Thursday, 24 November 2011

Moroccan magic, madness and memories

I recently posted a poem I wrote whilst on holiday which touched on some of the sights, sounds and smells I experienced whilst in Agadir. Now I thought I’d use my blog to tell you a little more about the coastal resort I stayed in and show you a few images of my time there.

Agadir is purely a tourist resort now and in fact one taxi driver told us how people are only allowed to build properties there for tourism now. This is something I found quite sad, of course the tourists are good for the country and economy, but it seemed unfair to prevent locals like this in their own country.

Many years ago Agadir was destroyed by an earthquake which killed thousands of people and now all that remains on top of the hill are the ruins of the walls of the Kasbah. On the hill are the words God Country King which serve as a constant reminder of original Agadir and create a beautiful and memorable sight on the coast, which at night is clear for all to see when it is lit up.

As we drove from the airport to our hotel we passed a host of interesting sights, locals with what looked like their weekly shop balancing on their knees whilst driving their motorbike, fruit and veg sellers along the rode being pulled along by donkeys, old men playing board games in the street, men wearing pointy hooded cloaks, run down looking buildings which were actually relatively new build properties for teachers (the King is working on improving the literacy rates), a walled wildlife area which only the Sheikh and his family are allowed to see and much much more.

I visited Agadir around five years ago whilst I was still living at home and went with my Mum, as my Dad was still working then and had important meetings to attend. I will be honest and confess at times we were nervous and concerned for our wellbeing, being Western women in a very traditional country with strong views on how females should look and behave was in our minds. Plus on our last visit our trip had coincided with Ramadan, as a result the area was very quiet and we found there were never any women about. On meeting a tourism graduate one day on this year’s visit we soon realised that when last time we had felt threatened, we had in fact simply misjudged their friendliness and interest in meeting new people. This is something clearly evident in Moroccan people, everyone is so friendly, more than willing to help or tell you about local history or find out more about you and your life and your culture.

So what memories stick in my mind? Being a passenger in the ‘orange taxis’, which had no seatbelts and my door had no handle (our driver told me it had special automatic control!), our taxi driver spending hours with us waiting for us and wanting to be in our photo, visiting a local Berber souk and getting dressed up in traditional garments, offers of camels to my Dad for me – top offer was 5000! Being labelled Fatima (a popular Moroccan name and as I often get when going abroad I was told I very much looked like a local!) The entertainment staff asking my Dad if he could dance like Michael Jackson and talking to him about his dance moves (‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’), constant questions as to whether I was married and if I was on Facebook, my super big feet being too big for the Moroccan slippers I so badly wanted to purchase. My Dad having a full conversation with a lady who worked in the hotel bar in English (she was Moroccan and spoke French but could understand perfectly well, she wanted to know the rules of the card game we were playing), then deciding when referring to the number three he had to offer a bit more explanation…Picture my Dad chatting away and then explaining that you need three cards in a set to lay them, but after a whole chat in English, stating “you know un deux trois. Three?” Embarrassing is not the word, although it gave us all a good giggle! Or how about visiting the souk and finding we didn’t have enough money, the stall owners had a simple solution – the taxi driver would pay for us (using all his taxi float) and then when dropping us back at the hotel we could get the cash and pay him! Silly for us to go back to the hotel and come back paying double taxi fares. Just like England eh?

The trip also highlighted differences in cultures in a number of ways. I always feel quite ignorant when I visit other countries, in England we just don’t push the importance of learning other languages enough and I feel ashamed at how good a grasp on English local people have. I couldn’t say anything in Arabic! (The languages typically used there are Berber, Arabic and French). Also in our hotel in the Moroccan themed restaurant you were sat with other people – they would try and place people from the same country together (the hotel is very popular with French and some Italian visitors). Our first visit found us with two English couples, people hardly spoke and there was an awkward feeling at the table. My parents talked of how this has happened before on other holidays but yet when sitting with people from other countries – for example with outgoing Americans – the conversation never went quiet. On the second visit we were sat with a Northern family and almost immediately they started to chat. At lunch we would find a table and keep to ourselves, French visitors would join huge tables together and almost take over, their talking and laughter heard loud above everyone else.

