Day 108

Ok, so somehow between 108 days ago and now, 108 days have passed. I’m not sure where they have gone, I presume into some sort of endless void. The time has arrived for me to admit to the world at large that I have not completed my 108in108 challenge. I didn’t complete 108 challenges in 108 days. I didn’t even think of 108 challenges – 76 was the best I could do. Moving away from these negatives, let’s look at the positives. I did:

  • Go on holiday in a sunny and warm place (I went to Cheshire last weekend and I was actually quite HOT. Thank you, UK for your unusually warm temperatures.)
  • Get a job in Manchester as a waitress
  • Kiss a boy
  • Start reading Anna Karenina (it’s a bloody long and tedious book… I’m still going and will finish it eventually.)
  • Go on numerous trains
  • Visit the Manchester Museum
  • Make and drink Sangria
  • See more than three plays
  • Cook kale
  • Get multiple plants for my apartment. I currently have five.
  • Write a rubbish poem
  • Write a letter to someone
  • Watch a football game
  • See live music
  • Get a hair cut
  • Speak French in Manchester
  • Speak to my neighbours
  • Give someone a high five
  • Have something other than muesli for breakfast
  • Do the 100 Breaths Challenge
  • Sew something practical for my apartment
  • Climb a large hill
  • Read my horoscope every day (I have started to regret doing this because now I am addicted and I believe EVERY WORD. Today the vibe of people around me will push me towards one thing but I may feel different. A confrontation won’t be fruitful. Uh oh.)
  • Volunteer
  • Stand in a long line for International Record Day
  • Go to a writing group meeting
  • Overcome a fear (more about this soon)
  • Complete a jigsaw (BEST CHALLENGE AWARD!)
  • Get close to Paul Hollywood
  • Go to the Whitworth Art Gallery
  • Ride a bike
  • Have a picnic in Manchester (theme didn’t happen but the picnic did)
  • Go dancing
  • Play badminton.

So 34 challenges successfully completed. Hardly 108 but here is why I am not currently hitting my head against a brick wall screaming, “I’m a FAILURE!” The main premise for this challenge thing was to trick myself into writing my book about Paris.  I wanted to have finished my third draft by today and have it ready to send out for people to read. And I, Jessica Odette Davies, have DONE IT. This afternoon I finished my third draft and I am now sending it to select people to ask for critical feedback. From here it is a final overall edit and then it’s ready for the extremely scary stage of being published. How I will deal with that aspect, I’m still unsure. But if anyone reading this is in some way connected to a publishing company and wants to publish my FANTASTIC book about the 10th arrondissement and the pesky BoBos that reside there – give me a call!

The best part is that the last 108 days have gone by so quickly because I have been so busy living life, enjoying myself and building a life for myself here. A lot has happened in an incredibly short time and life is good. Sure, it’s raining outside and I have to walk home soon, but apart from that I’m a happy girly. And I might have a published book soon. Now I just need to get myself through the next stage…

Jigsaw Puzzle of the Queen completed – Who knew jigsaws could be so addictive?

Jigsaw Puzzle of the Queen completed – Who knew jigsaws could be so addictive?



Greetings one and all. My life and it’s 108 challenges appear to have diverged and my initial dedication to completing all 108 in 108 days has been somewhat deflated. This is largely due to me achieving Challenge #4 – Get a job in Manchester. The last two weeks were taken over by training for my new waitressing job at Artisan. This week I started actually serving and now my life involves late nights and running around like a mad-woman trying to find appropriately white bras to wear under my uniform.

But you will be pleased to hear that I have been slowly making my way through some of the challenges and am now am to provide a detailed update on my progress. Let’s see where we’re at…

Challenge #1: My book is now officially on to third draft! WOO! This is very exciting. It hasn’t progressed AT ALL in the last few weeks but today I plan on working on it.

Challenge #3: I have booked plane tickets to Croatia for my birthday which is going to be the closest I will get to a holiday in a warm, sunny place. It will be after 31 July BUT at least I am going!

Challenge #4: As previously mentioned, my new job in taking over my life. Come and visit me at Artisan! Ask for the Australian waitress…

Challenge #41: I wrote and posted cards to my Mum, Nanna and Grandma for mother’s day. Triple tick.

Challenge #53: I had evil white toasting bread with jam for breakfast one morning. It was quite painful.

