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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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Entries in never to late list (21)


Finland Wilderness Training - New Year's Day, part 1.

At 08:20 my alarm goes off and at nine o’clock I am still prone and moderately anaesthetized by the two shots of tar schnapps I had last night.  Once again I am glad of the instruction not to wash in the mornings which I am finding increasingly appealing. No washing and no make-up makes for a very easy life and when I see my reflection in the mirror over the sink in the tiny wet room I hardly recognize myself which is strangely liberating.  In fact, I look a bit like Tilda Swinton.

The husky drive isn’t until this afternoon but I start to think about what I might need and so spend a few minutes pottering around and organizing my kit.  By the time I have finished my bed is covered and so is most of the floor.  I can’t believe I will really need this many layers and so I select some to wear and stick the others in my backpack.  As I walk across camp I notice that the sky seems brighter and the view to the other side of the lake is clearer.

It’s only about 35 minutes in the minibus to where we pick up our husky teams and quite soon we turn down a narrow road which leads to a small clearing in the pine trees where the minibus stops.  There is an open sided teepee where a log fire glimmers in the fading light and the smell of mulled berry juice drifts across to us.  The teams of dogs are already tied into their harnesses which in turn are tied into the sleds which are each securely tied to a tree.  No anchor and the dogs would be off.   Right now, between runs, they are lying or sitting and generally chilling, both figuratively and literally.  But at the sight of us something seems to switch in the heads and they rise to their feet and begin to pull.  Like I said, good job they are anchored.

I am directed to my sled and told to stand on the back balancing myself one foot on each narrow runner.  My feet feel cramped in two pairs of socks and in two pairs of gloves it’s difficult to wrap my hands securely around the handle.  The husky guides begin to move down the line to their sleds at the front and the back of the convoy and the dogs,  anticipating the run, leap to their feet and bound forward straining at their tack.  Just this movement throws me off balance and I feel a foot slip from the runner.  The rope tied to the tree strains.  I am second in line and directly behind the guide.  “Put both feet on the brake” she says, “and hold-on”. The brake is a rudimentary hard plastic flap that spans the runners and attaches to a series of metal teeth which when the brake is depressed bite into the snow and slow or stop the sled.  As I put both of my feet on the brake the rope for my sled is unleashed from the tree and the dogs, yowling loudly, surge forward and head off.  If I bend at the waist and lean my weight completely over the handle and pull upwards with both hands at the same time, I can just about put enough weight on the brake to slow the team down.  I practice slowing and stopping a few times to get a sense of control and are slightly perturbed by the fact that when I do this, the dogs, still running, turn around and look at me. “What the hell are you doing” their expression clearly conveys.

We are racing down the track a few minutes later, hugged by trees so covered in snow they look like sculptures and I feel like I am in Narnia. I also wonder if I have whiplash.

See the husky photos on the gallery 


Finland Wilderness Training, Day 2, Part 2 - New Years Eve and contemplation of the year ahead

It’s a very simple existence at base camp.  There is typically only one organized activity a day and the rest of the time is reserved for individually practicing the skills we have learnt or taking advantage of the wellness facilities of hot tub and sauna which this week are surprisingly underutilized. During my daily pilgrimage across camp from cabin to spa only once or twice do I have company.   Once I have grappled with the heavily insulated cover a few times I work out a way to manhandle it from the top of the hot tub without losing more than one nail or taking a hard clout on the leg. Then I slip off my clothes down to my swimsuit and can instantly feel the freezing air begin to cling to the moisture on my skin. Hopping up the couple of steps to the rim I balance on the edge and swing my legs over and slip slowly into the steaming water taking my time and enjoying the sensation of heat slowly working its way up my body. With my head leant against the wooden rim I enjoy the peace and the tranquility and lie gazing into the darkness of the trees, watching the vapor slowly rise.  It drifts, drawn gently into the chilly darkness, until it disappears like some arctic ghost.

