New Things Challenge Week 3: whole weekers

My Challenge Weeks are for people to do a new thing on one of my suggested themes during that week – this time the themes were creativity and eco-friendliness – but this is really just a kick-start for people to try something new and I am not very strict. But this time four of my contributors got carried away and did something new each day that week, or almost every day! And the themes still played a big part. Here are their lists. Someone needs to take me to this Re-Imagine place.


Jane has helped me with lots of my new things – at least one a month on average – so I’m glad she’s caught the bug.

  1. Made a towel elephant – the rare green-headed species.FB_IMG_1471102694217
  2. Put vinegar on her weeds instead of weedkiller. It worked! I will have to try this one.
  3. Made an optical illusion line drawing.
  4. Sketched a friend.
  5. Had a new cocktail from the Pint Shop – Hard Lemonade.
  6. Bought a secondhand chicken brick from Emmaus for £3 then cooked with it. She was very pleased with it – the chicken was delicious and the brick was easy to clean. Bargain.
  7. Found a lovely new way of getting into Cambridge from home: a walk that she didn’t know existed, along the river, then a number 3 bus. Also went to a Thai Festival.

Emma and family

Emma is the first person I’ve got to know through my blog! Her lovely blog is 100 Days No TV – have a look! I haven’t even met her properly yet but some sort of collaborative venture is beckoning (as is a pint in what turns out to be both her and my local). Here are her words, pictures and new things.

  • Monday: Paper aeroplanes & helicopters. First time Ben has made them and my first time trying to create slo-mo videos of them flying. (I’m going to post a tutorial and a couple of videos on my blog at some point!)
  • Tuesday: Making Victorian thaumatropes at King’s Lynn Museum. First visit to the museum and certainly first time for thaumatropes!
  • Wednesday: Decoupaging some new memory boxes at the Re-Imagine Resource Centre in Witchford. The boys have already collected bits from their summer adventures to keep in them.received_10157396261105096
  • Thursday: Creating shadow puppets at the Fitzwilliam Museum. They had to choose a different animal or creature for the head, body and tail. Not sure where Ben spotted the Gruffalo at the museum, but I let him off. 😉 We had a lot of fun!received_10157396262505096
  • Friday: Ran out of time for our planned cycle ride with Ben’s new seat on my bike. Managed it the following Monday 🙂
  • Saturday: A visit to Castle Rising for their Soldiers Through The Ages event. First visit here and the boys’ first event of this kind. The boys asked the soldiers lots of questions and even got to try on a knight’s helmet!received_10157396263795096
    In the evening we walked to the beach from our cottage and watched the beautiful sunset.received_10157396263800096
  • Sunday: A friend’s Bollywood party on the beach. The boys and I got some temporary tattoos on our arms.
    In the evening the boys collected up dry twigs for a beach fire. Now they want to join the Scouts!received_10157396267710096

Claire C

She’s back – I love that she just can’t help herself and that her children are happily getting dragged along with her!

  1. Nothing today but two things yesterday so I’ll let her have them – bleached her hair blonder and went out on her bike with her daughter Zoe on her bike, for the first time together.
  2. Carried her two-year-old nephew in her carrier on her back. She wanted to go for a walk but he had no wellies. Problem solved.
  3. Tried out her awesome new bike trailer!
  4. Ate a marrow-sized yellow courgette. First and last time judging by the family reaction.
  5. Made a giant hoopla game at the Re-Imagine Resource Centre with the children.
  6. Went for their first family bike ride to Ely AND camped in the garden, as a practice run for a festival.
  7. Made this photo frame, using a 20p kit from the Re-Imagine Resource Centre. FB_IMG_1470691939660

Adam – A Tune a Day
Adam set himself the painful challenge of writing a new song every day. Maybe putting ourselves through random ordeals that no-one has made us do runs in the family. (But maybe if you’ve got a hobby or interest that has been put on the backburner, you could try this as a way of getting back into it. New painting or sewing project a day?) He has also given me words. I love his idea that I might have challenged my foes to do new things.

Like most things I decide to do, I decided to write a song a day for the first week of August without really thinking about the consequences of it. I’d already written most of the song on the Monday when I’d decided to write a song a day for the rest of the week. The idea for a song had been gesticulating around my head for a few days, originally as a comedy song which bemoaned how difficult I found modern life, until I realised I couldn’t make it that funny, as I really do find modern life difficult. So in keeping of the spirit of Maria’s challenge to do a new thing every day for a week, I decided that having half written a song already was cheating a bit, so I decided to write a new song every day for the period Maria had challenged her friends and family (and I suspect foes) to do something creative every day for.  Which turned out to be a week. A week.  That’s seven songs in seven days. I would suggest that it is too many songs in too few days. Generally most of my songs take weeks to write. Bob Pollard from Guided By Voices once claimed he could write 5 songs on the toilet which seemed ambitious to me, even with my propensity for eating cheese when I know I really shouldn’t. Normal people don’t just have a creative tap they can turn on and off.

