Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

More budgie-hooping

Definitely want to master this one. Session 2 took place on 8 March, session 3 a fortnight later on 22 March. No photos of #2, but I was pretty proud of two things: one that I managed (just) to get into the hoop alone when using a jump sideways to the hoop (as opposed to facing the circle, which I haven't managed yet); and that I succeeded in doing the splits while hanging 'long-arm' beneath the hoop. More bruises, of course, but that's an occupational hazard!

Session #3 saw some more progress, and managing a 'man-in-the-moon' pose within the hoop.

The poses once I'm up there don't spook me too much, and I think that a bit of my childhood ballet training comes in useful there. However, the psychology of getting yourself upside down with all the limbs in the right place defeats me so far. I'll keep trying!

Still loads of lovely encouragement from the wonderful Jo and Dawn, and from the various and highly talented youngsters who have shared the sessions with us. An amazing combination of fun, new experience and a wonderful all-round workout. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Indoor climbing

James is a friend from my favourite local theatrical family, the Sewell Barn Theatre. He is an experienced climber - inside and outside varieties - and offered to introduce me to the former.

Having had my first try at 'budgie-hooping' just the night before, I knew I was putting a lot of strain on my not-very-strong arms; but I also knew that if if I didn't take the opportunities at the first available diary slot, I'd probably lose my nerve!

I met James at the wonderful Highball Centre in Norwich. He took plenty of time to explain the various walls, colours of boulders, and levels of difficulty; we hired my climbing shoes (not very comfortable but for hire shoes that's fair enough); and gave it a try.

I was surprised that the boulders - colour coded for difficulty, but all looking tiny at first glance - were not quite as difficult to hold and stand on as I anticipated. With James' encouragement and guidance, I successfully negotiated a couple of the 'starter' walls, reaching a place where I could touch the top boulder before coming down again, and even managing a couple of foot changes (there's a proper term for it which I've forgotten!).

After an hour or so we took a break (for a cup of the wonderfully OTT hot chocolate for which the Centre is renowned). We then returned to the walls and I tried a couple more. On the more challenging (sloping) walls I couldn't, naturally, manage to ascend as far, and by this time my arms were starting to really protest. However, we then also had a go at the climbing (with ropes - like a rope-and-pulley effect with James acting as my counterbalance). Again, I could only manage to get up about half of the wall before losing my nerve, but I could see how this different style might enable me to climb higher on another occasion.

Finally, we sampled some delicious soup and first-rate home-made sausage rolls for supper before calling it a night.

I will definitely return to the Centre, hopefully with James' help, but they also run taster sessions and courses; and I'd be able to apply some of these skills to outdoor climbing once I've got a bit more confident. I've also been encouraged by friends in the Mother Nature's Diet community to try outdoor climbing, which is on the list.

Huge thanks to James for his patient and generous help, and for such a brilliant evening.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


No, that's not what it's really called; that's the daft nickname from my sensational friend Tasha, aka Natalya Umanska - burlesque performer extraordinaire, and the sexiest broad on the planet. She and some other Norwich-based friends have trained with the inspiring Jo at the Norwich Circus Hub - if you're on Facebook, you'll find her here.

Prime among those friends is the gorgeous Dawn, long-term friend via the Maddermarket Theatre, performer in a production of my own in 2015 (Cowardy Custard), and an increasingly and stunningly accomplished circus hooper. I've seen some of her routines, and the grace and elegance - not to mention strength and control - is truly inspiring. When my best friend Dorothy suggested that I look at this activity as part of my bucket list, Dawn was delighted to help me out.

My first session was on 1 March. Joanne, the course leader, is unfailingly patient and encouraging; Dawn assists her with the 'beginners' courses. During that session, despite being unable to get into the hoop without a 'leg up' (standing on Jo's thigh to give  me the necessary leverage!), I was still proud to manage a couple of poses that looked passably elegant:

and one that was possibly less so:

I quickly realised that this 'bucket list' activity is likely to turn into a regular enthusiasm. The challenge of strength, toning and poise is exactly what I need to add to my exercise activities, working on core muscles; the class is fun and challenging in equal measure; the participants, no matter how experienced (all those I've met so far are pretty damn good) are patient and encouraging. Watch this space.