Creel Cottage, Johnshaven

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This is the view from the harbour, just outside the cottage. Gorgeous.

Those of you who have been following the blog over the last few days will know that The Bloke and I are in Scotland on a long overdue holiday. We’re staying in the beautiful little fishing village of Johnshaven, about 30 miles south of Aberdeen, and we’ve been incredibly lucky to find Creel Cottage as our accommodation for the week.

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The interior of the cottage

Creel Cottage is owned and managed by Matthew and Naomi, a genuinely lovely couple who have updated the building and now offer the opportunity for people to stay there (at a ridiculously reasonable price) at any time of year. It’s dog friendly, has a fully fitted kitchen (complete with washing machine and dishwasher) and bathroom, full Sky TV (hello, Game of Thrones and Supergirl!), unlimited wi-fi and the most incredible set of views as it is practically on the seafront.

I particularly love Matthew and Naomi’s no-nonsense attitude to advertising the cottage:

Doing Things Differently

We contacted one of the major national cottage companies who visited Creel Cottage and provided a pricing structure that ranged from £325pw all the way up to £540pw. We thought that this would potentially lead to the cottage being empty and in turn less money being spent in local businesses.

Our pricing for the next 12 months is simple:

1st April to 31st October is £350 per week
1st November to 31st March is £250 per week.

We don’t charge for dogs (as long as we get to throw a tennis ball for them) and we aren’t putting the price up for Christmas.

A £100 deposit is required to confirm a booking with the balance due 8 weeks before arrival. We do operate a small deposit policy to cover any unforeseen accidents but this will be refunded in full providing no damage is found at checkout.

We’d much rather the cottage is let for the maximum amount of weeks and contributing to the local economy. This also eases our guilt about turning a cottage within our village into a holiday home!

It’s absolutely perfect for couples, small families and newlyweds (and in our case, newly engaged! Yes, it’s going to be a while before I get tired of saying that!). We fell in love with it the minute we arrived – it’s spotlessly clean and we were given a lovely welcome, along with lots of information about the local area and attractions.

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Johnshaven

Johnshaven is an incredibly quiet and friendly village, with a lobster harbour directly opposite the cottage, a pub/hotel that serves the most incredible food (yes, I can vouch for it after trying half the menu already), a convenience store and even a craft shop sporting the most beautiful handmade items.

I love everything about it – I love the people, the calm and laid back atmosphere, and most of all, I love the fact that I wake up every morning to an incredible view of the sea…

Can’t get much better than that!

You can find Creel Cottage on their Facebook page here

I would advise contacting them sooner than later – they’re becoming booked up extremely fast!

Disclaimer: The Bloke and I were given a discount on our stay, but were given no input into this or any other post and are under no obligation to provide a positive review at any time.

The Bloke Proposed Today…

I had a very different post planned for today. I’m in Scotland with The Bloke for the week, and I spent some time last night preparing a post that showed all the different photographs I took on the nine hour drive it took to get here (it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds, I promise). It was sitting in my drafts folder, ready for me to press publish the next day.

However, The Bloke and I visited Dunnotar Castle this morning. It was an absolutely glorious day, and I sat on the cliff top opposite while he adopted his inner David Bailey and went around taking pictures of everything. It had rained the night before, so the grass was still a bit wet and I had borrowed The Bloke’s spare t-shirt to sit on while I was waiting for him to finish. It was a truly spectacular view, and he had put his bags and camera paraphernalia next to me to look after.

He eventually walked over and stood next to me, asking me what I thought of the place. I told him that we could forget the rest of the holiday, I was staying here for the rest of the week as it was one of the most amazing things I’d seen in a while. He then started rummaging around in his camera bag and before I knew it he had pulled out a ring box, got down on one knee, presented me with a beautiful ring and proposed.

I cried and snorted an ‘of course I will’ at him, then cried some more… It couldn’t have been more perfect – we were alone, on a cliff top, overlooking a stunning castle on the coast of Scotland. Beautiful. I would show you the pics I took directly afterwards but it’s not a pretty sight – there’s mascara everywhere.

However, here’s the view…

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And here’s the ring…

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I’m a very lucky lady indeed…

Guest Post: Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride!

