The Houses of the Valleys by Ann Hughes

Reaching out in unending lines

Houses of the valleys, all the same

In their uniform of dereliction and decay

Clinging on to the hillside, like old people

Clinging on to the old way of life.

.

Smoke rises from the chimneys

Catching the last fading sunlight

of the promising summer of plenty,

Falling soon to the sills in black sooty smuts

Where sometimes people sit and stare.

.

The empty streets echo in the silence

of tack boots on the cobblestones,

Black windows stare at me with accusation

Betrayal screams at you with her evidence

in the houses of the valleys.

.

.

By Ann Hughes (1992)

Зеркало (Mirror) by Boris Pasternak

In the mirror is steaming a cocoa cup,

A lace curtain sways, and along

The path to the chaos of garden and steppe

The mirror runs to the swing.

.

There swaying pines needle the air with resin;

There, fussily bending to look

For its glasses, the garden is combing the grass;

There Shade is reading a book.

.

And into the background, the darkness, beyond

The gate into grasslands sweet

With drugs, down the path, between snail-trails and twigs

The quartz shimmers white in the heat.

.

The soul can’t be mined, like a seam with saltpetre,

Or hacked out, like gems, with a pick.

The huge garden shakes in the hall, in the mirror –

But the glass does not break.

.

I cannot extinguish the light of my eyes

In this hypnotic domain,

As slugs in the garden will plug the eyes

Of statues after rain.

.

Water trickles the ear, and a siskin,

Chirping, hurdles the sticks.

You can stain their lips with bilberry juice,

You will not put an end to their tricks.

.

The garden raises its fist to the mirror;

The room and the garden shake.

It runs to the swing, and catches it, shakes it,

And still the glass does not break.

.

.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к

(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)

from Сестра моя — жизнь (My Sister, Life)

(Summer 1917)

translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

The poem recited, in it’s original Russian form, by E. Pasternak.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Зеркало

В трюмо испаряется чашка какао,
Качается тюль, и — прямой
Дорожкою в сад, в бурелом и хаос
К качелям бежит трюмо.

Там сосны враскачку воздух саднят
Смолой; там по маете
Очки по траве растерял палисадник,
Там книгу читает Тень.

И к заднему плану, во мрак, за калитку
В степь, в запах сонных лекарств
Струится дорожкой, в сучках и в улитках
Мерцающий жаркий кварц.

Огромный сад тормошится в зале
В трюмо — и не бьет стекла!
Казалось бы, всё коллодий залил,
С комода до шума в стволах.

Зеркальная всё б, казалось, нахлынь
Непотным льдом облила,
Чтоб сук не горчил и сирень не пахла, –
Гипноза залить не могла.

Несметный мир семенит в месмеризме,
И только ветру связать,
Что ломится в жизнь и ломается в призме,
И радо играть в слезах.

Души не взорвать, как селитрой залежь,
Не вырыть, как заступом клад.
Огромный сад тормошится в зале
В трюмо — и не бьет стекла.

И вот, в гипнотической этой отчизне
Ничем мне очей не задуть.
Так после дождя проползают слизни
Глазами статуй в саду.

Шуршит вода по ушам, и, чирикнув,
На цыпочках скачет чиж.
Ты можешь им выпачкать губы черникой,
Их шалостью не опоишь.

Огромный сад тормошится в зале,
Подносит к трюмо кулак,
Бежит на качели, ловит, салит,
Трясет — и не бьет стекла!

Healing by R. S. Thomas

Sick wards. The sailed beds

becalmed. The nurses tack

hither and fro. The chloroform

breeze rises and falls.

Hospitals are their own

weather. The temperatures

have no relation

to the world outside. The surgeons,

those cunning masters

of navigation, follow

their scalpels’ compass through

hurricanes of pain to a calm

harbour. Somewhere far down

in the patient’s darkness,

where faith died, like a graft

or a transplant prayer

get to work, repairing

the soul’s tissue, leading

the astonishing self between

twin pillars, where life’s angels

stand wielding their bright swords of flame.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Mass for Hard Times

(1992)

Если б все, кто помощи душевной (‘If all who have begged help…’) by Anna Akhmatova

If all who have begged help

From me in this world,

All the holy innocents,

Broken wives, and cripples,

The imprisoned, the suicidal –

If they had sent me one kopeck

I should have become ‘richer

Than all Egypt’…

But they did not send me kopecks,

Instead they shared with me their strength,

And so nothing in the world

Is stronger than I,

And I can bear anything, even this.

.

.

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1961)

from the time Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book) was published but not present in that collection

translation by D. M. Thomas

.

A line omitted in this translation is ‘… as the late Kuzmin would say.’ referring to Mikhail Alekseevich Kuzmin (Михаи́л Алексе́евич Кузми́н) . I don’t know why it was omitted except in an effort to not distract a reader, one unfamiliar with the poet Kuzmin, from enjoying the poem.

Below is the original Russian version in Cyrillic.

.

Если б все, кто помощи душевной

Если б все, кто помощи душевной
У меня просил на этом свете, —
Все юродивые и немые,
Брошенные жены и калеки,
Каторжники и самоубийцы, —
Мне прислали по одной копейке,
Стала б я ‘богаче всех в Египте’,
Как говаривал Кузмин покойный…
Но они не слали мне копейки,
А со мной своей делились силой,
И я стала всех сильней на свете,
Так, что даже это мне не трудно.

Alive by R. S. Thomas

It is alive. It is you,

God. Looking out I can see,

no death. The earth moves, the

sea moves, the wind goes

on its exuberant

journeys. Many creatures

reflect you, the flowers

your colour, the tides the precision

of your calculations. There

is nothing too ample

for you to overflow, nothing

so small that your workmanship

is not revealed. I listen

and it is you speaking.

I find the place where you lay

warm. At night, if I waken,

there are the sleepless conurbations

of the stars. The darkness

is the deepening shadow

of your presence; the silence a

process in the metabolism

of the being of love.

.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit

(1975)

Плачущий сад (The Weeping Garden) by Boris Pasternak

It’s terrible: dripping and listening

If it’s as much alone as ever –

Crumpling a lacy branch at the window –

Or if there’s an eavesdropper.

.

But audibly the porous earth

Is choking with so much growth

And in the distance, as in August,

Midnight ripens with the harvest.

.

No sound. And no one hiding.

Having made sure it’s on its own

It returns to its old game – sliding

From gable to gutter and down.

.

I’ll raise it to my lips and listen

If I’m as much alone as ever –

Ready to sob if I have to –

Or if there’s an eavesdropper.

.

But all is quiet. Not a leaf stirs.

Nothing anywhere to be seen,

Except the gulps and splashing galoshes

And sighs and tears in between.

.

.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к

(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)

from Сестра мояжизнь (My Sister, Life)

(1917)

translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

A recital of the poem in Russian by Pavel Besedin

Beneath is the original version of the poem in Russian Cyrillic.

Плачущий сад

Ужасный! — Капнет и вслушается,

Все он ли один на свете

Мнет ветку в окне, как кружевце,

Или есть свидетель.

.

Но давится внятно от тягости

Отеков — земля ноздревая,

И слышно: далеко, как в августе,

Полуночь в полях назревает.

.

Ни звука. И нет соглядатаев.

В пустынности удостоверясь,

Берется за старое — скатывается

По кровле, за желоб и через.

.

К губам поднесу и прислушаюсь,

Все я ли один на свете, —

Готовый навзрыд при случае, —

Или есть свидетель.

.

Но тишь. И листок не шелохнется.

Ни признака зги, кроме жутких

Глотков и плескания в шлепанцах

И вздохов и слез в промежутке.

.

.

Additional information: As a teenager, Boris Pasternak fell in love with Ida Vysotskaya, the daughter of a wealthy Moscow tea merchant. Almost 5 years have passed since they met, before the aspiring poet ventured to propose to her and was refused. Memories of unsuccessful matchmaking long tormented Pasternak, who continued to have very tender feelings for Ide Vysotskaya. He tried not to mention this in his poems, but from time to time works appeared in which the pain, longing and disappointment of the poet were easily interpreted.

