New things for new people: Caroline (week 1)

One of my guest bloggers this month is Caroline. This woman already does new things constantly and has been the inspiration for many of mine this year, so her new things in May are likely to be in a different kind of league to mine! She will be blogging weekly and I am happy to see that she is still finding the project challenging, satisfying and interesting, despite already having a new-thing-attitude. 
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  1. I went to a concert by the Cambridge Gamelan Society and Southbank Gamelan Players. It’s the first time I’ve been to a concert knowing nothing about the sound or the genre of the music, and only a vague concept of the instruments themselves. Gamelan is an ensemble of tuned percussion instruments, unlike anything I’ve ever heard before – the closest Western instrument is possibly the xylophone, but the sound was completely different – and very beautiful. 
    (Going to this concert actually comprised two new things, as it was at Clare Hall, a college I’ve never been to before, and missed the entrance as I cycled right past. I was reminded how spectacularly awful the Cambridge Colleges and University in general are at signage. They are only good at telling you NOT to do things like walk on grass, enter in term time, etc, and pretty awful at telling you how to enter a college for a public concert. Anyway, I enjoyed it.)
  2. I read a book I’d never read before. My house is full of books I’ve never read, and this new thing alone could probably take me about a month. The book was Istanbul: memories and the city by Orhan Pamuk. I bought it at the airport as I was leaving Istanbul last August, and it remained unread until today. It’s a vivid and wonderful childhood memoir about growing up in Istanbul with his family, and is also very gripping – I read all 333 pages in one morning (the bank holiday helped). It’s not a prayer to the city, it’s a memoir that celebrates the flaws, the mess, the uncertain identity. It made me want to immediately return to Istanbul and also to read all the other unread books in my house.
    PS Go to Istanbul. It’s great.
    I also saw a film I’d never seen before – Straight Outta Compton. An accidental new thing, and an excellent film.
  3. I played a new flute piece – Bach’s Partita in A Minor. I guess this could come under the banner of ‘sight reading’, so I made sure I actually learned to play it properly rather than blundering through it. This could become a frequent New Thing as there’s a hell of a lot of copyright free sheet music on the internet – yippee! My partner Chris told me, however, that it sounded like ‘a sea shanty’. I’m not sure that’s what Bach was intending, so more practice is needed I think. And more sight reading practice in general. 
  4. I did a bootcamp with the wonderful Charlie Wall of Cambridge Bootcamps. This is something I’d been meaning to do for YEARS, just never got around to (I suspect this will become a theme). It started at 6.15am and the weather was gorgeous, the park was beautiful, there was a cat, everyone was friendly and welcoming and I did lots of things I’d never done before – walking along with a stretchy band around my legs, for example. One of the ladies mentioned that it’s addictive, and I can well understand that. Highly recommended!
  5. I watched a TED talk for the first time. TED is a nonprofit company dedicated to spreading ideas, usually in the form of shortish talks. There are over 2,000 online at ted.com but I watched this one on creativity. Apparently original thinkers feel fear and doubt but use that to try new things over and over again, and aren’t afraid to fail because they try over and over again. The best original thinkers fail the most, because they try the most. I particularly liked the point he made where he said that if you’re given a task, then procrastinate and do something else, your response is likely to be more creative. I suspect TED talks might become a new form of procrastination though.
  6. A lovely person at work taught me to crochet! This is quite a breakthrough as I’ve tried several times and always failed. I’ve been knitting for years, but crochet has always defeated me. This time, I did a chain completely unaided and started on a second row. It’ll need more work to refine it, but I’m a lot further on than I’ve ever been before.
  7. Today’s new thing was definitely the most fun. I first came across the Lounge Kittens at Glastonbury in 2014, four ladies who do sparkly three-part harmony versions of cheesy rock songs. Look at this for a taster. When I found out they were doing a singing workshop I just had to sign up! I, along with perhaps 40 other people, spent the afternoon in a school hall learning a three-part tango version of Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing. We started off with crazy vocal warmups, then put the song together piece by piece. It was the best thing I’ve done.. certainly all week. It was all filmed so I’m sure it’ll be gracing the internet at some point. One lady attendee had travelled there from the Netherlands!
    Reflections on doing new things at the end of the first week.
    I’m sure we all have things we want to do, but never get round to doing. Pulp refer to this in their wonderful Glory Days song: ‘Oh I could be a genius, if I just put my mind to it and I, I could do anything, If only I’d get round to it’. Deciding you’re doing a new thing every day forces you to get round to it. You have to decide you’re doing it, make a plan, then do it. Very simple really, but something you won’t ever do if you just have a vague idea that you’re going to do something at some random point in the future.
    I also found that new things breed other new things. When I’d finished reading the book on Day 2, I suddenly wanted to do more new things. However, the garden was a mess so I harnessed the energy and pulled up some nettles.

I now see that the flaw in the plan for Caroline to write weekly is that where we have both done the same new thing (such as item 1), she will have already written about it by the time I post my May update. Hmm. I’ll worry about that later – for now I’ll just watch the TED talk. And, slightly disconcertingly, I have also just looked at the Bootcamp website. 

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