Eurovision 2016

I have now been in the UK for over four years, FOUR YEARS. That is long enough for me to figure out how to change at Bank Station but not quite long enough for me to remember to take an umbrella with me on sunny days. My visa is only for five years so it’s about time I started thinking about what to do next, and since I intend to stay in London that can only mean one thing, citizenship test. So last weekend, with a little bit of fear and a bottle of gin, I embarked on part 1 of the UK Citizenship test: Understanding the Eurovision Song Contest*.

The song contest was apparently*** created to promote peace in Europe after all those pesky  World Wars. It is pretty much the equivalent of terrorism ending as soon as we get ISIS to agree to enter Bake Off. Oh and for some reason Australia is in it. Because reasons.

The rules for Eurovision are remarkably similar to the UN Security Council. All counties in Europe (and don’t forget Australia) go through a qualification round and semi-finals in order to win a place in the final televised spectacle… except for the five countries that give the most money (to keep this nightmare happening every year) who automatically get in the final. The UK having a permanent seat on the UN Security Council AND automatically getting into the final of Eurovision; Coincidence? I think not.

I know you are sitting there wondering where the citizen test comes in, it’s just people singing on TV right? WRONG. This is an endurance event, there are 26 acts performing throughout the night and you have to pay attention to every single one, your ability to intellectually critique each act is stopping World War Three. If you fall asleep, if you take a bathroom break, if you fail to take this seriously; politics will happen. Or even worse, Australia might win and dingo’s will steal all our babies.

If you haven’t read the full rules about attending a Eurovision party I will give you a quick rundown. You will be allocated a country(s) to support (which I think has to give you a visa if you fail the UK test?) and a special effect which if it occurs in any act you must drink. I ended up with Spain, and my special effect was ‘costume change’ – it was time to get serious. Because I didn’t want to risk not getting my UK visa I was drinking a combination of gin and tea – you can’t get more British.

One thing that I didn’t catch onto, and something I hope I am not penalised for, is tactical voting. After each act I was genuinely awarding points based on how good they were. I should have known this was not the way to do it when my friend who was allocated Poland gave the act 10 points – the act which looked like a moustache wearing Lorde who was moonlighting as a lion tamer. Turns out you should give your own country 10 points, and the best acts that might be a real contender for Miss Eurovision 2016 no points. Seriously if Eurovision is this complicated I don’t have a hope in hell of understanding the Brexit.

Then it came to the actual voting (i.e. the one on TV, not me drunkenly awarding points to countries based on if I would go for a drink at the pub with the singer) we sat through an hour of live TV links to representatives of each country who had the ability to shatter dreams by awarding 12 points to their favourite. I was getting rather panicky because for some unknown reason everyone was voting for Australia to win… THEY DON’T EVEN GO HERE. By the time Australia had a convincing lead and was sitting cockily at the top of the table I was a nervous wreck mainlining Party Rings in the corner.

But I should have known that Eurovision voting was never going to be straight forward. After the pain staking live votes, we all of a sudden had another magic pot of votes that were applied – maybe these ones had come direct from the UN. Within five minutes Australia’s Eurovision dreams came crashing down as Ukraine rose from the ashes to become the victor. Ukraine who sang a cheery song about  the 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars in the Soviet Union under the rule of Joseph Stalin aka a big ‘fuck you’ to Russia. Wait, how was this meant to promote peace in Europe?

 

*Ok this is not actually part of the test and won’t get you a visa. I just said this for laughs. Apologies for your confusion**.

** to be fair of you read this and thought that the Eurovision Song Contest was part of becoming a UK citizen then you are a total muppet and have bigger problems to deal with.

*** I say apparently a lot in this, because although that is what I was told and Google agrees, it all sounds like total bullshit.

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Creativity is important to me. Mega important. I get so much joy out of building something.

Creativity gives you an end product; a tangible marker of your time, effort and emotion. I know that the traditional view of creativity is painting in a light filled studio, writing poetry in a moleskin journal at a wine bar or someone’s latest tattoo – but these days my creativity is entirely more digital. And takes place while wearing pajamas and mainlining Earl Grey.