In 1917, resting in the country, Pasternak wrote an initial rough draft of the poem “The Weeping Garden”. The author himself, after many years, admitted that this work was written in one breath under the influence of a momentary impulse. Moreover, the poet at first did not think to draw a parallel between the usual summer rain and his own state of mind. This happened somewhat spontaneously, even unexpectedly, for the author himself. He felt anguish when looking out upon the night garden from his window. He felt that nature experiences exactly the same feeling of loneliness and longing as he did at times.

In his special manner, Pasternak conveys the sounds, rustles and even smells of a night garden, humanizing it and endowing it with the features of a lonely man. The hero of his work is constantly listening, “If it’s as much alone as ever“, and at the same time secretly dreams of attracting attention to himself. The garden weeps with warm summer rain, and the drops of moisture either freeze or slide “sliding / From gable to gutter and down“.

The poet himself is also “Ready to sob if I have to”, but looks around, looking for involuntary witnesses of his grief. Subconsciously, he wants to tell at least someone about what has become painful, to share his thoughts with feelings and feelings. However, the author is just as lonely as the night summer garden, and he has nowhere to wait for words of sympathy or comfort . “Nothing anywhere to be seen, / Except the gulps and splashing galoshes / And sighs and tears in between” the author notes, secretly regretting that at this moment there is no truly close person next to him. Pasternak still does not realize that life itself is preparing a cure for unrequited love for him, and very soon he will be able to find, albeit short-lived, but still happiness, next to another woman – artist Eugenia Vladimirovna Lurie.

The Ten Weeks of ‘Clap for our Carers’ In Britain

Here is my experience, in Wales, of the ‘Clap for our Carers‘ event, also known as Clap for Carers, Clap for the NHS or Clap for Key Workers, which ran through early 2020 during the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic lock down.

WEEK 1

[26/03/2020] It is the first 8 o’clock clapping event to show our appreciation to the NHS staff. If the wind blows the wrong way and carries water droplets… boom – more infections… but it seems like everyone will be doing it for an excuse to step out of the house. Will the NHS staff (and others this is done for) hear the clapping from miles away? I doubt it. It’s about ‘community spirit’ more than that really it seems.

The media treat it like an afterthought when not patronising the workers they’ve corralled to appear as window dressing to their reports. Virtue signalling seems the real intent behind this all rather than any practical support or supporting the rules established regarding social distancing… although it is bizarrely surreal and comical to see reporters holding boom microphones like pole arms while interrogating people to report their experiences.

It’ll be one of those ‘everyone did it’ events historians recall about this period in years to come. So you better do it or else your neighbours will judge you (or, at the very least, there is some weird media driven social pressure to take part)! The BBC’s ‘The One Show’ is endorsing it now. Go to your door, balcony, etc and clap for them to show your appreciation they insist. Just like they did in Italy and Germany. If they can do it so can we! There’s a strangely competitive aspect to the whole thing beneath the façade of community spirit.

20:12 There was some BBC coverage of ‘the clappening’ as I coined it (no doubt others have also done so independently though I’ve not heard the term being used). Various NHS staff were shown but also those currently on military service for some reason appear. I don’t know about you but nothing quite says ‘well done NHS’ like a big fuck off tank being shown full screen… ‘Oh yeah, you’re doing the 8 o’clock clapping to show our appreciation to the NHS staff, etc? Yeah, we are doing that too but, while we’ve got your attention, look at our military power too while you’re at it’.

There was no initial suggestion this would be a weekly thing at this point unless you went to the website.

Week 2

[19:58, 02/04/2020] I forgot about the ‘clapping to thank carers’ was happening again this evening at 8PM.

The news and media, in general, were not mentioning it this week so either it was a given it was happening or maybe not. Who knows? Probably people hesitantly checked at the time and joined others if they saw them doing it outside their front door.

It occurred obviously. There were one or two less this time on their doorsteps. Some blinds fluttered as people across the road checked who was out doing it. It seems those either side of us were not doing it and thus those across the road decided they wouldn’t either. The house where the old woman used to live, decades ago, has young people in it now who came to their doorstep to clap.

WEEK 3

[09/04/2020] Besides Britain I know Italy was doing a similar thing (and playing music) on their balconies and Germany was doing something similar. There was no clapping in St Petersburg but there was in Yekaterinburg I was told regarding Russia. Ringing the church bells would be nice as an alternative plus in the lead up to the Eastern Orthodox Easter on the 19th. It would reassure those concerned about celebrating Easter in some way.

Here in the UK apparently the third ‘Clap for our Carers’ event was going to happen tonight. It was obviously a given to many depending on what media you consumed as they would notify you throughout the day ad nauseum. Remember you better do your bit or else people will judge you.

Regarding the clapping there seemed less enthusiasm this time. The first I heard of it on the day was the 6 o’clock news personally although the news later on in the evening showed clips of people around the nation, in the armed forces and NHS staff (stood on the forecourts of hospitals they’ve been working in for hours only to be rounded up to perform for the cameras) doing it. It is all a bit ‘propaganda’ in tone when you take a step back and consider it. Could the overstretched hospitals really afford to have twenty or more staff go outside for ten minutes for a media event? You would think in these times they would need all hands on deck constantly.

I participated in the clapping. I saw a guy, across the road, literally stick his hands out the door, while in his t shirt and shorts with disheveled hair, clap for about 10 seconds then going back inside. I could hear, but not see, people further up the street clapping.

WEEK 4

[16/04/2020] The clapping: this week more people were out and someone, a street or two away, shot off fireworks. Pots and pans began to be banged together this week by the people up the road.

Yet again more people, on average, seemed to have stopped doing it around here (this week had a mild resurgence in participants which didn’t last) but those who did continued participating seemed to be trying to over compensate for others’ apathy.

WEEK 5

[23/04/2020] BBC’s The Big Night In (a collaboration between the Children In Need and Comic Relief fund raisers) had a filmed skit based on Black Adder featuring Stephen Fry and Prince William:

Melchett (Stephen Fry) and the Prince (Prince William, Duke of Cambridge)

Stephen Fry reprised his role of Melchett ,who he had played multiple generations of in the Blackadder series, to chat with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. This skit actually led into the weekly clapping ‘ritual’ (as The Guardian newspaper refers to it) on the night as a countdown so I didn’t see anything, on the night, in the above video after the two minute mark when he began counting down to 8 o’clock. That was an amusing thing to happen for the special evening of entertainment charity drive. There were some nice sketches during the event which are available to see on YouTube.

We had a few clangings of pots and pans again but no one I could see. In fact, at one point, one guy walked out of one house with a bottle of beer and went in another house. He clapped on his way amusingly. Again it depends where and who you’re doing it with I guess as to how many people seem to be participating in the clapping.

WEEK 6

[30/04/2020] Clap. Clap. Clap. It’s week… five or six? I’ve lost count. It was week six. I’ll leave in my confusion over the next few weeks’ entries as it is what I noted on each occasion due to one week flowing into the next over the period.


The cat goes in the window to see what is going on. The houses across the street don’t come out. I saw one woman come out of her house to join the clapping after about a minute, into the two minute long clapping, this week. Each clapping session lasted at most two minutes I think with everyone waiting for someone else to stop first. The same pots and pans were being banged together.

This week they televised other places clapping. Not just hospitals but also residential streets. Would the people have been out in such force without the cameras there? We can only speculate. All bright young things. Middle class families with 2.4 children with perfect hair and perfect teeth.


Also during this time a ninety nine year old World War II veteran, Captain Thomas Moore, was doing laps of his garden to get donations for charity thus becoming somewhat of a celebrity for a short time.

He was in the news constantly serving as a distraction from the events and as a symbol of the ‘resilient British spirit’ I suppose. ‘Stiff upper lip‘ and all that.

Kakebyleanneharry made a cake in the shape of his head. Those always have that element of unintentionally saying ‘look – I’m stabbing and eating this person like a murderous cannibal’ in the photographs when they are served I imagine. ‘Here’s a cake celebrating you… here’s us cutting into the cake and eating ”you” too… you should feel honoured we are devouring a representation of your flesh’. I wonder how many ‘Christ-like’ jokes have been made regarding these confections? It’s all a bit surreal…

On the last few laps of his garden he had an honour guard and there was a fly over by an air squadron past his house. He was made a colonel eventually. The country felt a little bit better about itself and he received enough birthday cards to fill a town hall on his hundredth birthday.

