Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I don't hate airports...anymore!

It feels good to feel my own bed at last...

It feels even better to reach out my hand and feel 'Milly', my lovely dog, sound asleep beside met, probably dreaming of meeting the love of her life in doggie land.

I had a rather subdued flight back to Malta on Sunday. The whole Maltese contingent was sad. There's no denying that. We had got to know that only 3 countries had voted for us. It felt bad, especially after all the pain we'd been through these past months.

The Lufthansa plane landed and as soon as we felt the soft thud of the wheels touching the runway, a good feeling seeped into all the group. That sort of good feeling that one feels when he's heading back home. Almost a relief really.

As I was getting out of the plane, my eyes settled on a sizeable crowd of airport staff waiting at the bottom of the stairs together with my family and Minister Francis Zammit Dimech. Everybody was clapping and cheering. I was led into the terminal building, my head already in a whirpool of thoughts.

As I reached the escalator which takes you to the luggage reclaim, I caught a glimpse of the arrivals area of the terminal. It was jam packed with people, most of them holding banners and cheering. They must have seen me as the cheering increased.

Once again I felt so proud to be Maltese. We Maltese have such a warm and loving heart. Even though we had not managed to make it through to the final, people still came to the airport to welcome us back. And I really appreciate this...a lot. It took away any sour after taste which the Eurovision might have left me. Those few minutes at the airport made it all worth it. And I don't really feel like hating airports anymore! :)

The sound of my typing is disturbing Milly, who is looking at me with protesting sleep filled eyes. So I'm going to stop for now!

Speak to you soon! Olivia :)

Friday, May 11, 2007

At last, I found some strength...

The last envelope started with an 'M'. I hoped it would be Malta. But it wasn't.

I kept staring at the screen, oblivious of what was happening around me. All of a sudden I felt tears pouring from my eyes. All the pressure and worries of the past three months suddenly caved in on me. It felt like being hit by a huge block of stone falling over from a cliff.

All around me I could see my Maltese friends looking shocked and sad. Everyone who had dedicated so much time and work, saw it disintegrate in a matter of minutes.

Mark tried to keep his cool as best as he could. He collected my things and we rushed to the hotel, running away from it all as fast as we could. I went to bed fully clothed, make up and all. I must admit that I spent my first few hours in bed crying and languishing in sleeplessness.

Feelings of immense guilt began to seep in. Could I have done more? Wasn't I good enough? What will the Maltese say now that I have not managed to qualify for my country? These are just a few of the thoughts which kept haunting me throughout those painful moments.

Finally I slept. Soundly.

I woke up at the sound of the door knocking. Sleepily I came out of bed and opened the door.

It was mum and dad standing there with tears in their eyes. I knew they were heartbroken. But they tried to hide it as best as they could. Mum is a tower of strength, especially in the difficult times. I hugged her as I did when I was a little girl afraid of the dark.

She said 'Olivia, life goes on. You were wonderful and the Maltese loved you yesterday'. I thought she was saying all this to comfort me, to make me feel good.

Then I opened my blog, trembling at the thought of what I would find. 70 comments came up for me to read. I read the first one, then the next and the next.

Was I reading my own blog? How could it be that after I had failed to qualify, the Maltese were sending me all these messages of support. My eyes swelled with tears, this time tears of joy and gratitude to God for making me Maltese.

It was at this point that I found the strenght to write this blog. I want to thank all of you who have been sharing my life for the past few months. You have been great company to me especially when the chips were down. I am so grateful to all the Maltese people who have shown such love and support.

We did the best we could, but we didn't qualify. And I'm really sorry for this. But Eurovision is like that. You never know what you're going to get.

I look forward to coming back to Malta, and to hugging Milly again. I want to breathe Maltese air again. Hopefully I will be doing so again on Sunday. :)

I have to go as I'm slowly but surely starting to pack. And there's a lot to pack. Believe me.

See you in Malta. Lots of love, Olivia.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The big night...

This is it, I guess.

Three months of hard work end today. Will we still be in the Eurovision tomorrow? Who knows? I hope so. I really do.

So many people have worked so hard, that it would be a real pity were it to end here. And the thing is, that there's nothing more than I can do except try and give my all tonight. That's all. The rest is in the hands of all the Europeans voting tonight. Let's just pray that they like the song.

Yesterday was full of mixed emotions.

The first rehearsal in the afternoon was an umitigated disaster. I was in a flustered mood and the contact lenses were hurting me a lot. My voice did not come out well at all and I felt something was going very wrong.

You can just imagine the mood everyone was in, in the afternoon. Nobody had the heart to tell me anything. But I knew I had done badly. Mark came into my room, pale faced. He just told me I had to do better in the evening.

I felt very low at letting down all those people and decided to go to sleep.

I woke up a totally different person. I felt strong and ready to take on the big stage.

As I set foot on stage for the second rehearsal, I immediately felt it was going to be right.

And it was. Everyone performed well. My voice sounded terrific and in control. I managed to follow almost all the cameras. And my contact lenses did not hurt at all! :)

As soon as the performance finished I met Mark and Robert backstage. Both of them had tears in their eyes. I knew we had done well. Mark could barely speak with emotion. As soon as we reached the dressing room I saw Philip, Gerard, John Claire, Mike and Joe Dalmas clapping. Yesterday morning's tragedy was over.

Now all that remains is the big night tonight. There is a lot of competition and it is going to be difficult.

I really hope we qualify. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of the 400,000 Maltese who will be glued to their television sets supporting us tonight. They deserve to see Malta perform next Saturday. And I will do my best to see that it happens!

Thank you for all your support, and I hope to have the strength to write another blog tomorrow.

Lots of love...Olivia.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A waste of space...

You know what I did today?

In a nutshell: nothing.

Today was my off day and I decided to rest as much as I could in preparation for the coming two days' of total chaos! :)

Nothing is actually a bit of an exaggeration. I had some interviews scheduled which I did dutifully. One of them was a phone call from a BBC Radio station. The guys from the beeb seemed very interested in my dog Milly, now I've learnt she has Scottish roots. I wonder what she's doing right now. She is alone at home with my sister. Now that both Mum and Dad have left home for Helsinki, she must be thinking that end of days must be drawing near. I really wish for this to be over at the very least to be with her again.

