Although 2020 was a sh*tshow and 2021 isn't looking much better, I still couldn't resist making plans in January. It's something I've been doing annually since my life got bent out of shape in 2001 and I ended up becoming a bit of recluse for a year or several (not unlike the past 12 months).
Proper plans tend work a lot better than resolutions and I end up getting v excited about the year ahead. It started with a Word doc in 2001 and has escalated to whiteboarding the crap out of my life, printing the scans and pinning them somewhere to keep me moving forward on things.
I've got my main focuses down for this year – walking, writing, health, collage – with a generous smattering of extras that occasionally threaten to take over the main courses. The first big thing is to get my '100 days of the pandemic diary' into an ebook format. I've never done anything like that before but I'm aiming to have it ready for the March anniversary of the first UK lockdown. (There I've said it publicly so… wish me luck.)
But then this exhortation from my vet arrived in my peripheral vision… to live life more like a dog. Now those are resolutions to live by.
So maybe I'll just follow this instead and ask WWADD (what would a dog do?) for life's dilemmas. Sharing on…
For years I've kept a list in the back of my diary of books I've read (recently I've started adding my media diet too). That's how I know that I read 37 books in 2019 and, weirdly, it'll be exactly 37 by the end of 2020. There's consistent pacing for you.
This is a massive jump up from my reading levels of a few years ago. Working from home since 2009 has meant no commute which has also meant no book time since reading is all about the habit.
But then I discovered bath time reading (and also rejoined my local library, which has been fantastic for even the latest books). Reading is now part of my end-of-night routine, involving either a long soak with a good book – or a short soak with a dull book. Anyway, the result is that I'm back to getting through a book every 9.86 days, on average.
Everyone's taste in books is different but here are my top three books of the past year in case any take your fancy. Some are available to borrow.
1. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
William Finnegan's Pulitzer prize-winning surf autobiography covers the golden era of surfing (60s, 70s and 80s), from his childhood spent in California and Hawaii then travelling and discovering surf breaks around Asia, the South Pacific, Europe and Africa that are now world-famous. How someone can write about waves for 400 pages and keep each one fresh is quite astounding but he did go on to a career as a journalist and is now a staff writer at The New Yorker so he has the word chops.
Out of all the places Finnegan surfed, San Francisco's cold wild waters and Madeira's mid-ocean, round-island currents are the one that stand out as he comes to the edge of his surfing capabilities.
I'll also remember this book as a much-needed escape during the first coronavirus lockdown. It was a birthday gift from Pete, and is currently on loan to a friend, but tap me up if you want to borrow it at some point.
2. Suite Venetienne
Sophie Calle is more than an artist. She is like the bastard modern lovechild of journalism, multimedia and the kind of quirky ideas that you want to see played out (almost story pitches to an editor). She then lives these ideas out and processes them into artistic, often autobiographical outcomes. She is the only artist where I've had to queue to get to her books because other women were in the way discussing how much they loved her show. This was at the Photographer's Gallery in 2017 when she was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Prize.
Ina very French way, she took up art aged 27 or so because she was bored. She started following people as artistic explorations – and this culminated in Suite Venetienne, her first 'artist's book', published in 1988.
In it she meets a man at a party in her home city of Paris and decides to follow him to Venice. The book is a diary log of detection, surveillance and photography of and around her target (prey?). I like how it turns the power dynamic of a male-female stalking around – in her feminine world she doesn't actually want to meet him but have a sort of affair with him in her head. She is a thinking woman and perhaps he is the crumpet although the book isn't really about him while being all about him.
I also like what happens when you act on a crazy idea that takes you on a personal journey – it was an apt start to her art career (she is now in nearly 70). All her books are great but this one is a strangely poetic ride.
3. Fleischman is in Trouble
If I had to pick a fiction book this year, Taffy Brodesser-Akner's book is probably the one. Not because of all the plaudits it received but because of its initially confusing but later clever little inserts of unrest in the narration that changes, well, everything – even the whole nature of the novel you thought you were reading.
You follow the story of the main character – a fortysometing man whose marriage has fallen apart through no seeming fault of his own and is now sinking and swimming in the shock modern world of sex-in-your-face dating. Meanwhile his wife has run off somewhere – a yoga retreat upstate – and he has been left holding the baby (two kids). But who is really telling this story and why?
Clever, smart and a bit of a sleeper until the end – much like another favourite book of mine 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' which I hated until the last 100 pages.
