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.)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Check for Pigeons

So the pigeons are back with a vengeance, trying to make a nest on the balcony. I don't think so. The amount of times I have to bang on the balcony door, I swear one time I'll go through it. I mean, granted, we've got a lot of crap on the balcony. It is a dumping ground for things we need to take to the big recycling - that could remain there for up to two years - old plant pots, the paint that we still need to finish the kitchen with, and all a tiny 1.5 by 2.5 metre space. So I get it pigeons, it's cosy. It has all these cool places to hide your nest away, and you'll feel safe with your little ones. But it's my bloody balcony. It's not a nesting ground and you're turning me into a paranoid person. With every sound I'm rushing to the window to shoo them away and sometimes they're not even there. But then other times they are proudly patrolling the small bit of clear walk space, like it's their territory. They are certainly getting cocky. Sitting on the railing, looking in, nosy little buggers. Ever get the feeling you're being watched? You probably are. Check for pigeons.

Does anybody else do the egg panic? When you've got four eggs left and the use by date is in two days, but you're really busy and don't think you'll have chance to use them? No? Anyone? But then you get home exhausted on a Wednesday after eight very full music classes, having pulled something in your shoulder, which makes up your mind that you definitely won't be going to Swing Dance. And then, your mind remembers those four eggs: I can bake things so I won't waste the eggs. No really, does anyone else do this? I ended up making a batch of cranberry and white chocolate cookies, most of which went in the freezer, for a rainy day, or a day when you just want to eat cookies. Either way. And I also made two small apple tea cakes. Again, both in the freezer until needed. Unfortunately, I then ran out of flour, butter and caster sugar and so one egg did go to waste, but at least I managed to use three of them. Ah, the good old egg panic.

So you may or may not know that I actually joined this modern technological century we're living in, granted several years behind times, but I'm there so stop complaining.  And I now own a smart phone. I'll wait a moment whilst you pick yourself up off the floor. I know, it's quite a shock. *Waiting*

Okay, are we all up now? Good. So his name is Gilbert and he's been mine about two months. It was tough to change over as I had issues with getting my PAC code, but he's officially mine - adopted from A of course, there's no way I could have afforded an iPhone. And we've already had a slight mishap. I dropped him last week during a long walk in Epping Forest, and despite his tough look, he crumbled like Madeira cake. Luckily, A knew of a fabulous place behind Goodge Street called Lovefone. They replaced the whole screen in about 10 minutes. Bish, bash, bosh. Job done. And Gilbert is renewed to his former self. I highly recommend these guys if you're in central London and in need of a phone repair. You can ring them or book online for a slot and they will fit you in when they can. All parts, except batteries, come with a life time warranty. And they saved the day because I was absolutely gutted with a completely shattered screen, and then a few hours later, they fixed it. Thank you Lovefone.

Whilst writing this I have been beating the door to shoo away the pigeons. It is a constant barrage. But I will not be defeated. I will stand my ground. I was here first and the balcony is mine! (Well technically ours, I mean A lives here too, but for the purposes of this blog, mine sounds better.) I don't even want to leave for a run, as I'm convinced I'll come back and they'll have moved in with their extended family, maybe a few cousins and an elderly aunt or something. What exactly are the squatters' rights of pigeons? Or is this just me trying to get out of a training run?

Hmmmm, Definitely time to post this and get my ass off to Hampstead for a run. Thanks for reading.
Happy long weekend to you all.


Friday, April 7, 2017

It's Just One of Those Weeks

'It's just one of those weeks,' is a phrase used often to convey all the shitty things that happen, that really squash you down in the quagmire. It's usually accompanied by a sigh and a head tilt down. You know the movements. You've done it hundreds of times, I'm sure. I find it quite a useful phrase because whilst the reasons behind your week will be different to someone else's, you don't need to explain further. Those six words are enough. 'It's just one of those weeks.' Bam. Done. Sentiments conveyed. 