Today, as part of the treat yourself programme, instead of having a shower, I decided to fill in my bath to the full with hot water and took an hour long bath full of soothing oils and stuff. The foam was coming up to my face, when suddenly Shasha (my make-up artist) popped in, as boisterous as ever.

'Toni Sant wants to say hello' she said. I love Toni Sant. He actually was the guy who indirectly gave me the idea to start my own blog. I have had numerous occasions to speak to him, but today's was a first. I didn't really want to get out of the bath...it was feeling so good. I looked at myself...all I could see was white foam. So I asked Toni to come in the bathroom.

He was a bit wary and red faced until he realised that the foam was masking everything. I steered clear of asking him which country would win in his opinion. Toni has a god-sent knack of guessing the winning act. He did so spectacularly last year in naming Lordi.

He volunteered this information himself. 'There is no clear winner this year' he said matter of factly. 'However I believe that Malta has never had a better entry', he concluded.

I could not resist it: 'So who will win in your opinion'.

As diplomatic as ever Toni said: 'Olivia, I know I'm biased but I believe that Malta has as good a chance as any other country doing its best in Helsinki of winning this year's contest.'

That's good to hear. I looked down at the foam and realised that it was disappearing steadily. 'You had better leave Ton...I don't want to shock you or anything' :) Toni left gracefully. I love this guy. Anyway, anyone wanting to read Toni Sant's blog can do so by clicking here.

I am now dressed and ready to go to today's choice of parties. In the meantime I continue to read the hundreds of emails and comments that are coming. Most comments have now shifted on me using the catwalk. I'm afraid that this is not possible as the catwalk is not for the performer's use. There is no easy way to access it and the sound monitors stop exactly at the spot where I'm standing. So the platform cannot be used by anyone.

The other sticking point seems to be the white drapes used by Jes and Joseph. I don't really know what to say. We've had quite a number of positive reactions regarding the stage performance here and I really think that we should not do any drastic changes. I strongly believe that on the night all will look well. Of course, this is just an opinion, but believe me that as a whole I really feel comfortable with all that we have on stage.

Tomorrow is a very big day for me. I know most of you would love to help out. A short prayer for the Maltese contingent would be appreciated.

Speak to you again tomorrow...hopefully I wouldn't have been such a waste of space as today. :)

Love, Olivia. :)

Monday, May 7, 2007

My second attempt...

I have just woken up.

Yesterday was another big day for all of us here. The second rehearsal is an all important event for a big list of reasons.

My biggest worry was the dress. Since my past has been plagued with wrong clothing choices, I still tremble at the thought of showing a dress for the first time...sort of deja' vu, don't you think??!! :)

I was ready waiting at the hotel reception at 11am. Robert insists on punctuality and even though he doesn't really say anything when I'm late, his face speaks volumes. So I did what I could to hurry and managed to land in reception in British punctuality.

Sunday in Helsinki is quite different from the rest of the week. There was no traffic at all and the trip to the Hartwell Arena took us less than 10 minutes (compared to 20 or 30 minutes during the week).

As soon as we arrived at the venue, Mark setup one of his keyboards for a voice rehearsal with Claire. Mark is an excellent piano player and has been collecting keyboards for a long time. He insisted on getting his favourite one to Helsinki: a red Korg Karma! :) He must be getting superstitious I guess!

I have learnt a lot from Claire Massa. Even though my style and her style differ, the techniques still apply. Especially when it comes to warming up your voice. I have found that a good warm up guarantees a good performance. And that's what we did. All you could hear when passing by the Maltese dressing rooms was 'La La La La La La La La La'. And all other sort of voice exercises. We spent almost an hour doing them, by which time a YLE official came knocking on our door asking us to go backstage to setup the mics.

I was soon microphoned and ready on stage. This is the first time that I'm able to see anything while performing. And the reason is simple. I'm wearing lenses. I still have to get used to them, but they make a big difference. Since I'm miopic, when performing I take off my specs. And believe, me. On stage I don't see anything at all. Everything is just a blur. This time, Mark insisted I had to follow the cameras. In order to follow the cameras I had to see the red tally lights so the only solution was wearing contacts. It worked.

In the distance I could see Mark and John Demanuele talking to the Director of Lights. This director is a swell sort of guy...spiky hair and a gentle face. He has been doing the lights for six Eurovisions. And believe me...he's good.

'Standby...first rehearsal', said a voice in the background.

I went into line with Joseph, Jes and the three girls. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the first opening shot. We decided to keep the steadycam shot with a difference. He was asked to focus on Joseph and Jes rather than show us lined up standing like school children waiting to be reprimanded by the teacher! And it was looking good. I could even hear Mark clapping in the background. I think someone suggested this on the blog. He was right.

The voice was coming out well when suddenly two big fans started running. I almost choked! :) The power of the fans is surpising. And I had to get used to it. But when I did get used to it, it was heaven. You almsot forget you are on the Eurovision stage.

After about six tries the rehearsals were over. I headed to the viewing room to see the finished product. I must admit it is all looking good. I've been reading some comments on this blog regarding wideshots. Whilst I do agree that closeups are important, some wideshots have to be included. Otherwise there would be no establishing shots. And establishing shots are very important to put whoever is on stage in a context. Apart from the fact that when the venue is full, it would look good to include shots of people clapping and waving their flags during the song. Another consideration is that since most have viewed the rehearsal on youtube, the size and quality of the picture are not really ideal for long shots. They look empty. But believe me, in full size they look so so so good! :)

And the dress seems to have pleased a lot of people. So we are definitely going to use it for the semifinal. That's decided.

The viewing room guys warily asked us if we were happy with the job. The answer was plain and simple: Yes. Very happy. Some minor adjustments and we're there. One nagging point was the delay on the backing vocalists' voice. Philip asked the sound man to reduce the delay in certain points as it was getting overlayed on the proper voice making them sound badly. It will be setup in time for the dress rehearsal...that's what we've been told.

