Friday, 30 March 2012

40 Challenges for 40 Years

March 6th 2012. Holy crap, I’m 39. And in denial of rapidly approaching middle age. Stealing an idea from a friend, I’ve decided to fill my 40th year with 40 personal challenges, to make it seem a little more of a good thing. But we’ve got to keep it real here. As I wrecked my left knee in a stupid incident with a recycling box lid just before Christmas and am currently the full-time carer of an 18 month toddler (with all the financial, physical and mental restrictions that brings), I’ve had to adopt a fairly loose definition of challenge. Marathon running, a whirlwind PhD, and trips up Kilimanjaro or to see the Great Wall of China have had to be excluded. And I’d quite like to enjoy myself on the way, so they all have to be pleasurable experiences and not, you know, like, really tough to complete. Else I’ll just sit on the sofa and won’t do any of them. And all will be represent, somehow, a little bit of who I am.

My thirties have been a mixed decade of tough personal losses (the deaths of my mother, grandmother and two close friends, and the gradual forced abandonment of a career that I loved) and huge personal gains (my marriage and the birth of our daughter Charlotte), and at the end of them, I’m feeling a little unsure of where to go next and who exactly I want to be. Hopefully, by the time I’m actually 40, with the help of these challenges, I’ll have a better idea.

So here are the list of challenges as they stand at the moment, though I won’t necessarily be working through them in order, and some may change if needs must. Thanks to various friends for all their suggestions and to Sam for allowing me to steal a couple of her own 40 challenges. But I had to leave badger wrestling out, Chris. I’m sorry. And the blog is called The 39 Steps To Being 40 partly because I’m hoping that challenge number 8 will happen as a 40th birthday present from my husband in the form of lunch at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons (hints have been clanging around his ears for some time now) and this may not actually be able to happen whilst I'm still in my 40th year. But we'll see! Please join me on my journey. Here goes:

1. Climb Snowdon (by train is allowed, thanks to stupid knee injury and having to carry Charlotte).

2. Learn some BSL. (And not just from Mr Tumble.)

3. Translate at least one chapter of a novel from German into English.

4. Perfect (= be able to bash out) a Beethoven piano sonata.

5. Grow something new (vegetables or fruit).

6. Drink cocktails in a glamorous dress and non-clumpy shoes.

7. Eat lobster.

8. Eat at a 2-Michelin star restaurant.

9. Do pilates every day.

10. Do something for charity.

11. Eat something differently coloured for breakfast every day of the week.

12. Get our attic fixed.

13. Learn enough about something in York to be able to give a guided tour of it.

14. Snog on the back row of the cinema...

15. Learn something crafty, e.g. knitting/quilting/ oil painting.

16. Write a short story.

17. Keep a challenge blog.

18. Have a crazy hair cut/colour.

19. Visit Clifford’s Tower.

20. Solve a moderate level Sudoku.

21. Attend a live sporting event.

22. Read a novel by Dickens.

23. Get in the Deal Or No Deal audience.

24. Attend a cookery course.

25. Visit somewhere German-speaking.

26. Visit an island.

27. Visit both Clapham Junction stations.

28. Swim in a natural body of water. (Skinny dipping optional.)

29. Make jam or marmalade.

30. Take Charlotte to an aquarium.

31. Take Charlotte on the North York Moors railway.

32. Swim 40 lengths of Energise pool (can be in more than one session!).

33. Build a piece of IKEA furniture all by myself.

34. Bake 40 loaves of bread in a year (not all of them in a bread maker).

35. Go on the Settle-Carlisle railway.

36. Spend a day as a yummy mummy (=yummy family) in Crouch End.

37. Take Charlotte to see both her parents’ home towns.

38. Take Charlotte to see the Queen and/or the Olympic torch.

39. Learn to count to 100 in Welsh (and three swear words).

40. Make a Christmas box for a needy child.

Challenge Number Seventeen: Keep a challenge blog.

Check! OK, we’re on a roll here.


  1. Wow! Some of these look pretty challenging! I look forward to reading your blog updates (at least 40 of them)!

  2. hi, just read your list of challenges and wanted to say that I think it's a marvellous thing to do!! Adding a blog is also excellent. Of course, I wish I'd thought of doing something like that.... Maybe in the run-up to 50 (heaven forbid!!!).
    And GOOD LUCK with it all.
    Lorna (freelancer, ex-itfc - remember me from IMS??)