Monday, 8 May 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Brace yourselves folks. The time has come. Can you sense my uncontrollable giddiness from your screen? Is it palpable? Let's all take a few deep breaths and gather ourselves. Ready? Let's do this.

We are now in the run up to my favourite night of the year. Can you guess what it is yet? (I'm not sure that phrase is even acceptable anymore.) Christmas Eve comes a close second. My birthday holds a respectable third place. But the moveable feast that will be on 13th May this year, is nearly upon us. 
Obviously, I am talking about Eurovision. 🎶🎉

It's an actual hamster wheel. 
What more do you want?
There's something eternally joyous about the Eurovision Song Contest. It's feel-good! It's silly! It's a massive global event! But it's also not without controversy and has an impressively progressive underlying ethos. Its origins were in healing rifts in post-war Europe and today it continues to be as rooted in politics as ever. Yet what was once an evening of cultural representation from diverse nations has developed into a spectacular event. A powerhouse of special effects, jaw dropping staging and often excellent music. Of course there are still some entries that aim for comedic or novelty value rather than delivering a downloadable tune, but not as often as used to be the case. Every year my Eurovision playlist swells, as truly decent songs get added after I’ve seen them perform on the night.

The winner of 2015 - Måns Zelmerlöw and graphic friends.
Not only has the ESC changed over time, but my experience of watching it has too. Child-Me would use an empty notebook to score each country’s entry. Teen-Me would be uber-organised and record the names of the countries along with their writer, performer and conductor, before scoring them. (Back then, each country brought their own conductor - my favourite was Rolf Løvland from Norway, who in addition to waving a baton in 1992, composed songs that won in 1985 and 1995. No, don't thank me, you're welcome.) In Adult-Me times, the BBC helpfully provided printable score cards, saving me days of hassle in the build up. And it had started to become hassle. Making score cards, quizzes, sweeps (and one year, personalised badges) had become a right old ball ache. ESC night was always a family get together, but as my siblings got older, most of them sloped off with indifference - it appeared their love of the evening had only ever extended to the themed buffet. I stopped putting in the effort and concentrated on my own enjoyment. (Wise words for a multitude of situations.) 

These days I find the optimum thrill of the evening can be found on Twitter. Twitter is a hotbed of ESC action on the night. I live tweet through the whole thing and find genuine pleasure in connecting with like-minded individuals from all over the place. It is hilarious, subversive and truly a global event.

May 10th 2014. I was there!
And so to this year. This year is going to be a bit of a challenge. My sister has chosen Eurovision night to have her family birthday gathering. It’s going to be tricky. On the one hand, it’s the nearest Saturday to her birthday and she is entitled to commandeer the weekend. On the other, I am going to be glued to the TV from 8pm onwards and feeling a deep frustration that I will have to partake in conversation with the people around me, rather than set myself up behind the Mission Control of my laptop (for Facebook/iMessages from people I know saying ‘Happy Eurovision’) and my phone (for Twitter with people I don’t know but am sharing the evening with.) It will be a finely balanced line I tread, trying not to be the most anti-social person there, whilst still soaking up all the atmosphere of the best night on the calendar.
Loreen, who won in 2012. I got my second wind 
at my youngest sister's hen do when I put 
Euphoria on the silent disco.

Finally, a word about the UK’s entry. I get annoyed when people slag off Eurovision because ‘no one votes for us’ or because ‘we’re never going to win anyway’ or ‘it’s all political so there’s no point’. It’s always been political, it’s just that the UK used to benefit from that, and now it doesn’t. So stop being a bad loser and get over it. That being said, there is no doubt in my mind about the link between the 2003 invasion of Iraq by UK forces, and our plummeting down the leader board to last place and nul points that same year. (Yes, I know the song was dodge, but it really was an epic fall from our previous grace.) This year we have Brexit to deal with. I imagine Europe as a rule won’t care two jots about giving us votes, regardless of our efforts.

Our entry, Never Give Up on You, however, is not half bad. Sure, it has no key change - I despair of this every year - but having heard it a few times now, I have really grown to like it. It will get added to the playlist, put it that way. Lucie Jones (who was an amazing Maureen in Rent this year) will no doubt give it her all. I can’t see it will make a difference to the voting, but we can hold our heads high knowing it's not a bad job, regardless of the politics.

I've dusted off my merch in readiness.
In the meantime, Tuesday 9th and Thursday 11th of May are the semi-finals nights. I will treat them like the real thing, just in case people chat too much on Saturday. I don’t want to have to shush anyone at a birthday party.

Happy Eurovision week, everyone. Let’s have a belter.

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