All posts by Thomas Takes On....

An avid ambassador of the word 'yes', I am a life traveler and experiencer that winds up in all kinds of mischievous and somewhat hairy situations. When I am not gallivanting or doing ridiculous things around the world, I am a super responsible high school chemistry, science and mathematics teacher. I am also a singer/songwriter who released an EP, Yours For The Keeping, in 2006. Delivering performances in many places around the world, one of my favourite places to perform was with the drag queens of Toronto's Church St in 2010/2011. These days I just chill with my ukulele, does the odd cover gig for fun and writing ridiculous jingles. Other favourite activities are Crossfit, boxing training, cooking a million and one different varieties of pie, growing vegetables, International Spy Missions and hiking. Oh and travel. But I consider that a lifestyle, not a hobby! So Follow me through life as I take on the world and whatever challenges are thrown my way!!

Shit I Learned In Scotland

In the glorious half term from school I decided that it was about time I ventured up to Scotland to see what it was all about. Not only was it full of stunning natural beauty, but also full of fun and fascinating stories of the past. I learned  more than wee bit of shit while I was there, but here are some highlights.

  1. Loads of different sayings take their origins from the Scots

‘Shitfaced’

Back in the days, Edinburgh was full of high-rise buildings. Of course, being in the days before toilets, people used to just chuck that shit out the window. Literally. If you were in the lower floors and had your head stuck out the window you risked getting shat on. So they would yell out before the bucket load of crap went flying out the window and if you didn’t get your head in quick enough, guess where it landed. They say that those who were drunk were dumb enough to hear the call of pending doom and instead of pulling their heads in, they would look up. And wind up with shit on their faces. Shitfaced. Superb!

City views over Edinburgh

‘Doing a Bouch job’

Thomas Bouch was an English engineer who built a bridge that wasn’t structurally sound, it fell down and killed a whole stack of people. What a massive fuck up! A total Bouch job

‘Soccer’

As much as the English and Europeans love to moan about the fact that we call it ‘soccer’ in Australia, it is in fact their fault. They bloody well invented the word. It derives from the full name of the sport from back in the day ‘association football’. Abbreviation of the name and tapping and ‘er’ on the end (oddly a very Australian thing to do… maybe that is where we get it from) results in the word ‘assoccer’.

‘Going berserk’

The Beserkers were a Viking clan full of fierce warriors who apparently fought in such a massively drug fucked stated that people thought that they were crazy. As such, when people go crazy now, they are going berserk.

Stone circle from Lewis and Harris

2. Seagulls can drool.

I mean, I had no idea until I was sitting on the pier with what has been voted the worlds best fish and chips and this damn seagull is sitting in front of me and his beak is literally dripping all over the pavement. He stopped once the fish was gone and I got to the chips. Clearly not as tasty…. but just wow…..

3. Witches don’t drown in shit.

So the river that used to run through Edinburgh used to be full of people’s shit that they used to just pour in there. When they accused people of being witches, they used to throw them in the river and say that if they didn’t sink and drown that they must be a witch. Well given the viscosity of a pile of faecal matter, most of them really didn’t sink. So they’d drag them out and burn them on the stake. That right there is logic for you. Even better, they cleared all of the shit out of this area and turned it into a nice lovely park full of green plants and wonderful flowers fertilised by the remnant bits of shit and dead witches from the area. One may even say that when sitting down there having lunch that you are hanging in the shit pit.

The old shit pit is now a park….

4.  Braveheart the movie is an absolute load of shit and things really didn’t happen that way at all. 

  • Firstly, the ‘brave heart’ actually referred to the heart of Robert the Bruce, not William Wallace. Robert’s heart was carried into the battle that won the Scots independence after his death.
  • The Battle of Sterling win hinged on the fact that there was a bridge that the English had to cross and were eventually backed into a corner of the river bend and couldn’t retreat. Where’s the bridge?
  • Bruce did not betray Wallace and get him captured
  • ugh…. and the list could go on… very entertaining fiction for the most part.