We revisited the fish market in the area, which was so quiet and mostly shut down on our last visit, this time we ventured there via the newly built marina and extended promenade and met with a local man. Studying tourism, he became a makeshift guide and showed us to the fish market as he was on his way to work (he works part time in the market in one of the stalls/’restaurants’ which serve up local fish. It works so well, you pick what fish you want, each one sells them at the same price and so an area full of long shared plastic-covered tables, hustle and bustle and tourists and locals mixing together is created. Whilst our ‘guide’ was telling us more he invited us to share some mint tea with him, which we enjoyed and then were introduced to his manager and his family. A local sitting having his lunch even offered me some of his fish to try!

In another souk the Berber man showed us how they create Argan oil and we watched some women painstakingly shelling the nuts and grinding them to produce this amazing product. We were dressed in traditional clothes and told more about the traditions, without pushy sales techniques. I felt truly welcome.

I could go on but you may well want to go and see for yourselves and don’t want me spoiling your experiences!

So although I may not have seen the ‘real’ Morocco and didn’t venture too far, I got a good enough taste from the local people to understand what sort of place this is and the type of people that live there. Really friendly, helpful, intelligent people always keen to learn about others and offering beautiful food, history, scenic surroundings and numerous souks/markets offering an array of local goods.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Travel trials

So, with the current situation with Thomas Cook going on I guess this entry is quite topical. As you know I have just come back from a holiday to Agadir in Morocco. Due to a variety of reasons I visited the resort with my parents, quite a brave feat some of you may argue.

In order to get to said resort we went on a package holiday which happened to be with First Choice holidays. You may or may not be aware but Thomson and First Choice are now part of the same TUI Group and so have pretty much taken over the holiday market. On booking the trip we went with the First Choice option as it appeared to be slightly cheaper for the same holiday for some reason.

Anyway as per usual, what happened on the flight? Of course, I got stuck behind some moron who insisted on moving non-stop in their seats and moved their seat so far back they may as well have just spent the whole journey on my lap! What made this worse was the fact that the aircraft was so bad – some of the faux leather seats were ripped, apparently in-flight entertainment on short-haul flights stops as of 1st November and there was literally no leg room. What a joke – if there had been a crash there is no way on earth you could have adopted the ‘brace’ position – unless you were some sort of elf!

My other complaint – which to be fair is out of a holiday company’s control is the weather. Now, those who have seen me since I’ve returned will laugh as I am quite tanned after my holiday. However, each day saw a misty start for a few hours and many days were cloudy and temperatures were a lot lower than we expected. We also had quite a bit of rain. A couple of years ago I visited a Greek island in September for a fortnight which saw rain nearly every day. Both instances highlight to me just how climate change clearly is having an impact now as wherever you go on holiday (for the sun) you really cannot guarantee what you’ll be met with.

I also learnt that as I am getting older I really want to see the real country and visit the real people and their lives. I loved my stay and for a relaxing break it was great, but I do feel that I could have done more with my time there and regret not visiting more true Moroccan places – such as Marrakech. Granted, we went for a break in the sun and only being there a week a two day trip to Marrakech may not have been ideal. Staying in an all-inclusive hotel is such great value and I couldn’t fault our accommodation or the staff who worked there, yet as I argued to my parents you could be anywhere in the world if you always stay in these robotic factory-line type hotels. I need to see the real country.

On the journey home the check in procedure was a joke, I believe some of the machinery wasn’t working and so wrongly printed tickets were issued and huge queues were the result. Obviously people can’t help things going wrong like this; however the attitude of the check-in staff was pretty poor I must admit. They just took their time and saw no rush in trying to get the queue shortened or speed things up.

