Bryonopsis – It’s all about Me.

Now, the gardening pedants out there will now that I have grossly misused the term “Bryonopsis”, as it actually means “to look like Bryony”, but I like to think of it as an elision between Bryony and synopsis, thus making it a Bryony based summary.

My name has been both a blessing and a curse to me; as a slightly lisp-y child who struggled to define her r’s, it made the whole questioning process of “and what’s your name?” slightly traumatic. Watching a small child slowly turning red as she attempted to get her tongue and teeth around Bryony, which inevitably turned into “Bwwynee”, must have caused my primary school teachers some pain and/or amusement. Once I established how to say my name, it started to provide much fun, albeit mostly for my classmates, as the time to take the register could double as the supply teachers stumbled over my name. Through the variety of mispronunciations, all sorts of nicknames would appear and whilst some disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared, others have followed me around ever since. Thankfully, Cheese Wood was only mentioned once (apparently Bryony sounds like Brie and mahogany), but Brindaloo, BVY, Silly B, Bry ‘n why, and many others have become pretty standard for me over the years.

Not only can the pronunciation be a real difficulty, the spelling can cause havoc; Brianny, Byrony, Brionee and Briony are common mistakes. Now I know that some parents misguidedly call their children Briony and I just don’t understand why. The Latin is Bryonia. I do not see a B-R-I there and it’s not as though Briony looks pretty. Bryony with the two ys looks a lot more balanced and correct. Now, don’t even get me started on Byrony, which I have also been endlessly by the way. When it is pronounced Bryony, why on God’s earth do you think it should be spelt Byrony? For goodness sake! (Yes, I am aware that I am riddled with issues…)

The name Bryony may not be a Roman Goddess or Pagan warrior, but it still has very important and regal roots. Bryony is a small but poisonous weed. It looks enchanting and pretty with little, curly tendrils springing away from the delicate, cream petals, but in actual fact, it is fatal if ingested. So, this little weed is a temptress, she entices everyone and then in a dreamy trance, people take some of her succulent berries, not realizing that she’s now cackling in delight at the trick she has played on them. Well, that’s a nice thing to be named after, isn’t it? Especially when you discover that the Welsh are particularly fond of calling it the Devil’s Turnip, which sounds like a euphemism for Mephistopheles’ manhood. Why thanks Ma!

One thing that I have learnt from various scout outings, Tesco shifts and late nights down the pub, is that a name like Bryony works quite well in certain songs; Brindaloo was a firm favourite during the 98 World Cup and after the release of Mark Ronson’s album a few years back, the Tesco tills would be ringing with the sound of Bryony, sung to the tune of Valerie. Nowadays, there aren’t too many hit songs that would fit Bryony into the chorus. Can you imagine Usher or Chipmunk singing about Bryony? No, neither can I.

According to all the usual dubious name definition websites, if you meet a Bryony, you’d be in for big win if you bet against her being British. Nearly 90% of all Bryonys can be found in the UK and apparently, we have been around since the 1700s although I am yet to find any evidence of this. In fact, there were more Myrtles around than Bryonys. I sincerely hope that this is a wrong that has since been corrected.

To be honest, there are very few Bryonys to be found anywhere, although all of them I can find have been honourable and upstanding members of the community. The Navy have named two of their great vessels HMS Bryony; the first fought valiantly in the First World War, taking up the disguise of a regular merchant vessel to infiltrate enemy waters. The second HMS Bryony was hit during an air raid and sunk in 1940, before she had even left the builder’s yard. They decided that the old bird was worth salvaging and they rebuilt her. As a result of her damage, she was the only boat of her class to have a long fo’c’sle with specialist minesweeping equipment on. She went on to attempt to deliver supplies to the forces in Russia in what would become a series of notable attacks; German U Boats and Luftwaffes tracked the convoy and sent waves of attacks through the journey. Thirteen merchant vessels were lost, but the brave and valient Bryony sailed on to Russia. After the war she was sold to the Norwegian army who used the war veteran until 1980 as a weather ship.

Bryonys are rarely seen in the big wide world, but like our brave and noble navy ships they are always high achievers. Perhaps one of the best examples is Bryony Shaw, who took home a Sailing bronze medal for Team GB from Beijing. We always try our damned hardest, even if we aren’t quite good enough, we really do try. Think of Bryonys as the Top Gear team, if you will. We have ambition, but we don’t always hit the mark. Another infamous Bryony is Bryony Gordon, a 3am girl, who worryingly only got that dubious position through bare-faced nepotism. As a collective gang of Bryonys, we have disowned Bryony Gordon from our gang.   Another excitingly ambitious Bryony is the internet sensation, Paperlilies who has conquered myspace, the blogosphere and youtube with her ambitious plans to create a zombie movie.