My digital creative outlet has come about for a couple of reasons. The big one is that I live in a London flat, which for anyone in the know means that my bed touches two walls and if I set up some sort of creative space I would no longer have anywhere to stand in my bedroom. And with London life being as exhausting as anything, a creative outlet that requires extensive cleanup is just a massive and conclusive no in my books. The other reason I turned digital is that I now have a place to put it…social networks aren’t just for trolls and shoe selfies. I know that blogging is a hobby and a money maker but for me it all comes down to creativity.

This blog and the social media attached ticks so many boxes for me, and because I am a super dork I have done a pie chart to show you what I mean.

Why i blog

Things that are purely creative for me are all about lightness. They either are created to make someone else smile (like the video I made for my dad) or just to make me smile (like my Instagram at the moment, the picture at the top of this post). They are never going to hang in a gallery or make me famous, they are just fun – and in the case of Snapchat they don’t even survive longer than 24 hours. To be happy, truly happy, I need to give up some of my time (time that I would rather spend watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix) on nonsense pursuits just to build something from nothing, just for the hope of a smile.

Snapchat is an interesting one come to think of it, it’s a social platform that I have only just discovered and have fallen head over heels for. I know a lot of normal people use it to document their lives or their travel, but for me it is far closer aligned with the plays I used to put on as a three year old. It is me acting up in front of the camera, putting on a show that I only conceived seconds earlier to a captive audience of doting adults. And my god I like making people laugh.

I am really thankful that I found a way to use digital as my creative outlet. My parents house is covered in decades of my emotional artwork, an attic full of canvas that I can’t bare to part with. But digital? Digital can be shared and experienced around the world. I can create it using nothing more than an iPhone (the birthday video was all filmed on my phone) and Photoshop for which I pay £8 a month (the Instagram grid was all thrown together on Photoshop). £8 a month is cheaper than stocking up on paint or coloured pencils and the biggest benefit is that Photoshop is portable and mess free.

I know from the outside spending so much time making your Instagram photos cross over the grid is just a waste of time, but for me it is creative meditation. When I think of the extent that some people go to for happiness, I will take playing with pixels any day.

Camel ride lead by young boy Egypt

Back in the days before the Arab Spring I went to Egypt. On this trip I saw some amazing sites, I touched noses with more sphinxes than I ever imagined possible, I climbed inside one of the Pyramids of Giza and saw the tomb of Tutankhamun*. For all the history and landscapes the thing I remember most about the trip? Running round a damn scarab beetle.

I can’t even remember what temple it was at (it was for sure one of the ones that is old and covered in sand) I just remember the tour leader suddenly stopping in front of a lump of rock and looking at us all expectantly. Peering closer I realised it wasn’t just a strange lump of rock at all, it was actually a giant carving of a scarab beetle. With great pomposity our tour leader told us of a ‘legend’ (for all I know he could have made this up for shits and giggles), the legend states that luck will be granted to anyone who runs around the scarab beetle seven times.

Scarab Egypt

I have thrown pennies into the Trevi Fountain, rubbed the Black Madonna on her lady parts and floated a candle down a river in Vietnam; who am I to judge how the gods give out luck? So shrugging shyly and side-eyeing my companions I started off on a slow loping jog.

Just picture this if you will: a hungover Rebecca (we were staying on a boat on the river Nile and happy hour started at 9am), so pale that locals wanted photos as proof, running round a lump of carved rock in jandals – oh and this is Egypt on the cusp of summer so it was 38 degrees and I was sweating so much I was practically doing doggy paddle. The first circle round the scarab beetle I was giggling so hard I could barely power walk, the second was slightly more credible and by the third I was starting to question my life choices. What on earth was I doing running in this heat on the off chance an ancient Egyptian god was still hanging around and like watching girls run enough to throw some good luck my way?