The door is knocking...oh God...it's Robert and he's waiting for me to go for a rehearsal in the local gym. 'Come on Olivia...don't be late', I can hear him saying.

So I must go.

Speak to you tomorrow...Olivia :)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Practice makes perfect...

I woke up earlier than I had planned.

After yesterday's rehearsal, I literally fell into bed at around 8pm, and slept all night long without ever waking up till this morning at around 7am. I woke up feeling refreshed and well rested. It's important to rest. I've learnt that your voice varies a lot with exhaustion. And after all these years, I want to do the best I can over here.

It's been quite a lazy day today. Robert (the Maltasong boss) managed to book a gym studio for a 2 hour training session for our performance. I've been watching the rehearsal on my laptop, taking notes of my mistakes and enjoying the gradual improvement we did with each take.

Now that yesterday's excitement has been consumed, I can dissect yesterday's performance with an open mind.

There will be huge improvements. That's for sure. First of all I think the choreography needs to be more spaced out so as to avoid it looking clustered. The stage was smaller than we had expected. And the Director asked us to move the gong forward in order to have space for the steadycam shot in the beginning. Mark told me that lights will be improving a lot. Since we changed all their lighting setup, they couldn't programme certain effects in time. We would obviously be expecting these changes for tomorrow's rehearsal. I'm told all in all everything will look much more spectacular.

And...I know most of you will love this...I will be wearing the dress. I must say that the Roberto Cavalli material is enticing to say the least. We will see how it will blend in with the stage and decide accordingly. There are obviously other options, which we are keeping in the closet for now.

In the meantime, today I got to meet most of the Maltese press who are covering the event. I feel that I must personally thank Norman Hamilton who has been sponsoring Maltese journalists for quite some time. Were it not for him, many Maltese journalists would find it quite difficult to cover the event.

Ariadne Massa from the Times has been convering Eurovision for quite some time. She loves Eurovision and her writing is excellent. Reporting Eurovision is a full time job. There are no two ways about it.

Jason Busuttil and Pierre Cachia from Super 1 have been joined by Deo Grech this year. Jason is the big guy in the photo. He is a good friend who has helped me a lot throughout my career. He was personally responsible for the Qormi Farewell Concert. Deo is responsible for the OGAE Malta website. He is extremely dedicated and his site is updated a lot.

Today I didn't get to meet Frederick from NET and Cyrus from ESCMALTA. The two of them are very professional people who are eurovision addicted.

The Xarabank team is simply wonderful. They have a crew of seven covering the event. PJ, Peter, Mandy, Angie, Olwyn, Charles Ahar and Pablo are all working round the clock for next Friday's programme. I am told that it will be broadcast live. It's a first for Maltese television and I wish them well.

Well...there are bound to be others, but I have to go.

Tomorrow is another big day. Second rehearsal and all that. And practice makes perfect...I hope you will like it better. And I appreciate all your comments. Have read them all! :)

Speak to you tomorrow! Olivia

Friday, May 4, 2007

My first attempt...

I had been dreading it for quite some time.

Would I be up to it? Would my voice come out well? How will the choreography look?

These thoughts were constantly on my mind as we drove from our hotel in Helsinki to Hartwell Arena, the Eurovision Song Contest Venue.

As usual we were met at the gate by security officers who led us to a metal detector. I had quite a lot of metal on me...not the lethal type mind you. :) Just belts, jewellery and other innocent stuff, which I had to take off. I find security check points so inconvenient. But then it's better safe then sorry I guess.

I must say that the Finnish are nice people. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with a smile. Everyone is willing to help and as a whole they have tried their best to make our lives that much easier. Anna, our hostess, is wonderful. We could not have wished for a better hostess. Kind and understanding. Even though I've been told that her students were actually quite glad to see her go on a ten day trip to Helsinki, thus leaving them behind. She is supposedly strict with them...she doesn't let them swear in class. Which is just as well, I suppose.

I spent the first hour at the arena warming up my voice. Travelling with us is voice coach Claire Massa, who has been just wonderful. You can immediately see she has studied voice, and she knows all the correct techniques regarding warming up and voice training. I've learnt a lot from her.

In the middle of a string of notes, a knock on the door stops us cold. It is time. I rush out of my dressing room and head off to the technical area, where the audio guys are waiting for us to help us put on our microphones and in-ear monitoring headphones.

Accompanying me are Jes and Joseph together with the three backing vocalists. Robert Abela collects all our accreditation tags so that we do not lose them. Robert is one of the most considerate persons I have ever met. He likes to give the opposite impression, mind you, but I've come to know him to well now. Mark, my boyfriend is visibly excited. He is taking care of the television part of things. He's good at that.

Norway are ready and off we go on stage. As soon as I set foot on stage, my legs began to wobble. The excitement was getting to me. I took deep breaths and told myself: 'Come on Olivia...you can do it'. The first few steps were difficult. The next steps were just fine. The stage is welcoming and warm.

As my eyes set on the empty arena, I could see Mark panicking in the background. The technical staff had chosen blue as a background but Mark wanted a reddish colour. He agreed to try out the blue one. I knew it was shortlived. Once he makes up his mind on something, he will see that it happens.

My first try was not that good. I was not comfortable enough and something was bothering me. All of a sudden, all the stage went red and warm. Mark came up to me and said: "It's going to be fine...there was a mistake in the colours...it's ok now.'

The second rehearsal was much better. And it got better and better, up to the point that I am now quite happy with it all.

Mark and John spent quite some time with the director, fine tuning the lights and choosing some shots over others. I could see that with each performance, improvements became visible. And it made feel good to know that I was in such good hands.

The 40 minutes were up and I rushed to the viewing room. Philip (the composer) asked the sound engineer for some minor changes, while Mark asked the TV director for some particular shots.

20 minutes later I was in the press conference area, answering questions and singing an unplugged version of a very nice Maltese song written by Alfred C. Sant called 'L-Ghannej'. A good number of press attended. I was told that most of the press reacted favourably to the song. I hope they are telling me the truth.

