Friday, January 26, 2018

More Tales from the Underground

Hello Readers. How is January treating you? I know it can be a sucker punch of a month, when you're already feeling a little larger than usual after the Christmas celebrations, and tired of the rain and cold, and stupid storms with ridiculous names - which I guess they give them in order to humanise them, and then you have a name to yell as you shout to the skies and curse them for all eternity. And that return to work or study or school is like going out into said, absurdly named storm, wearing only underwear, but still, the year has to start somewhere, right?

In this rant I'd like to tell you about two things that happened on the tube this week. I am using the tube and trains a lot more than I used to do, and thankfully, the 46 bus less and less. We all know how I feel about that stringy turd of a bus route.

And so, I'll start with the annoying thing that happened to me yesterday. I was sat reading my Italian Short Stories for Intermediate Readers book - oh yes, I'm intermediate now. Whoop. Though I still have to underline a lot of words and circle things in a WTF does that mean sort of way - when two women sat either side of me and as the train moved off, they both encroached on me with their elbows, taking over both arm rests and caging me in. I'm not sure how they expected me to make myself any smaller. It was like I wasn't even there. Rude.

I tried to fight back, silently, by rearranging myself and trying to fan out my elbows a bit, but the territory had been staked. I mean, I expect this from men, but women of the world, I thought we were together in solidarity. I thought we looked out for one another. If you start this, then there's no escape. I will be forever trapped between other people's elbows. Though I can't really ask women to stop this because men do it all the time and I'm all about equality. But hey, stop it! All of you. I need space too.

And then to the wonderful thing that happened on Wednesday. I was reading my Sylvia Plath Letters Home book, though it's more of a brick, and some guy taps me on the shoulder and gestures for me to take out my ear buds. I oblige and then we have a lovely conversation about the book and about Plath and how incredible she was, and how young, and how tragic it was. And people say nobody talks to each other in London and we hate strangers and we all keep to ourselves and it's unfriendly and a hostile place to live. And I say, bugger off.

Yes, people mainly keep to themselves, but that could be for any number of reasons and when you do have these moments with complete strangers, bonding over a pair of incredible shoes, or a haircut that you think is gorgeous and you just have to tell the person, or you notice someone reading a book by an author you love, or you see someone writing sheet music whilst sat on the floor of the train and you want to comment, then these moments become even more special.

Thank you book guy. And please everyone, watch those elbows. I have as much right to arm rests as you do.

Just a short one today. Thanks for reading.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Year of Running: 2017

This blog was supposed to be written over the Christmas break in between Italian feasts and northern delights, but unfortunately it didn't happen.

For those of you that don't know, 2017 was a big fundraising year for me. I set myself a challenge to run ten x ten kilometre runs over the course of the year, with the extra challenge of getting under ten hours time for the lot. As always my fundraising was for the wonderful Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Charity. And I was hoping to make around £300 towards the incredible work they do there, transforming lives through music.

I had finished 2016 with a new PB of 57.02 and was desperate to continue my fast streak, and so my first run of the year was a chilly Saturday morning in Victoria Park and it turns out I run quite fast when it's cold but calm.

Race 1: Victoria Park Saturday 14th January 2017: The One Where I got a PB!

With my musical socks, skirt and scarf on, and a banner on my back explaining my fundraising goals, I set off wearing number 1333 for my first run of the year. Sadly, my charity t-shirt was hidden underneath the long sleeved layer I had to wear as it was a trifle cold that morning. But I was wearing it.

And so, with no kilometre markers, only mile markers, and a three lap course, I set off feeling confident and just wanting to get under the hour. As I passed the mile markers, I realised I was actually going quite fast and tried to keep up the pace. This was the run where I actually realised that 10 km is not 6 miles, it's actually 6.2 miles - I know, I've done a lot of these races and should have noticed that sooner, but when you deal with kilometre markers then you just don't question it. And so, I actually passed through 6 miles at about 54 minutes, not realising that I had another 0.2 of a mile to go. Anyhoo, I crossed the line in 56.18, smashing my previous PB and making a great start to the challenge.

1 race down, 9 to go and currently 3.42 under time. Whoop!

With my medal and banana at the finish. Happy Helen.

Race 2: Lee Valley Velopark Saturday 25th February 2017: The One That Broke Me

I knew this race would be tough, as I had run the Velopark mile before as part of the Newham Anniversary Run, which runs every year in July to mark the anniversary of the 2012 Olympic games. There are a lot of ups and downs and it would be six laps of the same mile course, with those extra 0.2 of a mile at the beginning.

What I hadn't factored in was that we were being visited by various storms that week. I think it was the tail end of Doris and the beginning of Ewan, which made an already tough course, even tougher. And the only flat, straight bit, had the wind pushing against you. This run was not fun. I was not  happy. The least said, the better.

I hadn't even brought my phone with me to take a photograph, but a lovely fellow runner, pinned my fundraising message on my back and sent me this photo on twitter. Thank you for that.

However, with a time of 61.25. Boo! And extremely sore legs, this was definitely one to forget.

2 runs down, 8 to go and currently 2.17 under target.

Run 3: Hyde Park Sunday 26th March 2017: The One That Felt Really Tough

The only picture I have from this run is a professional photo that I bought afterwards. Usually I don't bother but look at me beating all those men. Ha ha. Anyway, you'll have to take my word for it. I was cold, I was tired and it felt much longer than two 5 km laps, but I made it in 58.36 and it was good to be back under the hour.


3 down, 7 to go and currently 3 minutes 41 under time.

Run 4: Peckham 10 km Saturday 6th May 2017: The One With That was Badly Organised

Oh dear this run was badly organised. From the mile long queues to be told your running number, only to then have to queue to pick up your physical number, to the quest to find which tree was the start line, this was an interesting one. No official timing, so I had my timing watch and some very inconsistent kilometre markers.

  Apparently this tree is the start line. Who knew?

Here's me on the sprint finish.
  And here's me and partner after finishing. I'm not going to lie to you, I prefer running alone. But on a day like that it was lovely to have someone to vent frustrations with and laugh it out.

4 down, 6 to go and currently 5.11 under time.

Race 5: Vitality 10,000 Green Park Monday 29th May 2017: The One Where I was Ill

I love the Vitality 10,000 run every Bank Holiday at the end of May. I run it every year regardless of whether I am fundraising. I love the course, which is fast and mostly flat. I love the big event feeling. And despite feeling terribly ill and knowing I probably shouldn't run, I did anyway. And I am so glad I did! Finishing in 58.27 without the ability to breathe through my nose, was definitely an achievement and of course I will be back there this year at my favourite run.