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I’m a fly on the wall at Suzie’s place today.

First of all, we have the best names in the world, right? Thanks so much for allowing me to invade your personal space. I am very excited to be here.

When I won Suzie’s guest post opportunity it was as if she handed me a microphone and pointed me in the direction of a podium. I imagined myself on stage, blinded by footlights while the audience remained in shadow. A few coughs would let me know they had come to be entertained, but what the heck would I say up there on my soapbox? I’m more of a casual, sit on the couch and have a conversation, kind of girl. So I’m relaxing on her overstuffed chintz sofa today.

By the way, Suzie has very nice digs. Roomy, great views, stocked fridge… I might stick around for a while. Ah! She left me a pot of tea. I’ll add some ice and lemonade and make myself a very American, Arnold Palmer. Oh! Shortbread cookies. Yum.

This is my blogoversary week. I started Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride in May of 2011 having no idea how wild it would get. Yep. It’s been really wild. I’m an adventure girl, live in Colorado and always look for an opportunity to do something different. Skiing, hiking, biking, dancing… but I had no idea I’d become a survivor too. Don’t worry. I’m very healthy now.

I’ve been in flash fiction groups, hosted lots of wild blog parties, and have made tons of blogging friends. To me, blogging is modern day pen-palling. I’ve met many of them in real life and hope to meet many more. Like you and you and…oh, don’t worry. I won’t just show up on your doorstep. Unless you want me to…

This morning, I looked back on a post I wrote about Karma and how she made me believe. Ha! Did she ever. My husband refilled the humidifier one night and smacked himself in the eye with the arm of a rocking chair. The next day he woke up with the classic black eye. I laughed so hard! KO’d by a chair. Days later, she got me back. Anyway, I looked at the “likes” on that post. Most of those bloggers have quit. It happens all the time. I could never give up this community. To me that would be like saying, “I can’t be your friend anymore. It’s too much for me.” Besides, sitting on couch spewing all the crazy stuff that happens to me is way too much fun.

You see, I have no shame.

I started Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride to practice writing for books and to build “my platform” even though I didn’t know what that was at the time. (Psst. It’s the number of people who follow you through your blog, social media, lectures, etc.) I wrote a proposal for a non-fiction book and had a couple of chapters all ready to go. The idea was a snarky take on Boulder women. My friends thought it was super funny, but they worried I wouldn’t be able to go out in public ever again. I felt uncomfortable being the kid pointing out that the Emperor was naked. And who was I to point anyway. I never sent it to anyone.

Flash forward to those flash fiction posts. When I started writing them, it was soooo much fun! I could just make s**t stuff up. No one was offended. I wasn’t pointing fingers. It was just me, my crazy imagination, and micro fiction. A fearsome threesome. I LOVED it.

Then later that summer of 2011, I chose a longish fiction that was about 800 words and decided to blow it up. Now it’s a 380-page book. Sounds fast doesn’t it? That first draft took me almost two years. C’mon. Writing a book is nothing like writing blog posts. There’s tension, stakes, conflict, plot points, character arcs, POV…to name a few techniques I had to learn, and I was still trying to figure out what the heck a writer’s platform was.

I couldn’t keep up my Friday flash fiction and write a book. There were too many people in my head. Funny thing. I wrote the second book in the series during NaNoWriMo. It took three weeks. I’m getting a little faster.

Oh, yeah. I come from an art/illustration background. I drew this for that NaNoWriMo post, but I have arguments in my head all the time.

illustration boy and girl fighting

I’m querying my debut novel right now, so send me some positive energy. Hey. I’ve lived in Boulder for while now. I believe in that stuff.

For five years I’ve been practicing, reading and learning. I couldn’t do that in a vacuum. I need the feedback. I LOVE the feedback. I am addicted to the feedback. I’m all about comments. If I get the sound of crickets, I pay attention. Then I rethink what I wrote about, make a mental note and move on.

So who are you and what do you write about? I would love to meet you in Suzie’s comments.

And don’t forget to stop by the Wild Ride where you can check out the view of the Rocky Mountains. I’m looking at them right now. The peaks are still snowcapped. I can’t promise you tea and shortbread, but I’ve got a comfy couch with your name on it and the coffee is always hot. Hope to see you soon!