And now, here I am, sitting in bed, resting for God knows what's coming tomorrow.

One thing is certain. I am happy at the results of my first attempt.

I feel I must thank all those who have help today amongst which I really feel I should name Albert, Mike Spiteri, Joseph Dalmas, Robert Abela, Philip Vella, Gerard James Borg, Claire Massa, John Demanuele, Joseph Chetcuti, Jes Sciberras and Martin Gauci. Without the help of all these guys, we would not have made it today.

Let's just hope things continue on the up side.

I have to go...speak to you tomorrow...:) Olivia

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Helsinki...here I come! :)

I am finally in Helsinki.

And what a relief. I left home at 8am this morning and stepped inside our hotel in Helsinki fourteen hours later at 10pm.

After a tearful goodbye at the airport to my family and to darling Milly who came to the airport wagging her tail and saying goodluck, I joined the rest of the Maltese delegation for the final Eurovision trip to Helsinki.

There are no direct flights from Malta to Finland. We had to travel through Frankfurt and needless to say, travelling tires you out. As you can see from this selection of photos, the Maltese contingent slept through most of the trip.

Joseph and Jes, the violinist and the dancer, are visibly
engrossed in deep slumber while they dream away their performance on stage.

Joseph Dalmas, a Maltasong member is also busy snoring and keeping the rest of us awake. Joseph is the kind of guy who glues the whole team together with his cheerful attitude and his jokes, more often than not aimed at Mike Spiteri, a member of Maltasong who participated in the ESC in 1995.

Philip and Gerard did not go to sleep.
They are too excited.

I did not manage to sleep as well. Maybe it's because I want to savour every moment of it all. It's been so long. Eleven years after my first try, and here I am, fulfilling a life long dream. It almost seems too good to be true. I'm afraid I might wake up and find that it was all a dream.

It's not a dream however. It's for real and it's happening...fast.
I will do my best to write a blog every day...just to say thank you to all of you who have been following me throughout the years.

I must go to sleep now. A very important rehearsal awaits me tomorrow. And I must do well.

Speak to you tomorrow! :) Olivia

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Had I been Philias Fogg...

My suitcase is full.

I simply cannot squeeze anything else in it. But I must. Most of my stuff is lying on my bed with Milly running over my clothes. She's excited. She knows something big is happening. I will really miss my little pet.

A lady called Janetta left a note in my blog regarding Milly as shown below:

I have checked Milly's pedigree and wonder of wonders, the name is Ch. Nolsien Nuala! I have today learnt that Milly comes from Ayshire in Scotland! :) I must buy her some tartan coloured clothes. She loves to wear a red vest in winter...it keeps her warm and cosy.

Anyway, dear Janetta. Milly is a wonderful dog and she has made me a much happier person. If you send me a mail on mail@olivialewis.net I will send you some photos! :)

As I was saying, my oversize suitcase is full. And I am in a quandary. Anna my contact in Finland has just informed me that the weather has turned sour. Frederick from NET TV who has just arrived in Helsinki was seemingly feeling cold when I called him earlier on. So I have to pack cold weather clothes, which are quite rare in any Maltese wardrobe. We don't really have cold weather over here. And this winter has been so hot. I've been to Mellieha today and lo and behold, the bay was full of people, some of them swimming.

I've decided to buy another suitcase. My aunt Catherine is helping me pack. Let's hope that what remains fits in the other suitcase.

Had I been Philias Fogg, going round the world in 80 days would have been impossible. I would have taken too many clothes and would probably have been left stranded. Poor Mr Passepartout! :)

Tomorrow is my last day in Malta. So it should be full enough!

Speak to you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saving Private Olivia...

I never thought of joining the army.

I'm not exactly the type of person who enjoys discipline and drills. However I must say that even in the army, there is a bright side of life.

One must always look on the bright side of life. Even if at first it looks like the final moments of Dante's Inferno.

I have been saving this blog for the last couple of days. The reason is simple. I was waiting to get photos. 'Photos of what?' I can sense most of you thinking.

My day in the army is the answer.

And not just my day. Philip and Gerard (the composer and author) had to join in as well. The sort of boot camp was organised by 'Xarabank' which is Malta's most popular and watched programme.

At first I accepted to do it just for fun. But even though it was fun, we did some serious stuff as well.

On arrival to the Army HQ, we were given Army Uniforms to wear. Philip had to make do with their largest size, which was a couple of sizes (underestimated) smaller than his own size. Philip is becoming overweight by the minute. Maybe it's the stress taking its toll. Gerard on the other hand remains slim and calm. Too calm for the Army Sergeant who started shouting at us, left, right and center.

The army drill is not as simple as it might look. We were shown how to march properly and how to respond to orders. Philip is even more clumsier than I am. And that takes a lot. He could not manage to co-ordinate his arms and legs. They just go wherever they please! :)

Combat training was next. They painted our faces with camouflage colours. It actually looks nice. We shot blanks, threw smoke grenades and rescued a wounded soldier...who turned out to be Philip. He looked much better now lying peacefully on the stretcher. :)

The exercise I enjoyed most was absailing.

At first we tried it out by climbing down a structure at the Army's HQ. We then moved on to a proper cliff. As I looked down from the top, I started regretting getting into this fix. But as soon as I decided that I had to do it (I really had no choice :)) then I found it to be exhilirating, totally enjoyable!

So Saving Private Olivia Day was a success after all!

I must go as I am late for the last rehearsal for the concert. I am really looking forward to tonight's show. It is my first concert and most of all I am singing for the first time with a lot of friends like Ira Losco, Fabrizio Faniello, Debbie Scerri, Lawrence Gray and a host of others.

So speak to you tomorrow...I hope I wake up early enough! :) Olivia

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My lips were sealed...

It had been on the tip of my tounge for ages.

My fingers were itching to type it down in my blog.

But I couldn't say anything. My lips were sealed. Now it has finally been officialy announced. An agreement has been struck between the Maltasong Board and MTV Europe to promote Malta using Vertigo. Yahoo!!! :)

This decision has come a long way. There was no doubt that everybody thought it was a good idea. But good ideas do not run on their own steam. They need finances.