5 down, 5 to go and currently 6.44 under time. Half way!

Race 6: Turks Head 10 km Sunday 11th June 2017: The One That was Extremely Hot

I was supposed to run this race with a friend and then my partner, but due to illnesses and other reasons, I ran it alone. And they called it a fun run, but for me it was anything but fun, it was about times and the challenge and waiting minutes to cross foot bridges, and on one of the hottest days of the year so far, I found myself melting.

To finish with a time of 60.01 was actually quite impressive as I had to wait at various river bridge crossings and at times we were running in the roads dodging traffic and other runners as the pavements were super narrow. But it was definitely a change from the hyper organised Vitality run.

6 down, 4 to go and currently 6.43 under target.

Race 7: Newham Anniversary Run Sunday 2nd July 2017: The One Where I was Over the Moon

I have run this race four times out of the five it has been run, and I have always struggled due to the heat and that pesky mile in the Velopark, but this year I finally made it under an hour, and not just under an hour: 57.52. I was delighted! And we usually finish in the Olympic stadium by running 300 metres on the track, but as they were preparing for the Para World Athletics we instead sprinted the 100 metres. Usain Bolt eat your heart out.


7 down, 3 to go and currently 8.51 under time. Whoop!

Race 8: Lee Valley Velopark (Again) Saturday 30th September 2017: The One Where I Defeated the Velopark

Believe me, I did not want to brave the Velopark races again. It is an evil course and I still had the lingering memory of February's race in my mind. However, due to various weekend commitments, I had few other options and so I braved the Velopark for the second time.

This time I had a little sunshine and a bit of wind but no storms chasing me. And I smashed that course finishing in 57.13 which was my third fastest time ever at a 10 km. Yes! Yes! Yes!


8 down, 2 to go and currently 11.36 under time.

Race 9: Virtual Run Hampstead Heath: Sunday 22nd October 2017: The One Where I Smashed my PB

You might be thinking, virtual run? What? It was purchased for me by a friend for my birthday and I had to run in October and prove I had run a certain distance in order to claim the medal, which was a Nightmare Before Christmas themed medal with Jack Skellington on it. Cool or what? So I used a GPS timing watch and set off on Hampstead Heath, with no clear race path, and just kept going until we hit 10 km. (My partner was with me.)

I knew we had set off fast but I had no idea how fast until we completed just over 10 km in 55.32. Say what?!


9 down, 1 to go and currently 16.04 under target. Yes!

Normally, I would have run the Trick or Treat Halloween run as part of my challenge, however this year they changed it to a 5 km race. Boo! But anyhoo, I got a new PB at 5 km (26.02) after a night out - not too shabby - and here is a picture of me dressed as a pumpkin.


Race 10: Olympic Park Sunday 10th December 2017: The One Where it Snowed 

And so to the final race of the year and I was back at one of my favourite places in London: Olympic Park. This was the course I had run last year and gained a huge PB at, and so I was confident and also knew I had a lot of leeway with the time. However, I did not counter in the snow factor.

My feet were soggy throughout. The slush and wet floor was slippery, and even the tube failed us, so I only arrived five minutes before the start. I had just enough time to pin on my number and go. No warm up, no stretches. Eek.

It snowed the entire time and my feet were practically numb, but actually running in the snow was tough but fun. I had never run in the snow before and I even met an elf along the way who had a nice chat with me.

To finish in under an hour, in those conditions was a proud moment, and not only that, but the end of my challenge for the year. And I smashed it! Finishing that race in 58.43 meant that after 10 races, my culminated time was 9 hours 42 minutes 39 seconds, which was 17.21 under target.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

I would like to do a huge shout out to who are a fantastic race organising team and four of my ten charity runs were taken care of by them. They are fantastically run and always full of helpful, supportive volunteers. I love my banana after the race and all the great themed medals.

Also, a huge shout out to the Vitality 10,000 which is a wonderful run that I take part in every year. If you like a big race and want to feel part of something huge, then the course is flat and fast and so well organised. I love it.

Finally, I raised a whopping £354.94 for Nordoff-Robbins and would like to thank all my sponsors and friends who have supported me along the way. What a great year of running and I may be getting older, but I seem to be getting faster too. Bring on 2018!

Thank you for reading.

Rants (Helen)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017: A Year in Books

I finally stopped eating long enough to write my year in books, 2017 blog. It's been a great year of variety in terms of authors and genres. I had my first foray into graphic novels and almost completed a 52 point reading challenge - more on that later. As always, there is a mixture of kindle books, library books, borrowed and bought books. And without further ado, here it is, my year in books.

Books I read in January:
  1. The Monstrous Child - Francesca Simon (Reading Challenge: A book based on mythology.)
  2. Soulmates - Holly Borne (Kindle)
  3. The Winter Over - Matthew Iden (Kindle) (Reading Challenge: A book with one of the four seasons in the title.)
  4. Continents - Jim Crace
  5. The Devil's Larder - Jim Crace (Reading Challenge: A book about food.)
  6. Harvest - Jim Crace (Reading Challenge: A book with a red spine.)
  7. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein (Reading Challenge: A novel set during war time.)
  8. Holding up the Universe - Jennifer Niven (Reading Challenge: A bestseller from 2016.)
  9. Bridget Jones's Baby - The Diaries: Helen Fielding (Reading Challenge: A book with a title that's a character's name.)
  10. Mother MOTHER - Koren Zailckons (Reading Challenge: A book with a family-member term in the title.)
  11. Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion (Kindle) (Reading Challenge: The first book in a series you haven't read before.)
  12. Evelyn: After - Victoria Helen Stone (Reading Challenge: A book by an author who uses a pseudonym.)
As you can see January was a good reading month. For me it is a bleak month and so I usually over compensate by reading a shed load and escaping into as many worlds as I possibly can. It was also a good month for ticking off quite a few of the reading challenges and most of them by fluke. The winner of best book for this month goes to Holly Bourne and her YA book: Soulmates. I love this writer and for me she can do no wrong. 
Books I read in February
  1. The Cry of the Owl - Patricia Highsmith (Reading Challenge: A book you got from a used book sale.)
  2. The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon
  3. The Children Act - Ian McEwan (Reading Challenge: A book from a genre/subgenre that you've never heard of - Religious and inspirational.)
  4. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy - Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman (Reading Challenge: A book with multiple authors.)
  5. A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki (Reading Challenge: A book about a difficult topic.)
  6. Beautiful Broken Things - Sara Barnard (Kindle) 
  7. Fairytales of Gold - Alan Garner (Reading Challenge: A book you loved as a child.)
  8. The Radleys - Matt Haig (Reading Challenge: A book you've read before that never fails to make you laugh.)
February was also a good month for the reading challenge and for me it is usually even bleaker than January, so again, escapism is the key to survival. Leading the charge this month is Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard, another YA wonder. 