Challenge #59: I have been reading my horoscope every day and it is usually incorrect. Apparently today I may want to “review my relationships. The time might be right for reestablishing or strengthening connections with certain people.” I called my Grandma this morning and had a chat. Maybe the stars made that happen…

Challenge #60: I am volunteering for the Manchester International Festival that starts next month. Excitement plus!

Challenge #66: The jigsaw challenge is most likely the best challenge thus far. It has kept me highly entertained for many hours. I have almost finished and then I can reveal the masterpiece. Everyone who comes into my apartment stops at my coffee table with the strewn jigsaw pieces and then gives me a strange look, questioning my sanity.

Challenge #75: I have been dancing multiple times! Three times, in fact. I have found a few bars in Manchester that have some decent dancin’ toons. Fun times and late nights have been had.

Challenge #76: I played badminton with some friends of mine a few weeks ago and hope to get back again soon. It was heaps of fun and despite my initial incompetence I was congratulated on my quick skill improvement over the course of the evening.

Well I had hoped I would have completed more than just these by now but it appears I have a LOT of work cut out for me over the next month. I haven’t even come up with 108 challenges which is a challenge in itself. Best get to work then.

Challenge #45 – Watch a Football Match

As I now live in the city of football, I felt it was only appropriate for me to set this challenge. Every day I see someone wearing a Man-U t shirt or a bar advertising live television viewing of today’s game. While I quite enjoy football (years of creating caves out of umbrellas in which to hide from the rain as I watched my brother play on wintery Sunday mornings in Rockingham or Sorrento have oddly resulted in me liking the sport) I am hardly a devoted fan and don’t have a specific team that I follow. I am always willing to adopt the team/s of my current city of residence, so when Manchester City played Wigan on Saturday in the FA Cup final I thought I should cheer them on.

I went to a pub called The Slug & Lettuce (a chain pub where I had previously had a heated discussion with the bartender about whether or not the mojito he had made me tasted good or not. He clearly had never consumed a mojito before.) where I expected to have to use my elbows to get myself a drink and a place to stand. There were surprisingly few people watching the game – those that were watching were male, over the age of 35 and very, very drunk. I got myself a cider and grabbed a seat at a table with a group of women who were out celebrating one of their birthdays. The birthday girl was celebrating 53 years with her 36 year old daughter who had a 16 year old son. I gained all of this information through their flirtations with a group of men standing next to them who just COULD NOT BELIEVE that the woman wearing a cross-backed top that revealed her lower-back tattoo was 53. They were very friendly.

Football at the pub.

Football at the pub.

Sitting in a pub on your own is weird. I have attempted it a few times now and every time wish my drink would disappear faster. At least I had something to watch this time but I had been expecting a more vibrant and excitable atmosphere that I could join and cheer and boo with. I had dinner plans so left before the game had finished. I had to buy a bottle of wine and headed to the basement of Tesco. After umming and ahhing about whether to go New Zealand or Australian, I returned to the ground floor to find a large number of people standing near the fruit and vegetable department staring at a television screen with looks of “NO!”  on their faces. Wigan had scored and the dreams of Manchester City fans had been crushed. It was a great time to go to the supermarket as I could duck and dive around the stationary bodies of people staring at the replay of the goal and get to the checkout in front of them.

Another Update

The challenges are coming along nicely although last night I had a panic attack that I wasn’t going to finish them all. Potentially a slight downfall in my plan – I do have a tendency to get worried if I am failing at something and I am quite certain I won’t manage to finish everything on this list. But that’s all very ‘glass half empty’ – let’s turn this around and get positive! Here’s what I have done:

Challenge #4: I am REALLY CLOSE to getting two writing jobs. Nothing final yet. But things are moving forward.

Challenge #7: I am still making my way through Anna K and am loving it so far. Those Russians were mighty fine writers.

Challenge #11: This was originally inDesign but I have now changed it to Illustrator. And I am starting an online course today.

Challenge #13: I have a pile of cut-out fabric lying on my couch begging to be sewn together. One day when I have the mental strength to challenge myself I will complete it.

Challenge #23: I asked a guy at a decent coffee shop in Manchester if he would teach me to make coffee and he said, “There isn’t much to it.” So does that count?

Challenge #45: Manchester United is playing in the final of something (I don’t really know what league… this is probably because I don’t care) this Saturday so I should probably go to a pub where there is a screen and watch it seeing as I am Mancunian and all.

