Saturday, 23 November 2013

X Factor 2013 (23rd November)

Shall I bother carrying on with these bloglets? Sam Callahan was booted off last week so there's no one left for me to pick on. 

Oh yeah, Walsh. Onwards!

Tonight's theme is ... X Factor. Riiight. The show is 10 years old, you see. And in that time they've unfortunately run out of good themes.

Nicholas McDonald. The Climb.
This week Nicholas has been home to Scotland and he's also sung Miley Cyrus' Joe McElderry's song to Joe McElderry. 
For the first time in the competition, I think little Nicholas is a little flat at times. The staging is pretty boring, the song is pretty boring, the key change is a little boring. You get the picture.
Sharon wishes Nicholas a happy birthday - so she can no longer remind him he's "only suxteeen"? She thinks he sung it beautifully. Gary wants Nicholas to work on his identity. Nicole thinks she saw his identity on the stage. If she did, it's a boring identity. Louis thinks Nicholas is one of the best vocalists the show's ever had. Dermot then strolls on stage with an awesome birthday cake of the studio and the judges and I am rather jealous.

Hannah Barrett. Hallelujah.
Nicole tells Hannah that she stole the show last week. I think I'd agree actually. This week Hannah got to meet Alexandra Burke. There are tears from both.
It's nice. I think we're all waiting for her to belt out the big notes, aren't we? They don't come until about three quarters of the way through the song, so it drags a little until then.
Louis thinks it was an emotional interpretation of the song and that it was her best performance. Sharon says Hannah seems to be more comfortable with herself each week. Gary likes that Hannah doesn't choose songs in order to chase votes. (Hannah's in tears again by this point.) Nicole: "You know it's good and it touches you when there's snot, you know?" Enough said really.

There's now a montage of X Factor's most memorable moments. Have I missed a memo about this show ending? Because it's quite the nostalgia-fest tonight.

Luke Friend. What Makes You Beautiful.
Luke was "like, really down" after being in the sing-off last week so Louis arranges for him to meet Shane Ward. I'm sure that really cheered him up.
He's certainly put his own spin on this. I can't decide whether or not this was a good with such a famous song, but I admire him for having a go.
Sharon says Luke is the dark horse in the competition. Gary thinks that Luke being in the bottom two last week has been positive for him. Nicole loves that he changed the song. Louis hopes the Wand Erection fans liked it.

Rough Copy. What's It Gonna Be?
Gary took RC to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park because they don't have enough fun. Oh I'm sorry, I seem to have mistakenly got the idea that they're in a singing competition, when apparently they're in a competition for who can have the most fun.
Another interesting style choice for these guys. (Is that a ski mask on one of their heads?) I find myself in the confusing state of really liking this. Sorry folks.
Nicole talks a lot. There are ice cream similies and 'schsprinkles'. Louis thinks there's a gap in the market for them. Sharon finds the song whiney. Gary says they did a brilliant job.

Tamera Foster. Impossible.
Tamera had a bit of a shocker last time, forgetting the lyrics and all. Nicole gives her permission to "have her moment" with this song. 
She starts off alright but she forgets the lyrics again(!) and then I think she gets ahead of herself and it's just horribly painful to watch. She manages to get a grip, though, and belts out the rest of the song. If she hadn't messed up, this would have been a great performance.
Louis thinks she's a potential superstar but is annoyed she keeps forgetting the lyrics. Sharon says she did good (you mean 'well', Mrs O) despite forgetting the lyrics. Gary found it difficult to watch and thought the song was in the wrong key. Nicole is full of positive words.

Sam Bailey. Bleeding Love.
Sam is not going to let being the oldest in the competition get in her way. Good, I'm glad.
Despite saying in her intro video that she wants to put her own spin on the song, Sam sounds exactly the same as Leona. Until there's a key change. Then it's a little different, but it's basically a copy of Leona's version. Don't get me wrong, she sounds ace as usual but let's not kid ourselves that she really made it her own.
Gary thinks it was amazing. Nicole says it was a perfect perfomance. Louis says that Tamera should watch back Sam's performance to see how it's done (meow). Sharon is thankful that she has Sam to represent "the girls" and "the overs".

Blimey, that's everyone! I think Tamera might be leaving this week. What do you reckon?

Saturday, 16 November 2013

X Factor 2013 (16th November)

Tonight's theme is the Great British Songbook. I'm not sure 'British' is really a genre but hey ho, on with the show.

Dermot marches out to the wonderfully bizarre (and oh-so British!?) What Does the Fox Say? but alas, is not wearing a fox mask. That would have made for a perfect entrance.

Hannah Barrett. Can't Get No Satisfaction.
Hannah was in the bottom two last week. What the ACTUAL crap? How did Callahan avoid it again?
Seriously this kid must have earned herself a record deal by now. Someone MUST sign her up after the show, regardless of where/when she finishes.
Louis (who is wearing the WORST jacket I have ever seen) compares Hannah to Tina Turner and pleads with the audience to vote for her to keep her out of the bottom two. Sharon loves the song choice and the fact that Hannah had fun. Gary describes it as another great performance. Nicole says she's going to spend all her money voting for Hannah.

Luke Friend. Your Song.
Louis, sitting with his full category, tells his full category that he's the only judge with a full category left. He's hoping for all three of his boys to be in the final. Never gonna happen. This week Luke was invited to meet Seal. Seal doesn't say much so we'll move on.
I've told you before, Friend, I do not care to look at your face on the huge screens behind you. Stop it. It's pretty good vocally though.
Sharon thinks the song was huge and that if Keith Richards could sing, he'd sound like Luke. Someone from the audience heckles her and she spins round to say, "Don't you dare swear at me, young man." and later tells 'that dirty man' to 'go home'. Gary praises Luke for doing his own version. Nicole then comes out with the insightful gem, "Your voice ... reminds me of your hair" (because it's organic, real, has grown through the competition and has just enough grit and dirt to make her like it). Obviously. Loius then talks a bit but he can't top Scherzinger's comment.

Sam Bailey. Will My Love Grow?
Sam had an amazing week meeting Michael Bolton and Celine Dion, but pops home for 'jam tart Wednesday'. I've probably said it before but I friggin love this woman.
Again, someone HAS to sign her up if she doesn't win this. It makes for a rather dull bloglet, but there's nothing to criticise, dammit!
Gary's shaking his head. He describes it as another incredible performance and assures us that Sam will sell records. Nicole calls it an epic performance (bit of a pet peeve of mine, calling stuff 'epic'). Loius tells Sam she's a world class vocalist. Sharon wants us to vote for her.

Rough Copy. Viva La Vida
This week RC got the opportunity to perform with Gary. Blimey - actual singing practise? Whoa.
I like these three. Let's face it, I like most of them apart from Callahan. They sound really good together, even when they're bouncing round the stage.
Nicole says they never disappoint but that tonight's performance was a bit 'vanilla' and she wanted some 'chocolate'. Louis loves their style and swagger. Sharon calls him ridiculous and says that RC's version was great (I didn't think it wasn't different to the original at all). Gary loves them.

Brace yourselves everyone, Callahan's up next.

Sam Callahan. Faith.
Sam has watched the show back and thinks he's taken more of a battering than anyone else. Sam doesn't really understand why Gary doesn't like him. I'm pretty sure he's told you it's because you're not as good as everyone else, sonny.
Sam makes me nervous. He has a shaky start, where he doesn't quite get the rhythm right and then he looks absolutely petrified, and I can't relax. The vocals are alright. Just alright though.
Sharon praises Sam's bravery for doing things his way, but says that his face looked defeated and scared stiff. Gary didn't love the performance but then goes on what can only be described as a 'positivity rant'. Nicole calls him a fighter. Louis claims that Sam gives him 150% every week.

Tamera Foster. Diamonds Are Forever.
Tamera loved big band week but Sharon told her she needs to add more passion. She was apparently planning to sing Bohemian Rhapsody. I would have loved to see how she interpreted that!
The lower notes at the beginning kind of disappear and then - disaster! - she forgets the lyrics. She recovers well though and finishes strongly.
Louis thinks it was an unusual song choice. Sharon thinks it was bitter sweet because it was her best performance but she forgot the lyrics and didn't know how to hide that fact. Gary's waiting for Tamera to steal the show. Nicole thinks she handled forgetting the lyrics pretty well.

