Thursday, 26 December 2013

19. Have a pint of Guinness in Dublin

This is an overdue entry but better late than never!
The view of Dublin from the top of the Guinness Storehouse. You can see the Aviva Stadium on the right hand side.
On Friday 15 November myself and Laura Fenwick (who is becoming somewhat of a regular travel companion) flew from Newcastle to Dublin. The opportunity for the trip came about when we learnt that our friend and fellow archaeology graduate Mandi Henderson was being swept away by her husband Neil to Dublin to celebrate her 30th birthday. This came up in conversation and you express an interest that it's somewhere you'd always like to go so Mandi suggested we come along too (much to Neil's initial horror) so we did.
From left to right; Laura, me and Mandi
Everyone I've spoken to have said how friendly the Irish are but I actually think that it ius THE MOST FRIENDLY place I've been too. When you land at an airport you're prepared  for the miserable but at passport control who barely grunts at you...not it in Dublin. [Insert gorgeous southern Irish accent] "Well good morning Kathryn, welcome to Ireland. How are you today, did you enjoy your flight?"
We also had a very friendly cab driver who took us to our hotel (he gave us his mobile number in case we needed him over the weekend...) And then met up with Mandi and Neil for a few, which turned out to be a lot of drinks and one of their best burgers of my life. I had never considered putting smoked cheese on a burger before but I'd do it again. I resisted having as pint of the black stuff because I wanted I to 'save myself' for the Guinness Storehouse.
I think Saturday 16 November will definitely feature in the top 5 days of 2013 and here's why;
  • Amazing all you can eat breakfast to start the day
  • Visiting Trinity College and the Book of Kells
  • Indulging in bog bodies and Ireland's prehistory at the Museum of Archaeology
  • Eating nachos and drinking bulmers in the Hairy Lemon
  • Visiting the Guinness Storehouse and experiencing a pint (and a half, because that's all I could manage) of the black stuff
  • Watching Ireland v Australia in a pub packed full of Irish men

The library at Trinity College

So in one day I had culture, archeology, rugby, nachos and beer coupled with brilliant company and another thing ticked off my list. I think Dublin was a fantastic city, yes a little pricey but I will definitely go back. I wasn't to fussed with the Guinness Storehouse, far too many tourists for my liking, but the views from the top bar were incredible and the Guinness was smooooth.

Friday, 4 October 2013

27. Go and watch a Premiership football match

It was a sunny autumnal day when I met my auntie and cousin, Emma and Philip Williams at the foot of the Sir Bobby Robson memorial at St James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne to watch Newcastle United v Hull City. As some of you may be aware I am more of a rugby follower than a football fan however I felt that my put downs towards the “beautiful” game would have more integrity if I could actually hold my hands up and say I’d been to a live match. Also living in a city for the past 9 years where the football team is integral to the cities culture and not having seen the team play just felt like a travesty! 

Me and Sir Bobby
 I’d been thinking about this fixture since I was (by coincidence) sat in a pub the day Hull City were promoted to the Premier League. Now the significance of Hull City aka The Tigers is that my granddad, Mr Larkman to many, was born and raised in Hull and has been a lifelong supporter of the team. This is the Tigers shrine in the downstairs loo at his and my grandma’s house in Richmond. Subsequently some of my uncles and cousins have developed a strong allegiance to the team so I had a choice of people that I could get on board to go with me. It seemed fitting that a match played between what I class as my ‘home’ team Newcastle and the family team Hull City seemed a perfect fixture to tick another experience off my list. 

The 'throne' room at Grandma and Grandad's
Considering that this wasn’t a derby match or Newcastle weren’t playing against one of the top 4 teams I couldn’t believe how busy it was. Me and Philip, my 16 year old cousin had 2 season tickets courtesy of our Uncle Philip’s friends. Gone are the days of a book of individual paper match tickets and in keeping with the age of modern technology you now get a plastic card with an electronic chip in to swipe you in to every match. Now the implication of having these tickets was that we were surrounded by Newcastle season ticket holders, which considering we were cheering on Hull City we had to be extremely restrained in showing our support, especially when Hull City scored. 
Me and my ticket
 As a sport I do find football quite dull however this match was pretty entertaining, 5 goals scored in all and we were even treated to Steve Bruce busting some moves on the side lines, however the most entertaining part was listening to the commentary from the Geordies sat behind me. I picked up some new choice phrases including some xenophobic remarks. I have this belief that football fans can be quite fickle at times which is what came across from the fans that were sat around us. When Newcastle were playing well they were like gods to these fans however one miss kick, some sloppy defending and then they were quickly pulled off their pedestal and called every name under the sun, my favourite quip was made at Ben Arfa who was labelled (in their words not mine) ‘an overpaid French arse hole’ – such a lovely image. The abuse continued to get more derogatory throughout the course of the match at Newcastle’s playing quality declined and the score went from 1 – 0 Newcastle, 1 – 1 all, 2 – 1 Newcastle, 2 – 2 all, 2 – 3 Hull City (final score). 