So, overall not the best experience from a holiday company. However, yet again showing how good customer service can help situations – as per an earlier post – on the flight home I somehow stupidly managed to drop my cardigan from the boarding gate to the plane. The staff on board allowed me to go back and check for the cardigan but I couldn’t find it. On returning to the plane one of the flight attendants asked me to describe the item of clothing and went out of her way to go and make more checks. A few minutes after sitting down she turned up with my cardigan, somebody must have handed it in after all. Just going that bit further actually cheered me up after discovering that the legroom was – if possible – even tighter than the journey there.

To be honest though with the news that Thomas Cook is having financial difficulties – the amount of choice we have between what big holiday companies to go with on package holidays is really not going to be there. So will these firms bother to make an effort and impress us or will these seasonal cutbacks and a lack of effort become more commonplace?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Moroccan memories

The aroma of spices wafts across the room
A tagine bubbling in the corner, to be feasted on soon

Dark mysterious eyes behind a clothed body and covered face
A pointy hooded cloak and leather slippered feet, wandering at a leisurely pace

Skin dark like cocoa from the bright beating sun
Soft to the touch, thanks to Argan oil, so many products made from just one

Cinammon, sugar, saffron and meat
Rich dips, doughy bread, so many biscuits and pastries, all delicious to eat

People so friendly, always wanting to be helpful
Keen to make friends, and of your life learn it all

Making friends and haggling in the souk
So many sights and sounds you could fill a book

Everyone wants you to "come talk to me"
Sit down and chat, over a hot glass of mint tea

Trays packed full of all types of fish
In the local market, pick a stall and just sit down to enjoy a dish

Soft supple slippers, carpets, jewellery and scarves
Endless rows of gifts, they don't do markets by halves

Early each morning locals come to run on the beach
Arabic couples taking walks on the promenade as boats bob on the sea

Men full of compliments for the female tourists, "so beautiful"
Offerings of camels add to the magic of it all

A host of animals, birds and fountains in bird valley
You'll soon find your way, to help guide you the locals are more than happy

Being made to feel like one of the family in souks in the Berber community
'God country king#', the nearby hill tells of the history

Although we've had some rain, I've loved my time here
The friendly, scenic, mysterious but magical Moroccan area of Agadir

Written whilst in holiday in Agadir, November 2011

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mystery of Morocco

So as of the early hours of Monday morning, I will be off on a plane on my holidays! A much-needed week of sun, sand, nice food and a bit of booze.

I’ve decided I am going to see the local sights, walk along the never-ending beach, read some books and listen to music. As well as this I am going to leave my phone at home, so no social media, texting or calling for me. This is my way of trying to relax, however there is a downfall…

I love writing my blog and I have realised I won’t be blogging for a whole week. Granted, the 5* hotel I am going to probably has WiFi, but that kind of defeats the object of my relaxing without being surrounded by technology approach to things. So, I decided - as I explained to my boyfriend earlier when he teased me about this matter – I am going to take a notebook with me and use the old fashioned approach. I will write about my travels with a traditional pen and paper and then type them up and upload them when I get home.

I’m hoping that when I come back I will be able to share my experiences with you and perhaps I might get inspired to write a bit of poetry or a short story whilst I’m there too. You’ll have to wait and see.

So for this week while I’m off just try to imagine a big-mouthed Essex girl, who hasn’t had time to exercise and diet properly before donning a bikini and summerwear, trying to relax whilst sharing a hotel room with her parents and trying to last a week with said parents without arguments. Throw in the chance of the weather potentially not going as planned, the Moroccan waiters might lead to some ‘interesting’ experiences (as in their approach to women before you get any naughty thoughts, I AM attached remember!) and mine and Mum’s cases likely to be too over-filled and overweight at check-in and I’m sure that’ll keep you entertained for a fair few hours…

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Giving men the red card

So, when I asked recently for ideas of what people would like to see from my blog, what was the overwhelming response from men? Football, of course.

