Friday, 12 October 2012

Urban Exploration

Last Saturday Jo & I went to The Culvert in Jesmond Vale for an explore!  We went with a couple of friends who had been to this place before & knew their way around, for which I was grateful, as although it would be difficult to get lost as such (it's a straight line!) it had the potential to be dangerous, and having people around who knew what they were doing was definitely a good idea!

We started at the south end of the Ouseburn, not far from the Farm, and scrambled down the embankment.  I had hopes of keeping my feet dry for as long as possible, but that was not to be, as I slipped slightly on one of the rocks and *sploosh* went my foot into 6" of water!  (I've since then bought myself some better boots and some waterproof trousies, for next time!)

We clambered up into the top half of the culvert, above the river itself.  This part is girdered with iron which gives it a wonderfully post-apocalyptic sci-fi feel!

Someone had a party!

Further along, the character of the tunnel changed to a concrete lined, high ceilinged passageway. This would have been the area used as a bomb shelter in WWII, as evidenced by the blast baffles at intervals along the tunnel, and the pots in the floor in some parts!  These are towards the edges of the tunnel, over the sewers which run either side of the Ouseburn.

Blast baffle (used with permission from Jo)

Some of the holes in the floor are less deliberate and more dilapidate:

We had to tread carefully to avoid these gaps in the floor.  A sprained ankle here would not have been pleasant.

We found a variety of objects along the way; a burned mattress, a toaster, also charred, and a caster; possibly from the same bed that the mattress came from:


Cast off

Further along was some interesting graffiti!

Right over the sewer!

Gut party, ja!

The tunnel ends in a 'room' with a shaft up to the surface, but we did not investigate this, as the rungs in the walls looked somewhat rickety, and the manhole cover at the top is usually locked.

So we retraced our steps to a section where we could gain access to the river itself:


The edge of the tunnel we were now in was fairly dry, but sloped, and after the first time I slipped and nearly fell in to the water, I decided that my feet couldn't get any wetter, so I'd wade.  The footing was easier, as the floor was flat in the middle, which made the going much better.

The water was knee deep! (Used with permission from Jo)
An artistic shot (used with permission from Jo)
A storm drain (used with permission from Jo)

When we reached the end of the Culvert, the tunnel opened up into a broader passage for a few yards, and beyond that was a waterfall. To one side were more of the rungs, set into the side of the tunnel and leading up to a fence.  I looked up with some trepidation.  No one had told me about this bit, and as you'll remember from my experience at the climbing wall, I'm not very good at this sort of thing.  However, I shimmied up the rungs with no trouble, and, trying to keep out of mind the thought of falling into the river from a great height, I made my way along the narrow ledge, clinging to the fence like grim death!

Clambering out! (used with permission from Jo)

The final obstacle was a curved spikey bit of fence, designed to stop people from doing exactly what we were doing.  To make matters more complicated, the ledge dipped inwards at this point.  I was told that it would bear my weight and to just swing around it.  I swallowed, took my courage and the fence in both hands, and went for it.  It was a huge relief to get back onto terra firma but I felt so elated that I had managed it, and I had a grin on my face for several hours afterwards!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Well, as I said in my previous post, I enjoyed my Challenge so much that I don't want to stop!  Therefore, I'll be trying to do at least 20 new things in my 40th year :D  As before, I have a list of possible things, although it has already got a couple of things on it which weren't there to start with, so nothing much is different in this respect either!

So; here's my starter for 20!  Some of them are the same as before, things I couldn't do, but still want to...

Scuba Diving
Urban Exploration
Carriage Driving
Side-saddle riding
Horse-ride along a beach, in the surf :)
Hang-gliding and/or Ride in a hot air balloon
Fan dancing Class
Hang Aerial Class
Hang Yoga
Capoeira lesson
Blacksmithing workshop (PH)
Woodworking workshop (PH)
Stained Glass workshop (PH)
3D dreamcatcher
Make a hat
Make paper
Box Brownie Photography
Tea wine
Make Ginger Beer
Make a Herman Cake
Watch at least 5 'must-see' classic films
Make Dragon sculpture, since it is Chinese Year of the Dragon! (at least by the end of the CYotD 9th Feb!)

There are more than 20 things, which should give me a bit of lee-way for not managing some, and as usual, I'll swap things in & out as I see fit!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Final Roundup

This is an overview of what I've done, what I have not done, what worked well, what did not, and all that kind of thing.

I am very pleased with myself for having finished my Challenge, despite some things not going to plan, and others having to be substituted at the last minute!

Things that worked well seemed to be 'trying things out' - making the corset, trying tablet weaving, bookbinding and so on.

