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).