Alternatives to this phrase are of course the shorter time period: 'It's just one of those days.'
And of course the ones no one really wants to experience: 'It's just one of those months.' Or even worse, 'It's just one of those years.' Though of course there will be some form of hope or light or silver lining within these longer time periods, otherwise life would be a constant sigh. 

So as you might have guessed, this week was one of those weeks for me, and whilst I don't need to explain further, it wouldn't be much of a blog if I didn't. But alas, do not fear, the week wasn't a total disaster and so this rant will be split into two sections: 
  • The things that killed my week
  • The things that saved my week. 

The Things That Killed My Week
  • Monday
On Monday I was forgotten. I was an inconvenience. I ruined people's plans. On Monday I was shat all over. On Monday I was livid!

I arrived to teach at my newest school. I have been there 10 weeks. I go every Monday unless I am on half term break. And so, I arrive on an unusually sunny and warm Monday morning to find half of my Toddler class leaving the premises for a trip to the park. Now, I have no problem with the children taking trips and I think they should have lots of outdoor play, but not in the half hour window that I have to teach them, and not when their parents have paid for a service which I am supposed to provide. The looks on the faces of the staff were incredible. Like me turning up on time, for my lesson, when I'm supposed to, was such an inconvenience to them - not me, but them! - and that I'd ruined their day. 

But as always, I couldn't lose my shit, because the children were there and it's not fair on them, and I would never subject them to an angry, or even heated discussion with the staff whilst they were in ear shot. However, I was particularly angry and peeved because this is not the first time they've 'forgotten' I was coming. Their only comment was: 'We were just going to the park.' I mean, what can even you say to that? You shouldn't be going to the park right now. I need these children in music class. Are you morons? And ultimately, why didn't the manager or upper echelons - another incredible word - stop them from going out?  

Anyhoo, I put on my Little Miss Diplomatic hat, and told them they had to be back in half an hour and I would see if I could teach the Preschool class first. It didn't give them long in the park, but really they should have offered to bring the children back, which of course they didn't. So, I enter the school, I ask if the Preschool class would be ready for a lesson now and I am told they are going to the park. At this point they're lucky I'm still wearing the hat because there are no children present and I'm seething. Needless to say, I persuade them otherwise, possibly through the look on my face, and it all works out. But I keep thinking: the new term starts at the end of April, we'll probably be having lots of nice weather. Are they going to do this every week? And so I sent a rather heated email to the managers to explain my thoughts on this matter. 

Sadly, it doesn't end there. The child I teach on Monday asked me to fill in a form for him, for school and in the past his mum had commented on how I should have filled it in because it's quicker, and I thought oh, okay, this must have come from her. And I filled it in with his help, but of course I got something wrong and then I felt terrible and really I shouldn't trust the nine year old to give me all the information. 

And finally, what should have been a bright spot in the week, my final Italian lesson, was a bit of a dirge. I worked really hard on this written homework and she didn't even ask us to read them out, or collect them in to read herself. I spent a lot of time on it and being me it wasn't a short piece of writing. And nothing. Boo. Okay, enough of Monday. Shitty all round. 

  • Tuesday
Tuesday morning I was super productive. I was up early and working and sorting things for music class. I left on time and was excited for my last class of the term, when the bus decided not to come for 25 minutes. So I called to say I would be late. I HATE BEING LATE! Then the bus did that annoying thing where it stopped to change drivers and got stuck in a mass of traffic at King's Cross. So I arrived 20 minutes late for my lesson. I have never arrived 20 minutes late for a music class in my life. I also had the rest of my morning and early afternoon cleverly planned out because I still had 8 reports to write for Wednesday. But of course everything was then delayed and I only managed to get 4 of the 8 reports done before my afternoon work. Bollocks.

