World of Chig   

Finally found

Bananarama would like to announce that, after all these years, they have found that elusive third member.

Siobhan who?

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It seems I've come the closest yet to actually knowing a Big Brother contestant (before they go in the house, that is). Kemal is known by people I know, and is the Turkish editor of top Eurovision news website, who were in Kyiv. It seems he was expected in the media bouncy castle too, but never showed up. Now they know why, as they explain in today's news story. Kemal has also been seen at the Douze Points nights at London's Retro Bar, which I go to occasionally, manager Paul tells me tonight.

Methinks it's time to scour the dozens of photos I took at Eurovision last year in Istanbul, particularly the Turkish OGAE fanclub party. I have a feeling Kemal might be in them somewhere!

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Birmingham Pride, day one. The look on the face of the guy on the right is worth a thousand words. Don't Canarian drag queens stroll down your high street every Saturday evening then?

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Brum Pride

It's Birmingham Pride weekend! Here's what's on, including Bananarama, Boney M, Liberty X and Rowetta from The X Factor.

Here's a picture from last year's Brum Pride:

Here are several galleries more.

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"There are Aston Villa colours on the wall."

21.04: Indeed there are! How wonderful. World Of Chig's colours too. Thank you, Davina. We're loving the new Big Brother house already!
Oh, how it's going to ruin my life for the next three months, now that E4 is on Freeview from today...

So, let's meet the new unlucky thirteen...

1) Derek
40, Tory, political speech-writer. Black. Master of fox hounds. Gay.

This year's: Chris Eubank

BLOODY HELL! What a start. I'm hating/loving him already. LOL.

2) Lesley
19, temp administrator, from Huddersfield.
Dead common. Smoker. Big tits.
“I don’t get on with girls very well.”
Has her own website.
Currently wearing a rubber nurse’s outfit.
Obsessed with lingerie.
Ugly people make her sad.

This year’s: Emma Greenwood.

3) Sam
Cheam, Surrey.
23. Marketing graduate from Oxford John Brookes Uni.
Loves Christina Aguilera.
Is treated like a celebrity when she goes out. (Aren't we all dear, aren't we all?)
Bit of a feminist but also a bit of “an equalitarian”.
Sex mad.
Taking her vibrator into the house?

This year's: Kate Lawler?

4) Maxwell Trotter Ward
24 maintenance engineer.
Bit of a geezer.
"I'm loud, rude, obnoxious."
"Vegetarians make me laugh, especially ones who eat fish" (As a real vegetarian, I’m with him on that one!)
Lives with his Dad.
Gooner. (Will love the Villa colours then. Not.)

This year's: Paul Clarke (ie. totty for thick people)

5) Vanessa
19, Croydon.
Business studies student at a London Uni.
Gossiper, bitch, two-faced, loud, shallow.
“If you’re good looking and you’ve got a big cock and a nice body, that’s all you need.” (Absolutely, darling!)
Has a Barbie duvet cover at home.
Convinced she can turn any gay man straight.

This year's: Narinder.

6) Anthony


Sorry, where was I?

23. Seventies dancer - Chico from Puerto Rico.
Consett, County Durham.
Also trainee hairdresser.
“I’m a good-lookin’ lad.” (Indeed, you are, you horny little devil.)
Lives with his Mum, grandparents and uncle.
“I think loads of birds’ll fancy us.” (I think you've forgotten half of your potential fans.)
Gym five times a week and two sunbeds per week.
"I’m dark and handsome, but I don’t tick the box for tall."
Milking the crowd too much – they’re booing now.

This year’s: Alex Sibley

7) Roberto
32 Teacher, Liverpool.
“I am full of myself … but the look is a gift.”
Ex-Para, ex-teacher.
Thinks national service should be reintroduced into Britain.
Drives a white van.
Loves cooking and ‘Ready Steady Cook’.

This year’s: Federico or Stuart.