Books I read in March
  1. Take the Key and Lock her up (Embassy Row #3) - Ally Carter 
  2. Cuckoo - Keren David
  3. Dead of Night - Michael Grant
  4. Wilderness Tips - Margaret Atwood (Reading Challenge: A book set in the wilderness.)
  5. Frog Music - Emma Donoghue
  6. The Ladybird Book of the Zombie Apocalypse
  7. Omicidio alla Modo - Cinzia Medaglia
  8. Hag-Seed - Margaret Atwood (Reading Challenge: A book that was a story within a story.)
  9. The Guilded Cage -Vic James
  10. Flawed - Celia Ahern (Kindle) 
  11. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (kindle) (Reading Challenge: A book mentioned in another book.)
  12. The Doll Funeral - Kate Hamer (Reading Challenge: A book set in two different time periods.)
  13. Omicidio in Paserella - Cinzia Medaglia
March was a good month for Italian short stories and novellas. I ticked off another few reading challenges and enjoyed a nice mix of adult and YA books. I chose Frog Music by Emma Donoghue as my top book of the month. Everything I have read by her, I have really enjoyed. She is a talented author and if you haven't checked her out yet, then I highly recommend you do. 

Books I read in April
  1. Is it Just me? - Miranda Hart (Reading Challenge: A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read.)
  2. We Were Liars - E.Lockhart (Reading Challenge: A book with an unreliable narrator.)
  3. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (Reading Challenge: A book with am eccentric character.)
  4. Black Light Express - Philip Reeve
  5. SAGA Volume 1 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Reading Challenge: A book with pictures.)
  6. To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
  7. Fire Colour One - Jenny Valentine
  8. Boneshaker - Cherie Priest (Reading Challenge: A steampunk novel.)
  9. Italian Short Stories for Beginners Volume 2 - Olly Richards
I like the mix of books I read in April, from comedy/autobiography to steampunk, to treasured classics and more YA wonders. But the pinnacle of the month was my first delve into the world of graphic novels with SAGA Volume 1. The illustrations are incredible and whilst you get through each volume at the speed of light, you can't wait for the next one. Thank you to my friend for recommending I start there. The author/illustrator combination is amazing and long may they continue this saga. 

Books I read in May
  1. SAGA Volume 2 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  2. SAGA Volume 3 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  3. Black Moon - Kenneth Calhoun
  4. Release - Patrick Ness (Reading Challenge: A book written by someone you admire.)
  5. Charm and Strange - Stephanie Kuehn
  6. The House on Stone's Throw Island - Dan Poblocki
  7. Lost and Found - Brooke Davis (Reading Challenge: A book by an author from a country you've never visited.)
  8. How to be an Alien - Mikes and Bentley (Reading Challenge: A book you bought on a trip.)
  9. Saint Mazie - Jami Attenberg (Reading Challenge: A book about an interesting woman.)
  10. Lady Midnight (TDA #1) - Cassandra Clare (Re-read)
  11. Morte in Maratona - Cinzia Medaglia
  12. Lord of Shadows (TDA #2) - Cassandra Clare
May became my hardback-obsessive month. Six of the twelve titles were read in hard back (4-9 on the list) and I just really enjoyed reading them. I always take the paper cases off, which often reveals a very sexy hard cover. There is always an air of excitement surrounding a Cassandra Clare new release and she did not disappoint. And the same with Patrick Ness. You can imagine how giddy I was having both of their new releases this month. However, the top honours go to Lost and Found by Brooke Davis, which I found in the local book shop in Kentish Town, on sale, and I loved it. The characters are so unique and eccentric and there is so much emotional depth and humour in it. I deeply recommend this book. 

Books I read in June
  1. Jackdaw Summer - David Almond
  2. Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee
  3. The Power - Naomi Alderman (Reading Challenge: A book recommended by an author you love.)
  4. My Name is Leon - Kit de Waal (Reading Challenge: A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you.)
  5. Dolce Vita - A. De Guili and C.M Naddeo
  6. The Waves - Virginia Woolf
  7. Jacob's Room - Virginia Woolf
  8. Un Amore per la tua Cucina - Cinzia Medaglia
  9. Surfacing - Margaret Atwood
June was a really tough month for choosing a favourite book. David Almond is always up there and with Harper Lee's triumphant sequel and women taking over the world in The Power, it was tough, tough, tough. But eventually, I chose the lovely, lovely, Leon. This book is heart breaking and so beautifully written, you can't help but fall in love with Leon. Thank you Kit de Waal for creating him. He's a superstar!

Books I read in July
  1. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation - Lynne Truss (Reading Challenge: A book with a subtitle.)
  2. The Beneath - S.C. Ransom
  3. Shadowmagic - John Lenahan (Reading Challenge: A book involving a mythical creature.)
  4. The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood
  5. Lady Killer (in Italian) - Joelle Jones and James. S. Rich
  6. The Stone Gods - Jeanette Winterson
  7. Heartbreak Hotel - Deborah Moggach (Reading challenge: A book set in a hotel.)
  8. Demon Dentist - David Walliams (Reading Challenge: A book with a cat on the cover.)
July saw me read my first David Walliams book, lent to me by the eight year old I pick up from school twice a week. He is also a voracious reader, which is nice. We have lots to talk about. It was a good month for the reading challenge and me improving my Italian. The winner of July was The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood, lent to me by one of my favourite people on the planet. it's about women and relationships and it is classic Atwood. I love her. 

Books I read in August
  1. Gender Games - Juno Dawson
  2. Chasing the Stars - Malorie Blackman (Reading Challenge: A book by a person of colour.)
  3. The Graces - Laure Eve (Kindle)
  4. The One Memory of Flora Banks - Emily Barr (Kindle) (Reading Challenge: A book involving travel.)
  5. Caraval - Stephanie Garber (Kindle)
  6. The Adventures of the Princess and Mr Whipple - Patrick Rothfuss
I cheated this month. I chose a non-fiction favourite and a fiction favourite. It's my blog and I can do what I like. Gender Games by Juno Dawson is a book about gender and how it screws us up from birth. Not only should every parent and every expectant parent read it, but just all people should read it. Juno executes her tale with her usual northern charm and humour, and punctuates it with plenty of true stories from her rather interesting life. And Caraval is escapism at its best. I loved this fantasy world and would quite happily have leapt in and joined in the game. I look forward to more from Stephanie Garber.