  • Wednesday
I seem to be increasingly in the way. I seem to be an inconvenience everywhere I go. And so, another day of teaching, another bought of shit. The schools I work at use a particular educational philosophy - I won't expand on that only to say that the teachers of this educational philosophy often tend to be very rigid. They have little flexibility in their ways and times and I find flexibility is essential when working with children of all ages. That's all I will say on that matter. But, I was essentially booted off the nice large carpeted area in order for the children to be able to take their activities back and forth from the table and, essentially I'm in their way. I was shoved in the book corner which meant the children sitting on a small rug and me sitting on the hard floor. Yay

Now what really kicked me in the teeth was the fact that all morning, and I taught three classes in there, none of the children were using the equipment from the shelves around the carpet area. None of them were doing their work cycle, and most of them were standing behind me, climbing over me, walking through the circle where I was teaching, and running around screaming. So I spent most of my lessons asking the other children to go away, screaming over the din in the room and longing for a carpet to sit on. Why I am getting a numb bum on hard floors when you're not even doing what you said you'd be doing? Knobs.  

Now these were my last classes before my Easter break. I take two weeks off at Easter, mainly for my sanity after writing 60 reports, and every year I get these comments: 'Oh, two weeks, it's alright for some.' 'That must be nice.' 'I wish I had two weeks off.' *Takes deep breath before launching into a rant that's been brewing for some time*

I am self-employed. Yes, two weeks off is amazing, but in those two weeks off I am not paid. I have no money. I will earn zilch! Whenever I take a holiday, I have to pay for that holiday but I get no holiday pay. Again, earning nothing when paying for things. I think some people just don't get it. They go on holiday and they are still paid for their time away. I am not. If I don't work I don't have any money. I don't get sick pay so I have to work even if I am sick, or I have to refund, so I lose money. Everything that happens is reliant on me. There is only me. I am a one person operation. Anything goes wrong, it's on me. Etc. Etc. So whilst there are some perks for being self-employed. Holidays whenever you want, are not really one of them. And I would appreciate less comments on the matter. 

The final catastrophe was when the hoover broke down, again, whilst I was half way through the hoovering and A's parents were on the way for a visit. And I still had to clean the kitchen and prepare dinner for everyone........ And breathe. 

  • Thursday
New tax year. Urgh. That means I need to start thinking about my self-assessment tax return. Again. How does it come around so quickly? And you know all those things that you think you're going to do through the year, like keep up with your expenses list, and working out your travel as you go along? This is the point where you realise you didn't do anything of that. Oops. 

I also had 40 parent emails to do, which took forever because my mind was doing that thing where it wanders around and acts out scenes from my novels, and just generally severs ties with concentration. It was painful but I got them done. 

Things That Saved My Week
  • Monday was a total write off. Nothing saved my week on Monday. Nothing!
  • Tuesday was saved by my good friend Claire, amazingly exciting pizza and a large glass of wine. Thank you Claire. Also, I had started reading 'Is It Just Me?' By Miranda Hart, and it was just what I needed. You really have to hold back the laughter on public transport. 
  • Wednesday was saved by A arriving home just before his parents arrived so we could all eat risotto together. 
  • Thursday was saved by a conversation with an adult, buying a gorgeous dress in the sale, and Mexican food. A truck load of Mexican food.
  • Friday was saved by a 7.5 km run, hopefully burning off some of said Mexican food. 
I think my point is that whilst you may be having 'one of those weeks', there will always be a bright spot. There will be something that can reconfirm your faith in humanity or simply make you smile. And even if that moment is gone too soon, it happened and it's there for you to hold onto through the shitty quagmire. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you're having a better week, though granted it was mainly Monday to Wednesday that whipped me into a frenzy. I hope you can enjoy a relaxing end to the week and soak up some sunshine. 

Rants out. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Anyone else have a shit February? It's definitely taken over as shittest month of the year for me. Last year January held that title, but this year I kept a really positive outlook in January. I managed to do a complete edit of my - as yet untitled - novel that I wrote last year; I produced another personal best over ten kilometres; my other half completed his law studies; and I read twelve books towards this year's tally. Not too shabby.

