30 before 30 - progress · Travel

27. Spend a day in court

I appreciate that spending a day in court is a very weird thing to put on a wishlist, especially to my friends who are lawyers. It’s probably even weirder to take a day of precious annual leave to do so, but that’s what I did and it was one of the most interesting days I’ve spent in a long time. Courts have public galleries as part of the right to a fair trial, and anyone can go along and watch (almost) any case that they are interested in. I’ve got most of my knowledge of trials from media reports, trashy American dramas and terrible Victorian literature, so I thought it might be worthwhile to see what being in an actual court was like.

I visited two different courts on a very, very cold and dreary Monday. They are probably the most famous courts in the UK: The Central Criminal Court (also known as the Old Bailey) and the Royal Courts of Justice. I would definitely recommend going along to both, but I wish I’d been able to spend more than half a day in each court. I’m going to have to go back soon, it would be great to follow the progress of a trial over a number of days.

The Old Bailey

This is not a beautiful building – well, not to me anyway. I’m sure someone will explain to me that it is in fact an architectural masterpiece… Here’s the truest representation of what it looks like that I could find on Google: it’s a bit grey and a bit grim.

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Copyright Shutterstock

One useful thing to note is that you can look at the daily court lists on the Old Bailey website which is helpful when thinking about what type of trials you’ll be interested in observing. I knew I didn’t want to go along to any terror-related trials in case it increased my London paranoia!

You aren’t allowed any electronic equipment, food or drink, or large bags in the building but you can leave your stuff at the travel agent down the road for a small fee (which is what I did). There are three floors of courts and an official on every floor who can advise you which trials you can go into if you arrive after they’ve started. All of the staff I encountered were really polite and friendly and very happy to talk me through where I could go, how the courts functioned etc.

I briefly watched a fraud trial (they had a break after about ten minutes which was lucky as it was pretty boring) and then I sat in the public gallery of a murder trial for about two hours. Incredibly harrowing stuff and I felt so sorry for the family members in the public gallery with me, who looked overwhelmed by the whole thing. It was so amazingly interesting to see how a trial actually takes place and (I appreciate this sounds really banal) just how much work has clearly gone into a case before it gets to the courtroom. I’ll be following the outcome of the murder trial as it was quite a complex case with multiple charges.

After a quick lunch I made my way down the Strand to meet David at..

The Royal Courts of Justice

…which could not be more different appearance-wise. What a bloody stunning building. I could have spent days wandering around this place. It’s incredible. No photos allowed inside but here’s a quick snap of part of the main entrance: you can see how detailed everything is.

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I completely lucked out by going along with David because 1. as a lawyer he could choose a case for us to observe, 2. he is the fountain of all knowledge architecture/history wise so could tell me about the building, and 3. it was awesome to be able to discuss the trial with someone afterwards, and see if we had the same opinion based on what we’d seen (we did!).

As with the Old Bailey, you can see a daily list of what trials are happening. Why is it called a cause list here and not a case list? I have no idea! At the Royal Courts I learned another thing which is probably incredibly obvious to most people: there’s no jury in non-criminal cases. Anyway. We sat in on a financial dispute case which was so different to what I’d seen in the morning: it was a lot more to do with semantics and contract clauses and pretty sneaky stuff. I truly found it just as interesting, which surprised me, and it was particularly fascinating to watch a cross-examination.

The Royal Courts of Justice are slightly more relaxed than the Old Bailey: you can take in your phone (as long as you don’t use it!) and a bottle of water as well. I found it odd that the public galleries aren’t used as much here, instead you sit in the actual courtroom itself. Kind of cool though!

If you’ve got to the end of this very lengthy post I think you’ll have definitely got the impression that I absolutely loved spending a day in court!! It was really educational and I’ve already been recommending it to anyone who will listen. Thank you so much for coming along and answering all of my naive questions David! x

 

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30 before 30 - progress · Food · Sports · Swimming

17. Swim in the thermal baths at Bath

Top tip: go in the week! We queued for about 1 1/2 hours (it was worth it, though..)

Dan and I made a day trip out of Bath and it was bloody brilliant. We meandered our way through the city looking at all the tourist sites – of course we had to take a photo at the Royal Crescent! – and after coffee and a bit more wandering we joined the queue for the Royal Spa baths.

It took ages to get in but for some reason neither of us minded that too much! You can book in advance during the week, so I’d recommend doing that if you don’t mind taking a day off work. The steam rooms are currently closed for refurbishment, which means that you get a complimentary ticket to revisit before the end of the year, so that makes it pretty good value for money too.

There are two pools that you can visit at the moment, we stayed in both for absolutely ages. The Minerva Bath is located in the basement of the building and has currents and jets and a jacuzzi – fantastic!

