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Welcome to the blog of the NeverTooLate Girl.

With the aim to try out, write about and rate the things that people say they'd like to do but haven't quite gotten around to, this website gives you the real and often humourous inside gen on whether it's really worth it.

Read about it,think about it, do it.

 The Top 20 Never Too Late List

  1. Learn to fly - RATED 4/5.
  2. Learn to shoot - RATED 4/5.
  3. Have a personal shopper day.
  4. Attend carols at Kings College Chapel on Christmas Eve - RATED 2.5/5.
  5. Have a date with a toy boy.
  6. Do a sky dive.
  7. Eat at The Ivy - RATED 4/5.
  8. Drive a Lamborgini.
  9. Climb a mountain - CURRENT CHALLENGE.
  10. Have a spa break - RATED 4.5/5.
  11. See the Northern Lights.
  12. Get a detox RATED 4/5.
  13. Read War & Peace - RATED 1/5.
  14. Go on a demonstration for something you believe in.
  15. Attend a Premier in Leicester Square.
  16. Go to Royal Ascot.
  17. Buy a Harley Davidson - RATED 5/5
  18. Study for a PhD - RATED 4/5.
  19. Visit Cuba - RATED 4/5.
  20. Be a medical volunteer overseas - RATED 3/5. 



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Dusk and sunset

Shots of dusk and sunset over Nevill Holt in Leicestershire are on the gallery.


Getting to the point; going Ga Ga; seeing A at the BBC

I am sitting in Oblix Restaurant on the 32nd floor of London’s Shard having lunch.  It’s Friday afternoon and the City boys on the table next to me are demob happy.  They have cast off their expensive suit jackets, loosened the top buttons on their shirts and though they sit only a table width away are yelling conversation at each other.  But rather than detracting from, it only adds to the sense of atmosphere and buzz and energy that whips around the space.  It’s all very informal.

I am up in London with two objectives, firstly to have a tour of Google Campus which is situated down a narrow street near to Old Street tube and then, this evening, to go to the BBC to see Alexander McCall Smith record a radio show for Channel 4.  And between those two events I have time to do as I will.  The Shard is a recent entry on my nevertoolate list and after an aborted attempt earlier in the year to get there, this time, a bright winters day and clear visibility provides a top opportunity to see it at its best. I haven’t bothered to book.  I figure I will turn up and take the chance I can get a ticket.  The Shard is the tallest building in the EU, though these days it’s a long way off being the tallest building in the world.  It strikes a confident pose amongst the plethora of skyscrapers springing up around London. As I come into Town on the train from Leicestershire I see its silhouette on the horizon before I notice anything else. 

The London Shard has three restaurants – the oblix ( which takes its inspiration from New York’s rooftop grills; Aquashard ( which offers contemporary British cuisine; and Hutong ( which serves Northern Chinese food.  I select Oblix for three reasons: one, I have not been long back from New York and tried my share of New York grill restaurants so am keen to compare, two: I don’t like eating Chinese food at lunchtime and, three: aquashard is eye-wateringly expensive.  Oblix isn’t cheap by any stretch but at least, if you select from the menu carefully, you can leave without reeling from the shock to your wallet.

I am seated at my table at Oblix just after two o’clock and it’s mostly full.  To get to the restaurant you are led through the kitchen - though not the real kitchen – that would involve seeing grimy plongeurs working for the minimum wage, and greasy pans waiting to be washed. But instead through the parts of the kitchen which have fresh, colourful ingredients liberally strewn around and young, handsome chefs with a ready smile.  At first I think it’s a bit of a gimmick but then I realise it’s a decoy to distract you from the aspect that makes this restaurant fabulous – the view.  Having been successfully distracted as is the purpose (by the interesting ingredients, you understand, not the handsome young men) I focus once more on where the waiter is leading me and as I take the last turn to where my table is set, the full force of the view hits me.  It is spectacular.