8) Makosi
24? Cardiac nurse
Zimbabwean, Christian. (Bible confiscated due to BB’s book ban.)
"I love the camera – I’m sure the camera will love me."
"Shallow people offend me."
"When I grew up, I had a chauffeur, a gardener and a maid."
Has taken 12 pairs of shoes into the house.
A monster in the mornings.
Wearing a vibrant orange dress.

This year’s: Heather Small. (Okay,we’re extending our comparisons now.)

9) Craig
20. Hairstylist, with own salon at 19.
“One fucking spoil little brat.”
“I do tend to look down on people.”
Has never read a book.
Looks better now, with dark hair, than he did at the auditions.

This year’s: first evictee, hopefully.

10) Mary
30. Psychic and writer.
From the lost city of Atlantis.
Alien abductee. About 7 times.
Believes that mobile phones are government tracking devices.
Mad as a box of frogs.
Currently dressed as a witch, with a broomstick. Being booed.
Seems unable to push doors open.

This year’s: Nichola Holt.

My favourite so far. Apart from Anthony Phwoar!

11) Science (Kieran)
(His page doesn't exist! They've shown Roberto twice instead. Doh!)

(Official website repaired at 23.40. About time too!)
22. Entertainment entrepreneur.
Musician too,
VERY big hair at auditions.
“Ghetto spokesman.”
Made an award-winning documentary, ‘Searching For The Truth’.

This year's: Victor.

12) Saskia
23. Promotions girl.
“A normal girl with a normal job.”
“Love my football, love my booze.”
One quarter Sri Lankan?
Born with a hole in her heart.
Her dream is to be a footballer’s wife. (I think we can all relate to that. No?)
Spent £1,000 on clothes for this.

This year's: I've forgotten her name, but the tall brunette who claimed she used to go to lots of celebrity parties and was a bit thick.

13) Kemal
19. Student, bellydancer.
Works for the passport office in the evenings.
A “contemporary Muslim”
Loves Eurovision. Hurrah!
Turkish, lives Liverpool.
Wearing stilettos and full red and gold sari!
Dad is Elvis impersonator.

This year’s: Marco, but possibly even more camp.

Makosi is the first unlucky one. By coming to the diary room first, she is automatically up for eviction, except that the housemate who receives the MOST nominations will be immune from eviction. Her secret mission is to GET the most nominations and win that immunity. Methinks she may be a bit too thick to realise she has to annoy them all to do this, but she may just do that anyway. Excellent, risky strategy!

Result: I'm hooked already!

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I can't wait for the weekend to begin

It's Birmingham Pride weekend! Don't expect I'll be in much. Normally, I write about Brum Pride for gaytimes and they send a photographer to accompany me. This time round, I'm doing the photos as well. It could be a busy Bank Holiday weekend!

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..and today, if your name is Graham and you run this Eurovision website, you are indeed, in the words of Marie N, a weener. Congratulations! (As a knight of the realm once sang.) Yes, Graham was the first person to answer all five fiendishly difficult questions correctly in the World Of Chig Eurovision quiz. Fiendishly difficult because at least two of the answers were only witnessed by a handful of people, so you couldn't possibly be expected to know, but well done to everyone who made a guess.

So, a copy of the Andorran single will be winging its way to Graham. (E-mail me your address please - via 'Contact Me' in the sidebar.) That means, of course, that I still have a spare copy of the bloody Russian single. There's only room for one shockingly ungrammatical single in this house, so I will have to devise another way to get rid of it. Watch this space.

Here are the correct answers:

1) As the Irish delegation was driven into Kyiv on their first day, what made Joe McCaul cheer out loud when he saw it at the side of the road?

a) An advert for Milky Bars
b) A can of Guinness
c) A billboard advert for Eurovision
d) A McDonalds

I was lucky enough to be on the shuttle bus which took all fourteen members of the Irish delegation from the airport to their hotel. Just me and them, and very nice they were too. Little Joe whooped with delight when, amongst the mega-tower blocks which line the roads in the Kyiv suburbs, he spotted the McDonalds.