Then February reared its spiteful head, shedding doubt on every project I had going. Somehow it had the ability to drain me of every ounce of energy, whilst making me pissed off and angry, which takes even more energy. I think it must have made a secret pact with the large negative portion of my brain, that sabotage was the way forward. I didn't want to go out for training runs. I wasn't writing much or editing. Novels were taking me days and days to get through. It was like the whole month was me wading through knee high thick sludge, and getting nowhere fast.

And then as I approached the end of the month, I had another charity ten kilometre race, which should have been fun but was actually a hellish sixty one and a half minutes (over five minutes slower than January's PB) that I had no joy from at all. Which was followed by a night of babysitting, which should have ended at 11.30pm and instead had me there until 01.30am, with no contact from the parents after 11.50pm, leaving me worried sick and so close to calling the Police. I couldn't get hold of either of them by mobile. My phone had suddenly decided to revolt and wasn't going to send messages, and I had this overwhelming panic in my stomach. Turns out, they were fine, just drunk and 'lost track of time'. I was worried sick and exhausted. And I found out the next day that my Dad had been in an accident whilst night orienteering and had to go to A & E.

I've never been more thankful for a short month.

Then completely unrelated: Last night in Italian class I was so close to losing my shit. I was sat with two women who are actually teachers of other subjects at the same college, and they both speak loads of languages and are language teachers. I know, bad move. So we were doing some group work and I was enjoying it because it was a spoken exercise that allowed us to talk about our past using various past tenses and I needed some practise with this. So we started off well, and I could do it, and my answer was longer than one sentence and I felt good about it. And then, the teacher comes over and gives us a different thing to do that no other group in the class is doing and it's a written exercise. I can write. I don't need writing practise, I need to feckin' speak the language.

But we were the chosen ones and so, give up on the useful activity we did. Have you ever been put in a group with one person that is so dominating and controlling? I can relate.

So, basically we had to come up with a story, and then we all had to tell the same story, changing a few details, and the rest of the class had to guess which of us was telling the truth. Or, we could have carried on doing the useful exercise that I actually needed and wanted to do. Urgh! Why did I sit there? So, this woman completely took over, racing ahead at breakneck speed, and I let her. But she just kept on adding and adding to the story, saying it wasn't long enough. Now I'm not exactly Miss Brevity, but come on, this was just an anecdote that had to be told three times in the class, she didn't need the next War and bloody Peace.

I was already ticked off at this point, because she wouldn't listen to me about anything, but I kept it together. But then later, in pair work - which most of the time I wish didn't exist - she completely took over, barely giving me enough time to read the pissin' questions, let alone fill in the blanks. And then she was so condescending. 'Are you okay? Do you get it?' Fuck off, I'm not a moron. Just because I questioned a couple of your answers - which it turns out I was right to - doesn't mean I'm an idiot. Maybe if you slowed down a bit, I might be able to partake in the exercise. I mean, come on, I already feel like an idiot most days in class, but to have a woman who speaks five other languages sat there, telling me to think of the French......... At this point I actually broke. I said something along the lines of: I'm an ignorant Brit who doesn't speak seventeen other languages, so telling me how it is in the French is really not helping. Of course I said it with a smile on my face, we wouldn't want her to think I was an angry, pissed off northerner.

I did take a little pleasure in the ones she got wrong. Of course it meant I had gotten them wrong too, but at least I'd questioned them. I hate that most of the time I give in to the louder, more dominant voices and hide mine. I'm not some scared little sheep, so why do I act that way in the presence of adults? Why are adults so scary to me? Why do I always feel inferior? Okay, this is starting to sound like some sort of therapy session. Sorry Rants readers.

It's also half an hour until I have to leave to teach, and these Ariel pyjamas won't exactly cut it as outfit of the day. I needed to get that out about last night's lesson as I could feel myself still angry about it this morning. Thank you for listening.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Sorry, Sweat, Singing and Switches.

