[03 – event]

This year I’m taking part in #reverb11, an online initiative that’s all about reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead to 2012. Each day in December will bring a new prompt to reflect on. Today’s prompt comes courtesy of Perpetual Ramblings

December 3. Event: Did you attend or host an event this past year that rocked your socks off? Please tell us about it!

It all started off as a bit of a joke.

My friend, Kerry, came round and we sat drinking coffee, like we always do, and looking at silly things on the internet. One of our favourite things to do is search words like ‘hideous’ on eBay and see what it throws up. Somehow we ended up reading a blog written by a women who’s heavily into ‘comping’ – entering competitions in frighteningly hardcore way. She’d won cruises, a new kitchen and heaps more besides; the list was seemingly endless. Cynics that we are, Kerry and I both agreed that Ms Comper was maybe a bit sad, and ought to get out more. Of course, that cynicism lasted about half an hour, and as soon as Kerry had left, I was searching for comping websites and entering competitions willy-nilly. (I later discovered that Kerry had done the same as soon as she got home.)

I wasn’t that optimistic; I seem to recall there was a cookery book I was quite keen on winning, and a weekend in Venice. I’ve never been to Italy. Then the joke backfired: to my horror, within days I’d won VIP tickets to see Ringo Starr at Hampton Court Palace. I don’t even like Ringo that much, and felt very embarrassed emailing the PR company to tell them I was sadly unable to attend due to unforeseeable circumstances. In the meantime, Kerry had won tickets to an international cricket final in Leeds. We both decided that from then on we’d only enter competitions if we actually wanted the prizes.

This must have been way back in July. A few days later I opened my inbox to find that I’d won a family ticket to Camp Bestival. I felt like kicking myself, I really did. I’d only gone and won yet another useless prize: I hate camping and the festival was taking place in Dorset, hundreds of miles away.Then I had a brief look at the line up and realised that Primal Scream were playing, and performing their classic album, Screamadelica, in its entirety. I spent the next day with a good friend who’s a festival veteran, and she persuaded me I should go, and take my son with me.

I still wasn’t entirely convinced: I was just starting to recover from a bit of a lengthy blip in my mental health, and wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope with an eight-hour train journey and then putting up the bloody tent, let alone sleeping in it with my dodgy back and yada yada yada. I found an excuse for everything.

I don’t know when it was I changed my mind. I had a burst of energy and excitement that bubbled up unexpectedly. I started to think about how thrilled my son would be to see lots of bands he loved, and how it could potentially be a lot of fun. I delved into my savings and booked us a PodPad – a little wooden house with beds and windows that was totally secure and dry – so I wouldn’t have to camp, and devoted a couple of hours to finding us the cheapest train tickets. I bought almost the entire stock of Mountain Warehouse, and a new rucksack to put it all in; seriously, if Captain Scott had taken to the Antarctic what I took to Dorset for four nights, he would have got to the South Pole and back in a jiffy, ponies and all.

~

We had an amazing time. My son loved it – I was scared he wouldn’t cope with a whole new routine and strange surroundings and being around disinhibited drunk people, but he rose to the challenge magnificently. We were both out of our comfort zones, and the only way to get through it was to throw ourselves into festival life and make the most of it.

Telling you all about it would be a major essay. I’m not sure I can even list my best bits, because the whole experience was one enormous best bit. We danced non-stop to Groove Armada, ate the best paella I’ve ever tasted, watched amazing poets deliver incredible words, amazing fireworks, comedy and BLONDIE! If you’d told me when I was a six year old singing ‘Denis’ in the playground that I’d get to see them play it live one day I would’ve thought you were joking. Debbie Harry is old enough to be my mum, and she was great. And they did a cover of ‘Fight for Your Right to Party’ – magnificent stuff.

~

My word for this year was embrace. I vowed to myself that I would seize opportunities when they materialised, and take risks if necessary; Camp Bestival involved both of those, multifold, and it was absolutely worth it. I felt so proud of us both for doing something completely different, something we would never normally do.

I read somewhere recently that you should spend your money on experiences, not things. Despite my love of shoes and shiny things, I couldn’t agree more, and I’ve already booked next year’s tickets.

[because sometimes I come over all geeky]

I just made a #reverb11 badge, based on a little bit of land art I made down on the beach earlier this year.

Here it is: help yourselves!

[02 my children will do it differently]

This year I’m taking part in #reverb11, an online initiative that’s all about reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead to 2012. Each day in December will bring a new prompt to reflect on. You can find out more here.

Day 2 – My Children Will Do it Differently – If you could choose one thing that your children will do or experience in a different way than you have, what would it be and why?

I have one child. He’s nineteen, so barely a child at all, really, and very much a young man. He just passed his driving test, so he’s already managed to do something differently – and I guess when I say differently, what I mean is better – than I have. I’ve had lessons in sporadic bursts since I was seventeen, failed one test and managed to convince myself that I’m a public transport kind of girl.