Growing up with a Dad who wasn’t really all that fussed about football, I had always also managed to date men who weren’t too bothered about the sport either. A lucky escape I felt. However, on meeting my current boyfriend – and after six years of being together – I have had to face the experience of being with a football fanatic. A die hard Hammers fan since he was old enough to understand the game, my boyfriend had been to most of the team’s home games and a lot of away games too. He was a season ticket holder and has numerous kits and West Ham merchandise.

In fact, when we first met one another I decided to make a real effort and actually bought a West Ham shirt and went to a few games (some of which were even all the way in Manchester!) Since then and various circumstances changing, my boyfriend actually no longer has a season ticket (wait for all the hate mail from that one, I promise it wasn’t just down to me that he got rid of it).

I guess in that sense I have once again been lucky as I’m with someone who understands the importance of different aspects in life and isn’t so obsessed with football that he would refuse to give up his season ticket for instance. Of course though there are lot of men out there who are like that and often put the sport first.

What is it about this game that takes men in such a firm grasp and holds their attention for so long? You know what men are like if you try to get them to concentrate on plans you have, but yet if they are faced with anything featuring their favourite team they can concentrate for hours on end.

Opinions are another thing, talk to a man about something that happened at work or a story you read on your commute and you might get a few grunts in response. You find out a new player is being signed or a football match is on and the referee makes a questionable decision, well just sit back and watch what happens then. Oh how the opinions flow…If you come across the so-called ‘glory hunters’ then just watch the sparks fly – people in London who support teams like Liverpool, or Chelsea fans who have never actually been to a game, oh dear…

Admittedly when I went to some actual games I did get caught up in the spirit and enjoyed it, but watching a match on television bores me to death. What is this fascination with a few men kicking a ball around a field? After all realistically that’s what this is.

Don’t even get me started on how much they get paid; it infuriates me when you see people who do jobs that actually make a real difference to the world getting paid a pittance. Yet you see a well-dressed, over-gelled hairstyled young man who can kick a ball and likes to sleep around and that warrants a ridiculously high salary to keep them stocked up with sports cars, endless champagne and designer clobber.

If you’ve ever been to a game you’ll know the transformation men go through when watching their team play – even the most mild mannered non-swearer will turn into a foul mouthed angry yob-like individual. The words that come out of my boyfriend’s mouth when he’s at a match (and that’s just when I’m there) are disgusting. Now, I’m not a pure mouthed angel, don’t get me wrong, but some of the things people say – and often in front of young children – are awful.

I know of some men who want silence when they’re watching a game, or those that have to watch all the pre match and post match analysis and then do their own commentary as well. Not only do some of us ladies lose our man every Saturday to a game, we then have to deal with them switching on the TV later on in the evening to rewatch it all on Match of the Day!

So, sorry guys, but I just don’t get this obsession. Who knows maybe this is a gender thing and your football fantasy is the equivalent to our clothes purchasing pleasures. All I know is the most interesting football match I’ve ever seen was one back in my Uni days in the student union pub after many a glass of wine…well I had to get through it somehow!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Burying their heads in the sand: men and their Ostrich syndrome

I was asked recently to blog about what it is about men that means they don’t like to ask for help, why it is when faced with an issue they bury their heads in the sand – in what we’ll call the Ostrich Syndrome.

We all know the classic examples – lost when driving they go into denial, can’t find what they need in a shop they will keep walking around until it appears, or just leave empty handed, the list goes on.

When it comes to relationships, a lot of men are even worse. Us ladies might well get accused of talking too much but at least we share and try to solve things. Men? Oh no, the favoured approach – according to a lot of my single friends – seems to be to just start acting like an a***h**e when the going gets tough and try and deal with it that way.

Not sure if you want to be with a girl anymore? Just treat her like rubbish and wait for her to dump you. Finding it hard to break it to a lady you don’t want another date with her – don’t worry just don’t bother contacting her and ignore her attempts to contact you. Find someone else you think you fancy more than your current partner, just relax, sleep with them both until one finds out and makes the decision for you!

