Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday 25 May 2008

Hallo Belgrade

Last night we had our Eurovision party. I don't know what they do in other countries, but in the UK, we long ago gave up taking the song contest all that seriously - it seems as though even the BBC thinks the point is the party. In ours, we draw for who to "support", and we also run a "tatbola": three tickets a pound (for charidee, of course) and if you're really unlucky you win something. And we drink and eat a bit, of course.

I'm a traditionalist about these things and don't check out the competing songs in advance (life's too short, for heavens' sake), so my perceptions are (perhaps like however many others of the watching millions) based mostly on what I saw, since not that much was audible over the party chitchat, hoots of laughter and so on.

The range was much as usual. We had

- well-intentioned sentiments from the relative newcomers, seemingly delivered by a Desperate Housewife
- "all join in" party songs that might just be heard on coach trips and in Mediterranean holiday resorts this summer (Latvia, Denmark, Spain)
- big belter ballads, up a tone for the final chorus, surely the laziest gimmick ever: Serbia, Romania, Portugal, Poland
- cut-rate Kylie: Ukraine, Greece, Norway, Armenia
- eye-candy for the contest's core fanatics (you know who you are, boys): Israel, Russia, Turkey
- candidates for any drag act looking for an easy laugh: (Bosnia, Azerbaijan).

Sweden appeared to represented by Jocelyn Wildenstein, it looked to me as though the singer for Iceland had sweetly asked his mum to join in, and Finland stuck to the heavy metal style they won with a couple of years ago.

Our entry was competent enough, but came on second and ended up bottom (again). I still think we should have gone for this.

I have no idea what the French song was about, since the BBC has apparently still not learnt how to put pre-prepared English lyrics on its subtitles. In this case, I think he might have singing about "shivers", but from the subtitles I guessed it might have been meant to be Chivas (as in whisky), but the subtitling kept giving us "Chivers" (as in marmalade). But that's one of the incidental charms of the whole ludicrous gallimaufry.

How different it all is from the days of Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, Udo Jürgens and "Can you hear me, Zurich?"

Keen students of electoral processes might have wondered why the presenters in Belgrade seemed to know how the announcer from Azerbaijan had got her results in the wrong order, before she did....

But for all the chuntering about countries voting for their neighbours or on political affinity, is it so very different from the days when the French record companies got three or four entries, what with Monaco, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland from time to time? It's something positive that - say - people in the former Yugoslav countries do show some solidarity with each other after all they've been through. More and more it's being treated as a self-parodying festival of frou-frou, a multinational Mornington Crescent - about as close as most heterosexual people get to camp: that's better than some other ways of expressing international rivalries, isn't it?

But I could wish it didn't go on quite so long. Perhaps there should be some more qualifying rounds done with videos to produce a final of about a dozen for the final live show. Or is that too prosaic?

Oh, Russia won, by the way. Expect a spate of anguished young men baring their midriffs next year.

And on the tatbola, I won some very dull posters for a computer game. So I know what I'm giving to it next year....

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