Sunday, May 15, 2022

All Round To Yours Next Time, Okay?

My plan (I had a plan!) this weekend was to post something on Saturday, when I wasn't working, then take a rest on Sunday, when I was. So, naturally, radio silence yesterday and now here I am on Sunday, posting after dark...

For once, I have a kinda halfway decent excuse: on Saturday evening, Mrs Bhagpuss and I watched Eurovision

I can't remember the last time we watched it together. It was probably back in the '90s. Even the last time I watched it on my own must have been about a decade ago. I vaguely remember having it on in the background while I was playing some mmorpg or other.

This time we actually sat down together and watched it all the way through. Well, the twenty-five songs, anyway. Then later I watched the final half-hour of the voting in bed, while Mrs Bhagpuss was falling asleep listening to the radio. We are old. 

Not as old as Eurovision, of course, or the Eurovision Song Contest as we called it back then. It was a big thing in my childhood. In those days of limited choices, there were a number of major, annual televisual events that just about everyone watched, whether they were interested in them or not: the F.A. Cup Final, Miss World, the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show...

Of all of them, when I was between the ages of maybe eight and fifteen, Eurovision was probably the one I looked forward to the most. I started off watching it because I got stay up late, then I watched enthusiastically and by my mid-teens I was watching it with a sneer. I still watched it, though.

Later, as a student, I watched it ironically and then in my thirties I watched it nostalgically. By the end of the nineties, when I was pushing forty, I ran out of ways to watch it without feeling enervated by the bloat and the sag and the tedium. 

The timing was perfect. I began playing mmorpgs and all but stopped watching television altogether. For a decade or so I didn't bother to notice who was representing the UK or even who'd won. Thanks to EverQuest, those are my lost years. Eurovision is the least of the omissions.

Coming out of that shadow, I had some peripheral sense that the contest itself had changed. I knew it had always had immense camp credibility but somehow there seemed to be an element of mainstream respectability creeping in as well. 

I also came to understand that the glory days when any British entry would be all but guaranted a top five place, if not an outright win, had receded into the kind of history they teach in schools. Even before I stopped watching, a disturbing poiltical edge had started to creep into the voting. I took it that , while I'd been away, the creep had become a canter then a full-on charge. 

Plus most of our songs were so bland as to be invisible. That probably didn't help.

Last year's effort, which I didn't see or hear but did read about, was the nadir of nadirs. A double null from both the jury and the popular vote. I guess at least it couldn't get any worse.

I didn't watch last year's contest but I had been meaning to, just as I'd been meaning to watch the show for several years. My interest and enthusiasm began to rekindle following wins by the likes of Lordi and Måneskin, not acts that particularly appealed to me but ones that suggested the tenor and tone of the event might just have moved on from the predictable, dull

This year I was on the fence right to the last minute. I might have missed it again had it not been for my recent computer troubles. At about half seven last night I logged in, meaning to get down to writing a post, when a pop-up from Windows asked me if I wanted to update or reschedule. 

Forgetting I was on an old installation of Win10, thanks to the drive swap, I recklessly hit the "Update Now" button, only to realize too late it was going to take a couple of hours or more to catch up with all the updates I'd missed in the last five years.

I still had my laptop next to me from the previous recovery session so I fired that up and watched the first episode of Portlandia on DVD. When that ended I thought about watching another but it was exactly eight o' clock and I thought I remembered that was about the start time of Eurovision. 

I checked. It was. I put it on, then I went to make a coffee. I mentioned to Mrs Bhagpuss what I was doing, and she said she'd just been thinking of watching it as well, so we watched it together. 

It was pretty good, too. It was too long, of course, but then it always was, and the presenters were ninnies, but then they always were. As a spectacle it was hugely improved from what I remember but more importantly so were the songs. 

Okay, there were a few dull spots (Switzerland! Stand up! No, sit down again!) and there wasn't anything I'd be likely to run out and buy or rush to post here, but there were several I'd happily turn up if they came on the radio and a couple that sounded not much different from stuff I listen to from choice. Couldn't have said that a few years ago. As the NME put it, "only gammons still look down on Eurovision".

