Having been cooped up for what feels like a lifetime, I was overjoyed to hear that Eurovision is going ahead again this year.
In celebration of this wonderfully cheesy event, here are a selection of songs which could describe the stages of British reactions to Covid (anything to make this a bit more topical).
British Politics, as Told Through the Medium of Eurovision Songs
Before Covid, everything was wonderfully normal and all we had to worry about was accidentally winding up on a date with someone you think is famous, but is actually the Bruno Mars tribute act playing at your best mate’s wedding
That, or the effects of drinking river water contaminated by the chicken farm upstream.
And then Covid kicked off, and suddenly it was like we were being plunged into a world were being happy wasn’t allowed.
Stuck at home, everyone took to bombarding social media with photos of their baking and back-garden boozing (often at the same time).
And, like the song, it quickly became very old.
But while we all stayed at home and kept our distance, our front line workers in industry and health care continued to press on tirelessly, whilst scientists around the world battled to find solutions to this global pandemic.
And, for the most part, the UK government was like this:
And self-employed / small businesses were lobbying for the easing of restrictions, like…
And young people with buggered-up A-Levels and university studies were like…
But as far as Boris Johnson’s public ratings were concerned…
(Coupled with a bit of…)
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Initially, we were allowed to go out more than once a day and countryside walks were back on. Mind, the British summer though…
Then the pubs started opening up again, shops welcoming customers. For a (short) period even international travel was back on. Happy days!
And then we c**ped it up again.
Nil-points. Ah well, back to restrictions and excessive handwashing it is.
Still, they couldn’t stop us dreaming of a world free of limitations.
Even if some of those dreams were a tad surreal.
And others more nightmarish.
But with vaccine rollouts now taking place in many countries around the world, and shows like Eurovision being staged, it serves as an important reminder that we will get through this hardship. The show must go on!
Reminds me, I better dust off some of my unworn dresses from the back of the wardrobe.
But most importantly. BRING ME MY FRIENDS, BRING ME THE CHEESE AND BRING. ME. THE. PARTY!!
This post is dedicated to my lovely little sister, Bubba B.
It’s also dedicated to my old photo achieves I’ve been trawling through with zero regard to common decency. She let me take these photographs, she knew what she was signing herself up to five/six years later.
(At least that’s what my lawyers will say.)
*Cough* anyway, here we go.
My Sister, On…
My Sister, On…Contemporary Art
My Sister, On…Prehistory
(My Sister, On…World Domination of Prehistory)
My Sister, On…Geology
India On…Hipster Coffee
My Sister, On…Making Friends
My Sister, On…Interior Design
My Sister, On…Cultural Portrayals of the Female Body
My Sister, On…Wine Tasting
My Sister, On…Home Removals
My Sister, On…Interpretive Dance
My Sister, On…Travel
My Sister, On…Motivational Talks
(And finally – for now) My Sister, On…Questionable Photography
There you have it! Stay awesome, sister of the sea.
(PS, because no one is perfect…)
Yeah, I’ve no idea either.
(There may be an “Alice On…” sequel, or two, coming soon.)
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There are two options as to when the Mallorca (English spelling Majorca) holiday began. The first possibility is when I caught India eating salsa at 3am as we finished loading the cars up with the suitcases, the scrambled logic being the dip was due to go past its sell-by whilst we were away. I looked at her in disbelief as she continued to eat table spoons of the stuff.
That was when I thought the holiday had began.
The other potential opener occurred in the check-in queue of East Midlands airport. After waiting for approximately 45 minutes the elderly gentleman in front of me started spontaneously vomiting. Someone further down the queue rushed to hand over a napkin seconds before the same passenger began throwing up again. Everyone started shouting at the man to stand still but the baffled passenger continued to wheel his vomit-coated case through the mess and around the tape barriers. Forget human consideration, people were terrified that this solo passenger was going to be on their flight. Dad meanwhile was running around the terminal and having no luck in finding someone to help and the cleaning crew were standing around the mess as if it would evaporate by itself. Then another woman collapsed, and another. It was 4:30am, I was stood in an irritable queue next to a pool of someone else’s vomit. The whole plane had to board in 15 minutes and I had not a drop of caffeine to run on. Miracles bloody well do exist.
The Bennett holiday had begun.
This year it was an all-inclusive trip to the sunny island of Mallorca, Spain. For the benefit of the jury, here is a balcony photo.