Nicholas McDonald. Someone Like You.
Nicholas is rather enjoying the female attention that him being on the show has produced.
Excellent song choice. He sings it beautifully. A little less of the face acting would be nice, but it's a beautiful performance.
Sharon says that every week Nicholas delivers. Gary wants Nicholas to turn up the individuality knob up a bit. Nicole wants Nicholas to sing to her everyday. Louis says it was the vocal performance of the night.

My prediction for the bottom two: Tamera and Sam C.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

X Factor 2013 (9th November)

It's big band night. Dermot's wearing a bowler hat. I would suggest he finds a larger one - this one's somewhat perched on top of his head.

The judges enter to loud applause. Nicole is wearing an exceedingly yellow dress.

Abi Alton. That's Life.
Abi thinks that all her experience of gigging in pubs has helped her in the competition so far. She is very excited about performing with an orchestra tonight.
Abi's decided to swap her usual headband for a giant white flower. She's also ditched the glasses. It's all rather classy really. Unfortunately for Abi, she doesn't really have a big, powerful voice like other contestants on the show - she's better off when it's just her singing with a piano accompaniment.
Louis says it was a good song choice but that she got swamped by the big band. I agree - curses. Sharon expects more sassyness (my spell-check tries to tell me that 'sassyness' isn't a word. Silly spell-check, Mrs O. said it so it must be real). Gary says he worries about Abi but that he didn't need to. Nicole claims that Abi is sasstastic (again, spell-check takes issue).

Sam Bailey. New York.
Sam liked disco week (last week) but her highlight was getting a tweet from Michael Bolton. Seriously, she actually cried. Imagine what a wreck she'd be if he turned up at the door.
Bolton turns up at the door. Sam is a wreck.
Sam's absolutely got the voice for big band (I'm having to try really hard not to type 'big bang' - apologies if I fail at some point). Bloody hell she's got a pair of lungs on her. Bolton's bound to tweet her again after this performance.
Gary thinks Sam's vocal range gets bigger and bigger. Nicole says that it was exactly how the song should be sung. Louis says Sam is the one to beat in the competition. Sharon calls it stunning and says that Ozzy is watching and will be proud of them both.

Nicholas McDonald. Dream A Little Dream.
Nicholas is a little nervous about performing with a big band because 'they know what they're doing.' Bless, even Nicholas admits he's clueless.
Well if he didn't already have it, he's won the Mum vote - sensible suit, sensible hair, generally nice boy. The vocals are pretty much perfect - very nice, controlled performance. He should get through to next week easily enough.
Sharon thinks his hair is stunning and fabulous (it's just gelled - calm down). Gary says Nicholas is very consistent and reminds us he is 'only 16'. Nicole's full of praise. Louis claims that Nicholas didn't know the song when he told him he'd be singing it. I'm not surprised - he's a moron.

Nicole's family in the audience. Quite far back in the audience, so not very close family.

Luke Friend. Moondance.
Luke's rather surprised he's still in the competition. He went home this week, back to the place where he used to busk - outside Exeter Cathedral, which is exciting! (I went to uni there.)
For a second I think Luke's chopped all his hair off, but it's okay folks, the matted fur ball is still there (it's just tied up). The vocals are a little shaky at times. It sounds like he's rushing a bit, but he belts out some massive notes towards the end and the audience loves it.
Sharon thinks it's fabulous and gives him 110 for effort (does she get away with that one by not saying percent, Philly?) Gary was disappointed, I'd agree actually. He says the trick to big band music is being behind the music and that Luke was ahead of it all the way through. I keep saying it, but if they want me to judge this next year I could TOTALLY do it. Nicole agrees with Gary. Louis says that these people don't realise Luke was a busker in Devon. Well yes they do, Walsh, it was in his intro video.

Hannah Barrett. This Is A Man's World.
Hannah's been on vocal rest this week. This does not bode well for big band week.
Phew, vocal rest has been good for Hannah - she sounds fantastic as normal. She's another one who absolutely has a big band voice. It's so good it sounds like she's been performing in front of millions for years. 
Louis nit-picks about whether the song was big band. Sharon wants Hannah to smile because she's on the telly. Gary loves her voice. Nicole says Hannah was 'preaching' and 'owning' it while being cool as a cucumber.

Rough Copy. Hit The Road Jack.
Gary: "You're my best act by far. Oh, you're my only act."
Geez, calm down. This week Gary took RC go-karting. He's got a lot of time on his hands now with only one group to mentor.
After a lame start with two members of the group starting in the audience, things pick up. It's not the best performance of the night, but neither is it the worst.
Nicole says that if RC isn't in the final three of the show ... and then doesn't finish the sentence so we're left wondering what will happen if they're not in the final. Sharon praises Gary for the fantastic arrangement of the song. Gary thanks them for a great performance.

Tamera Foster. Cry Me A River.
Tamera was apparently in the bottom two last week (I don't tend to watch the hour-long faff show that is the Sunday results programme), which is just ridiculous. Clearly Sam Callahan should be in the bottom two, with himself (sorry, I dislike him that much).
Bloody loud fireworks outside distract me from Tamera's performance so I'm a skip right ahead to judges' thoughts.
Louis thinks she's a diva. Sharon wants more passion from Tamera. Gary says we all take Tamera for granted. Nicole says the performance was mesmerising. 

Sam Callahan. Aint That A Kick In The Head.
Sam's starting to feel like Gary's punch bag. That's because you're not very good vocally, Callahan, and this is a singing competition.
I love this song. I am therefore apprehensive about Sam ruining it. The choreography's pretty good, the vocals are okay - they're certainly not great or anything approaching the original though. 
Sharon congratulates Sam for still being in the competition. Gary: "You looked like you had a good time up there, well done." End of Barlow critique because Barlow clearly doesn't want to be too negative this week. Dermot picks up on this and Gary offers nothing more. Hashtag awkward.

No flash vote, so that's the end of the show and, therefore, the bloglet. Byeeeee!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

X Factor 2013 (2nd November)

"What's the theme this week?" I hear you cry.
"DISCO!" I shout/sing back. Someone had better be on roller skates.

Dermot, Dermot, Dermot. We were doing so well without your dancing this year. I know we've just had Halloween and it's nearly Bonfire Night, so you're a little over-excited, but let's just calm down and agree to keep the dancing to the privacy of your own room, shall we?

Some disco legends kick off the show with a medley (I have no idea who they are, but everyone seems rather excited, so I'll just go with it). While this is going on, we're treated to a number of shots of the judges dancing. Louis is clearly a fan of the side-to-side, slightly off-the-beat shuffle.

Luke Friend. Play That Funky Music.
Luke was really happy with his performance last week, Louis thinks it was a turning point for him and that the other judges are starting to get scared. This week Luke's been researching disco music. Part of this is achieved by roller skating(!) around the house.
Well bless him he's trying. It must be the rockiest version of disco ever, but I still want to sing along with him. The judges (apart from Gary) give him a standing ovation.
Sharon says he's the dark horse of the contest and that everyone else has to watch out for him. Gary thought he was going to hate it but after 5 seconds thought it was incredible. Nicole (from behind rather large hair this week) thinks it was funky. Louis thinks Luke is like a little Johnny Depp. Because that's a useful thing to be in a singing competition.

Kingsland Road. Blame It On The Boogie.
KR remind us of this week's theme. Thanks guys - hadn't had it rammed down our throats enough already. This week KR have been working on what they call 'next level' dancing. One of them is struggling. I'm not sure it's a good idea to admit you've been finding it difficult because it just means I'll be watching even closer.
Everyone has lead vocals this week. It's okay but they seem quite nervous so they're concentrating REALLY hard.
Nicole loves the energy but wanted things to be a little less planned and perfect (this earns her boos). Louis thinks it was visually fantastic. Sharon wants them to take the 'I don't want to be in the bottom two again' looks off their faces - that's it! She's summed it up. They take it far too seriously.

Tamera Foster. Wishing On A Star.
Tamera thinks that Gary didn't like her performance last week. There's no 'think' about it, love. He didn't like it.
Tamera has clearly been to the same hairdresser as Nicole. She sings it perfectly and maybe I just expect too much, but it's just not very interesting. And I'm not entirely sure where the disco element was.
Louis loves the song choice and thinks she'll go far in the competition. Sharon thinks it was a controlled, smooth performance. Gary says Tamera's grown up this week. Nicole thinks it was velvety and 'like melted butter'.

