So I went to my first Mandarin lesson this week. A group of parents in my county got together a few years ago to found a Mandarin School, they had all adopted children from China and wanted their families to learn Mandarin and so find a connection with the birth country of their children. It's very cheap, friendly, a little amateurish in its organisation (but in a good way) and so far there are 6 of us, so the level of teacher-student interation is top. So far I can count to ten, say hello and ask someone their name. I know a couple of characters, but in the early days its apparently better to focus on using pinyin and then properly focus on the characters when you've got the general hang of it.
I've also subscribed to Chinesepod after exploring the service through a free trial. The resources look amazing taking you from 'Newbie' to 'Expert' with hundreds of lessons, vocab, transcripts and a big online community. I've signed up to the £20 a month premium package which you can cancel any time - so seems like a good thing to take a chance on. I'm also going to try using Anki a 'spaced repetition' system - kinda like a sophisticated version of flashcards. I wish I'd had it when I was at school!
As you can probably tell I'm serious about this, and I hope I stay that way. I don't speak any other languages (ok a tiny bit of french but I've never been properly motivated to improve it), and having visited China twice in the last year I'm fascinated by the country, and I'd really like to explore it and perhaps live there.
So wish me luck, I'll keep you posted on my progress!