Challenge #59: I have been reading my horoscope every day and apparently this month is a good month for publishing!! EXCELLENT. Today it says, “If tomorrow’s eclipse doesn’t result in a landslide of epiphanies, you can expect that you may see changes as the eclipse effects develop.” Oh boy! I love epiphanies!

Challenge #60: I am going to be volunteering at the Manchester International Arts Festival. Yay fun!

Challenge #66: The jigsaw (that will remain a mystery until I have completed it) is underway and causing me great misery as every piece is a similar shade of maroon. It is highly addictive though! I stayed up late last night because I couldn’t stop looking for the final piece of the featured person’s face. I’m still looking.

So that’s the score so far. I still need more challenges. Please provide them otherwise I will start doing easy things.

Challenge #47 – See Live Music

This weekend was a long weekend and as a result there were many ‘activities’ on around the city. Down on the canal docks behind my apartment there were two festivals – one on Saturday and the other on Monday. Saturday was Mockfest which I eventually googled to discover was a whole lot of tribute bands rocking out for far too many hours. I was thankfully out for most of the day, but returned home at about 5pm to listen to an hour of an AC/DC cover band. Despite not normally being a huge fan, I felt almost nostalgic. Or maybe it was nauseous. I didn’t SEE them perform so I am not counting that as a completed challenge.

However on Sunday I went with some friends to the Northern Quarter Take Over street festival which I had hoped would be a great mix of food, music, craft and good times. The reality was slightly less romantic – all of the bars in the Northern Quarter had invested in barbecues and were burning meat and calling them ‘burgers’. I’m not joking – I have never seen that much charcoal and black smoke from multiple poorly-used grills before. There was also a lot of alcohol being sold and consumed so really it was just a beer and burger fest.

There were live bands and DJs (tick!) to keep the party atmosphere going and it looked like people were enjoying themselves. So that’s nice. And I managed to accidentally complete a challenge so I got something out of it, too.



Successful Stalking of Mr Hollywood

Another day down, another challenge completed. My task – get as close to Paul Hollywood as possible. The fact that this challenge was set while in a pub with my brother and his friend, Zoë, might explain its slightly bizarre nature. Essentially, as a baker, my brother has been asked on multiple occasions for his thoughts on Paul Hollywood, the celebrity ‘master baker’. The ladies love him (apparently) because he is on television, bakes bread and has ‘piercing blue eyes.’ When I mentioned that Paul was going to be in Manchester at the Lowry Food Festival, the challenge was hatched. I would go and I would see him in the flesh. There were additions to the challenge such as baking him a cake or throwing my underwear at him or baking my underwear and giving that to him, but I decided to keep it simple.

I managed to convince my friend Pooja to join me on my stalking mission. I said the words “nice walk along the canal” and “food” and she was in. Her dedication to the cause was impressive – she even offered to create a diversion so that I could sneak past all of Paul’s adoring fans. Finding him was difficult as there was an extreme lack of a signage and the Lowry Centre (an outlet shopping complex) and was packed full of bargain hunters on a Monday public holiday. However, after asking three people we eventually found him, hidden upstairs in a blocked off zone with a very long queue of excited fans waiting to get their books signed. He had started the book signing early and the demand was so high that they had restricted the number of people who would be allowed to meet the eyes. I could have stood in the line and hoped for the best, but I was told I wasn’t guaranteed a meeting and plus the sun was shining outside and there was food to sample. I was close enough.

Challenge completed!

Challenge completed!

So instead, thanks to the impressive digital zoom on my camera and a very steady hand, I managed to get some photos of him. If you look closely you might see those piercing blue eyes.

Take your sunglasses off your head, Paul.

Take your sunglasses off your head, Paul.

Update Time

I am about to catch a train (challenge #19!) to Sheffield to help at Forge Bakehouse, so I thought I’d write a quick update on my challenge progress.

I am about 1/70 of the way through Anna Karenina.

I started sewing a top this week before it all became too scary and it is now lying in a mess on my couch. I will return to it next week.

I went to an exhibition opening at the Manchester Museum last night – Challenge #20 completed! Although I will go back as there were hundreds of people drinking wine in front of the displays so I didn’t get to see much.

I spoke French to an Italian guy today! Challenge #49 completed!

I have said “Hello!” and discussed early morning runs with my neighbours a few times this week. Challenge #51 completed!

My legs were sore this week so I took a morning off running and did the 100 Breaths meditation exercise instead. Challenge #55 completed!

I went to a writing group meeting on Monday night and will probably go again. Challenge #63 completed!