The same is true if something is bothering a man emotionally, quite often men seem to have this block where they don’t want to back down or show their softer side. This then leads to men giving the impression they don’t care, when in reality they really truly do. I know of guys that end up making themselves ill or really stressed out just because they can’t face the reality of their situation and talk to people around them. They’d rather deny it all and leave it to another day to deal with.

So why are men so scared to deal with things and ask for help? Why is there this feeling that it is seen as a sign of weakness to admit you need help?

Why would a man rather be deemed a nasty person with no heart, than try being honest and talk truthfully about their feelings and thoughts?

I’ve had experiences of male family members who struggled to show their emotions and boyfriends where it took a long time to face their fears and start dealing with life. I think all of us will have experienced some form of male Ostrich Syndrome at some point.

Men, when will you take your heads out the sand and realise? Us women want you to talk, you don’t need to be the strongest in control one all the time, we’d rather you just be you. Everybody makes mistakes, if you can’t find something or you take a wrong turn it doesn’t matter. If you decide after a first date we’re not quite what you thought we were, then please just tell us early on and let us know from the start rather than break our hearts after date number ten (or even year number three).

On the other hand, women reading this blog, please do rest assured they’re not all like this. There are honestly plenty of good men out there who will open up – granted the majority of the time they’ll keep most things clammed up inside, but on the odd occasion you might just get a bit of honesty or a cry for help from them…Honest…

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What do you want from me?

So, I’ve been having a think lately, what makes a good blog? What did I set out to achieve from starting this blog?

Granted, this thinking might have been encouraged somewhat by some recent research by Technorati. Although for a few weeks now I’ve been trying to find ways how to get more from my blog, or importantly how to offer more.

So, you tell me. What would you like to see on this blog? What posts do you like the best? What posts are you not so keen on? Of course I can view the stats Blogger supplies – which I do regularly – but I want to hear it from you direct.

How can I get you guys to comment more on my posts? What would make the blog better for you?

I set out when starting this blog to give me a chance to use my creative skills and get back into my writing, something I love to do. Admittedly I hadn’t written in a while and was slightly unsure about whether I was actually still any good. The approach I have tried to take, is to create a mix of poems, short stories and opinion pieces and I do honestly write them at a random, whatever comes into my head.

I get so much enjoyment from this blog, but do you the audience?

So over to you guys, what do you want from me? What can The Melican do for you?...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Should it always be fitness first?

Why is it so easy to put on weight and become lethargic, yet so hard to shift it and get motivated? A couple of years ago I decided enough was enough and was determined to get myself in shape. I did this through a variety of means – going to the gym, boxercise, swimming and eating more healthily. I managed to lose nearly three stone in weight and dropped 2-3 dress sizes. I felt much healthier and happier with myself and found myself disgusted when I looked at old photos of myself.

However, what with this year having been one where there have been a few issues to deal with, my healthy regime slacked somewhat and I have quickly piled the pounds back on. What is the key to keeping healthy and dealing with what life has to throw at you, and in turn maintaining a good social life?

I know so many women who like me find they are constantly unhappy with their size. Is it just we are never happy whatever our bodies look like? Or are some of us just destined to be on a diet or some kind of plan all our lives?

Why is it some of us get stressed and can’t eat, yet the rest get down and get the munchies? How comes some people don’t really get much enjoyment out of food and just see eating as a chore, whilst others use eating as a social experience? Or what about those lucky souls who seem to eat what they like and don’t pile on the pounds?

I wonder what age do you get to when you feel satisfied with how you look? Or do you ever reach that point? Are us ladies just hard on ourselves (and perhaps men too) and spend our whole life judging how we look – not developed enough when young, too fat, too thin, and then when old too wrinkled, too grey?

If I set aside the time I have a variety of fitness options at my fingertips – the gym, Wii Fit, Zumba workout (I’ve had a Wii game since August and still not tried it), classes at the gym, a running club where I live, swimming, boxercise indoors with my boyfriend (he used to PT), when the weather is warm I live right near a park and fields so could go for long walks/runs. Why does it always seem we don’t have enough time?