 

You can find Susie by clicking on her blog here. Totally worth it…

VOTE NOW! Annual Bloggers Bash Awards NOW OPEN

The Bloggers Bash nominations are out, and I’m nominated for Best Overall Blog, which is an absolute honour… I’m up against a group of fantastic writers, so I’m going to need your help here my lovely readers! To vote for me, scroll down to the bottom category and select ‘Suzie Speaks,’ and don’t forget to check out and vote in the other categories on the way! Ooh, and invite your bloggy friends to do the same! Good luck to everyone!

Sacha Black

VOTE NOWThis is it. The waiting is finally over.

The Bloggers Bash Awards are now open for voting.

We had a HUGE number of nominations, over 350, so thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate.

Voting Closes June 9th at 12pm. The winners will be announced on June 11th at the Bash. If you can’t make it then a winners post will go live at 5:15pm on June 11th.

Choose carefully, you can only vote ONCE per category. There are 10 awards, (so it’s a long post) make sure you vote in them all.

Good luck to all the nominees.

Disclaimer: The committee has done their best to coordinate the nominations and to ensure, where possible, we gave nominees a choice of which category they wanted to be in. Due to time constraints and limited resources this may not have always been possible.

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How Blogging Has Changed My Life

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By 2014, I don’t feel arrogant by stating that I had achieved every goal that I had set myself. I had a well-paid job, a home, a relationship, good friends and three cats that had been with me for years. From an outsider’s perspective, things seemed set.

However, I was struggling both physically and mentally. I couldn’t cope with my workload, my family relationships were strained (and in some cases, non-existent), The Bloke had lost both his father and best friend to cancer within five months of each other, my beloved cat died, we had moved house twice in six months because we were duped by a charlatan landlady and I had been hospitalised for nearly a week after ignoring a kidney infection. I was comfort eating to try and make myself feel better, and I was bloated, lethargic and had gained even more weight than I had over the previous few years. I didn’t want to go anywhere, do anything or see anyone. I existed from day to day, praying for the weekends and the holidays.

I had started the blog the year before. Things had been tough, and as I had taken to writing angry words in notebook after notebook, only to then store them in a cupboard afterwards, The Bloke suggested that I start writing online. Admittedly, I knew nothing about blogging, but within the week of creating my very first account I was hooked, churning out post after post of nonsensical rubbish that had been floating around my mind for a long time (most of which I have now deleted). I gained new followers, and started to build a community. I was extremely paranoid about people within my real life discovering what I was writing, so I kept information about myself to a minimum, but I started to feel safe in the anonymity that the computer screen provided, and enjoyed the feedback and interaction that I received from people taking the time to leave comments on my posts.

However, it was in 2014 when things really started to change. I started to tell my closest friends about what I was writing, and allowed them to read it. Their positive feedback gave me the confidence to tell more people, and then I started sharing the odd post on my personal Facebook page. My readership and community started to grow substantially, and one of my posts went viral. Little did I know, it would change my life:

Blogging made me understand my own mental health, and helped me to realise that I wasn’t the only one who was feeling the way that I did at the time. After reading post after post about stress, anxiety and depression, I was able to find hundreds of similarities between my own thoughts and feelings, and theirs. Above all, it allowed me to accept that having those feelings was ok, and to own them in the way that I saw others do. Best therapy I’ve ever had.

It helped me to start letting things go and move on. After years of bottling up extreme (extreme being an understatement) levels of anger, I started to be able to look on the events of the past with a clearer mind after I had written it down. While it still isn’t easy at times, I’m generally much more calm in my daily life, and if I’ve had a bad day I will write it down and usually feel better by doing so. As a result, I now sleep better too.

It repaired relationships within my family members, some of whom I hadn’t spoken to for a long time. After reading a post about my pleasure at the fact that she hadn’t spent Christmas with us (and therefore, in my opinion, wasn’t there to ruin it) my sister was so upset that she contacted me. From there, we gradually thrashed out all the animosity that we had been holding for years, and started to move on. I attended her wedding at the end of 2014, and since then we’ve been able to go out as a family and enjoy each other’s company. I’m glad – I’m sure that I would have regretted being estranged from them in the future.