London lays three hundred and fifty-feet below you and your eye takes in first the nearest point of St Pauls Cathedral then is drawn to the Post Office Tower in the mid-distance and then out, out, out, far out to the horizon beyond.  The website says that on a clear day you can see forty miles away.  I can believe it.  And, as I am settling into my seat and perusing the menu, the two tables in front of me finish and leave and I left with an unfettered view, a view all to myself, to draw me in and make me dizzy with delight, for over ten minutes.  Then new diners arrive and the view, though still breath-taking, is partly obscured. I am so taken by the view and am so absorbed in identifying well-known and then less-known sights and of watching boats, tiny from this height, push their way against the current in the direction of Greenwich, I don’t at first hear the waiter ask what I would like to drink and if I would like to order. A breadboard with Ciabatta bread has been placed in front of me and I didn’t even notice.  I am dining out again this evening so I order carefully, selecting the lightest dishes.  Roasted beets with goats cheese curd to start and roasted Eggplant for main.  I sit and eat and gaze, and sip my wine and gaze some more.  And slowly, as the afternoon wears on, the bright winter sun which has up until this point brushed a gentle golden wash across the landscape drops behind a cloud on the horizon and the London that I see before me begins to turn to a flat cold grey.  Looking at my watch I realise time is passing and I want to get up to the viewing platform on the sixty-ninth floor before daylight disappears completely.  The Oblix has become my top restaurant- with-a-view in London.  It trumps the Oxo Tower, the Tate Modern and even the Champagne bar at Tower 42. 

To get to The View as the viewing platform is known ( you have to go back down to street level, wander again towards Tower Bridge station and then in through a separate door.  You take a lift up to the ticket hall, select your preferred time-slot (I just took the next one available) and then take another lift up to the sixty-ninth floor.  The ticket costs a hefty thirty quid.  Twenty-five years ago (more or less) I went up the Eiffel Tower in Paris for the first time and I can remember the experience vividly.  It was early afternoon, it was early spring and I had queued sometime for the ticket.  I had climbed the steps to the first platform and then taken one of the elevators up the leg of the structure to the second platform.  At this point I was already nervous. Getting into the final elevator up to the third platform and to the open-air observation deck beyond took a force of will.  When the elevator stopped at the top I lingered until I could linger no more and then, holding the wall for support, slowly shuffled out onto the deck.  I felt sick with fear.  With my back close to the wall I fought to tear my eyes away from my feet and outwards to the chain-link fence which (then, probably not now) enclosed the platform, and then to the expanse beyond.  Holding the wall for comfort, by degrees I inched my way around.  Having made one circuit and pushing myself to look outwards and downwards one last time, I fled back into the lift.  I still feel a bit of unease when I am on the top of very high structures but nothing quite like I felt that first time on the Eiffel Tower.  The Shard, by comparison, didn’t move me a bit.  Perhaps it’s because I know London so well and because I have always sought out London bars and restaurants with a view, and because I had drunk in the view from the Oblix on the 32nd floor already, but the view from the official observation desks didn’t stir me at all.  I wandered around for ten minutes or so and then left.  My suggestion is that is you’ve some cash to splurge have lunch (or dinner) at the Oblix and take your time to enjoy the view from there.  Or, grab a seat in the bar on the 31st floor and all it will cost you is the price of a glass of something.  Would I recommend just doing The View?  Probably not.

Time was pressing on and I needed to be at BBC Broadcasting House where I was seeing Alexander McCall Smith and guests recording a show for radio 4.  Stepping out of the tube at Oxford Circus and glancing up Regents Street I stand for a moment and admire the Christmas Lights.  I have made good time and heading down Langham Place I realise I have half an hour to kill and so head for the Langham Hotel to have a cup of coffee and read the paper.  As I walk up the steps to the hotel I am surrounded by press and photographers and there is a large crowd of people beginning to form.  I stop and ask someone what is happening.  “Lady Gallagher” is here she says.  I muse on this for a moment and wonder why Lady Gallagher, who I think might be a member of the government, is attracting so much attention.  I consider whether there has been a scandal.  But the pitch of the pack is picking up and it’s getting a little fractious as people are forced behind crowd control barriers.  A large black minibus with darkened windows arrives and parks.  I look at it curiously.  Then, through the doors of the hotel steps a slight woman, stooping as she walks, her face partly obscured by a large hat which flops down around her ears.  Her clothes hang off her thin shoulders.  As she passes me I make out splashes of bright colour streaked across her face.  She looks like a walking work of art.  I realise it isn’t Lady Gallagher the crowd are waiting for, but Lady Gaga.  As she walks down the steps and onto the pavement people in the crowd begin to scream and surge forward.  The intensity surprises me and I step to the side of the hotel doorway and take refuge behind a stone column.  I watch fascinated as people press against the barriers, struggling to get closer.  Mobile phones and tablets invade the air, intent on getting a snap. When someone side-steps the barriers and moves towards her the crowd bay and scream for them to move back.  It’s really is scary stuff.  Gaga signs autographs, has pictures taken, shakes hands.  People seem triumphant if she has touched their hand, or smiled at them.   There is an almost religious fervour.  After a few minutes she steps into the mini bus which drives off with dozens of people running behind trying to keep up and shouting her name.  I hate the feel of what has just happened.  Fame, I figure, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