Sam Callahan. Relight My Fire.
Sam thought he did well last week and was gutted when he heard Gary's negative comments.
They're going with a boxing theme (no idea why). Gary's jaw is on the floor. This is rather horrid. Who thought this was a good idea? The vocals are not good, the staging is awful. I can't wait for Gary's opinion on this.
Sharon says he clearly loves what he's doing. Gary hated the performance and says everyone else is so much better than Sam. Nicole thinks the song exposed his weaknesses. Louis says Sam came out fighting and that he works hard. Doesn't really matter if you work hard if you've not got a good enough voice, I'm afraid Walsh.

Rough Copy. Dancing In September.
Gary thinks they're being too well behaved and that they need to be more chaotic on stage.
Again I don't think the vocals are great when they sing individually. Things do improve, though when they sing the chorus together, and actually once they get into the second verse they've sorted it. This would have been a really good night to be in the audience.
Nicole loves it. Louis thinks it was incredible. Sharon says their performances are effortless and natural. She does complain that they were practising for 'two bloody hours' next door to her dressing room though.

Abi Alton. I Will Surive.
Abi's had a bad couple of weeks and has lost her confidence so I'm really hoping she has a good one tonight.
This is apparently Abi's song choice and arrangement (just her and a piano). She's turned it into a completely different song. It sounds like the kind of song that could be on a Twinnings advert.
Louis praises the song choice and arrangement. Sharon thinks it was a brave choice. Gary agrees (Abi breathes a sigh of relief). Nicole says it was gorgeous.
If the whole X Factor thing doesn't work out, Abi should definitely start her own headband business.

Nicholas McDonald. Rock With You.
This week Nicholas is going to show Gary how fun he can be. Wahoo, organised, planned fun!
It's a shaky start - I feel nervous, but he's in control pretty soon. There are roller skates! This is great because Nicholas' planned fun is in fact not very fun.
Sharon wants to put Nicholas in her pocket. She thinks it was fantastic. Gary was really impressed. Nicole loves his voice. She also wants to take him to a disco. Louis says he's a natural performer.

Hannah Barrett. Somebody Else's Guy.
Hannah was apparently in the bottom two last week, which is INSANELY stupid. This week she met James Arthur, that notoriously upbeat guy who is bound to put you in a good mood if you've just narrowly avoided being kicked off a huge show. Geez.
Well SOMEONE is bloody well not going to put up with being in the bottom two again! If ever anyone could be described as singing for their life, this girl is doing it right now with this song.
Louis also thinks it was mad she was in the bottom two. Sharon likes that she's smiling, which is lovely change from her always looking like she's 'smelt something nasty'. Gary thinks she was fighting for her life. Nicole loves it.

Sam Bailey. Enough Is Enough.
Sam had a corker last week. This week Sharon took her to a spa because she wants her to look after herself.
She's brilliant, I love her. I'm too busy literally toe-tapping to write any more than that!
Gary was sure Sam was going to struggle tonight but admits he was wrong. Nicole loves it. Louis calls her a yummy mummy. Sharon thinks everything was 110% (apologies if you're reading, Philly - I'm just quoting her).

Thankfully there's no flash vote tonight, so no more faffing. See y'all next time!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

X Factor 2013 (26th October)

This week's theme is movies. Why the crap has someone given Barlow a light saber?

Rough Copy. Everything I Do I Do It For You.
This week the X Factor finalists were invited to the Thor 2 premier. I expect we will be reminded of this fact a lot.
I suspect there was a good deal on dry ice machines. Their harmonies don't sound spot on tonight, but they're normally pretty perfect so maybe I just have high expectations.
Nicole thanks them and tells us that that's the way to kick off a show. Louis thinks they're like a UK version of Boyz II Men (that comparison was made last week, Walsh). Sharon says they're beyond where they should be at week 3. Gary likes that they focused on the vocals this week.

Sam Callahan. (Didn't recognise the song).
Sam was really really pleased with his performance last week. This week he is torso of the week in Heat magazine. He also got to go to the Thor 2 premier (told you so).
I just don't like him. He got a place in the finals because he's pretty, but I don't like his voice or his irritating smile, or the fact that he insists on wearing skinny jeans each week when they really don't suit him.
Sharon questions what film the song was from. Sam isn't really sure, so he looks like a bit of a plonker. Gary thinks it was a weak vocal performance. Nicole agrees with Gary. Louis says the audience loves it and that Sam works hard (translation: I also think it was a bit rubbish).

Hannah Barrett. Skyfall.
This week Hannah took Nicole to Greggs. For some bizarre reason Nicole ends up in a Greggs uniform, serving Hannah pasties. Apparently this is all good practise for a singing competition.
Good song choice! I can totally see Hannah doing a song for a Bond film in the future.
Louis tells Hannah she was born to sing. He gives her 10 out of 10. Sharon thinks Hannah has "so much" going on for her, she tells her it was magnificent. She gives her 30 out of 10. Gary says it was sensational and he doubts anyone will be able to beat her performance. Nicole says it made her want to "get up and dance and look stupid". She then tells herself to shut up.

Nicholas 'life confuses me' McDonald. Angel.
This week Nicholas has been learning how to use the washing machine and the iron. Do this lot ever do singing practise?
Either Nicholas has been taking fashion tips from Louis, or he ironed his own jacket because it's horrible. He sings the song well but I've spent so long being disgusted by the jacket that it's almost over and time for the judges' thoughts.
Sharon is full of praise (seriously there's too much for me to get it all typed down). Gary thinks it was another great vocal performance but he wants him to do something a little less serious. Nicole says that when Nicholas sings it brings her calm and peace. She also wants to go sailing with him. Well you can probably go next week, if you can fit it in between all the singing practise (sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm).

Abi Alton. Moon River.
Abi states the bleeding obvious by admitting that last week wasn't her greatest. Abi and Nicole spent some time watching films (heaven forbid she actually PRACTISE SINGING). She also went to the Thor 2 premier. Of course she did.
Well phew, it's much better than last week. Mind you, my grammar song was a better vocal performance than last week (plug plug plug). Abi seems relieved to get through it.
Louis thinks she came back fighting. Sharon says Abi was very brave but says that people will put the kettle on while she's singing - she wants more charisma. Gary thinks it was too over-thought. Nicole gives praise but Abi's on the verge of tears because Osbourne basically called her dull.

Miss Dynamix. Dreams Can Come True.
MD are actually going to perform this week (yes, I know one of them is pregnant, but perhaps she shouldn't have continued with the competition this year if she was going to be heavily preggo by the end).
They sound pretty good together but I'm not sure about individually. By the key change I'm bored.
Nicole thinks it was an excellent song choice but she didn't like the vocals or energy. Louis advises them to spend more time in rehearsals and less time on twitter (meow). The audience isn't very quick to boo these comments, by the way. Sharon likes the song choice but thinks there's some connection missing. Gary thinks the critiques are a little unfair.

Sam Bailey. My Heart Will Go On.
You'll never guess what Sam's been up to this week! (I'm not typing it again.)
She nails it. Of course she does. I'd love her to win the whole thing but I don't think an over 25 has won since the first year (please do correct me if I'm wrong).
The applause goes on for a long time. Eventually Gary says Sam sang it better than Celine. Nicole describes it as 'machesticle' (the boobs are out, you see). Sharon hopes Simon Cowell is watching so he can give her a record deal right now.

Little Mix are taking time out of their busy schedule to be in the audience tonight. (Snarky snarky snarky.)

Kingsland Road. Pretty Woman.
KR want to get the emotion and passion from their 'save me' song last week into each performance.
They sound good. If I didn't dislike boy bands so much I'm sure they'd be a favourite.
Nicole thanks them but says that at times it's "raining a little bit of cheese". Louis thinks they have better hairdos than last week but he doesn't like the song choice. Sharon says they tick all the right boxes.

Luke Friend. Kiss From A Rose.
Luke's decided to call his supporters 'Friendies'. Lame.
I'm not convinced this will be a good song choice for him, but actually once he gets to the chorus it's pretty good. Yeah, I like it.
Sharon thinks Luke's got an edge and he's dirty. Gary says it was the surprise of the night. Nicole likes the song choice. Louis thinks it was Luke's most relaxed performance of the competition.