It gave people in my personal life a better understanding of what I was (and what I had been) going through, without having to sit and tell them in person, and my friends have been extremely supportive because of it. In one case in particular, I received an apology from someone who had been particularly vile to me at university years before – it turns out that she had read a post that I had written about a sociopathic ex that I was in a relationship with when she knew me, and this had given her a better understanding of how bad my situation was during those years. It was cathartic – I doubt we’ll ever speak again, but at least I was able to gain closure.

The blogging community, particularly the one that I became part of, boosted my confidence in my ability to write and helped me to develop my writing style. I don’t know of any blogger who doesn’t doubt the quality of their work, but the thousands of comments I have received has helped me to believe in the blog. When I attended the Annual Bloggers Bash in 2015, I met people that had been reading my words for a long time… and liked them. I even won both awards that I had been nominated for, and it was the single biggest validation that I was doing what I should be doing.

Some of my online friends have become friends in real life too – I’ve met some of them in person, we talk over the Facebook messenger call system, we send Christmas cards and I know a little about their lives and who they are. While you can never really know anyone absolutely, I like them and their daily contribution to my life is only positive.

It gave me the confidence to go out and meet new people. As the blog grew I started to be invited to events in the city. I sampled food and cocktails from restaurants that I would never have gone to, developed a relationship with a local beauty store and organised and attended beauty events; I was introduced to independent businesses and met new bloggers. As the classic ‘introvert trapped in an extroverts body,’ these events and interactions forced me to put myself forward and introduce myself, and my blog, to others. They also gave me a passion for experiencing new things and actually living my life rather than simply existing from day to day, which is something that I had lost many years before.

Blogging made me finally realise, at the age of 32, exactly what it was that I was supposed to be doing and helped to show me that there is more to life than doing what is expected. In the three years that I have been blogging, there has never been a point where I have become bored or irritated with it, I’ve had lots of new adventures and I’ve now started earning some money from it. If I could do this all day, every day, I would. This newly found confidence and quest to live a life was the biggest influence in taking the risk and deciding on a career change, and I quit a secure ten – year teaching job last year. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have even considered it if the blog didn’t exist. It has also led to further opportunities in potential blogging workshops for business-women and entrepreneurs in the future, and I couldn’t be more excited…

What about you guys? How has blogging changed you and/or your life for the better?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.

‘What I Shoped’ – Unusual (and Baffling) Search Engine Terms

imageSEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is a big thing in the blogging world, and I’ve read a number of posts about how to use it to increase traffic to the blog. Over the last few years I have started to get a large amount of referrals from search engines, and I love seeing the sorts of things that people have typed in and stumbled across my blog as a result.

Some, I can explain, because I know that a few of my posts are on the first page of Google. For my post ‘23 Things You Should Do Before You’re 23,‘ which still remains as one of my most popular, I often receive things like ‘things to do before 23,’ or ‘What should I do before my 23rd?’. For ‘Nine Things That We Don’t Owe Anyone,’ I get terms like ‘I don’t owe you,’ or ‘things I shouldn’t owe people.’ Recently, with the ‘Trigglypuff‘ saga taking the internet by storm, I have received lots of terms with Trigglypuff mentioned.

However, it’s becoming more frequent that I am finding sentences that make me wonder what on earth I have been writing over the last three years. I’ve always considered this blog to be at a PG rating, with only one or two references made to adult content. However, it’s clear that a large amount of my search terms are focused on these references, so at this point I’d like to warn you that the content of the rest of this post may get a little rude… You may wish to read some of it peeking out through your fingers. Or avoid eating…

I seem to attract certain types of readers:

The Anatomists

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I can’t say I’ve ever studied the fingertips of the honey badger – from all accounts it should only be attempted if you want your face to be ripped off…

The Foodies

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I like ice-cream. However, when I eat it there is nothing sexy about it – I end up with more on my face and down my clothes than anything else. The Bloke keeps telling me that he’s going to buy me a bib.