WEEK 7

[07/05/2020] The sixth week of ‘clapping for carers’… No, apparently it was the seventh… I don’t know what the media coverage was of it as I was watching National Theatre Live’s broadcast of Shakespeare’s Anthony & Cleopatra. (It was good if a little bloated feeling. They had a live snake on stage in one of the final scenes when Cleopatra and her assistants die!)


This time, during the clapping in my street, a girl in pyjamas and a nightgown was clapping at her garden gate and was joined by her, I assume, sister after a minute. The people up the road were not clanging their pots and pans as much but had their Union Jack bunting out already for V.E. Day tomorrow. Oh and a woman, so fat she was spherical, like in a cartoon, was chasing her black dog, walking slowly after it calling the dog’s name, down the road as it ran about sniffing everything having escaped the house.

[08/05/2020] V.E. Day: Street parties with people in their gardens etc. Apparently there was meant to be some ‘coming out the house and singing’ event to celebrate it but it didn’t seem to happen here unlike the clapping.

However on the BBC you could watch entire streets doing it and dancing besides their small garden tables they had outside their front door. However these communities seemed to mostly be in picturesque English villages projecting a certain image to the rest of the world rather than anything else. I’m not saying they were organised especially for the media but it all seemed a bit too convenient. Everyone in a street dressed in vintage clothing with one guy able to play the accordion, everyone knowing the lyrics to songs of the era and having all the other things you might expect at a historical recreation event. Except it’s owned by all the residents in a single street during a societal lock down where you would be unable to buy such supplies. Maybe they ordered them online and had them delivered? Amazon rules western society right now…

WEEK 8

[14/05/2020] The seventh week of ‘Clap for Carers’. No apparently it was the eighth… I really lost track of the weeks.


People living nearer me did the banging of pots and pans this time. However the ones up the street didn’t seem to be doing it this week surprisingly – or maybe they were being drowned out. Across the road someone in a white bath robe came out to clap at the end of her pathway. Directly across the road, slightly obscured by a white van, was a young woman in a pink t shirt whose hair seemed to have been completed plaited out of boredom. She clapped looking down into her garden while facing her house. Maybe she had a dog or little children I couldn’t see. There were even less people this week taking part.

WEEK 9

[21/05/2020] Clapping for Carers: week… eight? No, it was actually week nine.


This time one guy across the road leaned out his door to clap for a minute. I heard one, maybe two, people up the road banging pots and pans halfheartedly. That was it.

Suddenly, the last week or so, people have got a bad attitude here it seems. Maybe everyone is fed up. The novelty of it all has worn off. The media is slowly showing signs of being fed up of keeping a façade of positivity and endorsement.

On the TV you see NHS workers, spaced out as part of ‘social distancing’ obviously, continuing to clap minutes after the two minute average as the journalists revel in it. It’s more for show than anything. It still seems questionable to have carers take part in the clapping when the clapping is intended for them. But it’s all for the aesthetic. It’s like that song says ‘the sun always shines on TV’…

WEEK 10

[27/05/2020] Apparently Annemarie Plas, the creator of ‘Clap for our Carers’, would like it to end with the tenth week. I think most people gave up after the first week or so anyway…

The final ‘Clap for our Carers’. Maybe for now… maybe forever. The media was really sour about it this morning with them all acting like it was beneath them and just a government trick to keep people compliant due to Dominic Cummings actions and the Westminster governments efforts to explain or justify them which feels like they’ve all been blown out of proportions for the sake of something to discuss. At one point they even tried to drag accusations against the Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, into it as a parallel though it didn’t stick.

The media is bored now of giving an unequivocal supportive tone to proceedings. Now, just as they have in the past, they turn sharply to intense criticism and judgemental, languorous, condemnation because so few developments have occurred to satisfy the ever hungering beast of twenty four hour news coverage. The government statements and their coverage all sound like: they’re repeating yesterday’s announcements to which only yesterday’s questions can be asked and yesterday’s vague answers can be offered. Something is happening but it’s negligible because only 24 hours have passed so it’s hardly worth acknowledging.

‘But why isn’t more being done?’ demands the journalist like a spoilt child via a ZOOM conference call scratching themselves out of frustration. ‘Something is being done’ answers the indolent government adviser, stood at the podium, who has nothing new to say while slowly hoping they can leave the room soon. No one is satisfied with how it’s gone so far but everyone has answers on how it should be done.

‘Are we there yet?’ the journalists ask from the back seat. ‘Almost, just a little while longer’ the government mutters, through gritted teeth, slowly putting their foot down on the accelerator to get out of this situation sooner to shut them up.

Journalism has turned into an industry where they watch paint dry and complain it isn’t more exciting. Unlike ‘the good old days’ when you might asphyxiate on the fumes of the lead paint or choke on the coal dust lining your lungs from the fireplace or even die of liver disease from one too many wet lunches. Back when journalism was ‘real’… or at least that’s what the old timers, who’ve retired and love recounting their exploits, tell them while pretending things were all sanitary back then and no one ever got their hands dirty for the sake of ‘a good story’.

No doubt, in a few years time, we will see multiple autobiographical books being published by journalists who go on to give talks and book signings at literature festivals. Books detailing their struggles, their vigilance, their nobility of spirit, all very inspirational… oh and that ever so funny thing that happened to the person they don’t respect but have to call a friend in case they ever have a use for them. You know the one. Yes, them. The one with the funny thing and their terrible, completely bonkers, manner. Hilarious honestly. Where do they get it from? Amazeballs. You had to be there. But you weren’t. Because you’re not important enough. Even if you were there you definitely were not ‘present in the moment’ like they were. Even if there’s a recording of the moment contradicting what they wrote it’s a complete lie unlike how they recall it. Their story is much better anyway. Now buy the bloody book and piss off because we all know no one actually reads these things – they just go on a shelf so you can look informed and on the ‘right side’ when it comes to discussing things.

[28/05/2020] The Clappening a.k.a. Clap for Carers: Chapter 10: The Finale (?)
Some people, three at most, were clapping further up the road. I saw Venetian blinds across the road flutter. The cat was in the window watching us. The clapping continued for two minutes then ended.

I took the rubbish (garden waste, glass, black bags and food waste) out afterwards from the back to the front garden. Out the back I could hear some pots and pans in the distance clanging together. Also this song was playing in the distance:

What have you done today? Whatever it is it’s time to feel existential dread.

It was as if it was intended to mock people. But was it aimed at those who clapped or those didn’t? I’ve not heard any songs playing loudly in the area in years. Someone used to play Seal’s ‘A Kiss From A Rose’ every Sunday morning. I always suspected they were covering the sounds of their love making because it was odd to always have that one song at the same time every week… but maybe they were exercising or something. Who knows?


On the final day the media were basically doing the adult equivalent of acting like the self declared cool kids in school. We have all known them. The fashionable followers of trends. The ones who brought something to people’s attention and, initially, were front and centre making sure everyone saw them ‘doing their bit’ endorsing it beforehand but then one day, out of the blue, repudiated it entirely declaring ‘yeah, I was never into it because I saw through it all along’ though, only a week before, they were calling out others for not participating in the endorsement.

I tend to get the impression journalists were the nasty, but respected, people in their classrooms. Ever ready to change their opinion if it suits their needs to one up others or when they perceive a shift in the attitudes of the majority which might cause them to lose influence.

In a while they’ll chortle derisively on various programmes ‘what was that all about ?’ like people looking at photos of the fashion they wore in previous decades which is completely alien to modern trends… until that style comes back into fashion. Just like there’s always a plague, or some such, in the ’20s of the past few centuries. Time is a flat circle.

MEANWHILE…

There were many events and attitudes expressed during the period but you can find those documented elsewhere. Here are one or two representing the sort I came across.

Imagine if it turns out she was right…

Conspiracy theorists: So ardent about it too! But apparently that’s how the media began to speak about it once they wanted to demonise Dominic Cummings and the current UK (Conservative) government despite their efforts.

The Welsh government took a more strict view to enforcing lock down compared to England – which people coming into Wales seemed to have a hard time understanding. Many assumed that the rules announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, applied to all of Britain not just England even though he stated explicitly they were for England only. That’s an unfortunate attitude people have: they assume Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales follow England’s lead even though many areas of legislation and such have been devolved to their respective governments for quite a while now.