Do we in fact always have enough time and make excuses all the time in reality? One thing I find hard is when to push myself more and when to perhaps take a break when the rest of my life is a bit manic. If I have a hard day at work should I push myself to go to the gym and relieve any tension with a workout? Or should I give myself time to relax and go when I am not so tired? I really do find it hard recognising if I am being lazy or if my body is legitimately tired out and needs a break.

So, I guess, if anybody is out there who has found some exercise plan they have stuck to, someone who manages to find time always to get their fitness regime to work and has achieved a good balance between going out, having fun and keeping their weight in check, please give me a shout! Any tips are much welcomed!

I worry about classes as my coordination is bad, I’m not sure whether to join a running club as each time I go to the gym my running abilities seem to vary. Is there something ideal out there for me? Am I just making excuses? What do you think?

I am in need of some fitness friends and some workout wonders please!.... Well after I pig out for a week in Morocco first, of course...

Monday, 7 November 2011

We Need to Talk About The Help

Over the past week I’ve visited the cinema twice and on both occasions I’ve gone to watch a film based on a book. Now I’ve blogged about my views on books-to-movies before, but it really does seem as if the film companies are learning a thing or two if these latest offerings are anything to go by.

I read We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Schriver, a few years ago. Haunting, well written and disturbing, I enjoyed the book, although at first found it a hard read at times. Once I’d finished the story I felt quite exhausted to be honest and slightly uncomfortable. On leaving the cinema the other night after seeing the film version, once again I felt emotionally drained and not quite sure if what I’d experienced was pleasant or not.

Tilda Swinton is amazing as Kevin’s mother, her acting is bound to get her numerous awards for her performance. She looked and acted in a mysterious way, similar to what I’d imagined when reading the book. The actors playing Kevin at each stage of the film were reflective of how his character is described and built up in the written version and was very believable.

I did think there might be more made of the school scenes – I won’t go into detail for those people who haven’t seen it – but in a way I think it was good because they didn’t try to gain audience numbers by focussing on gore.

Sometimes I do find that when the film diverts from the book too much you end up thinking it possibly would have been more enjoyable if you’d never read the book before. If anything, it was the opposite with We Need To Talk About Kevin, at times I thought filmgoers would be a little lost if they weren’t familiar with the book. Surely that’s the point though? What’s the point of making a film of a book if it doesn’t reflect it and clashes with reader’s expectations and imaginations?

It was so refreshing to see a film made from a book that reflected it so well. When I saw One Day I again loved the way it stayed true to the book, however I didn’t agree with the casting for the main characters.

A slightly more fun experience was going to see The Help. I thought it was amazing and again would expect to see a few awards dished out. The Help offered a mix of thought provoking scenes, moments that made the audience laugh and also times that brought tears to the eyes.

I’d seen a few reviews being extremely positive about The Help and friends and colleagues had commented how much like the book it is. They were completely right, it really was like seeing the words on the book come to life on the big screen. Skeeter, Abileen, Minnie and Hilly were all so well cast and were very convincing.

I hadn’t read the book for quite a while when I saw the film, but it is one of those reads I have always remembered as I truly loved it. When you did the inevitable comparison, which always happen when you see a film after having read the book beforehand, you weren’t met with disappointment. You didn’t come up with suggestions you felt would have worked better. You just smiled and were left content that the characters in your head when reading had now leapt out the book and onto a big screen in front of your eyes.

When I’ve been to see films based on books and been disappointed I have often wondered if it’s simply because books rely on our imaginations and each reader’s perception of the story and main protagonists involved will differ. However, after seeing these two films and how well they mirror the books, I don’t think this is the case. If the film is done well, readers won’t be left unhappy.

Is this the way forward? Are we going to find filmmakers ensure they stay true to the written word and if being given the opportunity to bring a book to life make sure they do it properly? All I can say is I truly hope so. If We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Help are anything to go by, then they’ll without doubt be on to a winner.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

It’s not Christmas yet!