Compulsory scenic surrounding location shots (nature reserve and Alcudia)
While I knew we were in Spain over the course of the week I did have a few questions I wanted to take up with the local trade of commerce. For instance, I’m quite sure this is factually inaccurate:
I don’t think the feminists were consulted on this, the upcoming sequel to ‘The Land Before Time‘:
And then I realised the tourist board were in on the con too.
To take this back a little, we were holidaying in the north, less developed, area of the island and just up the road from several historic towns including Alcudia.
There are two sides to Alcudia, the newer part of the town that formed around the busy port and is now home to a number of tourist tat shops commercial outlets and bars. The historic town is located several miles inland and a short hop away on public buses (which run every 15 minutes during the main season). Because we’re suckers for culture and architecture we spent more days roaming the streets here than we did anywhere else during our stay. To say the place has charm would be a vast understatement, the main town has so few cars going through it the place is practically pedestrianised (and not a yellow line in sight!) as demonstrated by this reckless selfie.
We went in on day for the market on Tuesday and were amazed by the range of products one could buy be you a local or a tourist.
Even India thought I was being weird for photoing underwear. Even India.
The main tourist square great for people watching…
…And had great light for selfies (because I’m pretty sure that’s how the early settlers designed the place).
After a few bevvies and a scoop or two (or three) of ice cream it was time for a wander around. Going in and out of shops I discovered some awesome tunes but due to data allowance I chose to record the clip. Common practice for me when abroad and also a weird thing to play back.
It looks like hidden camera footage from Watch Dog.
There was also a very nice old church in the centre.
I cam away with a lot of questions to put to religious leaders, chiefly how come Mary’s been dead for several millennia but still has amazing hair whereas all the Herbal Essence products in the world do stuff all for me.
And why do us Brits keep jet-setting around the world when clearly in Mallorca the place to go on holiday is Bournemouth as demonstrated in this local tourist agent window.
Speaking of culture, India on art everyone.
Speaking of unculture, back at the hotel I was giggling over squiffy mini croissants and eating gummy sweets with large glasses of wine.
Also much to my amusement came the ‘lost in translation’ moments, including the night we ate a local child’s pet.
And the dumping of random ingredients in water to infuse it including cinnamon sticks, carrots and potatoes.
The use of potatoes in water was followed by a ten minute lecture where we had to remind Dad that you can’t eat raw potatoes, even if you’re certain you ate them as a child.
On the night of the England vs Columbia game us three got the night off. We stuck him in a chair with a whiskey and he was content all night long (well…ish – we all remember that game).
Tell you what, the Spanish commentators don’t half get passionate about their football World Cup
On another night we played mini golf.
And if all else failed we just sat about the pool with our sangria and watching the resident duck fly in for a swim. That or laugh at my failing to grasp the English language when I go the words flamingo and flamenco mixed up “flamenco shorts AND t shirts, that is a bold move.” “Well it would be if it actually were flamenco dancers…”
The facilities and entertainment at the hotel was pretty good actually even when the entire complex had a power cut one night.
It was in the evenings I was also reminded of how classy we all are as a unit when we want to be. For instance I still don’t understand why Mum hasn’t been called back to present on Gardener’s World…
Dad also started doing reckless things like turning the Jacuzzi on in the evenings and keeping it running when performances were taking place yards away.
Next thing you know the selfie stick is being waved about like nobody’s business and we all start adopting weird signature poses.
India with arms, Dad with scary smiles, Mum looking very chilled and me…well me reminding myself why I’m single.
The next morning we ventured further along the coast to Port de Pollenca with it’s scenic docks and it’s random home wares which were also rather pricey.
And because we hadn’t taken a family selfie for five minutes naturally my stick was out again.
At the end of the week we left knowing that the 32C temperatures were little above what was being experienced in Britain (i.e. no smug points to be had there) but we returned having had an enjoyable and chilled week away from our varying stresses of real life. I have racked up a mega awesome playlist of Spanish songs on my Spotify playlist, discovered cream of coconut liqueur (which is the best) and saw a Spanish version of Poldark from the coach as we headed back to Palma airport. Based on all three I’ve decided that I need to move to Mallorca and join Alcudia’s local police force (in the words of mum “you don’t get Aiden Turner working as a special police constable in the UK”).
That said before all of that came a two more pressing tasks:
A) How do we get Dad on the plane?
And B) how do we stop ourselves having so much fun on the free bar?
You’re lying on a beach, the warm Mediterranean sun kissing your sun cream-sheen body. There’s a Pina Colada in hand (it could be the second or third, but who’s counting anyway?) And you think to yourself, “yes, this is pure bliss”. Suddenly, out of nowhere…
“Things are going to change around here!”