It helped that our song was strong and our singer even stronger. I don't get partisan about much but I have always had a commitment to the UK in Eurovision. Even when we field a complete embarassment, as we have done all too often, I still can't stop myself from hoping it'll somehow transcend its awfulness and bring the trophy home. 

This time it was easy to cheer Sam Ryder on to his very near victory. He's like a human cartoon. You'd have to be humorless in the extreme not to wish him well. Space Man is a more-than decent pop song and he really sells it. He can sing, which obviously helps, but perhaps more importantly, he's really easy to remember. If you haven't watched the show you may not appreciate just how significant that is.

I watched his performance just like I watched the other two dozen. I thought he had a fair chance but there were some other strong contenders and everyone hates the UK so I wasn't really expecting much. Just not coming last would be an improvement on recent years.

The full Eurovision experience takes about four hours. I like the voting but it can go on for what seems like forever so I took a break and watched an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season 2, in which she really is crazy, rather than Season 1, where she's mostly just sad and sweet.) 

When I tuned back in the voting was about halfway through and I was amazed to see the UK right at the top of the poll. It stayed that way to the end of the jury votes. In the old days that would have been it. We'd have won.

Not any more. These days, the final result is some arcane hybrid of national juries and popular telephone votes. I haven't made any attempt to understand how it works and I don't intend to start now. 

However it's calculated, the upshot is chaos. Songs that were languishing in mid-table can suddenly be catupulted into the top five. Leaders can find themselves shunned, sending them sliding back into mediocrity.

The main outcome of the influx of popular sentiment was the result everyone had been expecting: Ukraine got the sympathy vote, the solidarity vote, the protest vote, the moral vote and every other kind of vote. It helped that they also had a very strong song. 

They shot up to the top of the table with what looked like an unassailable lead. It was. Sam Ryder got a solid shout, enough to keep the UK in second place but nowhere near enough to unseat Ukraine, thank god. That would have been excruciating.

No, coming second to Ukraine in this exceptional year is the best possible outcome. Things could not have gone better if there'd been a script. Ukraine get their wholly deserved, highly charged, politically and culturally meaningful win and the UK gets rehabilitated after a decade or more as a Eurovision pariah.

The Eurovision tradition is that the winner hosts the contest in the following year. Let's hope this time next year we'll all be watching Eurovision 2023 live from Ukraine. I'll be there for that.


  1. Oh how nice.

    None of the videos are available in the States. I'm just gonna have to trust you on how things went.

    1. I hate the way certain things are region-locked on YouTube, presumably because of rights issues. Here's the official video for Stefania although it's a bit grim compared to the shiny Eorovision performance. Weirdly, there doesn't seem to be an official video for Space Man yet but here's a lyric version .

      With luck, those are viewable worldwide. If you're interested, I'm sure you can find the rest somewhere!

  2. Of the lot I have only heard Moldova's train rap and I'm too delighted with that being how I think of Eurovision to watch anything else.

    1. Oh God, I forgot that one - or more probably trauma-blanked it. It's like Blitzkrieg Bop and Rock Island Line had a baby and the Pogues played midwife!

  3. I haven't watched Eurovision in decades either, but it's definitely noticeable that the tone around it has become more positive in recent years. I remember being quite into it in my teens (in a half-ironic way) and getting Katrina and The Waves and the Olsen Brothers stuck in my head, but then my interest just drifted away.

    And of course I heard about it when Conchita Wurst won for Austria in 2014, making it the country's first win since the 60s! That was pretty delightful.

    1. Katrina and the Waves! The band Kimberley Rew was in both before and after the Soft Boys, Cambridge's biggest band at the time I was at University there. As well as the great Walking On Sunshine, Rew also wrote the bell-like Going Down to Liverpool , which was a hit for the Bangles. Love Shine A Light, the actual Waves song that won Eurovision, the last time the UK won, wasn't as strong as either of those but it was still pretty good.


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