So not a bad effort AND I managed to work on my book twice this week which is a 200 per cent improvement on any other week!

Dear Sister…

I would nominate myself for the Nicest Sister in the World competition after spending 40-odd minutes standing in a line to buy records for my brother, except he talked me into it by suggesting the task as a challenge. Plus  it allowed me to soak up rare rays of English sunshine. DANG IT! Sneaky brothers… Ok so here was Challenge #61: Stand in a long line on Record Store Day.

I had never heard of Record Store Day until Ben asked me to go to Piccadilly Records in the Norther Quarter of Manchester last Saturday. Further investigation on the internet and from talking to the Canadian guy standing in front of me in the line, each year since 2007, albums and singles are re-released on vinyl in limited editions and then distributed somewhat randomly to independent record stores across the UK and the US. Then people join long lines to buy them, therefore supporting local record businesses. A great idea and I like small businesses so I agreed to do it.

Remarkably Manchester experienced one of the nicest, sunniest days in its history on Saturday and every Mancunian and his dog were out and about soaking it up. After lunch I headed to Piccadilly Records and joined the queue that spread down the street. My first instinct was to run away as long lines sit in my “I don’t do them” bucket along with drugs and hair-dying. But my dedication to these challenges and my love for my brother (awww!) and the fact that I had nothing else to do meant I waited it out.

A long line.

A long line.

It turned out to be one of the greatest lines in the world – not only did I spend the entire time standing in the sunshine, at one point two guys walked past with trays of FREE CAKE. Yes, that’s right. Cake. For free. And decent cake too! Home made coffee cake with a deliciously thick layer of icing. My new tattooed Canadian friend and I stood stuffing our mouths with slightly-larger-than-mouth sized pieces of baked goodness declaring the line to be the best line ever.

The line even moved relatively quickly as the people working inside the store were organised and efficient. I like that. When I eventually made it inside, the two albums my brother was wanting were still available, which is somewhat remarkable considering the limited number for sale and the particularly long line of people who had entered the store before me. I was served by a friendly yet emotional man who while putting through my sale told me about how his girlfriend had broken up with him two days ago. Poor guy. He needed to go outside and join the world’s best line where you can stand in the sunshine, eat free cake and feel good about life. Instead he thanked me for listening to his sad tale before wishing me a good day and serving the next customer. I hope he’s feeling better.

Proof of completion.

Proof of completion.

So another challenge successfully completed! If you have another line that you’d like me to join on your behalf, let me know. Just be sure it is even more enjoyable than this one: eg. I get TWO pieces of free cake. Chocolate cake would be best.

Challenges Update

While I may not be ticking these challenges off at light-speed, I am slowly but surely making my way through them in some form or another. I have managed to set some long-term challenges that can’t be completed in an hour. I need to think of a few more short-and-sweet tasks that on days like today when my brain is all over the place and I can’t concentrate, I can just go and do one and feel like I have actually accomplished something! Hoorah! Instead I shall bring you up to speed on what I have done thus far.

Challenge #1: I have actually worked on my book! AMAZING BUT TRUE.

Challenge #2: I have looked into Dutch classes – not a lot happening in Manchester. They are all very expensive, far away or not starting until September. So I may learn Dutch from a book! Although my third-cousin is doing a good job at writing emails in Dutch just to test my knowledge. It appears I have a lot to learn.

Challenge #5: That may have accidentally happened. That’s all I’m saying. But TICK!

Challenge #7: I have purchased the book and am awaiting its arrival in the mail. I hope it comes soon because it has a LOT of pages.

Challenge #25: I went to the gym down the road and discovered that I can do their classes for £5. Zumba will be done. Although apparently Zumba is SO last year and now there is some new dance/fitness/look-ridiculous-but-pretend-it-is-cool thing to do. But Zumba will do for me.

Challenge #27: I went and saw Rutherford and Son by the Northern Broadsides company – a play about life in “the north” during the early 1900s. It was depressing and had lots of thick northern accents that were sometimes hard to understand. Not quite an inspiring a performance as the two Shakespearean plays I saw a few days before but still enjoyable. So I am a third of a way through this challenge!

Challenge #52: I just realised I gave an Italian guy a high five on Wednesday night. YES! Tick!

Challenge #59: I have been reading my horoscope every day and it is never reflected my life in anyway. Although today it says I could use a vacation! Wow… ok stars, if you say so! And apparently I can’t be held back today and am full of energy. Well… no. I am tired and extremely distracted. So that’s that!