James’ 30 Before 30

This is a slightly silly newfound tradition, but I’ve seen a few others dive into the ’30 before 30′ concept and it’s always seemed like a whole lot of fun, so I figured why not. I’ve decided to walk the line between ‘doable’ and ridiculous (so I might well not manage all of these, but I’ll try to), including a few Irish ‘must do’ ideas and other things I’ve been meaning to get around to. The slightly worrying side of this is that it allows just under two weeks for each thing, which is quite a stretch. I’ll be documenting every one, so with a bit of luck it’ll really bring the personal side of this blog back to life, too. Here goes…

1. Run my fifth marathon
. Marathon running is strangely addictive, and while I’ve been extremely lax in training since I stumbled around the Dublin Marathon at the end of October (and spent Christmas stuffing myself), it’d be good to go into my 30s feeling really fit, and this seems as good a way as any.

2. ✓ Brew my own beer. Not a lot of it, just enough to say that I can and I have. I studied chemistry at university, so that I never utilized that to make my own beer goes against a long, long tradition. I need to put it right.

3. Try poitin. Ireland’s (as far as I can work out) totally illegal (apart from the sanitized version, which I won’t be counting) home brew that I’m yet to stumble upon. I’ve heard it’s horrible stuff, but this is a big unfulfilled Irish thing since I arrived here, so it’d be really nice to track it down. Don’t worry, that’s the last alcohol related one…

4. Build my own computer
. This will involve a bit of work, as while I’m fairly competent using computers, I’m a long way from having the expertise to build one. I’ve long been running off a laptop with a broken screen hooked up to an external screen, though, and if I can learn to do it properly, this’ll be the ideal way to get exactly what I want.

5. Reach Berlitz Level 2 in Spanish. Not a high level, but enough to be able to communicate on a basic level and travel to Spain with a bit of confidence in myself. I’m pathetically bad at languages considering how much I’ve traveled, and that I work in a language school. Time to at least start putting that right.

6. Read Ulysses and Dubliners. I have students ask me about Joyce pretty much daily, and his books – well, and Oscar Wilde – are the quintessential literature of the city I live in. Ulysses will be a real mission, but it’s high time I got through it.

7. Swim the forty foot. Another local one; it’s been sitting on my doorstep for years, but I’ve never got around to throwing myself into that notorious ‘swimming pool’ off the coast of South Dublin. Now’s the time.

8. Publish a book
. This might seem far fetched, but I already have two on the go, so it’s not quite as ridiculous as it first seems. That’s also been the case for a while, though, especially with one of them. It’s time to stop messing around with them and actually get there.

9. Learn to make (basic) sushi. I love sushi. I’d eat it far more often if it wasn’t for the fact it’s generally expensive. Of course, I understand that any real ability is a long, long term thing that’s also based on stuff like body temperature, so it’s far beyond a year’s work. I’ll be happy if I can serve a couple of decent dishes.

10. Visit the Aran Islands. How I managed to live in Galway for a summer and never make it over to a spot that – from pictures – reminds me of a scene from The Shire in Lord of the Rings I’m not quite sure. Another Irish must-do.

11. Educate myself on coffee, then roast and grind my own
. I have a coffee addiction, yet I know painfully little about it. That doesn’t seem quite right for a person with a 4-5 cup a day habit…

12. Get my website fully up to date. This might seem like a ridiculously mundane thing, but I’ve been blogging for coming up to ten years now, and in moving websites to something a bit more professional three years ago, I lost a lot of it. All that work (and memories) for nothing would be a real shame, and getting the travel section and all my old articles up is a huge but necessary undertaking.

13. Take part in a triathlon. The marathon isn’t new, though it certainly qualifies as a challenge. I’m not talking about an ironman, but a triathlon – no doubt in a slow time and with a particularly poor effort in the swimming – will be another kind of challenge.