What didn't seem to work so well was anything which required a major investment of time (and willpower!) longer term... the money diet didn't really happen, neither did the actual diet.  Surprisingly, neither did watching 5 must-see movies; we're apparently useless at sitting down to watch a film!

One thing I have learned about myself from doing this Challenge is that I love trying things out, even if I then don't feel inclined to pursue them any further.  For instance, rock-climbing and tablet weaving are things I'm glad I've tried, but won't continue.  Corset making however, I will do again, and I'll probably try spinning again at some point.  I'll definitely go on another tour of the Victoria Tunnel, and I might even become a tour guide for it!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my Challenge, and in particular, I have enjoyed the variety that the 'scatter-gun' approach has given to it.  Therefore, I will be doing a new Challenge, starting after my birthday.  Since 40 things was rather a lot, I intend to try 20 new things in my 40th year, so the new Challenge is going to be called 20in40!

This means that I will continue to try new crafts like woodworking, blacksmithing and stained-glass making, as well as hopefully doing some of the things which I could not manage this year (horseriding on the beach, side-saddle riding, and so on).

The final round-up of what I achieved:

1   Thames river cruise (18th April 2012)
2   Visit Stonehenge (17th April 2012)
3   See the Northern Lights (2nd March 2012)
4   Visit Thackray museum in Leeds (12th November 2011)
5   Have a Belly dancing lesson (8th January 2012)
6   Do a day of Falconry (24th April 2012)
7   Handbell ringing (16th December 2011)
8   1:1 Barre class (3rd November 2011)
9   Hold a tarantula (25 February12)
10 Try at least 5 new foods (Finished March 2012)
11 Do something completely spontaneous (Shoeshine) (26th October 2011)
12 Rode the Brighton Wheel (26th October 2011)
13 Visit Mother Shipton's Cave (5th June)
14 Visited parts of Yorkshire Sculpture Park I hadn't been to before. (4th June)
15 Tried Lavender & Lemon Scones (5th June)
16 Visit Lindisfarne (7th June 2012)
17 Go to the Hoppings (26th June 2012)
18 Thai Food (11th June 2012)
19 Read at least 3 classics (20th July 2012)
20 Make a corset  (Finished 3rd July 2012)
21 Hold a tortoise (6th July 2012)
22 Wear more colours (ongoing!)
23 Visit the Lit & Phil (23rd July 2012)
24 Try at least 3 new bands (26th July 2012)
25 Rock climbing (2nd August 2012)
26 Learn to use a Spinning Wheel  (7th August 2012)
27 Money-diet for a month (July 2012)
28 Tour the Victoria Tunnel (23rd August 2012)
29 Have a 4-hand massage (17th August)
30 Colourful plants in garden (September)
31 Settle Down cafe & Sugar Down bakery (August sometime!)
32 Mariner 9 exhibition (18th August)
33 Make a leather masquerade mask (3rd September 2012)
34 Bind a book (4th September 2012)
35 Tablet weaving (3rd September 2012)
36 See a film I wouldn't normally watch (Verhängnis) (8th March 2012)
37 Drop casting silver (June/July 2012)
38 Face Painted. (21st September 2012)
39 Take a tour of St Mary's Close (22nd September 2012)
40 Spend a night in the Library room at the Witchery (22nd September 2012)


My 40th Birthday was somewhat like my 39th, in that it didn't all go quite to plan.  However, it was a lovely day & the bits that did work were lovely!

I had a lovely birthday breakfast of thick pancakes with a variety of things sprinkled on them, then went into Town.

We didn't make it to the Jekyll & Hyde pub, thanks to the sat-nav on my phone being unreliable :(
Instead, we went straight to the Mary King's Close tour.  This was a fascinating 'living history' tour of the underground streets beneath the Royal Mile.  Our tour guide was really enthusiastic, and really made the streets come to life.  Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any photos while we were down there and the infra-red photo that we had taken really didn't come out well enough to spend money on.

Then on to the Library suite at the Witchery; the final item on my list, and a real treat.  The bathroom was amazing, underfloor heating and a huge bath!  We had a picnic supper & watched a movie before snuggling up in the lovely cosy bed :D

The Fantabulous Bath!

The Bed
The 'hidden' bookcase door to the corridor.
Lounging on the Chaise.
My Best Beloved and me.

Something from before, and a random new thing.

Luckily, I'd kept a couple of 'new things' in reserve until the end in case I needed them.  This was a good move, as I'd planned to do the Box Brownie photos last Thursday, but I found myself really flustered with getting ready to go to Edinburgh, so I postponed that until another time... more news about that in another post!