No spoilers. I've already said too much.
Bonus best bath books of 2019
If none of the above takes your fancy, 2019 was an even better year for books. I'd highly recommend:
Educated by Tara Westover – the most incredible memoir of an escape from a batshit crazy family through the power of education.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman – a travel autobiography that's funny and honest about the world of backpacking and torrid affairs abroad.
The Salt Path by Raynor Wynn – what happens to a middle-age couple when they go bankrupt, receive a terminal illness diagnosis and decide to walk the SW Coastal Path together on benefits.
Honourable mentions for Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (about women and desire), Circe by Madeleine Miller (a female perspective on the Ancient Greek gods and co) and The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs by Tristan Gooley (a compendium of cool shit you can drop into your walk conversations and sound like a wise old ancient).
I wanted to try doing a daily meditation. Everyone seemed to be recommending it. It's good for mental health, racing minds, anxiety, stress, a better night's sleep, so that's how I got suckered in. It wasn't for the entertainment. At first.
From meditation apps to sleep triggers
I started by installing a few freemium app options – Headspace, Calm, Breethe. Usually I switched them on when I went to bed as that was the only regular time to grab some peace and quiet. And they worked pretty well. Lots of body scans and soporific voices and storytelling or guided meditation with gently babbling brooks or wave-washed beaches. I chilled and got a surprisingly good night's sleep.
But soft voices directing me to various body parts were just the gateway. After exhausting the free options, I needed more variety to calm my busy monkey mind. So I turned to free relaxation and sleep podcasts on Spotify (also on YouTube).
That was when the recommendation engine then started throwing up 'binaural ASMR sleep triggers' – you what now? – and my carriage to the land of nod started to get really weird.
ASMR stands for 'autonomous sensory meridian response'. It is often recorded binaurally with two microphones to give the feeling of being in the room with the audio when you put headphones in.
Some of the most common ASMR stimuli involve watching and listening to people performing very simple, ordinary tasks and routines. Folding laundry, turning pages of a book or magazine, brushing hair, and eating are some of the most popular ASMR triggers. Sounds involving water running also can be powerful ASMR triggers. So-called “crisp” sounds, such as the scratching of nails along a hard surface, and the crinkling of plastic are also popular ASMR stimuli. But it’s whispering that is the single most common and popular ASMR stimulus.
Close whispering in particular can trigger tingling across the scalp or other pleasurable sensory phenomena. I tried it but got immediately anxious, feeling like the disembodied whispers were a little too close to the inner voices in my head, or maybe it was reprogramming my brain through some crazy Clockwork Orange nightmare.
Sleeping to thunderstorms
Running water though, that worked. And I soon discovered the joys of going to sleep to international thunderstorms recorded in Hawaii, Tokyo, Copenhagen and other exotic locations. They pretty much all sounded the same, just different intensities: gentle rain, hard rain, rumbling thunder, crashing thunder… I went to sleep to all strengths of storm.
In fact, I learnt to sleep to noise so much so that when I didn't put on a noise meditation, I couldn't drop off. The silence was too deafening. Give me a drone, a hum, a rainstorm, white noise from white goods… all these things crowded out my thoughts. More usefully, they stopped the plague of music earworms that often keeps me awake.
Within 10-20 minutes, I was gone, every time.
The weird world of ASMR
The ASMR addiction escalated. What weird thing could I sleep to next? Dehumidifiers, air conditioners, sloshing washing machines and dishwashers? No problem.
Horses at pasture? Atmosphere of the past (old village)? An escalator? Don't mind if I do.
My favourite in the end was Spaceship Ambience. It delivered just the right level of white noise and clean, white, minimalist images in my head.
My ASMR experiments came to an end when we bought a dehumidifier to reduce condensation. I also decided to switch from sleep meditations to general pockets of stillness in the day. Which basically involves me staring off into the sky, sunset, flowers, etc, whenever I let the rabbits out for their daily garden run.
I haven't done an ASMR podcast for months. But writing this up, I'm tempted to put one on tonight, for old time's sake. What to choose, what to choose?
Or do I just turn the bathroom fan on?
But seriously I enjoyed my ASMR experiments. And I love the fact that there are listener requests where you can request the sound you want to hear and ASMR podcasters will record it for you. And the romantic in me wonders if, somewhere out there, ASMR nerd boys are making mix tapes/playlists of this stuff for their ASMR nerd girls? I sincerely hope so.