Later, in the café at the BBC which is calm and quiet and tranquil, I sit and look out of the window and across the road to the Langham which is quiet now save for a few photographers and some hard-core fans, waiting for Lady Gaga’s return.  In the radio theatre I get a seat in the second row and as I wait for the show to begin, I reflect on the fact that the person I am about to see is a different kind of famous and the people in the audience of a very different type.  Alexander McCall Smith’s show is a selection of anecdotes about his life which are warm and witty and thoughtful and which are interspersed with short readings of poetry and literature which have acted as placeholders in his life.  It’s pleasant and comfortable and safe.  It is in utter contrast to the uniqueness that is Lady Gaga.   

After the show I meet a chum for dinner at Ozer Restaurant ( which is only a step away from the BBC.  It’s Friday evening and the place is jammed.   Though we have booked a table we have to wait quite some time but I don’t mind as the place is lively and buzzing and my friend and I have much to catch up on and talk about.  It’s been a full and very interesting day and as I take my seat on the late train I think about how life is made up of all these different and interesting and exciting experiences.  I think for a few minutes about whether I would rather be AMS or Lady Gaga and decide I am glad I am not either.


Going round in circles; concentrating hard; not enough hours in the day.

Lying in bed, watching the grey winter light slowly filter through the gap in the curtains I remember the heating is turned off.  I can feel the chill of the early morning air rest heavily on my arm as I pull it slowly from the protection of the bed covers and rest it on top. The hotwater bottle still has the last vestiges of warmth and I dig my toes into it.  It’s another early start and through the window which is ajar, I hear the sound of a solitary black bird, signalling its presence and establishing its territory.

It’s difficult to remember what day it is.  The days and weeks rush by in a kaleidoscope of impressions and experiences and activity.  Each day has a tendency to merge into the next.  But, for all the early starts and late finishes, there is a sense of achievement and progress.  Taking abstract and theoretical knowledge and ideas gathered over the last few years and crafting them into a tangible output has some practical value and is a rewarding way to pass one’s time and to earn one’s money.  But I am aware of how ‘green’ I am in some areas. I think it was Aristotle who said, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”.

A trip to Cranfield to meet one of the academic directors who I have, until now, only exchanged emails with proves to be an interesting and useful meeting.  There is an invitation to submit a paper to his journal.  After the meeting I wander around the campus for a bit, getting a sense of scale and stature and imagining what it might be like to work there.   I compare it to Warwick and Cambridge and Bristol campuses where I have also been spending some time and then go on to compare it to UCLA, Berkeley and Harvard.  So many different places, so many different opportunities.  So many different prospective futures.  It’s a bit like an academic career equivalent of the 1998 film Sliding Doors.  And if things are hectic on the work front, they are just as hectic on the social front.  An Old Girl’s reunion and a chance to catch up with school friends, supper parties with friends which are full of fun, laughter and surprising conversations.  Another rowing lesson where, once again, I manage to remain upright and will progress, next week, to a proper racing scull.  This week we learned how to begin to manoeuvre our boat on the spot. It feels almost impossible at first, but with lots of concentration and a logical approach to the problem I eventually work it out.  Never have I been so happy as to learn how to go around in circles.     

Slightly slower progress for the new greetings card business and the Everest preparation because there has been so much to think about over the last few weeks and so many other priorities.  But my photos are given a confidence-building nod by a professional photographer who also inspires me to hold an exhibition of my work so I am looking into the cost of hiring one of the rooms at Stamford Arts Centre.  I also find, out of the blue, that I am to be made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  And, in amongst everything that is happening, I am thinking about my next nevertoolate challenge in the short-term – attempting the Olympic bob-sled run in Lillehammer, Norway.      


Making headway; maintaining a line; dashing off.

