Things are really starting to come together here. Slowly but surely the arena and surrounding areas are being finished. Whilst in terms of organisation things are still a little chaotic, there are long delays in rehearsals and the wifi in the press centre is unreliable, things are starting to take shape here.
The Crystal Hall at night
The security is tight around the arena and it's not all that clear how to get to the press centre from the road but the police in general have been quite helpful. A few of them were reading off cards, "Please show me your identification". It's better than pointing and gesticulating although I imagine there might be some tricky moments should someone ask a question that's not on the script. Forced evictions anyone? (Allegedly!)
Today saw Russia's first rehearsal and what a rehearsal it was. The Buranovskiye Babushki are simply delightful. Only the Russians could have 20 people on the stage for the first rehearsal. They appeared to have a musical director, choreographer and stylist up there, continuously providing instructions. Eventually, when the six grannies were left to it, their performance built into a heart-warming display. The staging of this is so effective and the old girls are so endearing. Their press conference was a hoot and of course the biggest cheer went to the little old toothy one. Each of these ladies has their own story and it would be fascinating to hear more about their lives.
There are eight Buranovskiye Babushki but only six will perform in Eurovision
Ireland's Jedward took to the stage yesterday and seem to be using a water feature which looks like it belongs in a garden somewhere in Wiltshire. I have a feeling that they have a few tricks up their sleeves though. John and Edward are incredibly savvy and know exactly what they are doing. They are funny and witty and their press conference, whilst chaotic (they came in throwing popcorn around), was the most fun of the day. Linda Martin was there too - she was paying close attention to the camera angles in the rehearsal - they know exactly what they are doing. Linda looks amazing and so much younger than she did in 1992 and 1984 for that matter. I very nearly lost my glasses yesterday though after John (or was it Edward?) threw a banana at our table with brute force. I think they're really likeable, even if they did make fun of my accent when I took to the microphone!
There was an unsanctioned protest here in the city centre yesterday. The press centre at Eurovision is essentially a bubble though so it was over by the time we knew anything about it. I dare say that there will be more of this in the coming weeks. I think these people are brave if the reports by Amnesty International are anything to go by.
Things are finishing late here and Ireland's press conference didn't close until 21.30. A group of us went for a meal and decided to give the Euroclub a miss and have a relatively early night. Me? Early night? I must be getting old! On the way home a few of us decided to stop off at a local bar, The Pirate Bar. We entered into what can only be described as a knocking shop. It was like one of those scenes from a film where everyone looks up and stares, "this is a local bar for local people". One of the more bizarre moments was when a few of the punters took to the dancefloor and proceeded to gyrate in front of a large mirror. They didn't seem to be dancing for fun, but more performing - I wonder if anyone was behind the mirror? There was also an interesting lady (resembling a brothel madam) who kept changing the ashtray on the table even though none of us were smoking. After one drink and several lingering stares, we decided to leave pronto. It's experiences like this though that make Eurovision so unique which is why I love it!