Am I Seeing Through the Matrix?

You are now entering…England? Source: http://easypcsetup.co.uk

As I have mentioned on here before, I am from a small town in the south of Scotland. As much as I complain about not being able to walk one length of the high street to the other without meeting someone you know, it’s actually pretty nice if you’ve been stuck in the house by yourself all day. People from the outside probably see it as being a bit backwards and more than a little quaint.

However, I’m not entirely sure this place actually exists outside of our own imaginations. The region I live in is called the Scottish Borders, and my hometown has the office of an MSP in it, so I am pretty sure this is Scotland. Yet somehow, it doesn’t seem like it when I turn on the TV, or read news online.

Scottish Television (STV) is not available here. In fact, my channel 3 is entitled “ITV Border” which means nothing of the sort. My “local” news is entirely focused upon Carlisle and Newcastle. When did I suddenly move across the border?

There’s not even a section for anywhere south of Midlothian on the STV news website.

There is however, one upside to this. I get to watch certain Champion’s League football games which are shown on English TV and not in Scotland.

I just find myself wondering – if Scotland votes for independence in 2014: will STV actually recognise us as part of this country?

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Meet The Men of Strictly Come Dancing Series 10

In a continuation of my post about the women of Strictly 2012/13, this is my post about the men. Have a read, see where I think the gents will come and if you have thoughts, tell me about them!

Colin Salmon and his partner, Kristina Rihanoff:

As Colin Salmon was introduced to the crowd, my mind struggled to think of who he was. It took me going to IMDB to find out he had been in Resident Evil, and that’s where I recognised him from. Those of you reading who like Bond films will recognise him also. He’s tall, so the likelihood is that he’ll do reasonably well, unless he falls flat on his face. I think Craig Revel-Horwood may want a bit of him, and the sexual comments may be directed his way.

His partner, Kristina Rihanoff is most likely to be remembered as the woman who became involved with Joe Calzaghe during his brief stint on the show. I find her a bit odd-looking, but the British public kept John Sergeant around for weeks to continue gawping at her bountiful breasts.

Johnny Ball and his partner, Aliona Vilani:

I’ll be honest, the only thing I know about Johnny Ball is that he’s Zoe Ball’s (who did very well on Strictly) dad. I’d probably be best leaving it there than pretending to be some authority on him.

His partner, Aliona, won the show last year with McFly’s Harry Judd. Since she joined the series, she has been my favourite of the female dancers, she’s always lovely when interviewed, isn’t cheeky to the judges and gets the best out of her contestant. I can’t see this couple doing well, but I may well be wrong.

Louis Smith and his partner, Flavia Cacace:

Silver medalling Olympic gymnast Louis looks like he may be all athleticism and no skill this year, judging from what he said to the walking corpse Bruce Forsythe. I think the younger women may vote for him as the strength of the male talent on the show this year is rather sparse. If Louis can devote himself as much to dance as he does to the pommel horse, he may do better than his expectations.

His partner, Flavia Cacace is one of the strongest dancers on the female side. She is the dance partner of Vincent Simone, and they do a phenomenal – absolutely unbelievable Argentinian tango (which in my opinion, is the sexiest dance ever). I think if Flavia can bring out Louis’ confidence in his own ability, they could go very far in the competition.

Michael Vaughan and his partner, Natalie Lowe:

Michael Vaughan has all the pressure on him, though perhaps not as much as his phenomenal Ashes win in 2005 (yes, I watch cricket too. I’m a bundle of surprises!). Past cricketers, Tuffnell aside, have all done very well in Strictly. There may not be enough room in the final few to fit Michael and his partner in.

I’ll put this out there right now: I’ve never liked Natalie. In her first series, and ever sine, she came off as so far up her own backside I felt like kicking her. I imagine she’s popular with men, given the masses of blonde hair, proclivity for wearing the skimpiest outfits possible and her mile-long legs. I still don’t want her to do well, cricket legend as her partner or not.

Nicky Byrne and his partner, Karen Hauer:

I have my reservations about Westlife’s Nicky for one reason: his career performing live was essentially a night of sitting on a stool, standing up near the end of every song when the key changed. There was no dancing involved in Westlife. They were the ballad kings. For this reason, I don’t think he’ll do very well.

