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..!

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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 · 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 · 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 · Sports

30. Try five new sports

3. Go Karting, London Docklands, December 2016

I booked Go Karting for my work’s Christmas party and I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. I can’t drive, I’m so cautious by nature, and I work with some serious adrenaline junkies. But it was fun – really good fun! The venue is hidden on an ugly industrial estate between North Greenwich and Woolwich, but once you walk through the doors it’s super swish and very well organised.

The track we used is an 800m track, with speedy 270cc carts that can get up to 40mph. After wriggling into our racewear (including very classy disposable balaclavas) and watching a safety video we were ready to race!

We did two track sessions – the first was a 15 minute ‘warm-up’ to get used to the track and its many, many corners, and also to rank us in terms of speed. Out of 12, I came… 12th. Pretty embarrassing! I’m blaming this on how many times I got pulled over though – my helmet turned all the way round on a corner, the brakes on my kart stopped working properly, one of my colleagues knocked me into the barriers. Definitely some sneaky tactics in play!

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The second session was a race to see who could do the most laps in 15 minutes and this was fantastic – we were put in qualifying positions based on the previous session, had the track to ourselves and had a podium finish/presentation at the end which was so funny. Yet again I came last (still got stopped a few times!!) but by a much smaller margin than before.

All in all it was a great experience, a good adrenaline rush and confidence builder, well organised and something you’ll definitely be discussing with your teammates in the pub for hours afterwards!

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*Funnily enough, taking pictures whilst in a Go Kart is not encouraged, so photos are from Team Sport’s website

 

2. Track Cycling – VeloPark, August 2016

Track cycling is the kind of event that I watch on the TV and think: “that looks terrifying – I would be so scared of doing that”! In the interests of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I booked a track taster session at the Olympic velodrome, and persuaded my aunt and cousins (Sha, Jake and Ryan) to come along with me. And do you know what? It was terrifying, but it was so much fun!

Track taster sessions are an hour long, and the fee includes bike and helmet hire – the bikes are seriously snazzy! If there had been an open door I would definitely have tried to cycle off with mine!! The track bikes are super-light, fixed-gear, and just gorgeous. We got kitted up and after a very detailed safety briefing we were allowed to start cycling on the track.

There are a few different areas to the track, and the idea is that you move up the sides of the track to go faster and overtake. I stayed on the light blue band at the bottom (it’s called the ‘Cote’ as in Cote d’Azur), but ventured up to the black and red lines once I got my confidence up.The track is at a terrifying 42 degree angle, so you really have to just hold your nerve and trust in the bike to keep you upright!

Sha, Jake and Ryan were all without a doubt better than me – Ryan was right up at the very top at one point! But it was great fun, a great adrenaline rush, and such an awesome thing to do with some of my very favourite family members!! Thank you SO much for coming along with me guys, you’re the best! 🙂

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1. Hydrospeeding – Lee Valley, May 2016

Hydrospeeding is a sport that I wasn’t aware of until recently. In case you are as clueless as I was, you essentially cling on to a large foam float very tightly as you throw yourself into white water rapids and get flung down the course. Here’s a video that does no justice at all to quite how bonkers it is:

I took the gorgeous Gareth along with me and both of us found it absolutely hilarious! We were pretty much the only adults – I think we might have hijacked a kid’s birthday party… Getting kitted out took ages (wetsuit, socks, flippers, buoyancy vest), and after a quick swimming test we were ready to go. Well, almost – Gareth is a strong swimmer, until you give him a pair of flippers!

We then spent about 1 1/2 hours repeatedly launching ourselves off the bank and racing down the rapids. I’d totally forgotten how fearless kids can be and they seemed intent on being as murderous towards each other as possible, which was slightly terrifying. At the end of the session we were both absolutely knackered and felt like we’d used loads of muscles we wouldn’t normally use. We’re relatively sporty people and this completely destroyed us both!!

So in summary: amazing fun, a surprisingly good workout, and very good value for money (only £25 inc all equipment on a Sunday afternoon)

I didn’t have my phone on me (unsurprisingly – phones and rapids isn’t a good idea!) but we took some quick wetsuit snaps, which in retrospect are not the most flattering photos. Never mind. Go hydrospeeding, it’s great!

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