5. Other random shit

  • The word Caledonia is what the Romans used to call Scotland
  • Fife is the alcohol and oddly enough, pregnancy capital of Scotland being home to the bottling of Schmirnoff, Barcardi and Johnny Walker
  • Half Hangit Maggie was a legend for surviving a hanging and waking up in the coffin on her way down the road to be put in the ground. She kicked on for another 40 years post that….
  • Greyfriars Bobby is also a legend. He was a dog that sat by his masters grave for the better part of 15 years, his love and loyalty never faltered.
Cute little Greyfriars Bobby
  • I still don’t like oysters…. the slimy thing went down and some shell got stuck on the roof of my mouth and gag reflex kicked in… yuk. Just feed me a kilo of mussels instead any day.
  • Stone circles are everywhere up north in Lewis and Harris. I daresay they are cooler than Stonehenge and…. free!
  • And…. I want to go back to Scotland! This country is amazing and the nature is just stunning. I want to go back and climb more mountains and take some more boat trips!

 

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Travelling Iceland By Camper Van – Part 2

As a continuation of the journey I spent travelling around Iceland in a camper with a friend, we have now made it to the south. If you missed the first half, check out Travelling Iceland By Camper Van – Part 1.

Day 4 – Hofn to Dyrrholaey

This day was one of the most impressive days I have ever spent travelling for a number of reasons. It was such a diverse day and it presented itself with things I had never seen before, namely my very first iceberg. We drove straight to Jokulsarlon in the morning and got our tickets to go for a boat ride on the glacier lake with floating icebergs in it. I absolutely loved it! It was so cool driving around these massive chunks of ice that don’t even look like ice at times. The boat ride was over too quickly but at the same time, we had loads still to do for the day.

Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon

From here we drove on to Skaftafell National Park and went on a hike to some very cool waterfalls that had rock formations unlike anything I had ever seen.

Skaftafell waterfall

We continued to drive on through the world’s largest black sand desert with all of the massive chunks of rocks strewn across the landscape until we hit Dyrrholaey. I was obsessed with getting here because all I wanted to do while I was there was see a puffin. And I did! It was really cool to see them on the headland but I was so cold and so tired that I figured I would go sleep and see them in the morning and when I got up they weren’t there anymore. My friend thinks this is hilarious and will not let me forget it.

The lone puffin on the head

Day 5 – Dyrrholaey to Fludir

And so we drove on with the impressive glaciers in the background. We continued our way through to Skogafoss, which was a massive waterfall that you could walk behind and got soaked. Then we drove on to catch the ferry to the Westmann Islands.

Skogafoss

The Westmann Islands are incredibly active volcanically and in 1973 there was a massive eruption that resulted in an entirely new mountain being formed on the island. Lava spat out of this new crater for months, destroying and burying houses that can still be seen in the museum and the entire island was evacuated. Thankfully, nobody died and people have since moved back to the island but the entire thought of it was super scary.

Vestmannajyer – The Westmann Islands

After taking the ferry back to the main island, we then continued to drive towards Fludir where we got a rest in for the evening.

Day 6 – Fludir to Reykjavik

This day was to be dedicated to doing the famous Golden Circle. We started by making our way up to see Gulfoss, one of the most famous waterfalls on the island.

Gullfoss

We then drove through to see the massive geyser. It took a little while to wait for it to erupt but it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Geysir

The event of the day however was the Thingvellir National Park. We spent some time wandering the fault line here and exploring the region before we headed down to do something that is still one of the coolest things I have ever done. We got into our dry suits, then we got into two degree water that was runoff from a glacier, and then we snorkelled between the tectonic plates of North America and Europe.

Snorkelling the Silfra – between the tectonic plates

After all of the excitement and getting a little bit sunburnt, we continued our drive back to Reykjavik where we parked overnight in a playground to get the car ready to return in the morning. Whirlwind romance with Iceland was over.

Day 7 – Reykjavik

I spent one last day of sightseeing in Reykjavik before I had to return back to work. While I was wandering around I went and saw the famous church, and of course ate a dirty hotdog that Iceland is so famous for. I also took a free walking tour and learned about the parliament and other histories of the country that were super interesting.

Hallsgrimskirkja church

Iceland is one of my favourite countries in the world. I love the people and I love the incredible diversity of the nature that you find here. I cannot recommend coming here enough and hopefully this gives you an idea of the things to see and how to do it!