Tamera Foster. Listen.
This week Tamera got a makeover (she's now blonde, apart from really bad roots - is that fashionable now?)
It's always a little weird when they have to cut the song down drastically, so Tamera ends up at the huge notes rather quickly but it's faultless. Possibly the performance of the night.
Louis says she stole the show. Sharon thinks she is the quintessential popstar but she wants to hear more soul. Gary thinks it was too much like a Beyonce impression. Nicole defends her fiercely.

Thankfully the big storm outside refrains from interfering with the TV signal for just long enough for Dermot to announce that Miss Dynamix has lost the flash vote and will be in the sing off tomorrow.

Monday, 21 October 2013

X Factor 2013 (19th October)

The recap's late but it'll still be great!

That almost certainly won't be the last time I write that phrase this series, so apologies in advance.

Last week Lorna Simpson was the first to be voted off the show, leaving Sharon with just two acts, and everyone else with three.

Tonight's theme is love and heartbreak.

Has Dermot given up on the dancing this year, or is that a special treat reserved for the Sunday results shows?

Oh, this flash vote is to be a weekly thing. I see.

Sam Bailey. To Make You Feel My Love.
Sam has two loves in her life. Football and her husband. I was expecting 'my children and my husband' but nevermind.
Very simple staging (just Sam with a couple of violinists) and the audience is silent until she hits the big notes, which earns the compulsory applause.
Gary says there's a great level of expectation with Sam but that tonight's performance was fantastic. Nicole disagrees and says that it left her 'luke-warm'. Louis cheerfully pipes up that he has a new name for Sam - Screwbo - because she worked at a prison ... and looks like Susan Boyle? Sharon is mightily insulted on behalf of her act. Sharon says it was beautifully confident and controlled.

Kingsland Road. Marry You.
KR are very excited to have nice-looking ladies on stage with them during their performance tonight. Quite a lot of their introductory video is taken up by them talking about the nice-looking ladies and how excited they are about them.
It's good, they're in tune, I'm just not very interested in boy bands. The nice-looking ladies are wearing baseball caps with BRIDE across the front, classy. At the end of the song the dancers each throw a bouquet and Louis ends up catching one. He's so bloody happy - it's absolutely made his day.
Nicole thinks they did a good job but questioned why there weren't any lead vocals. Louis just loves everything and notes that he and Gary know more about boy bands than anyone else on the panel, which has Sharon cackling. Sharon likes the energy. Gary praises their work ethic.

Nicholas McDonald. She's The One.
Louis tells Nicholas what he'll be singing this week and asks whether he's ever been in love. Nicholas seems confused by the question. I'm beginning to think that Nicholas finds life confusing. Because he's never been in love, he's going to sing to Nicole, whom he has a crush on. Bless.
He sings it well but when 'the one' dancer he's supposed to be singing about comes on stage at the end he's pointing at Nicole. Awkward.
Sharon likes the performance but is concerned that the dancer is a 'paediaphile' - what is Mrs O. on tonight? Gary likes his voice but not the staging. Nicole's heart is melted every time she hears Nicholas sing. Louis thinks he has likeability.

Abi Alton. Can't Get You Outta My Head.
Abi finds singing on the live shows terrifying. Nicole takes her bowling. I'm not sure of the link either.
I don't like any of this. The dancers are in It's Raining Men rain coats so I half expect them to strip off at some point, her vocals aren't great and she's quite obviously still very nervous, which makes me nervous.
Louis loved Abi's performance last week but didn't like tonight's. He says he can't get it out of his head 'for all the wrong reasons'. Exactly how long do you think he spends thinking of these hilarious puns? Sharon says it was a big risk, but a brave move. Gary thinks it was a bit sleepy. Nicole prefers Abi's version to the original and says she looks like a hot tamale.

Shelley Smith. Single Ladies.
Shelley didn't like being in the bottom two. Oh Shelley.
It starts off slowly with just Shelley on stage but things soon get marvellously camp when the backing dancers join her. Unfortunately she reminds me of Miss Piggy this week, and the slightly irritating facial expressions are not helping much. She seemed to enjoy herself though.
Gary doesn't like the song choice. Nicole loves the energy but thinks it was a little 'shweird'. Louis thinks Shelley has a future in the West End. Sharon desperately wants people to vote for Shelley.

Dermot informs us that one member of Miss Dynamix was taken ill shortly before the show and, as a result the band will not be performing and will have a free pass through to next week. Apparently the other two in the band couldn't learn her part of the song in time. Personally I think this is rather unfair.

Sam Callahan. I Won't Give Up.
Sam didn't like some of the comments last week about his vocals, so he's worked hard on them this week. That's good. I still don't particularly like you.
If you didn't know that Louis is Sam's mentor, you'd probably be able to guess from the key change/crescendo + stand up combo.
Sharon thinks it was a great song choice. Gary praises Sam for taking a risk. Nicole agrees. Louis says Sam is a dream to work with.

Tamera Foster. Beneath Your Beautiful.
I don't really like the song, but she sings it flawlessly.
Louis says Tamera's potential is incredible. Sharon says the song was perfect for her. Gary calls her a superstar. Nicole thinks it was beautiful, gorgeous and controlled.

Luke Friend. Let Her Go.
Luke's mum calls him a lot because she loves him and is worried about him living away from home for the first time. He finds it embarrassing. I find your hair embarrassing, sonny, but I don't complain about it on TV in front of millions of people.
Odd staging - lots of dry ice, Luke sitting in a boat, which he gets out of towards the end of the song, breaking the illusion of him being stranded at sea. I'm not really sure what the point of the boat was. Perhaps Louis will explain.
Sharon has a soft spot for Luke and asks Louis what the deal was with the boat. Louis says, "Because he's sailing through to next week." I think someone's been taking too many of his moron pills again. Gary didn't like the boat, he wants Luke to get his 'edge' back. Nicole sings about hairy balls (no, honestly she does). Louis thinks Luke is different.

Rough Copy. I Want It That Way.
RC had an excellent first week. One of them (sorry, I don't know their names) has a visit from his three year old son, who is the cutest thing ever.
It's another odd choice of outfits for this lot, but the vocals are good and make up for the fact that one of them is wearing a skirt.
Nicole thinks they took a Backstreet Boys song and turned it into a Boyz II Men song. Louis thinks there's a place for them in the charts. Sharon says their performances are effortless. Gary thinks they're the surprise of the competition.

Hannah Barrett. Beautiful.
Hannah has insecurities about her looks so Nicole takes her shopping.
I hate it when the judges constantly remind us how young a contestant is, but she's got a hell of a voice for a 17 year old. Wow. Nicole looks close to tears.
Louis loves the makeover and the song choice. Sharon says it was magnificent. Gary is on the edge of his seat when he watches Hannah. Nicole: "Hashtag face-goosebumps." I need to start using that phrase.

So that's all the performances. The loser of the flash vote is Kingsland Road and I am reliably informed by twitter that Shelley is voted off on Sunday.

See you next week, hopefully a little more on time :)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

X Factor 2013 (12th October)

It's that time of year again; the X Factor live shows are about to hit our screens. Yes, that weekly reminder that you don't have anything better to do with your Saturday evenings than watch yet another reality TV show whose contestants will disappear back into obscurity within a month of it ending, is back.

But it's okay because, as the late, great Zac Efron once sang, we're all in this together

Earlier I asked twitter whether anyone wanted me to do these recap bloglets again this year. The response was overwhelming non-existent, but I'm forging ahead regardless. Because I enjoy writing them and I find myself hilarious.

Tonight's theme is 80s. Excellent.

Dermot informs us that there will be a 'flash vote' at the end of tonight's show, which means that one act will be put in the sing-off straight away.

Hannah Barrett. What's Love Gotta Do With It.
Hannah is clearly loving the whole X Factor experience, but she's been on vocal rest for two weeks.
It's a good start to the show. A solid performance, though perhaps not as strong as her previous auditions, probably because her voice isn't at its best.
Louis thinks it must be daunting to open the show. He reminds us that we must vote for Hannah if we want to see her next week. Full of useful advice as always. Sharon thinks she's fabulous. Gary believes Hannah's raised the bar for the competition already. He's also pleased she got through a whole song without crying (amen to that, sister).

Nicholas McDonald. True.
Nicholas is only 16, so he obviously doesn't remember the 80s. He apparently hadn't heard of the song, or Spandau Ballet before this week. I'm 25. I was born in the 80s, but I don't remember them. I do however, know the song (and indeed the band) because I'm not a moron.

