What have you been up to this week? Anything fun and exciting? Or have your days been full of work and chores and work and chores (and work and chores)? As has become my tradition, in this week’s weekly blog I want to share some of the highlights of my week with you, and find out some of yours.
My week has unsurprisingly included work and chores, but also some fun stuff. We took a trip on the big wheel in Cheltenham (which I wrote about in this blog post), saw 1917 at the cinema, which I found to be a very serious but incredibly well made first world war movie, and ate pasta at Bella Italia thanks to our new Taste Card. We also (finally) got our Christmas present to each other, a pair of new intercoms for our motorcycle helmets, and set those up – I can now voice control my phone from inside my helmet which is pretty cool (in my opinion!).
On Reality Television
The death of Caroline Flack last weekend has highlighted one of the biggest problems in our world at the moment, the weird belief that it is okay to criticise and bully people both in person and online. I’m not here to comment on Caroline’s life or death, or who is to blame for the trolling culture we seem to live in, but I did want to add my voice to the many in saying that kindness should not be the exception to the rule, it should be the norm. We can’t change the whole world at once, but we can do our part in our own lives. Start at home – show love, gentleness and thoughtfulness with your own friends and family, and make it your mission to do the same in your online spaces.
Reality television has certainly taken a bit of a beating as part of the conversations surrounding this topic, and in the main, I’m not a huge fan. I remember the first series of Big Brother and was taken in by it, for sure, but I soon got bored with that, losing interest in what seemed like the desire to put people together to create tension and upset rather than friendship and happiness. I also have never seen an episode of Love Island, and won’t be starting any time soon.
But give me a show that demonstrates people’s skills and concentrates on the positives rather than the negatives and yes, I’m in. I have been known to watch Strictly Come Dancing and the Great British Bake Off, although I think that’s mainly because of the music and performance side of things in the former and the beautiful cakes in the latter rather than anything else. Everyone loves a good cake! There are actually a couple of shows I am enjoying that I thought I’d give a mention to – The Great Pottery Throw Down demonstrates some amazing skills and Win the Wilderness: Alaska makes me wonder what life would be like if I lived off grid in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. You can take the competition element out of both for me, but I do enjoy watching each on a weekly basis at the moment.
I have wondered what it would be like to be in a reality television show myself. I might have had my three minute’s of fame on Britain’s Favourite Walks, but I think the television viewing public isn’t ready for Zoe on TV just yet – unless a production company wants to commission a show about me road tripping my way around the UK in my (currently imaginary) camper van?! Which leads me seamlessly onto my next topic in this week’s weekly blog…
It’s no secret that I want a camper van. I really want one. I can’t afford one and don’t have the time to make the most of owning one, but still, I need one. With that, I headed to the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show yesterday to fuel the fire and get even more excited about the dream. And it definitely worked. I came across my new favourite California interior courtesy of Dirty Weekender Adventure Vans; a beautifully finished van with a traditional layout complete with Harris tweed seat covers, map covered ceiling, and dark brassey-coppery cabinetry. Honestly, if I’d not been made to leave my credit card at home I might have bought it there and then. It was stunning. They’re based locally so I will have to go and take a look at their showroom, you know, just in case I come into some money anytime soon.
I also took a look at the camping side of things, because let’s face it, that is actually the style of outdoors life I have now. I was quite impressed with the new Vango F10 Project Hydrogen bike packing tent, the first small and lightweight tent with an air beam “pole” designed to be inflated with a bike pump. What a great idea. I don’t think it’s quite the kind of tent I’d want, but I really appreciate that Vango have decided to take their big (and very heavy) air beam technology and turn it into something more accessible to those of us who want to travel small and light. I hope they continue to develop the technology; I’d be interested in trying a slightly bigger (and cheaper… it’s £600) version of this in the future – maybe a free standing one designed for long distance hiking.
We only spent a couple of hours mooching around the show, stepping in and out of teardrop caravans and massive motorhomes, wondering what it would be like to remote control a caravan onto a pitch, and coming up with creative ways to make enough money to buy a van. To be honest, there’s not enough camping at the show for my liking, it’s very caravan and large motorhome heavy. More tents and camping gear next year, please.
