The Rainwater Toilet

A good friend of mine is doing her bit to help make Planet Earth a more environmentally friendly place. A few months my friend worked hard on installing a new water system for her toilet – that runs on rain water.

It is astounding to think that there are so many people in the world who have little or no access to clean drinking water yet in most developed countries we flush out toilets with it.

My friend, Liz, being an IT whizz – decided to make a little video of their new system. It looks simple – although I don’t think I would know where to start.

DIY is not my strongest point.

Liz said:

The plan was to save money and be inventive. Five years on we’ve done both while saving water, electricity and having fun along the way. One of the most interesting projects to date has been our rainwater WC. We have a long-term aim to have some independence from mains electricity water and heat. The WC didn’t cost much and it’s very simple.

Watch the video here!

Now – Time to get yourselves down to the DIY store to make one of your own.

Eurovision Semi Final 2

Less than a week to go! Eurovision Season is starting…

The second semi final for the Eurovision will be on Thursday 24th May.

Here are the entries (in order) for the second semi final.  I have said a little about each one. In bold are the ones I hope to qualify.

Serbia: 7/10 – This man knows how to do well in Eurovision. He represented Serbia-Montenegro in 2004, coming 2nd and then wrote the Serbian entry in 2008, coming 6th – as well as hosting it in Belgrade. Watch out…

Macedonia (FYROM): 8/10 – This lady has a voice. What a belter! Effortlessly sung. I think it will get a LOT of Balkan votes.

The Netherlands: 8/10 – The Dutch have a terrible record in qualifying – 2004 was the last time they made the final. I hope this gentle song about childhood memories takes them through. You’ll remember the Indian headdress – that’s for sure.

Malta: 6/10 – 1980s throw back. This is performed by a guy who needs to wear looser clothing.

Belarus: 6/10 –  Their 9th entry and one which won’t do particularly well. I liked it to start with, but have gone off it.

Portugal: 8/10 – Typical Portugal – anthemic and possibly not gonna make it through the semi.

Ukraine: 8/10 – This has grown on me. It’s very West End ‘Lion King’…

Bulgaria: Zzzzzzz. Possibly the second worst entry.

Slovenia: 10/10 – My personal favourite! This gentle ballad builds to a fantastic finish. The 16-year-old has a great voice. I LOVE it!

Croatia: 4/10 – A dull Balkan ballad. Zzzzzzz.

Sweden: 10/10 – Whoah! Time to wake up. Something different in Eurovision. Loreen does some contemporary dance with martial arts moves in this attention grabbing number. Brilliant. I won’t be surprised if we’re in Stockholm next year.

Georgia: 5/10 –  They qualify every year – I don’t know how. This probably will – but it’s not great.

Turkey: 8/10 – Another grower. After seeing this guy in Amsterdam, I love it. Ahoy there Turkey. See you in the final…

Estonia: 10/10 – A gentle ballad, sung by a handsome chappy. Estonia deserve to do well with this. But, there are a LOT of ballads in this semi.

Slovakia: 5/10 –  It’s a bit Bon Jovi – which is a little odd.

Norway: 9/10 –  Sung in English; written by a Swede and sung by an Iranian/Norwegian. Recipe for Top 5. They are recreating Sweden’s 2011 entry though…. blatantly.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: 6/10 –  And again – another Balkan ballad. Zzzzzz.

Lithuania: 5/10 – A dull end to the night.  Not great. This won’t be bringing the prize back to Lithuania. Sounds like Wham!

Which 10 do you think will make the final?

Watch the songs from Semi Final 1 and read my comments here.

Knitted covers for your bike, bus or car.

I have some friends who love knitting.

Okay, I should be clear on this one. Some love knitting and some like to croquet.

The urban knitting craze is taking off and here are some wonderful examples of how the craze has taken an unusual twist.

Perfect for all the abandoned bikes here in The Netherlands.

Now THAT is a bus I would love to catch!

Isn’t this just the cutest Smart Car!

I also found a great website with fantastic knitted things. It’s called Mochimochi Land. Take a look.

REVIEW: Eurovision in Concert 2012

This year, for the fourth time, Amsterdam was the host city for the biggest pre-Eurovision concert. It has become quite an extraordinary event  with more than half of the contestants coming to showcase their entries. There are only a few weeks before the contest goes to Baku in Azerbaijan. The countdown is on…

This year the event was held on Saturday 21st April 2012 in the Melkweg, a popular venue for bands when playing in Amsterdam. The organisation was much better than last year, which had a series of sound problems which created endless issues for the evening. The Melkweg was fantastic and the evening went without a hitch! Perfect!

The hosts for the evening were Cornald Maas and Ruth Jacott, the Dutch performer in the 1993 Eurovision. She strutted her stuff in Millstreet and belted out Vrede coming a very respectable 6th for The Netherlands.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Spain. Pastora blew away the crowd with her live performance of Quédate Conmigo. What a pair of lungs she has on her! I expect (and hope) Spain to do very well this year in Baku.

MOST ENTERTAINING: Ireland. Jedward really know how to entertain a crowd. I really didn’t like them last year in Düsseldorf, but with Waterline as their comeback I love them.

MOST EMBARASSING WARDROBE MALFUNCTION: France. Poor, poor Anggun wore a lovely red dress, which for those on the first 6 rows of audience (me included), got a perfect view up… I rather feel that someone should have advised her against white pants with a red dress… oh la la…

HOTTEST PERFORMER: Moldova. Hello, Pasha! That’s all I have to say on the matter.