MTV Europe is represented in Malta by a company owned by Grace Borg, the former Maltasong Chairman. Through her intervention, MTV offered to air a number of television spots throughout this month and up till the Eurovision Song Contest, next month.

The offer was made quite some time ago. But as I said, it couldn't materialise due to lack of funds. It was only through the personal intervention of Minister Francis Zammit Dimech that this important step has become a reality.

I really must say that the Minister has been a great help. He has tried to assist in all he could and I am pleasantly surprised that a person who has such an important job finds the time to get involved and go to such lengths to see that something happens.

Promotion is an important tool in the Eurovision Song Contest sphere. It is not the only ingredient in a winning package, don't get me wrong. But good promotion normally brings good results. And this is exactly why the MTV offer couldn't be missed.

I am even happier that I am able to contribute that little bit to putting Malta on the map as a tourist attraction. Using a Eurovision song to promote the island is a new way of approaching things. I just hope it works! :)

Now to something completely different. I've been invited to go to a bootcamp with the Malta Armed Forces. It lasts one whole day. Supposedly Philip and Gerard (the composer and author) are coming as well. I am dying to see who is the macho, out of the three of us.

I will let you know more tomorrow. Hopefully with photos.

Speak to you again tomorrow! :)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I feel good...

At last.

My throat has stopped hurting me and my voice is back to it's loud past.

And what's more. I'm in good spirits and really feeling ready for the hectic two weeks which lay ahead. In 10 days' time I will be on a plane to Helsinki. I'm looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to meeting Anna again this week. She's coming over from Cyprus and staying here with us till we all leave (including her) for the song contest.

Anna wasn't coming with me to Helsinki, but I convinced her otherwise. I would have felt uncomfortable without her nearby...at last I've found someone whom I trust with my performance moves...or lack of them! :)

The backing vocalists are also coming to Malta this week. I've never actually met them. So I hope all will go well. I've heard they are extremely good and professional. They will be rehearsing both the voice part and the choreography. All three of them have certain moves to learn...at least we have the time.

On Friday, I will be attending Malta's most popular TV programme called 'Xarabank'. It is going to be held from the Valletta Waterfront on the eve of my farewell concert during the Malta Fireworks Festival. Peppi Azzopardi the presenter told me that almost 3,000 people have confirmed they would be attending...wow!

The farewell concert will be fun. It is being presented by Zoo. I've heard they have quite a few surprises for the crowds. Some of my friends like Ira Losco, Lawrence Gray, Glen Vella, Fabrizio Faniello, Ludwig, J. Anvil, Klinsmann, William Mangion, Mike Spiteri, Freddie Portelli, Julie Zahra, Debbie Scerri and many others will be performing.

So if you are in need of a good laugh, and enjoy music, this concert is a must. I really hope all goes well! :) It would surely help me go to Helsinki with a big smile! :)

So, in a nutshell and without beating around the bush...I feel good.

Let's just hope things stay this way!

Speak to you tomorrow...:) Olivia

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

You give me fever...

You may be wondering why I haven't posted anything for the past few days.

Well, here it is.

The past weeks have finally taken their toll. After a somewhat sleepless night, I woke up early Tuesday morning, right after coming back from the arduous trip to Belgium and the Netherlands feeling a bit oozy. Milly (my cocker spaniel) wasn't behaving as usual. That is, she was actually behaving for once. No running around and jumping on our bed.

She probably sensed I was not feeling well. I started dressing up and looked at the bright sunlight seeping through my semi closed window. How come was I feeling so cold when the temperature on my kitchen clock was 22 degrees?

I had a fever. 102 Farehneit to be precise. I rarely have fevers. The last time I had one was five years ago. And it was related to over exertion. As it is this time.

I'm not exactly a hypochondriac. I rarely go to the doctor. Only when I cannot stand my mum's continuous grumbling that I go. I find that a visit to the doctor is heaven when compared to one of mum's grumbling sprees.

But I had to go to the doctor, as I was not feeling well at all. It turns out I am a bit overtired and have a cold. Therefore, I had to stay in bed, the doctor said.

I immediately thought of my trip to Romania. I was supposed to leave for Bucharest tomorrow. I thought I had better try to rest and go.

By yesterday evening, I still had a fever. Robert (the Maltasong Boss) phoned. I have come to know Robert very well, to the point that I realised he was very worried. Without hesitations he told me that he was cancelling the trip to Romania, so that I could rest.

Robert is one of the best persons I have ever met. So considerate and so professional at the same time. Being a successful businessman he has been dedicating almost all of his time to this festival. Not everyone's piece of cake believe me. And he knows how to take a decision and stand by it. Not always an easy proposition.

So here I am, lying in bed, sipping Sprite and taking Panadols to keep my fever down. I am feeling much better now. Another two days, and I'll be as good as gold. Milly is already starting to misbehave again. So I must be getting better. 'Stop it Milly!' I shout at her as she bounces on my laptop and deletes a whole paragraph from my blog! :)

Speak to you tomorrow! :) Olivia

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Aviator...

I hate airports.

I do not wish to sound repetitive.

But, I hate airports.

Since the message should have gone through by now, let me explain the predicament I am in at the moment.

I woke up at 4am this morning. Not even the birds had woken up. I could hear them chirping angrily at the noise I was making in the process of repacking my flight bag for the zillionth time this month.

Off to the airport for my flight to Brussels. I was first meant to go to Munich and then head off to Brussels from there. I arrived in Munich at 11:45am.

As soon as I set foot in the terminal, the word delayed came springing on the screen right next to the Brussels flight. Up till then I was not worried. Delays happen...especially in airports.

I was just coming to the check in desk, when in the distance the word 'delayed' changed to 'cancelled'. I quickly searched for my glasses just to make sure I was seeing right.

My eyesight is not perfect, but I was right. The flight was cancelled.

