Shyness in the Fatherland

It’s my last morning in the Fatherland. Austria. Origin of Haslers, playground of lederhosen, yodelling spot of Julie Andrews, and birthplace of the world’s biggest villain, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not really. Hitler, obvs. My great great grandfather came from this great land, so I’ve been keeping half an eye peeled for Haslerian lookalikes that might be fifth cousins ten times removed or something. I quite fancied making chums with a Bavarian doppelgänger, but I reckon Austria is quite big and I probably missed her while I was eating melted cheese or something.

I’m just about to go down for my last breakfast. After this I am going to fast for a week. I’ve been pumped so full of Austrian hospitality I reckon I’ve mutated extra stomachs to deal with the digestion – like a cow, but with much smaller teats.

I’ve done lots of wonderful things on this trip. I’ve skied, tobogganed, been on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the mountains, witnessed perhaps the most alarming version of Sweet Caroline ever, and sung Eidelweiss quietly to myself in a cable-car. (I didn’t have the balls to do the full score of Sound of Music at full hill-swirling volume. I wasn’t sure if it would echo and shake the snow off the peaks. I don’t want to kill novice skiers; they’ve got enough on their plates). And I’ve talked a lot with some wonderful people.

I always get a bit sad when things come to an end. Especially when you’ve been hanging out with people you are likely never to see again. The randomness with which people come together – how fleeting that time together is – boggles my small brain and I say goodbye feeling that something has ended before it even properly began. I’ll get glassy-eyed every time I look at the cute espresso cup I ‘borrowed’ from the hotel restaurant and wonder what everyone’s up to and if they’re having a nice day. They will probably never think of me ever again. And that’s ok. Why would they? It’s not like I’ve been juggling for them or doing sleight-of-hand magic tricks at dinner or anything fun like that.

I felt excruciatingly shy coming away on this press trip with proper journalists. I felt like the new girl. I felt like I had nothing to say about anything and they would all think I was dumb. These guys have covered Hillsborough, murders, court cases, paedophile rings. I just bang on about my favourite sandwiches and stuff. News folk are impressive. I’m always in awe of how they manage it. I’d crumble at the first sniff of a scoop. I’d probably be demoted to tea girl within a week.

As the days have gone by though, I have seen that there’s never really any hierarchy except the one you allow to exist in your own head. There are no real experts on life here – just humans, with their different stories, their assembled vulnerabilities hiding behind their brave faces. We’ve shared quite a lot in our time together. I’ve learned about the things that worry them or make them sad, about their career highs and lows, about their families and upbringings, their thoughts on what’s going on in the world, and last night in a Euro-pop bar the editor of a big newspaper up north told me that he felt just as shy coming away on this trip as I did. It comforted me. I figured it’s nice when people don’t lose their shyness no matter how much impressive living they’ve done. It feels only respectful to remain a little unsure in this world, which is always a bit big and scary no matter how much we traverse it. It will always be bigger than us, and that is just how it should be.



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