(Golden)Twit Twoo, Here’s Lookin’ at You

I think this blog needs a little warning; if you do not use Twitter, some of this may be lost on you, but it’s childs play. Read on and you’ll see, it’s dead simple.

It’s that time of year again; the central heating is cranked back on, you lay awake all night coughing and then when it is time to get up, it’s pitch black and chilly. Bed seems like a much nicer option and I find it increasingly hard to get up on a winters morning. But this morning it was all different; I dragged myself out of bed after cowering under my duvet for a good five minutes. With stiff ankles cracking and sleep blurring my vision, I stumbled over to my laptop. Through the blur, I could see that not only had I received a #followfriday at 5.49am, someone had nominated me for a GoldenTwit award.

Now, I don’t really subscribe to this #followfriday mullarkey; does anyone ever see it and actually follow me off the back of it? I’m not sure that they do, but it’s lovely to be recommended by people. Even if they are your friends and you would make their lives miserable if they did not. It’s just nice to have someone saying something nice about you.

Until this morning, I wasn’t aware of The GoldenTwit awards. I had no idea what they were, but I was delighted to find that I had been nominated for one. I don’t have thousands of followers, but I like to think that all 116 of them were in for the long haul and enjoyed my twerping. So I clicked on the link to explore the GoldenTwits and I was welcomed into a world that celebrates the little things people say. Some of the best things have been said in 140 characters; there is a reason that the likes of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain were so concise. Obviously not all of their best quotes fit into 140 characters, but that is why the likes of WordPress exist. Micro blogging and ordinary blogging go hand in hand; I couldn’t live my life in 140 characters, but it’s a great way to amuse and abuse your friends.

So it seems all the Twitter Greats have been nominated for the GoldenTwit awards; David Schneider, Mrs Stephen Fry and David Cameroon (@TheFuckingPM) are all there. I realise that I am not anywhere near their level of greatness, but I would be delighted if all my lovely friends voted for me regardless. (All is fair in love and twitter.)

When I went onto the GoldenTwit website, I discovered that I had to answer some questions, in order to win people’s votes. The questions were as follows:

Why do you deserve a Golden Twit award?

When tweeting, what are your objectives?

What have you achieved?

What’s your favourite Twitter application?

Why should people vote for you?

How would you describe twitter to non-tweeters?

Now it is all very well amusing people as a by-product of entertaining yourself and chatting to your friends, but this is a lot more scary. Answering these questions with just 140 characters is incredibly pressuring; suddenly I have to be funny on demand. Dance for me monkey! I like to think that my tweets entertain now and then, but I do not soley write them for that purpose. So I have spent my evening trying to work out the best thing to write? Do they expect me to be sincere or humerous? Did they want me to genuinely try and win people over?

I tried to answer the questions seriously, but in all honesty, I have not managed to achieve anything in my twitter life and I don’t really have any objectives for goodness sake. Twitter is a subconscious thing, it is like talking or thinking and not something I use for business. So, I decided to bluff over my obvious inadequacies with sarcasm and flippancy.

What did I write? Well, you’ll have to pop on over to http://www.goldentwits.com/user/SillyBry to have a gander. (Oh and if you don’t vote for me while you are there… well, I will be having words. Except that I probably will be too embarrassed, so I’ll just ignore it in that irritating British way. But I’ll think some pretty nasty things.)


Beautiful Britain?

“Huh, Beautiful Britain” we scoff as we think of the grey rain falling from the grey skies, running down the grey buildings, landing on the grey roads and splashing off the grey cars onto the grey faces of the passers-by. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but when it rains, that is how Britain feels. Grey. Unable to escape from that cloud of depression and darkness, but we forget that when the sun does break through, sparkling onto the leaves, it illuminates everything leaving it looking fresh and somehow brand new.

I sometimes wonder if we fail to appreciate the beauty of our own country. We dash off full of excitement and exuberance to the airport to get to any old faraway country, but is it just me that is a tad disappointed when we land at the other end? Flying into Heathrow is so exciting; it doesn’t matter how much I fly, I will never grow tired of the view coming in to land there. I turn into small child, nose pressed against the window, trying to spot recognizable landmarks and, of course, my house. (There has to be some advantage to living within spitting distance of Heathrow airport.)