This morning we walked to the mill, a two story wooden cabin perched upon a corner of the river on one of the more difficult sections of the summer whitewater rafting course (see images ten and eleven on the gallery).   The wood has weathered to a dull grayness over the years and some of the people that have visited have carved their names deep into its planks.  I trace my fingers in the grooves where Liisa and Jouke and Hanna have left their marks and for a moment I stand and wonder about them and where they are now.  The cabin is still used as a boffy in the summer and I can imagine how different the place must look without its cloak of snow which softens and anonymises the surrounding features.  As I walk back to the camp I run my hands across the bark of the trees and stand for a moment, alone.  Despite the sound of the rushing water of the river behind me, it feels strangely still.

The afternoon is free time and there are several options, one is to walk the Little Bear Trial which is a 12 kilometer sub trail of the much longer 80 kilometer Karhunkierros (Bear's Ring) Trail or to go snow-shoeing across the frozen lake or cross –country skiing.  There is the option too, of just settling in to read a book.  One of the features of Basecamp is that there is no internet access or Wi-Fi so there is consequently no temptation to sit in front of a screen for the afternoon though it would have made writing up this blog much more ‘in the moment’.  With a smart-phone one is not entirely insulated from the wider world and the signal here, out in the middle of a national park and only 25 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle is better than the one I get at home.  One of my only criticisms about Basecamp is its lack of an informal social area.  There are no sofas to collapse on in front of the fire and no easy chairs to curl up in and watch the snow falling outside.  The only gathering area is the dining room which has a long row of tables either side of a central block where the food and hot drinks are served.  People meet here to chat or play board games but it lacks the kind of layout that would make socializing between meals much easier.

Lunch is ready when we get back from the mill.  It is nearly always soup and there are always two options; one which is gluten and diary free and the other for people with a common or garden digestive system like me.  The food is straight forward but consistently good and it’s been very easy to grow accustomed to and begin to enjoy the traditional dense black bread that is served alongside the more convention white sliced.   After a few hours out in the cold, coming into the warm of the dining room is like being embraced by a lover – cheeks tingle and flush as the blood rushes quickly to your head. 

The light begins to fade at 2.15 in the afternoon but it doesn’t stop a sledging competition. The sledges are erratic and difficult to control but this just adds to the laughter as one after another we attempt the down-hill course.  The snow sprays up into your face and into your mouth and down your sleeves and at the bottom it’s usual to end up in a heap beneath the sledge in a tangle of arms and legs.  Trudging back up the slope, dragging our sledges behind us we spur the others on.  As I wait in line for my turn I remember it is New Year’s Eve and that tomorrow a whole new year begins.    

We are thrown out of the restaurant as they set up for the NYE dinner because chef has prepared a special meal and they are paying more attention than usual to setting up the tables.   Instead we stand in reception and talk about what we’ve done that day and what we have planned for the next.  The bar is open and the drinks list is interesting.  Having not had alcohol for three days since my travel sickness episode I figure NYE is as good a time as any to get back off the wagon.  I opt, firstly, for a long drink so I have a Long Drink.  That’s right - this refreshing aperitif made of sparkling grape juice and gin is called somewhat unimaginatively, if precisely, Long Drink.  It was created as an official drink of the Helsinki Olympic Games of 1952 and so, in an effort at a bit of entente cordiale, I try a couple and mentally award it a gold medal.  I’ve read about Tar Schnapps, another Finnish specialty, but decide to attempt it post dinner.  I get the feeling that Tar Schnapps might be the spirit version of the three minute knock-out in boxing.

Dinner is cheery and full of chatter but we have finished by eight o’clock and midnight seems very far away.  I lean back in my chair and close my eyes which feel dry and gritty and realize I am very tired.  For a moment I feel depressed and contemplate going to bed and not worrying about making midnight and seeing the New Year in.    There is no background music and nobody has brought a dock for their iPods.  I turn on data roaming and locate a version of Auld Lang Syne on You Tube so at least we will have something to play at the crucial moment.  Ten minutes before midnight we begin to layer up in coats and hats and scarves and turn out onto the large balcony at the back of the building.  There is a group of about thirty of us in total and we stand there watching our breath in the air and stamping our feet and clapping our hands to keep warm. Across the lake in the small village beyond, some fireworks go off.  We watch them streaking up into the darkness and shattering into cascades of silver and gold, and red and blue and then hear the delayed bang as the sound travels over the lake to where we stand. The staff come out to join us and we are all then on the balcony counting down to midnight, some in Finnish, most in English, one in Swedish and as the hour strikes we cheer and then work our way around each other and hug and offer good wishes for the year ahead.  It is dark and the air is crisp and in the background fireworks continue to light up the sky in which feels like an homage to the missing Northern Lights.  As I linger on after everyone has retreated back into the warmth I lean on the balcony, gazing out into the darkness and sip my Tar Schnapps thinking about New Year’s Eve a year ago. I feel like I am looking at time through the wrong end of a telescope and everything seems so small and so far away but somehow it still seems to be having an impact.  I feel a bit like Janus looking both forward and backward at the same time.  But there is no point in dwelling and instead I focus my thoughts on the next twelve months, the submission of my doctoral thesis and my 50th birthday.  There will be a very special holiday and hopefully a move to Cambridge.  All in all it has to be a better year than the last one.