We’ve also got a playwright, Bryony Lavery who was most famously behind Frozen, a play about kidnap, rape and serial murders. We’re a cheery bunch, which is reinforced by the fictional Briony Tallis in Atonement. Now, I bought the book on the basis that the main character shared my name, even if it was spelt incorrectly! I am only on page 61, so I’m not really in any place to judge, but even at this early stage, she seems like a total psycho. Briony is an introverted 13 year old who is obsessed with writing and her own imagination, but she is definitely a bystander on life; she watches everything happening around her and distorts it for her own mind. But still, I mustn’t judge her. Not until I’ve got a few hundred pages further down the line anyway.

As I write this, I have come to realise that there are actually many different types of Bryony and we aren’t any more successful or special than the Sarahs, Johns or Davids of the world, but I like to think my name is a part of me that makes me special. I like my name and the questions that inevitably come with it. I don’t understand people who want to change their name, after all, it isn’t going to change them as a person is it? What about me? I wouldn’t change my name for the world, not even my middle name Edithlred.

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An ode to a Newspaper Journalist

About six weeks ago, I saw an advert in my local paper looking for someone to write reviews of shows at the Theatre Royal in Windsor and the Wycombe Swan. As it was an unpaid, voluntary position, I duly applied and said how very interested I would be in such a job. Of course, a few days later I received the uniform email thanking me very much for my time, but unfortunately they had found someone with more experience. It’s the same old story and as I have a paid job anyway, so I brushed it aside and carried on with my life.

On Monday night, I had the great pleasure of seeing a handful of the Comedy Store Players in the touring show, Paul Merton’s Impro Chums. It only seems fair that after all this time, they travel to me once in a while. Now imagine my horror when two days later, I find a review in the Bucks Free Press, written by the very same person who rejected me for the job. The review incidentally, can be found here -> http://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/leisure/8173256.Review__Paul_Merton_s_Impro_Chums/

As you can see, it is a little lacking in inspiration or personality, but for a local newspaper journalist, this is probably no great crime. However, the slight lack of grammar and flowing sentences is. The final straw was the quote “The last scene saw a Case from the Files of Sherlock Home and the audience came up with Mr Spock Meets the Queen.” Now, I may be a bit of a pedant, but even if you aren’t the most well read, intellectual individual, I should hope that you realise that his name is Sherlock bloody Holmes. Well, not bloody, that’s just a nickname. But, Sherlock Home? There was even a massive Hollywood film splashing his name far and wide earlier in the year, so she really has no excuse.

As my ego has taken a bit of a battering and I’m a little let down by her lacklustre reviewing, I decided that I would write what I would have written to show that an unpaid monkey could do a better job than a paid journalist. I’m not claiming that my writing is anything special, but at least I didn’t just write an inaccurate linear, year three-esque retelling of the evening.

I hope you enjoy my version of the review, but I would like to hold a straw poll, so please let me know who you think the winner is.

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums

Wycombe Swan, Monday 17th May.

An evening with Paul Merton’s Impro Chums is a refreshing change for those used to seeing theatre and/or stand up comedy; there is no air of pretension or self-importance, the Chums are as laid back as you like and seem to have as much fun during the gig as the audience. As they corpse, break the fourth wall, laugh and ridicule each other, the audience has the privilege of watching five friends having a laugh and they even get to join in, after all, audience suggestions can make or break an evening like this.

The premise? The five comics play a series of games all based on the audience’s suggestions. To some, the idea of creating a musical in a crematorium or a Sherlock Holmes story about Spock meeting the Queen is simply mindboggling, but not for these Comedy Store stalwarts. Paul Merton, Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster provide an improvisation masterclass for the audience.

It may be Paul Merton’s name on the tickets and his face on the posters, but there is no hierarchy in a show such as this; everyone shares an equal billing and is instrumental in making it a good evening. Paul acts as the host for the evening and starts warming the crowd up by asking for some examples, such as household objects (a spatula), location (a pub) and our favourite, a historical figure (Gordon Brown). These sorts of suggestions were immediately called upon for the games; the first required the Chums to tell the story of Oliver Cromwell and the Iron without stumbling over their words. The story covered the meeting of Mr Morphy and Mr Richards and skipped from history to the present and back again within a heartbeat. The audience acted as the referee shouting “Die!” as they tripped up until one of them was crowned the winner.