On the water this time the scull reacts more willingly to my direction.  I manage to navigate the four sides of a square around the bottom end of the rowing lake without finding myself drifting into and stuck in the far corner like last week, surrounded and swamped by duck weed.  Likewise I find that I am bumping into the other boats less frequently. Getting out of the boat too is marginally more dignified.  This time I don't have to haul myself out onto the mooring on my knees, staggering like some ungainly colt to my feet.  Instead I situate the blades to balance me, take them in one hand, place my free hand on the rim of the boat behind me and with only a little wobble, stand up and step onto the side. It's one step more towards becoming a proper rower. Back in the boat a little bit later I am told I am ready to row up the lake to the 250 meter mark. There are still moments when the boat pitches sharply and I catch my breath, nervous that the stabilisers won't protect me from a roll, but slowly I am able to knit more and more strokes together that maintain a line and create a sense that I am controlling the boat, rather than it controlling me. I am sorry to have to leave the lesson early to dash over to Loughborough where I am swimming in an inter-counties competition but I look forward to next weeks lesson and the opportunity to row the whole thousand meter length of the rowing lake.     

Lessons learned from rowing lesson 2:

1. The boats might feel like they are magnetic but they are not.  Once you start to get a hand of things all the boats don't end up in a big clump together.

2. Turning 90 degrees to get out of the way of other boats becomes much easier.

3. Keeping your arms straight is key to going in a straight line and getting some speed up.

4. It's possible to get out of the boat without everyone falling about laughing as they watch.

5. It's possible to string a few good strokes together before it all goes to pot again.

6. Becoming more accomplished in the training scull leads to the stabilisers coming off.  Gulp.

7. The stabilisers coming off often runs in parallel with making too close an acquaintance with the surface of the water.  Double gulp.



Worst case scenario; my bottoms too big; is this body mine?  

It looked, and felt, like I was intending to be away for week whereas, in reality, it was only going to be one night.  But being new to rowing I had planned for the worst case scenario and was packing for a capsized scull on a cold November day and an associated loss of feeling in all extremities.  So, the bags I saw before me were 1. A change of clothes for an anticipated soaking ; 2. Clothing suitable for a later foray into town to buy…..  3: A new outfit for a dinner party out in the evening.  And I had pushed the boat out (pun intended) by booking a room in a nice hotel so that I could pamper myself (aka picking bits of duck weed out of my hair and having a long hot bath to get some feeling back into my fingers) before I slipped into the new dress and high heels I fully expected to purchase. Then I would be heading out for pre-dinner drinks and supper.    

I had left the house, having loaded up the overnight bags plus my greeting card samples, proofs and laptop, plus my camera which these days goes everywhere with me, pulling out of the drive and starting the forty minute or so journey to the rowing club.  Turning up the heater in the car to try and dispel the early morning chill, I thought about the next few hours.  I’d signed up to the rowing course partly to try a sport I had been interested in for some time and also as something to motivate me to greater levels of fitness.  I’d never been in a scull before and had no idea what to expect. What I did know is that my friend had tried a similar course and, once the stabilisers were taken off the boat, had spent most of her time upside down in the water.  By week four she had given up.  I mused on this as I pulled into the car park at the rowing club.  It was just beginning to rain.   

Dodging the pointy ends of the boats I made my way through the boathouse and into the members lounge where a group of ten or so other would-be rowers were seated in a vague circle around a low table at which Pete, our coach for the next ten weeks was sat.  Introductions over, he took us into the gym and talked through his session plan for the next couple of hours.    Warmed up on the rowing machines, with a theoretical understanding of how to scull and with some on –land practice we were let loose on the water.  I was hopeless.

Sculling (because that is what it’s called when you are in a very narrow boat which is only just big enough for your bottom to fit into, have two blades, and you are all by yourself) for the first time is a bit like regressing back to the point where, as a baby, you are learning what your arms and legs are meant for. You are kind of aware that you have them, you instinctively know that they are meant to be useful, but, for the love of God, you can’t get them to do what you want. 

Lessons from the rowing course week 1:

a. Your bottom only just fits in the boat.

b. If the stabilisers were not on, you know, beyond doubt, you would be upside down with your head gently grazing the bottom of the rowing lake and a somewhat surprised look on your face.

c. You are somehow magnetically drawn to every other novice boat on the water and you all end up clustered together in a little group which none of you then can escape from.

d. If you don’t hit the other boats then you hit the shoreline and can’t get away from that either.

e. The stroke you think will take you forward takes you backwards.

f. The stroke you think will take your backwards takes you forward.  

g. Going around corners is hard.

h. Getting out of the scull without falling in the water involves crawling on your hands and knees and is even more undignified than getting into it.

i. The coaches try their best not to laugh.

The next morning, with the effects of the dinner-party wine beginning to wear off, my body creaks in protest as I throw back the covers and lever myself out of bed.  I sigh deeply.