feeling pretty sore it’s only getting a 6 out of 10.

Which is probably an unfair score because it is Monday and I’m tired.

I have already booked in a couple more sessions though so definitely worth it.

New Thing 9: Blencathra

Our garden bath tub hut was looking out over Blencathra so I felt like we should probably hike up it. With shaky legs after the Via Ferrata the day before and being headache drunk at midnight I was pretty skeptical I would make it up the 860m height mountain the next day.

It made it to the list so I obviously did manage but only because:

– I ate a lot of sweets

– I complained a lot

– I used those hiking sticks popular with retired people to drag myself up

– I drove down the road to an easy starting spot as I was too scared to do either of the two ridges

In my defence of the last point nine people have died walking Sharp Edge and I am aware how clumsy I am.

Taking the less dangerous route up (starting just left of the pub in Scales) was an acceptable amount of views versus risk. We had a picnic overlooking a tarn which was beautifully clear but really fucking cold.

Then at the top my hiking buddy went far too close to the edge for my comfort level to get some photos like this (whilst I sat somewhere safe and tried to not have a nervous meltdown about the death risk).

But then we had saved some coffee and fudge and sat well away from the edge and I felt better.

By the time we started to head down it was pouring with rain so we only got some sheep photos as any view further was just cloud.

(my photo)

(not my photo)

Despite the rain and shaky legs and death fear it was fun. 8 out of 10.

New Thing 8: Wetherby Whaler with no pants

So many new things! A trip to the pool at Wetherby, accidental no underwear in public and a new fish and chip shop. So excessive.

Wetherby Leisure Centre

Commitment issues mean I can’t be tied down to a swimming appointment in advance. This also means I had to call five swimming pools for Bank Holiday Monday before I could find one to fit us in.

Wetherby Leisure Centre is in a nice little spot by the river with playing fields at the back. It’s pretty retro having opened in the 1970s, but I liked it anyway.

We brought my dad along as Emily refused to attend her pre-paid swimming lesson with him last time on the basis that ‘Bubba cannot swim’ and is apparently not to be trusted carrying her.

However despite me being there as back up she still doesn’t trust him in a swimming pool context. Which is ironic given that she also insists that she herself can swim, having had no lessons since we stopped when she was 10 months old. Many times she got angry at me for holding on to her whilst we were in 1m deep water.

Ice cream bribery

Wetherby has a free car park by the bridge which normally has an ice cream van parked up. I suggested this during what almost became an insanely long getting changed session in order to hurry along the process. Whereas I was super efficient getting ready, having turned up in swimming costume, hoodie and jeans which I meant I only needed to put on hoodie and jeans.

I really like this little spot, there is a small beach and the river is very shallow and brave people can paddle out to an island in the middle (not me, too cold).

As it was hot there was a huge queue for an ice cream and during the queue time plenty of people walked past with beautiful smelling fish and chips. Reluctant to waste time invested we had an ice cream starter followed by fish and chips from Wetherby Whaler. I haven’t been there before and I am a fussy woman but it was wonderful.

After this we had a fun little splash around and then a walk along the riverside.

It’s a bank holiday and I’m high on the satisfaction of sunshine and greasy food so I’m giving everything a 10 out of 10. An excellent afternoon.

New Thing 7: The Tetley

I’m not an art person but I can definitely be enticed out by a good brunch menu.

I was intending to go to the Henry Moore sculpture museum in Leeds, which is apparently a Very Important Museum if you are into art. I do not know about art but I do know that the idea of steak for breakfast feels very Americanly excessive and I am into that.

So here I am eating steak for breakfast at an art museum. Also someone decided to create a new word for cortado as maybe cortado doesn’t sound Italian enough and Piccolo makes the hipsters happy? I don’t know, but here is a piccolo (aka cortado).

Steak was good, coffee was good, egg was good. I was high maintenance and swapped out the chips (too early) for a hash brown (appropriate) but I would technically class this as a potato rosti.

I also feel the need to point out that I did not massacre a plate of tasty food by stripey smattering ketchup across the whole thing. That was some kind of chipotle type sauce from the chef and it was also good.

This isn’t just a post about how fussy I am regarding food and drink presentation and terminology.

I did actually visit a gallery as well. Here is some evidence:

My information on this is that an art student asked some different groups to make them a chair and then put the chairs together and here it is. UNITY IS POWER. I may have missed the point.

The rest of the museum did have a point of mental health, the artist did a collaborative sculpture / audio / art / written piece approach to time spent at mental health institutions gathering information.

The take home point I got was : men are shit.

