After ten consecutive years of obsessively pre-researching each successive Eurovision line-up (a job that has been growing more time-consuming with every passing year), I found myself craving a new experience in 2008.
Namely, the experience of coming to the songs more or less fresh on the night. You know, like the NORMAL people do.
There have been several catalysts for this. Firstly, the old “mad mad busy, have to draw priorities somewhere” excuse. For these days, my daily routine involves coming home, spending an hour or so per day doing various things for the community village blog (still going strong, still updated several times daily), and then squeezing in all the stuff for the Evening Post (which, as you may have noticed, is a fairly massive time commitment these days). If you factor in the doubling of our number of gardens since this time last year, and the occasional “quality time with my partner” slot (we’ll still do whatever it takes to watch every episode of Desperate Arsewipes, come hell or high water (or indeed tornado – watch out for the flying sharks)), then this doesn’t really leave many hours left in the day.
Secondly: watching last year’s final at a friend’s party in Brighton, I had a sudden moment of clarity. Maybe I had started to take this Eurovision thing just a tad too seriously?
(I think I realised this when the whole room had emptied, barring a couple of other mildly interested onlookers – and me, perched clench-fisted and white-knuckled on the edge of the sofa, self-penned print-outs in hand, with a kind of grim “don’t even THINK about holding an off-topic conversation in my presence” expression etched into my features.)
Thirdly: since the family tragedy which coincided with my trip to the contest in Athens (today being the exact second anniversary, in fact), some of the shine has inevitably been taken off the event. Too many associations.
And so, if it’s OK with you guys, I’d like to take this year off, please. Hope you all enjoy the final on Saturday night. We’ll be watching it with friends in the village, and I’ll be cheering on France’s Sébastien Tellier (not a hope in hell, but hey), Ukraine’s “Shady Lady” (hot favourite, and a welcome return for the FYE-ya/diz-EYE-ya couplet), and the rapdily ascending dark horse that is Portugal (sorta fado-tinged musical theatre). Your toilet breaks this year are Israel (#7) and Greece (#21), and your unmissable OMGWTFLOL! moments are Bosnia (#6), Latvia (#14) and Azerbaijan (#20). Croatia has a 75 year old rapper, Sweden has a former winner with a name-change (and at least one face-lift), Georgia has a “how did they DO that?” mid-song costume change, Russia has a shirt-ripping twink, Finland has topless metallers in leather kecks, and Poland has the teeth. Your fashion stories this year are the afore-mentioned leather kecks, and a goodly array of sparkly silver mini-dresses. The overall quality is generally pretty high, as 20 of the 25 songs have had to qualify from the two semi-finals, thus leaving some of the out-and-out dross behind (Estonia and the Czech Republic spring to mind). The “Big Four” (UK, France, Germany, Spain) will be ritually humbled as per usual, and the UK’s second place in the running order (aka the “slot of doom”) has pretty much killed its chances of anything like a respectable finish.
And I’m in danger of accidentally writing the preview that I promised myself I wouldn’t write. Once again: Happy Eurovision, everyone!