Sunday, January 09, 2011

A to Z Year : November 19th - December 31st : letters X, Y and Z

And so, here it is, the last A-Z Year post, sob.

I’ll be genuinely sorry to see it go. We had so many wonderful alphabetical adventures in 2010 because of Nicole’s simple but brilliant idea.

I’m so glad we made it through the year without giving up along the way – to be honest that is most unlike me, I’m very much a starter-of-things and very rarely a finisher-of-things.

Our levels of activity did slow down towards the end, granted, with the colder weather limiting our opportunities for day trips, etc. But we did always make sure that we did do at least one thing each fortnight specifically for the A-Z thing. Many of these we would probably never have done otherwise.

So what did we do for the last 3 letters?

Well – for the letter X, we started our Xmas celebrations much earlier than we would usually do. I normally try to ignore Christmas until at least mid December :)  But X fortnight was during November, so we decided to head down to London, and find a Santa’s Grotto where the boys could meet Father Xmas.   (Well it was either that or learn to play the xylophone, and we don't know anyone who has one of those....)

This was harder than you might think. The most popular grottoes (Harrods, Selfridges) were absolutely impossible to get tickets for (apparently they sell out within minutes of release!), and many of the other stores and places (Kew Gardens would have been cool) didn’t start their Christmas season until December. But then we found out about a massive Xmas-themed fun fair / market being held at Hyde Park called Winter Wonderland. It had a Christmas circus, a giant ferris wheel, loads of good rides, plus, all importantly, a Father Xmas grotto.
On the way there, we stopped off in Camden Town and went to EXhibition #3 (I hope that counts as an X :)   ) at the Museum of Everything. One of the main themes this year is taXidermy – specifically the wonderful works of Walter Potter – so I’m counting that X too :D   And we also drove down the street where my Ex lived in West London :)

Once at Winter Wonderland we had a brilliant – but very cold – time. We did take a detour late in the afternoon to visit the EXtremely posh shop Harrods, but that was mainly to warm ourselves up.  Once cozy all through we went back to the fair and went on the EXciting ferris wheel before hometime.

What an EXcellent day that was :) Well, apart from the fact that I fell over and hurt my knee badly (as I type this over 6 weeks later it is still playing me up :(   ), and almost needed an X-Ray. That would have been taking the A-Z cause a little TOO far!  And apart from the fact that we never actually got to see Father Christmas in the end as the queues were ridiculous all day!
Our other participation in X fortnight was in the form of a geocache. We looked and looked for a local cache with the letter X in it for us to do, but with no luck. I commented that, given the nature of the activity (looking for hidden “treasure”), it was surprising that there were no caches for miles around called “X Marks The Spot”. So we decided to hide our own cache with that name. We didn’t actually get it launched within X fortnight, as it took a while to find the perfect spot for it, and a while to get through’s review process. But we did do all the prep during the second X week, including making this pirate map – arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

If you fancy going to search for the cache yourself, here it is: GC2K3KY – X Marks The Spot.

So that was X. It was a pity we couldn’t persuade Connor’s dad to give him his new X-Box a couple of weeks early, just in the spirit of the A-Z Year:)

We thought Y would be easier, but in the end it turned out to be rather tricky. We did have one big day out planned – to Symonds Yat, on the River Wye (geddit?). They have some lovely caves there, and you can visit Father Christmas in the caves. It looked fab, but unfortunately the bad weather (lots of snow and ice, which don’t make for great driving conditions) put paid to that plan :(

Then we thought we would visit the green Santa at Westonbirt Arboretum. The grotto there is very unique, Santa is in his original green robes, and it feels like a more pagan Yule celebration there than the standard commercialised red and white Christmas. So we thought Y for Yule would be perfect. Of course then it turned out that we couldn’t get tickets for the night we wanted. Sigh.

So – by that time just desperate to find a decent Santa’s Grotto for the kids - we ended up going on the Swindon and Cricklade Railway’s Santa Express steam train to the North Pole. Which was fantastic fun, the kids loved it, but there wasn’t a letter Y in sight!!!

One thing I did do, though, was apply for this fantastic Pummelvision video that takes the last 2,500 of your Facebook photographs and puts them together into a kind of stream of consciousness video – it’s like your life flashing before your eyes! And what does it have to do with Y? It loads up onto your Youtube account once it’s finished processing (which, after a few false starts, took a couple of weeks, but I did at least attempt it for the first time during Y fortnight). Here it is, brilliant isn’t it! I got quite emotional watching it for the first time, as apart from the first couple of seconds, it’s almost entirely made up of pics from the year 2010, and we have had such a fantastic year, to see it all fly past me in 4 minutes is really powerful!

Oh, and given the state of the weather, we took this opportunity to give the kids the ultimate bit of parental advice, that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives – never eat yellow snow ;)

So – after Y fortnight being a bit of a failure with no major Y event successfully achieved, we were determined to make up for it during Z – the last letter of this great journey.

Things were a bit busy for the first week of the Z fortnight, in the run up to Christmas, but as soon as the big day was out of the way we headed to Marwell Zoo. Well, where ELSE could we go for Z? Zambia is a bit far :)

There were Zs aplenty here, with lots of zoo-keepers, and of course zebras. And I made good use of my zoom lens snapping photos galore.

We virtually had the place to ourselves as it was a cold, very foggy day, not an obvious day to go zoo visiting. But I think because of the cold, and the lack of noisy gawkers, it was extra special. The big cats especially were a lot more lively than usual. In the summer they just tend to laze about and ignore you.

So once again (and for the last time, sob, unless we do it all again one time), we have the A-Z year to thank for a great experience. We have of course been to zoos before, but without the timing of the letter Z at the very end of the year, we probably wouldn’t have gone at this particular time and experienced a nigh on empty zoo with great views of the animals.

We also had fun playing zombie games on the Xbox <-------

And the very last thing we did? Very appropriate given that it’s the project that will replace A-Z Year as our main motivation next year. We finalised our list of goals for “Project Zero”, which was due to start (and in fact, as I write this, did start) on January 1st 2011.

Bye Bye A-Z Year!

We THOROUGHLY enjoyed you!


ally said...

what a fab year so whats project zero?

Michelle S said...

Such a fabby A-Z, wish I'd stuck with it all year! :)

thekathrynwheel said...

This looks like a fab A-Z project :-)
Thanks for your comments on my blog re: Art Journaling mag x