Books I read in September
  1. Here's to you Rachel Robinson - Judy Blume
  2. Unconventional - Maggie Harcourt (Kindle)
  3. My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout
  4. How to Stop Time - Matt Haig (Reading Challenge: A book that takes place over a character's life span.)
  5. When Dimple met Rishi - Sandhya Menon (Kindle)
  6. When Mr Dog Bites - Brian Conaghan (Reading Challenge: A book by or about a person with a disability.)
  7. Sweetfreak - Sophia Mckenzie
  8. The Sun is Also a Star - Nicole Yoon (Kindle)
  9. Salem's Lot - Stephen King (Kindle)
I enjoyed my September reads. It was a great month of horror, love, and laughter. This was another tough month to decide on the best book, but due to the fact that you had to prise my kindle out of my hands in order to go to work, eat and/or sleep, the top honour goes to Maggie Harcourt. I could not put Unconventional down. The characters and the premise were so real and honest. I would quite happily have coexisted with them. I highly recommend this book. 

Books I read in October
  1. It Only Happens in the Movies - Holly Bourne (Kindle) (Reading Challenge: A book published in 2017.)
  2. Amiche per la Pelle (My first full length Italian novel. It took me months to get through it, but I persevered!) - Laila Wadia (Reading Challenge: A book about an immigrant or refugee.)
  3. Black Friday - Alex Kava (Reading Challenge: A book with a month or day of the week in the title.)
  4. The World's Worst Children - David Walliams
  5. Clockwork Prince (TID #2) - Cassandra Clare (Audiobook) (Reading Challenge: An audiobook.)
  6. Pride and Prejudice a Graphic Novel - Austen, Edginton, Deas
  7. Transparent - Natalie Whipple
  8. Under my Hat: Tales from the Cauldron - Edited by Jonathon Strahan
  9. SAGA Volume 4 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  10. The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas
Ordinarily, on any given month, Holly Bourne would be likely to win best book, but the powerhouse that is Angie Thomas and her incredible novel: The Hate U Give, left everyone waiting in the wings. This book is powerful and real and necessary to the world. I am not giving anything away, you will have to read it to find out. But it is spectacular. 

Book I read in November
  1. IT - Stephen King (Kindle) (Reading Challenge: A book that's more than 800 pages.)
  2. Il Segreto di Julia - Cinzia Medaglia
  3. Halloween Party - Agatha Christie (Reading Challenge: A book set around a holiday other than Christmas.)
You may notice a distinct lack of titles in November and there are a couple of reasons for this. Number one being that IT is over one thousand pages long and takes a good while to read. Also, I was writing a novel myself for NaNoWriMo and had only thirty days to do so, which takes a lot of time and brain power. IT won the month, of course, not that it had much competition. But the level of detail in this book is extraordinary. Man, I would love to sit down with that chap. 

Books I read in December
  1. Our Kind of Traitor - John le Carre (Reading Challenge: An espionage thriller.)
  2. Railsea - China Mieville (Reading Challenge: A book recommended by a librarian.)
  3. Black Beauty - Anna Sewell (Reading Challenge: A book from a nonhuman perspective.)
  4. Reckless 3: The Golden Yarn - Cornelia Funke (Reading Challenge: A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long.)
  5. On Writers and Writing - Margaret Atwood (Reading Challenge: A book with career advice.)
  6. The Circle - Dave Eggers (Reading Challenge: A book that's becoming a movie in 2017.)
As you can see, December was all about trying to complete my reading challenge, which I almost did, but sadly I had one challenge I failed to complete, which was to read a book of letters. I have the book, which is letters from Sylvia Plath to her friends and family, but it is a large book with very small print and there was no way I could finish it before the end of the year. But still, 51/52 on the reading challenge and 105 books read altogether is not too shabby, 2017!
The final winner of the year is The Circle by Dave Eggers which is terrifyingly creepy and so realistic. It is also a film on Netflix, with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, so you should check it out, but not to be too cliche, the book is way better than the film. They cut out all the sex from the film too. So definitely read the book!

And that's it, my year in books, which due to a saving error in blogger, I've just had to write out most of it twice. Yay! I just love wasting hours of my life. I hope I have inspired or recommended a book to some of you, or maybe just entertained you enough for you to keep reading. And here's to the next year of reading. Let's hope we find new worlds to visit and new horrors to scare us and new voices to guide us. 

Thanks for reading this, now go and read a book. 


Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Good Ole Christmas Catch Up

Well Rant readers. It's almost the end of another year - seriously, how do we get through them so fast - and I realised I've been absent a lot this year. So, as it's Christmas - as if you could possibly escape the fact - I thought a good ole Christmas catch-up may suffice.

Now this is no ordinary catch-up, this is a Christmas catch-up. (Note how many times I've already said the word Christmas and then watch a couple of the shit Christmas films - apologies, I mean the 'festive favourites' on Netflix - and note how many times the word Christmas is thrown before other words, just so you know which holiday you're dealing with. For instance, it's a Christmas miracle, a Christmas photograph, a Christmas kiss, a Christmas piss, a Christmas get the point.)

And speaking of shit Christmas films, which we at Flat 19 are rather fond of, because of the schmaltzy, sickening, wholesome nonsense of it all, I have to say Netflix has got a few gems this year. And you'll start to notice the same actors appearing in them over again. Yes you, the guy who is also in Bitten. Ha ha. You're in at least two of them, probably more. You have to have a certain face to be able to pull off such sweet smelling tosh as this. But really, when you're putting up the decorations, or pottering about the house, or you have little to no brain capacity as it's the end of the year and you're done, then these types of films are perfect. No brain power required.

And I thought Netflix calling out the people who had re-watched the Christmas Prince film over and over, was hilarious! Though it made me realise they know how many times I've re-watched Season 1 of Riverdale. Ooops. Ah well. I'm not ashamed. And I'm sure some people will have watched it many more times than I have.

