4. Attend Gallifrey’s 30th Anniversary / 10. Visit Tillman Water Reclamation Park

Well. I should have had “keep a blog up to date” as one of my targets, considering how terrible I’ve been at this. I WILL make an effort to catch up over the next few weeks as I have ticked off several more targets.

Firstly: Gallifrey!

For those that don’t know, Gallifrey is without a doubt the best Doctor Who convention on the planet (and possibly the best fan-run convention of any kind?). I’ve been to several before, so admittedly this one was a BIT of a cheat, but as this was the 30th anniversary, it’s special, and something I absolutely had to do.

Amazing long weekend in LA, meeting Catherine Tate, Sophie Hopkins, and a variety of other Doctor Who legends, and more importantly having drinks with friends in the beautiful (and occasionally very rainy) SoCal weather. Bliss!

Scroll down for more, because…

Secondly: Tillman Water Reclamation Park

Yes, now, this may seem like an odd one. Who wants to visit a water treatment facility?!

Well, me, ever since I discovered that the beautiful Japanese Garden attached to it was open to the pubic. See, this garden has appeared in lots of TV shows and films. For me the exciting ones were Starfleet Academy in numerous Star Treks, and Bill & Ted University in their second film. But click below for a full list:


After several days of rain, the weather rather wonderfully held up for this one, and I was nearly shedding geeky tears of joy visiting somewhere so meaningful to my youth. Hey 12-year-old-Matt, one day you’ll get into Starfleet Academy!

Another update coming REALLY soon, I promise, as there are several more things to tick off. If you enjoyed this though, please donate even just a few ££s to Epilepsy Research UK via this link:

35. Leeds Castle

Today was a fabulous day at the beautiful Leeds Castle.*

I have to start by handing in my nerd cred at the door. It wasn’t until I got there I wondered to myself “wonder if anything was filmed here?”… classic Doctor Who fans are disappointed in me.

Definitely recommend this place, regardless of whether you’re a “family” or not. The grounds are lovely, and the castle itself is huge, with many rooms open for viewing.

We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful day for it, so packed a huge picnic, which Zack devoured (and two of us later had ice creams, subtly out of Zack’s field of vision) before we entered the castle itself. Zack kept us moving fast, which to be honest is ok by me (I really do love seeing history but I’m not one to stand staring at the same portrait for 20 minutes). The maze looked pretty good, but sadly not buggy-friendly and by that point the little one was done with walking… until he saw the park, and suddenly got his energy back *sigh*

Officially three down of the “40 local places” target in #35, although there’s two more I’ve not blogged about yet – need to catch up in a future post!

*OK, the target is “in Sussex” – I strayed a little…

I can fly! (31. Fly a flight simulator)

OK, OK, so I can’t really fly, BUT…

First off, over the last month I’ve been so busy achieving these 40 Awesome Things, I haven’t had time to update this blog. I have a few reports to make, which I’ll get to over the next week…

…starting with my amazing experience pretending to fly a Gulfstream like the one in the picture!

Thanks to a brilliant friend-who-shall-remain-nameless-but-works-at-a-leading-pilot-training-centre, I had the opportunity recently to spend a couple of hours taking off, landing and dealing with all kinds of scenarios in a top quality simulator. After a few minutes, it felt so real I was begging the engineer not to throw turbulence at  me (Sharon made me relent in the end).

With Sharon as my co-pilot, I made some “bump, and probably seriously reducing the life of the craft, but not actually killing anyone yay” takeoffs and landings at Gatwick, Innsbruck*, JFK, London City and more…

*note to self: if you ever fly into Innsbruck, don’t be surprised at the VERY sharp decent. Some pillock decided to build mountains all around the runway.

I will admit, the first take-off did take a while, because I was trying to steer the thing down the runway like it was a boat, flipping left and right around. Took a while to work out why we kept ending up in the car park.

The only real brown trousers moment was when the engineer decided the kill one of the engines, sending us into something of a sharp spin. Trained pilots would probably have been able to land. We… did not. Aside from that though, for this anxious flyer, the relative “ease” of dealing with turbulence, thunderstorms and the like was extremely reassuring. I highly recommend the experience to anyone who’s a bit iffy about flying.

Sadly, as this is a professional training centre with 100% accurate cockpits, I can’t share the photos of me being a proud Captain Dale, but I’m sure you can imagine.

If you enjoy the thought of me trying not to make my co-pilot and two passengers have an untimely squishy virtual death, why not donate to Epilepsy Research – links in the usual spot!

A little help from my friends

It’s amazing what you can achieve with the help of some friends 🙂

Since I promoted this blog a little more widely, I’ve had several offers of support on some of these targets, which is fantastic. It’s so much more fun and more rewarding to get through these aims with buddies alongside me!

So here’s a few updates (with anonymous credits for now – I’ll name and shame as I complete the tasks).

4. Attend Gallifrey’s 30th Anniversary: Flight leaves next Wednesday for the (geeky) party of the year. How exciting!

10. Visit Tillman Water Reclamation Park: …and thanks to my long-suffering con-buddy,  we’ll be taking a trip out to this awesome location (if you don’t know why I’m excited to visit it, keep an eye out for my next post!).