Travelling Iceland By Camper Van – Part 1

It is the year anniversary of me going to Iceland as I write this and it is still one of my favourite countries for natural beauty. It truly is wild, rugged and stunning. My friend and I hired a camper van out of Reykjavik and because I had a luggage limit I bought about 20kg of noodles and tins of food with me from the Lidl Supermarket in London as I knew food was going to be expensive. We got our van, and equipped with a map and about 22 hours of daylight every single day we started driving north. Iceland still proves to be one of my favourite countries in the world for its’ sheer natural beauty. If ever you get a chance to go, you definitely should! Here is what my friend and I got up to in that week.

Day 1 – Reykjavik to Oxnadalur

After picking up the car in Reykjavik and getting equipped with some fuel for the stove, we drove north and despite getting semi lost on the way up, we eventually found our way out of the city, over the wrong bridge and on our way. We stopped in to see the Glymur waterfall and dropped in at Deildartunguhver, the worlds most powerful hotspring. We then drove via Reykholt and stopped in on a historical center before checking out the Barnafoss waterfall. These falls were impressive and we walked around for an hour or so taking pictures and checking them out.

Barnafoss

Our last major stop for the day was at the Grabrok lava fields and craters, which were again, super cool. After there wasn’t too much in the way of things to see for the next couple of hours so we continued to drive towards Akureyri until we got tired.

Grabrok Crater and Lava Fields

As we came up over this hill, there were some amazing views of the mountains so we parked the van in a carpark, ate some dinner and crashed out for the night to the stunning views of Oxnadalur, which don’t of course disappear when the sun doesn’t go down.

The van camped at Oxnadalur

Day 2 – Oxnadalur to Jokulsa a Dal

We made our way to the larger town of Akureyri in the north and stopped in for a while and had a drink in a coffee shop. We wandered the streets checking out the quaint fishing village before we drove on through to the Godafoss waterfalls, and on to Namafjell and Jardbodin where they had some awesome geothermal mud pits and springs.

Namafjell

We decided that since it was bath time we should stop in the springs and swim about for a bit. They were so nice and warm and had incredible views. It was such an amazing experience. And after the bath we continued to drive on.  We arrived at this place called the Viti Crater which means hell in Icelandic. It was cold, but absolutely stunning, and oddly frozen over.

Viti Crater

We tried to head north to see Detifoss waterfall however we got stuck in a fog and decided that this wasn’t the safest path to take so we turned around and continued our way east along the ring road. We parked the car somewhere around Jokulsa a Dal and had another sleep in the bright lights of constant sun.

Day 3 – Jokulsa a Dal to Hofn

We drove on through towards Seydisfjordur, down the stunning winding roads before the coast and spent some time hanging out in the port town. On the way back up, there was a really cool waterfall, Gufufoss and we stuffed around for a while taking pictures of ourselves in our Cinderella and Dora the Explorer masks that came along for the ride with us.

Gufufoss

As we continued along the winding road we stopped in a town called Djupivogur where they had massive whale bones on display and some really cool things in one of the garden shops there. We explored these some more before making our way to Hofn where we camped on the side of the road for the night.

Whale bones at Djupivogur

While we drove most of the north super quickly, I did really enjoy the time I spent up here. It was a really cool start to the journey…. but all of the things that we were both super excited about were in the south and we were yet to get there…

To see what we did in the south, check out Part 2 next time!

Shit I Learned In Bulgaria

This was quite a while ago and as such it is pushing my memory to remember what half of the cryptic notes I took about Bulgaria even mean… but here’s the decipher! Enjoy!

  • The word ‘lev’ in Bulgarian means ‘lion’. You can see that this is the national symbol of the country because lions are literally everywhere and the currency is called the ‘lev’.
Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral
  • In the times of Constantine the Great, the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, was actually called Serdika.  This was one of Constantine’s favourite cities in the Roman empire and was the gateway to Constantinople, now Istanbul.
  • You can find churches in Bulgaria that have amazing frescoes from years 1000 and 1300. They are amazing and some of the best preserved in the world.
Frescoes inside of the Boyana Church
  • Bulgarians are terrible with giving you directions on how to get somewhere. The locals joke and say as a tourist the only solid directions you will ever receive are for the destinations of either vodka or the beach. A couple of people I met in the hostel and I decided to try out our luck with getting to Seven Lakes on public transport. After much research and confusion, we finally made it there for the spectacular hiking and views.
The hazy views over Seven Lakes
  • During World War 2, the Bulgarian government was smart enough to save it’s Jews from Hitler’s regime by telling the Nazi’s that they needed the Jews to do labour work on the railroad construction.
  • The city of Plovdiv lies abound seven different hills.
  • There are huge numbers of incredible Roman stadiums and ruins throughout the country, and are home to some of the most incredibly well preserved ruins. One of the world’s largest stadiums lies underneath the main shopping street of Plovdiv.
The end of the Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv
  • They have a tradition of tying these red and white, handmade dolls called Martenitsa from blossoming trees as ritual to denote the arrival of spring.