Having said that, at the time it didn’t seem that daunting, I already had most of one song in the bank.

Day One – Clowns and Coffee Shops

So what started out as a comedy song ended up being the first of seven songs I wrote that week.  I’d had this idea for writing about how hard I found modern life but found it difficult to find the words without sounding too whiny.  The song was relatively easy to write, I love those songs about the minutiae of life and I tend to write songs that are self-deprecating so it made sense to marry the two. The chorus was a tough nut to crack. I couldn’t decide between a slow and simple chorus or a more complex one. In the end I went for the more complex of the two and used the simple one as a refrain later on in the song.

I decided to record it using my 12-string.  It was pretty obvious I’d need to document each song and I knew recording each song properly would be a time consuming endeavour. I kind of wish I’d gone acoustic on this one, and may well do if I record it in the future, I feel like it should have had more of a “Coffee And TV” vibe than the jangle I went for.

Day Two – Already Down

Another song that had been kicking around in my head as a vague idea before I undertook the project.  I decided to set myself some parameters early on: no instrumentals, no silly songs and the majority of the song must be new.

I wrote the song pretty swiftly once I’d sat down with my guitar. This song is much better served by the 12 string guitar.  It is again in a melancholy vein I’m used to and the song came pretty easily. Lyrically, it’s simply about being in a relationship and finding comfort in the fact that even though you feel terrible you’ve got someone else to feel terrible with, and it all came together fairly easily.

Day Three – Divided We Fall

I felt like the first couple of songs were good but I should really push myself with the third one. I did this in two ways, by writing it on the mandolin, which I cannot play very well, and by writing a long wordy song with no chorus. One of the main inspirations for the song was “The Fight To Be Human” by Justin Currie, this whole song could be summed up with the line from that song “If I must shoot for the moon I will shoot myself first”.

It was actually one of the easier songs to write despite being wordy. It just kind of came to me in the shower, pretty much full form. Performing it was hard, mainly because of my inadequacies in playing the mandolin but overall it came out well. I will probably write more stuff for it so it’s 9 minutes long.

Day Four – Love Conquers All

This one was definitely a struggle.  I aborted two attempts to write it, one because it was too safe and one because it was too shit. In frustration I picked up my keyboard and just started singing. I had the phrase “Turning wine into why” in every one of my aborted songs and the line just came to me once I’d switched to keys. I wanted the song to have a slightly Neil Young feel to it and deliberately pitched it right at the top of my range, I think it worked pretty well. If it hadn’t have been for mixing it up musically I probably would have continued to be frustrated and ended up writing something I wasn’t really happy with. I improvised the second half of the lyrics, so I will probably rewrite them at some point.

Day Five – King Of Fools

I thought this one was going to be a real struggle. The fourth one I found tricky, and I didn’t have being able to switch instruments as a back up plan. In actual fact, it was one of the easiest of the seven to write. I made a conscious decision to write about how I was feeling in that moment, and I’d just been to see the comedian Bill Burr the previous night, who opened with twenty minutes about how we should be able to fat shame people and it left me completely cold and inspired me to write this song. I tried not to make it sound too self-righteous but I don’t think I’m in the position to judge. I think you pretty much can say anything in the context of comedy but if you are presenting it as your opinion then you should be held accountable for your words. The crowd was completely going for every hateful thing he said and I wanted to encapsulate it in the song. Musically this was inspired by King Of America era Elvis Costello, and I was really glad I switched back to the acoustic guitar for this one.

Day 6 – All Out Of Running

Now this one was the one where I really regretted ever agreeing to write a song every day for a week. I was working from 6 AM that day so the plan was to just try and come up with something while pottering about so I wouldn’t have a whole song to write when I got in. It didn’t really work out and I came home from work in a pretty foul mood and tried to channel it, which can go either way when you’re writing a song. It’s probably my least favourite of the seven if I’m being honest but the fact it exists is an achievement in itself.

Again I mixed things up by switching to a distorted Telecaster for this song, as an attempt for variety again.

Day 7 – The Final Procession

Another song I could have really done without having to write, but I’m really glad I did because it came out really well. I’d been working, we’d all had a few beers, and when I say we all, I mean I sat on the pub on my own in blissful silence, and then I sat down to try and come up with something, anything at all. This again took a few attempts. I felt like when I came up with the final melody I really had to dig deep but as soon as I got it I knew I had something good. I had another beer to congratulate myself on another tremendous effort. Someone who shall remain nameless pointed out to me that a few of the songs had sounded like break-up songs, so being the contrary so and so I am I decided to write another break up song.

Overall I’m really glad I did it, I would say 4, maybe 5 of them are worth doing something with in the future, and I’m not a very prolific songwriter these days so it was good to have the catalyst.

Future Challenge Weeks

Here are the dates – put them in the diary! And if you feel like doing a whole month with me, let me know!

  • 3-9 September: Culture and Fitness and Sport
  • 3-9 October: Learning and Skills and International
  • 14-20 November: Community and The Natural World
  • 12-18 December: Good Deeds and Food and Drink.



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