Monday, 26 May 2014

Half-Day Heroes

I've been doing a spot of research since posting about my exciting New Horizons on how to transform the flyBown blog and today I discovered what I think may well be my new favourite travel site.

12HRS is a beautifully designed corner of the internet dedicated to whistle-stop tours in popular destinations. It's a must-see for those of us who love a micro-holiday and want to get under the skin of a city but don't have enough days in their calendar to do it.

This beautifully clean and flowing website was created by Anna Peuckert, a fashion and travel writer from Cologne along with Danish photographer Søren Jepsen (who is also a fan of Eurovision judging by his tweets this month -  and therefore clearly a fine gentleman in my opinion). Jepsen's imagery in particular brings the content to life and is eyewateringly inspiring and emotive.

One of my personal favourites, unsurprisingly, is their 12HRS itinerary for Berlin led by local hipster Herbert Hofmann who is the Creative Director of an über-cool boutique in Kreuzberg. The feature includes a stop for dinner at a little known restaurant called Silberlöffel - after reading about this it's now penciled in for my next trip!

I'm really looking forward to delving further into this superbly innovative take on travel writing and hopefully the team at 12HRS will keep these entertaining reviews flowing in! I'd love to see them whip up a tour of Tallinn or maybe even the great city of Nottingham... If Anna or Søren happen to stumble across these absolute gems I'd be more than happy to be of assistance!

You can jump straight to the 12HRS in Berlin feature by clicking here, or alternatively, see the entire site in all it's glory by heading to

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

New Horizons


So far in 2014 this blog has been enjoying a small slice of success and is currently pulling in around 200 views per month. I'm under no illusion that this makes me the next Michael Palin or Bill Bryson, but it is a big deal for me at least. 200 views a month means someone out there must be reading what I put down here and I'm more than happy with that!

If any of you aforementioned visitors happen to be regular readers (I'm a little unsure of this as the frequency of my posts can sometimes leave a little to be desired...) then I have some rather exciting news...

At the end of next month I will be leaving my position at Monarch Airlines to work for another carrier and the great news blog-wise is that I will be working long haul services and actually getting off the aircraft at the other end. I'm not going to divulge exactly who my new employer is as social media and blogging aren't always the happiest bedfellows with corporate companies and a professional career - I'm sure you will understand that! I'm also slightly reluctant to say just yet what destinations I will be visiting as even this could give the game away... But what I will say is that flyBown is gearing up for an exciting new future covering places I never would have dreamed that I would be able to experience!

I'm considering a new layout and design to reflect all of this and I hope you will continue to come back and see what life is like for an international trolley-dolly! I for one can't wait to find out! All that said, I'm also considering writing a few posts on how to manage this kind of work with a happy home life too.

A few months ago this blog celebrated its 6th birthday and in a special post I created an infographic which said that so far I had covered 36 destinations. That list is about to get a whole lot longer...

Here's to the future and remembering that everything happens for a reason.

Thanks for visiting...


Friday, 9 May 2014


I have to say when the Beeb announced that they would be running a pop-up radio station purely dedicated to Eurovision this year, I had my doubts... How would they fill 4 days of airtime? Would anyone actually tune in? Is it going to be another half-wash BBC attempt to say they're taking the competition seriously? Et Al...

WOW! I couldn't have been more delighted when BBC Radio 2 Eurovision went live yesterday at noon! The production so far has been super slick with a fantastic schedule. If you haven't given it a listen already - DO IT NOW!! Its GENUINE radio, but for euro-lovers!!

There's been some EXCELLENT live content from Mr Paddy O'Connel from Copenhagen, plus special editions of Sounds of the 60s/70s/80s, commentary of the semi-finals by the incredible Ana Matronic and as I write this, a really interesting show about the Eurovision-Monarchy; ABBA, presented by fellow euro-addict Mr Scott Mills...

They have also created this fabulous Eurovision Playlister on Spotify...