The Angry Students

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I’m sure my students must have been the ones typing these in…

The Biologists

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I don’t even know where to begin with these… I haven’t ever written about sex, and after these search terms I’m certainly not going to – can you imagine what else would appear???

The Perverts

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Eww.

The Confused

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I’m sure that there are plenty of photographs that my friends feel I have to apologise for…

The Underwear Enthusiasts

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The disturbing thing is, the dirty panty term is just one of many that I receive on a weekly basis. I’ve also never been swimming in a g string. However, ‘The G Strings’ was the unofficial name of my first string quartet. We didn’t tell clients that – I don’t think it would have looked very good in the programme…

The ones that I cannot explain whatsoever

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There isn’t a meme needed – just a swift ‘see ya later’ and a deleting of him from your life would suffice, my dear…

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Very occasionally, I’ll find one that makes my jaw drop…

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(You can see that it has been searched for three times… I smell a court case)

And finally, I’ll get one that makes me genuinely laugh out loud…

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Couldn’t have put it better myself!

What about you guys? What have been the best search terms you have received recently?

You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

A Morning at The Floating Spa

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Those of you who follow the blog regularly will know how seriously I take my ‘me time,’ so you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to try out a new floatation spa in the Jewellery Quarter at the weekend.

The Floating Spa is the brainchild (and obvious passion) of Naveed Ladha, the owner and manager. It officially opened it’s doors on Saturday, but I was lucky enough to attend the launch party on Friday evening, where I was warmly welcomed and given a tour of the facilities.

It’s a clean, well-designed space. There’s a reception area, a relaxation lounge for use before and after a floatation session (complete with chalkboards to write messages on), a massage room, a chiropractic room, lovely changing facilities and in two specially-designed, private wet-rooms are the floatation pods.

These pods are fantastic (and look rather space-age too!). They’re used as Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy (R.E.S.T), allowing the user to float weightlessly. They’re filled with Epsom Salt water, heated to 35.5 degrees to match the skin temperature perfectly, and there are options of lights or darkness (you can completely close the lid of you choose), music or silence during a session. Each experience is unique to every individual – by cutting off the senses and allowing complete relaxation, the mind and body has a chance to de-stress.

Perfect.

I booked a session for Saturday morning (each session is about an hour-and-a-half in total, with the actual floatation lasting an hour) and was so excited that I arrived half an hour early. However, Nav (who must have been exhausted from the launch party the night before) greeted me with the same warm smile and graciously took the time to show me all the facilities again, explaining in detail how to work the showers and pod. He then gave me a set of earplugs, showed me how to contact him should I need to, and then left me alone for my session. I had been advised to wear light swimwear or, if I felt brave enough, nothing at all. I wore a bikini, and felt comfortable in doing so – the room is able to be locked from the inside and there is an intercom system directly linked to reception in the pod, but I left the door unlocked, simply because it was my first session and I wasn’t sure how my body would react to it.

I needn’t have worried – I was perfectly fine all the way through.

However, during the first twenty minutes I made several rookie mistakes, forgetting that it was salt water and ending up with some in my eyes (ouch) and not putting in my earplug properly which meant that I had to find it in the pod and redo it. Luckily, I had been given a freshwater spray to rinse my eyes out.

I decided to start again, and I switched all the lights and music off and made serious attempts to just allow myself to relax and float. Nav had warned me that it may take a while for my mind and body to switch off, and he was right (at one point I was singing a random song to myself) so I followed his advice and focused on my breathing and heartbeat.

And then… bliss.

After a while it didn’t feel like I was in water. I was warm and comfortable, and at one point I think I drifted off to sleep. For a time, there was nothing – it was the most relaxed I have been in a while. Amazing.

The music then came on to signify five minutes before the end of the session, and I was genuinely disappointed. I could have spent all day in there. I got out and had a shower (with vegan shampoo, conditioner and shower gel already supplied), during which the cleaning system began (there’s a three-tier cleaning system before and after each session), then got changed, and then I took myself off to the other changing room (fully equipped with hair dryers, organic products and things that I always forget to bring with me, such as cotton buds and face wipes. It’s a good job they were there too – I managed to sneeze and get mascara halfway up my face).