Anyhoo, enough about that, let me take you back a couple of months to Halloween. This year we had decided to do something big in London. I love Halloween. I love dressing up as something other than myself - that gets old! So, we booked a Halloween Ball at an old theatre and were promised entertainment and all sorts of immersive theatre and music and excitement. There were various rooms and it would be going on from 9pm until 4am. Now this was the Friday before Halloween and also the release date of Stranger Things 2. And so, I had no intention of getting there early, as I wanted at least two episodes before we left. And I got just that.

After some umming and ah-ing I settled on: gothic air hostess as my costume. And pleased with it, I was. I basically raided all my black and red wear including a corset and so many accessories from my more alternative days. And it went something like this:

I was thrilled with the wig, which I might add was purchased from the pound shop the previous year. Not too shabby for a quid. And so, after our two episodes of Stranger Things 2 and a nice dinner to counteract the inevitable alcohol, we set off, making a few friends along the way, most of whom couldn't understand why we were dressed up, as Halloween was still 4 days away. And we arrived to a queue and a lot of youth. They had made a great effort with the dressing of the venue and there was a huge space to dance, however, when we went to explore further, that's when we found the free breasts and unnecessary willies. Yes I am a prude, but really, the guy who's costume consisted of a chain around his willy..........what? I saw the same set of breasts too many times and there was a room where people were being massaged by the severed limbs of shop mannequins. Upstairs there was a feasting room where naked servants were feeding you by hand. We did not eat. These performers later came downstairs and danced in the caged with many a willy a flopping. Hooray for my myopic eyes.

And so, we concluded that a lot of work had gone into it and all the live music performances and the effort put in was great. There was even a room where you could lie in your coffin, choose a song for your funeral and then with headphones on, people could dance at your wake. Macabre but brilliant! But, the nudity was a bit much. The last thing you want to accidentally catch a hold of whilst dancing is someone else's genitals. Or is that just me?

And so, moving on to November, which was a busy month for old Rants here, I took on the challenge of NaNoWriMo. Those of you unfamiliar with this lengthy acronym, it means: National Novel Writing Month, and it is a worldwide challenge for people who want to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It's about discipline and making time to write and working towards a deadline, and having a goal and pushing yourself to create something without really having time to think decisions through. I completed the challenge once before in 2014 and was ready to hit back with a sequel to the first book, which meant a lot of re-reading and trying to remember what the crap had happened in the first book.

I wrote seat of my pants style, which means no planning, and it was much tougher than last time, as you actually had to have things make sense and correspond to the first book. You couldn't go off on too many a tangent otherwise you lost the overall framework - not that there was an overriding framework - and it was a lot of fun, but hard work. Not least of all because 3 of the weekends in November we were away, either at my parents, visiting the Giant's Causeway, or with friends on a boat trip.

Have ideas, will travel. And so NaNoWriMo 2017, became all about where are you going to write and how exactly are you going to fit it in and what mode of transport are you going to be on? Oh and I also had a week off work because I caught the dreaded flu and even writing for half an hour became too much as it completely drained me. So how I managed to complete it a day early with over 51,300 words, I'll never know, though I fear it was at the expense of my personal hygiene and my ability to look after myself or the flat.

At the time I channeled a little Dr Suess and came up with this:

Would you, at midnight on a delayed train?
Would you keep writing with the thump of the rain?
Would you, could you on an aeroplane?
Would you NaNoWriMo in the air, whilst turbulence bounced you everywhere?
Could you in an airport lounge whilst waiting for your plane to ground?
Would you, would you on a boat?
Would you write on a thing that floats?
Could you write on and on whilst past you swam the white, white swan?

And so we make it back to December and all the shit that comes with the last month of the year, whether it's family guilt trips or the stress of present buying, or the fact that the world is crumbling around us and the powers that be are still the powers that be, or you have sixty reports to write, or you're just sick of Christmas before it even begins, and that's where we find ourselves.

Does anyone else see someone - probably their other half or a friend - wrapping up and just think, no, stop, please, enough. I had to stop A from massacring some presents yesterday. I'm not fastidious about many things, but after years of lectures on the subject of wrapping, from my mum, who is much better than I am, I couldn't not say anything.

This year is an Italian Christmas followed by a Wigan second Christmas and New Year, so I have set myself very strict ground rules, to ensure I don't achieve full whale status by the end of 2017:

  • No bread with meals. It's not like they are short on carbs in Italy. 
  • No second helpings, not even of lasagne or tortellini in brodo. (This will be hard come the 25th. My resolve may weaken.
  • If I'm full, don't go beyond the level that is comfortable. 
  • Go for a run every other day. 
Well, I'd better skoot as it's almost lunchtime here. Wherever you are for the holidays, I wish you all joy and cheer. If Christmas is a bad time for you, then I wish you the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other and just see it through. It is actually only one day though the way it's thrown down our throats from August onward, you wouldn't think so. You can do it. You can get through it. 

Rants out for now. Thanks for the catch-up. 


Monday, October 2, 2017

Wouldn't it be nice.........?

Dear readers,

As we wake up to yet another incident of innocent people in terrifying, life-threatening situations, I pose these questions:
Wouldn't it be nice if, for once, we could wake up and not hear about a gunman shooting his way through Vegas, or Police brutality in Spain?
Wouldn't it be nice if acid attacks were put on hold and all bomb making would cease?
Wouldn't it be nice if no more vans or lorries were driven through crowds of innocent people?
Wouldn't it be nice if weapons were put down?
Wouldn't it be nice to not have the threat of nuclear war, due to a few egos and some cross continental dick wars?
Wouldn't it be nice to not have to hear the words President Donald Trump?
Wouldn't it be nice to not have to hear the word Brexit?
Wouldn't it be nice to have a day without murder, rape, abuse or violence?
Wouldn't it be nice to have a day without racism or sexism?
Wouldn't it be nice for women to be equals and for all cultures and traditions to respect and honour women?
Wouldn't it be nice to have no gang wars or Mafia or drug lords?
Wouldn't it be nice to have no assholes in powerful positions and to have governments that knew what the hell they were doing?
Adding to that, wouldn't it be nice to have some governments that actually gave two shits about their people and not themselves?
Wouldn't it be nice if all lives were seen as equal?
Wouldn't it be nice for people to have enough to eat and somewhere to sleep?
Wouldn't it be nice to feel safe and secure wherever you are in the World?
Wouldn't it be nice for the wars to end?
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to trust the people in power, as they make huge decisions about your lives?
Wouldn't it be nice to survive until the next day?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pick Yourself Back Up

I think it's the first time I've had a crying, snotty breakdown on Wednesday morning, before my classes even started. At least I think it's the first time, unless I blocked out the others. In fact, I can only remember two incidents of breaking down in the whole nine years I've been working in London, which considering what I do, is quite impressive. I'm a hold it all in kind of person but then you can't hold it in forever and sometimes you've just got to let it all out.