Minerva bath

The rooftop pool is the reason I wanted to visit, though: I’ve never seen a photo of it which doesn’t look beautiful! And it completely surpassed our expectations. The views over the city were just incredible, and watching the steam rising from the pool was very relaxing. The pool was clean and warm and I could have stayed there all day. I loved it and I’m so glad that I made the effort to tick off this one!

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The two pictures above are taken from here – funnily enough you can’t take pictures when inside!

After the spa we grabbed a snack whilst watching a very large man drinking a 6 pint carton of milk. Lovely. We then went to the Dark Horse cocktail bar (thanks for the great tip, Alex!) and Yak Yeti Yak for a quick and really delicious dinner (thanks Celeste!) before heading back to the train station happy, relaxed, a little bit exhausted, and very much in love with Bath. Now to find a way to move there..!

30 before 30 - progress · Sports

22. Learn to drive

God, I’ve put this one off for a very long time. Most of my friends learned as soon as they turned 17, and that probably would have been a sensible option for me as well. But I’ve always lived in cities with good public transport options, so it’s never been something I’ve needed to do, and the stratospheric cost has been pretty off-putting. However, driving is something I associate with being a grown-up, and I can’t really pretend that I’m not a grown-up once I turn 30!

There’s no way that I’ll pass my test before my birthday, but at Sophie’s Christmas party I was chatting to her friends about driving and Gabe said, “do you actually need to pass in order to tick this off, or just ‘learn to drive a car’?” When I wrote my list I definitely meant pass my test, but I think I’ll tick this one off in my head using Gabe’s logic – thanks!!

Step 1 – Theory Test

I did my theory test years ago – probably around a decade ago – and failed it (remember that horrendous day Jane?! Haha!). I then went back a couple of months later and passed, but waited so long to start driving that it expired. So far, so useless. In December I went to a horribly ugly test centre in London Bridge, spent the entire test being hideously distracted by a man mouth-breathing incredibly loudly, but came away with a brand new pass certificate! Theory test, done!

Step 2 – Find an instructor

I’m learning with the AA, and my instructor Rob is fantastic (Robert Baylis, if anyone is looking to learn around Crouch End). It’s soooo expensive (£28/hour) but I honestly think it’s worth it, and Rob spends much longer than the 2 hour time slots just chatting to me and reassuring me.

Step 3 – Learn how to drive on the mean streets of London

So far, whenever I’ve told someone that I’m learning in London, they’ve pulled a face and normally said something like, “you’re brave!” “you’re mad” or “can’t you drive already?!” (thanks guys). It’s pretty scary learning in London but I don’t have anything to compare it to, so not as terrifying as I imagined. Plus I see some pretty cool stuff – car chases, undertaking, angry altercations – it definitely tests my reaction times! So far I’ve had 10 hours of lessons and I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m doing.

Step 4 – Buy a car

To get in some extra practice, and to tick off a grown-up box, I thought I’d better buy a car. I’ve got a little red Ford KA, which is old and basic of course, but it’s my car!! I love it so much!! Dan’s helping me to get in some practice outside of lessons, and the bonus for him in having a car is that he can use it for cycling trips – of course (who knew you could get a mountain bike in a KA?!). I love the freedom of having a car, even if I can’t drive it on my own yet. There’s something so nice about the idea of being able to just escape, and not have to rely solely on trains and buses and tubes.

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(not the most flattering photo, but I think you can tell how excited I was!!)

Step 5 – Pass my test

To be continued!!

30 before 30 - progress

5. Go a week without Googling anything

One of the things I’ve always admired about my Nan is that if she doesn’t know the answer to something, she’ll take her time to work it out: if she can’t solve it logically she’ll ask around, use books, and will only ask me to Google something as a very last resort.

I wanted to see how I’d get on with a week of no instant answers, and decided to give myself a break from almost all Internet-reliant apps and sites at the same time. I allowed myself to use only three things that work via the Internet (WhatsApp for messaging, Strava for running, and Duolingo to keep up with my language learning), and decided Christmas would be a good time for an Internet switch-off.

I enjoyed my Internet break so much that I extended my week to eight days: from Christmas Eve until New Years Day. I found it really peaceful and surprisingly restful. It’s made me aware of how much time I can free up by not mindlessly scrolling through social media or half-reading news stories, and reminded me of how nice it can be to go through the process of actually using your brain to work out an answer.

I think 2017 is going to be a year of switching off from technology a bit more, and appreciating my surroundings rather than staring at at screen. That’s probably as close as I’ll get to a New Years resolution, and I hope very much that I can stick to it.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year! X

30 before 30 - progress · Travel

3. Visit Ireland

Where: Dublin

Date: 10th-12th December 2016

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I am so glad that I have ticked this one off! Considering that the flight from London to Dublin is less than an hour, I think it’s totally shameful that it’s taken me 29 years to cross over the sea to this beautiful country. But at least I did it before my next decade..!