The troupe’s quick wit and gloriously silly gags shone throughout the evening, especially in the more freeform games that allow the comics to come on and off stage changing the scene and making fresh jokes. The audience watch in wonder as they change characters and accents as frequently as you or I would blink. There is rarely a dull moment in the fast paced and exhilarating show.

Although the evening may be based around silly jokes and quick gags, there were other games that demonstrate just how clever and lateral minded the players are. At one point in the evening, the audience had to invent a job for Paul to guess, with a little help from his chums. When Paul left the theatre, it was decided that he would be the person who used his moustache to hand paint the marmite onto twiglets in an igloo for the British Army. It was then left up to the other Chums to distort the words and use puns to help Paul guess his job. Lee was particularly sharp, telling Paul that his family all had different opinions about going on holiday. His uncle definitely wanted to go, his Pa really didn’t and his Ma was undecided. His Ma-might want to. Another clue that utterly bamboozled Paul was that Lee had created a shower out of a bra, thus using a bra-to-shower-me. As Paul said, “the audience knows the job and even they can’t work out the clue!”

During the interval, two buckets were left onstage for the audience to place their suggestions in for the next games. Everything is based on audience suggestion and by that token, the comedy is very inclusive. The group I was with were delighted to hear a number of their suggestions acted out; when Russell Crowe met Robin Hood, naming the next big epidemic and weighing the mayor were all suggestions we had deliberated over. It was particularly exciting to see five strangers to the area attempting to act out our long-held tradition of weighing the mayor. Other suggestions included “four peas in a pod”, where Richard improvised music as the players crouched together and sung about breaking free from the pod. Immediately after this, Suki hid behind Paul to create a wig for him to go downhill skiing in and when he started to move forward, Richard and Mike carried Suki forward behind him. They only fell about laughing when Paul started to complain that his wig was strangling him.

As I write about Suki acting as Paul’s wig or David Cameron kidnapping Spock on the way to visiting Queen Victoria, I feel that anyone who wasn’t there might struggle to visualize it, but fear not, Paul and his chums still perform where they sharpened their teeth 25 years ago at London’s Comedy Store under their other hat as the Comedy Store Players every Wednesday and Sunday.

Don’t be Needy, Be Succeedy

This week I bring with me some fabulous news; Laura is awake and talking! She can recognise members of her family and knows details about her friends with little prompting. Obviously the road to recovery is still very long and winding, but it’s just so brilliant to have her back with us. It seems hard to believe that just three weeks ago everything was normal and hunky dory. I’m full of confidence that now she awake, Lor will try her utmost to fight everything and get herself back to normal. On a slightly less fantastic front, I am still without a buddy for my big Scotland challenge (http://www.scotlandcoasttocoast.com/challenger.html) despite my extensive and frivolous advertising.
It is at this point that I feel I should make a little confession; despite my obvious enthusiasm for raising copious amounts of money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance (for Laura), I haven’t actually run since October. That is around seven months and not ideal for someone who is planning to run and cycle 109 miles in four months time. On Wednesday, I was lingering around twitter for want of something better to do and I saw that someone who I am following had entered a 10km run just down the road from me. Now, if he can drive an hour through central London to go for a run, I could probably stumble out of bed and drive the 7 miles towards Slough to get there. Buoyed by the ML (or motivitalised location to the untrained ear) and the positivity of my fellow runner, I entered the race with great relish and enthusiasm.
Having entered the race and parted with my hard-earned £15, it suddenly occurred to me that I really had to do the race. I spent the next hour wailing into the echoing depths of my office, batting away inane mocking from my colleagues and creating a hundred point list about exactly why I should not, and generally don’t, run. Although the feeling of dread and certain humiliation did not leave me, I was reminded of my £15 entry fee, which I was certain I did not want to wave goodbye to. It was at this point that I turned to my fellow runner/bastard that coerced me into running (delete as the mood takes you). He gave me what has possibly been the best advice possible; he told me about his Bible – The A to Zee to Motivitality – written by gansta motivator L Vaughan Spencer.
Immediately upon purchasing the book, I discovered that the extent of your success is very much dependant on how many copies you purchase. So I dug deep and bought another six copies. As Tesco so rightly say, “Every Little Helps!” Although this book has been aimed at businessmen and for corporate advice, I found so many useful tips in it. Although I was unable to fit a course of nutritional counselling in with L Vo before the race, I managed to take the basic principles from the book; in order to succeed, I had to apply Spellology to my diet. So, I threw away the pasta and porridge, which I had planned to eat pre-race and went out on the hunt for food beginning with my initials. As such, I lived on bananas, Bovril, beetroot, halibut and hare. All served with brown sauce, naturally.
So now I was well fed and nearly ready to race, but before I could get on the starting line, L Vo had some advice about my appearance. He advised me to take off the grass skirt and boob tube and to dress for success. Now, I usually wear my hair in a side parting, which is apparently terribly bad for my levels of succeediness. So I tied my hair back into a ponytail to keep the dragon of failure away and I was nearly ready to run. My final job was to load my trusty mp3 player up with suitable succeedy songs and moti-music, which were sure to give me a motivational lift on my way round the race.
Finally I was ready and the big day arrived. I arrived in plenty of time and I met up with James, who is a little further down the path to succeediness and righteousness than me. He helped me to prepare for the race by chanting our favourite moti-mantra and loosening our limbs up with a SucceeDance. Once the race got going, I focussed on my moti-music and kept running and running to stop the dragon of doom from pulling me back with him. I completed the entire 6 or 7 miles without walking and although I was slower than fellow succeeder James, I did it. I cannot imagine why James (who has run marathons) managed to complete the race in two-thirds the time that I did, when I haven’t taken a step in my running trainers for 7 months. All I can think is that it is because he has studied under L Vaughan Spencer and is an avid follower of his work. On the back of this, I’m exploring the possibility of going on a variety of courses, such as the Watford Warrior Weekend in the imminent future so that I will manage to get to Scotland and run/cycle the 109 miles for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. There is a chance that I may have to run a little more frequently between now and September, but I think that learning the L Vo philosophy is of far greater importance.