Short story: In September 2016 I started a part-time sabbatical after a long-term contract ended. Fast-forward to September 2019 and my daily life is very different with the green shoots of new things starting to sprout.
The initial “beautiful empty-brain feeling” of wide-open horizons and unstructured time has long gone. My non-work time is filled, almost to overflowing. Full-time work at least used to restrict how much stuff I could pile on my plate.
I guess transitions take time. I’m still not sure what to focus on but I'm trying to be more open-minded and less prescriptive. I think my September diary (outline below) says a lot about how life continues to change and grow and move in unexpected directions. Three years ago, I would never have guessed this is what I would be doing…
1. Kayak trip
Spent a beautiful sunny Friday evening kayaking the canals of central Birmingham as a try-out for possible volunteering work next year. There is an opportunity to train up as a kayak guide for the National Trust for free in return for a minimum volunteering commitment. I’ll probably stick to walking but anyone interested in kayak tours can get more info from the activities officer, Keith Wraight, at the Roundhouse.
2. Birmingham Royal Ballet – class on stage
What does a world-class ballet dancer do to prepare for a performance? I spent a fantastic Saturday morning watching the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s class on stage at the Hippodrome. It builds from stretches at the barre to full leaps and pirouettes across the stage.
After dabbling with ballet fitness last year this has totally reignited my interest in the art of ballet, so much so that I have finally set up the home gym and do nightly wobbly arabesques and rondes de jambe before bedtime using an Ikea Lack shelf as a barre. #toptip
This summer I asked Kate Spence, a live artist from Birmingham, if she’d be my art mentor. We arranged a skills swap. In return for her art guidance, I’m her occasional assistant, taking notes, collecting feedback or photographing a performance.
In early September we both took part in LADA’s GILF Island, a weekend-long live art workshop about female gender and ageing, invisibility and desire/desirability.
It was a big challenge for me to do something so ‘out there’ but I guess my perimenopausal hormones are driving me to be more pro-active about this stuff. I frequently find myself angry at everyday ageism/sexism and wanting to be the opposite of middle-age invisible. So here’s the big blog post about my live art debut and what happened on GILF Island…
3. Irish passport and a day trip to Liverpool
My UK passport runs out early next year and I’m not sure I can travel on it after 31 October. So I went to Liverpool to put my Irish passport application in. This was not just for practical travel reasons but because I strongly want to remain a citizen of the EU – for peace, prosperity, human rights, animal rights, women’s rights and many more things I think will be eroded in the name of British sovereignty under a Conservative government. Irish citizenship is suddenly a big privilege here in the UK – what a change from when my parents were essentially herded into Irish ghettos in the 50s.
The Irish roots live on at my allotment, potatoes being the only crop I planted this year. This month I harvested half my spud crop. The Desirees were huge, up to seven inches long. Another half to go. Will be in potatoes past Christmas.
5. Bread course
Pete and I spent a day learning how to make sourdough and rye bread at Loaf in Stirchley. More courses in top food skills are here…
6. Dementia group
A longtime family friend was diagnosed earlier this year with vascular dementia. Each week I take him to a group therapy session for carers and those with a diagnosis. I’m really enjoying it despite the serious nature of the illness. We all take part in weekly gratitude and goal-setting exercises, and share our experiences.
I’m learning a lot about how dementia affects people and how to help not hinder. Last week was about understanding confabulation and when to push back against inaccurate memories. This week was all about life story work and using long-term memories to stimulate the brain. There are former lawyers, teachers and tradesmen in the group. Dementia can affect anyone.
I'm proud that Stirchley where I live is aiming to be a dementia-friendly area holding memory cafes and choirs for people to engage in.
7. Bird rescue
Rescued a wood pigeon from certain cat slaughter. Took it to the vets for a check over and it is now in rehab at Ray and Ann Dedicoat’s amazing Hollytrees Animal Rescue in Wythall. Bung them a cash note if you can.
8. Digitising old diaries
I have done a load of digitising of the eight months spent in India, Maldives, Nepal and Thailand back in 1997 – have just hit 10,000 words. Those really were some of the craziest times of my life. Meeting a millionaire in India was just the opening gambit. Yes, diaries can be boring but the fact that I can’t wait to read my own story is a good sign, isn't it? Here’s what the diary project is all about.
Family stuff… Took my great nephew to the Lickey Hills playground with Pete. He is a ball of energy but thankfully mostly likes to sit on the swing and count to a million. Aw. We also did some budgie sitting for a friend – they are so much easier.