MOST CRINGEWORTHY: San Marino. Deranged doesn’t even begin to describe this. San Marino decided to ‘test’ the rules of Eurovision. A song all about ‘Facebook’ although it’s not allowed to be called that now. I think Facebook should sue!

MY FAVOURITE: Slovenia. Eva’s song is my far my favourite for Baku, although on the night it didn’t come across well. Unfortunately, her backing singers weren’t there and they play a vital role in the performance as one sings the gentle aaaah bits.

THE ONES I MISSED: Sweden and Russia. Oh how I would have loved them to be there. Sweden has the song of the year and a great performance (but will it win?) and Russia have the grannies who I adore.

I predict a close one between Sweden and Russia.

Enjoy my photos from the night.

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January: Drama. Blues. Booze.

I thought it would be a good idea to summarise my months throughout 2012. It is set to be a cracker of a year (a great year, to all my non-English readers, or should I say readers from outside of northern England).

January started most dramatically. Bas, my husband-to-be (I love saying that), and I travelled back to The Netherlands after enjoying Christmas in the UK. The drive from England to the Channel Tunnel was horrendous. When I say horrendous I mean utterly vile. Scary. At-my-wits-end-scary. I thought my life would end at some point on that journey. The rain was torrential and never-ending. Once through the Channel Tunnel (and after a welcome 30-minute break on the train), we continued our hell-raising journey into France where the bloody rain continued. How could so much water fall from the sky? Belgium proved to be no better – The rain poured from the sky and our car barely managed to stay on the road. Driving through a swimming pool is never recommended and as the car shook, swerved and vibrated its way along, the thought went through my head on more than one occasion that skis may have been a better option than wheels. I lived to tell the tale though, so all’s well that ends well.

It was so much worse than this...

January also brings with it the worst time of year, the post-Christmas-blues. Apartments and houses look so bland and bare without the joyful Christmas decorations. Is it just me, or am I the only one who never ceases to be shocked at how bare a home can look without the decorations hanging? It never seems that bare in November…

I was back at work, greeted by a class full of happy little three-year olds all eager to see their friends again – and their teacher, of course. One little boy saw me on the first morning back and said my name with such enthusiasm. It was as though he’d not seen me for months, years – or as though he thought he may never have seen me again…. Bless.

In order to brighten the mood, we had friends over for a games evening. I love games. Bas does not. Therefore, we played games. And Bas loved them. I won’t hear a word against them. That is the basis of our relationship. I am right. 🙂 We played some great games – word games where one team had to name 10 things related to a category. The highlight of the night being when my team was asked to name 10 deserts… We looked puzzled and skipped the category. I don’t know deserts other than Gobi, Sahara… I’m struggling. We asked to hear the answers – clearly out of interest. Answer #1: Pavlova. I have to hold my hand up and admit that after a few glasses of wine I sat and pondered where this Pavlova desert may be. Possible Eastern Europe…? The penny did not take long to drop. DESSERTS! My wonderful other-half avoided reading the next answer – trifle. We would have been laughing into the early hours. I love games.

A fab game. You must play it.

Throughout the rest of January, we visited family in The Netherlands, caught up with friends, helped our wonderful friend-and-bride-to-be choose her wedding dress. Yay! We had a decorator in to plaster the kitchen (our kitchen shall be finished this year – finally); we watched Carnage and The Iron Lady (Streep must win Best Actress at the Oscars) at the cinema; and we had meals out. Good fun all round.

Oh, but then there was the party Sunday. The Sunday we shall not forget. It started with a neighbourhood borrel (drinks and nibbles) at the pub along the street from our apartment. All our Dutch neighbours were there – although we didn’t recognise a soul. Normally I know one or two – but the absence of everyone from our actual street made the stress-levels rise. I was using all my Dutch skills. Speak Dutch and survive. I survived – almost. We were labelled on entry with a post-it note from the very official looking ‘organiser’, power-dressed in red. After spelling my name repeatedly (in Dutch), I changed from Jamey to Jami to Jame where I finally gave in. I’d be Jame for the evening – for the quiet life. Jamie isn’t difficult to spell. What panicked me next was seeing the organisers hand out coloured flower stickers. There was a game to be played. Panic stations. I know, I know – I like games. But not in Dutch and not when I know that my Dutch partner is clearly not going to be in my team. We ended up separated. I must not panic. I must keep calm. Drink. Hours later, and after meeting some lovely neighbours we made our way, on bikes, to another party. You can see where this is going. We drank. We chatted. We drank and had a fantastic evening – until home time. That was when the wall of reality hit. Cycling home was an experience. 🙂

Oh – and January officially became my busiest month for hits on WordPress. Thanks guys!

What a month. January – you have been memorable.

Bring it on February!

Dutch Divas: Edsilia and Ruth

Now, time for a little something for the Eurovision fans…..

Okay, if you’re not a “ESC fan” – you’re probably wondering who they are? (If you’re not from Europe then it’ll be even more confusing).

These ladies represented The Netherlands in Eurovision – yes, the good old Eurovision Song Contest. (Not together though. Maybe that’s why they didn’t win). I saw them both live (on separate occasions in 2006 – and they were brilliant live).

Ruth and Edsilia

Ruth Jacott, the elder of the two (The Netherlands’ representative Eurovision 1993) and Edsilia Rombley (The Netherlands’ representative in Eurovision 1998 and Eurovision 2007) have both had successful singing careers in The Netherlands.

Here they are, years later, singing a new song together. It’s quite popular here in The Netherlands and I wish they’d saved it for their 2012 entry – they could do with something like this.

 

A few other bits that I’ve written about Eurovision:

Eurovision – It’s More Than One Night.

Remember Bucks Fizz?

Eurovision Party Time.