Sometimes it can be a little hard to remember, but we live in such a cool place. I live somewhere that is urban enough that I have full mobile phone signal and I can walk or crawl to both a supermarket and a pub. I am a five/ten minute drive from the M40, the M4, the M25 and the M1.Yet, 200 yards from my house is 8 acres of woodland and fields, which I am lucky enough to be allowed to keep my horses in.

Once you go down to the stables, you are in a different world. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and my butchered attempts at poeticism would never do it justice. I live at one of the highest points of the Chilterns and our field is on the edge of the valley, so looking across, you can see the river sitting at the bottom, where on a sunny day, it is filled to bursting with people sailing and boating up and down the Thames. Then looking off to the left hand side, on a clear day you can see Windsor. When the Castle burnt down, we could see the flames from our field. Then straight across, you can see Winter Hill, which quite aptly boasts some of the best sledging around. Over to the right, you can see Henley and the Hambleden estate.

It is such a quiet, restful place that it seems impossible not to feel at one with yourself there. Then, you can hope on a train and be in central London in just 30 minutes. It seems so utterly bizarre that you can be somewhere as quiet and nice and yet be so close to the buzzing capital. I might be biased about where I live, after all, I know no different. But wherever we are in the UK, we are close to some amazing things. In August, I am taking a train from home to Perth, in the centre of Scotland. This 5 hour train journey is setting me back a measly £45 (and that’s to get home as well!) I cannot believe that I can pay so little and go somewhere so magical. Killiecrankie is one of the prettiest places that I have had the pleasure of staying; the steep hills and dramatic valleys are only accentuated by the craggy rocks jutting from the rushing water. I would pay a fortune to fly half way across the world to see something half as good.

Another of my favourite places is North Devon and Somerset. It is another very hilly place and I think that hills, mountains and other dramatic features are musts for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a hill dweller by nature, I am always most disappointed by the flatness of other countries. I go to Holland and it is flat and bland as far as the eye can see. Craggy hills with water cutting its path, dashing through the valleys make me happy. I could sit by the running water all day long, just marveling at the magnitude of the surrounding hills.

For fear of sounding like an insular home lover, I don’t understand what is wrong with exploring the beauty of our own country. After all, for the last few weekends, we have had weather in the 30s, which is enough to rival the rest of Europe. We are home to some of the most stunning and exciting areas in the world, whether you like cities, market towns or rural idylls, we have it all here and within a stones throw of one another.

I realise that I’m beginning to sound like I’m being paid off by the Tourist Board (and I’m not, they couldn’t afford me.) It’s just that once I get on my soapbox, it takes more than a kindly hand to get me off. (Oh please, don’t be filthy.) Don’t get me wrong, I love going abroad. I have travelled around the Middle East (before it turned into a glitzy Butlins) and I loved the month I spent in India. Again, the trekking from Ladakh through the Himalayas was hilly, and there were streams. I was as happy as a pig in muck. Albeit a slightly asthmatic pig in a high altitude muck. I really enjoyed it and the scenery was outstanding, but for a lot less money, you can get some equally amazing stuff close to home.

If I take my rose-tinted glasses off for a minute, I can see that there are some aspects of our country that aren’t so great; the celebrity obsessed culture, the kids hanging round the shops drinking cider, the idiot boys who pushed their way right to the front of the queue in the petrol station yesterday, new flats and houses springing up where beautiful properties used to be and graffiti over the road signs, just to name a few. But whatever country you are in, you will come across bored kids looking for an outlet, materialistic tabloids and magazines feeding the greed and capitalist heartless builders exploiting the public want. Essentially in the western world, the majority of countries have the same issues. 

We might have our problems; you might disagree with the government du jour, but in Britain, you have the right and are allowed to stand up for yourself and make your point heard. Nine years ago I went into London on the Countryside March (yes, the one to stop the ban on fox-hunting) and it was amazing. Despite going on the march, I am not an avid hunter and contrary to many of my friends beliefs, I think that taking the ban away would be disastrous. I went on the march because I believed that people should have the right to do as they please, as long as they are not causing damage or upset to others. To that end, fox-hunting manages the fox population in a sensible manner. However, now that is has been banned, the antis and hunt sabs who can be really wicked (pulling innocent children from their ponies and attacking hunt followers) are generally kept at bay, whilst the rural community carries on hunting as before.

