50 things I have learned as I turn 50

Next month I turn 50.  A whole half a century.  In a summer that saw Woodstock and moon landings yours truly arrived into the world in a hospital in Roehampton.   It was the summer that Bryan Adams would go on to sing about and as he was buying his first real six string in a five and dime, playing it til his fingers bled, my parents were working out how to look after me whilst also working four jobs between them and living in a basement flat in Wimbledon.

Alot has changed since then, the world is a very different place, my parents are no longer living in a flat with no bathroom, and my bedroom is no longer the bottom drawer from a chest of them.   Far from it.   So what have I learned in those fifty years?  It would seem quite a lot, some of it even useful.

I decided to start this off by asking Mr B what the greatest life lesson was that he had ever learned and he shared with this with me

I once missed the bus and was paranoid about being late so I decided to get a taxi, spending all the money I had for the day out on just getting there. When I arrived I discovered I was the first person there.  From then on I decided that I just couldn’t be arsed to worry about being late.

I must admit that I thought the same as I watched people running up escalators in London this week.  What could you possibly be doing with the 45 seconds you save when you run up rather than letting the escalator do all the hard work?    Enjoy a minute of moving slowly, take stop, breathe deeply (okay don’t do this if you are standing next to somebody sweaty on the underground) and stop rushing.

My other 49 snippets of advice / life lessons / life philosophy / random learned facts are as follows:

  1. Life is too short to iron fitted sheets
  2. You will always regret what you didn’t do rather than what you did.
  3. Never make someone a priority if to them you are just an option
  4. You are so much more than the sum of your flaws
  5. Sleep is always a good option
  6. Whenever you travel take an extension cable with you so you can plug four things into it and only need one adaptor
  7. The expiry date on crisps is always a Saturday
  8. The expiry date on drugs is always on the end of the box that has the instructions / side effects notice folded into
  9. The tick under the Amazon logo points from A to Z ( I will wait for you to go check and then come back)
  10. Facetious has all the vowels in the right order.
  11. To work our multiples of nine put down the finger that relates to multiple you want to find, this then acts as a separator.  So 4 multiplied by 9 (put down your ring finger on your left hand with all ten digits upward) and you get 36: three fingers one side, six the other.
  12. Life is too short to make your own pasta.
  13. Never be tempted to cut your own, or a child’s, hair unless qualified
  14. There is never a need to wear uncomfortable pants
  15. Ladies, spend as much as you can on bras.  And never tumble dry them
  16. Iron T-shirts with logos on them inside out so you don’t melt the design on them with the heat
  17. And never iron naked.  Seriously.  Just don’t
  18. Nor an item of clothing you are already wearing, thinking it will only be quick.  It won’t.  Yes, you’ll flatten the collar but you’ll also burn yourself.
  19. Smelly candles are not decorations and to be hoarded.  They are to be burned.
  20. See also expensive wine.  It wasn’t made to be left in a cellar.  If you can afford to buy it, drink it.   It is why the producer made it.
  21. Tell people you love them.  Often.
  22. Know that you can say no.
  23. Friendships can develop from the most unlikely of places, especially the internet.  Those friendships are real.
  24. Be vulnerable.  There is nothing to be gained from always being the strong one.
  25. Similarly let your children see you cry.  It is okay to be upset.   And good for children to understand that you can be happy again.
  26. Don’t say “It’ll be fine” when a friend tells you they are worried about something medical.  You don’t know that for certain.  It might not be.
  27. Be open to new ideas.  Some of the best things I have done have started with me saying “there is no way I am doing that”.
  28. When you meet someone for the first time, look at their shoes.  You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes.
  29. The cooking time on oven chips is always a lie.   It is at least 20 minutes longer than stated.
  30. When you chink glasses and say “cheers” look into that person’s eyes
  31. Use scissors to cut pizza
  32. Use a teaspoon to eat kiwi, think boiled egg, dont bother trying to peel it.
  33. When packing, include underwear and an outfit change just in case your suitcase gets lost en route.
  34. And wear sensible shoes when flying, London to New York might both be 20 degrees but if your flight has to stop over unexpectedly in Reykjavik and you’re in flip flops, you’ll regret it.
  35. Peel ginger by scraping it with the edge of a teaspoon.  Much quicker
  36. If you regularly wear a bra and are going away for the weekend, or even just one night, take a spare one with you.  Don’t go away without back up because three hours in you can guarantee that is when the one bra you have will decide it is time for the bone to stick into your armpit and beg to be removed.  Don’t ask me how I know this.
  37. When you watch fireworks, lie on the ground and look up.  Don’t crane your neck and stare up.  If you are going to an organised event, take a waterproof backed rug and find a spot away from the crowd to lie down.
  38. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear was not written by my parents especially for me.  Who knew?  Not me until I was 35.
  39. If you go to France for the day on the ferry, be sure to double check the timings and allow for the hour time difference.  Or you could end up being in France for 90 minutes.
  40. Always have a journey wee.  Regardless of the length of the journey.
  41. Always pack a portable charger for your phone, and the charger for your laptop, you never know if you might be delayed / have a change of plans and your battery will never deplete quicker than when you really really need it to stay above 20%
  42. Read a newspaper everyday, or follow news agencies on Twitter.  It is good to know what is happening the world.
  43. There is absolutely no need to preheat an oven.  It is a myth perpetuated by energy companies
  44. Ditto the instruction to “repeat” on shampoo.  You don’t need to at all, it’s a marketing ploy.
  45. If you are ever lucky enough to own a convertible car be aware that all of your senses will be assaulted when you drive through the countryside.   Especially near dairy farms.
  46. Take more photos of friends and family, of people in general.
  47. Don’t put things off for a rainy day.  That rainy day might never arrive.  If you can, do them now.
  48. Travel doesnt have to be far away.  How many of us haven’t explored the town 20 miles away or been to the National Trust house down the road?  The great Simon Calder once said “start in your own back yard”.
  49. Always have fresh flowers, even if it is from the discounted bin at the end of the day, or just a single bloom.  There is something gorgeous about having fresh flowers in a vase, or one stem in a jar that is incredibly satisfying, and almost luxurious.
  50. This isn’t a dress rehearsal, my motto is that we have one life, live it.

Here’s to the next 50 years!



Image of 50th Birthday cake courtesy of Shutterstock

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