Optimistic dreamer seeks enthusiastic lunatic

For those of you who have been following me from the beginning of the year, you may have seen relatively little mention of my new year’s resolution to cycle the London to Brighton. Essentially, where it all went wrong was going away on holiday the day that the entries opened. So my dream of cycling from London to Brighton was not to be, but it was a nice idea. I brushed this under the carpet, but after the events of the past few weeks, I realised that I still really wanted to do something for charity.

I have got a higher than normal proportion of friends that have travelled in helicopters, but not because they live a rich, high life. It is a result of competing horses in hard to reach places. The Thames Valley Air Ambulance service are simply fantastic; the staff are committed and dedicated and the service is invaluable to many horse riders, motorbikers and ramblers. I am very lucky and thankful to have avoided any personal contact with the TVAA, but after an accident involving a friend of mine a fortnight ago, I realised just how crucial this service is. They receive no funding for the service they provide, which makes fundraising and donations all the more important to them. We are making a concerted effort to raise money for them at our next Riding Club qualifier, but I feel that I would like to make a personal contribution for them and this is where you guys come in.

I desperately wanted to find a race that was achievable, but sounded pretty damn impressive. I have done a couple of different adventure races by the Rat Race company and so this was the first place I turned to. I have got my heart set on completing the Nokia Coast to Coast Challenge across Scotland in September. It goes from Nairn to Inverness and covers 109 miles over the course of the weekend. The majority of the distance is cycling with a chunk of running and a tiny bit of kayaking. They claim that if you can run 10km comfortably, then this is something that you can achieve. You can find all the information about the race on this website – http://www.scotlandcoasttocoast.com/challenger.html

So now I just need someone to do the race with. I am very enthusiastic and am prepared for the hard graft; I haven’t run since October, but have entered a 10km race with two days notice to get myself into gear for this race. I still haven’t had my bike serviced, but it’s not for a lack of trying. After various crossed wires, I established that the dentist would not service my bike and I still can’t get hold of the bloody bike shop. But rest assured, I will have a working bike in the next week or so.

I am not a naturally gifted sportswoman; when running, my legs and arms flail around like windmills whilst my face turns increasingly purple, so I think it is fair to say that talent is very much optional when I’m looking for a potential partner. The most important thing in a buddy to me is that they have the same irresistable urge to do something mad and that they have a great sense of humour. When I have run and cycled over 50 miles and am expected to sleep in a tiny tent, I need someone that is going to make me smile and forget the gruelling 50 miles that are ahead of us.

This feels a little like writing a personal ad. I am a bubbly 23 year old with a GSOH; isn’t that what they write? I have no idea, but I think they should be a lot more honest in these adverts. Whoever I do this challenge with is going to see me at rock bottom and they need to know what I will be like. At the beginning, I’ll be pumped with adrenaline and will talk too much. Towards the end, I’ll get grumpy and defeatist. But despite all that, my heart is in the right place and I really want to raise money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

I am writing this in the hope that you will help me to find the perfect partner for my adventure. Please share this with as many people as you possibly can so that I can find a likeminded lunatic. If you are interested in doing the race, catch up with me here or on twitter. I lurk there most days and am fairly easy to get hold of.