2) What was actually shown on screen during Saturday’s final at the moment when they should have been showing the Klitschko brothers closing the voting?

a) Ruslana
b) The presenters
c) President Yushchenko
d) The floor

All that rehearsal, for very little screen time. The director forgot to switch the camera to the brothers as they banged that stupid instrument to end the voting. Instead, we got the camera shot which was supposed to be next, with the hapless presenters looking bored as they thought they were off camera. A huge disappointment and a damn shame, particularly for the crowds watching with me in Independence Square, who had only caught a glimpse of their heroes a few minutes before and never saw them properly on screen again.

3) Which word; an adjective referring to a specific country, featured in the lyric of TWO songs from Thursday’s qualifier, one of which won a place in the final and one which didn't?

Unusually, the word 'Indian' cropped in two songs; Estonia's and Moldova's. "I'm hot like Indian spice," sang Suntribe, who didn't get through. Prior to the contest, it sounded like she was singing, "I'm hot like Ginger Spice," which was quite amusing. Moldova sang, "She's flying into trance like an Indian shaman."

4) Which singer, in a press conference last week, said, of their former career, “I taught…teached…English”?!

It was Denmark's Jakob Sveistrup, much to the amusement of the Danish bloke who was sitting next to me. It's easy to laugh at foreigners making mistakes in English, and we don't encourage it, but the context was deliciously ironic. Jakob was absolutely lovely, especially when we had a chat at the opening party. As I told him, the thing I really liked about the way he spoke is that he speaks English with an English accent, not American, which made a lovely change after hearing so many singers who seemed to have learnt English by listening to American MTV.

5) Which of Saturday’s singers has already been asked by the BBC if they would consider representing the UK, and has said ‘yes’?

Yes, she really has, but don't hold your breath. No timescale was set. It was just a statement of willingness, should the situation ever arise. I think we should take her up on it though, maybe in a couple of years. Failing that, we scour Europe for a power ballad and a female singer from the Balkans, or we're forever doomed.

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"Does the Eurovision Song Contest have more relevance for the people of Europe than the European constitution?"

...asked a member of the audience on Question Time just now. Funny she should ask, because it could be more important than we thought in this week's Dutch referendum.

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Sexy Stephen Gerrard scores. Picture (c) BBC Sport.

I'm sure Chig wasn't the only non-Liverpool fan who became a Scouse Red just for tonight as I settled in front of the TV to watch the Champions' League Final from Istanbul. And boy oh boy, what a game! One goal down to AC Milan within seconds, and 3-0 down at half time, Liverpool looked crushed. But they refused to give in, and, incredibly, pulled back the whole deficit within ten minutes, ending the game 3-3. Then extra time, and no more goals. Penalties, and AC Milan missed the first two, leaving Liverpool to eventually win the game 3-2 on spot kicks. For once, English football has WON a penalty shoot-out. Incredible! And now it's the lead story on ITV's News At Ten Eleven.

I've heard 'You'll Never Walk Alone' played on both Radio 1 and Radio 2 today, in the lead-up to this match, which was amazing enough. When did Gerry & The Pacemakers last get daytime airplay on Radio 1?! You could almost believe the inspirational Anfield anthem song really did give Liverpool hope and saw them through.

Liverpool FC are the champions of Europe, for the fifth time, which means the cup will never leave Anfield; they get to keep it. How absolutely bloody fantastic! It could hardly be in a more poignant week, with the twentieth anniversary of the dreadful Heysel disaster coming up this Sunday, 29 May. That day saw 38 Italian fans and one Belgian killed, as a wall collapsed during a crush, caused as Liverpool fans advanced on Juventus suupporters.
Coming just a few days after the Bradford fire, this confirmed 1985 as the darkest hour of English football at the time. (The Hillsborough disaster was yet to come.) Let's hope that tonight's amazing Liverpool performance has acted as some kind of catharsis for the club, while not forgetting those who died so pointlessly twenty years ago. Congratulations lads. Well done you Reds!