The Hull City fans celebrating in their pen
All in all it was a good experience made all the more pleasurable by the sunshine however I won’t be queuing up for my season ticket next year. Compared to rugby as a sport football just does not cut it. Rugby is more entertaining  the opposition don’t need to be penned up in the rafters of the stadium to segregate the fans AND at a rugby match I can enjoy a pint in the stands while watching the game. 

The sun shining on St James'


Thursday, 22 August 2013

11. Have a massage

22 August 2013. Can you think of a more appropriate day to tick something off my list?

Being week 5 of the 6 weeks school holidays, and with the imminent challenge of packing up my life to move into my own flat and the stress of my trip to the pyramids being scuppered from the unrest in Egypt I found myself a little tense so booked myself in for my very first massage.

I went to the Helen Lloyd Beauty parlour just near Haymarket which I have visiting previously for some de fuzzing and I was escorted into a room lit with candles and classical music playing in the background (the complete stereotype of what I was expecting.) I got ready to lie and the bed (yes there was a hole where I put my head so I saw the floor) and then Helen came back in, oiled up and started to work her magic. I was slightly concerned that it might tickle or I would fall asleep because I would be so relaxed but god I was wrong. I asked her to add a bit more pressure which resulted in her using all her weight to push the knots out of my shoulder blades and neck. . .it was like the same ‘pleasant pain’ I got when I got my tattoo that after a while was rather nice. At the beginning of the massage she kept on asking me if the pressure was ok but once it was in full swing she just kept quiet and I DID have to keep on reminding myself ‘this is a woman performing a professional service’ those with the less clean mind among you reading this will know what I’m getting at, especially with my sensitive neck issues!

All in all it was amazing, my back feels like a million dollars. If I could afford it I’d be back every week for a lunch time session. I think next time I’m like to try a full body massage though do they massage everywhere? Now I haven’t got any images in this post because I didn’t particularly want pictures of me in just my pants plastered on the internet so you’ll just have to use your imaginations or go for one yourself! 

What to pick to do next, oh the possibilities?!


Thursday, 30 May 2013

14. Have a surfing lesson

Let me first start this post by apologising for the lack of images. This was through no fault of my own. Firstly, the nominated photographer, Lyndsay Airey was still on a train up from London because she'd left her bank card at home and had to go back for it. . .and then the photographer from the Chronicle Live on behalf of NCJ Media who approached us and asked to take our photos for the paper, who we were so willing to oblige (especially considering a wet suit is not the most flattering outfit to have a photo shoot in) did not publish our pictures in print or online therefore apparently I am not able to get a copy of them, queue a strongly worded email back.

Barry's surfing van

Anyway back to the event. It was the afternoon of Saturday 25 May 2013 and I was 27 and a day. The sun was shining and the waves were rolling. Now a seasoned surfer would probably tell you that they were actually tiny little waves but let me tell you that when you are waist deep in the water getting prepared to fling yourself on your board to ride a wave then they look pretty damn big!

Looking good ladies

My partners in crime were Laura Wilson, Sarah ‘Buttness’ Butler, Victoria Lowery, Laura Fenwick, Catherine Mullen, Hannah Kerrigan, Gemma Beggs, Eileen Hoey and Alex Johnson. Our instructor for the day was Barry from Longsands Surf School, who was awesome. A ‘hands on’ instructor who was in the water with us at all times and had some good banter. If you fancy trying you hand at surfing then I would definitely recommend booking a lesson with Barry to give you a few pointers and then you can hire the equipment and go it alone.

I did find that the basics of surfing are fairly simple:
    1. Get into wetsuit
    2. Attach surf board to leg
    3. Get in the sea (it’s pretty frickin cold even in a wet suit)
    4. Climb on surf board
    5. Lie down on surf board
    6. Await a wave

10 minutes later. . .
I think everyone managed to do the above which I think is quite an achievement. The most challenging part of the day for me was getting myself into my wet suit (lol) and when I got on my board not rolling off the other side straight away. . .the next step was to try and stand up on the board and ride the waves. We tried this on dry land first to make sure we knew was position our bodies had to be in. For this the instructions were as follows; when you see a big wave coming at ya then paddle (like crazy) with your arms for 5 strokes, and then 2 more for luck. At this point you should be ‘riding the wave’ so push yourself up with your arms on to your feet, your legs should be wide apart on the board and your body should be in a squatting position that should resemble, to quote Lyndsay Airey “like you are about to drop the kids off in the pool” and voila you should be surfing. In reality this did not happen for me, I got up on to my knees but then my arms gave up so I just went with it. It’s no surprise though that Hannah Kerrigan and Alex Johnson were the two up on their feet catching the waves.