His partner Karen, is the only new dancer to arrive this series. This being true, I have no opinion of her built up, though I’m sure that will form quickly once the show begins properly. She may have her work cut out for her first season.

Richard Arnold and his partner, Erin Boag:

Richard Arnold is a showbiz presenter on the ITV breakfast show (which changes so often, I’m afraid of putting a title as it may be wrong on Monday morning). I’m not a fan of showbiz reporters, shouting at people on the red carpet, but Richard’s opening video made him seem at least a little likeable.

Erin seemed very happy to be dancing with Richard. I imagine he’d be a great deal of fun, but may be annoying after a while. I imagine they’ll be a great couple, but don’t think they’ll get very far (although Erin is my favourite ballroom-favouring pro dancer, she’s just so graceful).

Sid Owen and his partner, Ola Jordan:

Sid Owen, or better known as his TV alias “RICKAY!” on Eastenders, is the typical useless dancer they bring in every year to laugh at. It’s good that he’s come along and agreed to be awful.

He may be around longer due to male votes though, as Ola Jordan (who has a body I would happily kill for) is dancing as his partner. Ola will try her best to kick Sid into shape, she doesn’t mess around and despite her small stature, she can be pretty scary. Potentially the first couple to leave.

Do you agree with my picks for the gentlemen, as to who will go far and who will flounder? Comment below.

Terrific! It’s Trash TV Time!

With the nights getting shorter comes something marvellous – the addition of admittedly terrible TV shows to the viewing lineup for the weekend. No matter what your proclivity for crap telly is, there’s bound to be something for your taste. X Factor has started for those who either enjoy seeing someone singing well, or for those who enjoy the horrors of the auditions. Red or Black (which I’m fairly certain no-one watches anyway) is on for people with absolutely zero taste and are quite possibly brain dead. My own personal “guilty” pleasure is Strictly Come Dancing, which previewed tonight, and which I’m going to run down for you. I love Strictly, and I have since the first series came on. I have dreams of becoming some glamorous, leggy woman in a beautiful dress (I may not be the most feminine of women, but I love pretty dresses), strutting around a dancefloor with a man in tight trousers to a piece of music that gets your energy going.

Sadly, I wasn’t blessed with natural glamour, I’m as graceful as a deer trying to walk on ice. I wasn’t ever going to be tall, given I’m pretty certain my sister and I are the first of our family to grace the wonderful world of being over 5ft tall (just). I’m pretty awful at walking, never mind dancing in high heels. And on top of all of that, I just can’t dance. For all the trying in the world, I can put my feet and arms in the right steps, but I can never look good doing it. I’m not destined to grace the grand ballroom in Blackpool, my limit’s making a total fool of myself in nightclubs when I’m too drunk to care.

Anyway, I digress. I have been quite looking forward to the new series of Strictly starting, as I’m always interested to see which celebrities will be taking part. It has taken all sorts of people to make up the cast over the years: newsreaders, soap stars, cricketers (who until Phil Tuffnell took part did very well), pop stars, all sorts. And this year is no different. Now, let me introduce you to the female stars of Strictly Come Dancing, 2012/13 version! For the men, please click here.

Dani Harmer and her partner, Vincent Simone:

Every series of Strictly, there’s always the little “pocket rocket”: the spunky, short woman who surprises everyone by doing well. Rachel Stevens has been that woman, as has Jill Halfpenny who won the show’s second series. By being small, these women usually do very well in the latin dances because their legs are shorter and they can move them faster. So it’s good to know that my short legs would be worth something if I could make them move in a rhythmical fashion. This year’s pocket rocket is Tracey Beaker star, Dani Harmer. She is a good 4 inches shorter than the next shortest contestant.

It made sense for this tiny lady to get the tiniest male dancer, Vincent Simone. I’m not his biggest fan, although his latin professional dances with his partner Flavia are absolutely phenomenal. I think Dani may be a surprise (not just to me, when I realised that she may be around the same age as me, and I watched her on CBBC).

