Terence Blacker: A guide to the 11¾ things to do before you're 50 (and I should know)

Some advice for the outdoor types at the National Trust

Share
Related Topics

Has someone been putting Benzedrine in the tea at the National Trust's headquarters? Hardly a week goes by without that once-staid organisation coming up with another headline-grabbing protest, survey or campaign. Responding to the growing urbanisation of childhood – more children know what a dalek looks like than they do a magpie, according to its research – the Trust has published 50 Things To Do Before You are 11¾, a list of jolly outdoor activities for children. There is an element of bias here. Playing outdoors is surely just as important for those of us who passed 11¾ some time ago. Here, turning the National Trust's formula on its head, are 11¾ things for you to do before you are 50, with some additional tips as to what to avoid.

1. Play a unisex team game outdoors. It can be cricket, football, even that favourite of Lord Prescott, croquet. The type of sport is less important than the presence of players of both sexes and across the age spectrum, who will reduce the danger of a silly, insecure male taking the thing too seriously. Avoid: on-pitch brawls, daddy tantrums and heart attacks.

2. Get your hair cut. In the hippest parts of London, hairdressing has become an open-air performance event. You can get your hair cut in the middle of Brick Lane market, watched by shoppers and photographed by tourists. You are outside, almost always improving your appearance, and the centre of attention. What more could you want? Avoid: asking for a cappuccino and a copy of Vogue. There is a limit.

3. Have an impromptu sing-a-long by a bonfire. It is an odd fact that the most woeful musicians can sound almost all right when in the open air, particularly when the crackle of burning branches helps drown them out. A drunken musical event to a bonfire setting will induce a contented hippy vibe on the happy, shining faces of those staring into the flames. Avoid: Mr Tambourine Man. It starts well but, by the time the singer gets to the jingle-jangle morning, everyone's bored.

4. Go on a protest march. It can be against the cuts, pornography, hunting, Donald Trump. What matters is that you are out there, braving the elements on behalf of a better world unlike those wimpish, whey-faced online protesters. Avoid: breaking glass, urinating in a policeman's helmet, being interviewed, looking mad, on News at Ten.

5. Camp. It is a controversial item to include because, for some, a combination of the British weather and proximity to strangers, their mewling children and noisy sex-life is a sort of hell. The point of camping lies in the pleasure you derive on your return from the everyday comforts of life: a bath, an oven, a TV, a mattress. Avoid: the Daily Express reader in the next tent who wants to discuss immigration.

6. Make something. The task need not be much: bricks under the rabbit hutch, a plank nailed over a hole in the wall of a shed. It is the doing of it which will put you in touch with the frontier spirit of your forebears. Avoid: talking about DIY to anyone.

7. Destroy something. In its way, that can be even more satisfying. Avoid: cutting off a limb.

8. Enjoy a smoke in the open-air. So what if you are a non-smoker? You know, in your secret heart, that there are few smells sweeter than that of tobacco smoke rising slowly in the balmy summer air. It is worth remaining friends with someone who smokes simply to be able now and then to enjoy their habit, passively and free of charge. Avoid: discussing smoking.

9. Have sex. There is a school of thought, anti-pastoral, unromantic, which argues that acts of intimacy, however fleeting, are less pleasurable in the open-air. The cold is cited, and the damp, and the danger of being watched by the local Pervy John. For most people, though, these hazards add piquancy to the experience. Briefly – very briefly sometimes –they are at one with the creatures of the wild. Avoid: sand.

10. Go for a walk in ghastly weather. No country does nigglingly unpleasant weather like Britain: from the wind on the Norfolk beaches to the unannounced downpour that is the speciality of Cornwall. Embrace it. Take a bashful pride in its cussed awfulness. Avoid: Ramblers Association walks.

11. Visit the Antiques Roadshow. It seems only yesterday that you were going to the Radio One Roadshow; now you can watch Fiona Bruce and her experts without even feeling embarrassed. You have grown up. Why not join the crowd in person when they visit a grand house near you? Avoid: being seen by your friends gawping in background as Bunny Campione appraises a cake-stand.

11¾. Go to a festival. Attend the smaller, fringe events in the sun. Avoid: the mainline event in the evening, almost always a let-down. Head home before the rush, feeling mildly smug.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing