World of Chig   


Next weekend at the Nightingale: Five Star! Practice those synchronised dance moves now! I'll be the one standing near the front, talking a bit to loudly about cottaging, to embarrass Stedman.

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Cream crackered

A brief pre-midnight entry is all I can manage on this strange 'Is it Spring? Is it Autumn?' Saturday. I'm too knackered to write any more. Last night at the Nightingale was funny, sexy, drunken and really a bit of a riot. Somewhere along the way, I managed to take 160 photos, mainly of Mr Gay UK heat contestants in their pants. Nice. Managed to ensnare the most beautiful young man in the club (IMO), and had to drive him back home to Mummy and Daddy at 10 o'clock this morning after about three hours' sleep. Hence feeling knackered now. I would dearly love to show his photo on here, as I took quite a few, before I'd spoken to him as well as after. However, it's not every day that you cop off with a beauty whose father is an Imam (is that how it's spelt?) at a local mosque, so I think displaying his photo is out of the question(!)

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Pop Quiz

Craig David this week became the last UK act – to do what?
Add your answer to the comments below. I'll reveal the correct answer on Sunday night, if no one has already.

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Chig’s Countdown

So many things happening in the next 50 days....

0 days to the Nightingale’s Mr Gay UK heat. (Full report of tonight’s underwear extravaganza on here at the weekend, hopefully with photos!)
5 days to seeing Crazy Face gig (my second), at the Jug of Ale, Moseley.
7 days to Singalong Sound Of Music at the Alexandra Theatre (I feel a strange compulsion to go in topical dress, given this week’s events in France ie. as a Nazi).
8 days until Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup Fina.l
Also 8 days to Walsall’s Mr Gay UK heat.
9 days to party I’ve been invited to in London. (Still not sure whether I can make this yet.)
10 days to my birthday and Bank Holiday Monday.
11 days to Kylie at the NEC.
15 days to Disneyboy’s 30th birthday and party night out in London.
22 days until my flight to Helsinki and ferry to Tallinn, Estonia.
24 days until Eurovision press week starts; rehearsals all day, including the UK’s first, and the Mayor of Tallinn’s official reception in the Estonian National Opera House in the evening.
25 days until the walking tour of old Tallinn for press and delegations, and the second half of rehearsals.
26 days until another sightseeing tour of Tallinn.
28 days until nine friends arrive to join me in Tallinn.
29 days until Eurovision final (and after-party).
30 days until ferry back to Helsinki and flight back to Heathrow.
33 days to Mull Historical Society gig in London.
35 days until World Cup starts with France v. Senegal.
36 days to start of Brum Pride weekend starts with the parade.
Also 36 days to start of Gay Footballer Supporters’ Network annual get-together, which just happens to be….in Brum!
37 days to the 6.30am Sunday morning kick-off of England’s first game, versus Sweden. Watching it in a pub full of gay footie supporters, including ex-boyf, as we relive the days we were seeing each other during Euro 96!
38 days until the Blue Peter/Queen’s Golden Jubilee Party in Centenary Square. Two hours of Blue Peter with Simon Thomas – who could resist?! Gareth Gates too….
42 days to England’s second game, versus Argentina.
43 days to another 30th birthday weekend, this time Dr Zincfinger’s in Manchester.
47 days until England exit the World Cup. (7.30am against Nigeria.)
51 days until Bristolcream’s birthday.

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Never Be The Same Again

America loses ANOTHER of its top female R'n'B stars, in ANOTHER crash. The difference with Aaliyah is that Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes had a UK #1 single BEFORE she died.
TLC had four UK top ten hits, but in the US they were second only to the Supremes as most successful female group.
This is the second lead singer of a chart group to die in a week after Layne Staley of Alice In Chains was found dead seven days ago.
Lisa Lopes was about to release some new material under the faintly ridiculous new name 'NINA', which stood for 'New Identity Not Applicable'. How true that now is.

My blog is becoming a celebrity death register! At the end of this month (ie. next week) I will publish the full list I've been compiling for the first third of the year, and you can tell me if I missed any while in Australia. (Spike Milligan can't have been the only famous death in that month.)

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Where does it go from here? Is it down to the lake I fear?
or...Parklife II

I forgot to say (in Parklife below) that when I was sitting in the park on Tuesday, watching people playing football, I found myself thinking, 'why don't I know anyone who likes playing football?' and then 'why don't any of my friends have children, so I can take them down the park and play football with them?'
Yesterday though, I went again - another gloriously sunny evening - and had a brilliant time. As soon as I got there, I saw a group of boys playing footie. Two of them were neighbours of mine until they moved away at Christmas. I sat down to read the paper, to see if the photo of my feet was in (it wasn't) and to my great joy, one of the boys asked if I wanted to join in. Someone's Dad had joined in too, so I evened up the teams. Unfortunately, I got stuck in goal. I have never played in goal, not at school, not even when I played in a gay five-a-side team a few years ago. We ended up playing for about 45 minutes, as two more adults and a few more children joined in, making it about six-a-side by the time we'd finished. One of the hazards of playing in Cannon Hill Park is the lake. The field slopes down to it, and so inevitably, we lost the ball in there, twice! Luckily, a slight breeze and my adeptness with a long stick meant I was able to retrieve it. I am a hero to small children! I have achieved acceptance by my peer group: 8 to 12 year old boys and their fathers!

Anyway, it was great fun, even in goal. The agility of some of the kids was quite astounding, so I think being in goal was probably a blessing. I believe the score was 16-13 by the time the ball went into the lake again and the owner of the spare decided it was time to go home. As my team was already 8-6 down when I joined in, I don't think I did too badly. I even made one spectacular (though I say so myself) save. And I have a lovely grazed knee and cut shin to show for it, as I was wearing football shorts. God I'm so butch.

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Some forthcoming number one singles

Pencil them into your diary now.
Sunday 28 April: Freak Like Me - Sugababes
Sunday 05 May: Kiss Kiss - Holly Valance
Sunday 02 June (The day of England's first World Cup game): We're On The Ball - Ant'n'Dec

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Blair makes a promise!

Rejoice! Street crime will be over by September! It must be true – Tony Blair says so. I suggest we all stay in until then, as muggers will try to make up their quota before the closing date. So how is Fuhrer Blair going to achieve this? Oh shucks, he forgot to say. My guess is that September is the date that George W Bush has pencilled in for World War Three, so Tony knows that our nation's youth will all be conscripted by then. Eh voila! No crime. Marvellous.

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I decided to go to Cannon Hill Park yesterday, about 6pm, as I was going slightly mad, having been in the house all day when it was obviously sunny outside. (My problem is that the house is always in the shade from lunchtime, so if it's sunny outside, I feel I'm missing out.) Anyway, I drove down to the park - not feeling energetic enough to cycle, as I did many times last Summer - and I'm glad I did. First of all, my favourite ex-barman from our local trendy bar was there, playing football with - gasp! - his shirt off. While watching him avidly and pretending to read some leaflets from the MAC, I noticed a bloke in the background carrying a camera with a HUGE telephoto lens. I laughed to myself and felt pleased to see that I'm not the only pervert who lurks in the park with a camera when the sun comes out. A minute later, the photographer came over and asked if he could take my photo for the Birmingham Post. I laughed. He said he's been sent out to take a few 'weather pictures' because the weather had turned nice. (And indeed it had; the park was really busy, with lots of people catching the last rays on the main green by the lake.) Then he said, "I only want to take pictures of your feet, so don't worry about being recognised." My first thought was 'yuk'. I'm not a big fan of feet at the best of times, and I certainly don't consider mine to be my best asset, (although I'd be hard pressed to say what is.) He wrote down my name and then moved me a few metres, asked me to take my shoes and socks off and lie on my back (oo-er!) with my feet crossed. He lay down and took pictures of the soles of my feet. Crossed. Uncrossed. Lying down. Sitting up slightly. God knows what all the other people thought we were doing - Ididn't dare look for their reactions. Two minutes later, he was done, and I wait in eager anticipation to see if one of the photos is in the paper today. He said other photographers were out doing 'weather pictures' as well, so there's no guaranteeing it will be in, but I'll buying the paper today just to check. Oh, and I now know the gorgeous barman's name, as his mates kept shouting it during the football.

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Christopher Price isn't the only celebrity death today: Linda 'Deep Throat' Lovelace has died too.

Some very nice tributes to Christopher on the Liquid News website. Liquid News tonight will be a tribute on BBC Choice at 8pm, and repeated at midnight on BBC One. (You see, those branding adverts are working; I didn't say BBC1. Oh no, because that would obviously be very wrong.)

I was slightly shocked to see that Christopher Price was actually younger than me (by a year). I hope this is equally surprising to those who know me (he said vainly....)

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More music muppetry:
Last Friday on 15-to-1:
Q: Sharon, Andrea, Caroline and Jim are the members of which family band?
Contestant: Steps?

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Christopher Price

[2am] I've just received e-mails on the Eurovision list saying that Christopher Price, presenter of Liquid News, has been found dead. I thought it was just a stupid rumour, but I've checked teletext news and it's true. I'm gutted. Not only was he totally brilliant as a presenter, with his 'take no shit' attitude to his guests, and his acerbicly written, literate and witty scripts, he was one of very few media personalities to be out and proud as a big fat pouf. Championed by Gay Times long ago, he made Liquid News a breath of fresh air, and one of my must see programmes every week. This is a really tragic loss. Christopher was also due to be presenting a five hour alternative Eurovison party on 25th May on BBC Choice. I was really looking forward to it, as he was a fan, which is why he presented A Song For Europe last month. I wasn't sure if he was actually going to Tallinn, but I was kind of hoping to meet him someday. Awful news.

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Did you watch '24' this weekend?

In all the excitement of the house moving on Sunday, followed by five of us having a celebratory curry and last orders at the Prince, I forgot something. I forgot to watch 24, or video it. And so did Bristolcream, even though we are both addicted to the programme. AAAAAAGH!!! If you watched it, could you give me a quick resume? I'll love you forever.

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Elvis Costello

I’d just like to give a small hip, hip, hooray to Elvis Costello, who, rather surprisingly, scored the highest new entry in the album charts on Sunday with ‘When I Was Cruel’. Okay, so there wasn’t anything of any significance released last week, and number 17, one place higher than Petula Clark’s new entry, isn’t setting the world on fire, but there’s life in the old dog yet. I only own two Elvis Costello albums; Mighty Like A Rose and Blood & Chocolate, but this new album sounds like it might be a real return to form, even if the splendidly-named single ‘Tear Off Your Own Head’ could only manage one chart week at #58 before dribbling out again.

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Gay men in boringly predictable non-shocking survey

In between the daytime activity of helping friends move house at the weekend, I managed to squeeze in some work for Gay Times, thinly disguised as a visit to the Nightingale. It was the return of the Vox Pop, and the subject for the June issue is sport, to tie in with the World Cup. Amongst my probing (careful!), intellectual questions, which you’ll have to buy GT for if you want to read, I asked fourteen young, gay men to name the sexiest sports star. I don’t even have to tell you who came first, with five mentions, do I? You can probably guess who was second, with three votes, as well. Third place, with two votes, went to one of my favourites, even though he’s retired. All of the following received one vote each: Tim Henman, Pete Sampras, Jensen Button (F1), Jason Robinson (England, rugby union) and, er, Martina Hingis.

The youth of today, eh? They just don’t pay enough attention to other sports, so no mentions for the ones at the top of my list; Roman Sebrle (Czech decathlete), Gabe Kapler (US baseball), Alexei Nemov (Russian gymnast) or the amusingly named Ivan Ivankov (Belarussian gymnast). Still, it’s nice to fantasise that I could have them all to myself(!)

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Baggies' delight

I know it’s customary, and expected, for us Villa fans to be sneering and condescending to that Baggies lot across the city, especially as we slide down the table ourselves, but I am genuinely thrilled by West Brom’s promotion to the Premiership on Sunday. They deserve it, and I can’t wait for the return of the local derbies after sixteen years. It should keep Adrian Chiles and Frank Skinner happy for the foreseeable future as well. Why, WBA have almost as many celebrity fans as our own eclectic Villa faithful (Prince William, Nigel ‘please don’t use my first name’ Kennedy, the drummer with Napalm Death and the drummer with Dum Dums, at the last count. You couldn’t make this up.)

My hope for the Division One play-offs? Wolves and Birmingham to win their semis so they meet in the final. (I bet the police forces from the West Midlands to Cardiff are really hoping this DOESN’T happen.) Then, at the Millennium Stadium, for Wolves and Blues to play out a thrillingly close draw in the final, only for Birmingham to lose, heart-breakingly, on sudden death penalties. If only so that Villa fans can remind them of this match for years to come. See, I’m not that neighbourly really.

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Quote of the night:

“I don’t particularly want to comment on something which I know nothing about.” Baroness Young, after being asked what she thinks of gay animal behaviour on tonight’s (admittedly slightly bizarre) ‘The Truth About Gay Animals’. It’s a shame the evil, hypocritical bitch didn’t practice the same restraint when she was busy messing up kids’ lives with her campaign to keep Section 28. I hate her more than words can possibly express.

Unfortunately for her, the realities of life challenge her narrow-minded viewpoint, so having Scott Capurro in her office, showing her a video of animals, including buffalo, seagulls and monkeys, having lesbian and gay sex, she did what all people do when their argument has been overturned: she ended the interview.

She’s clearly a woman who can’t face being challenged by reality, as she revealed in her comments to Capurro, before she ungraciously wriggled out of the interview; “I am simply revolted by this idea with the animals. I mean lots of children have animals. This is simply not for me.” That’s fair enough of course, just as your revolting, Tory, Christian values are not for me, you evil old harridan, but do I campaign for schoolchildren to be taught that you don’t exist? No. Please just fuck off and die.

Next week: ‘The truth about gay sex’. Channel 4 wanted to interview ME for the programme, but my response was unfortunately the same as Baroness Young’s first quote above.

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The end of an era

I've hardly spent a moment in the house all weekend, as it's been an unusual one. Have been helping three friends move out of the house up the road known fondly as 'number 48'. All three going into different houses, within three miles of each other; all living on their own for the first time. As such, it's been quite sad, not to mention a bit knackering. I've been putting my car to good use for the Gregster, while the others had a van and two other cars to help out. Number 48 stands empty tonight for the first time. It's been the scene of some of the best house parties ever over the past three years or so, including many themed, fancy dress events, and two wonderful New Year's Eves. Not only that, but it's been home to six of the best people I could hope to call friends, who I must owe dozens of meals to, and a fair few spliffs!! It's been my 'refuge up the road' when I've wanted to get out the house, but, looking on the bright side, I now have THREE new places to go to, within five minutes of my own place.

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Mon Dieu! Sacre bleu! etc....

When I was a mere second year undergraduate, my specialist subject in our French politics module was the rise of the Front National in France, and the politics of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and it's a subject which has retained my interest ever since. At the time, his localised electoral successes were much talked about as being the thin end of the wedge. Wind forward sixteen years, and what's the news tonight? French voter apathy and an underwhelming campaign from Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has meant that France is about to face a Presidential run-off with Le Pen himself in the final two. The thought that centrists and left-wingers will now have to vote for the appalling Chirac as the 'least worst' option must be making a fair few French people feel physically sick. Let's just hope Le Pen's latent support doesn't get too enthused by this. Today's elections in Saxony, Germany have also seen gains made by the right at the expense of Schroeder's Christian Democrats. It's not all bad news though; the Conservative Prime Minister of Hungary has lost to the left. Swings and roundabouts, swings and roundabouts...

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Chig on TV - again

After watching the Grand Final of 15-to-1 on Friday, it took a few moments for William G Stewart's closing comments to sink in. He said they'll be back with a new series in the Autumn, but to keep us going over the Summer, starting on Monday, they'll be repeating a series from early last year. Early last year? That's me! So prepare yourselves, dear readers, if you didn't witness the full lime green shirt experience last March, you will get chance to do so again. I'll keep quiet about how I did, for the benefit of new viewers, and will point out (vainly) at this stage that I've lost over half a stone since 'my' 15-to-1 was filmed, but pencil in Tuesday 18th and Tuesday 25th June for my repeat performance. I can't quite work out exactly when it will be at the moment, but those are my best guesses. Watch this space!

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Eurovision - this year's videos reviewed

Chig's thoughts on the videos, after seeing them on TRT (Turkish television) on Thursday. You don't want to read about them in performance order, do you now? So I've divided them into three categories:

Songs which seem better, having seen the videos:

UK - Nothing spectacular, but nice. Warm, autumnal colours and a look which, crucially, suits the mood of the song. We really NEED this video to make an impression to bump up our vote, and I think it should work to some extent.

Austria - The video version seems to have a new middle eight. The danger with this song is that because it IS so similar to Free's Alright Now, many people will already feel familiar with the song, and will get to like it very quickly. It's a lot better than I was prepared to admit on audio only. But if people just decide it's a rip-off, they won't vote for it. Can you see I'm hedging my bets?

Spain - I wonder how many people will see the clips of the fat woman which are included in this otherwise live performance, and not realise that it's the same Rosa?! I was shocked, and I knew about her weight loss! It's astounding how much she has changed. As for her performance, well, the exuberance with which she sings this makes it seem more than the sum of its parts. I was previously thinking that Spain would probably end up being the most disappointed nation on 25 May, but now I'm not so sure. Let's not forget 1990, when all it took to turn a crap song into a winner was the notion of European togetherness. Can it work again? The millions of people who see this clip but have never heard of Operacion Triunfo will be completely bemused by the reception she gets during and after the song!

Estonia - She looks damn good, it sounds damn good. My word, it IS good. With home advantage, should do really well.

Israel (Sorry!) In terms of production values, this is probably the best video of the lot, but I can quite understand why some people hate it, as it's so sickly and hypocritical. However, it has a concept, and some money has been spent. Sarit also looks beautiful (to my untrained eyes!) If the ESC was being held tonight, Israel would struggle to get any points, but who knows what the political situation will be in six weeks' time? The big question is, will she cope if people start booing?

Finland - I wasn't as keen on this as other people were, but I have seen the light now. It comes alive when you see it, and seems a much stronger song, even though the video isn't really that good. A dead cert to get the lesbian vote too(!)

Denmark - As above, only more so (but less of the lesbian bit!) Seeing the video was the first time I'd heard this in English, and it seems ten times better already. The video concept is brilliant, although they could do with losing about three seconds at the end, to make it less cheesy, but you want to watch this all the way through to see what happens. Superb. You go girl! I'd like to take up golf now.

Malta (and I liked it loads already) A disturbing documentary film, in which Ira Losco is followed around by a stalker. She doesn't call the police though, so perhaps he is a private detective. Whatever he is, he's very attractive. Thankfully, this was one of my favourite three songs anyway, and now it's been beefed up to sound even better. It has the obligatory key change, and it's also a superb video. If only it had a happy ending.

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Videos which didn't change my opinion one way or the other:

Cyprus - They've ditched the leathers (temporarily, I hope) and gone for a split screen live/studio effect. This relies so much on the visuals to sell it, and when I shut my eyes I have to admit it's a fairly 'one level' song which doesn't go anywhere. However, its sheer repetitiveness may mean people remember it more, and being shown last in the reprise should help a lot. And two of them ARE really horny, which may count for something.(And on one of the others, there's a revival of the Paul King hairdo, circa 'Love And Pride' 1985.)

Greece - "Oy, Michalis, we need a video for those people at the EBU. That mate of yours who messes around with his digital camcorder, do you think he could add some effects to your live performance? We can't spend any money on it though - all the budget went on your leather gear. Just get him to put some squiggles on the picture. Maybe some words so that people realise you're singing in English? Maybe explain what the song means? No, scrap that last idea, cos you haven't a clue, have you? What? A woman made of liquid mercury? Because it'll look like the ancient film Metropolis? Why? Okay mate, if you insist, it's your video. What do you think he'll charge for that? Bottle of Ouzo? Done."

FYR of Macedonia - Oh lordy! The 80s are well and truly back! No, not in the form of that dress from the FYROM final, but the other costumes, the video effects, and the black lipstick. If you remember 'Nice video, shame about the song' from Not The Nine O'Clock News, you'll have a good chuckle over the start of this. Not that the song is bad - it just seems to be existing in a parallel universe to all the other entries. If they can make it look a bit more modern on the night, it should get a respectable mid-table result.

Bosnia & Herzegovina - This is the unremarkable live video, with a better, studio version dubbed over the top, and it works. It still sounds like old-fashioned rock guitar to me, but I suspect that will be popular for the same reasons as Belgium, perhaps with the same people.

Belgium - I still think it will win, and this live performance shows how powerfully he can belt it out. This will set the Suurhall on fire, unfortunately, especially if he does a cartwheel, as in the video. It's the finest pub rock, with an appeal that spans different age groups. It's the 'lowest common denominator' song, just like the last two ESC winners, so I see no reason why it won't do so again. The video's not much good, but it doesn't NEED to be.

France - Surely they've cheated here? How long is this video? How are they getting away with this? Disqualify them now!

Turkey - Ah, the tourist board video. Look! He's giving her flowers, as if he's heterosexual! Hilarious. Actually, I love this song, but I know that in the UK it will cause much laughter in front of the nation's TVs. When they do the 'babadadababadaba' bit, drunken people across the country will be rolling around in hysterics and reminiscing about the Swingle Singers. (Ask your Mum.) They also pay homage to Abba's (and Erasure's) Take A Chance On Me video. You know which bit I mean!

Romania - Just as bad now as it was sounded without the visuals. If I have to be nice about it, I would say that their voices complement each other well. A bright, white studio and some vocal histrionics cannot make a silk purse out of this sow's ear though. Hardly any points here. Goodbye.

Slovenia - There's no 'oomph' (energy and enthusiasm) in their live performance, and if they won't do it in English, they're going to finish lower than they should. A shame, because lyrically this is probably the best of the 24, just not musically. For those who have seen 'The League Of Gentlemen', don't you think Sestre's lead singer looks like the cleaning 'woman' who worked for the posh woman?

Latvia - Boo hoo. I liked this before, but it's really changed a lot, including a brassier intro. It now sounds more spaghetti Western, a bit 'Mexican' to me, rather than the earlier version, which was more 'Benidorm' Spanish. Maybe I'll get used to it. The video is just trippy Teletubby land, as people have already said. The second video with a man doing a cartwheel.

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Songs which seem worse, after having seen the videos:

Croatia - In Croatian, and completely lacking in smiles until right at the end. No one wants to vote for a hard-faced bitch, you know. Lighten up.

Russia - Aaaagh! I really liked this song before I knew what they looked like. In boyband terms, this lot are more chubby Nsync than fit 3SL. But of course, it's a SONG contest, isn't it? Image doesn't matter. Er, no, that's rubbish. Lovely flowery set though. Watching this also made the lyric seem clearer, which was a bit of a revelation, to be honest. For several weeks now, I've thought this was the rudest song in the contest, and I've been singing "Northern girl, frosty eyes, I wanna MOUNT you" and wondering how on Earth they could get away with it! Now I realise it's "I wanna MELT you", and I feel relieved, a bit stupid, and yet strangely disappointed. (The 'Rudest Lyric' award now goes to Malta for that opening line and the "cherry red lips" bit.)

Switzerland - "Hey, Francine, the local student union is having a karaoke night. Do you fancy having a go? You don't have to sing anything decent - that Eurovision song of yours will do. Do you mind if we film it as well? We promise to make loads of noise at the end. Cheers." A suitably rubbish video for this year's worst song.

Sweden - Yes, the song is fantastic, and the energy of the performance is damned infectious too, but in this Melodifestivalen clip it just doesn't come together properly. This is one of the braver videos, as they've left the live vocal on it, whereas many of the others have been redubbed with a studio recording. There's also one bit in this where I thought on the night itself that they'd made a mistake, and it still looks odd. They don't sing half of one of the lines. Even if that was intentional, it sounds disjointed. If they'd made a proper video for this, Sweden could have had this in the bag already. Now it will depend more on their performance in Tallinn...

Germany - ....and talking of countries which could have made a good video, what's this Grand Prix performance doing here? Even the 'new, improved' Corinna May would have benefited from a video. Instead it looks like Germany is trying to do it on the cheap. It won't win them any favours having this broadcast all over Europe. They haven't even bothered to take the station ident off the screen. Or the caption from her first performance, or even the bloomin' phone number! What were they thinking?

Lithuania - Total cost = 1 Euro (for the light bulb shining in his face). Okay, I know they didn't have much time, so I'll forgive them, but this could have been so much better. I was really fed up looking at his eye for three minutes. Not to mention the hair (but Roy probably thinks his hair is lovely).

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New Oasis single sound familiar? Can't quite work out why? Play 'The Hindu Times' after Abba's 'Does Your Mother Know?' and you'll remember where that riff came from...

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"How refreshing to be able to mourn the death of a member of the Royal family without being accused of being homosexual". J. Fletcher, High Wycombe.
(Excerpt from the Queen Mum's book of condolence)
(Or, more specifically, from an e-mail of that name which Bristolcream sent me today.)

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Break It Like Beckham

Oh noooooooooooooooo!! It's exactly fifty days until the World Cup, and tonight Beckham has broken a bone in his foot. It's a disaster. It's not as if we stood much chance of getting through our group WITH him, but without him.....oh bloody hell. (Note to self: must go see Bend It Like Beckham; it looks brilliant.)

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Some good news
I won the lottery on Saturday. Okay, it was just a tenner, as all my thirties numbers came up; 32, 35 and 39. Every little helps.

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Despite the jollity and light-heartedness of the French stuff below, Chig is not a happy bunny at the moment.
I didn't write on here about the job interview that I had last Wednesday, because I didn't want to jinx my chances. Turns out now I needn't have worried, as I didn't get it anyway. I found out yesterday, but the omens were bad already, because I thought I would have heard by Friday if I'd been successful.
The job interview came through an agency; the first interview they've arranged for me since I signed up with them in November. If I had written about it afterwards, I would have used phrases like 'quietly confident' as I thought I had done okay. Seems I was wrong. After being given a very easy writing and word-recognition test to start with, I was then grilled for two whole hours by two people, but it wasn't as bad as it sounds. I thought I was coming across as reasonably self-confident, experienced and capable. The only hurdle really was when they got to what the main interviewer called 'the behavioural questions'. Just the mention of that title made me feel a little like I was about to undergo psychotherapy, but, in for a penny.....The questions were those horribly vague questions that you may be able to answer if you were given some advance notice, but when thrown at you, can make you go blank: "Can you think of a time when you exceeded someone's expectations?", "What was the worst time in your life?" (A horribly personal question, to which I gave a horribly personal and upsetting answer, and then wished I hadn't, although it was certainly not the most correct answer I could have given.) This kind of thing, which, because I haven't worked in a 'proper job' for 19 months since leaving my office tedium, became a trawl through distant memories, rather than a series of real, useful answers to their questions. Nevertheless, I thought that, in the end, I had thought of valid, truthful answers from my experience, and explained them pretty well. Then yesterday, I found out from the agency that it was because of these 'behavioural questions' that I haven't got the job. I know this has come as a surprise to the agency as well, as they put me in first and told me I was one of the strongest candidates (but maybe they said that to everybody, I don't know).
I said to the guy from the agency that being told I failed on 'behavioural questions' makes me feel like a psychopath or a criminal. He laughed, but he knew what I meant. I'm even feeling a little reticent about putting it on here - it seems like something you shouldn't admit to. I guess in the past I've been very lucky as I've never failed to get a job before. I've only had a grand total of TWO interviews in my lifetime. So now, I feel like a failure. And as if low self-esteem wasn't enough of a problem to deal with, I have absolutely no money at all, there's a problem with my JSA which means I haven't had my £50 for the last four weeks anyway, and I have been refused an overdraft extension by the bank. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

The agency said not to worry, they'll get me sorted out with something soon, but I need something NOW, and this has really shattered my confidence. I should point out that the job was very poorly paid, but I was extremely well-qualified for it, and could have done it in my sleep. I would probably be prepared to lick the road clean at the moment, if someone was prepared to pay me for it.

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Bloggers, please help!

Can any of you lovely, helpful bloggers out there tell me why I can't paste an entry like the one below all in one go?
I write in Word first, but as you can see, I've had to split it into five separate entries for it to be accepted. This always happens with anything longer than a couple of paragraphs, but no other blogs seem to have the problem. Why me? Any advice gratefully accepted....Thanks, Chig

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France reveals its Eurovision singer to la publique

Thanks to B&K, I was able to see France3's TV special on Sandrine Francois last night. Called 'En Route Pour l'Eurovision', the programme was a useful vehicle for presenting Sandrine Francois to the French public. Imagine 'An Audience With..' crossed with 'This Is Your Life' and you get the idea. Two hours and no ad breaks either - pretty good exposure for her, even if some of it was deliberately aimed at embarrassing her.

There was a mix of studio guests, music, and filmed inserts, while Sandrine sat and chatted with the two blond presenters. In fact, there was an awful lot of blond hair on display, but it was clear from the film clips that Sandrine is not a natural blonde herself! All this chat was interspersed with lots of music, although possibly not enough from Mlle Francois herself.

Writer of 'Il Faut Du Temps', Patrick Bruel, turned up and did an acoustic duet with Sandrine. Then we had Natasha St. Pier, last year's French Eurovision entrant, and Lara Fabian, (4th for Luxembourg in 1988), both singing and chatting.

During the show, we had loads and loads of film clips. The good thing about these was that although some of them were the usual suspects, there were loads of other ones too, some of which, I hold my hands up, I don't remember seeing before! (Gasp!)

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The first VT showed Sandrine at home in her Corbusian tower block. It very clearly wanted to present her as 'working class girl made good'. She lives on a run-down estate! She bleaches her hair! She used to sing along to Celine Dion! (It wasn't made clear whether her physical likeness to the long-faced one is just a coincidence, or has been achieved by surgery.)
Sandrine's backing band, called Showbiz, joined her for a good version of Anastacia's 'All Out Of Love'. This was very interesting, as it revealed that Sandrine's English pronunciation is very good indeed. They also did a bit of 'Eternal Flame'.
We then had a pretty cool, breathy duet from Dani (Chrissie Hynde meets Magenta De Vine) and Etienne Daho (Mark Thomas after a diet). Clips were shown to warn Sandrine of 'how NOT to dance' on 25th May! Most of this was indeed very silly ESC dancing, and deserved to be ridiculed, but showing Russia 2000 was really going too far. There was nothing wrong with those 'big girls' blouses'! Those boys were just 'artistically expressing' the song, and I won't hear a word said otherwise! The fact that I had a snog and a fumble with one of these two during Stockholm 2000 has nothing to do with it!

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Film of Sandrine with her singing teacher was next, and in the recording studio. Then the first embarrassing bit. The presenters produced Sandrine's school report - she was not best pleased. And then, horror of horrors, two of her ex-teachers appeared, with an old schoolfriend. Sandrine's favourite song while at school was Mariah Carey's 'Hero'. Now THAT'S embarrassing! (Sandrine must be disappointed that Regina didn't win the Slovenian final, as Ljubezen Daje Moc has exactly the same tune in the chorus, so she could have heard 'Hero' every day in Tallinn, but I digress.) We were treated to some clips of Eurovision fashion crimes, followed by a discussion of 'le look' with Sandrine's dress designer, Nathalie Garcon. (Can someone please tell us who this group is: five singers; two male and three female I think, all wearing white, and all with glittery rainbows across their tops. Probably from the 1980s. We were surprised to see that the rainbow flag had made such an early appearance!) Expect Mlle Francois to be wearing, in Nathalie's own words, "something close to the body and a bit mad behind" on 25th May. Yes, she really did say that! I'm imagining a black cocktail dress with a bustle, or perhaps - Mon Dieu! - some Gaultier feathers (snigger, snigger). Another VT, this time showing Sandrine in a restaurant with her 'coach and dietician'. Yes, really. They discussed her losing weight before May. Oh, the humiliation! She's tiny anyway, and doesn't need to lose any weight. Then we saw a photoshoot. I thought it was interesting that, while she has a fitness coach, and argued with the presenters over whether she preferred drinking champagne or orange juice, she was quite happy to be filmed smoking! But hey, she's French! Je pense, donc je fume, as she didn't say at all. Next up, Roch Voisine, who I haven't seen for many years, but is still looking damn good. "He came here for you, " the presenters told Sandrine, although I suspect the opportunity to plug his new song and a small payment also contributed to his appearance. He also did a brief duet with Sandrine, while he played his acoustic guitar. Some readers, especially those in the UK, may need to skip this paragraph. France3 showed some clips of 'bad bits', and guess what it started with? Rather unfairly, I thought, it was Lindsay D singing THAT note. Yes, just the one note, before they moved onto the presenter's dress 'falling off', Paul Oskar, Dana International falling over, Le Papa Pingouin, Remedios Amaya, Linda Wagenmakers and Guildo Horn, while they played Telex's 'Eurovision'. All very cruel, I thought.

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The next bit was just EXCRUCIATINGLY bad. Six people appeared on stage ‘singing’ to Sandrine. They were friends of hers, and none of them could sing a note in tune. I think she wanted to curl up and die at this point. Further chatting with them, blah, blah, blah.
Next, that clip of the Saku Suurhall and the Estonian presenters which has been shown on many of the other countries’ programmes. Except that this time there was no ‘Good luck France’ message at the end, just the generic stuff. Perhaps I remembered this wrong, but didn’t Annely and "Marko quelque chose", (as last night’s presenter dismissively called him), wish good luck to Sweden, Germany and the UK in their own programmes? Perhaps Estonians just hate the French.
Incidentally, if the only picture you’ve seen of host Marko Matvere is the one on the official website, where he has short hair, you’re in for a shock! He looks as if someone has taken the tail of a horse, attached it to the top of his head, and smeared it in grease across his forehead. Then again, he IS a Shakespearean actor, and I’m prepared to believe he grew it for a job, but please, please Marko, have a haircut before 25th May!

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Back to last night’s programme, and Marie Myriam appeared and sang her 1977 winner, while VT of her ESC performance was shown on the screens behind her, just to make us realise how much older she looks now. I’d like to see her and Marianne Faithfull together – they’d make an interesting pair of sisters. More chatting with her, and finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – it’s time for Sandrine to sing ‘Il Faut Du Temps’ at long last. How will she cope singing live to an audience in a TV studio? What will the three-minute version of the song be like? Oh, the suspense! Sadly, I am unable to answer either question. She looked nervous anyway, but she was miming! And it was the four-minute version. Damn.
The final surprise, as the song was ending, was the arrival of a tribe of children who carried on singing the song and made Sandrine go all gooey. Were they her own children? The local gamins from her tower block, or some stage school proteges? We may never know.
Finally, just a couple of gripes from me:
Can someone please tell France3 that ‘Angleterre’ has never had an entry in Eurovision? That’s what it said on their captions whenever they showed a Royaume Uni act. You’d think they would know by now…
And on a technical note, can someone also tell them about the invention of clip-on microphones? Every single person interviewed in the studio had a huge, hand-held mic, so you could hear all the heavy breathing and clunking noises. Why?

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Soaplife is short

First, there was Popstars. A nation thrilled as Hearsay was created. They scored two number one singles, a massive number one album and then everyone forgot about them when their second album limped to #24.
Then came Soapstars. More slagging off and making people cry! More compulsive TV. The family was created, they moved to Emmerdale. Then it all began to fall apart. One girl was written out, and today it is announced that all the other five are not having their contracts renewed, and leave in June.
The products of audition show TV only seem to have shelf lives for as long as the audition process is still on the nation's TV screens. Will and Gareth, milk it now boys, before Pop Idol 2 starts...

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This week's burning issue
The new Yorkie bar TV ad. A return to 1970s sexism in a new, ironic disguise? Or genuinely funny and socially acceptable? Discuss.

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Today's music muppetry
Another in Chig's ongoing series, highlighting the inept answers given to really easy music questions on TV quiz shows....
15-to-1: Q: Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger and Jim Morrison were members of which psychedelic rock group?
Contestant: T-Rex?

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What? No popbitch e-mail today? Cannot function, cannot function......[Chig goes bleating off into the distance, IMAGINING midweek chart positions....]
(Update: it came later, very late. Panic over.)

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When Bristolcream came round to stay on Saturday night, an hour after I'd heard about the Queen Mother dying, I jokingly said to him, "It's Easter Sunday tomorrow - surely she will rise again?" Someone else has taken that idea one step further. The article's funny, and the small print is intriguing!
(Thanks to troubled-diva for the link)

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Help needed
Dear reader, Chig needs your advice. I'm going to a fancy dress house party on Saturday night. The theme is ‘crime and punishment’ (stop sniggering at the back). Apart from handcuffs (which I obviously have already), I have no inspiration what to wear. Any ideas? Preferably something that doesn’t involve spending any money. All comments gratefully received.

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Celeb spotted!
Birmingham city centre yesterday (Wed): Kevin (Simm?) from Liberty X (as ‘flopstars’ Liberty are now renamed). He’s the cute, blond one who was once on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Standing at the junction of New Street and Temple Street, wearing a baseball cap and grey jeans with a black embroidered design on the back of the left leg. He was looking nervous, and keeping his head down, as though he didn’t want to be recognised, but there’s no fooling Chig when there’s a popstar I quite fancy hanging around!

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Chig is looking forward to The Weakest Link tomorrow (Thursday), when Eurovision acquaintance from Stockholm, fellow journo and top bloke all round, Roy Delaney, is a contestant on the show. Can’t wait to see what Anne says about his hair! Shame Roy wasn’t on today, as one of the questions was, “What competition did Celine Dion win for Switzerland in 1988?”
(Update) Roy came agonisingly close to winning, getting to the last two, drawing on the last five questions, and then losing in sudden death to some bloke who really didn't deserve to win. C'est la vie!

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The daft old Duke Of York
Silly old Prince Andrew. Put it down to grief, or perhaps he’s just a sexist pig, but he’s ‘forgotten’ his own sister, and 50% of his cousins today. He announced that “the four grandchildren” will be standing guard at the lying in state of Grandmama’s coffin. Er, excuse me, she had SIX grandchildren. Remember Sarah? Lady Chatto? Viscount Linley’s sister? She’s your cousin too! And your sister, Anne? Oh but of course, they're girls. They don't count, do they?
[Special thanks to our royal correspondent, Princess Troubled Diva, and the joy of retrospective re-editing]

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An apology to the nation
When I wrote the piece below, last Friday, I didn’t for a minute think that the Queen Mum and Barry Took would be reading this and feel compelled to join in. I'm sorry.

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