You’re sat in an English beer garden in summer, holding a pint of ale that comes recommended by the landlord himself. There’s a gentle breeze flowing through your hair as you idly watch dog walkers stroll by. It could just as easily be Devon or as it could be Suffolk (but who’s reading the map anyway?) And you think to yourself, “can’t go far wrong”. Then…
“Things are going to change around here!”
You’re stood by a roaring fire, munching down on festive treats. Outside it’s dark and cold, but inside you worship only the primitive flames. The wine is pouring a plenty and the boxes of mince pies are never ending. You don’t care much for the brand (who’s checking the price tag anyway?) And you soon find yourself curling up into a ball and drifting off by the glowing embers. As your eyelids slowly lower, with loving family all around, you think to yourself “life doesn’t get much better than this.”…
“Things are going to change around here!”
All three of the above are, give or take a few juicy words, all scenarios I’ve shared in the company of my beloved Papa Bennett. It’s basically a family tradition, when you reach a sweet spot in life he will almost always cry out those seven words. “Things are going to change around here!”
Usually the statement will be followed by something that he feels is currently out of balance. These fall into two categories and you can usually pin point what he’s going to say and when he’ll say it down to a T. For example, Christmas time after eating four mince pies in one sitting = health, three days into a beach holiday = work balance. And every time we tell him “work less hours!” Or “eat less junk!” all we get is a look of horror. “I couldn’t possibly do that!” he says.
Papa Bennett aside, used in the right way the statement does have weighting to it. I think to myself, wouldn’t it be better to, instead of pledging resolutions at New Year, instead say TAGTCAH? (Does that read like a Lord of the Rings character? Or a nasty throat infection?)
Without going into the potted year of the Alice Bennett show, 2017 has been so unbelievably busy. New house, new car, new job (and everything else in between). I’ve dealt with busy builders, evil energy suppliers and a mortgage provider who tried to fob me off with a blank cheque. Swindon stays the same, sure, but everything else has changed.
What’s going to change around here in 2018? Well, things I hope for:
Life to calm down (at least the things I can control)
I received a Christmas card this year with the added note “hoping 2018 is just as thrilling as the one before!” Well no, no I really hope it isn’t. I’ve invested enough time and money on the power three (house, car, job) in the past year, I welcome a break!
Stop worrying over the little things.
Recently someone gave me a piece of written feedback. I highly paraphrase, but it went something like “you’re doing great, but you’ve seriously got to stop worrying and overanalysing everything.” (So I’m going to stop fussing so much over the little things.)
Learn how to read electronic messages.
…My knee jerk reaction to the above email was to heavily defend why I cared so much about my job. I reread heir comments a week later and realised that I’d completely misread what they were trying to say. They’d written the comment in good humour as part of a longer email as a gentle nudge to relax a little. And yet I latched onto one slightly negative thing. That was silly and I wish I could take it back and not given out the Alice Bennett sob story. So as a writer I also need to learn how to read (hah, how ironic).
Stop overanalysing emails. (See above.) Because colleagues will think it weird and will be scared that they’ll appear on blogs, like they’re working with some kind of corporate Taylor Swift.
Write something awesome
Like truly awesome
Grow nails, preferably by finding something/one as actual motivation.
Because nothing else is working and I hate my hands and want nails so bad. I’m thinking like The Rock or Channing Tatum as personal trainers, Richard Branson staring me down from the other side of the office, and/or a naggy Martin Freeman? Not fussy, whichever comes easiest to hand (eh, see what I did there? Pun Goddess.)
Be you Alice because when you’re not spilling coffee everywhere you pass off for a decent human being. And you need to damn well appreciate it more.
(Also because Oscar Wilde’s people called. Turns out he’s already taken.)
So there’s my ‘things are going to change around here’ list for 2018. Comment below any of yours, in the meantime I’m off to take on the new year.
“…Right, so how are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers out of the country?”
“Well you’ll have made friends with a gigolo in the airport flying out.”
“When would you do that?”
“At check in. You get talking to her and strike up a friendship at that point. Then you find a way to damage her case at the airport on the other side, you apologise and offer to replace the damaged case. She accepts and then you supply her with a case with the goods stitched in on the inside.”
“You got a Roman chariot style attack planned? You’re going to attach spikes to the wheels of your case? And when are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers sewn in?”