The station is available via the BBC Radio 2 website, the iPlayer Radio app and DAB Digital Radio across the UK from noon - midnight from 8th until 11th May 2014.

Click here to listen!


Friday, 11 April 2014

flyBown is 6!

I've been blogging for 6 years! Hurrah! Here is an infographic to show the story so far...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Press Play

The lovely people at Spotify have created a blog player. Hurrah!

My taste in music may leave a little to be desired by many, but even so, I'm happy to try it out.

Spotify is a free-to-use on-demand radio station/music player/social platform. Its been around for quite a while now and I've been using it since my uni days. The great thing for me is, as it hails from Sweden - its got tonnes of schlager and euro-tastic tracks on there.... bliss!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

There's a storm brewing over Europe...

Well I Never!

Yesterday evening the BBC set the cat amongst the pigeons in a stealth-move via the red button service on BBC One. Quietly tucked away trailing The One Show, this years launch event for the UK Eurovision bid was presented by Scott Mills from a 'secret location' somewhere in London. I would like to say that it was a much-awaited affair but this is after all; the Eurovision Song Contest in Britain that we're talking about. It was however, a very smart move.

Releasing the UK entry to the contest's core fan base has allowed social media to spread the word positively, rather than the press hounding our entry with the usual British "its all political" and "we're wasting our time" standard response. That said however, the press surrounding the announcement last night has actually taken on a more surprising tone with speculation that this song could actually bring home the (Danish) bacon.

Hailing from Leicester in the Great East Midlands, Molly Smitten-Downes was sourced via the BBC's Introducing programme which allows unsigned artists to get their work noticed. Her previous material is really quite special, particularly her haunting track "Never Forget". Here she proves that she means business when it comes to penning down a memorable tune.

I don't know about you, but this has an air of John-Lewis-Advert to me...

Her other credentials are also impressive, having provided the vocals to SASH's dance extravaganza, "Raindrops (Encore Une Fois)" - reaching number nine in the UK charts in 2006, as well as picking up the Best of British Unsigned Music award for the song "Strange Alien" last year, although this is somewhat irrelevant when it comes to being placed top of the table in Copenhagen this May.

What is relevant though is the song in question; "Children of the Universe". It is after all what all this hubbub is about. Does it have the ingredients of a Eurovision Winner?... In a word, YES! Have a listen to it here, and then we'll talk about it some more, shall we?

Lets run through the checklist...

Universally Inoffensive Lyrics... Check
Peaceful Message... Check
Catchy Hook... Check
Well Performed... Check
Sing-along-ability... Check
Big, Anthemic Finish... Check
Glitterball Staging... Not quite, but thats not necessarily a bad thing...

...there is plenty of opportunity to create a slick, polished performance with this song, and I can almost smell the on-stage fireworks as the track reaches its finale. A tasteful short blast on the Eurovision Wind Machine and the absence of a faffy dance troupe should see us in good stead. As long as the 'Beeb keep their eyes on the prize and create a staging that fits the song, I think we'll be alright and with Guy Freemen at the helm, this is almost a certainty. Take Emile De Forest's winning performance for Denmark last year as the template, but lets lose the viking drummers and nightie.

Now for those Brits who speak of the Eurovision with the same drone as a Scottish Bagpiper, I'd just like to clear up a few points. The arguments of "Oh its all Political" and "Nobody in Europe likes us anyway" is just simply a load of hot air. Lets take Germany as an example. When they won in 2010 after Mr Eurovision Stefan Raab was approached by the national broadcaster to turn the German Eurovision fortunes around, they managed to overcome an incredibly dismal past record. I hasten to stress that this is GERMANY! If ever there was a country in Europe with political and cultural cards stacked against them, no matter how historical they may be, then it is them. Here is how the UK and Germany had placed in the contest over the first 10 years of the millennium...