So here I am, stranded in Munich Airport since all flights to Brussels Airport have been cancelled due to a fireworkers' strike. I am now sitting down, looking pretty in the Terminal, waiting for news and typing this blog at the same time! :)

The problem is I was meant to be in Hasselt for a television programme, TVL Studio live, at 5pm. That's obviously gone now.

My only hope is that of taking a flight to Amsterdam. As soon as I get there I will probably hop on a train to Antwerp where I'm supposed to be interviewed by a tv magazine show called De Rode Loper. Then off to a party at the D-Club.

I was meant to watch The Aviator the other day. I'm glad I'didn't. I'm not a big aviation fan at the moment!

Will probably post again later on tonight. Let's hope I make it to Antwerp! :)

Speak to you soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shall we dance, Anna?

I'm writing today's blog from my Minsk hotel room bed. I look to my side...but Milly's not here. She is probably on my mum's bed at home thinking of me. I really miss her. Going to sleep without her seems weird. Something's missing.

It has been a full day in Minsk. Everything's gone well. I've met loads of people and the press seem to be liking the song. We had some time to wander around Minsk. It is a nice place, extremely up and coming. The cold is unbearable however. I had to wear all my manly vests underneath my clothing in order to preserve some warmth. I will soon be looking the size of Joe Dalmas who is accompanying me! :)

The team behind my site have finally decided to reveal that Anna Christodoulidou will be doing the choreography for Vertigo. I am so, so, so glad that Anna has been chosen! She is wonderful. And she knows her job very well.

The Vertigo choreography will look good. I've seen it now and I'm convinced. Nothing overdramatic, mind you. The song is dramatic in itself. No need to emphasise the obvious. But the blending of moves and other surprises which I'm not supposed to talk about, will make the song complete.

At least that's what I hope.

Jes with his gong and Joseph with his violin have blended well. More than I thought they actually would, especially in Joseph's case. But Anna has handled
them well.

Robert Abela, the Maltasong boss, has managed to smile for the first time in weeks. The choreography part was killing him. Look at him. His hair has grown white with worry! He likes what Anna is proposing, just like the rest of us do. Anna will be coming back in a couple of weeks. The three female backing vocalists will also be joining us in Malta round about the same period. They were chosen by Philip Vella with the help of the Swedish guys at G:songs. I'm told they're very good.

Hopefully all will work out well. Even though things are looking up, there are a million things which could go wrong. Hopefully none of them will. Especially my moves.

As many of you may have noticed I'm not really the graceful type. Clumsy is the right word in my case. Anna has given me loads of tricks which I am adopting when practicing my moves. It's not looking as bad as I thought it would. I'm actually getting better! :)

So shall we dance, Anna? I hope so, I really do.

Off to sleep as I have an early flight to Vienna to catch. Have to be at the airport at 3am! Grrr...I hate airports! :)

Speak to you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Airport hopping and cold spells!

Airport Minsk 2 - Arrivals. The much awaited sign comforts me. I have finally arrived in Belarus's capital city. After more than 15 hours of travelling, I really need a good night's rest.

It took three flights to get here. The first one left Malta at 5am. I actually went to the airport at around 3:30am. My mother is so fussy when it comes to travelling. So she made me go to the airport two hours before the flight. If it had been up to me, I would have been there at the last possible moments.

I hate airports. A lot.

My first flight landed in Rome at around 7am. The next flight to Vienna was scheduled at 11am. Four long hours waiting at the airport, having nothing better to do than going through the same shops for the millionth time and reading countless magazines. I have become an expert on relationships, sex, how to become a millionaire and countless other subjects which so commonly crop up in these sort of publications.

We arrived in Vienna at 1pm. The stop was not as lengthy as that in Rome. One hour later we were on our way to Belarus.

And finally we're here. My, it's cold! I'm really not made for cold weather. This is nowhere near Malta...Malta is a furnace compared to this. I hardly manage to send a quick sms home to reassure them I have arrived safe and sound. My fingers are hurting me too much for smsing!

We are immediately taken to our hotel. Minsk is a lovely city. We go through Victory Square and manage to catch a glimpse of the Railway Station. It is a marvel. The hotel is nice as well. The bed seems so nice and welcoming. The problem is that I cannot go to sleep. I have to go to a party somewhere in Minsk at around 12:30am. At least that's when the taxi is picking me and Joe Dalmas (a Maltasong representative who is accompanying me). Joe is such a nice person. He always has a smile ready for all occasions. I really think his presence will be a great help for us, to tide us over the difficult times when we are in Helsinki.

It seems I have a full day planned tomorrow. I'm supposed to be meeting the press. They will probably ask me to sing part of the Belarus song. Which is no problem as I like it a lot. I also have my own song recorded in Russian. I had participated with this song in Kazakistan. It may come useful as well.

Anyway...I really have to go as my internet credit is running out. And hopefully, I will still have enough credit to post tomorrow's blog, together with a couple of photos.

Speak to you tomorrow.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter ramblings...

It has been a hell of a weekend. Not in terms of work done, which is very little, but in terms of food eaten, which is quite a lot!

The traditional Easter Sunday Lunch is well celebrated in Malta. Whole families gather round an improvised table and eat away for the best part of three or four hours, before succumbing to the pleasures offered by an afternoon siesta.

Our Easter Lunch was no different than previous years. As all the family gathered round the table, a dish of crusted bruschettas appeared on the horizon as if from nowhere. Three dishes of seafood appeared next. Traditionally we usually have baked macaroni as a starter. We call this dish 'imqarrun -il forn' which basically translates in 'macaroni cooked in an oven'. However we tried out something different this time round. A big roast of beef soon found its place in the middle of the table. Wine was plentiful. A conoisseure wuld not have touched it, but it still went down well with everyone. 'After the first two glasses they all taste the same' my grand father used to say! Good old house wine produced by a friend of ours from Bahrija.

Cheese and dessert ended this joint effort at consuming the largest quantities of food imaginable. Then off to sleep.

I have just woken up, feeling a bit oozy. I must have overslept. As I start typing out today's blog, I realise that this is actually my last weekend in Malta before I leave for Helsinki. On Tuesday I restart my promo tour in Belarus. I've been to Minsk a couple of times before and have a couple of friends living there. It should be fun.