For a shorthand explanation of the underlying attitude to why people clapped every week, though they would never admit it, look at this humorous video:

How it felt to be clapping…

Keeping up with the Joneses. That’s why people really clap as they think their neighbours will judge them. This video was played on one of the breakfast shows; either BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain or The Jeremy Vine Show; on the final morning as if they themselves were not the people doing exactly this sort of judgemental thing every other week lecturing people on ‘virtue in the times of COVID-19’.

Of course there were other amusing things which occurred during this time such as the Great Orme Kashmiri goats who invaded the deserted streets of Llandudno.

They apparently come down more often than the town likes to admit

The next ‘Clap for our Carers’ is on 25th March 2021. I wonder how many people will take part then… if indeed it even happens.

What were your experiences over this period? Did other countries do a similar ritual weekly? Maybe your country did something different?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Where Cars Cannot Come by Cyril Jones

Where cars cannot come

Is where I would go;

Away from the drum

Of their cyclic agenda

So you cannot remember

The vision you know.

.

I walk off the highways

And into the lanes;

To recall the memories

With wind my companion

With sun as my champion

To listen to all, of natures refrains.

.

The rustle of long grass,

The wild whining trees,

A tune, on the edge of glass

Strikes the first chord,

A bloodthirsty sword.

To deep in the wood now, for any reprieve.

.

A flash of the sun

On the edge of the water,

Like the startling fun

Contained in her smile

And roasted by guile

I saw, Neptunes daughter.

.

I cannot go on now,

Where cars cannot come,

But I renew the vow

To do what is needed

And quietly unheeded

I take out the gun.

.

For of all that is troubling me

This now is the sum,

That a sound greater, considerably,

Reside in this lane

And nothing exists, to blot out it’s pain;

Where cars cannot come,

… Is my heart

… Is my brain.

.

.

By Cyril Jones

Hawks by Vladimir Soloukhin

I walk in the woods.

By fallen trees,

I cross the woodland streams.

I build myself a shelter, light a bonfire,

(Even when it’s raining,

All I need is one match

To light a good fire)

And I camp out under the rustle of rain.

.

Sometimes I clamber up towards the clouds,

By way of the yellow pine branches

Covered with scaling bark.

The hawks

Are beginning their run,

Swooping like Messerschmidts.

I see their taloned feet, clasped,

Ready to sink into flesh with a deadly grip;

Into grey-hen’s flesh,

Into thrush’s flesh,

Into nightingale’s flesh,

Into quail’s –

So long as it is hot,

So long as the fresh blood spurts when

These talons sink into it,

Curved, hawk’s talons.

.

I see again the eyes too

Of the swooping hawks.

The fire that burns indistinguishably in them,

Lighting the animal darkness,

Lends me determination.

(With one hand I grasp the branches,

Holding a stick in the other,

To protect the eyes and head.)

Even like this, I manage to reach the nest,

Seize the dark, rough twigs,

Like a righteous, irate god

(Debris and birds’ droppings pour down on me, into my eyes,

And the pine

Sways smoothly, pleasantly, to right and left)

Until I dislodge the nest.

.

Splintering, breaking against the branches, it bumps downwards,

Lining,

Droppings,

Fledgelings and all,

For, strange as it may seem,

The pretty fledgelings

Grow into hawks again,

With talons tightly clasped,

Ready to sink into flesh…

That is why I climb the pine tree

Each time,

Whenever,

There’s a hawk nesting,

Right at the top.

.

.

By Владимир Алексеевич Солоухин

(Vladimir Alexeyevich Soloukhin)

translated by Daniel Weissbort

.

.

Additional information: Soloukhin lived from 1924 to 1997.

At the Moscow meeting of writers on October 31, 1958, he took part in the condemnation of the novel Doctor Zhivargo by Boris Pasternak. Soloukhin noted about the Nobel Prize laureate that Pasternak should become an emigrant:

“He will not be able to tell anything interesting there. And in a month he will be thrown out like an eaten egg, like a squeezed lemon. And then it will be a real execution for the betrayal that he committed ”

[Apologies for the rough translation. The original quote in Cyrillic is on Soloukhin’s Russian language Wikipedia page].

In his journalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the writer spoke out as a Russian patriot, pointed out the need to preserve national Russian traditions, and reflect on the development of Russian art.

The main theme of Soloukhin‘s work is the Russian countryside, its present and future. His works strive to demonstrate the necessity of preserving the national traditions, and ponder the ways to further develop ethnic Russian art. Vladimir Soloukhin is considered to be a leading figure of the “village prose” group of writers. His journalistic expressions of opinion during the later years of perestroika idealized pre-revolutionary Russia.

In the early 1960s he became interested in Russian icons, became an advocate for respect and attention towards them, becoming a collector and specialist in the interpretation and technique of icon painting himself. His publications on this subject – “Letters from the Russian Museum” (1966), “Black Boards” (1968) received a wide public response.

Soloukhin‘s book “Searching for Icons in Russia” describes his hobby of collecting icons. He traveled throughout the countryside in the 1950s and 1960s searching for icons. In some instances he discovered beautiful 16th century icons underneath layers of grime and over-painting yet he also finds ancient icons chopped into bits and rotting away.

He was known for his campaign to preserve pre-revolutionary Russian art and architecture. Ilya Glazunov painted a portrait of him. Soloukhin died on 4 April 1997 in Moscow and was buried in his native village.

.

If you are able to find the Russian Cyrillic version of the above poem and direct me to it I would very much appreciated it.

Eurovision 2020 : Rotterdam, the Netherlands a.k.a. the year there wasn’t a competition

This year there was no competition so instead we got two shows instead!

The first programme was a retrospective clip show of previous winners throughout the years and a phone vote to decide what the best ever song is. That turned out to be ABBA’s Waterloo apparently. The version of this programme available online is different to the one shown on the BBC though most of the songs shown are the same but with different people interviewed.

A retrospective of previous years

The second, longer, programme was hosted from Rotterdam which was meant to be this year’s venue. It was hosted in a small studio by three hosts, probably thankful they got to wear the outfits they bought especially for the occasion, showing 30 second clips of the music videos for each performer who would have competed this year. The video clips were preceded with a brief message from them wishing everyone well during these trying times.

They did some additional interviews during breaks every nine songs or so. As we only got 30 seconds per artist many, no doubt, didn’t get fair representation as that brief a time is, at best, a preview of the songs and undermines any aspects such as escalation. It came across like the Eurovision committee wanted to do a show but also to keep costs down leading to a somewhat unsatisfying experience which will have frustrated many of the artists involved though many will return to compete next year. Later, we are told, all the singers will perform ‘love shine a light’ together.

This years songs and the interludes between them. This is not the version the BBC broadcast.

The above video is also different to the version shown on the BBC. So below I will present the entries in the BBC’s broadcast running order rather than the supposed official running order as the video above describes itself. It seems to play the videos in full but I’ll put them individually below for ease of reference.

We got to see an interview with Johnny Logan of Ireland who was on talking about winning three times live from Dublin. He is still wearing a white suit all these years later… then he sings ‘what’s another year’ with a choir of people at home.

Johnny Logan – What’s Another Year (including choir of Eurovision fans) – Europe Shine A Light version

This year we will see the videos for the songs instead of a live performance.

I’ll put my initial opinion formed by the 30 second clips shown on the BBC but then, in a second paragraph, also my opinion of the full music video or performance versions (whichever the BBC showed). There is no doubt many songs were underrepresented by the abbreviated format presented by the BBC.

Israel – Eden Alene – Feker Libi

Good energy, 90s nylon tracksuits.

I can imagine a soulful acoustic version of this. It is definitely very 90s with the garish neon yellow costumes of the dancers. The song is enjoyable but it’s definitely not one that would score high.

Norway – Ulrikke – Attention

power ballad. Sparkly dress from a cheap high street shop.

The opening strings remind me of the theme music to role playing computer games or fantasy films. The song is really good with a slow build up. The flickering lights in the background provide a minimalist, yet effective, staging. The shift between soft and projected vocals is far more effective in the full version so the BBC clip really misrepresented it. It’s reminiscent of many from the past so, while a good song in it’s own right, it’s an ‘also ran’ in this contest.

Russia – Little Big – Uno

Going for the camp vote with a weird pastel 70s look. Knee shaking 1920s sort of dance moves. Comical figures. Eurovision classic in the making!