Example 1:

Next up we have chaotic piano music pumping out to signify gradually declining mental health as your family drive you insane. Unsurprisingly the phone had a male voice saying things that would drive you insane.

After this an elaborate tale of how men fuck up your life.

But don’t worry, the (ex) wife eventually had a brief period of happiness before death.

Moral of the story, don’t marry men.

And other than some video / audio extras that was it. It’s a very small gallery (but free entry).

So I’m giving the gallery a 6 out of 10

Steak for breakfast 5 out of 10

Bacon is a British breakfast food because it makes much more sense than steak.

New Thing 6: Nigella Nutella Cheesecake

I don’t generally make dessert, partially as I used to be married to someone who wasn’t bothered and also as Aldi Specially Selected are so tasty and cheap making anything feels like a huge waste of time.

Although Nigella had me sold on it being “embarrassingly easy to make and unembarrassingly easy to eat” it still took me years to muster the enthusiasm to make it.

It was so tasty. But Nigella has a very low embarrassment threshold as it was beyond what I can be arsed with. The recipe link is here if you want to judge my laziness.

The actual embarrassment is that it needs a springform tin, so I bought a springform tin, then went in the cupboard to find a brand new springform tin already there. So I obviously saw the recipe and how easy it was and yet still didn’t get around to making it and this was so long ago it no longer lives within my memory. Lazy.

One thing I need to pre-warn potential cheesecake makers is that it is bloody huge and heavy. Nigella thinks it serves 8-12 people so maybe not a valentines dessert for two (like I did).

It was also pretty expensive as it needs a fuck ton of chocolate spread, multiple tubs of cream cheese and a bag of toasted chopped hazelnuts which alone cost more than two of Waitrose’s fanciest finished and ready to eat cheesecakes.

Much like the log burner powered bath tub this gets a 10 out of 10 but only on condition that someone else puts all the effort in.

New Thing 5: Pfizered

Now these posts are definitely not in chronological order but this is bumping the queue before it is old news.

I got the vaccine this week, I was disproportionately excited when my GP text me a booking link a week before the national rollout for 32 year olds.

The text from my GP said it would be Pfizer, which I was happy with based on no actual research other than asking the few people who currently go to the office.

It was at my regular GP surgery, we had a few minutes queue including checking in at reception. I sat down for about 2 minutes, answered about 5 questions, got jabbed and left with a little card. After 15 minutes in the waiting room I was good to go.

The injection itself was quicker than most injections I’ve had and less painful. I have an annual flu jab and I had quite a few injections when I went backpacking, as well as the contraceptive injection years ago, so I feel I’ve had a reasonable range of injections to compare to.

The injection was Tuesday and I had a very slightly achey arm for a few days. I was a little sleepy but who knows if that is Pfizer or parenting.

I also used it as an excuse to stop by the Rollover hot dog stand on the way home.

A hot dog and some covid immunity give New Thing 5 a fun score of 10 out of 10. Yay Pfizer.

New Thing 4: Via Ferrata

A Via Ferrata is a series of iron rods stapled onto the (almost vertical) mountain side to climb over. You still get the climbers harness and carabiners (metal climbers clips) to clip on with, but it is more similar to a weirdly placed ladder than actual gripping onto the rock face.

This is good as you don’t need experience but you can go straight onto a really high up mountain and get amazing views.

It is a bit of a faff getting the carabiners on and off every rungs but you get in the swing of it.

We started off fairly high and then climbed down a vertical rock face and skirted across the mountain side. At one point there was a ‘Burma Bridge’ across a gorge with a wire to balance on and two wires to hold on to. With a 1,000 foot drop straight down to the rocky valley it was surprisingly not scary.

We did the extreme package for three hours so after this we climbed a huge net over a stretch of mountain which was the hardest bit.

When we finished we ended up on the old paths the slate miners used with low tunnels running through the mountain and then out along the edge with sheer drops down.

Along the route were abandoned slate buildings a metre or so from the edge. This must have been 1,500 feet up from the valley floor and even in May it was bloody cold and windy. We were told that the miners would live in them for four weeks at a time taking children up from seven years old.

I can’t imagine how horrible that would be in winter with just heavy woollen clothes and nothing waterproof.

The guide then took us to the summit of Fleetwith Pike which is 2,100 feet tall with views across to Scotland.

The afternoon itself was really fun. I wasn’t sure if I would have a panic about the height and ruin it. At the start one couple took a look at the route and went straight back which did not help my nerves. But by the end I was feeling quite proud of myself for doing something a bit scary.

