The Jar of Experiences (or ‘This year I may or may not become a spy’)

The Jar of Experiences (or ‘This year I may or may not become a spy’)

I love birthdays! I’m not very good at parties, though. I worry about how I’ll keep the conversation going, especially among people who don’t know each other, as was the case at my party/drinks this year. One of my coping strategies is to make sure there’s something for the guests to do when they’ve exhausted topics like the weather and ‘what do you do?’

This year I set my guests a task – to give me the gift of experiences. They were all asked to recommend something for me to do in this next year – a book to read, an exhibition to see, an attraction to visit… I provided cards/tags and pens, and when the conversation lulled – or even when it didn’t, they wrote down the ideas and popped them in my Jar of Experiences.


Here’s what they came up with (in no particular order):

1. Read Mao’s Last Dancer, by Li Cunxin
2. Read Fifty Shades of Grey
3. Cup of tea at Maison Bertram
4. Visit Dennis Severs’ house
5. Go to Paris for the day
6. Read Letters of Note, by Shaun Usher
7. Read Content Strategy for the Web, by Kristina Halvorson
8. TV series ‘Olive Kitteredge’
9. Music: ‘Heavy Weather’, by Billie Marten
10. Drinks at the ME Hotel rooftop bar on the Strand
11. Read The Daughters of Mars, by Thomas Keneally
12. See ‘Slava’s Snowshow’
13. Read Sovereign, by CJ Sansom
14. and Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
15. Discuss We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Children Act with Helen!
16. Read You Talkin’ to Me?, by Sam Leith
17. Art Exhibition: Caterina Silva at Bosse and Baum.
18. With Virginia:

• Visit Winter Wonderland (Hyde Park)
• See ‘The Wind in the Willows’ on stage
• Go to the Science Museum Lates
• Pig out at Pizza Hut
• Take a boat trip along the Thames

19. Read: The Fever Tree, by Jennifer McVeigh
20. Read: The Painted Veil, by W Somerset Maugham
21. See improv show ‘Wunderkammer’
22. (After dark) see light/fountain installation in Granary Square, King’s Cross
23. Visit John Soane museum
24. Eat/drink at The Mayor of Scaredycat Town
25. Read White Noise by Don DeLillo
26. Enter one of the following:

• Bake Off
• Hunted
• Mastermind
• The Voice

27. Visit your favourite South Croydon-ite (Jaz Potter)
28. Read ‘WTP’ (in joke! Can you guess what it is? One of the BBC Good Reads top 100 books)
29. Become a spy
30. Drink at Gordon’s Wine Bar
31. Climb the Burj Khalifa and visit the penguins in the snowdome with Becky!
32. Watch the Ceremony of the Garter at Windsor Castle (may require moving to Windsor)
33. Cycle round Virginia Water
34. Try swing dancing
35. Become a criminal
36. Three mini adventures in different parts of London (Canary Wharf, East Finchley and Waterloo-Clapham)
37. Go ice skating at the Tower of London
38. Christmas Eve carols under the dome at St Paul’s
39. Get a Dalmatian
40. And go to newday

Amazingly, only four of them are things I’ve done before (apart from some of Virginia’s suggestions – they’re our favourite things to do together).

Some I certainly won’t be doing this year (or, I hope, ever) – reading 50 Shades of Grey, becoming a criminal or getting a dalmatian, for a start! Some I may or may not do (go to newday, become a spy, apply for one of those TV shows), and some I may not have time to do within the year, but there are loads of things I’m really looking forward to trying out.

It’s not too late to join in, if you’ve got any suggestions – just leave a note in the comments.

And if someone reminds me, I’ll give you an update around about this time next year of how I got on!

Thank you so much to everyone who made suggestions – it worked out better than I’d expected – and of course, sparked lots more conversations, too. Party: success!

8 Comments On This Topic
  1. simplepastor
    on Nov 19th at 8:40 am

    Surprised no one said ‘write a book’

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Nov 20th at 6:23 pm

      I should have invited you! 🙂

  2. Virginia
    on Nov 19th at 9:03 am

    I love this – there are some very interesting suggestions! Now you certainly have no excuse to be bored this year. I can’t help but think that perhaps the person that suggested that you go to newday was having a little bit of fun… 🙂

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Nov 20th at 6:24 pm

      Yes, she was. She’d really love me to go back, but knows full well my feelings on the matter! 🙂
      So, when are you free to go to Winter Wonderland?!

  3. Father Stephen
    on Nov 19th at 10:07 am

    Arrange to meet Caren in Edinburgh to visit the Writer’s Museum together.–museum

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Nov 20th at 6:25 pm

      Ooh, that sounds fun. Do they have lots of writers on display in glass cases? 😉

  4. simona
    on Nov 20th at 9:30 am

    Happy birthday and I love your idea! I am surprised too, that no one suggested either writing a book or sending it to an agent… So here you go:

    Pitch an article to a newspaper.
    Self publish a book/short book to whatever platform you prefer.
    Get the book you are already writing published and printed

    I don’t know why, but I just had a thought come to mind: Think about fostering/adopting and start proper research into it…

    And really don’t read 50 Shades, it’s a waste of time. Even I found the use of English language poor (never mind the storyline being ridiculous)…

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Nov 20th at 6:27 pm

      Thanks Simona! Wow, you’ve certainly set me some challenges there.
      Interesting about fostering/adoption, where did that come from? We’ve been talking about it a lot in the church I work for recently…


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