After the controversies of the past few years Russia has done what the UK did around a decade ago – just send fun entries and enjoy the experience because there will inevitably still be countries who will refuse to give them points out of sheer political spite. The song is really fun and the dancing well co-ordinated. The pseudo prison tattoos on the lead vocalist is an amusing contrast to the see through shirt. Also the guy with the liberally applied black lipstick. Fun novelty track which will get effectively remixed into some club anthem potentially. They used that pastel retro aesthetic popular in British pop music about a decade ago with acts like OK Go or Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction music video.

Georgia – Tornike Kipiani – Take Me As I Am

Wants to be an anthem. In the back of a car. In the studio – black and white filming. Bit overly self reverential.

Usually they have interesting acts. This one is a bit more toned down and gritty. It’s a good pop song but… Eurovision wouldn’t reward it. The video is pretentious but I suppose every musician has at least one ‘in the studio’ music video under their belt. The lyrics are a bit ‘victim syndrome’ but probably talking of the Georgian nation’s experiences (or the singer’s experience with lovers) where people expect them to behave like others. Very good but not a Eurovision song.

France – Tom Leeb – Mon Alliée (The Best In Me)

5 o’ clock shadow and a guitar. One for the ladies…

Slow acoustic ballad. Very generic sounding. The video is very generic. ‘Please award him for he is handsome and plays an acoustic guitar so is clearly very soulful’ entry. Doesn’t really strike any real impact. It’s the sort of song that plays second or third during the credits of a film. The filming locations are nice in the video in a shopping arcade and theatre. It reminds me of venues in Cardiff.

Azerbaijan – Efendi – Cleopatra

Katie Perry music video… turns dark for a split second then generic female singer music video. In the desert.

In hindsight it reminds me more of Cheryl Cole (Fernandaz-Versini). The song reminds me of Holly Valance. It’s a good pop song and the costuming for her is very good. Not sure about the cut to the audio pitched lower section near the start really as it should have been repeated or omitted. Aside from the costume most of the video is a few vehicles in a desert… oh and some mummy dancers. Well made and above average points scorer probably if quite repetitive towards the end.

Portugal – Elisa – Medo De Sentir

Big puffy sleeves top. Sparkly pants. Makes me think of a song played over the credits of an anime series.

Nice gentle song with a piano accompaniment. Portugal won with such a song so they’re playing it safe. The sleeves look awkward but I’m not sure if it might be alluding to a form of national dress. Motivating uplifting song but also reflectively sad. Would give it another listen in future. Also woof. It probably wouldn’t do that great but it’s a nice relaxing song to chill out to.

Lithuania – The Roop – On Fire

Quirky dance. With standard basic beat dance music. An ‘I will…’ self empowerment type of song.

A magnifying glass… it’s been a while since I’ve seen one. The music video is very artistic. Fun song. The dancing reminds me of the eccentric moves actors perform when films or television programmes want to mocking the dance styles of certain ‘butt of the joke’ characters. Very enjoyable and would probably get some decent points during a contest. It’s the sort of song you end up looking for years down the line because you’ve forgotten the name of it as so develop a small self-imposed quest to relocate it.

Sweden – The Mamas – Move

Large backing singer ladies given their moment in the spot light. They’ve a Beverly Knight, soul diva, sparkly dresses style with a Little Mix style song.

Very ‘Muses from Disney’s Hercules’ style staging. Really good upbeat song. Definitely can imagine this being used in a television series or advert. Only downside is these sort of contests still have a bit of a stigma. It’s okay to be a funny ‘cartoonish’ woman doing a ‘chicken song’, like Netta, but doing a serious performance and not fitting the standard physique no doubt counts against them even if no one is willing to admit it. Body positive and talented ladies but they’re being judged by the old school when competing and they’re not being ‘comically fat’ so despite pulling off a flawless performance of a really good song they’ll not get more than middle points in a contest.

BREAK TIME

Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

An acoustic version of his song performed in his London garden. Good! Actually I prefer it to his competition entry for a previous year. Like every performance of the evening he offers good wishes to the viewers.

Then last years winner of the junior Eurovision song contest, Viki Gabor who represented Poland, was interviewed.

Then there was a performance by a past contender with children who participated in the Junior version.

Gali Atari & Junior Eurovision kids – Hallelujah – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

She was the female group member of the Israel entry which won 1979’s Eurovision contest singing a song titled Hallelujah. They say people still sing it but part of me feels they’re confusing it with Leonard Cohen’s version as much as I half recall hearing their song with the same title. They send Chinese lanterns off into the sky. Someone’s crops no doubt burnt to ash overnight when those eventually came down.

Then we get interviews with contestants by make-up tutorial vlogger(?) NikkeTutorials chatting to them over face time about what they’re doing over this period. Painting. Animals. Tik Tok videos. The Netherlands royal house hopes everyone well. It all seemed a bit ‘forced friendly interaction for the sake of good PR‘ in tone despite their best efforts but it might be that her make up makes her face look very artificial to the point of distraction – and not in a good way. The uncanny valley but with an actual person.

There were other interviews too but I’ll only post this one

Then from Italy a guy named Antonio with dodgy facial hair and a guitar performs a famous song titled Buona Sera. I suppose it’s meant to make us all feel more united. It was nice. I couldn’t find a clip of it surprisingly.

END OF BREAK

Latvia – Samanta Tina – Still Breathing

A very Lady Gaga style music video. Generic dance music song though…

This definitely had some inspiration from Benny Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction’ music video but also Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind’ music video too with some costuming like Sia. The song is a Euro-dance track. It’s okay but it would have been interesting to see what they would have done live at the finale with it. It’s a style of music that is very hit and miss with me. It’s okay. It’s advert music – especially with the ‘Dove soap’ moments of body positive lingerie inter-cut with the rest of the video with thin dancers which sends a mixed message. The video is just a compilation of ‘that would look cool’ ideas with no focus.

I mean you could pretend there is one and that when she was little she was bookish, then got into rigid exercise and lost her identity, then became comfortable with her body and then ultimately became herself at the end able to eat cake but still be confident in herself… but that’s me applying an ‘artist’s BS explanation via interpretation of vague imagery association’ filter to it. Ultimately they wanted sexy women but added ‘smart’ looking school girls (in the most blatant ‘bookish nerd’ stereotype possible) and body positive women in lingerie enjoying themselves so they avoided any criticism for the dancers in leotards from vocal Feminists. I wouldn’t have noticed except for the contrasts so at least that apparently made it mildly more memorable in a year of extravagantly kitsch music videos.

Belgium – Hooverphonic – Release Me

She is the 6th vocalist to join the group apparently. Subdued band video. Very Portishead in tone. The guys are much older than her… bit of a weird vibe unintentionally.

Yeah the Portishead overtones are really strong. Specifically the music video for ‘Glory Box’ during certain parts – you’ll know when you see both. It’s the sort of music I really enjoy, what most people probably associate with trip-hop of the 90s or those ‘lo-fi hip hop for studying’ type YouTube videos. You just know this isn’t the sort of song that does well in Eurovision unfortunately. The singer reminds me of someone… the actor who played Neelix of Star Trek: Voyager? One of my favourites of the contest this year nonetheless.

United Kingdom – James Newman – My Last Breath

Chunky guy could be 20s or could be in his late 40s. Video filmed in Poland. Trudging through snow like a bear. Upbeat modern song.

The music video is well made although it’s a strange juxtaposition to have a hardened, sinewy, rural living old man contrasted with a metro-sexual, well fed and groomed, young guy. The song is very ‘British boy band pop song’ tonally. I mean a lot of the song’s impact is from the backing singers rather than James. It’s… okay? It’s the entry from my country so I should be more supportive but… it’s decent but it wouldn’t stand out and is instantly forgettable. Put that in a compilation of boy band songs and you would be hard pressed to differentiate it as ‘the one we entered into the Eurovision song contest’. The most interesting parts of it were from the voice over monologue which frame the rest of the music video… and the music video itself is ‘guy goes for a dip in his freezing cold pool before his daily routine with his dog; meanwhile, elsewhere, a young guy goes wandering through the forest. I just imagine the old guy hunted James later and made a rug out of him.