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Interview 4 and a plug from the Guardian

The fourth Eurovision audio interview with Chig for Thoroughly Good has been available here since Sunday. This is Chig's post mortem on the final, recorded on Sunday lunchtime down the phone from Kyiv. I've finally been able to listen to all four of the interviews today for the first time, and I have to say, at the risk of sounding immodest, that I'm rather pleased with them. I thought that hearing my own voice for such a long period of time would be rather unnerving, but I'm coping quite well. I always worried that my voice sounds, at different times, a bit nasal, a bit Brummie, or a bit posh, but I can't really judge. I do note that I am perhaps a bit too hesitant though. Every 'um' and 'er' seems to last a lifetime when I hear it. Please do tell me your opinion of the interviews. Respect is due to Jon, who conducted the interviews and then edited them to make me sound a lot better. Please don't blame him for the variable level of sound quality; it was entirely down to the quality of the phone lines. Sometimes it was better if we put the phone down and tried again, but there were also noisy extractor fans in the media bouncy castle, so this is as good as it could get.

If you're collecting the set, you should have four MP3s now, called 'one', 'two', 'four' and 'five'. There's no three because Thoroughly Good's Eurovision page three is their jury, reviewing the songs, rather than an audio report.

Also, last Thursday, the Guardian's blog guide gave World Of Chig's Eurovision coverage a little plug, for which I am very grateful, especially as I have provided much less writing and fewer photos this year than last. (This was due to having no access to a PC for the first five days, and the photo software on the Linux machines that we had to use being completely unfamilar and impossible for me to work out.)

Thank you Jon. Thank you Guardian. Feedback from everyone else is very welcome.

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Eurovision competition - with prizes!

In order to get rid of some of the Eurovision tat that seems to have found its way into my suitcase celebrate Eurovision's 49th birthday today, here's a prize competition:

The first person to answer all five correctly in the comments box wins either Russia's or Andorra's entry for this year on CD. Second prize gets two. The last sentence was a joke. Please say which one you'd like.

1) As the Irish delegation was driven into Kyiv on their first day, what made Joe McCaul cheer out loud when he saw it at the side of the road?

a) An advert for Milky Bars
b) A can of Guinness
c) A billboard advert for Eurovision
d) A McDonalds

2) What was actually shown on screen during Saturday’s final at the moment when they should have been showing the Klitschko brothers closing the voting?

a) Ruslana
b) The presenters
c) President Yushchenko
d) The floor

3) Which word; an adjective referring to a specific country, featured in the lyric of TWO songs from Thursday’s qualifier, one of which won a place in the final and one which didn't?

4) Which singer, in a press conference last week, said, of their former career, “I taught…teached…English”?!

5) Which of Saturday’s singers has already been asked by the BBC if they would consider representing the UK, and has said ‘yes’?

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It was 49 years ago today...

Happy 49th Birthday, Eurovision!

Top: Lys Assia at Eurovision 1956. (Photos courtesy Stern magazine and Eurovision France.)
Bottom: Helena Paparizou with her dancers, in rehearsals for Eurovision 2005.

With all the talk last week of the 50th Eurovision (last Saturday's) and the 50th anniversary (24 May next year, but with a big show to come in Copenhagen this October), it has almost been forgotten that we hadn't yet reached even the 49th anniversary of the contest. But that day is today.

It was on Thursday (not a Saturday) 24 May 1956 that 30 year-old Lys Assia won the first Eurovision for Switzerland, in the same country, in the Teatro Kursaal in Lugano. Her winning song was 'Refrain', which is why I really wanted Pay TV to be Sweden's representatives this year, as their song was called 'Refrain, Refrain'. The winner was Lys Assia's second song of the evening, as all seven participating countries did two songs each. As she was singing for Switzerland, Lys had done her first song in German. 'Das Alte Karussel' is a jolly little song which has a rhythm not unlike a fairground carousel, you won't be surprised to learn. Listening to it right now, she seems to be singing something about a mouse as well. Needless to say, sex and international politics did not figure highly in the subject matter of Eurovision 1956. Sample lyric; "The old carousel, which doesn't go so fast any more.." 'Refrain' is a sad, slow song, a genre which never wins Eurovision these days.