11. Run a marathon: Training is going well, with thanks to several people who have been training alongside me. This last weekend I was a few km shy of a half-marathon – much further than I’ve ever run before.

16. Eat a Burger Bear’s Picnic: I’m now being tempted away by a fellow chilli-fiend, to instead try an insanely hot burger (pepper spray level) in a local venue. Stay tuned, this goal may get swapped out.

20. Break a world record: Met with an inspirational friend for coffee today to bounce some ideas around, and this has suddenly become much more real and much more exciting!

31. Fly a flight simulator: Thanks again to a fab friend, I have this booked in. Prepare for virtual screams and flames, to be reported on in March!

I’ve also begun my marathon viewing of all of Empire’s Top 100 Films. I’m starting with the ones I haven’t seen as a priority. At number 100 is Stand by Me, which I’ve just seen the once, a few years back. Empire’s number 99 is Raging Bull, which I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen before, as I’m not especially into sports-related movies (and boxing probably the least!)… however, I found it all pretty enjoyable, and of course the acting and directing talent was amazing (deNiro bashing the wall is a really powerful scene). A solid film, and if I was interested in the subject matter I’d probably love it.

Back in a couple of weeks with some big updates. For now, please remember to send a few quid in the direction of Epilepsy Research by clicking here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matt-dale4. 


Time to train!

As I stare down at my last big food treat for the next six months, an especially dirty kebab, I prepare for simultaneously hitting two goals – my weight loss, and a marathon.

When I used to run, I got up to about 12-13k before I had to stop training (that was nearly two years ago). This Tuesday I start preparing for 42k in the summer. :-O

All being well, the aim is to take part in the Midnight Sun Marathon, which takes place in Norway during the solstice, and runs through the night (duh).

In terms of the weight loss goal, today I weigh 14.42st, which puts my official target now as 12.42st, well into the ‘healthy’ weight for my height. I’m hoping the marathon training will help me get down to this level without additional effort…

As always, this is part of my aim to tick 40 bucket list boxes to raise money for charity (link here). Please support me and Epilepsy Research UK! I’ll be blogging more frequently in 2019 about this and my other targets – keep watching…

17. Meet actor Matthew Dale

Yes, it’s true, there is a more famous version of me out there!

Matthew is laid back, fun, and has appeared in Doctor Who*.

We spent Saturday celebrating the day after the day after my birthday by hanging out in London, mainly in a queue for a Rita Ora signing. Here’s a photo of us just after we met, in the London Victoria branch of Wetherspoons:

Awesome day, and as a bonus got to make a new friend, with the best name ever!

*I kind-of appeared in it once too, a story for another day. His appearance definitely counts more, and he gets to do signings for his.

35: Tulley’s Farm: Spookfest (the kiddy version)

“35. Visit 40 places of interest in Sussex with the family

Prepare for everyone local to Sussex to be shocked as I admit… I have never visited Tulley’s Farm.

*pause for reaction, fainting etc*

Look, if you’ve not grown up here, Tulley’s doesn’t have the same legendary status.

Anyway, last weekend the fam, plus friends, took a magical voyage into a spooky-yet-reassuring world put on by the amazing staff there.

Lots of fun for everyone, the actors were brilliant (scary costumes but totally loving playing with the kids) – recommended for everyone. Including adults of a nervous disposition like myself (I would, to be honest, crap myself at the adult version they run of this!).

38. Quantum Retrieval launches!

“38. Star in an online audio drama”

Generally speaking, the list contains items I had no head-start on when I began. This is one of just two that was already “mid-flight” in some way.

Today, the first of four five-minute episodes of this Quantum Leap audio drama hits the interwebz!

I’m pretty damn proud of it. It’s written and directed by Jessie Neumann, who was insistent that all cast members, including us amateurs, put in the best performance. To that end, we spent many months building the characters up through coaching sessions she ran through Skype, and made sure that we all co-ordinated our schedules so we could perform scenes together (rather than the common “email in your lines and we’ll pop them together in the edit” approach others take). There’s a lot of small tweaks to the script found through improv, which she was wonderfully encouraging of.

It’s been years since I’ve done any acting, so I really stretched some mental muscles that had long since atrophied. It’s worth it though – I think you can really tell the difference in the world of Clare and Ray Barcley. Sure, we’re all just fans having fun, but there’s a level of shine I didn’t expect to see when Jessie invited me onboard.

Thanks for the experience Jessie!

35: Trip to Standen House

“35. Visit 40 places of interest in Sussex with the family

Kicked off this one today with a beautiful trip to Standen House and Gardens.

Today was meant to be a visit to Leeds Castle, but sickness on my part (picked up Zack’s latest cold) meant we needed a quicker option, and a rescheduling of the castle for later in the month.

Definitely one of the smaller National Trust places we’ve ever visited, but Standen House featured an all-important cafe (mmmm baked potato) and some nice grounds for Zack to wobble around in and repeatedly try and throw himself into lakes.