Fun factor : 8 out of 10

Fear level : 7 out of 10

New Thing 3: Taco Bell

I overhyped this one in my head, I like tex mex too much for it to live up to my excitement.

However I need to point out that when you Google images search for ‘Taco Bell Picnic’ there are a weird quantity of Taco Bell picnic engagements. So what I only considered worthy of a 4 out of 10 score for a standard Saturday afternoon is somehow worthy of a proposal to many, many other people. So maybe I have misjudged here.

This was my first trip so I went for a combo box with extra sides, like a car park tapas. I ordered a Quasadilla Cravings Box for £7 with some extras

Crispy Beef Taco

Chicken Quesadillas

Spicy chips with a cheese dip

Iced Tea

Churros with a caramel dip

Which I thought was quite a bargain

Plus plain chips and then a cheese wrap for £1 for Emily. It was as bland as it sounds, I think just American cheese rolled up in a wrap.

This was before restaurants and outside dining were allowed so we couldn’t even sit on the picnic benches. Instead we had a picnic blanket set out on the pavement by the drive through so everyone could stare at us, somewhat reducing our dining enjoyment.

The food itself was OK, my American friend informs me the American version is fattier, saltier and greasier and I think I want that.

Fun factor : 4 out of 10 (should have gone to Five Guys)

New Thing 2: Garden Bath

Imagine we are friends and I invite you to my house. You expect coffee, maybe a brownie, and to sit on the sofa fully clothed and that is completely socially acceptable to everyone.

Alternatively what if I told you I’d left my bath water in for a few days. Suggested we take our clothes off, get in together in our underwear and I’ll throw in a little cap of bleach and some more hot water to sanitise it. Then once we are in I leave the vacuum running in the hall for some background noise so we have to shout a little bit to hear each other.

Sounds shit.

That is how I feel about hot tubs. The thought of being outside in hot water is a nice idea but the reality of it is actually all a bit gross and socially awkward.

Now I understand that there is always the option of only using hot tubs with someone you are quite happy being naked with anyway and the option of only using a freshly cleaned hot tub of clean water. But I have trust issues.

Does every self catering holiday let offering two night stays bother taking half an hour to empty it, faff around cleaning it, four hours filling it and another four hours heating it in between check out at 11am and check in at 4pm? Do they commit to the effort of doing this every other day? I’m skeptical.

Now some places probably do, for example look at this fancy set up with an outdoor hot tub which I would absolutely get in.

If I had £850 to spend on one nights accommodation.

Which I do not.

However I found this cool little hut with an outdoor bath. A log burner powered outdoor bath with a field of sheep looking on. So rustic, so nostalgic, this is definitely how Cumbrian sheep farmers have kept clean and relaxed for centuries. I was very excited.

You can see from the image the lovely clean, non-chemical, water we put in ourselves.

The water goes in cold and the log burner had a little inlet to let the water circulate through to heat and go back into the tub so it stays hot as long as the log burner keeps running.

There is quite a lot of very cold water in the tub there. The guide says the tub takes “two hours” to heat up so as soon as we arrived at 6.30 we got it heating straight away. We nipped out to get some fish and chips, got the fire pit on and enjoyed some champagne in the sun and it was gorgeous:

I got a little bit drunk and left my guy that I am seeing to be the responsible fire manager. Not that I can’t work a log burner but purely because I am a lazy drunk and preferred to get settled with a blanket and demand chocolates and prosecco be brought to me instead.

After two hours the top two inches were appropriately warm and everything below was bloody freezing.

After four hours it was warm enough to get in but we had to huddle around the water outlet flow to stay warm. It took another hour before it was hot enough to lie back and relax by which point it was nearly bedtime.

I did get a nice bit of chilling out looking at the stars time. But also the post prosecco regret then kicked in and I started to get a bit headachey.

Was it worth it?

The novelty factor of being tipsy in an outdoor tub with little lambs playing in the background was fun. On the basis of someone else doing all the work while I got drunk, yes it was worth the almost no effort I put in. However the second night we definitely could not be bothered with doing it again.

Fun factor 10/10 for the ten minutes of enough warmth when I could lie back and managed to spot a shooting star which made it pretty special

Effort factor 7/10 lots and lots of (someone else) adding logs to the tiny log burner to try and get the fire hot enough

(we stayed at The Stag booked through Canopy and Stars, it was gorgeous – more photos below. The £850 place is Gilpin Lodge, also in The Lakes)

New thing 1 : World Book Day

At the risk of showing off I am a two time first prize winner of best fancy dress at my office. I only have a Marge photo saved, and I’m happy I do because that was a significant face paint commitment. I even made my own necklace and dress, the things you can do when you have no children or social life!

