Category Archives: Challenge

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!

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: Being Single In Your 30’s.

Being single in your 30’s is shit. Let’s be real here for thirty seconds. You’re at that age where everybody expects you to settle down and get married and have children. And you are confronted with two realities…

  1. You don’t want to get married and have kids because you are perfectly happy on your own and couldn’t care less. (In which case you are going to cop it from all of your friends and family about what is wrong with you because God forbid you want to be on your own, and God forbid you wanting a life without those ankle biting, life sucking midget’s they call children).
  2. You want to get married and have kids but you just can’t seem to find the right person to be with. (In which case you are still going to cop it from all of your friends and family about why you are still single, and why you can’t find a man and how your ovaries are going to shrivel up and die and you will be like Bridget Jones, alone, found dead 3 weeks after passing under a tub of Ben and Jerry’s you were cracking into on your death bed with your body half eaten by Alsatians).

Now while there is a possibility that I will reach the point where I decide option 1 is the way to go…. (give me a few more years of dealing with arseholes on the dating circuit and this will happen believe you me), I would like for this blog to mostly address point 2.

Hello dear friends and family,

I know you are all well and married with kids of your own and have been that way since you were in your early 20’s. The rest of us however are left to suffer with the ridiculousness that society has dealt us.

Dating today happens through online websites and Tinder. Great. Swipe right, meet up, shag, go home with a probable STI. On to the next. Never get called back.

Go out on an actual date with a person. But don’t stress, he has 7 other dates this week and while he is trying to figure out if he can get the super hot boring girl in the sack he isn’t messaging you for a month and ooop! There it is, the message 6 weeks later that says ‘you were not my first choice but since I have exhausted all other options I thought better looking or funnier than you I figured I would be kind enough to message you now’.

And then there is the guy that loves a massive challenge. And so you provide one. But as soon as you take that next step, bam, he is outta there faster than The Flash and on to the next challenge cause why would you want to revisit the destination you have already been when there are a whole world of destinations (vaginas) out there to explore?

And so we rinse, lather, repeat.

In this world of instant gratification that we live in people expect that they will have Hollywood butterflies all the time, every time and if they don’t, oh well, it’s over. People don’t want to work at their relationships. A friend of mine said to me the other day ‘he said this and that isn’t respecting me or my feelings. I asked her how many times in our 17 year old friendship I have said shit that has disrespected her feelings and we’ve managed to yell at each other and get on with it. ‘Fuck loads’ she says. I am like ‘well why is this any different? It is about how your partner behaves after you call them out on something that upsets you and whether they then try and avoid it’. New relationship teething period. But people give up, freak out. Too hard basket, move on. People are too afraid of investing any part of themselves into anything anymore for fear of getting hurt, fear of making the wrong choices, fear of the thing that most people in the entire course of human history have spent their entire lives endeavouring to find.

And yet here we are. 30. With limited choices. A bunch of scared bratty, ungrateful morons hanging about until the next shag because heaven help us if we actually have to feel anything more than guilt, confusion or a slight amount of disappointment at the end of the day. We are a product of technology, society and too much choice. And we are also our own downfall. Until we decide to make some hard choices, we will never find what we are looking for. And even worse, when you are ready to make those hard choices, you then have to find someone that you have that romantic spark with that is also at a point where they are also willing to make those sacrifices and hard choices. Very few people are. And so back to the drawing board we go.

What I do know is this. I am not afraid to be alone if this dismal fucking dating scene cannot offer me anything more than a cheap weekend ride that won’t call me back later in the week. I don’t want games. I don’t want a disrespectful arsehole. I don’t want someone who is only going to message me once a month to see how I am going because their other shags on the go are busy. I don’t want someone who cannot consider my feelings and my time and treat me as a person they adore.  I am not afraid to instead go and invest my time into my friends who will be with me through my whole life and support me through whatever I need because those are my people. It is these people that will stick by me through thick and thin. And if I can’t find these qualities in a romantic partner then there is always the Rabbit and Duracell and the odd Tinder right swipe to keep me occupied.

 

 

 

What I Reckon: Bullfighting in Spain

Last year when I visited Spain I found myself in Seville at a special time of year for the locals. I found myself there during the bullfighting time. Many people told me this is a vulgar and awful practice. Many of the locals defended it saying that it is not a disgusting thing and that there is a lot of respect for the animal and that it isn’t cruel. Not being one to back down from things that are confronting, I weighed up whether I should or shouldn’t and decided that an informed decision was better than an uninformed decision and that I wanted to go and experience it for myself and make up my own mind.

Admitting this to people was a rather difficult thing. Some of my friends abused me for doing it because they felt I was supporting maltreatment of animals, others were not really understanding of why it is that I would want to go there to begin with. But as they say, when in Rome, and so I went. With reservation, but I went.

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The parading at the beginning before the fighting begins

I found myself sitting in the ring next to a couple of people that spoke enough English to be able to explain some of the things that were going on to me. Between this and the information that I learned from the museums I visited up until that point I could figure out what was going on.

I could imagine that the whole affair resembled a similar scene to that of the Roman Gladiators. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance with brass bands playing loud music and horses parading around. Each matador gets to fight 2 bulls each over the space of the evening. There are generally 3 matadors per bullfight.

So the bull enters the ring. The matador waves the cape and assesses the bull for aggression. After that they get the guys on the horse to come out and they lance the bull in the neck while the bull locks its horns into the side of the horse. For the first bullfight I ever watched, the bull actually knocked the horse over and the bullfighters assistants had to go in and distract the bull to get the horse safely up.