 

A long weekend in Dublin was exactly what I needed to relax before the craziness of Christmas – good food, great bars, lots of sightseeing and I even fitted in a run around one of the parks! My Mum and my colleague Celeste gave me some recommendations of where to go which were unfailingly brilliant, and the highlights for me were:

L’Gueuleton for food

Drury Buildings for cocktails

Chester Beatty Library for culture

The Guinness Storehouse for… well I think that one’s pretty obvious! Great views from the Gravity Bar too.

All in all, a great weekend away somewhere that isn’t actually that far away at all. I’d love to explore some more remote parts of Ireland next time I visit – hopefully it won’t be 29 years until the next time. Here’s a super attractive photo of me to finish the post with!

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30 before 30 - progress · nature

9. Go on a stargazing trip

As most of you know, I did a couple of stargazing courses at Greenwich Observatory at the start of this year, which made me feel incredibly reassured about how unimportant we all are and how the world is going to end. So it made sense for me to put an astronomy-related item on my 30 list, and I’m so glad that I did.

Way back in September I spent a week in Swanage relaxing, decompressing, exploring and generally escaping the hectic London lifestyle. One of the best things I did on my trip was to spend a couple of hours stargazing. The photo in the cover image is of the clouds over Swanage before the sun set on the night that Dan and I went stargazing: I’ve never seen anything quite like them. Astoundingly beautiful! After sunset they left a remarkably clear sky behind, and we set off for the hills to look at the stars above the sea.

The route to our stargazing destination was peppered with errant locals and errant cows, but once we reached our field of choice we set up camp with our anoraks, binoculars, star gazing app and head torches. I’m such a mega geek. We saw the stars so clearly, it was absolutely amazing and I feel so priveliged to have spent the evening doing that. I even saw a shooting star!

Anyway. I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite astronomical facts before the main event: a photo I took that night of the stars.

  • The universe expanded to 3/4 of its size within the first 3 minutes of its existence
  • On Venus, a day is longer than a year
  • The surface temperature of the Sun is 2 million celsius
  • The mean density of the Universe is almost exactly zero
  • Get drunk if you’re stargazing! Alcohol dilates your pupils, allowing you to see the stars more clearly

And, finally, here’s my photo…

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… maybe I’ll stick to photos through telescopes next time!!!

30 before 30 - progress · Sports

21. Go to a football match

15 Oct 2016, Crystal Palace v West Ham

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My very first football match!

Selhurst Park is a total mission to get to from North London. Anywhere that requires a National Rail train doesn’t even count as proper London. After fuelling up on Turkish food, beer and espresso, we made it to the stadium with about 10 minutes to go before kick-off. Now that I’ve visited one stadium and seen one game I am now definitely qualified to be a sports commentator, so here’s my match report:

A rainy and windy day at Selhurst Park didn’t turn away the fans, who were pretty ambivalent about the pre-match display from the Crystals (Crystal Palace’s cheerleaders) and Kayla the Crystal Palace eagle (who you can hire to make a guest appearance at your wedding, if that’s your thing…). I didn’t get this at all, I totally loved the eagle – it was massive!! Very cool.

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Crystal Palace were shocking in the first half and West Ham scored within about ten minutes of kick-off. They just couldn’t keep possession, though to be fair it was so rainy that they were sliding about all over the pitch. Everyone in our stand was getting very unhappy, particularly an incredibly fat man in the seat in front of me who was just having a terrible time. Every time he stood up to let someone past him he basically ended up sitting on my lap since his bum was so fat – really gross.

The second half was much better and Palace finally woke up, but not enough to actually complete their objective i.e. score a goal. You have one job guys!! I would explain in great detail exactly what each player did but… I can’t remember what any of them were called and they all ran around a bit, pretended to fall over a bit, got angry for a bit. And erm.. yeah that’s my match report. Crystal Palace 0 – West Ham 1.

I genuinely really enjoyed the match, and the atmosphere was great. Will definitely try to visit another London stadium soon! Up the Palace!!

30 before 30 - progress · Food

10. Make an edible lemon meringue pie

When I was a teenager I thought that lemon meringue pie was the most sophisticated dessert in the world, closely followed by Vienetta. (Don’t judge me – I did grow up in Reading!) So, being the sophisticated person that I am, it’s always seemed to me that I should be able to make this without any problem.

I would say I’ve tried to make it at least ten times, and every single time has been a catastrophic failure: not even a it-just-tasted-sort-of-bad failure, I’ve literally had to throw it in the bin every time. It takes hours to make and just about every bit of equipment in the kitchen, so it’s incredibly bloody annoying when it goes wrong.

This week, however, I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough and discovered the secret ingredient – getting my sis to help!! And I’ve only gone and made an edible lemon meringue pie!! It looks sort of weird, it tastes… alright, so I’m going to put this one down as an unparalleled success. Mostly because that means (thank god) that I never have to make one again!