But I did it, I completed my seven turns around my scarab friend and waited for luck to rain down upon me. I mean asking for anything to rain down in Egypt has it dangers, we all remember the plague of frogs. But nothing much seemed to happen. Who knows maybe I was meant to break my jandal that day and by running around the scarab beetle seven times I avoided that horrific fate.

Enoying the silly in Egypt

My point for telling you this isn’t that running is good, or that ancient Egyptian gods still pack a punch – it’s that sometimes the thing you remember about a trip is not the grand or the historic; it’s the silly. No, the silly won’t make it on to Facebook and you won’t boast about it in the pub but it will be the thing you remember. The memory of the sun beating down on the crown of your head, your jandals flicking sand over the backs of your legs and how hard it is to run when you are laughing will stay with you forever.

*Side story: I have this amazing ability to fall asleep when I am on a bus (makes London commuting rather awkward). On our way to the Valley of the Kings I fell asleep on the bus and missed the announcement that we were travelling through some terrorist hot spots so would have armed guards on the bus, and following us around for the next few days. I woke up at the Valley of the Kings (refreshed after my bus nap) and walked off the bus with a spring in my step to go and look at some dead guys. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy following me, and this guy had a machine gun. Doing my best James Bond evasive manoeuvres (including dodging in and out of gift shops and buying a hat as a disguise) I spent about half an hour trying to lose him while at the same time trying to find anyone, anyone, from my tour group. Seeing our leader in the distance I practically ran up to him and was about to tell him about my weirdo stalker, when he waved at the machine gun man and asked if he had seen anything suspicious. And this was the point in my life I learned that if you see someone casually walking round with a machine gun they are probably there for your protection, bad guys don’t normally look so chilled out.

Nerd seeking nerd

When you go to an event or listen to an interview people are always introduced with fucking awesome intros. The intro gets you amped up and excited to be sat in front of a person full of such blazing glory. To listen it sounds like you are witnessing game changers, these are the people to look up to and casually worship from afar. But are they really all that? Don’t get me wrong I’m sure they are smart, ambitious or just really lucky people but they have the same ups, downs and monotony as you do, it’s just the introduction that makes them seem so great. It’s the introduction that focusses everyone’s attention and makes you believe in what they are saying. It’s the introduction that gives them the ability to capture the attention of the audience.

I think everyone needs their own awesome introduction.

Having your own bad ass introduction running through your head will give you a backbone of steel. It will give you the confidence to tell catcallers to go fuck themselves and your boss that you need a pay rise. At school you got certificates and stickers to tell you you are big, special and important; but now you need a way to do it yourself – and writing your own intro is the way.

It’s different to an elevator pitch or a list of accomplishments, your intro needs to sum up why you are the bees knees, why people should listen to you in a crisis and give you free gin at every opportunity. Your intro can be the little things that mean a lot to you “Rebecca can almost always keep her temper when talking to a knob-head”, the big things that you drunkenly tell people in a pub “Rebecca once quit a good job just for the sake of happiness”, or even just the little bits of weirdness that make you you “as far as we can confirm Rebecca was the first person to recreate the Lion King on Snapchat…scene by scene”.

Don’t sit there and tell me that you have nothing worthy of an introduction. Just to get through a normal day as an adult requires ten impressive feats before lunchtime.

When writing your introduction it is very important that you talk about yourself in the third person, there is no point saying such amazing things about yourself (that would just be boasting). And you have to make sure that whatever you write it is impressive to you, fuck what anyone else thinks. This will help you remain true to yourself in any situation and if you imagine Morgan Freeman reading it out will give you the confidence to try just about anything.

Rebecca is a writer, analyst and gin based life form who ran away to London with no plan and no hair straighteners. She moonlights as a blogger at Runawaykiwi while managing to hold down a job at the same time (and is always at work within twenty minutes of when she is meant to be there). A reliable friend and enthusiastic lover, Rebecca has almost a limitless ability to drink coffee and can spell “alert the amphibious squadron” without having to Google . Rebecca can see a cat in the street from a mile away, has never knowingly oversold and is about to self-publish her first book “How to sell roadkill on eBay”.

Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s just the intro.