I come back to Malta on Thursday and leave again on Friday, this time off to Brussels to meet dear Olivier. Olivier runs an extremely popular website in Belgium and he has organised a promo tour for some Eurovision participants. I enjoy Brussels. Especially since my cousing Jackie lives in Brussels working as a lawyer with the European Commission.

I come back from Brussels on Monday and head off to Romania soon after...

It's going to be tough. I will miss my family and most of all darling Milly, who will have to make do with my mum's bed from now on. I wish I could take her to Brussels. Although I'm not sure the hotel guys would approve! :)

I have to go. The Danish Royal National Ballett is in Malta together with HRH The Princess Benedikte who seems to be a very nice person indeed. They are here for an event organised by Noel Buttigieg Scicluna who is Malta's Ambassador in Copenhagen. Noel is a friend of Mark's (my partner) and Mark will be filming and directing this show with a 9 camera setup at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta. So he's a bit edgy and all that and I don't want to uspet him by being late! :)

Have to go.

Speak to you again tomorrow!

Friday, April 6, 2007

A tale of two fishes...

Good Friday is a public holiday in Malta. And thank God for that (literally). Most Maltese fast for a whole day on Good Friday and are usually not fit for work.

At the very least, no meat is consumed. Only fish is allowed.

Don't get me wrong. I like fish. Even though I honestly do not see a rational distinction between fish and meat. If one shouldn't eat meat, I don't really see why one should eat fish. Poor fish! It's a bad day for them today! :)

Speaking of fish, I always wanted to keep an aquarium with two goldfish inside. I don't anymore. The last attempt wasn't very succesful. Especially for the fish. I simply cannot seem to control how much food I give them. And goldfish have grown an annoying tendency of dying on me. So I haven't pursued my aquarium dream anymore.

This morning I woke up nice and early, knowing that I had very little to do. So I put on my oldest track suit and my running shoes, put an excited Milly on a leash and went out for a walk. I live at 'Bahrija' which is an extremely small village on the limits of Rabat, Northern Malta. This place is a heaven on earth. It is literally found in the middle of a vast stretch of farm land. Rubble walls and old roads link this place to the 'normal' world. I really feel that living here is one big holiday. It doesn't really feel like a home...it feels more like a retreat. Which is just as well, since I do not spend much time here.

Milly loves the countryside. She goes mad as soon as her tiny paws set foot outside. I don't let her off the leash. I really worry that something could happen to her so I don't take risks. My walk took almost two hours. I really try to cleanse my mind during these outings. It is the only time I am able to think properly.

My thoughts today go to the British soldiers killed in Basra. Joanna Dyer, Ella Dlugosz, Kris O'Neill and Adam James Smith died because of the war. The futility of their deaths makes me sad. One photo shown around the world was that of Kris holding his baby son. It is so unfair on the little child. His father died whilst serving his country. But this child will remain fatherless for the rest of his life. Moments like this show the real cruelty of war. War should be the last resort, not the first option. I think many have realised that by now.

I arrive at home and immediately go to the kitchen. Two lovely fishes are staring at me from the kitchen table. It surely is a tale of two fishes today. So let's make the most of it!

Happy Easter to you all! Speak to you again tomorrow.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The 11th Year...

It has finally happened. After 11 long (and sometimes agonizing) years my Eurovision Single is out. And I must say it has been worth the wait.

My family and friends spent the whole of last night and today, all day long, packing cd's and dvd's into their cases.This is a tedious job which has to be done. We decided to pack everything ourselves in order to keep the costs down. The reason is simple: we wanted to sell the dvd and cd pack at the least possible price.
In fact the end price was set at Lm3 (the equivalent of 7 Euros). This price gets you a CD which includes the original Vertigo, the unplugged version and the remix, together with a DVD of the music video plus a very nice making of the video.

My mother managed to spend the whole morning sitting down and packing DVDs. It took us a great deal to get her up from her chair. She's getting old! :)

Catherine. my aunt, similarly spent the day packing. The night shift was made up of Angie, Pablo, Louise and David who happens to be my boyfriend's brother.

The design was done by a new guy whom I've just met. He calls himself Mattu...short for Matthew. His work is brilliant and I'm really happy at what he has managed to design.

All printing was managed by Stephen (who is also my boyfriend's brother). He managed to get the intricate designs printed in style, without actually charging for his work. Without Stephen's help we would never have made it.

Everything has now been packed. And as I lay in bed typing this blog, I can only say one thing. The 11th Year has been totally worth the wait. I even manage to smile as I think of all my previous second placings. And that says quite a lot! :)

Goodnight! Speak to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Meet the parents...

I was born on the 18th October, 1978. It was a Wednesday. They tell me I was quite a heavy baby. Nothing has changed as such.

My appetite was at its best from the very beginning. There again. Nothing has changed much. I cried a lot at night. My father could not sleep for the best part of six months. My mother used to sleep and care for me during the day.

My mum and dad are the single reason why I am now representing my country in the Eurovision Song Contest. They did so much for me when I was young. As soon as they realised I could sing, they pushed me and encouraged me to improve my voice. They enrolled me in countless children's competitions.

My first competitive festival was in 1986. I was eight years old. I can still remember my trembling feet going up the steps as if they were leading to a hangman's scaffold. As soon as my face appeared on stage I was met by a crowd of two hundred waiting for me to sing. 'You are strong Olivia...you will do it', I said to myself. I placed one before last.

The next years were spent participating in almost two hundred festivals. I won all of them.

My father is a tile layer by profession. His work is extremely sought after and I've never known him to be without a job. He is diligent and professional. He is also soft spoken and shy.

My mother is loud and outspoken. Maybe that's why she clicked on so well with my father. A bit on the heavy side of things she loves eating and making other people eat as much as she does. Most pets we've had at home actually died from cholesterol. But they died happy. And that's mum. She is so altruistic and caring. Mum would give anything to make other people happy. Even at her own expense.