Anyway, I really didn’t want to pull at that thread, all I was trying to say was that I loved the way everyone stood up for what  they believed in. Even better, it was allowed (and in parts, supported) by the constitution. I met William Hague that day and he was a lovely bloke. He was not afraid to march with us and be photographed making a stand. Tony Blair said that he loved seeing people protesting outside the House of Commons because it gave him a sense of moral marker; he was trying to work for the nation. Of course, by the end his want for greed and world domination overpowered this, but no one is perfect.

Really, that is the point I am trying to make, no one and nowhere is perfect. Britain might be a bit scruffy, but it’s mine. It’s what I’m used to. I love it for its little flaws and anyone that tells you that you would be better off emigrating to Spain, New Zealand, Dubai Australia or anywhere else, is talking rubbish. You see, Britain is our own little spot of paradise and don’t let anyone tell you any different. If you see ex-pat communities, they are invariably filled with all the people you didn’t like bumping into at Tesco, only now, they are orange, wrinkly and paying over the odds for their HP sauce.

Shoop Shoop – Bridget goes Skiing

The last four days have been a formative part of my life. Likewise, I think that the last four days may have provided a steep learning curve for the Austrians about us Brits. There were a variety of things about Austrian culture and their lifestyle, which surprised, perplexed and downright baffled me.

When I think of tourists and the way us Brits are viewed, I am reminded of a routine by sometime stand up Greg Proops.

“English tourists are good fun on holiday too right? You guys know how you are. English tourists have one goal on holiday and that is to get lobster beet red and then perhaps at some golden moment, projectile vomit on a statue in the town square. ‘Look, look, f*cking Nigel just f*cking threw up on Al’s Head. Nice one! I tell you what I want, what I really, really want, what I really, really want, I want a huh, a huh, turn us all around and shag us from behind.’ and then f*ck off to the Benny Hill pub in Majorca to complain about all the foreigners that live in the country you are visiting.”

I don’t think that we behaved like this, but when it get’s written down on paper/internet blogosphere, it does start to look worryingly familiar. I’ll leave you to be the judges of that.

The first thing that struck me was the food. For breakfast, we were served a plate of parmesan, Emmental, Stilton and parma ham. Now, I’m British and consequently love food. But, who could actually stomach Stilton or parmesan at 7.30 in the morning? Deciding to bypass yesterday’s discarded lunch, I decided that an egg would most definitely be safe. It has to be said, that when I ordered an omelette, I did expect them to ask what I wanted in it. Imagine, if you will, a 2 egg omelette, with nothing but an incredibly liberal dash of salt, for your breakfast. To add insult to injury, the egg had not been sufficiently whisked before cooking, so it was a kind of pebble-dash effect omelette. Still, it’s best not to overindulge at breakfast, after a couple of hours of skiing on the slopes, I’ll have a cracking lunch. On our trip down the mountain, we saw a cabin restaurant with an amazing view of the Glacier, so we stopped for a rum and hot chocolate to peruse the lunch menu. It seemed a little peculiar that the only options available to us were a variety of sausages or soups with sausages in them. Thinking this was some funny place, we decided to ski back down to the village where there would be decent food. Shelley was brave enough to try the salad with bacon dumplings; this appeared to be made of a bowl of grated carrot with a liberal dose of balsamic vinegar and the dumpling was a fist sized lump of heavy suet with about four flecks of bacon interspersed through it. The dinner menu was equally exciting; starters of omelette soup or noodle soup, followed by an entire unseasoned trout for mains. Ok, so the Austrian food isn’t great, it tends to be schnitzels and sausages, which leads me to ask you if you have ever been to an expensive restaurant in Britain and been offered a Bernard Matthews breadcrumbed lump of meat? This is essentially what a schnitzel is. I could not see Gordon Ramsey serving a turkey twizzler up at Foxtrot Oscar. As a point of interest, I direct you to this picture, which was the only day I found food that tasted of food. Although, it still came with half a tonne of grated carrots.