So, for your delectation; drop casting of silver!

I'd previously drop-cast pewter, which was fun, but I knew that silver takes a bit more effort, as it has to be heated to a much higher temperature than pewter.  Also the dropping of the hot metal into cold water has to be done into a bucket or other deep container, unlike pewter, where I used a tall glass.

A 'cup' with a drop of silver nestled in it

I love the patterns on this one

A couple of weird mushroom shapes

I've had my makeup done many times, but I have never had my face painted before.  So when my dear friend Gill asked if she could paint me, I said 'yes!'  and this is the result.  I can't believe she's only been doing face-painting for a bit over two WEEKS! She's brilliant, and will only get even better with practice ;)

Sunday, 16 September 2012


The Red Arrows just flew over our house!

They're flying at today's Great North Run...  Good Luck to everyone running today, especially to you Michael :D

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Not Challenge related, but a minor epiphany and a small realisation

I have been doing a lot of reading and sorting things out on my computer over the last couple of days.  This is due to me finally leaving Firefox for Chrome as my browser of choice; so I've been sorting out my bookmarks, pruning dead links, and reading some of the articles I've had bookmarked for a long time.

In particular, I've been reading Puttylike (thanks Liz!), looking into the Pomodoro Technique and a  simplified Getting Things Done  and I've realised something about how I do things...

I have lists.  Lots of lists.  And some things on those lists don't belong where they are.  I've been mistaking a lot of my Projects for Items-to-do, and that has overwhelmed me.  Just now, when I was sorting out some lists and re-assessing some things, I put some Projects on a To Do list & felt wretched.  When I realised that I needed to make a separate Projects list for them, and only put the next step on the To-Do list I felt so much lighter.  I think this might work better for me from now on!

The epiphany was that at some point, I have to stop organising (be that reading, sorting files & lists on my computer, or physically organising things like my jewellery findings) and start doing something with that knowledge (or list, or organised things).

So my new mantra is going to be "Less organising, more doing!"

We'll see if it works ;)

Having said that, though, I do know that I have to work with whatever my mood dictates; today is a doing things with the computer day, rather than a making things day, so I'll do some more blog related work, and so on.  Maybe tomorrow one of the more physical projects will get a look in, like making some jewellery for the upcoming Newcastle Alternative Expo.  If you're around, please pop in, it looks like it will be lots of fun!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Bookbinding, tablet weaving and mask making

Many thanks to K for showing me how to make a book!  I am very pleased how it turned out, although in hindsight I would have used the flour paste glue for the cover instead of the fabric glue as I think it would have stuck better! However, several days under a heavy weight seems to have sorted out the last few blisters which hadn't stuck down quite right!

My first codex

All four codices

Sewing the codex

The finished binding

The finished article!

The endpaper

On display

Thanks also to Jo for showing me tablet weaving & mask making...  all problems with these parts of the challenge are entirely down to pilot error!

The mask was going fine until I cut the eye holes... too big :(  I am going to try to remedy it with judicious use of decoration, but we'll have to see how that goes.  Here's a few pictures from the process, before it went wrong!

The base mask.

Shaping the decorative cogs
Cogs fixed to the mask, all painted & pretty!

As for Tablet weaving - I think that's one for you Jo!  I tried, and the first little piece I made was OK...

Once I got going, all was well!

 Then I tried something a little more complex, with a border either side.  I had a lot of trouble with the S & Z threaded cards next to each other getting caught up together, and forgetting which way I was turning the cards to make the pattern!

Not so good....

I tried another variant, tubular weaving, which worked OK, but still not spectacularly well. 

Remembering what Jo had said about tablet weaving needing more cords to make it worthwhile, otherwise I might as well be doing finger-braiding, I figured I would look up finger-braiding too... and I tried that as well. Once I realised how it was supposed to be done, it was fine, but I don't think I'll make a habit of it!

A simple finger braid

Finally, I decided to try out normal weaving, since Jo had loaned me a loom to do the tablet weaving on... the sides kept pulling in and I just don't think I have the patience for this kind of thing!


Two deliberate, one accidental and a couple of random extras!

My list is rapidly filling up, which is good, as the time is rapidly dwindling.  I do get a certain nice buzz when I tell people about my Challenge & they say "Oh you must have a couple of years for that!" and are then surprised when I say I have a month left for it!!

Two things off the list are the 4-handed massage at the Hana Beauty Clinic in Whitley Bay, and visiting the Victoria Tunnel underneath Newcastle.

