Tag Archives: Learning

Festival of Ideas

For the last two weeks, I’ve been enjoying the 10th annual Cambridge Festival of Ideas. It’s a packed fortnight of mainly free events organised by Cambridge University celebrating the arts, humanities and social sciences. The official theme this year was ‘truth’, but there were literally hundreds of events covering a diverse array of topics.

I’m still new to Cambridge and this sort of thing, so I got stuck in and ended up going to these eight events:

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Learn how to juggle

This is part of my 40 Before 40 Challenge.


This is one of those things that just seems like something I should be able to do. People make it look so easy. Last year, one of my fellow volunteers tried to teach one of the children we were with how to juggle and after an hour or two she was making progress. So that’s it, it’s on the list.

Learn to ride a bike with no hands

This is part of my 40 Before 40 Challenge.


I’m not entirely sure what % of people can do this, but plenty of people are shocked when they find out that my sister and I can’t ride a bike with no hands. I think most who can do it usually learned when they were kids, which makes it more surprising to hear we can’t. To be honest, I can’t really remember ever trying.

Anyway, I’ve recently bought a bike (the only way to travel in Cambridge), so that feels like half the battle. Also, the nonchalance of some cyclists while doing this makes me think it shouldn’t be too hard to get the hang of, but who knows. Continue reading

Solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 2 minutes

This is part of my 40 Before 40 Challenge.


The iconic Rubik’s Cube is the best-selling toy of all time. It’s over 40 years old and was first popular in the 1980’s before it saw a resurgence in the last decade. I first learned to solve one a few years ago (using this YouTube playlist) and it took about 5 minutes at best.

My challenge now is to solve the Cube in under 2 minutes. I’ve forgotten most of the method I used before, so I’ll have to start from scratch, and this time I’ll need to use a different technique to cut down my time.

Did you know a new world record was recently set at 4.69 seconds?!

Learn Spanish

This is part of my 40 Before 40 Challenge.


This is one of my biggest challenges and would probably be my proudest achievement on the list.

There are lots of excellent reasons for learning another language, but after spending some time in the Americas in the last two years, I now have an additional incentive. I’ve made friendships and connections that would be greatly enhanced if I could speak Spanish; such as my friend’s family in Mexico who showed me such great hospitality, or the children and the families I worked with in Bolivia.

On one hand, my Spanish learning so far gives me a base to build on, but on the other hand, my relatively modest improvement during six months of living in Spanish speaking countries demonstrates just how big a task this is.


Me necesito forzar a usar el español todo lo posible. Actualmente vivo con un hombre de España, trabajo con dos españoles y un mexicano, entonces debería practicar con ellos. Por supuesto que también conozco a otros hispanohablantes. Además necesito leer español, escuchar español, escribir mucho y tal vez – algún día – pensaré en español.

Aunque no he practicado mucho, he observado tantas personas hablando español – ¡en todos lados! El tren, en la calle y en la oficina. En Manchester y Edimburgo, Cambridge y Berlin. Definitivamente el idioma extranjero más común alrededor.

Learn the countries, capitals and flags of the world

This is part of my 40 Before 40 Challenge.


This challenge is to learn all 197* countries of the world, as well as their capitals and flags.

Countries and capitals have been a little hobby of mine for some time, aided by the quiz website Sporcle, so it’s mainly just flags that I need to put in some serious study for to complete the set.

In case you’re interested in having a go yourself, here are the three quizzes that I’ll be targeting:

*Sporcle currently lists 197 countries, compared with the UN’s official list of 193 but I’m going to go with the higher figure; here’s a fun video that explains why it’s difficult to give a definitive number.