It took me by surprise. I'd arrived at work early, having enjoyed a sunny stroll from the tube station and then bam. You can't fault their stealth moves. They hide their digs and comments behind fake smiles and niceness, but if I'm honest this has been coming on for months, since the new Preschool team started. And suddenly I'm in the way. It's weird how none of the other Toddler classes have an issue with me, nor did any of the other previous Preschool teams.

Anyhoo, so the new Manager tells me: 'Wouldn't it be nice if you had music class outside today, while the weather's so nice.' Subtext: You're in the way. We don't want you in the classroom. So, again, I was a little blind sighted, but I could work with that. So I replied with an, 'I guess that would be okay, as long as I can find a way to get the CD player out there and it doesn't affect the other children's outdoor play.' Then she told me - and this is the smackeroo, the kick in the teeth, or in this case more a dagger in the heart or a corkscrew through my stomach - 'You see, you're disrupting the development of the other children not doing music class.'

Now can we just pause for a moment and dissect just how nasty that is. And how personal that is. I, personally, am responsible for the downward development of members of the Preschool that do not do music class. Wow. That is some nasty shit right there.

Now if we could put that into perspective. I do three classes of half an hour each in the Prechool on a Wednesday morning. Only on a Wednesday morning. The classes are not back to back, I start the early class at 9am when a lot of children still haven't arrived yet, then I leave for an hour to teach the two Toddler classes, and when I return I have two classes back to back. Also, there are only about five children who don't take part in one of the music classes and they have four members of staff in that room. Yet, I am disrupting their development. Irrelevant of the fact that I'm also improving or at least aiding the development of all 20 children in the Preschool music classes. And the only reason I have so many classes is demand from the parents.

I - understandably - went on the defensive and was about to launch into one, but all I got out was that, this is my job and I have been there for three years and.......before a parent arrived and we were cut off. But I lost something right there and then. I lost respect for that Manager. I lost respect for the whole Preschool team who could have come to me and discussed something like actual human beings, but instead chose to talk behind my back and act all smiles to my face. I also lost a little piece of my love for the job - but don't worry, I found it again later.

I allowed myself two minutes to breathe and get past the initial shock and then, as I had arrived early I went through to the Preschool room to see if there was any way I could be less "disruptive". They were sweeping up the shitty floor outside in the garden - not actual shit but so dusty and dirty and bleak - where they expected me to sit and teach the kids, and I just thought wow, that's how much they respect me and what I do. They think I should be shoved out of the classroom into a shitty corner of the garden, like I mean nothing and my work means nothing. They weren't even going to offer me a blanket or sheet to sit on. I mean throw me a frickin' bone here.

Calmly, I surveyed the situation, quickly summing up that of course there were no plug sockets outside, so how the hell was I going to play any music? Do they think I can do a music class without music? Do they think that's fair to the kids? Oh sorry kids, we're not doing dancing today because we've been shoved outside and your teachers think my class is a pile of crap.

Again, calmly, I asked if they had an extension lead. I mean, they've obviously had this in the works for a while now. Where can we boot Helen to? So why did they not think about something as simple as a feckin' extension lead. No they don't have one long enough. Well then, fuck you. They just thought they could throw me outside, shut the door and have done with it.

But I just kept looking at this dirty space they wanted me to teach in and that's when I felt the tears coming and I knew that I needed to get out before anyone saw me. I managed to make it to reception before I lost it, so only the receptionist saw me. I sobbed out a garbled 'I just need a minute,' and walked out, hiding myself, first behind a tree and then further around the corner, in case any parents came to drop their kids off.

That really upset me - and it still does now as I sit on a bench on my lunch break jotting this down to be typed up later. And it still does now as I'm sat at home typing it up. I mean, maybe I'm being soft about the whole thing, but it's my livelihood and I just felt myself unravelling. I've been teaching under fives and charting their development for over a decade, whether in a full time teaching capacity, or as a part time music teacher. To be told I was disrupting the development of any child was a low blow with a sharp blade.

I kept telling myself to stop crying, even though I knew I deserved that moment to cry and just let out all the crap I was feeling. But I didn't want them to see me and I had a class starting in five minutes. One thing I would never do is allow this to affect the children. So I held the rest in, put on my stoic face and went back in. The receptionist  - who I must add here is lovely and always has a chat with me - asked me if I was alright. I told her I was fine, picked up my stuff and went through to Preschool, still thinking I'd be teaching in the garden.

However, when I arrived, with the children greeting me and clinging on to my arms and legs, you know, the usual greeting for Miss Helen, I was told that I could teach in the classroom today because of the CD player situation. I was then asked by one of the staff if I'd be doing dancing? I mean, thick doesn't even come close. She's been there for months, has seen my classes so many times. As if she was questioning whether I would actually be using the CD player or that I'd used it as an excuse to stay inside. Wow, I'm just feeling the love teachers. Thanks. So I crept back in to my corner and taught my lesson, ignoring the false smiles and undertones between teachers, and focused on my kids.

It's amazing how five lovely music classes can almost make you forget how shit you felt at 8.45am this morning. In fact, I mentioned earlier that I lost a piece of my love for this job, but that I also regained it. Here's a few reasons why:

  • Children know things. They are sensitive to emotions and feelings of adults and other children, even if you think you're hiding them. I received more hugs and kisses today - all initiated by them - and the best behaviour and listening I've had from them in a long time. They knew. They knew I needed that and I needed those cuddles. Definitely an upside of working with kids. 
  • Today I persuaded a child obsessed with the colour orange, to the extent that he cries if he doesn't get an orange instrument or spot or dancing scarf, to not only choose another colour, but also to smile and dance with us. This was no small feat! We scrunched our scarves into balls and throw them up in the air. And he even asked if he could stand next to me and so we danced side by side. 
  • Also in my final class of the day, the children were so sweet. They sit on coloured spots during my lessons, and when we collect them in they pretend they have a purpose or they are an object or animal. In my final class, the children gave me a castle, a house, a museum about Dinosaurs, with a huge Dinosaur egg, and the final kid said his spot was a lawnmower - very handy for those castle grounds and the garden in my house - and a digger and drill for home improvements. And if that didn't make me smile enough, I was showered with more hugs, a kiss on the hand from one of the boys and just all the love! I don't think they'll ever realise what that meant to me today and how that made me feel. The little superstars. 
So then I just had to get out of there, manoeuvring around a few: Are you okay Helen? comments from staff and avoiding the Manager for fear of an outburst. But you know, as I was walking out I thought, right, you don't want me in your classroom, then prepare for the greatest outdoor music classes you've ever seen. You can beat me and I'll fall down, I might even snot cry, but I'll always get back up. You don't get rid of Miss Helen that easily. 