All in all I had an awesome time, apart from the two occasions that I got wiped out by the waves and swallowed half the North Sea, but don’t just take my word for it, get yourself down to your nearest beach for a lesson. Here’s to hoping that the next thing I tick off my list is as fun!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

3. See the Aurora Borealis

After only having 80 minutes sleep in the last 34 hours obviously my priority is writing this blog post. This was definitely the most challenging task on my list to complete to date so keep reading to hear about the saga of hunting down the Northern Lights.

An aurora (plural: aurorae or auroras; from the Latin word aurora, "sunrise") is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions. In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621. There are three conditions that you need to have a chance of seeing the Lights which are;
  • 1.       Clear skies
  • 2.       Auroral activity
  • 3.       Patience

However even with all three conditions the Lights have unpredictable behaviour and sightings cannot be guaranteed. A bit of science behind the Lights which have interested the human race since before the time of the ancient Greeks are a phenomenon caused by particles or electrons given off from the sun, an analogy the guide used was like a volcano erupting lava, which are then carried by the solar wind to the planets in the northern part of the solar system. The frequency of the activity is based on the strength of the eruption given off by the sun. The particles take approximately two days to travel to earth where upon they find the gaps in the earth’s magnetic shield at the North and South Poles. The electrons can thus travel through the field and they make friends with the atoms in the earth’s atmosphere upon which the Northern lights are produce. The Lights are made upon of trillions of electrons and atoms having a party together.

Round One – Saturday 23 March 2013
Me and my good friends Laura and Vicky (they’d organised to go to Iceland and I invited myself along) arrived on the Friday and we had a trip booked to see the Lights on Saturday night. After a strenuous day at the Blue Lagoon Spa, supping on fizzy wine in the open air of the natural geothermal pools and an afternoon exploration of down town Reykjavik we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the bus picking us up at 9.30pm to head off into the night on a Northern Lights Hunt. I was quite excited because it coincided with Earth Hour, an international initiative encouraging anyone and everyone to switch off their lights for an hour to encourage people to show concern for the environment and take action on climate change, which I thought was a nice touch to link to seeing the Lights. We had a drink while we were waiting to be picked up only to overhear the man on reception telling a family that the trip had been cancelled for the evening due to ‘unfavourable conditions’.

This is my reaction.

This is how I made myself feel better.

Round Two – Sunday 24 March 2013
After spending the day exploring the Golden Circle we anxiously waited to hear if the trip would be on this evening. . .RESULT, it was!

Happy Kathryn

We headed out to where we had been earlier on in the day, our guide was very enthusiastic about the lights but unfortunately that didn’t play to our advantage. They only appeared briefly for about 5 minutes and they weren’t very strong, just pale green faint lines in the sky. We waited for over an hour to see if they would appear again, it just reinforced their unpredictability that they are a force of nature that cannot be dictated to by the human race.

Round Three – Monday 25 March 2013
Due to the brief appearance of the Lights the night before the company offered to take us out again, we were debating whether we should go because we wouldn’t get in from the Lights until 2am and had to be up for an airport pick up at 4.30am.  .  .but we decided that we would be regretting the decision and we would be full of ‘what ifs’ if we didn’t take up the opportunity.
After 1.5 hours of hunting the Lights there was no appearance of them so we headed back, I was really disappointed as I felt I hadn’t had a proper experience of them but something somewhere answered my prayers and they appeared in front of the bus and put on a show for an awesome shoe for us for an hour. I managed to get a few shots of the Lights however they by no means do them any justice, I found that it wasn’t the colour of the lights than amazed me the most but the movement of the Lights and how they just faded in and out of sight and then appeared elsewhere in the sky, and how they seemed to dance along the sky.

The guide gave us some pointers to get a half decent shot which included not bothering with the flash, switch the camera to manual, if you have a tripod then you’re laughing (something I did not have, so I had to make do with my shaking hands in the sub-zero temperatures so if anyone would like to buy me one then I’ll be grateful), increase the shutter speed and have at least 600 IOS exposure. The guide did say that a lot of the commercial pictures of the Lights have been tampered with to increase the colour palette which leads to a misconception that the lights are extremely vivid in the sky.

The only negative thing I will say  is that I was shocked at the amount of people of my generation that were sat on the bus oblivious to the Lights because they were so engrossed in their phones, probably on Facebook.  I’m so glad I’m not one of those people. My final words would be that if you haven’t seen them then get them on your bucket list because they are an absolutely incredible phenomenon. I’m not suggesting that you need to go as far as Iceland to track them down, just keep your eyes peeled in the winter months if you’re out and about in Northumberland or in the Scottish highlands.


