Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Things to do before you’re 40

on November 2, 2014

It’s my 40th birthday in December, as I’ve mentioned before, and obviously it’s an important event.  Unlike some people, I’m not unhappy about it (a school friend recently posted on Facebook that she was “drowning her sorrows” in the face of turning 40!) and do want to mark the occasion, but maybe not in the “bucket” list (how I detest that term!), once in a lifetime experiences you see suggested on the internet, like doing Machu Picchu or swimming with dolphins.

Whilst  I haven’t had an official list of Things I Must Do Before The Big Day, I’ve made a couple of significant (to me) achievements.  The first is that I have now attended concerts of the whole of Wagner’s Ring cycle. My best uni friend and I have been meeting up once a year in Salford Quays for the last four years to see Opera North perform the Prologue and Trilogy of  operas that make up the sequence. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we first started but we’ve both really enjoyed the experience and feel that it’s a suitable induction into Real Adulthood!

The performances are different from what you would usually get in an opera, as they’re in a concert setting as opposed to a fully staged setting, meaning that the singers are not in costume (although sometimes they wore something to give a clue to their character or to use as a prop, such as a red handkerchief which would be pulled out of a pocket if the character was killed) and stand or sit at the front of the stage, rather than acting, and also with the use of a video display behind the performers which added extra atmosphere, with footage of water or fire or trees, etc, depending on the scenery.  This display also shows some narrative text, to keep the audience following the story (in the absence of any real acting) and all the surtitles to translate the German into English.  I really liked this setting and found it helpful, as well as enjoying seeing the orchestra on stage with the singers (although it was sometimes a bit of a squash, especially in Götterdämmerung when a 50-person choir was also required!).

For each performance we both found that it took a while to “get into” the story and the music, but that after about 20 minutes or so we became more immersed in it.  One performer we really admired was Mati Turi, an Estonian who played Siegfried in both Siegfried and Götterdämmerung.  He was so involved in his character and his face showed such life and feeling it was hard ever to look away, even to read the surtitles!  I was really pleased that he returned for the final opera, as he hadn’t been going to but the original choice pulled out, and it really made the night for me.

It’s been so much fun having our little weekends away that my friend and I plan to carry on having them, and are now looking for ideas of what to do or see next!

My second achievement is to have visited all six branches of Bettys. Bettys Café Tea Rooms are a Yorkshire-based company started in the early 20th century and have retained their Edwardian atmosphere and standards. It’s always a real treat to go there, which is why I’m having my birthday celebration there in a few weeks. That will be at the larger York branch, my favourite Bettys, but I realised a little while ago that there were several I hadn’t visited. Southern Daddy took me to the original Harrogate branch on a day out when we were newly-married, and growing up I used to go quite often to York with my family. I finally visited the Ilkley branch a couple of years ago (that’s a particularly lovely place, especially if you can get a table with a view out of the window), which left three.

Southern Daddy and I called into Northallerton after dropping the girls off at camp this summer. We were lucky to find only one family queuing ahead of us – I don’t know if this is usual here but it’s certainly a change from the hour + waits you can expect in York and Harrogate! Northallerton Bettys won the Tea Guild’s “Top Tea Place” award in 2012 and it’s certainly a great place. It has the feel of a Georgian summer house or garden room, older in style than some of the other branches, and it felt very relaxed despite being full and busy to the extent that they had run out of scones!

The next branch we tried was at RHS garden Harlow Carr just outside Harrogate, at the end of August. We were returning from a weekend at my sister’s on the Bank Holiday Monday and decided to make the detour for tea. When we arrived, later than we’d hoped, we wondered if we’d be able to get in as it was less than an hour to closing, but actually we were seated with no queuing (!!) and treated as if everyone had all the time in the world, finally leaving a full 20 minutes after the stated closing time. In the busy world we inhabit, where everyone has something else to do and even National Trust café staff are putting chairs on tables around you if you outstay your welcome, this was a real pleasure. My only disappointment was that we didn’t have time to make our usual visit to the shop for take-home goodies, because it was closed by then, of course.

Finally, we visited Bettys of Stonegate, York (formerly known as “Little Bettys”). This week just gone was the half term holiday for us and, after another visit to my sister’s to see our Gran on her 90th birthday, we had an afternoon out in York, taking in a bit of shopping and a trip to the Treasurer’s House, too.  We decided we’d try and get lunch in Bettys, so we joined the queue for about half an hour before being shown to our table.  This branch has its tearoom upstairs and shop downstairs, and it has a very quaint and cosy feel to it.  We chose sandwiches and tea, and afterwards viewed the cake trolley to select something for our dessert.  It’s not cheap but it’s definitely a lovely treat and worth the wait.

I have had other ideas for things to do before I’m 40, such as watching a film I’ve never seen for every year of my life, but I just haven’t had the time!  I have exactly 5 weeks to go now, so I’m open to suggestions if you have an idea I could do quickly!

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