“Alice, you know Jammy Dodgers is a euphemism for something else? We’re not talking about smuggling biscuits into Britain.”
“Is Lanzarote even the best place for smuggling drugs? I’d have gone for Latin America.”
“No, other than Alice’s smuggling of apricots I don’t think this island has much going for it. You’d do this in Mexico or the like.”
“What if the woman you befriend has a bright pink case? She’s not going to accept your scrotty old substitute.”
“Come to think about it, how are you planning on making friends in check-in? ‘Hello, nice case. You could stuff a lot of Jammy Dodgers in there’? No offense Dad, but I would hardly rush to exchange numbers if you randomly approached me with that opener.”
“I have a better idea. Why don’t you just pay her to bring the drugs in whilst you’re abroad and then murder her in the car park?”
“Well yes, but in doing so you’ve committed a worse crime than the one you were trying to cover up.”
“Remind me again how we ended up on this topic?”
“Pull over here! I need to post something!”
“You’re not posting your local election ballot are you?”
It was 3:30am, the car was filled with baggage and the village post box was one letter fuller. I hopped back into the Volvo and we sped on towards the airport.
The Bennett holiday had begun.
This Easter the destination of choice was the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Spanish by nationality but located just off the coast of the African continent, the Canary Islands are uniquely blessed to have pleasantly hot temperatures early in the year while maintaining a laid-back Mediterranean culture. The warm climate was far from an automatic pleaser for everyone. As we stood waiting for our bags at Arrecife airport, a fellow passenger could be heard complaining down the phone over the amount of cloud cover outside. Trust a British tourist to moan about the weather thirty minutes after landing.
This wasn’t the first bemusing thing to happen on the holiday. That award would go to the poor directional signage that resulted in the entire plane accidently bypassing Spanish boarder control. As we walked down the ramp parallel to the booths, the border guards watched the heard of pale faced Brits with a mixture of confusion and disinterest.
“I wonder if they’ll be so lax once we’re out of the EU.” I muttered to India.
Bags collected, the reps verbally directed us to the buses. We hopped onto our coach and listened to the mumblings of a secondary rep (“what’s she saying?” “I don’t know, I think something about Pablo Paella’s Casa or the welcome meetings. To be honest I’m barely listening.”) The young lady leapt off, the coach doors closed and we departed.
This time around we were headed to the resort of Costa Teguise on the South-Western side of the island. Because we’re middle class this was to be the fourth time at the resort, although this time around the holiday planner (alias Mumma Bennett) had booked the hotel Teguise Grand Playa which was considerably closer to the pretty town of Teguise compared to the one we’d been to four years ago. After the terrible sun burns of 2013 when we badly misinterpreted the strength of the UV rays, we learnt several valuable lessons. A) always pack sun cream b) remember the pastiness of one’s skin and c) town is never a “fifteen-minute walk away”.
Anyway, to get back on topic, the Costa Teguise Playa is a lovely hotel, situated right on the beach (it is quite literally a stone’s throw away). This location suited me very nicely. During the day the beach was a hubbub of activity in the form of sunbathers, scuba divers and swimmers, but at dawn the little piece of man-made coast was completely empty of all human-shaped life. Granted it took me about five days to get into the practice of early starts, but for those few mornings where I ventured down to the beach at 7am the views were wonderful. I could listen to the sea, yoga a little and relax.
Within the walls of the hotel I learnt a couple of new things. Firstly, this man has a very high voice:
And secondly I discovered that Leo Sayer is still as relevant a figure today as he’s ever been. At least four times Papa Bennett got mistaken for the 70s pop star/icon/legend. For anyone not in the know, here’s Sayer’s music/photo next to Papa Bennett’s…
Don’t get me wrong, at first it was utterly hilarious seeing drunk British tourists rush up to Papa Bennett and ask him to sing You make Me Feel Like Dancing, or say “my wife absolutely loves you!” But in time it got bit much. When you’re put on edge because someone stumbling towards you way want an autograph, or ask what it’s like being Leo Sayer’s daughter on tour you start to wish Leo Sayer had been a one-hit wonder.
As well a large consumption of sparkling Cava wine which was served from breakfast to midnight free of charge (this post’s title being a choice quote by yours truly), our merry quartet also partook on an island tour whilst visiting Lanzarote. We’d already done the volcano tours some years ago, so this time around we went on a voyage of discovery to learn about the famous contemporary artist César Manrique who lived on the island. The tour stopped off at a number of the sculptures, paintings and buildings Manrique designed. Here is a summary of that tour in the form of a collage:
We saw some really beautiful things and all took away something different from the trip. Mumma Bennett was overwhelmed by art:
I meanwhile struggled to comprehend why anyone would have a semi-transparent (external) bathroom wall.