10. Spouse birthday
Pete’s birthday gave us a good reason to dine out at Stirchley’s new Eat Vietnam (banana blossom curry!), drink at the Wild Cat, and have a couple of friends over for dinner. If you see Pete around town wearing a customised ‘Trans Lunar Injection Burn’ T-shirt, that’s from me – with grateful thanks to C2O Clothes 2 Order for replacing my totally wrong-sized order without charging me for the stuffup.
11. Walking conference
Pete leads photowalks for Photo School Birmingham and has used walking as an art practice in the past. I do more informal guided walks and talks for friends around Stirchley perimeters, and might be volunteering as a walking guide for the National Trust next year. So I spent some time this month organising a trip to Plymouth in November, where we will attend a walking conference (!) at the university and take some winter walks along the South West Coastal Path. Pray for sunshine!
12. Analogue columns
This year I’ve been trying to form better habits through what I jokingly refer to as my ‘Analogue Columns Lifestyle Planner Tool’ – basically a daily set of columns in a notebook for ticking off stuff I want to do more/less of. Most things have been going pretty well, especially spending time outdoors, trying to catch the sunrise/sunset, having quiet time and exercise (walking and tai chi mostly).
Writing and art have been harder habits to form. This month, for example, I can see I’ve done 7x writing sessions, 8x art sessions – not bad for me, but not daily. Miscellaneous is often about helping people or getting out of the house and meeting friends. Overall, it’s kind of like having a shorthand diary.
13. More book reading
Missing a daily commute meant my reading time disappeared a few years ago. This year I've made a concerted effort to get it back. Bath time is now also book time (TMI, I know). I also rejoined the library, which has been fantastic for even the most recent releases.
In September I read nearly four books: Alys Fowler's Hidden Nature about kayaking on Birmingham's canals; Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, a non-fiction book about three women who have warped their desires according to the men they love; What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, a travel memoir by Kristin Newman; and Grace Grace Grace – a LADA book exploring gen-age issues. I also spent two hours in the Library of Birmingham reading Marina Abramovic and Sophie Calle not-for-loan art books. Libraries are bloody great. We should keep them.
So that was September. In October, the balance will surely change again. The bottom line of my post-sabbatical life, as ever, is to stay healthy, be kind to others and try to stay afloat financially in the process.
One of the things I've wrestled with during and post-sabbatical is that I'm a generalist. I'm interested in many things. Here are a few of them, not including family and friends, who deserve another big pocket of time:
…art, rabbits, Stirchley, writing, photography, diary mining, bushcraft, animal tracking, composting, ballet fitness, collage, reading, ukulele, walking, ASMR, sunrises and sunsets, trips away, dementia befriending, the politics of data, the practicalities of privacy, tai chi, surfing, bodyboarding, diving, ageing, stargazing, snowshoeing, drawing, publishing, origami, MOOCs…
The list goes on and on…
Often I get temporarily obsessed by some solo female traveller/adventurer or global photojournalist or fit-at-50 Instagrammer (cue another list:
@corinneredfern, @smillieonsea, @jasonflorio, @megan_hine, @missholldoll, @victorilou, @womenandwaves, @jannerobinson, @goodbyecroptop, @baddiewinkle and @nickheyward – yes, the Haircut One Hundred dude, who has muscles and a nice life, although he's no @renner4real or @samneilltheprop.
I guess these are the new media models we aspire to (or rather fail to live up to). I get inspired but then feel limited because hiking, photographing, adventuring or just looking Instafabulous is their singular focus. There's no room for anything off-brand. Choosing one thing to be, no matter how fab, means saying no to the wild panorama of other things in the scene, my scene.
And so I desperately try to find connections and overlaps between my peculiar combo of interests just so I don't go mad. I've taken to whiteboarding my life just to get it out of my head, print it off and then rub it all out.
I think feeling overwhelmed is due to the inability to make some hard decisions about what to do first. As my sister points out, it's good to have choices. It's also good to make them.
The past few months have felt like receiving a year's total of work and having to sort it into something I can get my head around. Where to start?
A word came to me while swamped in the interests mire: SEASONS.
'Seasons' is a looser, more easygoing and less worky word than priorities or commitments. Like some longhaired hippie supervisor, a seasonal focus allows me a time to write and a time to create (my two main conflicts at present), and these gently overlay the daily necessities of health, fitness and meeting financial commitments.