Here’s a quick step-by-step with some grainy, horrible looking photos for you all to be amazed by:

Step 1: make pastry, put in flan dish (or, in my case, cake tin – oops!). I’m not including a photo here as it looked so godawful. Bake blind – yeah I’ve got baking beans! I’m a pro!!

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Step 2: Mix together a disgusting amount of butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, double cream, and an entire can of condensed milk. Vile. (oh hi, glamorous assistant!)

Step 3: Pour into the cooked pastry case then put back in the oven. Eat all the leftover mixture. Feel very, very sick.

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Step 4: Make the meringue, using entirely different ingredients to the recipe, and spend ages arguing over whether or not your peaks are stiff enough (nice little innuendo for you there).

Step 5: Spoon the meringue over the pie, bake for ten mins, then realise you’ve eaten far too much sugar to even contemplate eating a piece.

..and that’s all there is to it!

Thank you so much for your help and patience Jane! xxx

30 before 30 - progress · Sports

1. Run a Half Marathon

I can’t believe I’m writing this post, as it still seems so surreal that I’ve completed this item on my list!!

It’s been an interesting journey from sporadic exerciser to proper runner, but I think that I would definitely call myself a runner now, and I’m so proud of that! I knew that I wouldn’t commit to the training along the way unless I had some short-term goals, so I signed up to plenty of 10k races, as well as the odd 1 mile, 5k and 10 milers, weekly ParkRun wherever possible, and even a 10k walk with my Mum. The good thing about this was not only that it gave me the motivation I needed, but it also gave me a lot of shiny medals to hang in my bedroom:

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Here’s a few photos from some of the races I’ve done. There’s been a few that I’d definitely recommend for next year, such as my local 10k Race the Neighbours, anything by the fantastically friendly The Race Organiser team, and the completely free Vitality Westminster Mile, which is especially notable for its wonderful Olympic veterans mile, where ex-Olympians run in their kit, with walking sticks and zimmer frames, play hockey, whatever helps them get round the course!

I’d originally decided to run a half marathon just as a personal challenge, but my uncle sadly passed away this summer and I decided to run Richmond Half Marathon in his memory, to raise money for the mental health charity Mind, who do such fantastic work. Thanks to your generosity I completely smashed my fundraising total and raised well over £1,200 – which means the absolute world to my family and me. I had a number of running-related injuries in the weeks leading up to the race, and pulled muscles that I genuinely didn’t know existed!! However, I got round the course in what I think is an entirely respectable 2h04min and now I am desperate to run another! It was great fun and the course was beautiful, starting in Kew Gardens, going past Hampton Court Palace (not that I knew what that was, being the world’s most ignorant person) and ending.. er… somewhere else in Richmond! Mum and Jane were there at the finish line and I might have added an extra 30 secs or so to my finish time by being so over-excited to see them that I had to stop and give them a hug!!

Next step: join a running club – watch this step, Mo Farah, I’m coming for you!!

Thank you once again for your sponsorship guys, you are THE BEST!!! xxxxxx

30 before 30 - progress · Food · Volunteering

20. Go to a festival

I used to go to Reading Festival as a teenager, but it’s been a long, long time since I went to a proper music festival. When I wrote my list I originally intended this entry to be a music festival, but looking at line-ups over the summer left me feeling uninspired. So when my gorgeous sister Jane texted to ask if I fancied a weekend at Edinburgh Fringe Festival with her, Charlie and Max, I jumped at the chance! Edinburgh Festival’s been on my wish-list for a long time, and it was so great!

We stayed right on the Royal Mile in a huge flat which ticked off a number of Scottish stereotypes, most notably the obsession with tartan. There were plenty of other stereotypes we were able to tick off in the surrounding streets, such as bagpipe players and haggis (yuck!!):

Luckily for me, all of my companions had previously attended the Festival so were very happy to take charge and decide our itinerary, book shows, suggest restaurants and pubs, and generally make my time there incredibly straightforward. As an insane control freak letting go does not come naturally to me, but I had such a good time – note to self, chill the f- out!!

We saw some incredible shows, such as BabushkaMax and Ivan and The Pianist, did a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, drank a lot, ate a lot, and laughed more than I’ve done for months. The weather was sunny for the whole of our trip, and the atmosphere of the city was brilliant – it was so much fun to wander the streets and be able to pop in to shows that caught our eye, and explore bits of the city we wouldn’t necessarily visit on an average tourist trip.

I’m already planning my trip back next year – but there is one thing I think I’d do differently next time, and that is not attempt a run whilst I’m there. A 10k through Edinburgh was very picturesque, but my god it was hilly!! My legs hated me!! Anyway, thank you so much for the best weekend, Jane, Max and Charlie, you’re awesome! xx

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