I'm not sure if I'm the only one who's ever imagined having a cinema screen all to themselves? Your own private screening. It's something I've wanted since I've been well enough to go to the cinema again. Every time I've been to a film and nobody has come in, I've got my hopes up. Then had them dashed as soon as a few people amble in just before the start of the trailers. In truth I've wanted to shoo them away. I'm a lady (and a scaredy cat) so I never have.
Today though, my dream came true in the most unexpected way. Mum and I had tickets to the National Theatre Live screening of King Lear. We got to be the cinema and sat in the empty screen for a while, until a man came in and told us there was a problem. Unfortunately they couldn't show King Lear; but if we wanted they would put something else on for us - a film of our choice! Not only were we the only ones who had bought tickets, we now had the screen to ourselves.
I was tempted by Maleficent; but he also suggested Driving Miss Daisy, the Angela Lansurry, James Earl Jones production which they just had in. It's not out in the cinemas yet! I'd been wanting to go and see the West End show; but this was perfect.
It was magical, if slightly surreal. We could relax back in the peace and quiet, not distractions, not interruptions, it was amazing. I can confirm the show is really good, touching, sensitive and beautifully done. If you get a chance to see it then I'd really recommend it. I can't promise you'll have a private screen; but I can promise you'll have a good time.
Over the past couple of months I've been organising a Club Night for International Women's Day 2014, with my friends from the Golden Triangle Girls WI. It's been a bit out of my comfort zone - not the event planning, I love anything like that. More the clubbing/dj side of things. I'm much more comfortable sat here with my laptop writing to you, than I am in a place with loud music and alcohol. Fish and water spring to mind.
Since 2014 is my year of new things I decided to just go for it and see how I got on. I enjoyed getting dressed up - you can see me here (far right) with some of the lovely committee, setting up for the event.
As part of International Women's Day we'd printed up some quotes by inspirational women that were put up around the city and some were made into postcards - as we are modelling here in my first ever group selfie. (I never realised how many people take until they get the perfect one!)
Mine is by Virginia Woolf and says "For most of history, Anonymous was a woman."
Out of the other postcards though, my favourite was by JK Rowling. "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all."
I didn't do brilliantly with the whole loud music thing, in fact after fifteen minutes I was ready to come home. I made a discreet exit and then spent the rest of the night curled up with fish and chips, watching Hangover 3. Much more my kind of thing!
Who knew there were skills required to attend a surprise party? I certainly didn't. I've seen them on TV, we all have. They look like fun, something special; but nobody ever shows you how much pressure is involved.
I attended my very first surprise party for my friend Sarah, who was moving back to Australia. It actually counted as one of my new things for 2014 because I had never been to one before.
The biggest pressure I found was not saying anything in advance. I can keep it a secret; but I'm more comfortable with not having to hide things. Lying makes me nauseous, so this was a major challenge. I saw Sarah a couple of times the week before. I kept trying to be evasive and not give the game away. I'm sure I acted a bit odd; but who wants to be the one who ruins the surprise?
The party had an Australian theme, so I made some Lamingtons - I used this recipe... It was really good and really easy, although by the end I was pretty sick of being sticky and covered in coconut. They did taste amazing though.
The next area of stress was making sure I got there before the official surprise. I don't like to be late; but this added a whole new level of pressure - who wants to be the one that walks in and either a) sees Sarah and spoils the surprise b) gets mistaken as the Surprisee or c) misses the whole thing?
There was a definite air of tension in the room as we all waited, checking the door, trying to keep quiet as the text came in that Sarah was on her way.
The actual surprise moment was really funny, the first words out of her mouth were "I almost showed you my bra." Not the response you'd expect; but I think she was pleased with the party.
It was an emotional night, everyone was a little subdued and sad; but it was great to be part of the evening and now I can add Attended a Surprise Party to my list of new things.
Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My year of New Things has begun and my first scary challenge, I mean new experience, was horseradish. Fresh horseradish, not the stuff in the jar. It's something I've wanted to try; but never felt brave enough.
When I looked up how to prepare the root Mum bought, I have to admit to being horrified. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made the process sound like I was about to take my life in my hands. And I quote...
"It's not often this column comes with a safety warning, but I'm making an exception today. You're probably going to need goggles, or at the very least a well-ventilated room. Brace yourselves to tackle the fiery, sinus-piercing, eye-watering root, horseradish."
The idea of trying New Things rapidly lost its appeal; but I was determined to soldier on, not fall at the first hurdle and all those other clichés.
Following his instructions to the letter I donned my old swimming goggles (very old) and we sat on the patio to peel and prepare it. Hence this foolish picture; but I wanted to document the moment.
Now I'm not sure if Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall was joking and only foolish cooks actually put on the safety gear; but I did as I was told.
I don't think the precautions were strictly necessary. Don't get me wrong it had a kick when you caught the scent of it, a sharp, tangy, peppery smell; but it didn't blow my head off.
The ultimate test was the taste test and once it was all jarred up, we used it in a dressing for his recipe for Horseradish, dill and potato salad with salt beef (also on the recipe page). It was delicious; but I'm not sure I could taste a difference to the horseradish you buy.
We've used it in several meals since, including roasting a piece of beef a la Jamie Oliver and done some of his Money Saving Meals.
The horseradish seems to be keeping well in the fridge; but I don't think I'll be donning the goggles again anytime soon. It's just too much faff when you can buy it and the only effort is opening the jar.
As far as New Things it was much more daring than I had intended; but kicked the year off to a dramatic start.
I won the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition. My novel, The Box, is going to be published on 25th July 2019, by Orion