So on day one, we’ve come to the conclusion that the food isn’t brilliant, but a good strong drink will make up for that. The majority of wine in Austria is taken from the great wine making countries of the world; The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Hungary. Any wine from a country, which is known for actually making wine was over 40 Euros a bottle, so completely out of the question. A carafe of pink balsamic vinegar and very little food later, we were soon turning into the archetypal British tourists. Shelley and I were busy examining the tongue of our trout, which did involve cutting the head off and using it as a hand puppet. As Shelley was using the trout’s head as a finger puppet and driving it around the table on the pepper pot, the owner of the restaurant stopped by our table to find out how we were. Now, at this moment, Shelley and I were crying with laughter and all we could utter was “the trout’s got a tongue! And it moves!” The restaurant owner did a sterling job at hiding her disdain; she picked the plate up and said “Yah, I see the trout tongue. I have not looked before” and promptly left us to our special brand of peculiarity.

Another peculiar thing about Austria, but this time, one that I feel a slight affection towards is the public transport system. It’s so incredibly flawed, but I wish it were the same in London! We were told on arrival that if there were special ski buses, which ran from the village to the mountain and were free to those with skis/boards. Fantastic we thought. So we diligently waited for the free skibus on the Monday and the Tuesday and off we went. Tuesday evening, we planned to go into the city (Innsbruck) to explore and for dinner. So we picked up a bus timetable, got on the bus, showed the driver where we wanted to go and paid our fare – typical tourist behaviour, I suspect. However, the bus driver seemed to find us really funny and put our bus fare in his pocket and not in the till. As our journey went on, we noticed that everyone got on the bus at the back and curiously not one person paid or showed a bus pass. Admittedly, the service was a little shaky; we were forcibly removed from the bus two stops early after the driver couldn’t get past a riot in the streets. It was a very peculiar demonstration/protest, which seemed to involve thousands of angry men with placards stating “STOP FASCIST CONTROL!” and yet there was a bouncy castle and children running around playing games. Knowing Austria’s slightly turbulent past when it comes to fascist control, we moved swiftly into the side roads to find some dinner. Eventually, we stumbled into a heaving German/Austrian pub on the basis we recognised “rumpenstekke” on the menu. After a couple of pints of weissebeere and a rumpenstekke, we went off to find the bus again. This time we decided to act like the locals; we boarded the bus, cheerily cried “Halloo!” and walked past the driver and sat down. We didn’t pay to travel on the buses or the trams all week, which was fantastic. I think that London should consider taking this kind of policy up, if you want to pay, then go ahead, but no-one is going to force it either way. I have no idea how Austria can afford to run such fantastic public transport with so little funding, but they manage somehow.

Rereading my earlier words, I have come across a bit like Al Murray and this concerns me; I loved my holiday and my week in Austria. They just had a terrible idea of what constitutes food. The skiing in Austria is fantastic; the slopes were practically deserted and there are so many resorts that you can get to. We really wanted to go to the Stubaier Gletscher because apart from being an absolutely amazing spectacle, the skiing (as always is on glaciers) is amazing. Our trip up there was quite an adventure. Again, we made good use of the public transport, although I’m not quite sure what everyone thought of us as we got onto the 8am commuter bus into the city centre in all our ski gear! Once we got into the city, we had to find the Skibus that would take us up to the Glacier and after wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes, we saw someone with a snowboard and followed them. We ran over to the coach and went to load our skis on the back, when we noticed the signs in the window were all in Japanese. Thankfully, two lovely men stopped us from getting on the bus and going on a Japanese Sightseeing Tour! In a bizarre twist of fate, we got chatting to these blokes and they live just five miles away from Shelley; they were great fun and spent the hour travelling in the coach, taking the piss out of her for living near South Molton. We bumped into them again on the bus down from the Glacier and really weirdly, at Innsbruck airport waiting for our flight; they were incredibly helpful and even offered to smuggle Shelley onto their Brizzle flight. So perhaps not all Brits are total prats on holiday, it was just us.

The city of Innsbruck is beautiful.

However, I am a little unsure how anyone can afford to live there or clothe themselves from the shops. Everything was overwhelmingly expensive; Clarks shoes were about 120 Euros and every single shop (bar the one selling Clarks shoes) was a big designer with even bigger prices. Perhaps this is why their public transport is free?