The UK and Ireland weren't in the first contest, so there were no songs in English. Compare that with last Saturday, when only 6 of the 24 finalists featured no English at all, and 15 were completely in English, including the top three.

We don't know if neighbourly voting featured in 1956 either, as, unfortunately, history hasn't recorded the points given to any of the songs. (Unless you believed ESC Today's brilliant April Fool last year.) We only know that 'Refrain' won, voted for by two judges from each competing country. However, Luxembourg TV was in financial difficulties at the time, and couldn’t afford to send two judges as well as their singer, so they asked the Swiss judges to vote on their behalf. And Switzerland won. Hmm, funny that.

'Refrain' opens with an orchestral sweep that sounds like Lys is about to break into "the hills are alive with the sound of music". It's certainly a long way from Wig Wam. I bet she never thought that, 49 years later, the winning singer would be lifted up in the air (as in 2004 too) and would pretend to play the braces of a very sexy man kneeling below her as if they were a cello. Oh, how times have changed.

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Back home.

23.48 Back home safely from Kyiv, via three hours in Munich. Need sleep. Back tomorrow.

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My Number One night - audio report

Kalimera! Just getting in some practice for Athens 2006. Delighted with the result last night. You may be surprised to know that Chig didn't go into the hall after all. You did what?, I hear you cry. You went all the way to Kyiv and you didn't go in?
Well no, I didn't. My free ticket fell through, and I ended up going up to Independence Square, scene of last November/December's Orange Revolution, and watched the whole show outdoors, in an atmosphere that I don't think I'll ever experience again, especially when Ukraine's song came on. It was magical and exciting.

I'll give more details when I'm back home, with a whole load of photos from the last ten days too. They are throwing us out of the Eurovision Media Bouncy Castle now, so they can deflate it.

Back home tomorrow night. Sightseeing starts now!

You can listen to the third of my thoroughly-good reports here, and we've just recorded the fourth one, my report on last night, which will be there later today, I imagine. Enjoy!

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Eurovision - the third dress rehearsal for the final

Watching it live from next door, on the screens in the Eurovision media bouncy castle. With six hours to go until the final tonight, I still don't know if I have a ticket and the nerves are really getting to me. Two of us are on a semi-solid promise of a freebie.

I'll come back and add the early songs later, but let's do this live....

08 Albania
Hold on, something has changed here. She's not singing 'dicky da, dicky da' any more, but something like 'little charm, little charm'. Either I didn't notice before, or this is a concious change. It makes it a little better, but the whole 'pretending to play the fiddles with no strings and wandering round with a drum' routine is so utterly pointless that I can't help but laugh.

09 Cyprus
Such a contrived routine on stage that it's almost laughable. Watch for the bit where they kick the canes to make them spin round in their hands. In one rehearsal, one of the women's sticks broke in two as she kicked it and half of it went flying off into the wings.

10 Spain
Look for the bloke who's too fat to be a dancer and wonder what he's doing there. Then listen to his rap and wish he wasn't there at all. Other than that, this is lovely and colourful, and has a longer lyric than American Pie, I can't decide if it's immensely catchy or immensely irritating.

11 Israel
Thank goodness this was a pleasant surprise, qualifying on Thursday. Very well-deserved because musically and vocally this is a very accomplished performance of a beautifully flowing, powerful song. Her tits probably grabbed a few votes too. Even I was transfixed. Big applause here in the media tent, but then I am surrounded by Israelis!