What I particularly loved about the session was that it was a completely private experience, both during and after the floatation had finished. I was given unlimited time to use the changing and relaxation facilities, and while I knew that assistance was available at any point, I didn’t feel under any pressure to leave, and I wasn’t given the ‘hard-sell’ to purchase products that I often experience at spas.

Absolutely one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time, and it’s a completely unique experience in Birmingham – there’s nothing else like it in the city.

And do you know what? I slept like a baby on Saturday night!

Want to know more?

Singular sessions are £55.00, but three sessions can be purchased for £120.00 for a limited time only. They can be given as gifts, and there are gift cards available for the three sessions. Toiletries and clean, fluffy towels are provided for each session. It’s also possible to purchase kilogram bags of Epsom Salts and the Faith in Nature products from reception to use at home. Massage and chiropractic services are charged separately.

Worth every penny.

You can find The Floating Spa via:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thefloatingspa
Twitter: @TheFloatingSpa
Website: http://thefloatingspa.com/

Disclaimer: I was very kindly given a free floating session, but was under no obligation to provide a positive review. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!

Eurovision 2016 Predictions and Points

Yes, it’s that time of year again, and The Bloke and I have got the snacky treats ready. It’s the Eurovision final, and I’m teaming up with Hugh (Hugh’s Views and News) and Helen (Journey to Ambeth) for a Twitter-fest during the show. Normally, we would be joined by Steve (Steve Says), but he’s decided that our company isn’t good enough this year and has gone to the live show in Stockholm (of course, I’m not jealous in the slightest).

Last year, the UK entry was so awful I was under no illusions that we would do badly. However, this year, Joe and Jake’s song has grown on me and I’m genuinely hoping that they do well. It’s a catchy song, the lads have worked hard and seem like lovely people, and deserve some success from it. I can’t vote for them, but I’m wishing them lots of luck! There are a number of surprisingly good songs being performed in the final, so it’s a close race.

So, ladies and gents, here are my points for tonight.

One point goes to… Belgium (Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure). Sounds remarkably similar to Fleur East’s Play That Sax.

Two points go to… Poland (Michal Szpak – Colour Of Your Life). He’s clearly been adopting his inner Conchita.

Three points go to… Sweden (Frans – If I Were Sorry)

Four points go to… France (Amir – J’ai Cherche)

Five points go to… Russia (Sergey Lazarev – You Are The Only One). I like this song, but they have blatantly ripped off the staging from Sweden’s entry last year. This one will do much better than I’m suggesting, but I’m going to find it interesting how it will be hosted in Russia next year if it wins.

Six points go to… Lithuania (Donny Montell – I’ve Been Waiting For This Night)

Seven points go to… Italy (Francesca Michielin – No Degree of Separation)

Eight points go to… Ukraine (Jamala – 1944). I hate this song, but this is the sort of stuff that always does well.

Ten points go to… Australia (Dami Im – Sound of Silence). The best voice in the whole competition.

Twelve points go to… Israel (Hovi Star – Made Of Stars). I don’t think it will win, but I like this one very much.

Go and check out Steve’s and Hugh’s points and predictions too! Happy Eurovision!

 

Stuck Writing Your Author Bio? Try The (Totally Not Serious) Author Bio Generator

This post from Helen is one of the funniest I’ve read for a while – perfect for authors struggling with writing their bio… Please don’t like or comment on the reblog – hop on over to Journey to Ambeth and say hello. I promise, you’ll love this!

Journey To Ambeth

Aren't I fabulous and interesting? I’m so fabulous and interesting.

So I’ve been noticing a trend recently of, shall we say, somewhat overwrought author bios, in which every detail is teased into something magnificent, a picture of a life fabulously lived. I realise that there are, in fact, authors who do live wonderfully exciting lives but I also seem to remember a time when it wasn’t really important to know about it. A time when an author bio was a few lines at the end of a book, photograph optional, and usually read something like: ‘Author X was born in Wiltshire, and still lives there with her husband and three sons.’ Then, if Author X had written other books/and or won awards, these would also be listed. And that was about it. (I’m basing this on the very scientific research of spending time perusing my own bookcase and reading famous author bios, so you know…

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