Belarus – VAL – Da Vidna

very late 80s video. Enjoyable. Three women and a guy on a guitar. Reminds me of The Corrs… but Slavic instead of Irish.

Oh she is wearing a bejeweled headpiece like the one from The Cranberries’ music video for ‘Zombie’ or Metallica’s music video for ‘Until It Sleeps’ which had a similar aesthetic to it. Aside from that they wear black suits. Again a bit of a 90s vibe going on. As for the song – it’s enjoyable but I imagine forgettable. [editing note: I actually had to relisten to this while proofreading the post as I honestly couldn’t recall what it sounded like at all unlike other songs!]

I know what you’re saying – that ‘first impression’ and the ‘music video’ one don’t sound like I was watching the same thing. Indeed… I’m not sure myself either. Did I miss a song or something? At the time of uploading this there was no evidence of the version broadcast on the BBC unless I skipped it. [editing note: I went to double check and indeed I’ve no idea what it was I saw on the BBC broadcast…]

Finland – Aksel – Looking Back

Dressed like Kim Jong Il in a navy uniform/traditional east Asian styled suit. Nice staging. Good song. Overweight with a moustache so probably wouldn’t get the votes. Fat women are acceptable in society these days but not men unless you can grow a good beard and have a big cockerel’s comb of hair too.

That suit does him no favours and I don’t think anyone really pulls off those ‘grandfather’ collar’ styles really. The staging with the projected images is really nice. The song too is something that you can easily imagine scoring really well and probably being a contender for the top 3. Unlike other entries that feel like they begin to get a bit repetitive towards the end this one doesn’t outstay it’s welcome which is a bonus few tend to consider when you’ve heard the same lyric repeatedly for minutes on end.

North Macedonia – Vasil – YOU

The song is decent. The video is blatantly ‘we are dancing as a prelude to sex’ but done in a bar makes it feel a bit seedy.

An Enrique Iglesias style song and music video featuring what appears to be a man who likes to think he has the same level of raw sex appeal but is in fact just a deluded narcissist. He looks like a bloke down the pub on a Saturday night and the lady dancing with him looks like she is on a girls night out cosplaying as a Spice Girl. The video represents what drunks think they look when they dance – when in fact they’re just flailing their limbs about while groping at each other. The song is quite good but nothing really stands out. Another ‘song from the 90s’ or early 2000s’ sounding entry. It’s okay but an ‘also ran’.

Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears – Répondez-moi

Man with a puffy sleeved shirt… novel. Song is generic sounding.

The music video and singer remind me of Robert Smith and The Cure around the time when he was going through that ‘it’s not all about the make up’ phase except if that was happening now. The framing makes this guy seem so self involved it’s hard to assess the rest of it. Some nice visuals at times but very much in the mold of ‘French new wave cinema with a dash of surrealism’. The song is mostly him singing one line then holding an ear-piercing high note [editing note: relistening to it the note is even worse – it’s probably fine in person but through a speaker it’s like a stiletto dagger to the ear]. Okay… but it’s not that appealing. What let’s it down is the awkward high notes otherwise it’s a solid sounding piece. He reminds me of a singer here called ‘Passenger’ who has a high voice and both have good songs ruined by their voices which don’t really fit the style and tone they want.

Serbia – Hurricane – Hasta La Vista

Apparently their answer to the Pussy Cat Dolls. Indeed. Very like them but in shiny material. Enjoyable enough if your wanting to dance.

Yes… very ‘Pussy Cat Dolls’ era girl group with ‘sex sells’ attitude though the song is fun and well performed so could do well on it’s own. Costuming wise there are definitely Little Mix inspired choices there. Bare chested male dancers and all the things you would expect of pop music videos of this style. The ‘pastel boxes’ bits are nice though it reminds me of the British group the ‘Sugar Babes’ when they had Heidi in it. Another ‘also ran’ ultimately. They should have gone full blown into doing references to The Terminator having worn the leather jackets because that’s what a lot of people immediately thought of upon hearing the song title no doubt.

BREAK TIME

Serbia – Marija Šerifović – Molitva – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Graham Norton referred to her as ‘Marta 2.0’ (pronounced as ‘Marta two point oh’). A Serbian singer performing in the empty streets of Serbia. She was Serbia’s 2007 entry nwon it that year. It’s a very good song… if it was competing this would have likely been my favourite. I think it was my favourite that year too. Admittedly the fact we can hear more than 30 seconds, during the BBC broadcast, elevates it but you can just hear the quality difference. In the video we also see medical staff and others doing their work. People in future will know exactly when certain songs came out as they are featured in so many right now.

Then the Rotterdam Philharmonic (though Graham Norton, for some reason, introduced them as the London philharmonic) performed ‘love shine a light’ as venues around Europe (and elsewhere) lit up. All very ‘spiritually uplifting and that…

END OF BREAK

Spain – Blas Cantó – Universo

Lot of modern filming techniques in modern aesthetic locations. Songs very good. Probably would have won overall. Has that energy.

It reminds me of the music videos for the group called ‘Hurts’ here in Britain about half a decade ago. People covered in glitter dancing in the sterile interior and then him climbing through a desert terrain to find people with chicken wire over their faces in white robes. Interesting imagery but what does it mean if anything? The song is enjoyable. Maybe it is the sort to grow on you but then he does that ear piercing high note which puts me off. It probably would have done okay. It’s a nice touch at the end of the video there are credits for the people involved as music video production tend to go uncredited.

Albania – Arilena Ara – Fall From The Sky

everything white in a white room. Most of the clip was her susptaining anote. Probably quite good.

The music video reminds me of that YouTube art piece/musician Poppy. ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ The ‘ultra modern/ultra art house art design makes it both interesting and yet essentially barren. The birdcage bit could honestly be from the 80s. The song is very nice. I would, in future, half recall it and that it was featured in the Eurovision contest probably. It’s just distinct enough. It would probably get a decent score. There is also a lyric video version but it’s essentially a static image with the lyrics along the bottom of the screen.

Ireland – Lesley Roy – Story of My Life

Very pop song of the moment. 90s baggy suit with mesh top style costuming. It reminds me of Billie Piper’s debut single’s music video. Retro-chic style music video. Song good video …. eh… okay.

Avril Lavigne. That’s whose music it reminds me of. Or someone like that. The video again has a lot of pastels with retro designs so fits the current British trend of design and style. It’s a really fun, infectious, song. I imagine it would do very well as it’s the sort that usually does well in Eurovision with a strong easy to sing chorus. Lesley has that sort of look where she could be in her twenties or well into her forties.

Slovenia – Ana Soklič – Voda

Filmed on a beach. Another power ballad sort with loud instrumentation then quiet vocals moment. Enjoyable.

Another case where the video shown and the one available on YouTube as the official video are different. Deep voiced lady singing a song from the 90s again. There are a lot which remind me of songs from the 1990s during this contest. Maybe the 90s are trendy now but I can’t imagine that being the case for people in former Soviet block countries considering the issues that caused unless everyone has rose tinted memories of the time now? Anyway… a plain white dress with attached cape makes her look like a character from a high fantasy film like Lord of the Rings. (Galadriel specifically). The song is slow and makes no impact to be honest. When it’s in direct comparison to others featured it’s a definite low scorer unfortunately. She has a good voice though.

Austria – Vincent Bueno – Alive

Crowd pleaser, Justin Timberlake like, song. Leather jacket in an abandoned building video… very good. Would have done well.

It’s a nice video and light song. Very enjoyable. An infectious club song making you want to get up and dance. It would do well. This is another video of people with masks… was that a trend this year or is it a political statement by a number of countries? Because it’s full face masks not ‘cover your mouth’ surgical style masks which obviously would be in reference to COVID-19.

Bulgaria – Victoria – Tears Getting Sober

Sort of gothy/Billy Eilish vibe to the video. Song a melody sort. Very good.

A nice gentle song. You can imagine this being on the radio, adverts, television series. It’s one of those songs that just feels universal. The video might not be the best fit but then it gives the vibe of ‘reflecting in the evening sat in the park’ so that’s the obvious allusion. Then you get the flashes of lightning and the fire flies. I would be surprised if it didn’t do well… but then other years I have really liked some songs and they’ve not done as well as expected. Woof! This is my favourite of the competition overall! Both modern and yet timeless!

San Marino – Senhit – Freaky!

