Chocolates, Oysters, and Running Around in the Woods

Over the past few years I’ve noticed myself picking up more and more hobbies and ideas: coming up with endless new and exciting things that I want to try, getting the hang of them, and then moving on to the next one.  My pessimistic side would note that this probably started in school, when the pressure to choose your career path was pretty intense.  Other kids were happily applying for medicine, law, engineering, and all those other good solid options, while I dithered around wondering why there wasn’t a job that involved books, learning about trees, art, writing, and wandering around in the mountains and forests in the career centre manuals.  Until then, we’d been able to engage in a spread of subjects, and by the time A Levels finished I still hadn’t decided on just one that I wanted to pursue.  My optimistic side would argue that my brain is a multi-coloured sponge, and all the random skills, ideas and experiences that I pick up will re-emerge through my artwork at some point, and in the meantime make life a lot more interesting.  Here’s what has been keeping me busy recently:

At the end of May I stocked up on double cream and set about learning how to make chocolates.  I’d intended just to make a selection of plain ganache-filled chocolates, but soon started pulling in random ingredients from the kitchen stores, resulting in some unexpected successes (the sweetness of homemade quince jam was matched perfectly with very dark chocolate filling.  Baileys ganache was a more predictable winner) and one inedible failure (not being bothered to wait for the sugar to melt properly led to a pretty dismal minty batch).  It was all rather unscientific, but turned out surprisingly well.  And now my candy thermometer has arrived I’ll be making a few more – when these heat spells have settled down a bit.

For two years running I’ve attended the Rodings Rally orienteering event in Epping Forest.  This involves turning up at 9pm, being given a map of the forest with a selection of clues, and then powering through the forest until the sun comes up the next day looking for 10 very small, unlit tents.  The whole route is 12 miles as the crow flies, but in reality it’s possible to spend hours scouring a small area looking for a tiny tent hidden in some brambles.  As my only experience of orienteering, I assumed all that was normal.  So when I went for my first proper orienteering event on the 20th May in Chantry Park, I was astonished at how easy it was…  The points are already marked on the map!  There are lines showing you the routes between them!  They’re each housed in a giant neon bag!  Sufficed to say, I had great fun, and ended up doing another event in Bramford on the 30th.  The boiling, muggy heat broke half way through doing the Bramford course, and we ran through that marvellous big ploppy kind of summer thunderstorm rain while lightning danced between the clouds overhead and the sinking evening sun illuminated everything.  Magic.

On the 31st I went wine tasting at Arlingtons Brasserie in Ipswich. We tried out a range of whites and reds and were talked through the differences before guessing the grape type and country of origin in two blind tastings. It was fascinating to hear how the subtle variations in taste are created, and how to recognise where a wine comes from just from its smell.  I’d definitely like to go again, but the evenings are so popular they’re getting booked up two months in advance!

Last weekend was the annual Oyster Fayre in Colchester: a medieval fair featuring falconry, knights battling in the tourney ring, a weekend long archery competition, and more stalls, musicians and performers than you could shake a knight’s lance at.  The weather held out, I tried oysters for the first time (not too bad- salty seafood), ogled at very pretty weaponry and acquired a mild sunburn.  A brilliant day out.

The weather turned on its head for Sunday, where I helped alongside Rotaract at a fete in aid of Children of Pulilian.  Despite the endless rain we sold plenty of raffle tickets, and I got a good look around the abandoned St Clements Hospital site.  I love abandoned and decaying buildings, so I’ll have to get back there with a camera someday.

Finally, this Saturday I attended a bookbinding course in Cambridge, but that was rather special and deserves its own post.  So that just leaves this afternoon’s archery session, and I’m up to date (for the moment at least!)

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3 thoughts on “Chocolates, Oysters, and Running Around in the Woods

  1. Wow how busy you are! I’m glad you have discovered “real” orienteering, though the Forest version sounds rather fun – if frustrating. My only experience of “real” orienteering (as opposed to practices), was when my Friend’s dad took us along with him, to an event he was taking part in. We were duly given our map and set off… toddling along and enjoying the view, taking a rest when tired, settling down by a hedge for a snack and a cup of hot chocolate…. arriving back at the finishing point, happy and smiling because we’d finished the course…
    Only to discover that, in fact, it was some sort of race; that we were supposed to have run the course (Run? we didn’t Run – well not unless we were late for dinner, in which case, it was worth doing, since the friend’s mum was a bit fierce about being late for meals!). Sooooo… Friend’s dad was not impressed. Actually, I don’t blame him now, as I understand how worried he must have been – his daughter and her friend, apparently lost somewhere in the fields and woods… At the time, we had no understanding of this concept. We’d had fun. We’d finished the course (in our own time, but it had been fun). We thought we’d done ok… So, we heard about it all the way home; I was never invited again and I don’t think Friend was ever taken along again either!
    I’m sure you are far more clued up about the whole point of an orienteering day!

    Archery this afternoon, after yesterday’s demanding bookbinding workshop… hum.. you must be fit and healthy, as I couldn’t have done that! Mind you, I have managed a fair bit of housework, caught up with 4 loads of laundry, been over to make my mum’s lunch and do some jobs for her (she’s poorly), cook dinner…. I think I was busy enough today!

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving some nice comments. Yes, I’m delighted that you have decided to follow my blog. Visit as often as you like, tell your friends – the more the merrier!

  2. I was pretty worn out after the archery, to be honest. It looks simple, but there’s so many variables to try and focus on, all in the split second before you release the string: wind direction, finger position, breathing, back straight, shoulders back, elbows at the right angles, remember to roll the hand back on release, don’t hold the bow too tight… after all that, aiming almost seemed an extra tagged on the end!

    I’ve jogged around one orienteering course, but almost every time I’ve been so far there have been new people in our group to instruct as we go: a handy excuse for not running all the way!

    Finally got my post about the course up. I’m falling behind with this blogging lark already!

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