Oh my, it's my first rant of 2017. Jeez I'm slow to get going this year. Now this one is all about the S's. And I'm going to start with switches. Ah, switches, specifically light switches. You flick them on and off and the lights respond. One might say, it's magic. But then, cue a gadget mad man who wants to have a smart home and gets the stupid Amazon Echo for Christmas, and suddenly I am no longer in control of my lights. She is. Alexa. The one who inhabits the Echo.

Now having to walk in your living room and ask the disembodied robot voice to turn on your lights is not only weird but it's also slower than actually flicking the switch on, especially as half the time she chooses not to understand what you say, or not to connect to the Wi-Fi. And in the morning, you creep in, desperate not to wake said gadget mad man as he's just finished his law degree, and you whisper to Alexa to turn the lights on and she screams in reply: 'You asked me so nicely, but I'm sorry I didn't understand the question.' At which point everyone in the building is awake and I'm cursing her and running around trying to shut doors and shut her up. (I may have slightly over exaggerated here, but it was fookin' loud.)

Now, I'm a nice, polite person, considerate of others and all that jazz, and I started to get used to her and I thanked her every time she put the lights on, or switched them off, even though she's not real and I know that, I really do. But when I came home one night and sang her name, and asked her through the power of song to switch on the lights, and she didn't even respond, that was the final straw. You bitch. I am singing to you and you don't listen. I mean, you responded to the TV when we were watching an episode of The Good Wife and someone yelled Alicia and it switched you on. That's not even your name! And she responded when someone was face timing us and they said Alexa all the way from Exeter through the screen to switch her on. But a song from me: nothing.

And now, we have a new switch on the wall, so I don't even have to talk to Alexa anymore. I mean, it's not my original switches and I fear they may never be used again, but at least I can control the brightness of the lights, though I still don't like that fact that it controls all three lights at the same time, Sometimes I just want one light on. Fookin' smart homes, ain't so smart. They don't know what you want and you still have to work at it. And yes, my mind is stuck in the 20th Century and I'm quite happy about that.

Okay, so that covers the singing and switches. Now onto the sweating and sorry. We started swing dance classes two weeks ago and not only is it amazing fun, but it is a shit hot work out. An hour of bouncing around and practising steps. The first week I was so out of breath and my legs were killing me. But this week was so much better and I was able to keep up. I could have stayed an extra hour. I have to say though, we did think we'd be dancing just the two of us together, learning the moves, cutting up the dance floor. Ha ha, how wrong we were.

These dance classes don't require people to have a partner, because they split you leaders and followers (I had such an issue with this in the first week, because I don't want to be a follower just because I'm a woman. I hadn't realised just how sexist dancing was until I tried to take part in it. But then it's a battle isn't it? Do I really want to be lifting grown men - if we ever make it as far as lifts - and twirling them around? But then why can't I lead? Ahhhhhhhhhh! So I gave in and became a follower, though I don't like to think of it like that, and quite often I was leading the leader because they weren't doing the move on the correct beat. But still, that was a tough pill to swallow.) and then you all the learn the steps and you rotate partners throughout the lesson, so you end up dancing with twenty or thirty random people. Fun, fun, fun, except for the sweat factor.

That first week I had underestimated how warm it would get dancing the Charleston and had put too many layers on. Needless to say, sweat ensued. But then you realised that everyone else was sweating too. And then came the apologies. Ah, we Brits do love to apologise. I'm sorry. Oh, I'm so sorry. Sorry. Ha ha. But then you look across and see the guys sweating through their shirts and you think, ah well, I'm not the only one. The guys had to hold your back and we had to hold their shoulders in a side by side dance, so there was a lot of touching and sweaty wetness. This week was a little better, as we were in tandem, one in front of the other and we only had to touch by hands. A lot less apologising. And a lot less sweat on sweat. Still, it is so freakin' fun. I can't wait for next week.

Before I go, I must leave you with an oil alien that I created last night, when I splashed some oil in a pan. I was making risotto and just about to fry the pancetta, when I discovered that my flick of the wrist had created this little beauty.

Happy Friday.