Retro chic disco/dance pop number. Fun. Lots of different styles thrown at you in quick succession.

A dance music track from about 20 years ago. Epilepsy warnings were not given before it was shown or the BBC chose the 30 seconds when it didn’t need the warning. There are a lot of interesting visuals in the video but it’s so much you’ve no time to appreciate any one thing. To induce the sense of it being ‘freaky’ I guess but there is nothing bizarre… just distinctly variable. The song is fun and will get a lot of play on the radio and in clubs (you know… when the quarantines are lifted…) so while it wouldn’t get massive points in this contest it’s definitely one that will serve Senhit well career wise.

Iceland – Daði og Gagnamagnið – Think About Things

Video is very ‘Okay Go!’ from about a decade ago. Fun song. Would have done very well if not won. Lots of fun. The guy is 6 foot 9!!!

This honestly screams ‘this years winner’ when compared to everything else which is either stuff we’ve seen before or doesn’t have ‘the spirit of Eurovision’ which seems some mysterious level of ‘cheesy yet technically competent’ which marks certain performances out. The only reason it wouldn’t win is their staging would be less extravagant than some others on the night. An infectious beat. Easy lyrics to sing along to. Quirky presentation. Admittedly I’ve not posted Eurovision’s official video as that’s just a stage performance and the music video on the groups page is much more fun and is the one shown by the BBC. The only costume difference is they have boiler suits for the stage version with just the musicians though still retaining the pixel art portraits of their faces on their chests.

BREAK TIME

Michael Schulte & Ilse DeLange – Ein Bisschen Frieden – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

He was Germany’s entry in 2018 and is doing this year’s commentary apparently. Ilse is from ‘The Common Linnets’ who were the Netherlands 2014 entry. They perform a song from 1983 (actually it was the winner from 1982… so Graham Norton was wrong again?) by the German Entry Nicole. The song is called Ein Bißchen Frieden (A Little Bit of Peace).

It’s very Country and Western and yet ‘British pop’ of the era too. Good. I like the venue especially.

END OF BREAK

Greece – Stefania – SUPERG!RL

Girl imagines she can levitate. Very dance focused song but good energy would do well.

It reminds me of a song from last year due to the use of horns (albeit they’re electronic here). Her voice sounds like it is modulated electronically in the music video. The video is very good but… the song feels generic despite it’s good energy. I can’t help but feel this really wants to put itself forward to be the song used for YA novels adapted into Television series or films. It’s okay but I think the music video adds a lot to it while the song itself is good but it’s the sort soon forgotten. Like Holly Valance’s songs from years ago. It reminds me of that sort of energy.

Czech Republic – Benny Cristo – Kemama

90s style R&B music video – people in low lit areas… very 90s R&B video. The song is a light dance song. Okay, but nothing special.

The camera spins around. It reminds me of the Japanese action film ‘Azumi’ where they did that for the final showdown and I felt a bit ill… nothing to do with the camera work but I do recall it because of that. It’s a club song. Not my kind of song but it’s okay. It’s not a style I listen to much so can only say it’s a nice change to the usual stuff we have in the competition. The spinning was trying to do something with what was a relatively bland video when you could tell what was on screen.

Also wasn’t the Czech government trying to get people to call the country ‘Czechia’ nowadays instead of Czech Republic?

Poland – Alicja – Empires

Very fire filled video. Another power ballad sort. Seen it before. Poland used to have unique stuff but they’ve gone tame again…

The song would make a good theme song for a drama series or such. The video is okay. The is a lot of fire imagery. You would half think this is a political song and Poland was actively involved in a conflict. Either that or this is the theme song to a James Bond film. It’s quite good but this is the sort of song you expect to be in the Eurovision song contest. Another Galadriel dress. Alicja apparently has only one facial expression too.

Moldova – Natalia Gordienko – Prison

Lots of heavy bass. Music video in the desert again. Very good but wouldn’t win. Appearance in the video is model. In video to audience is girl next door… interesting

‘Look I’m a bad girl’ sort of imagery and ‘I’m an attractive woman who knows it and uses her sexuality to empower myself’ type music video with lots of close ups of herself and male models obsessed with her. It’s a good song (initially) but the video doesn’t serve it well. More walking through a desert like landscapes like other competitors. Then some blurry close ups. It would get some decent marks but end up somewhere in the middle. It gets repetitive quickly though thus becomes bland after a minute or so. The music video even more so. I half expect it to turn out to be an advert for a perfume.

Cyprus – Sandro – Running

Dance club anthem song. Basic video with some lights under a sheet suspended overhead.

Another music video where they have them dancing under a suspended sheet of fabric. Is that the visual theme this year? ‘If there’s a fabric ceiling then it’s a dance track’. Good rhythm and beat for dancing to but the lyrics are incredibly basic. A very meh song to be honest overall. You’ll enjoy dancing to the rhythm but it’s remix fodder at best. Costume wise its ‘t shirt and jeans’ so… yeah nothing to comment on there. Also that’s some weak moustache game you got going on there bro – have some self respect and shave that bum fluff off or grow it out properly because you won’t be able to grow a John Waters no matter how much you might want to.

Romania – Roxen – Alcohol You

Floating letters music video in neon blue night time. Very reflective soulful song.

Drifting letters in the air. An interesting music video. Good lyrics though the ‘alcohol/I’ll call’ pun is a bit of a stretch to be polite though it’s a nice try and better than the all too on the nose lyrics others have. On the whole yeah this is really good. Not sure about the face jewels. Kind of ends too suddenly. It would probably be in the top three or five at least.

Croatia – Damir Kedžo – Divlji Vjetre

Standard modern entry. Backing singers etc. Not much to add.

Clothing wise he just came from his waiter job in a nearby restaurant. The song is generic. Honestly sounds like if you averaged out all of this style of song this would be at the exact centre of the curve. There are a lot of backing singers, off to one side, to the point you wonder why they didn’t put them directly behind him for more symmetrical staging. It’s a nice effort but was never going to stand out. And it’s in his native language rather than English which, as with previous years, nets them extra points in my book. It’s just that it’s so pedestrian an entry unfortunately even in these tamer, culturally homogenised, times.

Germany – Ben Dolic – Violent Thing

Puffed up jacket. Slav gopnik ‘#1 with the hair clippers except for a fringe at the front’ hairstyle. High pitched singer trying to be cool. Ehhh…. it’s okay but bland really.

The video is a nicely cinematic effort. Clearly money was thrown at it. He facially reminds me of the little boy from ‘This Is England’ grown up. He’s got a high voice. It reminds me of the singer ‘Passenger’. I don’t like this modern castrato singing style he and others have used this year. It hurts my ears needlessly for to show off their range but not actually achieve anything with it in the song. The video is generic ‘in the club’ stuff. It’s the sort of song that would do well but not one I can appreciate. Aside from that the lyrics and instrumental are very good. If someone else had done this I would probably like it better.

BREAK TIME

From Israel we get an interview with Netta who has Bayonetta hair… Joking about what she has done in quarantine. Showing her opening last year’s ceremony. She wishes everyone well then presents a video of a song she has done.

Netta – Cuckoo – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Much more toned down compared to her winning one. An excellent song. The sort you enjoy hearing repeatedly by a singer but it never really gets the notoriety of their louder bombastic songs. Ironically she wouldn’t have won Eurovision with this but it’s a much better song in my opinion as it doesn’t rely on gimmicks and has a much more impassioned emotional resonance. Very fitting for these times where people are distanced and having to face who they are when their socialising options are much more limited even with social media. As per usual it’s the songs not mean to be competing which seem to have the more impactful performances.

Then online stuff featuring someone watching the show with her dog. Then a montage of people singing song fragments. Who would the singers give their 12 points to? Performers admit they would give it to their neighbouring countries and such though some give to performers from elsewhere too. That’s sad to hear that even after the measures taken to deter block voting there is still that sentiment. Favoritism over meritocracy. Such is the way of the world sadly.

