Riding on branch lines

steam train

I think the time has come to broaden this out a bit. You’ve heard about some of the treats on my list. Now I want to hear about yours. As I said in Permutations, the chances are that many of my treats won’t appeal to you – and I probably won’t like some of yours. But it’s always intriguing to see what people come up with when they give free rein to their imagination.

Taking the time to think about what you really want to do and committing it to a list has benefits that aren’t immediately apparent. At first it might seem self-indulgent and even a little narcissistic. But all I can say is that these mini-projects have brightened my life immeasurably over the past few years. They’ve propped me up, filled in gaps and offered unexpected experiences.

Knowing what’s on someone’s wish list tells you a lot about them. Are they thrill-seeking, contemplative or a mixture?  Who has influenced and inspired them? What have they done, or missed out on, that makes these dreams special to them? You learn surprising things about people – even those you think you know well. Try asking friends and family and see what you discover-  (it helps with present-giving too, particularly for ‘got everything’ kind of people).

Some of my friends and family have lists and I’ve posted these on The Treats Collection page. They range from
‘visiting all the churches in Oranges and Lemons’ and ‘taking a friend on a barge holiday’, to being an extra in a film and going to Oktoberfest. If you have some ideas you want to share then I can add them to the page. I use the model of `60 treats before I’m 60’ and fully intend if I live long enough to reward myself with 70 new ones on my next major birthday to soften the blow. You might be less greedy than me, and have only a few. But however many you have, I’d love to hear about them. You can email me on 60treatsandmore@gmail.com

We also might differ in how we approach them. My project has evolved with time, and now it works very well for what I want. It’s guided by just a few principles. The first is that I don’t plan treats very far ahead. If I had rigid dates in my diary or head, for when they should happen then they’d become a burden. Instead, I try to allow things to unfold when the time is right – it’s amazing how opportunities present themselves. When my concentration was shot to pieces a couple of years ago, my riding treat was just what I needed. For that hour each week I had to put my grief on one side and simply focus on not falling off. But I didn’t know when I wrote my list that this was how my horsey encounters would work out. Then at other times treats have fallen into place because I’ve suddenly had a bit of time to fill – or a special person I’ve wanted to spend time with. Perusing the list and pondering which to pick next is like choosing from a very classy box of chocolates.

Beyond the essentials, then I’ve not planned the treats themselves a great deal. For nearly four years now, I’ve been having adventures by darting down absorbing little alleys and riding along branch lines. Many are too good to ignore. When I start out, I never know where they’ll take me. A highlight of my make-up project was discovering a rich crimson Russian cafe, and a trip to Greenwich Market included an unexpected criminal encounter.

branch line

The second of my guiding principles has been that once written, the list is non-negotiable. When I told my friend Esther about this, she said pragmatically “but you can change it as you go through, can’t you?” “No”, I said, feeling panicky at the very thought. There’s a good reason for that. For years I had no way of holding on to the things I longed to do. Ideas popped into my head but when confronted with other priorities, they popped straight out again. It’s only been by making a list and committing it to paper, that I’ve started to feel that these things are possible. If I keep changing the list, then I am forever on shifting sands.

For most of my adult life there has been some member of the family needing me to do something for them. Sometimes they’ve all wanted things at the same time. I recall one unusually orderly occasion when all four children formed a queue as they waited to speak to me. One wanted me to sign a school trip form and write a cheque; another burst into tears and needed a hug. I can’t remember what the other two wanted, but I do know that when Will’s issue had been dealt with, he went straight to the back of the queue and lined up again. Being a mother has affected most of what I’ve done for twenty-seven years. My sister has four children, too, and it’s been the same for her. She once turned up at a hospital appointment and was mortified to be shown a letter that she’d written to the consultant and signed ‘love Mum’.

The third of my guiding principles is to believe that each treat will happen. That somewhere an opportunity will present itself. Somehow in the next three years, nine months and eleven days I have to get to Japan. I’m not sure when or how I’m going to manage it, but I remain steadfastly optimistic.

bullet train


And once again the final word concerns fish. Fish Mondays have continued, so I’ve added hake and swordfish to the Fish Recipes page.


4 thoughts on “Riding on branch lines

  1. I will endeavour to organise the mayhem in my head and make a list (and email it to you) so I can perhaps impose a little order upon my own personal chaos. I do salute you for having orchestrated (I use the musical analogy deliberately) your treats, and with such style. TA for sharing. It is so helpful…


  2. How very odd… For about an hour I have been tossing and turning in my bed so I checked the time on my phone. A new email icon had popped up and curiosity got the better of me. Coincidence, chance or more… By my bed lays my open notebook. Inspired by our last encounter about two months ago, I finally filled two pages last night with a list of things I would like to do. Strange ideas did indeed come up, the possibility of doing what I had never even thought about before is both exciting and empowering. For instance, I would like to interview somebody vaguely famous. Like you do, Lynn, I also believe that life organically moves in the direction of our dreams if we only will let it.
    All the friends I have talked to about your idea of treats has absolutely loved it! A simple but revolutionary idea for many of us.
    One post-scriptum: the image of your children lining up and waiting their turn to tell you what they needed or wanted is beautiful in so many ways. Anne (alias Theoduline)


  3. It’s a great idea – committing to a list of treats, things you really want to do. It’s committing to an engagement with the world. To life. What bemuses me: the resistance I have to solidifying the vague cloud of things in my head, to a list on paper. Eek. You give cloud-heads like me a challenge, Lynn. Thank you.

    I’m also bemused by the term “treats”. I prefer to think about things to do, it’s a less value-laden (if more awkward!) term

    Back to the point: my lovely girlfriend organized a secret Christmas treat for me which, when we arrived at London Bridge station I guessed must be a trip up the Shard. She mentioned Borough Market as we headed there – I’m a provincial and hadn’t heard of it. We had time (it’s booked admission slots at the Shard), so thought it worth a look. It’s a wonderful colourful abundance and variety of foods and artisan products from all over the world. Under the tangled dark green iron web of Victorian-era substructure for London Bridge station. A wonderful unexpected branch line – underneath the physical rail line about 40 feet above – so different from the main line of the Shard.

    The Shard was brilliant, even on a cloudy day. So high. The sense of being in the open air at the top, feeling the wind whilst surrounded by shard-like sheets of glass.


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