Monday, 7 January 2013

4. Learn to cook a Sunday dinner

As a woman in my mid twenties I feel that I should know how to do this. Not that I like to conform to the female stereotype but one day I may have a husband, possibly two children and I will want to whip them up a roast dinner on a Sunday from time to time. Now this won't be happening for a long while yet so if I start perfecting my technique now then I can enjoy the outcomes of my cooking attempts with myself and my friends in the process.

I asked my three BFF's who I was sharing a post Christmas hot tub and cabin in the woods break with if they minded being taste testers for my first ever roast dinner; they were very obliging! I can categorically say that the only help I got from them was instructions on how to make cheesy leeks and a little help setting the table. The rest of the time they were enjoyed drinks and snacks in the hot tub. However I documented their post dinner feedback in my phone while we were sprawled on the sofa (which is a good job because I proceeded to get pretty merry to celebrate the success.) The food tasters were pretty wrecked at this point too but their feedback was as follows:

Laura (a seasoned chicken connoisseur)
Comments: "is this what food tastes like in heaven because if it is kill me now"
Improvements: "more leeks and a bigger chicken" - there will never be a bird big enough

Lyndsay (a notoriously picky eater)
Comments: "I wish my boyfriend could do to me what this dinner has"
Improvements: "Thicker gravy" - this was down to the lack of gravy granules and corn flour!

Buttness (a sausage fiend)
Comments: "Holey hell life will never been the same again"
Improvements: "Sausages" - someone should set up a sausages anonymous group

So readers if you would like to get these kind of results follow my methodology below:

Step 1
Read Delia Smith's roast dinner recipe and compose a shopping list and instructions for cooking a roast.

Step 2
Go shopping for your ingredients (I don't have a photo of this step because apparently you get kicked out of supermarkets for taking photos. . .

Step 3
Prep the chicken by massaging butter under and over the skin.

Step 4
Chuck the bird in the oven on top of some veg.

Step 5
Have a drink to take the edge off. My chosen drink of choice Cava and Disoranno.

Step 6
Par boil the veg and chuck in in a pre oiled roasting try, whip up some cheesy smoked bacon leeks, make the Yorkshire's and check the chicken!

Step 7
Take the bird out the oven to 'rest' and make the gravy 

Step 8
Carve the bird

Step 9
Plate up

Step 10

Here's to the next one *raises glass*


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

15. Paint a canvas

I'm writing this blog entry at 3.00pm on Thursday 27 December 2012 with a glass of wine in my hand (there are few exceptions apart from Christmas time when you get away with cracking open a bottle this early!)

I have a very creative personality and I've always been partial to a bit of artwork – though this was not always encouraged by my art teachers at sixth form (I won't name names but they know who they are), so having never painted a canvas I thought I would add it too my list.

I knew I wanted to paint a landscape to reflect my love for the outdoors but I wasn't sure about how to present it, so I visited a few galleries in the Toon and was finally inspired by an exhibition at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle upon Tyne by Julie Dumbarton ( - at this point if anyone would like to buy me one of her prints then I'd be a very happy person. Although trained as a fine art painter the exhibition could be described as a series of abstract landscapes, I was particularly attracted to her use of bright colours. I do like traditional landscape artists such as Turner and Constable but I don't think my talent is up to scratch yet to try and replicate the style in their paintings. 

I used acrylic paint to make sure I got vibrant colours and the thickness of the paint allows the addition of texture to the canvas. As far as technique is concerned there was none. I just whipped my brushed out, squeezed some paint onto a plate, started mixing and slapping it onto the canvas (and not necessarily thinking about what the picture would turn out like.) After a series of painting sessions, normally on a Sunday afternoon when you don't have the work demands of a weekday or the stresses of sorting your life out on a Saturday (or having to be a bouncer for Santa!) I finally finished and decided to give the title of “the path of dreams” to the painting - as a testament to my friend who will hopefully always follow her dreams.

Now at this point I would love to say that the canvas is no hanging up pride of place in my house but its not. I really appreciated receiving a painting from my friend Laura Wilson for my birthday about three years ago so I wanted to give my painting to a very important person in my life. Now there are three very important people in my life who I do secret Santa with each year therefore this year I decided my lucky secret Santa would receive a Kathryn Wilson original – I think all three of them would appreciate the gesture (or they would at least have the courtesy to at least pretend to like it in my presence, the test will be when I turn up unexpected on her doorstep one day to make sure its hanging on her wall!) This is the moment she opened the painting.

Anyways watch this space, you never know it might be a series of my paintings hanging up in The Biscuit Factory one day and yes I am available with very reasonable rates for commissions if you would like some of my work in your life.