The other slightly curious fact about Austria, is that they seem a trifle obsessed with wandering about in the nud. What is wrong with wearing a swimming costume to swim in? And is it really necessary to lie around with all your bits dangling about dangerously close to frying in the sauna? No-one wants fried gonads. Not even in the dodgy Austrian diet. At first I thought it was just me being a prude, but every single English person we spoke to said exactly the same thing. The two Devon lads said “but it’s not naked Tuesday!” and they are right, every day in Austria is naked Tuesday. And you have to question the sanity of anyone who thinks it is a good idea to get in a plunge pool starkers. For a start, women become reminiscent of a Cherry Bakewell and the blokes? Well, they just seem to internalise. Not that I was staring I’ll have you know, it was the blokes who shared this nugget of wisdom. With regards to this, don’t choose a potential hubby in an Austrian sauna. Or after bodyboarding mid-winter in Devon come to that. Anyhow, it was only us Brits who seemed so concerned about sitting around flashing our bits to the whole world, but is it really necessary? I don’t just mean that they preferred to be nude, the swimming/sauna area was a strictly nude area; they got quite cross if you tried to hide under lycra. Although, it’s amazing how adept you get at keeping your towel covering all until the very last bit of you has submerged, it’s quite a skill. I think that they enjoy having nude areas simply to embarrass the British tourists.

So, my advice to any Austria bound travellers is to be prepared to diet or about a month before departure take up a Bernard Matthews/sausage based diet. If you don’t eat for the duration of your trip, you will feel more confident when using the Spa facilities.

Deep and crisp and even

I hope that my blog title has succeeded in making you hum along to that slightly inane tune. That was the plan. If I have to be held hostage in my house because of the snow, I may as well try to inflict some pain on everyone else.

Since the snow has prevented me from going to work, I decided that today would be the day that I would take the first, brave step into the blogosphere. Although, as is always the case, because I planned to write today, I am not feeling terribly inspired. I’ll be very honest, this is where I suspected that my regular blogging would fall down. No, I don’t mean on January 6th when I had to take a snow day. What I mean is that when I feel inspired and want to write, I often don’t take full advantage of it, and then when I’m bored and twiddling my thumbs, I’m lacking in the all essential inspiration. All I can do then is procrastinate and avoid the issue. So, this is my first, slightly jarring step into writing through the wall. Obviously, when I think of what it actually is that I want to write about, or I have a little nugget of inspiration fall into my lap, I need to make a mental note of it. (Or get my ever-increasing backside into gear!)

An old school friend recommended that I joined Project 52 to make sure that I keep to my word and blog regularly. I’m not quite sure what it is that they will do if I miss a deadline, but I plan to wait until at least March to find out! No, I’m not already prophesying (or planning) my downfall and failure, I’m going on a weeks holiday in March. Project 52 sounds like a great idea; a community who all want that little something to make sure they do what they planned. Fifty two blogs a year; four blogs a month; one blog a week. Easy. Even I can manage that, can’t I? As an extra buffer, I have found a group who give their users themes each week to blog on. This weeks theme is momentum.

When I first saw that I was to write about momentum, I had a few ideas about starting 2010 and how I can see myself in a years time. Obviously in January 2011, I’d be a cycling fanatic having completed the London to Brighton no problems, I’d still have a job that I enjoyed and my life would be absolutely fantastic in every way. Of course, this isn’t a terribly exciting topic, but it would be quite fitting for Week One as part of Project 52. As it is, my bike remains in the garage untouched and I’m stuck unable to get into the office. So the pressure is really on the blogging to prove to my doubters that I am well-meaning and I do plan to get fit and get cycling etc.  Along with buggering up those slightly mundane plans, the snow has also stopped me from having a nice trip to the Comedy Store this evening. I know that in the scheme of things, this doesn’t sound too tragic until I tell you that I had already paid for the tickets and not got the money off any of the three people going with me. Bugger is something that I considered saying.

So as you can see, momentum seems a little ironic given the snow this week. Fresh on the ground, it looks beautiful, but it stops everything from working, and as soon as anyone tries to carry on as normal, it looks tainted, dirty and spoiled. I love the snow, but only in the right environment. In other words, a long way from home. I’d like to think that I managed to keep moving despite the snow. Afterall, I managed to complete my week one blog, despite a massage haemorrhage of ideas and inspiration. Now that my blog is out of the way, I can sit down and think of how I could have enjoyed the evening. All together now “when the snow lay round about…”