12 (Serbia &) Montenegro
The publicity materials and CD only mention Montenegro, where they're all from, which has really pissed off the folk back in Belgrade. It's like the UK having a Cornish entry. This is the kind of song which just washes over UK viewers but will hoover up the Balkan votes, particularly as it has a boyband with 3 cuties. (The three uglier ones don't get the camera shots - they're not stupid.) Apparently there's no suitable venue for Eurovision in Montenegro, so there's a dilemma. They will probably have their own Eurovision entry in 2006 after separation from Serbia next year anyway. Oh good, MORE Balkan votes!

The break:

Plugging the book. Excruciating dialogue. Oh god, why can't we just have the adverts, like the rest of Europe?

13 Denmark

Suddenly this song has gone from no-hoper, to successful qualifier, to sounding like a contender, only to be dashed by the fateful 'after the break' draw, which doomed poor Xandee last year.

14 Sweden
I can still see this winning by surprise, exactly as it did in Sweden's Melodifestival. It wil appeal to all age groups and nationalities as an old-fashioned show song with a young spunk singing. He needs a haircut though.

15 FYR Macedonia
I wasn't surprised that the people who vote with a map rather than their ears and eyes put this one through on Thursday, but it's still rubbish. Make my day, go away, as a friend said in trehearsal. And more fake drumming - it's just rubbish.

16 Ukraine

Undoubtedly the emotional highlight in the hall, but probably a musical low point for you watching on TV. Being in last night's dress rehearsal, seeing the excitement of the locals when this came on, and realising what this song means to them as they all sing along VERY LOUDLY, it sent shivers down my spine. You may think it's just a fat bloke shouting, but this is the song of the Orange Revolution and they're very proud of it.

17 Germany
God I hate this. I only realised a few days ago, that she's actually singing 'you'd better run hide' and not 'you're better off high', which would certainly be preferable to listening to this 4 Non-Blondes pastiche. Amuse yourself by singing 'Hey, yeah, yeah, yeah,...what's going on?' over the top of it - you'll feel much better.

18 Croatia

I love a bit of Slavic moodiness and I absolutely adore this. I'm going to ignore the mad drummer's pointless handstand, which, thankfully, the camera doesn't dwell on for too long. You also don't get to see his smug face afterwards and the way he plays to the crowd, as the camera goes back to Boris. The drumming and the female vocals really make this for me. 5th, 6th or 7th, I feel.

19 Greece
This is the song that made me go 'oh yes!' after about 15 seconds when I first saw it on Greek TV. It's immediate and very tightly choreographed, but something tells me that the favourite is set up for a fall. Watch for the braces fiddling. It actually works and isn't as silly as it sounds.

20 Russia
I absolutely loathe and detest this Avril Lavignski b-side. Musically it goes nowhere, and god only know what language 'Nobody Hurt No One' is supposed to be. Anybody any idea what it means?

21 Bosnia-Herzegovina
Sadly, there's always at least one act who gets a little bit over-excited and starts shouting. That's what they're doing now. I call it Afro-dite Syndrome. This was undoubtedly the best VIDEO of this year's entries, but it's not the best vocal performance. I still love it, but they just need to calm down and concentrate a bit more.

22 Switzerland
Just to reiterate, I do NOT want the 50th Eurovision to be won by a song which has 'why don't you kill me?' as its hook. It's a song written about, and to, a tiger, which was called Cool Vibes. Makes sense now? Well yes, but most viewers won't know that. Musically, this is stunning, and one of 4 or 5 rock tracks in this year's final, which is nice. They also look stunning and could win anyway, being this near the end.

23 Latvia
Coming up on the inside rail, we have the lovely Lat boys. Hardly anyone expected them to qualify, and yet last night we were talking about this as a potential winner, for the first time. The simplicity, the sign language, the cuteness. You never know. It also has THE most favourable draw. Second from last is the luckiest position in Eurovision history, no matter how many contenders there are. The one thing we all agreed on last night is that we would have no complaints about going back to Riga after only three years. I adored the place and was going to go back anywaay, at least for a long weekend. Ten days next Spring would do nicely.
The one on the right has a sore throat and didn't sing in yesterday's rehearsals. He currently has a Latvian scarf around his neck to keep his throat warm. Not sure if he'll be wearing that later.

