Eurovision and the O2
On Saturday, I went to the Sample Sale located at the O2 Arena. It is a quarterly market that specialises in small businesses and offers a nice combination of food, clothing and other items for sale. Before browsing through the market, I decided to walk through the O2 itself. This isn’t an area where many London tourist venture, so the crowds are mainly locals.
Built for the millennium celebration, the O2 is a large arena that has transformed over the years to now include outlet shopping, several restaurants, and a few activities like bowling and trampolining. The venue has fantastic acoustics, and I have attended many concerts: Dolly Parton, Aerosmith, The Chicks, Shania Twain, Tears For Fears, Def Leppard, Michael McIntyre, Britney Spears, KISS, ELO and Barry Manilow. (I have very eclectic taste!)
The current state in London is that you can be out and about in public, keep to social distancing, and you should be fully vaccinated before giving up the mask. Restaurants and stores are allowing visitors, but many are limiting numbers as necessary. Outdoor events like markets are encouraging social distancing, but let’s be honest, it isn’t the easiest thing to do when kids are running around and people are not paying attention to their surroundings. The O2 has put some guide marking arrows on the floor so that people can be mindful of where they are walking, but of course no one really pays attention.
I walked around the O2 (basically it is like a huge mall) and kept my distance where possible. For a Saturday, it was not as busy as other shopping venues. The stores are not huge, and many had limited numbers. A few required you to queue before entering, and everyone has to sanitise their hands. I really like that hand sanitiser is everywhere now. Why didn’t we think of this before? People are filthy, and no wonder I got sick six times in 2019.
I popped into the Yankee Candle Co where they were having a very fake sale. The signs said 50% off but the price tags were only taking £5 off. I really hate that. Still, I wanted to indulge in a few new fragrances for the flat, so I bought some tea lights and medium size candle. Yankee Candle Co is a very American store, and I remember my first 15 years of living in London without it. Obviously, candles were a thing here, but room spray seemed to be more popular on my first arrival.
The London tour guide in me always thinks about the origins of candles in the home for lighting. Home lighting used to be done with tallow, which was a slow burning fat rendered from animals. It produced low light and they would drip alot. Imagine all of the duck fat that you produce at Christmas, only store it in a jar and throw a wick in there. Yep — that’s it. Would smell awful, eh!?
I showed much restraint as I walked passed the Lindt shop. Their chocolate truffles are amazing, and in this store, they have every flavour imaginable. We didn’t have a Lindt in London for a long time, and when my husband and I would go on holiday to various cities in Europe, we would see this store and go in. Now that it is here, the novelty has worn off. The calories from truffles past has not, they seem to remain.
In the food court section of the O2, there is a Thunderbirds. Later that evening, we were going to watch Eurovision, and I needed some food. Eurovision has been a tradition for us since 2002. We have watched every year, and it is truly a unique event. I picked up some salted-caramel wings and a bucket of chicken strips and fries with their signature Awesome Sauce. I knew they would be less than fresh by the evening, but this chicken is so delicious, it really doesn’t matter. (Yes, you read that right — I still eat chicken. If you read my previous blog about vegan-curious —- thank you! — -and I am still enjoying a mostly-vegan diet. But this was Eurovision, and I didn’t want to cook!)
Now I was hungry. I popped into Wasabi for some sushi. Wasabi is a take-away, pre-made sushi restaurant with locations all over London. It is a place that I go to regularly, to the point where I had to ban myself from going because it was getting really old. Since I haven’t been in over a year, I went for it. They had a few tables set up outside the store (in the mall area) so I found a place, safely took off my mask, and enjoyed some salmon rolls. With the exception of the mask, there was a small sense of normality to my day.
Leaving the O2, it was time to browse the Sample Sale. A live DJ filled the air with tunes as various stalls invited people to view their wares. I skip alot of these stalls because they are fashion-related. By Sample—- they mean clothing that has been made once or twice in a tiny size. This isn’t for me, and I know it. There are a few jewellery stalls, again I totally skip these because it is the last thing I need. I head to the large four-sided stall selling plants. I have really wanted to add plants to our home lately. Living inside for a year, I think that plants would have been useful for air quality on the days when we didn’t get out side and the windows couldn’t be opened due to weather. The only problem is, I am not very “green-thumbed” and I kill plants easily. It’s sad for the plant.
I talk with the lady behind the plant stall, she is selling edible plants. There are ten different kinds of mint and six different kinds ob basil, and a load of other herbs. We talk, and she tells me that mint is really hard to kill. I try to chat further, but she isn’t interested. I make my leave, thinking that it would be nice to have some plants, but they look like they need to be repotted and I just don’t have any of the supplies for that.
I then find Wild Jasmine, a plant booth selling a few plants that look a bit more my style. We start talking and Jasmine says that the Emerald Palm is rather hearty, only requires watering every fortnight and some decent access to light. I feel good about my purchase and pop the plant in a back and throw it on my shoulder. By the time I get home, the plant looks a little lopsided. See - I really suck at plants. I place her in a well-lit corner and prop her up next to a bookshelf, hoping she will straighten out.
My final purchase at the market was some cakes. You can’t have Eurovision without cakes! I opted for some almond-based and polenta cakes. I know I bought three, but during the evening, I only seemed to get a bite of each and then they were gone. Clearly, my husband enjoyed them!
The Eurovision contest this year was wonderful. If you don’t understand what I am talking about, let me explain. Each country submits an act to perform an original song. The performances are judged by a panel of experts and the public can vote, too. Each country calls in and gives their top points to other countries, not voting for themselves. The winner gets to host the event the following year. Many times, the voting and points are given to neighbours. Greece and Cyprus always give each other points. The Scandinavian countries often group together.
This year was a little different. While we were sure Norway was the best performance and Iceland would take the popular vote, it was looking like Switzerland was going to win, with France coming in second. Then at the last minute, Italy took the lead! The whole event is intense and fun. This was the first year we decided to vote via the app, which was easy. We gave points to Norway, Iceland, Malta and Finland. The rock band from Finland was our favourite over Italy’s rock band, but clearly the rest of Europe didn’t agree.
One thing to note is the UK didn’t receive any points. No points from other countries. No points from the popular voting. This was kind of sad, as the performance was on par with other countries and there were other acts that fell short. For many years now, UK has not done well in Eurovision. Since Brexit, it has continued to loose favour. There are times when political events will sway voting for Eurovision acts. When Russia invaded Ukraine, it showed in the votes. But the UK didn’t receive any votes, and who knows when we will have an act worthy of winning again. Remember, the last time UK hosted Eurovision, the winner was Abba for Waterloo!
There have been rumours that America wants to join the Eurovision fun, and I really hope this doesn’t happen. Eurovision is a quirky and should remain that way. Not everything has to include everyone. Regional entertainment should be celebrated. Perhaps America would like to broadcast the show, but getting involved might be a step too far. With 50 states and numerous territories, they should create their own Amerivision instead.