Other than that I really can’t remember that much more shit from Bulgaria other than I really loved it. The people were friendly, the scenery was gorgeous and the history wonderful! Cannot recommend visiting this beautiful country enough!

I’ve Just Finished Recording A New Album

For the first time in ten years, something got a hold of me and I set foot back into a recording studio to record some of my own music. I guess a large part of my motivation was that I was starting to forget who I was and music has always been a huge part of who I am so I decided to fully embrace it and set aside time for it to ‘rediscover myself’. I pulled some old songs out of the cupboard that I have been meaning to do something with for years and so it began.

I bought a Groupon for recording studio time and went in to record. Originally I had 2 songs I wanted to lay down piano, ukulele and vocal. But the more I listened to the ukulele the less I liked it and decided to get rid of it. And so the process evolved itself into something else entirely. My engineer helped me start to laydown drums, strings, bass and a plethora of other instruments through a keyboard and the result was something I never expected. In some ways I have felt quite proud of what it is that I have achieved.  I have been challenged both musically and vocally because my ear and my voice muscles are not as well exercised as they used to be. It takes me a while to get things right. What I do know is that I have felt like I have been walking on air every time I have left the studio to walk home and so I have been trying to schedule a couple of hours there every 2 weeks or so.

Recording the vocals to See Ya Later

One morning on the bus stop I was thinking about life and things that had happened recently and for the first time in a very long time I penned a song that I felt worth of laying down in a studio. It felt really good to get back the mojo of writing something that wasn’t totally cliché and shit. A month or so later another song followed.

On my last trip home I pulled out my printer and designed and printed the labels on my CD’s. I have gone to work to investigate printing the covers and had the photos taken also on a super cheap Groupon. It is all coming together nicely….

Production – getting the mix done

However there are also reservations that one has when doing such a project. Despite the fact that I started it to ‘rediscover myself’, I am in some ways semi hysterical about not getting support for it. It is hard to pour yourself into something that expresses so much of who you are to others when they just simply don’t seem to care. I am afraid in some ways that it will fail from a complete lack of interest or that people just simply don’t like it. It is in times like this that I have to remind myself that it is for me and not for anyone else. It was worth it for the floating feeling of the high down the street every second week. It was worth it to have a hard copy of something that I have created all on my own. And if it does fail and people aren’t interested, then at least I have these things. I guess in the long run time will tell.

Printing the labels on the CD’s.

We have now done the mix. And we have done the master. We’ve burned CD’s and uploaded to the web for distribution. The music is out into the world and see where it winds up. Hopefully somewhere it can be enjoyed!

If you want to check it out, go to  https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/DanniThomas

 

What I Reckon: Parenting

I have read many an article from psychologists, teachers and citizens alike on the problems we face with our children these days. The reality is, much of it comes back to parenting. And in this world that we live in, where people are very quick to shove things into the ‘too hard’ basket, our children are suffering. So if, as a global citizen, I may have one request, it is this:

“If you decide to have children in this world, please, please, please for fucks’ sake, parent them”. Tell them no. Take their phones away from them at night. Force them to sit at the dinner table and have a conversation with you. Then force them to do the washing up. Teach them how to take responsibility for their own actions if they screw up. Teach them that there is more to life that having their heads jammed in an iPad or taking a million pictures of themselves to post to social media. Teach them the value of money by not giving them every single thing they fucking well want because when you say no the first time and they throw a tantrum, and you decide it is too embarrassing or too difficult to deal with and so you give in. Well done you. Because what you teach your kid when you give them everything is that they have to work for nothing. That anything I give them on loan has no value so they can break it and put it on the floor because ‘who cares?’ That they are amazing and all deserving and that they world will just give them whatever they want as long as they throw a big enough tantrum for it. The other day I stood and watched a kid break about half a dozen pencils on his forehead like he was Chuck Norris or something and then walked out all impressed with himself…. awesome. Now I have no more pencils and when I tell him I want him to replace them he tells me he won’t be paying for them because it’s ‘just 20p’.