Even better than Marge was Banana Man. I bought each part of the outfit separately which involved trips to more than one supermarket in pursuit of the exact shade of blue in those baggy older man cotton boxer shorts. They don’t exist so I just wore vaguely inappropriately tight mens pants over some leggings. I crafted a cape complete with logo. I strapped numerous real life bananas to my limbs and I turned up to the office, fully home made masked up, at 9am.

I did not a lot of work that day. I instead posed for photos and shot people with my bananas and more than likely put one in my (outer) pants for the lolz.

With such a disproportionate level of enthusiasm for a non-important event you would think World Book Day would be my absolute crack. No.

6pm nursery pick up one of the staff gives a friendly reminder about World Book Day in the morning and I couldn’t even swear out loud.

Thank god for Halloween costumes and a child who is obsessed with Room on the Broom. Except the broom we had was no longer a broom but a bald stick, so we couldn’t go home until we had foraged a suitable amount of those very thin little twigs to tape down onto it.

Once home I had to donate an old t shirt to be a cape and cut it up. The IKEA cat got wired on to the broom and the craft box came out in order to cover her existing wand which was unfortunately in the wrong colours.

As you can see she looked pretty pleased with the end result but it was not the carefully planned and home made costume I thought she would wear for our first World Book Day. But also…is this the authentic World Book Day experience? Surely real mums are a bit shit and forget things and fudge it last minute?

Either way she still talks about World Book Day and her wand and broom and cat so that seems pretty good to me.

Fun factor (for one of us) 9 out of 10

Stress level (for me) 7 out of 10

52 New Things

Long standing awkward person

Now that the world is reopening half my social media seems to be celebrating hot girl summer while the other half are mourning the loss of banana bread in their pyjamas and legally enforced solitude.

I am a shy introvert with a particular aversion to hanging out with boyfriend’s friends. This started as a teenager when I very rarely had anything to say in a group of my then boyfriend’s group. In hindsight this probably had more to do with them being a gang of vaguely racist, homophobic, stereotypical farmers I had nothing in common with than any hard-core social awkwardness on my part.

Nevertheless I decided I was pretty useless in a meeting new people context and I remember buying a book on social anxiety. This was just as interesting as it sounds, I remember nothing from it and probably gave up after a few chapters.

Still awkward, still scared

Skip forward to being 32 years old, I survived university, working abroad for a summer and turning up at various Buddhist retreats and mum clubs without knowing anyone. However when the guy I am seeing (long winded title for someone who is too old to be referred to as boyfriend) invited me to his 40th birthday party all my old people meeting stress came right back.

For anyone who knows me in real life this isn’t a surprise as I have complained at anyone who came near me about how stressful this is. I’m quite happy hanging out with my guy I am seeing on a one to one basis, and a select few other people, but then I can happily self isolate.

Unless you are bringing non verbal babies along then the rule of six is excessive in my opinion.

Learning how to communicate in a socially acceptable way

When I was on maternity leave I had an inability to make conversation beyond the topics of babies and intense hatred of men. This didn’t seem an ideal way to be successful on Tinder so I read a book on how to talk to people. As my brain barely worked in 2020 this information didn’t last long so I had to panic read this book again in preparation for the very scary prospect of talking to people.

The general gist of the book was that people bloody love talking so chill. Ask questions and try to know enough to avoid sounding like an idiot, but not so much that you become a conversation dominating show off. Let the other people be a conversation dominating show off and that is a good way to make people like you.

One thing they did recommend was to learn a little bit about a lot of things, that way you can at least figure out some questions to talk about what they love and use the right words.

For example she suggested you spend an afternoon playing squash and you’ll have a basic idea of the game and a squash enthusiast will have a great time chatting when you start using all the very exciting squash lingo. (the spoiler alert is that I did not have time to take preporatory squash classes and did in fact manage to mantain a satisfactory level of conversation). However that was basically a very long winded way to get to the point of this which is…

Trying 52 new things

The author suggested trying a new thing every week so that you have a wide variety of experiences to call on when chatting to strangers. Whilst I admit this is a bloody big commitment to being good at small talk (noting that I am still actively avoiding conversations with people I do not know well) I feel it is probably a fun thing to try after a really boring year.

So here I am committing to 52 new things for 2021 and also realising that I barely went anywhere for four months and this list is going to kick off with the bar very low so you may look forward to a post about being a shit mum and forgetting world book day coming soon (technically justifying this one as it is our first time celebrating).