Denise van Outen and her partner, James Jordan:

Denise van Outen may be the celebrity I dislike irrationally this series. Purely because she mentioned that it’s her excuse to wear fake eyelashes. I hate fake eyelashes. Almost as much as I despise seeing people in Scotland being orange with fake tan (you’re Scottish, you’re pale – deal with it!). Her most notable appearances on the public consciousness are as a presenter on The Big Breakfast, and she has since resurfaced in the West End, as Roxy Hart in the musical Chicago. I very much like her partner, however, James Jordan.

Himself and his wife (another dancer on the show), Ola, always stand out in the professional group dances which start each of the live shows. And the arms! Though he does have a rather ill-advised tattoo on his right arm which is quite disappointing.

Fern Britton and her partner, Artem Chigvintsev:

Fern Britton has already had her chance at the Strictly limelight, taking part in a Christmas special version of the show, where she did very well. I can’t for the life of me remember who she danced with at that time, but this lady may be one to watch. She is still a much-loved star of daytime TV, so the young and the jobless may vote for a familiar face. I don’t have any notes written on her (I took notes as the show was advancing), other than the others should definitely not write her off because she’s a bit older than the average winner. She was very impressive.

Artem won the show two series ago with soap star Kara Tointon, and is a very impressive dancer. He’s also an incredibly likeable and rather cute (in that I’d want to smother him with cuddles), so their dynamic could be like a son teaching his mother how to dance. I think this couple may be a dark horse in the competition, and they are a sure-fire hit with the general public.

Jerry Hall and her partner, Anton du Beke:

Jerry Hall, in her first interview on Strictly with Tess, came off a pure filth. Though I guess you could assume she was at least a little dirty because she is an ex of Mick Jagger’s. When asked what her ideal partner would be, she calmly replied with “Oh, someone tall, handsome and with a lot of stamina” with the cheekiest look after she’d said it. I already liked her.

My problem arises with her partner, Anton du Beke, who has competed in Strictly from the very beginning of the show, yet has never won. Why? Because no-one in the general public likes him (except my granny, but she’s the weirdest old woman you could ever know). You may have seen him on the show Hole in the Wall (which was terrible, not just because he was involved). I can’t see him winning this year either, but the couple may do better than most expect them to.

Kimberley Walsh and her partner, Pasha Kovalev:

Kimberly Walsh, of Girls Aloud and now West End fame stands to continue Rachel Stevens and Emma Bunton’s trend that girl band members do reasonably well (but don’t win) Strictly. I imagine with her practice (starting from Sound of the Underground) in choreographed dancing, she’ll do reasonably well.

I’m not so keen on her partner, Pasha, he seems far too over-confident, and that just doesn’t fit with the whole idea of the show, where everyone takes on the criticism of the judges (which with Alesha Dixon gone and replaced with the brilliant Darcey Bussell, is a truly knowledgeable panel), takes it away and come back improved the next week. I don’t want this couple to do well, but I imagine they’ll do okay.

Lisa Riley and her partner, Robin Windsor:

Lisa Riley was a much-loved part of the Emmerdale cast a few years back as the ever-likeable Lisa Dingle. She has never been a tiny, skinny girl, and has always been on the bigger side. Now, sadly, she looks bigger than ever (though, the Strictly diet has been proven to work, and her partner seems like a workhorse) and may struggle through the fitness aspect of the next three weeks of training before the tough stuff really begins.

Her partner, Robin Windsor may have to do without working lifts into his choreography this year, but I don’t think that will hold him back. He will challenge Lisa in all kinds of ways. I don’t imagine this couple will go very far.

Victoria Pendleton and her partner, Brendan Cole:

Cycling’s golden girl has taken her leave from the velodrome, and has stepped straight into the Strictly world. With legs to die for, Victoria will certainly not be lacking the stamina to survive the long training sessions. I think she could do very well indeed, if she has rhythm.

Brendan is the firecracker of the dancers, known for mouthing off to the judges after unkind comments. He won the first ever series of Strictly and has been unlucky to have had some awful partners since then. If Victoria has any semblance of rhythm, this couple could go very far indeed.

Do you agree with my picks for the Strictly ladies? If you have an opinion, please voice it in the comments below!