Miss Dynamix. Jump.
One of them is pregnant. "Just over five months" pregnant. So if they stay in the competition until the end (doubtful - they're a girl band) she'll be heading towards humong-o.
Louis thinks they need to work harder if they want to stay in the competition. Sharon wants them to enjoy it more. Gary doesn't disagree.

Sam Bailey. The Power of Love.
Sam wants to prove she has a place in the competition, Robbie Williams doubted her, you see. I really don't like this song, so Sam's got a job on her hands to win me round. 
She's bloody good. There's absolutely nothing to criticise or be sarcastic about, which is a shame for the purpose of this bloglet, but it's true. She's ace.
Gary thinks she's in a league of her own. Louis is nodding. Nicole is speechless, Sharon says she nailed it. Sam's just glad she got down the stairs in heels. Love her. Bloody love her.

Sam Callahan. Summer of '69.
Sam is one of those people who irritates me and I can't really give a reason why.
Lordy there's a lot of make up going on on his face. Exactly how much foundation did they use? The vocals are not great but he's trying hard. Teenage girls will love him, so he'll be around for a while yet. Joy.
Sharon asks whether Sam was happy with his performance (he was). She says he has the whole package. Gary thinks Sam looks like a popstar but that the vocals were quite poor (so he sounds like some popstars too, *snort*). Nicole says Sam has determination. Louis tells us Sam works hard and that he thinks Sam will be around for a while because girls will love him - yup.

Kingsland Road. I'm Your Man.
KR are rather excited to be in the final 12. Their excitement borders on irritating actually (can you tell I don't like boybands?)
Boyband checklist:
Synchronised dance steps: check
Annoying bouncy energy: check
Matching, but not quite matching outfits: check
Prancing around the back of the judges' seats: check
High-fiving the audience: check
Nicole is not going to lie, she was impressed. She's going to call them Hairland. Louis loves it, of course he does. Sharon thinks they'll go a long way and Gary says all the hard work has paid off and that there's no one like them out there at the moment (except One Direction?!)

Shelley Smith.
I love Shelley for her accent alone.
It always surprises me that people lose their accent when they start singing. In Shelley's case it's a bit of a shame actually. Would love to hear what How Do I Get You Alone sounds like in a strong West Country accent.
I've tuned out for a few seconds and Shelley's suddenly on top of a scissor lift. Louis loves it. Simple things.
Gary thinks Shelley was stuck in the 80s (rather than modernising the song). Sharon smooshes his face. Nicole likes the transformation. Louis says "Hey Shelley, you gave it welly." No word of a lie - those were his exact words. Idiot.

Abi Alton. Livin' On A Prayer.
I like Abi because she seems normal. She doesn't know what do to with herself during photo shoots and seems genuinely surprised to see herself "looking so nice" in the pictures afterwards.
A completely different version of the song, so much so that I don't immediately recognise it. It's nice but it's difficult not to compare it to, and prefer, the original.
Louis thinks it's an amazing interpretation and that it could be a hit. Sharon agrees. She also says it was unrecognisable (so I'm forgiven). Gary notes that the audience was silent during her performance when they'd been particularly rowdy up to that point. Nicole is proud.

Lorna Simpson. So Emotional.
Lorna's the meh act for me this year. Apparently she's the meh act of the show because Sharon's determined to get her noticed.
You know what I just realised? There's no joke act this year. There's no Rylan or Wagner. I'm a little sad.
She has a great voice but I don't think she'll stay for long. She's just quite forgettable. If she was on a show like I'm A Celebrity she'd stick around because the public just wouldn't notice her for a while. She may actually be the one who loses the flash vote tonight.
Gary thinks the first 30 seconds weren't good, but that she saved it from then. Nicole agrees. She also says she didn't remember Lorna from before. Seriously I could judge this stuff. If they want a replacement for Gary next year I'm available. Sharon's full of praise.

Tamera Foster. Ain't Nobody.
Now I think that Tamera got a place in the finals over a girl that I preferred, so she had better impress tonight.
She's very good but again I'm wishing there was a joke act right about now. At least there's some weirdness with the backing dancers, who are for some strange reason wielding metal fences.
Louis likes her style and confidence. Sharon things she's exotic. Gary says she has the X Factor (shall we all just pack up and go home now then?) Nicole is proud again.

Luke Friend. Every Breath You Take.
Luke's hair has its own twitter account. Of course it does.
Despite the silly hair and the purple velvet jacket and the fact that I shouldn't, I quite like him. He's different to all the other teenagers on the show. The stupid video of his face in the background is stupid and annoying and unnecessary, but I like him.
Sharon says the performance value was bang on but his voice wasn't the greatest. Gary thinks his voice is an acquired taste. Nicole likes the sincerity and rawness. Louis loves the energy. He thinks he brought it, whatever 'it' is.

Rough Copy. In The Air Tonight.
Rough Copy's back as a three because Gary's pulled some strings.
They're very good at harmonising, which I think just goes to show how great the groups can be when they're not shoved together at the last minute and expected to have chemistry.
Nicole says they might be the best band she's ever seen on the show. Louis thinks it was the surprise of the night. Sharon says they delivered a perfect performance. Gary loves everything about them.

After a decent amount of filling, it's time for the flash vote, and because I'm not good at building tension, I'll just tell you straight away that Shelley (nooooo) loses the flash vote and will be in the sing-off tomorrow.

If you enjoyed reading tonight's bloglet, do come back again next week. If you didn't enjoy it, don't come back next week - it'll be more of the same and you'll only find it annoying.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Would You Rather ...?

Topic three: You must choose between having toes where your fingers are, and fingers where your toes are, OR, having both your nose and your ears attached to your bottom. Which do you choose, and why?

A fine question for a blog of such rambling inanity as this.

My immediate reaction was to go for the finger/toe swap because the alternative sounded awful. What the human body can do to food and drink you give it is disgusting. Amazing, incredible, necessary for digestive bliss, but ultimately disgusting. Sensory organs being near all that jazz? No thank you, sir.

But, seeing as my instructions specifically said that I must consider a few consequences to both options, I will refrain from making a decision just yet. Let's consider the pros and cons, shall we?

(By the way, I am assuming that having surgery to try to correct anything is not an option.)

Option 1: The toe and finger swap
- I could refer to the digits on my feet as 'foot-fingers'.
- Being able to type/write with my feet would be an excellent party trick.
- My new, monkey-like feet would help me climb trees more easily.
- I have exactly the same number of toes as fingers (I know, what are the chances?), so could do a straight swap.

- None of my shoes would fit anymore (my fingers > my toes).
- Basic tasks (doing up buttons, holding cups of tea, tying laces on my new, presumably size 9 or 10 shoes, etc.) would have to be re-learnt by my new hand-toes.
- It would freak the heck out of people, myself included.

Option 2: Ears and nose on bum
- I would learn sign language (I don't imagine butt-ears work well through knickers and trousers).

- Unless I taped them to my face, I could never wear glasses (sun/reading).
- I already get ear infections. Putting them nearer the poop hole can't be good for them.
- Nothing that comes out of the human butt smells good. Nothing.
- Sneezing would confuse the heck out of me.

So, awarding +1 for every advantage and -1 for every disadvantage, the scores are:
The toe/finger swap: 1
Ears/nose on bum: -3

And option 1 wins.

But those are just my thoughts. Maybe you have different ideas. If you do, and you'd like to share them, please leave a comment.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Soundtrack To My Life

Just in case you haven't read my last couple of bloglets, a friend is setting me topics to write about over summer.

Topic two - List the soundtrack to your life based on the following terms and conditions:
- 12 songs or pieces of music that can relate to specific events or time periods
- reasons must be specified
- songs should be listed loosely in chronological order

1. I Think We're Alone Now (Tiffany)
The very beginning seems as good a place as any to start. So the song that topped the UK charts on the day I was brought kicking and screaming into the world was Tiffany's I Think We're Alone Now. It's not a song that I particularly like or even own, but it was number 1 when I was born and that's got to count for something.

Incidentally, if you ever want to feel old, go and watch the video of the song that was number one when you were born. Geez.

2. Two Little Monkeys (Sarah and Me)
After being born, the next most important event in my life was the arrival of a new toy sister a couple of years later. I'm told we got on very well most of the time when we were little. One day, in the spring of 1993, Mum decided to record us singing some of our favourite songs. The result was 26 minutes of Jingle Bells, Five Little Speckled Frogs, Nelly the Elephant and many more. For the purposes of this bloglet though, I've shortened it down to just one song. A song that demonstrates how sisters can be quick to fall out but quick to forgive.