At the end of the day it was lovely to bump into three friends from my Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champions family and have a catch-up. I stopped to hear Nigel Vardy tell his story to Rowland Rivron on the Freedom to Go Stage, I will never get tired of hearing Nigel speak about his experience on Mt McKinley in Alaska, which lead to him becoming known as Mr Frostbite. Nigel should definitely get a better-timed slot next year, his story is worth hearing. David of Potty Adventures and Eli of To Outdoors and Beyond were also there, lovely people I am proud to call my friends. I still wonder how I managed to weave myself into this family, but I love it. The OS GetOutside campaign is about to get a re-launch, so watch out for that towards the end of next month, it’ll be fun to see where it goes next.
Urban Wandering in Birmingham
I strongly believe that “the outdoors”, which often has a connotation of only referring to “the countryside”, also includes our urban areas. They might be covered in concrete, with far too few trees these days, but there are plenty of opportunities to get outside in our towns and cities. Earlier this week I headed into Cheltenham for a wander and to take a spin on the Light Up Cheltenham observation wheel, and yesterday I spent the afternoon exploring the streets and canals of Birmingham with my good friend Sarah (The Urban Wanderer).
I love exploring places with Sarah. She always just seems to know which way to turn or which building to walk into. One of the real discoveries for me was the library… it is no ordinary library! For a start the reference library, full of old colour coded reference books, is circular with fairy lights and neon strips all around, a purposeful juxtaposition in design. Then there is the roof garden, which was unfortunately not open thanks to the weather, but would make a lovely place to sit – Sarah and I think it would be the perfect place to write a poem or have a eureka moment. And then if you walk all the way to the very top – 150 steps I think it said – there is the Shakespeare collection, housed in a small wood panelled room that looks and feels like it should be in a really old mansion house rather than a modern library. It feels like that because it was once in an old library and painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt in the new location. It’s beautiful. Next time you are in Birmingham, put the library on your list of places to visit, it’s worth the effort.
We were fortunate in that we only had a short shower and a bit of drizzle so we could pound the city streets as was our intention without getting soaked. We wandered through the city and along the canal, in and out of random shops, choosing our perfect sofa and dining chairs, turning our noses up at oddly shaped designer trainers, commenting on the design of new buildings, and making ourselves in Lego minifigures. Visiting a city with no particular intentions is a lovely way to discover new places and learn new things, especially when you’re with someone who loves to walk miles and miles in amongst the concrete walls. We walked 20,000 steps around the city, but still only discovered a small part of it. With Birmingham only being an hour away from home I will definitely be back for more wandering, and maybe to partake in some of the random activities we noticed on our way (anyone up for some darts or axe throwing?).
I know she’s my friend so I’m going to say this, but if you are based in a city, or work from home, and are looking for some outside inspiration, be sure to check out The Urban Wanderer – she’s got you covered with motivation and advice.
This Week’s Question
It seems from last week’s question that we’re all a bunch of water and tea lovers, with the odd glass of lime and soda thrown in. I like that we’re all sensible people who look after our bodies.
On the theme of urban wandering, inspired by my miles walked in Birmingham, this week I want to know…
What’s your favourite urban area to explore?
Birmingham was a surprise to me, but I don’t think it is my favourite. I think I’d say either the banks of the Thames in London, I do love a wander along the South Bank. Or there is Lincoln – the mix of medieval and super modern is beautiful; if you’ve not been to explore this small but jam packed city, you should get it on your road tripping list for 2020.
If you enjoyed reading this blog, if you think my weekly blog series is a good idea, and especially if you got to the end of this episode, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And I mustn’t forget the vloggers’ catchphrase – please like and subscribe for more posts like this in the future! Come on by next Sunday at 6pm for the next in the series.
PS We’re heading into the final week of my month-long daily photo challenge for February. The Splodz Blogz Daily Photo Challenge is an opportunity to look at the world a little differently to the norm. If you’re reading this on the day it’s published, then I’m after your photos with an stairway to heaven flavour. Check out the theme each day and share your daily snaps using #SplodzDPC so we can all see.