I enjoyed the massage; the sheer luxury of having two pairs of hands massaging me in synchronisation was fantastic.  Unfortunately, having slept badly the night before, my restless leg syndrome got the better of me, and I spent half the time trying to get comfortable, which rather spoiled the relaxation aspect of it... :(

The tour of the Victoria Tunnel was fantastic, and I intend to book another tour again as soon as I can arrange it.  Dave, one of the tour guides, was brilliant (the other David was good too, but Dave was fabulous!)
We had a tour of part of the Ouseburn Valley first - this is a boat outside the Seven Stories Children's Workshop

The history of the tunnel is fascinating: there is a good history of it here.  It was originally built in the Victorian era (c.1840) and was in use as a coal-waggonway for some time.  It was closed after about 18 years, and re-opened in WWII as an air-raid-shelter.  In the mean-time, it was briefly used in the 1920's as a mushroom farm.  Now it is open for the tours, run by the Ouseburn Trust. 

A handprint left from the manufacture of the bricks!

My phone can't cope with low light levels... this is the best I could manage of the tunnel itself!

I am very taken with the Tunnel, and I'm thinking of becoming a volunteer guide, if time allows once I start my Counselling course later this month!

The accidental one is a bit of a cheat really, but I'm going to count it anyway!  The front garden is colourful!  I had removed this when I realised that it was not really something I wanted to do for myself, but rather it was something which somebody else thought I should do ;)  However, having planted some wildflower seeds and a couple of plants a few years ago, suddenly this year, I have colour!

Evening Primrose


Now for the random ones!  I hadn't realised I could count this one until I was talking to someone about my new favourite cafe.  It is a place I'd been recommended by several people, and I'd been meaning to try it out for ages.  About three months ago, I did so.  The Settle Down Cafe is delightful.  The barista was friendly and immediately made me feel welcome, which is a lovely change from many chain-style coffee shops.  The coffee (a mocha, if I remember correctly) was delicious, as was the cake I had.  This led me to another of my 'I really must try this out' places, the Sugar Down Bakery.  As the names' similarity would suggest, these two are related.  The Sugar Down supplies all the cakes and so on for the Settle Down.  I can highly recommend both places, and I pop in to the Sugar Down as often as my waistline and conscience will let me ;)

On its penultimate day, I visited the Mariner 9 exhibition at the Spanish Dome in Whitely Bay.  More details can be found here. This was a very interesting installation, a gorgeously rendered vision of the debris of some of our visits to the Red Planet, including some potential future craft, once they have been abandoned.  Some are trying to 'phone home',  others still try to carry out their duties, while still others are rusted junk.  The atmosphere was enthralling, with weird eerie wind noises as dust storms scoured the surface, interspersed with the beeps and whirrings of the equipment.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Three more things done!

I did a money diet in July, but it wasn't overly successful, mainly due to a Gem & Mineral show held the first Saturday of my diet-month, which I spent a bit at, and an event later in the month which I needed some accessories for!  I did spend less than normal, but not less-enough.  I think this is something I need to do again as a separate thing when I can concentrate on it properly.

Last Thursday, I tried indoor climbing at the Byker Climbing Wall.  It was definitely an experience, and one I'm glad I've had; however, I don't think I would want to do it again!

To start with, the climbs (according to Jo, who's been trying to persuade me to try climbing for quite a while; she finally succeeded - thank you Jo!) were actually quite difficult, even the easy ones.  First time, I tried one, and got about three hand-holds up before I climbed back down, terrified!  NOPE! as they say on the internets.

However, Jo persuaded me to try another different climb, and I got further this time; almost to the top.  However, I still wasn't up to jumping down, even onto the crash mats... so it was climb-down time again.

The best I managed was on this climb - all the way to the top! (Although I was hanging on for dear life while Jo got the camera!)

I got up here, now how do I get down?!


After the first half-climb, my forearms seemed to have developed new muscles, just so they could go into spasm.  By the end of half-an-hour, my shoulders, thighs and calves were complaining as well.  So, all in all, I'm glad I did it, but I doubt I'll ever go climbing again; it's just not really for me!

The other thing I've done is learn to use a spinning wheel.  It's something I've always wanted to do, since I was a little girl, and today I got the chance (thanks K!)  Somehow it seems both rustic and romantic, I'm not sure quite why!

Hardly Sleeping Beauty ;) 
However, I did get to use the seat from the old Tyneside Cinema which K has!  Very comfy!

The Niddy-Noddy I used to wind the wool,
and the first (tiny!) skein of spun wool I've made!

I intend to do some more spinning, with the intention of making enough for Jo to show me how to make Tablet-weaving (she's been saying I should give it a try for ages, so I will - another new thing!), and make a piece of Tablet weave, so I'll update the list if I manage to do that.