(Okay, so the laughter didn't actually come immediately after the song, but it wasn't much later.)

3. Cauliflowers Fluffy and Cabbages Green
One of my favourite songs from Infant school. Back then no one could really read well/fast enough to warrant the lyrics being on display (on an OHP - not a whiteboard - obviously) so you just learnt them through repetition. Judging by how much I remember now though, I must have switched off about halfway through the second verse.

4. Alice the Camel
If Cauliflowers Fluffy represents my time at Infant school, then Alice the Camel does the same for Junior school. By this point we were allowed to read the lyrics, but no one needed them for this song. We'd all merrily link arms, bob up and down and whack our hips together as hard as we could on the 'booms'.

By the way, I didn't include a video of this one partly because I'm sure that most people will be familiar with the song and also (mostly) because none of the videos I found sang it in quite the same way as our school used to, which distressed me.

5. Say You'll Be There (Spice Girls)
Because really, who didn't like the Spice Girls? They were the first band that I liked because I liked them. Before them I'd really only listened to albums that my parents owned and it was a happy coincidence if I enjoyed any of them. I'm fairly certain that Spice was the first album I owned (on cassette!) and that this song was the second in the tracklist. At the time, I only knew it as 'the one where they're all in the desert in the video.'

6. Hip To Be Square (Huey Lewis & The News)
This was one of those happy coincidence songs; my dad owned the album but I loved it so much that I'd sneak it upstairs into our playroom and listen to it over and over again.
I loved the whole album (all killer no filler, folks) but chose this particular song because there was also a Sesame Street version that I discovered at about the same time. I think I may have actually seen/heard the Sesame Street one first, thought it was the original and just accepted that Huey & Co probably liked it so much that they'd put it on their album.

(Yes, NOW I understand that the songs have completely different lyrics but this was not the case for 7/8 year old me. Lyrics are, and never were, a strong point - 5 year old me, for example, was convinced we had to sing about a 'party ginger pear tree' every Christmas.)

7. Say You'll Be Mine (Steps)
Steps were a big part of my childhood. I loved them. I got all their albums, recorded all their TV appearances, read any magazines which had interviews with them, collected their posters, basically if it was Steps-related, I wanted to see or own it. I (obviously) made a scrapbook about them (complete with different sections for each band member) and even went as far as hand writing the lyrics to all of their songs. As we already know, lyrics were not my thing, so this meant listening to an album with a pad of paper and a pen at the ready, and pausing the song after every couple of lines.
If that wasn't enough, crazy-obsessed 10 year old me, one day decided it would be an excellent idea to make a PowerPoint presentation about them, presumably so I could explain just how brilliant they were to others.

8. Step Into Christmas (Elton John)
Everyone's got their favourite Christmas song, this is mine. Christmas has always been rather magical in the Groves household and for me this song marks the beginning of all the festivities.

9. Opa! (Giorgos Alkaios)
You didn't think we'd get through this list without a Eurovision song, did you?
I've watched Eurovision since Gina G asked for a little bit more in 1996 and love it a little more every year. Did you know that the competition originally started to try and boost morale after the second world war? (If you've read earlier bloglets, you probably do - apologies for repeating myself) Okay so things have changed somewhat since then, but I really like Eurovision's humble beginnings.
This song was my favourite of the 2010 competition. It didn't win - none of my favourites ever win - but I did actually try to learn all the lyrics a while ago. Did I mention lyrics are not my thing?

10. I Can Go The Distance (Disney's Hercules)
Because it reminds me of Miss Dormer, who taught me Latin at school. In the last lesson of every term we'd try to persuade Miss Dormer to let us watch Hercules instead of doing work. If I remember rightly, she never took much convincing.

11. Survivor (Destiny's Child)
I haven't chosen this song because it helped me through a difficult time in my life, or has a deep meaning for me, nope. It just reminds me of university. In my second and third years I lived with a group of fantastic girls who loved to play Sing Star. Survivor was a particular favourite of ours. We belted it out, and by 'belted' I mean 'shouted it at the top of our lungs until other students, who lived in the next street, came and complained'. A proud moment for all of us.

12. The Hannah Song (Me)
I don't often watch this video. It makes me cringe a bit now (why I didn't just write a song that was in a range I could cope with, I don't know). But I do sometimes catch myself singing or humming it to myself. The song is (obviously) about a friend named Hannah whom I met at university. I wrote it because I was going to be away on holiday over her birthday and felt bad that I wouldn't see her. The idea grew and grew, and in the end I uploaded another 17 videos (not all of them songs!) for her, but the Hannah Song was always the best.
It was also the first song I wrote, filmed and actually uploaded to the internet for The World to see (unless you count the Cheese Rap) and the fact that people didn't hate it gave me the confidence to do more.

Friday, 26 July 2013

What If?

When I tweeted a link to my last bloglet, a friend set me the challenge to write weekly updates throughout the summer on topics of her choosing. Challenge accepted Tami!

My first topic: Explore how different your life might be if, instead of studying Latin, you had studied ice skating.

So, very briefly, I started learning Latin at the age of 12, then took GCSE, AS and A level exams in the subject before studying it (along with Classical Greek) at university. I now teach Latin to 9-11 year olds.

But how different could my life be now if, instead of spending my formative years learning about the ablative, I had been perfecting my arabesque? Well, to begin with at least, I suspect 'not very'. At our school we all had to study Latin in Years 8 and 9 (age 12-14) so even in a ridiculous universe where I ditched Latin, I would still have had to learn the basics.

Okay, once I got to GCSEs (and didn't choose Latin) I would have had the chance to study a different subject through to A levels, but because ice skating just wasn't/isn't/never will be on the curriculum, and because I very much doubt my parents would have let me leave school without qualifications, ice skating would have remained a hobby. Maybe I had ice skating lessons, caught the skating bug and even took part in some junior competitions, but the main focus would still have been on school work.

Fast-forward a few years to when I've got my A levels, though, and things start to get more interesting.

Having taken A levels in Maths, Greek and Physics (because 18 year old me, who is considering a career in ice skating, believes that understanding the forces in play during a shotgun spin or a bracket turn (Latin-lover 25 year old me had to look those terms up) will be useful), I head out into the big, wide world.

Now, because I'm just quite good at Latin - I'm no Virgil, but I can string a sentence together - I reckon I would be a quite good ice skater - not the next Jayne Torvil, but able to do a few tricks without falling over. So, after leaving school, I decide to join an ice show where I can skate every day and earn some money in the process.

I work my way up through the ranks and after a couple of years land the part of Mickey in Disney on Ice (I've never seen it, but Mickey's got to feature heavily, surely?) and spend a while touring the world with the show.

Finally, having had enough of international travel and fame (of sorts) I decide to head home and pass on my knowledge to the next generation, so I start teaching beginners' ice skating classes. That or become one of the professional skaters on Dancing on Ice.

Of course, if it's the latter, I meet Phillip Schofield, immediately befriend him and persuade him to reunite with Gordon the Gopher for a new chat show.

So how would my life be different if I'd chosen ice skating over Latin? Basically there'd be more sequins. And Gordon the Gopher.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Blogging Again

I'm not very good at having a blog. It's okay when I'm given a strict timetable that I have to stick to (like the A to Z challenge) because then I HAVE to update regularly (Bad Things would happen if I didn't). But you remove that lovely rigid schedule and I get very lazy very quickly.

Only one bloglet since the end of the A to Z challenge (that finished two and a half months ago)? I rest my case.

You may, dear reader, be wondering why, if I thrive on having a fixed structure in my blog-life, I don't just set myself a weekly/monthly schedule. It's a good idea but unfortunately it just doesn't work that way.

In the A to Z (apologies for always using it as an example - it's the only blog challenge I've tried) someone else is the boss: someone else sets the rules. The problem with me coming up with my own rules is that I'm a very lenient boss. I'm more than willing to grant myself time off.

So for the next six weeks while I'm off work (school summer holidays) I shall endeavour not to be Laid-back Leader, but a Tough Taskmaster.

Will it work? Perhaps. Maybe I'll really get into the swing of things and wonder why I ever stopped blogging. Or maybe I'll just give myself the day off for the next 42 days.