14. Buy a house. A slight cheat, as we’re already well in the process of snapping up our new place, but this is definitely something I want to achieve in the next few months; I can’t wait to grab hold of the keys and get decorating.

15. Eat oysters, Dublin bay prawns and coddle. Dublin food staples. There’s a few there I’m not really keen on, but on my travels I rarely wimped out on food, it seems pathetic to do so in my own home city.

16. Pitch (well) to a new publication every week. Anyone in journalism will know how hard this habit is to keep up: writing up what you already have to the highest possible quality takes over, but I’m going to force myself; who knows what will come of it.

17. Get myself in another couple of national papers/ magazines. Another writing one… At least two more seems a reasonable target at this stage. If I stick to the above it should be very attainable, but we’ll see how things go.

18. Make my own kimchi. I’ll probably be the only one who’ll eat it, but still. For those less than versed in the fine cuisine that is kimchi, it’s spicy fermented vegetables (usually cabbage), and it’s an essential component of Korean cuisine, which I love.

19. Do something valuable for those less comfortable than me. This is deliberately vague, because I can’t pretend life is really financially stable at the moment (being semi freelance/ buying a house can do that), so I have to take any chances that come along to earn, and that takes time. The main objective of it, I guess, is to do something that I can look back at and say ‘that really helped’.

20. Play a full three tunes on the guitar. Not a lofty aim, but the thing’s been sat redundantly in my living room for so long that anything qualifies as a start, so a start I shall make.

21. Add my second tattoo. I have one in mind, but I’ll save that for when I get around to doing it. It’s just as sentimental as my first, which is my wife’s name in Korean (we met in Seoul).

22. Plant a tree or two, and start growing some vegetables. I say start because this is the kind of thing (the vegetables, at least) that might not see its rewards as quickly as I’d like. Inspired by my mum.

23. Drive a supercar. Ideally very, very fast.

24. Play a proper poker tournament. i.e not amongst friends, but for at least a nominal amount of real money. I don’t really mind whether I win or lose; I’d just like to know what I’m doing, and perhaps not come last.

25. Decorate a couple of rooms, well. And as far as possible, entirely by myself. I’m not entirely sure if I’m expecting to do stuff like the carpet, but certainly the majority of it. This depends on the success of number 14, of course.

26. Spend a week each listening only to five genres of music I’d normally ignore. Ok, so not so many of these genres really exist, in music journalism you have to listen to pretty much everything and know a little bit about it. But there’s never any harm in expanding horizons. For obvious reasons, review listens will have to be excluded from this (it’s my job, after all)

27. ✓ Get every major trip printed into a photobook. Something I’ve already started, and they look stunning and just bring the memories crawling back. I find things in the books I’ve already done that remind me of things that had slipped the mind in the intervening period. It’s time to get them all done up.

28. Go camping. And not at a festival. My camping experiences for the last few years have consisted of sticking a tent up at music festivals and eating food from the nearest grease van, though I did try a campsite in Tanzania for a few nights, too, but that’s hardly the wild. Time to do it properly, even if it’s just for a night…

29. Learn about the key aspects of Buddhism. I’m not a Buddhist – in fact I think in the western world many people claiming to be are offering a pretentious way of saying that you’re spiritual, or like yoga, or something else far flung from the reality of it’s practise. It’s just something I feel the need to understand more. That, and I met my wife in a Buddhist temple. In all probability, this won’t involve meditation or yoga; I just want to understand the principles..

30. Spend my 30th somewhere unforgettable. It’s too early to say where, and in a way this is cheating, as Helena and I already have an established pattern of going somewhere ‘once in a lifetime’ for landmark birthdays (we spent hers in New York). There are still a fair few places on my ‘must see’ list, though, and it’d be nice to tick one off over a landmark date.

It might just be a busy year, then!


  1. Thanks Jess! I completed one actually on my birthday. Predictably, it was the heavy drinking one. I’m going to blog every one, though, can’t wait!

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