India on the other hand had her perceptions on nature and art transformed by a Cactus Garden, from this…
(Coming soon to MHAM, a post dedicated to the Jardin de Cactus. The transformation will be explained!)
And as for Papa Bennett, well he felt compelled to do this:
(And we still don’t know why.)
Other than that we all took pleasure in having a very laid back holiday. In the daytime we’d explore the local area and sit on the beach/by the pool and at night we’d drink cocktails and sip on spirits and chat away the hours. Some would probably look at this as mundane and very predictable but in fact it was anything but. Only after a few rounds of seemingly harmless drinks would the most random conversations come up. The opening of this post is one such example, another was a theoretical debate over how one would go about committing suicide with a Christmas Tree. Admittedly these were not conversations which one walks into at 10am on a Monday, nor are they discussions which anyone walking past, English or not, would be able to jump straight into. They are odd, random and sometimes a bit wrong but they are so the conversational glue of the Bennett family unit.
The local shops near to the hotel were filled with the standard tourist tat and other random items including mug clocks and washing machine covers.
I also think it says a lot about us as a family when we gather as one to admire this:
As we got to the end of the holiday I felt it was time to leave Lanzarote and return to normal life in the UK. I had obtained my fill of sun, sea and endless sangria and was ready for a cup of tea and a bowl of Weetabix. I’d also a) taken a good couple of kilos of apricots and tea from the hotel to bring back home and b) broken our tour operator’s information board.
To stay any longer would be putting me, my family and Brexit negotiations in danger.
Overall, it was a great holiday in a fabulous location (as per usual, thanks to Mumma Bennett). And it shall always be remembered as the Lanzarote holiday where three of us worshipped the sun and art while Leo Sayer worshipped the sparkling wine.
(I know right – all of the ‘S’s! Can you tell this girl works in marketing?)
With the weather being truly glorious today, many in the Bennett household are taking this opportune chance to moan about the weather, well, BBC’s Weather to be precise.
“This wasn’t forecast for today”
“It was meant to be sunny yesterday and rain today, not the other way round!”
“It’s too hot for my body warmer!”
To be fair, it is what we’re best at doing in this country. Weather moaning is a skill that has taken centuries to hone in. It’s what makes us British.
Owing perhaps to the delightful temperatures, I’ve spent a great deal of the day in a somewhat Spanishy mood. Oh, I hear you ask, have you been nibbling on some chorizo or sipping on sangria? Have you been learning the steps of the flamenco or viewing the works of Picasso? No, in answer to your theoretical questions I have not been doing any of these things. I have not even sampled any of the authentic cuisines of Spain recommended by Papa Bennett (these being pizza, paninis and baguettes. Tres authentic dishes.) Not a crumb has passed these lips. In fact the only thing which has made today particularly Spanishy in outlook, aside from the unseasonably hot weather, is this song:
This song has been stuck in my head all day. It’s by no means a bad thing, it’s very cheery in outlook, but it’s coming into my life at the worst possible time. It’s late September and as Muma Bennett has delightfully reminded me, next week it’ll be October. This is a song full of up beat vibes and Summer feelings. The lyrics, the music, the video, it is all dripping in it. I do not want to be thinking of this song when it is pouring down with rain and blowing up gale force ten winds outside. And do not get me started on how this song sits next to the High Street’s ever increasing need to shove Christmas down my throat as early as possible. All joking aside, there is a very real possibility that if I listen to this song at the wrong moment this year’s Secret Santa will be getting a mango. This song is also a nice little reminder of my non-existent lingual skills. That ‘learn Spanish’ New Year’s resolution was ditched way back on January 5th. I mean I’m here bopping away in my head to this song without any idea or context to what Paulina is signing about. Before today I’d never witnessed this music video. I’ll be honest, I found the song on a Latino Spotify playlist whilst I was having a hipster moment and I have cradled the track as my own ever since. All I’m getting from this video is that the song has something to do with obsessive stalkers and paint. (It says something about my mental age when the first thing that sprung to mind was “thing of the cleaning costs!”)
So, on what must surely be the last Sunny Sunday of the year, let’s all make the most of the upbeat vibes and let a little summer back into our lives for what remains of the day. That would be just brillo (because if you stick an ‘O’ on the end of any word, it makes it officially Spanish).