We'll see.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Time for some reflectiony thoughts about the A to Z challenge! "Woo and yay and happy dances!" I hear you cry. You sarcastic bunch.

Well, let's make this as quick, painless as possible, shall we?

Tell us what you liked and didn't like
Liked: reading new blogs everyday.
Didn't like: writing new bloglets everyday - seriously we should do something about that mad schedule.  How many letters are there in the alphabet? 26. How many fortnights are there in a year? 26. 'The Blogging from A to Z Year-Long Fortnightly Challenge' is just asking to be made a reality. Would really take the pressure off.

Do you have suggestions about making future A to Z challenges better?
I liked that this year there was the option to add a category to your blog title in the linky list. I wondered if perhaps in future challenges it might be possible to group together all blogs within a category in one place. So, as well as having the linky list that shows every single blog taking part in the challenge, we could also visit a page where all travel blogs, or all gardening blogs were listed.

Would you do the A to Z again?
Yes. I'd huff and puff even more about 'q', 'x' and 'z', but I'd give it another go.

Would you like to highlight other bloggers who did a great job?
Yep. Some blogs what I liked:
From This Side of the Pond
Here I Go With All My Thoughts
The Single Dad Pad
Waiter, drink please!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Z is for ...

... zut alors! I forgot I needed to write a z bloglet.

No, I don't know how I managed that after blogging almost every day this month. Perhaps the challenge has fried a few too many brain cells.

I promise I'll do a proper, more substantial bloglet when it's time to post our reflections on the challenge (I assume we're doing that again this year? I haven't actually checked) but right now I'm off for a nice, long sleep.


Congratuwelldones to anyone who took part in the A to Z - I've had a lovely time visiting your blogs. Many many thanks if you've read or commented on any of my humble offerings - it's always appreciated!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Y is for You

For anyone paying particularly close attention, yes I used 'you' as my 'y' topic last year.

In that bloglet I asked one question to anyone reading. This time round I've decided to ask you five. Feel free to answer some, none or all of them!

1. Assuming you're visiting from the A to Z, is this your first year of doing the challenge?
2. Will you be back next year?
3. What is your favourite blog you've found during the challenge?
4. Which letter did you find most difficult to blog about?
5. Why did the chicken cross the road?

(No end-of-bloglet question today because you've got plenty above!)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

X is for uneXpected and eXtraordinary

I hated X last year. Unsurprisingly, I've not found it any more enjoyable this time round.

I really don't like the idea of cheating by choosing a word that doesn't actually start with X. That being said, I genuinely don't know many words beginning with X (for about a minute I was tempted to write a short story about a xenophobic xylophone - count your lucky stars I decided against it).

So I'm cheating.

I'm quite a sucker for watching TV talent shows. Most years, before they start, I convince myself that I've had enough and that this year I won't watch any of them. Inevitably I get sucked in every time.

Most of the time, though, I genuinely don't mind who wins (usually because my favourite gets knocked out early in the competition and I sulk). What I look forward to, is that act that either does something utterly amazing ... or manages to produce an interesting reaction.

I think these two videos (both taken from this year's Britain's Got Talent) demonstrate what I'm trying to say.


Question: What's your X topic this year? (I'm sure it's better than mine!)

Friday, 26 April 2013

W is for Wombles

Remember back at 'c' I wrote about that documentary on mouse-like creatures who live on a different planet?

Got another one for you.

The Wombles (also somewhat mouse-like in appearance as it happens) are defined by wikipedia as 'pointy-nosed, furry creatures that live in burrows, where they aim to help the environment by collecting and recycling rubbish in creative ways.'

Obviously wombles live in many different countries, but the documentary, on TV back in the '70s, focused on those who live on Wimbledon Common.

This is a particularly fine episode. (Orinoco is my favourite.)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

V is for Videos

I'll come clean straight away by saying that this is yet another cop-out bloglet. It doesn't even have much for you to read; this is pretty much it.

I'd love one day to make my living from making videos for YouTube. In the meantime I'm very much enjoying watching the videos of others.

Here are some of my favourites.

Question: Do you have favourite videos or YouTubers? Feel free to leave links :)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

U is for Ukulele

These pint sized instruments have been enjoying a major comeback in recent years. Part of the attraction, I think, is that the ukulele is fairly idiot-proof. With only four strings to deal with, learning and playing chords is pretty easy.

So why not buy one yourself? (They're also relatively cheap.) Find a few chord sheets on the internet, practise a little, and in no time at all you'll think you're the bees-knees. Maybe you'll even film yourself playing your ukulele. Like this wally.

Question: What instrument(s) do you play, and is there one you'd like to learn?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

T is for Translations

As I write ... or type ... I've got about 2.5 hours left of today to get this 'T' bloglet written ... or typed ... and published. So please forgive this rather lazy effort.

I like doing translations, so much so that I spent three years at university translating Latin and Greek into English, and vice versa. What's brilliant about translations, or at least I think so, is that they don't always work. Or sometimes something, when translated, is completely different to what you had expected. 

Hank Green does a far better job at explaining/demonstrating this than I am. I'm tired. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

S is for Sounds

You know how you grow accustomed to the sounds going on in and around your house?
And that it's only when you visit friends or family, and notice that their houses sound different, that you re-hear the noises your house makes?
Yesterday afternoon I spent some time thinking about, and listening to, all the sounds I like in my house, and how they help to make it my home. Corny, I know.

- The thud of a car door just when I'm expecting my sister, Sarah, home from work.
- The whistle of the kettle, which Mum immediately strangles because she knows I hate it.
- The scratch of the curtains being opened in the hall which means that someone else is already up.
- The click of Sarah's bathroom light being switched on or off.
- The incomprehensible murmur of the Grand Prix on the radio as Dad does DIY.
- The creak of the floorboards on the landing, just to the left of the stairs.
- The rumble of Dad's Mid-Life-Crisis car when he gets home from work.
- The whirring of Sarah's sewing machine in the dining room.
- The rattle of the airers as Mum hangs up clothes.
- The sound of Dad talking to the fish as he feeds them.
- The squeak of a key turning in the door which means that someone's home.

Question: What are your favourite sounds to hear at home?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

R is for Reading

I like reading.

I'm not a particularly fast reader, nor am I particularly slow. I can quite happily whiz through several books in a few weeks, and then spend months trundling through just one (Anna Karenina was a six-month slog through Autumn/Winter, and I'm still not sure whether or not I enjoyed it).

What I can't do is read when there's noise around me. Doesn't matter whether it's a television, radio, music or just a couple of people having a conversation, as soon as there's some background noise I can't concentrate.

My dad has the same problem. He has to leave the room if someone starts talking while he's reading. My mum and sister, on the other hand, both possess the enviable ability to zone out everything else going on around them. It's as if, as soon as they open a book, an automatic Reading Bubble is activated, which blocks out any background noise.

My Reading Bubble is either faulty, or non-existent. Either way, for the time being at least, Dad and I will have to make do with the quiet room.

Question: Do you have a Reading Bubble? Or will you be joining us in the quiet room?

Friday, 19 April 2013

Q is for Qwertee

I'm in a sulk.

I found it very difficult to think of a topic for 'q' (hence why this bloglet wasn't published at the usual 9am). And I'm not very happy with the 'q' I've gone for, because it's kind of a cop out. So let's get it over and done with, shall we?

Qwertee is a website which sells a different T-Shirt every day. People vote for their favourite designs, and then the most popular one is sold for 24 hours.

You should take a look. Or not.

I'm sorry. Hopefully 'r' will be better.

Question: What's your 'q' topic?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

P is for Procrastination

Whether you're trying to avoid starting that important essay, doing the ironing, or just deciding on a 'Q' topic for the blog challenge you foolishly signed up to for the second year in a row, everyone procrastinates.

If, you're some kind of strange, super-human who never puts things off, you may want to leave now; this bloglet will only distress you.

What I'm interested in today, is how people procrastinate. Here are three of my personal favourites.

1. YouTube/Facebook/twitter
And any other black holes of the internet that just suck away hours of your life.

2. Emails.
I've been meaning to read through those 600+ emails about Facebook notifications, online purchases and links to funny cat videos. Yes, now would absolutely be the perfect time.

3. Tidying.
I could probably get a lot more done if I tidied my desk a bit. I'll just clear some space. Actually it's pretty dusty. And that shelf's a bit of a mess, how will I ever get anything done if I can see such a messy shelf? You know, while I'm tidying, the carpet could do with a hoover ...