Twenty-seven items down, thirteen to go!

Thursday, 26 July 2012


I'd not expected to get all three 'new bands' in one fell swoop, but I have.  Thanks to the Humble Music Bundle, I've now listened to FOUR new bands:

They Might be Giants (rather odd!  but OK in their way! - we did have an album by them, but I don't recall listening to it);
OK Go, (again quite strange!);
Rather dramatic music from video games from Hitoshi Sakimoto;
and probably the most interesting, Christopher Tin's album Calling All Dawns.

(We already have some MC Frontalot, and Jonathan Coulton; it was thanks to these that we gave the others a chance!)

I still intend to keep looking for fresh music, but I consider my duty by my Challenge done!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

List as at 24th July (2 Months to go!)

1   Thames river cruise (18th April 2012)
2   Visit Stonehenge (17th April 2012)
3   See the Northern Lights (2nd March 2012)

4   Visit Thackray museum in Leeds (12th November 2011)

5   Have a Belly dancing lesson (8th January 2012)
6   Do a day of Falconry (24th April 2012)
7   Handbell ringing (16th December 2011)

8   1:1 Barre class (3rd November 2011)
9   Hold a tarantula(!) (25 February12)
10 Try at least 5 new foods (Finished March 2012)*
11 Do something completely spontaneous (Shoeshine) (26th October 2011)
12 Rode the Brighton Wheel (26th October 2011)
13 Visit Mother Shipton's Cave (5th June)
14 Visited parts of Yorkshire Sculpture Park I hadn't been to before. (4th June)
15 Tried Lavender & Lemon Scones (5th June)
16 Visit Lindisfarne (7th June 2012)
17 Go to the Hoppings (26th June 2012)
18 Thai Food (11th June 2012)
19 Read at least 3 classics** (20th July 2012)

20 Make a corset (K.) (Finished 3rd July 2012)
21 Hold a tortoise! (6th July 2012)
22 Wear more colours, at least half the time! (Steampunk colours, admittedly!) (ongoing!)
23 Visit the Lit & Phil (23rd July 2012)


24 Visit the Tynemouth Toy Museum
25 Edinburgh: Spend a night in the Library room at the Witchery, take a tour of St Mary's Close (Edinburgh under-city) and visit Jekyll & Hyde pub!
26 Tour the Victoria Tunnels (Newcastle)
27 Make a leather masquerade mask (Jo)
28 Have a 4-hand massage
29 Rock climbing (indoor!)
30 Learn to use a Spinning Wheel (K.)
31 Money-diet for a month (July?)
32 Watch at least 5 'must-see' classic films****
33 Try at least 3 new (possibly SteamPunk) bands***
34 Return to my ideal weight (8st7lbs ish)
35 Break myself of the habit of picking at my skin

The following are money/opportunity dependent.

36 Horse-ride along a beach, in the surf :)
37 Take a course in Bookbinding & bind a book. (If course is running in Sept.)
38 Take a Millinery course & make a hat
39 Have a Capoeira lesson
40 Take a Fan Dancing class

41 Box Brownie photography (Jo)
42 Make Ginger Beer
43 Make a Dragon sculpture, since it is Chinese Year of the Dragon!

*Bilberries (what blueberries aspire to being!)
  Figs (nice)
  Turkish sweets (too sweet!)
  Samphire (too salty)
  Kiwi Berries (just like a mini kiwi fruit)
  Dragon Fruit (like a cross between a melon & a kiwi fruit)
  Avocado (not overly keen!)
  Lychee (nice but odd texture)

**Old - Beowulf
   Classic - Frankenstein
   Modern - Brave New World, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

*** Vernian Process, Abney Park, TMWWNBBFN etc.

**** Suggestions Welcome!

A couple of things off the list!

I've finished Beowulf (in a prose version; I might read a poetry version as well, but I'm in the middle of reading Metro 2033 now, which is very gripping, so it won't be for a while yet!)

I also finally made it to the Lit & Phil in Town yesterday.  It's been a moveable feast as it were, because it doesn't have to be done on any particular day; but yesterday, I thought 'sod it' and went in anyway, even though I had other things to be done in the day; they could wait!

The Lit & Phil

I couldn't resist getting a photo of this lovely spiral staircase.

I spent a while in there reading a copy of Scientific American that was lying on a table.  I would have spent longer (I found a couple of books on Victoriana) but I really did have to do 'real life' things like shopping for milk and so on!

So, as a couple of people have asked me lately how far through my Challenge I am, I think I'm probably due another updated list.  Next post!

But first... a pic of my lovely new made-by-me-and-K corset!