So I decided to spent the summer season writing and the autumn season on art stuff (I'm calling it pre-art).
Of course, as soon as I decided to put writing first, I met with my art mentor (yes, I have an awesome art mentor) – and she rooted out some really interested ideas.
So, I've now got a few backburner art tasks to break up writing season. And I'll likely do some editing and proofreading and learning about e-publishing when art season starts in the autumn.
My plan may not be Instagram-sexy but it's a pressure drop.
My goals for 2019 have mostly developed out of my sabbatical break in 2016-17. But there's also a few random things in there for fun, such as developing independent toes (yes, you read that right).
It's a longish list, mostly so I can get all the ideas in my head out of my head. In reality, there's no pressure. The ones I want to do will no doubt develop into some kind of habit, the random one-offs will or won't happen, and the rest will fall away.
I've been doing this annual list thing since about 2002. This is the first time I've blogged it. I'm not sure why I'm putting it out there. Maybe it will inspire someone else (I know two other people who are doing the splits challenge) or maybe it will create a potential collaboration.
Usually I break it up into sections – work, health, life, etc – but this year, I've split it into more general areas: mental/emotional, physical, creative, financial and random. The ones in green have already been started/done (or blogged) – that's the January effect but also reflects some longer projects that I'm working on.
Sunlight – more sunrises, sunsets and sunshine walks.
Morning hour – plan the day so it doesn't get derailed (try to take in medium/long term goals not just daily stuff).
Daily pockets of stillness – meditation, walks, unstructured time.
Weekend interesting read – set up RSS feeds.
Internet shorts – ahead of TV viewing – see #filmshorts list on Pinboard.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Every few years I take a photographic snapshot of my local Stirchley High Street, Birmingham, to see how it has changed.
So here is Stirchley in 2018…
There is an empty space where the thriving gym and historic bowling alley used to be, demolished after Lidl supermarket pushed ahead with a presumptuous land purchase (they had their permission to build overturned). There is also a massive Tesco wasteland now boarding up a large percentage of north Stirchley. Let's hope Seven Capital can do better, eh? Watch them closely. They were due to show at the Neighbourhood Forum meeting this Monday but have dropped out. It doesn't bode well.
While the supermarkets and large developers try their frickin' best to flip (thanks Kimmy Schmidt) with Stirchley, the independent scene is thriving (more on this in Viva Stirchley). Loving the fact that a spooncarver, fudge shop, martial arts supply store and houseplant shop are newcomers this year, increasing the bloody superb random nature of our high street. No homogeneity here, in 2018 at least. Pretty much all our chain stores are caged inside the Coop or shoved up the, ahem, business end of Stirchley.
Sad to hear Drums International, The (vegan) Pie Shop and Moso vintage clothing have closed and/or moved on. Drums International was one of my favourite does-what-it-says-on-the-sign storefront. The Belgian and Netherlands consulate is also a very sad loss, for quirkiness and international tourism alone. And Hairport – I miss that one for its punnage, although Iron Maidens laundrette is still the winner. There are other casualties – check the 2011 photos at the end of this post.
All the hardcore old-school Stirchley businesses are still here: P Browell tobacconist, Phull Watch Co, Mirror Image, Oulsnam (they'll always be Laing to me), Stirchley Alterations & Dress Making, JJ's Flooring (which has added a rooftop King Kong as you do), Maginnis opticians, Printigo (now snuggling in the bosom of the main high street), OJ Fallons plumbing supplies, Noct Offs, Wards, the British Oak – to name a few. Domestiks is still here but now sells appliances not ex-catalogue clothes, so that's less useful (to me).
Alongside them and hoping for similar longevity are the hardcore 'newbies' creating most of the buzz: Loaf, Artefact, The Bike Foundry, Alicia's Micro Bakehouse, The Wildcat Tap and other local breweries (no longer is Stirchley just a balti Mecca).
I have to give a special mention for the lovely Stirchley Wines & Spirits. Just because. #injoke #keepstirchleyshabby
Also Stirchley Library and Baths – important sources of community spirit, as well as free knowledge and tasty chocolate brownies at the monthly market.
It’s been two years since I went on a semi-break/sabbatical. I know this from all the lovely Aberdovey (Ooberdoobey) sunset photos popping up in my timeline. I remember a most beautiful empty-brain feeling of heading to the Welsh seaside just to read and write and walk and relax.