Question: What do you do when procrastinating?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

O is for Originality

Being original is something I aim for, but struggle to achieve, particularly online.

It doesn't matter whether I'm making a video to go on YouTube, writing a bloglet, or even just sending a tweet; I worry that somebody's already done it, probably in a far better/funnier/more succinct or clever way than I ever could. 

Having this attitude is both a blessing and a curse. Let's take this bloglet as an example.

Because I'm concerned that someone else may also choose this topic, I will have re-read, edited and tweaked this bloglet countless times before deciding it was as good as it could possibly be. There will be no, or hardly any, spelling/grammatical mistakes. 

But ...

Because I'm concerned that someone else may also choose this topic, it will have taken me a long time to decide that I definitely want to write about it. I will have deleted the whole thing and started again at least once, and if it weren't for the fact that the A to Z requires me to post a bloglet today, I may have decided that this one wasn't good enough, and it may never have been published.

I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who struggles with originality (I can't even come up with an original problem of my own). For any of you who also put added pressure on yourself to be original when blogging, vlogging, writing or tweeting, this video may be of use. In it, wheezywaiter (Craig) argues that nothing is original and that, once you accept this, you can be far more productive.

Question: Do you struggle with trying to be original? 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

N is for Never

I'm going to come out and say it right away. I used this as my 'N' topic for the A to Z last year.

"CHEAT! CHEAT!" I hear you cry.

Well yes, maybe. But it was, and is, a good topic. Plus it's one that I think everyone can comment on (if they wish to!) Seeing as I'm recycling a topic, I may as well recycle my introduction from last year (can you tell I'm feeling lazy today?)

*Flashback to last April*

Did you ever see the BBC show called 'I've Never Seen Star Wars'?

No, neither did I, but I believe the idea was to have celebrities on the show who had never done/read/tried/seen something really popular, or at least that the majority of people have done/read/tried/seen. Hence the title.

Last year I listed 12 things I had never done, but since then I realised that there are plenty more things I could add to that list. So here we go.

I have never ...
- Seen Bambi
- Eaten at Nando's
- Read any of the Twilight books (or watched any of the films)
- Operated a left-hand drive car
- Seen Avatar
- Eaten rhubarb
- Done karaoke (unless Singstar in the comfort of my own home counts)
- Got a speeding/parking ticket
- Been stung by a wasp/bee
- Had a Big Mac

Right, your turn!
Question: What things haven't you done that would shock us all?

Monday, 15 April 2013

M is for Me

Hey, 'M' was for Mum last year, so it's totally fine to be completely self-centred this time round.

(If you'd rather read the mum bloglet, it's here)

For the rest of you Mum-Haters, let's crack on with the Me bloglet.
5 remarkably un-lifechanging things you may or may not like to know about me.

1. I like to ignore my toast.
When we used to stay at my grandparents' house, Grandpa would always make breakfast in bed for everyone. First for Grandma, then for my parents, and then for my sister and me. Because we were last, Sarah's and my toast was always cold, and I loved it. So now I like to leave my toast for several minutes to cool down before eating it.

2. I have a YouTube channel.
Yes, this is absolutely just a shameless way of telling more people about it. Here's the link. You can follow or ignore it. Moving on.

3. I studied Classics at university.
I don't really use my knowledge of Greek anymore (I do teach Latin though), but I still get a little rush of excitement at being able to work out a word's meaning because of its Greek (or Latin) origin.

4. I watch Adventure Time.
Yes, I'm a grown woman but in my defence I don't remember children's cartoons being anywhere near as funny when I was growing up.

5. I will never own an iPhone.
I can't really explain this one. I don't hate iPhones, I don't hate apple, I would just rather own a phone that not everyone else has, or knows how to operate.

Question: Is there anything about you that you'd like to share? The weirder the better!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

L is for Laughter

We're almost half way through the A to Z challenge!

I thought that maybe some of you, like me, are finding it tough. After all, the excitement of the first few days of the challenge has faded, and the end isn't quite in sight just yet.

So I think what we need is a few minutes of laughter today. And with that in mind I've included three video clips that make me laugh.

Question: Who/what makes you laugh?

Friday, 12 April 2013

K is for Knitting

I can't knit. I've tried to learn many times, and have failed many times.
One of my new year's resolutions last year was actually to learn how to knit. Again, I failed.

The problem may be that I want to knit because others in my family can do it. It's almost that I want to want to be able to knit more than I actually want to be able to knit. Does that make sense?

When I stop and think about it, I don't have any burning desire to make myself a jumper, or a blanket, or even a little knitted Finn and Jake from Adventure Time (they're actually crocheted but I'm rubbish at that too).

Okay, being able to make Finn and Jake would be brilliant.

Maybe I'm just not supposed to knit.
Maybe that whole 'you can do anything if you set your mind to it' doesn't apply to knitting.
Or maybe I just need to get these guys to teach me.

Question: Is there a skill you've tried to learn but just can't master it?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

J is for Jessica

My name is Rebecca. That's what my parents and work colleagues call me.
My sister and friends call me Becky, or Grover, or variations of the two.
But no one calls me Jessica. Because my name's not Jessica.

But it could have been.

Before I was born, my parents thought they were going to have a son. Not because they were told this by someone in the medical profession; just because that's what they thought. So they came up with a few boy names that they liked.

Then I came along - no Y chromosome in sight - and suddenly they had to think of girl names that they liked. This took a while.

Dad liked 'Michelle' but that got vetoed by Mum on account of it being the name of one of his ex girlfriends. Then Mum liked 'Jessica' but that was vetoed by Dad because of a television show. Yep.

Some Mothers Do Ave Em, which stopped airing a good ten years before I was born might I point out, had a character called Jessica. She was the daughter of Frank and Betty Spencer. As far as I'm aware, Jessica was a perfectly normal little girl and it was Frank with whom my dad took issue.

Frank, you see, was a walking disaster zone. He always managed to get himself into ridiculous situations and embarrass himself and his family. Everyone always ended up laughing at Frank, and I think this is why my dad didn't like the name Jessica. Because, according to his strange logic, people might remember this TV show and I may get teased (though this never happened to any of the Jessicas I went to school with.)

I don't really mind; I like the name I ended up with, but it's made me wonder whether anyone else has a similar story, and hence my question to you for today.

Question: Were you named after someone, or did your parents avoid certain names?

Also here's a clip if you've never been treated to the wonder that is Frank Spencer.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I is for (Questionable) Ingenuity

One evening, a few years ago, one of the curtain rails in our lounge broke.

My parents had been planning to redecorate the room, so this wasn't a particularly big problem. Dad, however, decided that it would be a terrible inconvenience not to have curtains for a little while, and so he took it upon himself to come up with a temporary solution.

By 'temporary solution' I of course mean 'completely over-the-top and insane idea'.

So, some time later that evening, Dad returned to the lounge. With tools. And what he did next defied the laws of logic. His actions have gone down in family history. We delight in telling the story whenever we can. Dad's ingenious plan, you see, was to nail the curtains to the wooden pelmet which surrounded the (now broken) rail. That's right; he basically nailed the curtains shut.

Once we realised what he was doing, my mum, sister and I started to question just how 'temporary'   a solution this was. He assured us it would only be until the weekend.

I stopped counting when we got to four years.

You'll be glad to learn that Dad's 'temporary solution' has now been replaced by a new curtain rail and new curtains (that actually open AND close!)

Question: Do you know anyone with similarly questionable ingenuity?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

H is for Hundred

This (I think) is my hundredth bloglet.

Because I'm a sucker for celebrating pointless milestones, I couldn't let the happy coincidence that my hundredth bloglet occurs on the 'H' day slip by unnoticed.

It's taken me a while to get to 100 (no one would describe my blogging style as 'regular') and of my 99 previous bloglets, there are probably only a handful that I really like. I'm not fishing for compliments here. If you've read and enjoyed by blog for a while - thank you. I'm grateful for your support. But I don't often read my earlier bloglets because I cringe. I think that I was trying too hard to be funny, or clever, or a combination of the two.

But I'm proud that I've got to 100, and I quite like the fact that I don't like my early bloglets. I think it's a good thing. Hopefully it means that I've improved since I started a few years ago, and that I can continue to do so. Who knows, maybe the next hundred bloglets will even take less than 3 years!

Question: Do you ever go back and read your early posts? What do you think of them?