2000: Germany 5th/UK 16th
2001: Germany 8th/UK 15th
2002: Germany 21st/UK 3rd
2003: Germany 11th/UK 26th (Last)
2004: Germany 8th/UK 16th
2005: Germany 24th (Last)/UK 22nd
2006: Germany 11th/UK 19th
2007: Germany 19th/UK 22nd
2008: Germany 23th/UK 25th (Last)
2009: Germany 20th/UK 5th
2010: Germany WINNER/UK 25th (Last)

Average: Germany 12th/UK 15th you see its anybody's game. Plus we now have a jury from each country who award 50% of the final score - something that the EBU (who organise the contest) introduced to counter such rumours of political voting that the UK seems to have forgotten about. Not only that, but this year the standard of the competition is also greatly in our favour with many of the songs already chosen falling well under par. Eurovision is still a SONG contest and as Germany proved, the best song that is most popular across the continent WILL win. Its as simple as that.

The reaction to our entry has been fantastic from those fans across Europe - the ones who will actually be voting for it. The same cannot be said for some of the comments made closer to home, which just goes to show how backward the British impression of the contest really is. No matter how fantastic of an entry Molly has, she will inevitably find it hard to drum up any kind of support from her home nation. Hopefully, if she achieves the ultimate and brings home the prize... this will all be about to change.

Finally the BBC have given us a song and a performer that we can be proud of on the Eurovision stage. Not only do the fans across Europe seem to love it already, but as an extremely talented SONGWRITER, Molly is sure to score well with both the voting public AND the international juries.

It really is an exciting time for British Eurovision fans... Lets hope we'll be showering Molly Smitten-Downs with jubilations and hosting the competition again next year - bringing about a wind of change for its perception right here in the UK.

Power to the People.

Amen to that.

Monday, 17 February 2014

2006 Was Not A Good Vintage

I actually cant quite believe I'm about to publish this post. Those of you who know me will be aware that I will never usually hear a bad word said against the great Eurovision Song Contest...

On Sunday Evening I was home alone and took the chance to indulge myself in a little vintage euro-viewing. I picked the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest DVD from the bookcase, popped the disc into the player, opened the red wine and got comfortable ready to let the sequins, schlager and european partiality to wash over me.

I was so disappointed.

It must be a good year since I have played the 2006 contest which was held in Athens. I could not believe how dated and frankly cheap-looking not only the production was but also the quality of the songs was far worse than I had remembered. Fair enough this was broadcast almost eight years ago, but you would be forgiven for thinking it was more like eighteen.

Take this entry for example,"Arsenium feat. Natalia Gordienko & Connect-R" singing "Loca" for Moldova. 
It is, for want of a better word,  DIABOLICAL!!

At least the artists' name brought a smile to my face - 'ARSEnium!'

If your ears are in pain after hearing that song, then I shall afford you some sanctuary by not even posting the clip of Latvia's entry. "Vocal Group Cosmos" manage to stumble their way through an astronomically-atrocious A Cappella number wearing ill-fitting ivory suits and constantly faffing around with the most ridiculous prop in Eurovision history (of which there have been many). A song book is transformed firstly into a lectern before being walked around the stage in the finale as a robot-puppet complete with what appears to be a head made from a paper plate and horror-film-esque glowing eyes. If you are feeling adventurous however, here is a link to the youtube clip which is to be viewed at your own risk...

One saving grace did come, as to be expected, from Sweden with the mighty Carola belting out "Invincible" in front of lame-clad dancers complete with huge silver flags and the obligatory scandinavian wind machine.

Careful Carola, you'll pull a muscle if you're not careful!

For all those Brits who bang on about the contest being a corny, old fashioned, out-of-date bore-fest... I now excuse you if your opinion is based on this poor showing. Three years later the competition was held in Moscow and I genuinely think that whilst this might not have been the most popular host city for many euro-fans, the Russians pulled the competition forward a good 10 years and since then the standard of the TV production as well as the entries (with a few exceptions!) has been infinitely more credible.

I do hope it stays that way...