Finland Wilderness Training, Sunday Day 1 - Part 2

Sitting in the warmth of the minibus a couple of hours later with my head resting against the glass and having fun spotting the Christmas lights in the windows of the houses we pass, I think about the week ahead.  The last time I got involved with winter training activities it resulted in a slipped disk having been dropped (on purpose) down a steep slope on Ben Nevis with only a couple of ice axes which I was supposed to use to stop my fall.   This time though, the activities agenda was intended to be a little gentler with a bit of cross country skiing, some dog sledding and an afternoon of ice-climbing planned.  It’s a long drive to Basecamp from Oulu, three and a half hours, and by the time we get there I am desperate for the loo (again) and am feeling a rising wave of travel sickness from sitting in the back of the bus.   It is very dark and very snowy and having passed the local-to-Base camp metropolis (I josh) that is Ruka I hope we are close. If there is anything worse than being desperate for the loo for the second time in a day, it is being desperate for the loo at the same time as being desperate not to vomit.  Just as I rise from my seat ready to tap the driver on the shoulder and somehow communicate to him that I need to find a nice patch of Finnish snow to sully with the remains of that morning’s sandwich I see the welcoming sign of some lights through the trees and we turn at last into camp.  My apologies at this point to the very friendly camp staff who saw only the fleeting shape of an English who ignored their warm welcome and headed for the bathroom.  That was me.

When at last I appear, slightly more composed, I find everyone in the dining room tucking into supper.  It is the start of a regular appearance on the menu by Mr. Elk and just to make sure I like it as much as I think I do, I have seconds.   The warmth of the fire in the dining room, some good food and a glass of Loganberry squash significantly help with the return of my power of speech.

There is a small team of staff at Basecamp, usually only three or four, and who are mostly young and smile a lot.  After supper and when it is clear that the nightmare of our journey is beginning to recede, we are introduced to the itinerary for the morning which involves picking up our arctic kit and equipment before the first activity which is to head out onto the frozen lake and then up to the mill.  We are given some clear directions on things that are different when you are out for any length of time in what can be quite extreme conditions.  We are told not to shower in the mornings, not to put on face cream or even to wash our face, and not to shave (if you are a man, that is) as any moisture on exposed skin can lead to frostbite patches.  I decide being dirty but frostbite-free definitely gets my vote.  After the talk and a few minutes later, in my tiny wooden-clad cabin room, I lay in bed with the quilt up to my chin with my socks still on, yet shivering.  I put a second quilt on the bed and then get up again and pile my coat on top of it and hope to God I’m not going down with something.

See the Finland photos on the gallery.


Daily Telegraph - 'Just back' article 

It was like someone had cut a thousand tiny holes in a gown of midnight blue and set it with diamonds that glittered and pulsed in white and blue and gold.  The night sky I am looking at deep in Northern Finland arcs across the frozen lake on which I stand and envelops me every bit as keenly as the sleeping bag pulled close around my shoulders.

It is bitterly cold.  Daylight had creaked in mid-morning and left again before the afternoon was through.  Outside lights on the few buildings at base camp stayed permanently on and the sky remained deadlocked in a soft gentle greyness typical of the mid-months of winter up at the Arctic Circle.  The snow was deep and soft and lay in drifts like mounds of icy sugar into which our boots and then our legs sank and disappeared.  We worked hard to build the snow shelter in which we planned to sleep that night.  It was a week’s wilderness skills training over New Year, the eve of which we toasted with Tar Schnapps as we stood looking beyond the bank of pine-trees in which the camp is nestled and up into the night sky, searching for a glimpse of the Northern Lights. 