In so many kids I see going through the school system right now there is zero respect for adults, other people in general or property. They cannot see anywhere past what they want in the immediate moment. In that second, that is what they want and anything else beyond that is too hard to comprehend. Working for anything is too hard. It drives me insane. And then you meet parents and you realise why. They are afraid to say no to their children. They are afraid that other people will look down on them as parents if their child is behaving like an arsehole in front of others. So instead of getting at them about their behaviour, they let it slide. They let these children speak awfully to them and each other. They don’t have the time to take from their busy work schedules or are just too damn tired to make the investments necessary to ensure that their children don’t become arseholes. Or they are just too busy burying their heads in the sand.

But letting your child turn into a lazy self-righteous arsehole does not do them any favours. Nor does it do you any favours? Don’t you want to sit and look at your young adult children and think ‘wow, you are an amazing human that I want to spend time with that is full of respect for yourself and others and has ambition and drive to do amazing things’. Unless you tell them no and train them to be this way, they won’t turn out this way. Instead they are going to be soul sucking leeches still on your couch at 30 with no job screaming at you to bring them their dinner, and you will still bring it to them because you still don’t know how to say no. And you will despair at the human you raised because despite loving them you probably won’t like them. So do yourselves a favour.  Parent your damn children. Because I am sick of the buck getting passed to the school teacher and I am sick of the daily disrespect and blame I receive from parents and kids alike because it is my fault that your kids are whining, lazy, unambitious brats that are going to turn into a generation of lazy, unambitious adults.

End rant.

Parasites and I are like total besties

This morning, much to my horror and disgust, I went two doors down to the pharmacy after just getting off the overnight bus and wandered into the hostel bathroom to cheekily message my mum and get frantic with my newly acquired nit comb. You see, after a couple of days of itching like a fucking mad woman and thinking “fucking wool hats” I then lost my hat somewhere in Stuttgart and continued to itch like a mad bitch. This coupled with a few welts here and there had me thinking…. now I remember my younger sister getting them when she was about five.  But I never did. Until now. I am a grown arse woman with nits. And I don’t know if this has to do with high school age children sending them my way or the arseclown I sat next to on the plane.  Either way I am somewhat and somewhat not amused.

I am amused because I am a 32 year old childless spinster with nits. I am amused because in this whole trip, in which I usually encounter bed bugs and have to do full eradication upon return I haven’t yet seen one. I am not amused because I am so goddamn itchy!!! This wasn’t exactly how I planned things to go and now I suffer sheer paranoia.

So of course at every moment I get I am secretly crawling into toilet cubicles to comb handfuls of hair out of my head and no more nits. I am pretty sure that I got them all first go which wouldn’t be surprising considering I combed every direction for about 3 hours instead of seeing the sights of Berlin. But this still didn’t stop me. My room is clad with lavender and tea tree oil and I smell like an essential oil factory lathered in all of my oil.

My forearm looking like it swallowed a tennis ball after a bed bug bite

Despite all of this I was oddly calm. We can get rid of these. I am not allergic to these to the point where I welt and shake like a demon fiend. I don’t have to look in every nook and cranny of my luggage for the little buggers hiding.  You just spray it all with lavender and tea tree and get out your comb and you are pretty well done. Easiest parasite I have ever had to get rid of in the end. Much easier than bed bugs, giardia and all the other horrific shit I have had to deal with on the road. Just please God let there next time be no more bed bugs… or fleas……. or mosquitoes. I hate those things too! I went to Milan one weekend and woke up the first night with a swollen eyelid from a mosquito bite. The next night I woke up and the other one was swollen shut from yet another mosquito bite. Oh the joys of having such sweet blood! Ugh…. so yeah…. can I please, travel gods, go at least one trip without being mauled by something? Just pretty please?