Over the past nineteen years I’ve tried very hard to manifest the things in his life I wanted to be different from mine. Things like being sure of himself, of knowing who he was and what he thinks. This is the boy who, at the age of five, happily told the head teacher of his Church school that he was an atheist; he became a vegetarian a year later. He’s vociferous about equality – he simply doesn’t get why differences of any kind result in all the –isms that abound. He knows what he thinks, and he’s proud of what he thinks. He’s proud of himself. Not with a sense of assumed privilege or entitlement, but with a fundamental solidity. Of course, that makes him a stubborn pain-in-the-ass sometimes – and please, no comments about apples not falling far from the tree here.

He lives with Asperger syndrome, although you might not notice that at first. He refuses to view himself as having ‘special needs’, referring to them instead as ‘special powers’. He thinks it’s great that he has a cavernous memory, that he knows everything anyone ever needed to know about buses. He loves that he’s super-organised and happily cleans and tidies around the house. Well, mostly – this is a teenage boy we’re talking about here. Life has thrown a vast amount of challenges at him, from teachers who just couldn’t be bothered to educate themselves to situations none of us could foresee would be distressing. When he was finally excluded from mainstream school he sobbed as I led him out of the building, crying that he needed his education. He has reserves of strength and bravery that are quite remarkable.

I have vague memories from when I was pregnant, thinking about the baby inside me, this little person-in-waiting. I had big ideas about what I was going to teach my child, but over the years I’ve come to see that, actually, it’s your children who teach you about life, who make you see things differently, and lead you into doing things you could never imagine, from shouting right back at the woman in the supermarket who complained about their behaviour, to picking up worms and spiders, because you suddenly realised you don’t want them to have silly phobias.

If ever there was a thing that was user-led, it’s parenthood. The manuals and websites and tips from helpful relatives go right out of the window, and you end up making it up as you go along. And then one day you look, and that scrappy, red-faced thing that you could pick up in one hand has turned into a handsome chap with size thirteen feet who’s waving a driving test pass certificate at you. I’m proud of him, and he’s proud of himself. I think I did well there.

[01 one word]

This year I’m taking part in #reverb11, an online initiative that’s all about reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead to 2012. Each day in December will bring a new prompt to reflect on. You can find out more here.

Day 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word.  Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?

I lay in the bath last night and tried hard to think of a good word that sums up the year, something that was a little more eloquent than ‘bloody awful’, which was the first one that sprang to mind and technically doesn’t count,what with it being two words and all that. I settled on arduous, although it felt a bit dramatic and not entirely accurate. There are lots of positive things that have happened in the past year, and I don’t even have to think that hard to remember them: I’ve met new friends, went to a brilliant festival with my son and acquired the world’s naughtiest kitten, but despite that it feels like it’s mostly been one long slog.

I put out the call on my Facebook wall, to see if my friends had any good ideas, only to find them posting words like challenging and harrowing and sisyphean. I think 2011 has been a difficult year for a lot of people. Amongst my close friends there has been illness, bereavement, financial worries, job problems and a whole host of other things which just tend to make life crap. Some of these things are ongoing, without there being any sense of a light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite that, we’re all still here. I’m still here, a fact which surprises me, sometimes. It’s easy to forget that while you’re thinking you’re weak, and that you can’t cope, the non-thinking bits of your body are soldiering on, fighting all those pesky infections that gang up and pick on you when you’re run down.

Your body keeps blinking, keeps breathing: somehow you keep going.

My word for 2010 was perseverance – I acknowledged my inner strength, and tenacity. I like the word tenacious, it literally means ‘not easily pulled apart.’ I know I started off saying that my word for 2011 was ‘arduous’, but I’m going to scrap that.Every time I say it to myself I’m seeing myself in a theatrically tragic, woe-is-me pose, complete with back of the hand wafting my fringe of my forehead, so it has to go. Tenacity is a much better word.

~

This time last year, my word for the year ahead was embrace. I said, “I want to swim hard against the tide and jump into waves instead of treading water and slowly getting water-logged and heavier.” I think I squeezed every last drip out of that metaphor, didn’t I? Flowery prose aside, I can put my hand on my heart and say I really pushed myself to take risks, and embrace new opportunities this year. I reached out of my comfort zone and did things that were unimaginable a year ago, but if I tell you what they were you might not come back and read any more, which would be very sad indeed because I’ve spent all morning when I should have done the laundry grappling with graphics and layouts and buying a domain name. See – I am tenacious to the core!

~

Edit: I’m trying not to read anything Freudian or symbolic into the fact that in my original draft of this post I completely failed to choose my word for 2012. I’m not sure I can pull one out of the hat at this stage, but I promise I will revisit this as and when one comes along. It needs to be a good word, a word that encompass change, and freedom, and movement – I’m sure it probably exists in some other, more ambiguous language. When I find it, you’ll be the first to know.

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