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2 of the horses in the initial proceedings

After they have checked out the bull with the horses, the matador’s assistants go in to face the bull. They have these pom pom like sticks that are decorated in streamer type material with sharp ends on them called banderillas. The aim of these is to weaken the muscles around the bulls neck and to agitate it. After they have had a go sticking about four rounds of these things into the bulls neck, in which the bull is now bleeding enough to see, the final stage begins.

The matador enters the ring to face the bull alone with his cape and a sword. He hides the sword under the cape and uses the cape to assess how the bull is moving and the kinds of passes the bull makes. After a few passes, the matador drives the sword into the neck of the bull. If done correctly, the bull will usually sit down within the space of 30 seconds and the matador’s helpers will come out and sever the spinal cord so that the animal doesn’t suffer anymore.

The first bull I watched was excruciating. The matador missed where he was supposed to put the sword. It took three passes and three swords through the neck for the bull to go down and it made me cringe every time. This part of bullfighting is most awful. The thing that I did find utmost heartbreaking though was the utter confusion of the bull in the ring for the ten minutes it is there to fight for its death. Sometimes the bulls look around and don’t want to fight. Sometimes they are so confused about what is happening you can actually read the confusion on their faces. Sometimes they get angry and they just charge and charge and charge. Despite making the decision to go here, I cannot say that I really enjoyed it. However I did now feel that I could make an educated opinion on what I felt about bullfighting. And my decision was that it is in many ways barbaric and cruel. At the same time I cannot say that it is any better in abattoirs where they slaughter animals for food. The entire thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

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The matador with cape and sword preparing to kill the bull

One thing I will say is that despite killing them, the matadors seem to have a great love for the animals. Despite meeting a horrid death, these animals are kept in really good environments with good standards while they are alive. They are well cared for. And their deaths also do not go in vain. Every bull gets sent to the butcher and used for meat. Many of the restaurants in Seville have bull meat on the menu during the bullfighting season. In this sense I have respect for the process. However I don’t think I will be going again. I just don’t think I could stomach any more of it and call it entertainment. Best leave me to a chick flick or something less morbid. But if the movie boys could wear pants like those of the matadors, that would be great. Their butts look hot in those things!

 

What I Reckon About: Manners (or lack thereof)

I am not entirely sure whether it was always this bad or whether since the introduction of smartphones and reality TV they seem to have removed the part of the brain that controls consideration of others. The other day I helped out with a school play and afterwards sat to watch the kids perform. The audience was small, less than a hundred people and the kids were super nervous. Unfortunately, about 6 people were late and decided to walk in front of others during the middle of the show. Despite being told that phones were to be turned off, at least three phones rang in the first 30 minutes and one woman even had the gall to actually answer her phone in the middle of the performance and start having a conversation in the front row. Then after about two minutes of a conversation took it out into the hall and started loudly talking on the phone so it could be heard inside over the top of the play. I felt incredibly sorry for the kids. They are trying their hardest in something that takes a lot of guts to do and people sit disrespecting their own kids. Disgusting.

Other things that seriously shit me are:

  • People who take up the entire sidewalk walking in a line and have their heads jammed so far into their phones (up their own arses) that they won’t let people pass
  • Arseholes who get onto a full bus and leave an empty seat beside them so nobody can use it.
  • People who see you reading something at a museum exhibition and on purpose just stand in front of you like you weren’t there reading it in the first place.
  • People who cut into lines in front of others who have been waiting for a long time.
  • People constantly checking their phone while you are having a dinner or conversation with them.
  • Watching 15 people get off the bus but the bus seems to still be so “full” because people won’t move down in the bus that you wind up getting left on the side of the road because the driver can’t open the front doors.

I am pretty sure that things weren’t this bad with disregarding manners fifteen years ago. What I do know is this. This current society is becoming more and more selfish and less and less considerate of others. How this has happened? I am not sure. But I feel that a great deal of it can be attributed to media celebrating celebrities who are morons and behave atrociously.  Enter the Kardashians. People seem to spend more time embracing a culture of those who are so self absorbed that they have nothing to offer and give to others. I sit and watch kids take selfie after selfie after selfie. Their ideas of self importance don’t seem to extend beyond themselves to anyone or anything else. That to me is incredibly sad.

I also attribute it to increased use and reliance on technologies. People are so addicted and attached to their phones that they cannot seem to be able to sit through a movie or an hour long performance in a theatre without checking their phone to see if anyone has messaged them. This constant need to be checking and communicating through phones has decreased our ability as a society to have actual intelligent conversation with another person. Our kids no longer have the ability to communicate in a polite manner with each other because it is all done through text. And adults are getting just as bad.

Thirdly, and I am not entirely sure where this even comes from but people in western societies seem to have such little self awareness or awareness of others. I know where people are around me when I am walking down the street. I am aware of how my body fits and moves through a crowd. Self awareness seems lacking and maybe this is why people are constantly standing in other peoples ways, cutting lines and running into others. Perhaps this is extending from a lack of play with the younger generation now that a large proportion of parents choose iPad’s to babysit their kids instead of throwing them out the backdoor and saying ‘entertain yourself in the backyard’.  Perhaps it is because they can’t see what is happening because they are too busy seeing how many people liked their Facebook post. Perhaps it is that we have forgotten what the word community means and seem all the more focused on the ‘me’ in every equation.