Now, though, I am standing alone outside the shelter having struggled to sleep.  It was not the cold:  inside the shelter it keeps a steady minus four or minus five degrees and it was not the comfort: but Midnight came and went and the minutes ground around to one a.m. and onto two a.m. and at three o’clock I knew that sleep that night if I stayed, wound into a ball there in the snowy womb, would pass me by. And so I slid down the tunnel quietly and gently so as not to wake my companions, intent on making at some haste my way back across the lake and up through the trees to my cabin.  It wasn’t the cold that froze me as I emerged but rather the stillness and the silence as I raised my face to a monochrome world hung with stars upon stars upon stars.  Stood Orion with his overbearing astral presence as he pulled back his bow and lifted his shield; the Seven Sisters were joined by half a dozen more and the Milky Way had become a strip of speckled beauty pinned onto the velvet darkness clear from one horizon to the next.

I felt the cold assaulting my face and begin the long creep up through my boots and into my bones and I knew I would have to move soon. I began to walk slowly back across the ice and through the snow, feeling it creak and give as it compacted beneath my feet.  Before I disappeared into the trees I turned and took one final look and caught the fleeting trail of a shooting star.


Nine lessons and carols at King's College Chapel on Christmas Eve, part 3

As I passed through the gateway into Kings College the porter smiled and handed me a piece of paper which gave me guidelines to queuing.  It was just after eight a.m., I had walked the three quarters of a mile to King’s Parade from where I had left my car in Richmond Road which is just far enough out of the city centre to have no parking restrictions or meters.  It was still raining, the sandwiches, flask, extra layers and other things I had considered might be useful and stuck in my rucksack were heavier than I would have liked but as I joined the end of the line and did a quick tally I reckoned I was about ninetieth in place.  I nodded and smiled to myself, proud I had crow-barred myself out of bed; with two hundred seats in front of the chancel screen and four hundred behind I might even be lucky enough to get a seat which would give me a wonderful view of the triptych and choir.   Dropping my rucksack and camping stool on the ground I contemplated the hours that stretched ahead of me and considered my plan.  At nine o’clock I would have coffee, at eleven a round of sandwiches and a trip to the loo and at midday a bar of chocolate.   I prepared for myself a little series of milestones which would help see the hours through. Steadily the line grew, my feet got cold despite the walking boots and as the rain came and went I resorted to wrapping myself in the waterproof backed picnic blanket I had brought along.  I drank my coffee and ate my cheese and tomato sandwiches.  Texts of Christmas wishes came in and texts of Christmas wishes went out.  And slowly, as people chatted and exchanged bits of interest about themselves a sense of resolve and camaraderie built up bolstered by the fact that by now the porters were turning people away.  We had become a successful and happy little bunch of folk who had one thing in common; we were guaranteed a seat at the service.  Places were saved in the queue while people went to fetch coffee, to answer the call of nature (no need really for my flask, sandwiches or bog-in-a-bag since the coffee shop was opened in the KC common room).  I timed my loo breaks just right to avoid the queues. At midday the Kings Singers arrived and serenaded us in the rain, just after which a small troop of youngsters from Kings College prep school in capes and top hats appeared out of a door in the Gibb’s Building and then disappeared through the chapel door.  Our spirits rose as we heard the distant sounds of music and singing filter across the quad to where we were standing.   Just before one o’clock, interested to know how far down the queue I was, I wandered up to the front.  I realised then, that what I had naively assumed was the head of the line was in fact nowhere near.  As I turned the corner of Gibb’s building I saw in front of me a line three times as long as the one in which I had been ensconced for the last five hours. A line with at least three hundred other people patiently queuing.  My shoulders drooped as I realised in reality how far down the line I actually was, even more so when I learned that people had been standing in line since three o’clock the previous afternoon, a whole twenty four hours before the service started.  I saw myself destined for some camping chair deep in the far dark recesses of the nave.