Occasionally I look back and think how much taking a break brought a seachange in my work-life balance. I’m fitter now and hopefully a bit healthier than when I was a full-time sedentary editor. I try to only work on screen for half a day at a time; the rest involves some kind of balancing exercise, anything from tidying the house to health-checking rabbits as a Fat Fluffs volunteer to going for a 1km swim or walking up the Malverns with my 72-year-old mum-in-law last weekend (see main pic).
I now have strength in my arms and tone in my legs. Yes, I still have a waist tyre and bury tension in my shoulders but the feeling of being stronger is making me feel good, and that’s inspired me to step up my exercise routine to include tai chi, aquafit and even a bit of upper body conditioning using weights. Chiselled shoulders a la Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 is a life goal!
I’m still writing and editing because leaving behind the trade I learned at 19 feels impossible. It’s what I’m trained for and I enjoy it, but I’m determined not to take too much client work on because I’ve enjoyed having the time to work on my own creative projects for a change.
Taking on a bit more work means finances have eased a bit. The bodyboarding dream trip may still happen after all, fitness permitting… although it’s not a cheap hobby when you live in landlocked Birmingham.
I’ve been thinking about travelling a lot. I’m looking for my next adventure but it needs to be more meaningful than just bumming around as a solo backpacker of old. I’m torn between the simple aim of escaping the winter to work overseas for a few weeks and doing some kind of reportage story work (I have a several Instagramming photojournalists I admire).
I don’t want to end on a downer note but if I were to die tomorrow, I want to say that I’ve really enjoyed taking some time out of my working life to stop and look around for a while. Like having a glimpse of retirement.
It’s the simple things that have been the best, such as enjoying the sun all day long, not just in a lunch hour; watching the buns hop around and surprising the squirrels (don't ask); listening to my great-nephew as he discovers talking; catching a wave in the middle of February; working on my own writing for a change; watching the allotment sunset with Kerry and co; meeting up with friends and family in unpressured environments; colouring-in and collage nights in the local caff; having a lie-in on a weekday; hanging out with Pete; playing music; reading books; midnight blogging…
If you get a chance to take a work breather, even if only for a short while, I highly recommend it. I've had a very contented time thanks to working less.
Personally, I'm most at home in jeans and a t-shirt but I'm also fascinated by people who have an interesting style and who post it online. I'm not talking about big social media influencers necessarily but Instagram friends and accounts who post and pose in their outfits under 'what I wore today' #wiwt and other hashtags. Here are three examples of accounts I enjoy:
RhiannonBrum – a friend who is also a swishing, swirling dressmaker who makes and wears her own outfits.
GlacialGlow – an ethereal, elfin, silver-haired Alice in Wonderland who also has an awesome dog.
SashaEDavison – a fashion model who became pretty successful in the time I started following her. I used to dial up her Instagram as a brief to my local hairdressers and also bought some sparkly Top Shop shoes in the sale on her recommendation.
You get the picture. Anyway…
Earlier this summer, at the start of the heatwave, I decided to have another wardrobe clear out and had a sudden realisation – I buy dresses but don't wear them and especially now that I work remotely in my metaphorical pyjamas most of the time. At least before bundling them up for the charity shop, I thought I should wear them. And so began a month of daily #wiwt poses and photoshoots – here's the slideshow, and more info on what I learnt from the challenge below.
I never thought I'd end up doing a 30-day fashion challenge but perhaps there was something in me that wanted to document turning 50 this year. It would kind of be like a diary thing. In 10 years, I'd look back and go: Well, would you look at that – and be impressed, appalled or amused.
Along the way I learnt a few things:
1. Being your own photographer is good for a woman's self-confidence – you only have to post the pics you like.
2. Being a daily Insta-fashion influencer is hard work – the staging, the variations, the bursts, the selection, editing, captioning and posting. I started off easy taking just a few minutes; the final shoot took an hour and a half to get the shot.
3. It was a bit of fun – and the feedback was like getting a reward. I looked forward to the reactions. I got loads of positive comments from 'This is epic' to 'A___ said it was the highlight of her week (and she'd just given birth).' And then someone took one of my pics – the kaftan one – and created a meme: the ultimate honour.
4. I can laugh at myself – I couldn't resist posting a bloopers reel on my Instagram. You can't take life too seriously.
5. Finally, turning 50 ain't so bad.
Once more, here's the full shoot. Enjoy! (Update: I've cleared out at least nine of these outfits, which leaves 21 things to wear. Turns out I quite like wearing dresses.)