Duncan Laurence – Someone Else – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Last year’s winner performing his song. Good stuff. Without question you can tell this is a well written and performed song. (cue someone looking at my comments from last year and noting what I said… no, actually no one will… no one will because no one reads these Eurovision posts but it’s nice to remind me of which I liked and which had no impact so Eurovision doesn’t, years later, say one song was good but actually wasn’t). Saying that he does look like he just came from his fast food restaurant job due to the shirt he is wearing. I guess that’s the fashion right now – to look like your wearing a retail/service industry uniform… then again military jackets and such are still a popular clothing choice so maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising but it says something about European culture that that’s where fashion has drifted. Maybe it’s meant to be like a male nurses shirt – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ones that look like that.

Then finally a look in performers’ homes while they make reassuring comments about sticking together and such. Some seem more in context of the competition, some more regarding the virus… some just seem generic or self referential…

END OF BREAK

Malta – Destiny – All Of My Love

Energetic anthem – kids dancing in the rain. Would have done very well! Corto Maltese would be proud.

Another music video with some random inspirational narration at the start of it. I can see that be next year’s trend then. Really good song which would get a good reception outside of the contest. More ‘people looking off into the distance as if aspirational’ stuff in the video but the free running along an abandoned building and the lake/river/seaside is a nice change to the ‘in the desert’ ones.

Estonia – Uku Suviste – What Love Is

Boy band member striking out on his own. Open shirt in an empty theatre filled with candles. It’s okay but… it would have got girl votes rather than song votes.

In an abandoned building – which in hindsight is a trend this year for some. Slow start. Then BOOM it’s Hogwarts with all the candles! His style is very 90s boy band. You half expect the other members to turn up. Yes I stand by my first impression ‘wow being by myself is great… but so is love’… very ‘boy band member releasing his debut single independently’.

Australia – Montaigne – Don’t Break Me

Modern Art house music video – song is good ‘dance music remix’ fodder. It would get lauded there but here… ehhhh….

Sings very fast initially. Her costume is very out of keeping with the song. I like the dance routine parts involving her with the dancers acting as puppeteers (like Kuroko from Japanese Noh theatre) but… it’s also a bit try hard. That’s weird to say for a Eurovision entry but it really seems overworked and thus a bit mechanical and soulless. I want to like it but… I’m not clear what her costuming is meant to express save that the person she is singing to considers her a clown… but she isn’t. She reminds me of Taika Waititi in a way… who, of course, is from New Zealand so, unintentionally, I’m insulting her a bit…

Ukraine – Go_A – Solovey

Yes! That’s Ukrainian energy! They always deliver! And fantastic costume and stage design for the performance. Reminds me of HARD KISS in a good way. Would have been my personal winner.

Okay well either this or Belgium were the best song of the evening as far as I’m concerned personally. Belgium for the mainstream this for the ‘representing our nation’ option. It reminds me of ONUKA to be honest but less experimental in their use of techno/synthesizers compared to them while retaining some of the more traditional instrumental aspects.

Ukraine likes to put up very modern entries recently but it’s possible, after the issues when they had a very politically charged entry which courted some controversy, they’ve chosen the more noble path of showing how cutting edge modern and European they are as a nation in contrast to Russia who still wish to retain a certain level of distance and traditionalism to remain distinct from Europe. So there is still the friction there but it’s not overwhelming each countries entries as it did in previous years with the boycotting issues and such.

The costumes are very interesting. Woof! The firework from the guitar seemed a bit pointless. Their singing reminds me of ‘Tulia’ who represented Poland last year in terms of their harmony. So this is your answer to the question you never asked: ‘what would an ONUKA and Tulia collaboration sound like?’ Maybe I just have weird tastes in music. I would prefer something experimental over something bland though. Better to make an impression, good or bad, than none at all when it comes to the arts.

Denmark – Ben & Tan – Yes

Guy with a guitar. Lady accompanies him…. feels a bit wielded together. No chemistry.

A ‘couple’ where the woman sings while the man plays a guitar and sings in support. It’s a romantic cliche but it’s worked in the past. Both dressed fashionable though I don’t get the ‘half jacket’ dress trend for women in the past year or so. High fashion I guess. It’s not for someone like me to understand. It’s a nice song with good ‘sing-a-long’ potential. It’s a Eurovision classic style wise but probably wouldn’t win unless there was some lucky scores. Probably it’ll be the one cited from this year in future when looking back if it’s for entries that had ‘the Eurovision spirit’ if they want to overlook the global events of this year.

Italy – Diodato – Fai Rumore

Arena di Verona

Empty amphitheatre venue. Leather jacket. Good song. Apparently gone platinum in Italy already.

So there are both the above ‘Arena di Verona’ video and the ‘Official Music Video’ versions. I like the arena one. It really draws into focus his performance. It’s an impactful soulful song and will be looked back as showing the spirit of this year where we are separated and yet looking forward to reunion. It will no doubt be used in future to represent this year more so that the Denmark entry despite it having ‘the Eurovision spirit’ of other years. Probably with some sentiment that ‘we’ve never been further apart yet closer together’.

The music video version

Here’s the official music video with the English subtitles in the video itself. Italy always makes a really hard effort to win but rarely seems too. It is no doubt incredibly frustrating. It’s a subdued yet artistic video. I can see people enjoying this long after the contest is over. The lyrics really hit home due to current events so no wonder they wanted to perform it in the Arena di Verona’. Another contender for song of the year though not my personal choice because of my odd tastes.

Armenia – Athena Monoukian – Chains On You

Modern flashing artistic video. Very audio stabilised voice music video with Rihanna’s style from a few years ago. Good but wouldn’t win.

Yeah, this needed an epilepsy warning! A lot of ‘sexy yet stylish’ imagery. Woof. The song is good until it gets to the chorus part then it gets a bit flimsy. The ‘red’ parts of the music video and the backing dancers in the ‘white’ parts are the best aesthetics of the video. The song ultimately is an ‘also ran’ but might get some votes from people into Rihanna and her style of music as this really reminds me of Rihanna’s work from about a decade or so ago.

Netherlands – Jeangu Macrooy – Grow

Gospel R&B – people sat in a circle to make it confessional. Very good! Stands out amongst the others.

Excellent song. Really nice video. It would deserve high scores and could have potentially won depending on the running order and if other acts didn’t perform well on the night. A nice gentle song. It’s the sort of song you hear now and years down the line completely get taken by surprise realising this is where you first heard him because you’ve been into him for such a long time. It builds to such a great positive high by the end but hopefully had he performed it live he wouldn’t end it as suddenly as the video does.

FINALE OF THE EVENING

A message from Björn of ABBA. A retrospective because they were so successful. Talks of his grandson telling him people in school told him his grandfather was a pop star and him being incredulous about it. Then Björn praises the contest as being ‘so very European and letting people forget about Coronavirus for a moment‘. He ends by joking that he is glad they chose ‘shine a light’ and not ‘Waterloo’ for this years slogan.

Then Graham Norton. He joked earlier about the delay in the interviews and indeed it was something the host mentioned so they obviously heard him earlier but its only a split second. It actually came across as if the hosts were being a bit bitter about it – so even this year the hosts are a bit self-important… Maybe he rubbed Eurovision up the wrong way with the comment like Terry Wogan used to do (if so then that’s great as his acerbic commentary was always a massive part of the experience other nations sadly didn’t get to appreciate). Then some chat. Where was he when ‘love shine a light’ won Eurovision for Britain. ‘Face down on the floor drunk probably’ he jokes.

Then he returns to commenting and says it was awkward yet ‘strangely emotional’. Ha ha.

Love Shine A Light performed by the artists of Eurovision 2020 – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light

Then we get all the competitors for this year singing parts of ‘Love Shine A Light’ as there will be no winner this year. Obviously all sang it at the same time they did their recorded song introduction parts regarding their songs as they’re in the exact same place as those clips. A nice way to round out the show with Katrina (and her poodle) doing the final part of the song.

Finally…

The odd thing is they could have had the competition anyway but with the caveat it’s based on the music videos or done via broadcast… but I guess they insisted it must be only judged based on a live performance on the night to ensure no foulplay. Still that feels a bit needless as it means everyone either returns next year or loses their chance to have participated. Some had tried multiple times to participate only to get through this year and for the pandemic to occur. Graham Norton joked maybe it was the universe trying to tell them something… Nonetheless everyone will return next year to Rotterdam if they can.

Apologies to those who expected this to be published within 24 hours of the event but it took longer than expected. Hopefully you enjoyed it. If you feel like leaving a comment, a like or following the site you’re more than welcome to.

Until next year.