Rants out. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Eurovision 2017

It's that time of year when we all hold our breath and wonder what tosh we're going to hear this year from Europe and who knows where. Now, I am watching this Sunday morning and blogging as I watch, as I was at a Hen Do yesterday and missed the event itself live.

Do they all have to wear white? #flag ceremony
A trio of ladies, with attitude, then a trio of guys who look very pleased with themselves.
Nice dress Denmark.
He looks like a scared little boy #Portugal
Aww look it's that part of Europe we all know so well #Australia
There's definitely some interesting characters coming out in this flag ceremony. I'm quite digging the music too.
Nice dress Germany.
Blimin' eck they've brought all the young 'uns out tonight.
Aww he's got red wellies #Ukraine

Look at our spangly hosts. How shiny are the shoes? Wow, cover your eyes. Sunglasses people. Sunglasses. 'A love machine but for facts.' Hmmmmmmm
Well done talking in unison. A difficult skill. Though, I'm sure you could have had a least one woman presenting too. #equality #diversity

Anyhoo, it's all about to start so let's go....

1. Israel
He looks way too pleased with himself. He came straight from the gym. No need to change love. Pitchy as fuck. I'm singing in front of larger images of myself. I'm slightly in love with myself.
Two more men wearing dungarees arrive to throw down some moves. Walk to the other side and turn. It's an actual dance move. Asymmetric dancers. Why? Did one call in sick.
Oh Israel, no, just no. Go back to the gym love. There you belong.

Ah, the supermodel, burlesque dancer who loves dogs. Ah, rhyming words. Desire, fire, etc....She's been reading through that dictionary. Completely unnecessary violinist on stage. And let's face it, no one's looking at him, when she's got legs right up to her bottom. She's got a pretty good voice. It's feels a little intense for Eurovision. Well done though.

Sorry guys, have the urge to punch you both in the face. Hipster, folksters. Oh no. It's a Shoreditch wedding. I'm so not playing this guitar, it's a prop. Cheese fest. But nice voices and you can't beat a chorus with no words, that the audience can join in with, instantly. Her voice is very interesting. Oh no, it's got a clapping along bit. Stop now. Oh god, there was no need for the PDA. Yuck!

Awww he's got wings on his shoes. And he's sat on a crescent moon. He'll get plenty of votes. It's just so cute, I want to throw up and then squeeze his cheeks. Maybe pat him on the head as well, give him a sweetie. Nice cloud graphics in the background, I am a fan of clouds. I'm wearing white and I'm so innocent and lovely and,....... wait a minute I've just all the respect from my skater friends and fellow graffiti artists. I can never go back. Who'll adopt me?

5. Armenia
She will kill you, so don't get on her bad side. So many rings. This is weird. I don't really know what it is. Two women appeared to do strange arm movements and sparkle. This won't win, but it's certainly a bit different. Those wide leg trousers are amazing. I love a wide leg trouser. She does like touching her own face. It's all about hands and arms. I think it's just disguising the fact that they can't dance. They're trying to hypnotise you with hand movements.

It's the three sassy ladies from the Netherlands. They are sisters. What did that clip tell us about them, other than they are almost cleptos?
Nice harmonies. This is so 90's and the costumes are very Strictly Come Dancing. So many sequins. Your diagonal line was a bit off then ladies. Come on, get it together. Andrea loves this one! Key change as well. Like Andrea said if they'd been around in the 90's they would have been huge.

Three guys and a saxophone. What could go wrong?
Oh wow. What is this? The kick the leg dance move is extraordinary. I'm not playing this sax and everyone knows it. The women with their bouquet microphones and then, shit they're brides. Did they have a choice? Oh dear. This is tosh! I mean, it's catchy tosh, but still absolute tosh! Stick to playing at other people's weddings.

Well he's an interesting character. It's all about that jacket. It feels a bit bull fighter, pirate. He looks a bit scared but I think that's his general expression. It's all on one level. Now we rap. Why not? The violinist is in love with herself and her violin. Oh god the dancer looked in genuine pain then. It's okay love, it's not real. It's just Eurovision. You will escape. Just have hope. Bad song.

9. Italy
Yay! Sadly I'm not quite quick enough to translate as it goes along, but go Italy Flat 19's second country. He's got the Wiggles as backing vocals and backing dancers. That's my favourite backing vocal ever, 'sex appeal.' Oh the gorilla's here for absolutely no reason. Oh Italy, I love you but this is terrible. But you gave the Wiggles a European gig, so that must have been fun for them.

10. Denmark
This dress is beautiful. Seems a shame to not use one of the many talented Danish artists, just because she fills the dress well and moved there recently. It's not very Eurovision at all. She's quite pitchy actually. She disguises it fairly well, but that voice isn't quite as good as you think it is. More impressed by your dress. You will not be winning tonight my dear.

11. Portugal
It's a bit musical from the 20's. Well that was unexpected. I was not expecting that voice to come from him. But I would like some dynamic changes now. It's all a bit soft and gentle. Let's build. Come on love, you can do it. It feels like one of those really dramatic french songs. It sounds very familiar. There was no chorus or anything. I can't decide what that was, but it was a nice vocal. Am not convinced either way.

12. Azerbaijan
She's quite severe looking, but very interesting. I am intrigued. That intro is very Stranger Things. I like it. Finally, one I like. Creepy man with horses head on a ladder. Oh I like this. Great voice. No idea what the feck's going on, but she's giving us a lesson on the blackboard. Take notes people, please. Now she's on the ladder too. He's taken his head off now. Those high harmonies were amazing! My favourite so far! Go Azerbaijan. Love it!

Andrea reckons he knows the fat guy from Croatia. No way. Andrea spent two weeks with him at Umbria Jazz many years ago. Awww. Eurovision connection right here in flat 19. The men actually seem to be playing the string instruments. Spoken intro and then his split personality goes into affect. Bloody love this. It's insane. I'm Whitney, I'm Pavarotti, I'm Freddie Mercury, I'm the woman who sang Let it Go. And to be fair it did have some tinges of Let it Go. But, jeez, that guy just sang about four different parts. That is just bizarre!