I know I am running the risk big time of being labelled a Scrooge, but after being bombarded with Christmas themed adverts, seasonal decorations and festive aisles in all the shops, I felt I had to blog.

My boyfriend absolutely adores Christmas, he gets really excited at all the run up to the festivities and loves splashing out on presents for everyone. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Christmas too, but I think because I have such a small family perhaps I don’t appreciate it quite as much as him.

The one thing that really gets me every year though is the fact we have to have Christmas forced down our throats earlier and earlier each year. The adverts start earlier, the shops get decorated earlier and Christmas-themed goods come out at least two months before.

Like anyone I love the feel-good vibe of Christmas time and the idea of everyone getting along, the celebrations, the lovely food, seeing loved ones faces when they open their gifts. However, I want to enjoy it at Christmas. I don’t want to celebrate Christmas when I’m considering my Halloween costume, as I’m arranging to visit a fireworks display or as I’m trying to diet to get into that dress for a night out.

In fact, my boyfriend has just asked me the date today as I tutted at yet another advert telling me Christmas is coming and said it is around 50 days left until the big day. That’s ages I’ve argued and he’s delighted in telling me when I get back from my holiday it’ll only be a month until Christmas.

I see countless status updates on Facebook about how people have finished their Christmas shopping already and I’m just waiting for the first person to announce their tree is up. One advert has just said Christmas delivery ends soon….it is early November??

When you get to Christmas as well it always seems such a big build up and it feels a bit sad when it’s over, you get ready for it for so long and then after a couple of days of celebrations it’s gone. So why make that run up start so early?

I’ll leave it there as I don’t want to start getting hate mail for daring to slate Santa and his festive frolics, but please for my sanity can we just lay off the Christmas singing and dancing just for a few weeks?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Are any of the X Factor contestants genuine?

After a hectic day of a gym visit, buying some household goods and cleaning my flat (I know how to live!) I find myself yet again on the sofa tuning in to the X Factor. It’s one of those programs I always feel slightly ashamed of watching, but I can’t help myself watching it.

As you’ve probably read in the papers, this year though the viewing figures have dropped. People can’t decide why, is it because Simon and Cheryl are gone? Is the talent not there? Are people bored of the show format? Or do more people have a life now and are actually going out on a Saturday night instead of staying in being boring like me?

Watching the program tonight I think I might have an idea why. Many, if not most, of the contestants just don’t seem believable to me. You’ve got Frankie ‘jack the lad’ Cocozza (how much have they tried to build that reputation?), Kitty – the Lady Gaga wannabe, Janet the pure, quiet little Irish girl, I won’t go on.

Everyone knows the X Factor always says they are looking for something new and different and then they reproduce some manufactured act which fits their predictable mould every time. This year it seems this is even more evident. Most of the singers in the competition to me are not being their true selves and are giving answers they’ve been told to give. They are singing songs they aren’t comfortable with and they’ve had makeovers into characters which they don’t suit them and aren’t true to them.

Now I know that when we see film stars and music acts we aren’t necessarily seeing the true them, but at least the acts that are already famous are believable.

The show is always centred on the judges and becomes a popularity contest, but this year again seems worse. Just watching Kelly Rowland tell people off for having opinions if they dare to disagree with her and Louis Walsh and Gary Barlow bicker, it just makes the show even more of a mockery. As for Alexandra Burke last week, don’t even get me started…

You have a young boy who can’t sing and was staying in the competition based on his fake image the program has tried to create. People start to admit this and then it turns into an argument between the judges to divert away from that fact. At first I was pleased to have Gary Barlow as a judge, someone who would know what they were speaking about and came from the industry and had success. However, I’m starting to think the show might be damaging for his reputation, if anything. Defending a contestant who clearly can’t sing and having petty squabbles with other team members, isn’t the best portrayal of him I’ve seen.

I won’t lie though, after nosing out my window at the local fireworks banging and sparkling outside, I will be tuning into ITV2 for the Xtra Factor to check out the fireworks on screen…