My parents have always wanted one thing from life. That me and my sister do well in life. They spared no money on us. Even if it meant that they could not afford to live as good a life as they wished. I still like to stare at my graduation photo. Mum and dad look so proud! Even as I speak my eyes go wet. Maybe it's because I'm a bit tired.

Mum and dad are simple people. But they have given their life to us. And I will always remember that. For the rest of my life.

Thank you mum. Thank you dad. I love you.

Speak to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Life is a box of chocolates...

'Life's a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get' said Forrest Gump's mother. And I agree with her. Life is a box of chocolates.
Actually, life is a complicated box of chocolates. There's nothing simple in life.
My life is getting more complicated by the hour. As you may know I have spent the past weeks looking at different choreographies by different people. Most of them have gone that extra step to come up with something original and spectacular. And I appreciate that a lot.
However, I am only human and obviously I have a personal favourite.
Anna is a choreographer from Cyprus - the one whom I danced with in the Cypriot ESC presentation a few weeks ago. And while I can honestly say that I liked most of the choreographies which were put forward to me, I have to admit that I love Anna's rendition of Vertigo.

She took her initial inspiration from the music video itself. And that's good. I like the music video and always wanted uniformity in our presentation. Today we got Joseph (the violinist) and Jes (the dancer) together with Anna to prepare a presentation rehearsal. I decided to involve myself as well.
I actually tried on the dress I will probably be wearing in Helsinki. And in a matter of hours we had a solid performance under our belt. I have to say that my worst fears have been swept away as if they were leaves in a tornado.

Joseph Chetcuti was simply amazing. I never thought he could dance at all! Come on...he's a lawyer. But his moves simply flowed. And he was really relieved. He had been worried stiff for the past weeks that he would not be up to it. But he is. And I'm glad for him.

Jes was similarly great. He is such a good dancer. Flexible, creative and trustworthy.

We actually improvised backing vocals. My cousin Nikita (who is a dancer) offered to stand in for the Swedish backing vocalists. And she spent the day rehearsing with Anna and one of her friends. They actually got well into it. And I could see they were a bit sad that this was just a rehearsal and not the real thing.

Philip and Gerard came to watch. Philip was immediately hired to play the CD from the CD player. You can see him standing looking pensively at us trying our moves.

Albert is one of my team's most trusted friends. We really love Albert and his way of doing things. When I have a big thing coming up such as an important performance, Albert always comes into the dressing room just a few minutes before the show and says a loud prayer to which we all have to respond in chorus. For this particular rehearsal Albert is in charge of the fans.
I almost forgot to mention the fans. Yes, we will be using fans. Details later though. And if you think that Shasha got her new hair do because she spent a lot of time in front of the fan you are very much mistaken. It is not a wig. It is her hair!!! She looks awful! :) But that's Shasha.

My knowing all these lovely people makes life a box of chocolotes. And a very tasty one, come to think of it! :)
Speak to you tomorrow!

Monday, April 2, 2007

It's a long way to Tipperary...

In a month's time I will be walking up the steps of the Helsinki Eurovision stage. A month is not too far off. But it seems a long way away right now.

As you may have noticed I did not post any blogs this weekend. I've been snowed under to the point that I was beginning to panic. It was a weekend spent running from Joseph the tailor to a flat in Sliema where I've been trying out choreography moves with Anna.

Anna is a remarkable choregrapher from Cyprus. Some of you may have seen her dressed in manly clothes during my performance in the Cypriot National Final. (see video below)

Anna will probably be doing the choreography for Helsinki. I will know more about this tomorrow and I promise, you will be the first to know. Robert Abela, the guy in charge of Maltasong, can be extremely secretive sometimes. No wonder his hair has gone white! :)

In the meantime all the promotional material for the song has been readied. I've seen the stuff and it's great. All promotional stuff will be sent abroad by the end of this week. I've been promised to get the CD cover for Vertigo. And lo and behold a few minutes ago I found it in my email. I've been told to keep it under wraps but I really must make up for not posting anything these past two days.

So here it is. This is my CD Cover for Vertigo. It was designed by Where's Everybody, the company who produced the video. I like it a lot. Hope you do as well.

I have to run as I can hear my cell phone ringing. It's probably Robert panicking that I am late once again for my rehearsal.

It's a long way to Tipperary. Or is it Helsinki? My God! :)

Speak to you tomorrow!

Friday, March 30, 2007

My one and only...

My one and only is black...solid black. Not more than 8 months of age. Her favourite treat is a sizeable bone which she gets every week if she behaves. Her name is Milly Lewis and she's my little lovely dog friend.

I've had Milly since she was just a little black cocker spaniel, the size of my hand. Her parents are English but she was born in Malta. When I visited George Cross, the owner of her parents, I had to choose my dog from a bunch of four little rascals, running around his little flat. Milly was the one hiding in the corner, almost subdued. For some reason or another I felt attached to her from the first minute my eyes met hers. 'That puppy looks nice' I said to myself, 'she seems quiet and composed'. So I took her.

I have now learnt that she is neither quiet nor composed!

The next day I woke up and as I walked towards the kitchen, I found the remains of what a hurricane would do to a room. The kitchen was a complete mess. She managed to eat my cable television remote control together with anything which came her way.

Notwithstanding her naughtiness, I do not regret a single second of having her in my life. Milly is as loving as any human being could be. She sleeps on my pillow and wakes me up in the morning with her kisses. When I'm sad she snuggles on my lap and comforts me as best as she can. When I'm happy, she scampers around and fills my home with joy. Her love is plentiful...and unconditional.

This is my kitchen. It is usually a big mess. But I had to make it look decent in order to show it around the world. The most important part of my kitchen is the fridge, which I try to keep as stocked as possible. I like having friends over, especially on Sunday.

I do not cook. The last time I cooked, not even Milly would taste it. She knows better. So I let others do the cooking while I do the washing up. Eventually.

I have to go as my one and only is barking her head off. She wants to go to sleep. And she never sleeps before I do. Goodnight darling Milly. :)

Speak to you tomorrow!