14. Australia
It's called 'Don't Come Easy' and he's seventeen. I'm sorry but....really?
Damn you Graham, now all I want to do is look at his eyebrows.
Great voice, but pictures of yourself behind you. I don't like that. Shockingly, Australia have a good song with a great singer. Still have to remind you that you're not actually part of Europe though. Saying that, we won't be soon, stupid Brexit twat bags. Sorry, I should be listening to this annoyingly talented seventeen year old. Not the best Australian entry though, but great voice.

15. Greece
She's very pretty. It's a bit thigh-tastic that dress. Now this is formulaic Eurovision. Ballady verse then massive disco chorus. Her backing vocalists are great, I feel they should also be on stage. The men playing pat-a-cake in the water. Aww, and they made a heart at the end. Yeah, her backing vocalists were better than her. Shame.

16. Spain
It's like One Direction have rejoined for Eurovision and learned Spanish. And they bought hawaiian shirts. They have lost all the respect of family and friends. They can never return home. I want to know what you're supposed to do for your lover. They just aren't clear. Come on guys, pull your finger out and stop smoking weed. Maybe you'll actually make those high notes, if you lay off the drugs. That was bad, but they were having a lovely time. You can't fault that.

17. Norway
A stand in singer. Hmmm, this could be bad. Oh god, it's all a bit, we're dead cool, but actually I quite like it, despite the whole, you can't see my face 'cause I'm a DJ, thing. This is definitely listenable. This will probably make my top five. Nice middle 8. Now he's beating the crap out of a bass drum. I'm jigging on the sofa. I like it. Thank you Norway!

Ah, a bit of Ukrainian comedy. It's a Eurovision montage. Yes! This is so silly, but I like it.

18. United Kingdom
Come on Lucy. I heard this on Graham Norton a few weeks ago, and her voice is fantastic. So hopefully she can pull it out on the night.
Nice simple mirror staging and spangly stars. Great voice. I almost feel sorry for the fact that she's from United Kingdom. We have even less political friends than ever and she'll probably be shat on. Shame. This is good. Pitch perfect. Absolutely great! Well done Lucy!!!!! Apparently even my dad liked that and he never likes the British entry.

19. Cyprus
I like the staging, but he's pitchy as fuck and if you're going to follow someone like Lucy, with a voice like that, then try harder. There's a lot of foot in the air dancing this year. Is it a new thing? I did like the walk on the line thing though. Needs a stronger vocal for this song. Andrea said it was 90% hair gel.

What? She's yodelling in front of toy soldiers and there are two cannons. Can someone please explain? Yodel pop. Who knew that was a thing? It's like a little bit rap, a little bit yodel, a little bit cheese. And the only possible place this combination could work is at Eurovision. Weirdly she's pitchy when she's not yodelling. I think she should stick to yodelling. I don't get the f-ing cannons.

21. Germany
This is a bit throw away. Not really digging her voice either. She'll get a cold back. She'll get cold on her kidneys and end up with diarrohea. I normally expect something a bit more edgy from Germany. This is bad and her voice is bad. Not impressed.

Aww these guys think they're dead cool. Awww he can't sing very well. The chorus helps a bit, but it's the only attempt at rock so far in the competition and it's pretty bad. Yeah it really is a long three minutes. I'm enjoying the break down section. Nice. Now why couldn't the rest of the song be up to that standard, then I could have got on board with that. They need a stronger singer.

23. Belgium
Another young 'un. She looks terrified, but that low voice of hers is lovely. She's lost on the stage. It's a bit Lana Del Ray. Come on love, a little expression. Aww she's losing it now. Just keep the pitch love, you're doing a good job, You are so young. That was a tall order. I'm glad she proved she had more than an octave range. Though she does look a bit like she has a gun at her back.

24. Sweden
Nasal as fuck. Ewwww. Learn how to sing. This is a Bruno Mars tribute act and the staging is slick and clever, but that doesn't detract from the fact that his voice is nasal, weak, and he has a face you instantly want to punch. Is it wrong that I would love one of the treadmills to go haywire and one of them to go flying off the end? Oh my god, they're all posing on treadmills. I hate each and every one of them.

25. Bulgaria
Another seventeen year old. It's intense man. Look at my expressive hands and you'll see. Oh, he's not on pitch especially in those high bits. Why have they left all the young 'uns on their own on a massive stage? Give them some support. A backing dancer or something. I mean this guy's doing better than the Belgian girl, but still it's a lot of pressure. Well done love. Just work on those high notes.

26. France
It's so fast she can't fit her words in. And take a breath. More and more sequins. Andrea was translating for me and said she was wittering on about bras. The chorus sounds more Spanish. I think this is boring and bad but it will probably do quite well. It's just so obvious. It felt like they didn't even try.

So, they're all done. And I might just have enough for a top five. Actually, I've looked back and it's more like a top 4. Slim pickings this year. No, I have consulted with Andrea and we have both come up with our top five.

The Rants Top 5

  1. Azerbaijan. Loved this!
  2. United Kingdom. For that vocal alone. Amazing. 
  3. Norway. I really enjoyed this. 
  4. Netherlands. A little bit of 90's girl band and loads of harmonies. Nice. 
  5. Croatia. Just because. I mean he is a complete lunatic.  
Other awards go to:

  • Most Bizarre - Romania. Yodel pop. 
  • Most terrified performer - Belgium. But I actually quite liked the song. 
  • Most wanted to punch - Sweden.
  • Could have been good - Ukraine
The Rants Worst 3
  1. Moldova. There was so much wrong with this. 
  2. Spain. One Direction's Hawaiian shirt routine did not suffice. 
  3. Germany. This was just bad. 
And now Andrea's Top 5
  1. Azerbaijan.
  2. Netherlands.
  3. United Kingdom.
  4. Poland.
  5. Croatia.
So now we can fast forward to the results and see how few marks Lucy gets despite being f-ing awesome. But can I just say the orchestra thing is pretty good. This is what Storm Troopers do in their spare time in case you wondered. Who knew?

I cannot believe the popular votes. People want their ears testing. But there you go. Well done Lucy. Well done Azerbaijan for being awesome. 

That's Rants out for another year. 

(I have not edited this post. It could be terrible.)