24 France
This is the worst French entry in living memory. So repetitive. I love French songs, and I've loved speaking quite a bit of French here this week to French friends and strangers, but we should have had Monaco's ballad as the French song in the final, not this automatically-qualified nonsense. A very poor end to the contest, and surely a contender for bottom place, were it not for Monaco saving it with their guaranteed 12 points.

Damn! Have just received a text saying that only one freebie ticket materialised, so I don't have one. Will have to buy one now - I'm told there are lots available. Must dask to box office.

Hungary to win! For my eighty quid profit, that is.

Malta to win if there's any justice in the world!
I honestly believe that about 14 countries COULD win tonight, but my heart says Malta. The reaction Chiara gets when the song builds is absolutely amazing. She winks to the camera and is note perfect every time. I love her. Please let her win. She's going to take the UK's 12 (from Sweden). I feel it in my waters.


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Hello again from a clammy Kyiv. It's grey and overcast here today, but very muggy. It's surprising that the air hasn't cleared, as we had a torrential downpour last night.

After some of the shocks of Thursday night (namely Denmark and Latvia, as I wasn't surprised about FYR Macedonia, who only have to fart into a microphone to get votes from neighbours, it seems), predicting anything about tonight seems foolhardy.

Much has been made here by Norwegian fans, that this must surely be Norway's turn to win again. Some of them have this on their t-shirts:

1985 Bobbysocks
1995 Secret Garden
2005 Wig Wam ??

Thanks to Roger on the Yahoo! Groups Eurovision General list for pointing out another omen:

Bobbysocks sang in position 13.
Secret Garden sang in position 5.
Wig Wam were in position 13 on Thursday and they're in position 5 tonight.

Cue the spooky music! Oslo 2006! (Which I doubt if I will be able to afford, so that's a bummer.)

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Today's predictions

It's now 17.25, with four and a half hours to go until tonight's qualifier starts. We don't know where all the others are today, but Keith, Andrew and I are here together in the Eurovision bouncy castle, so here are our predictions as of now. Let's see what's changed...

Moldova NEW!
Slovenia NEW!

So, Andrew has dropped Croatia and Romania since Friday.

Netherlands NEW!
Moldova NEW!

So, Keith has also dropped Romania, along with Finland.

Chig (feeling under pressure after correctly predicting 8 out of 10 on the day last year, on this very blog, when most other people claimed 6 or 7 correct). Roughly in order of certainty, I'll go with the following:

Switzerland NEW!
Moldova NEW!
Slovenia NEW!

It pains me to drop Austria and Romania, but I fear Austria is on too early and Romania, fantastic close to the stage, as we were for yesterday afternoon's first, public dress rehearsal, doesn't really come across on the telly. Controversially, I have also dropped Iceland, which I only included last week because the others told me it was good. I hadn't seen it then, but after watching yesterday's dress rehearsal it doesn't really stand out at all. A competent pop song, but not much of a TV experience.

I'm pleased to say that Slovenia now looks and sounds stunning as an overall presentation (and Omar is as sexy close up as I thought beforehand, when I put him in Gaytimes as Top Totty, so that's a relief).

Much as I like Vanilla Ninja, I don't like this song, because of its 'why don't you kill me?' lyric. However, their fame in Estonia, Germany and Austria, plus the (literally) smoke and mirrors presentation and the full, rocking sound, should get them through.

Moldova is the biggest change. I always liked it and thought it was wonderfully mad, but thought it might bomb. However, Zdob si Zdub (it means East & West, don't ya know) are very popular here and in their surrounding countries. This has already been, to use a well-worn cliche, BIG IN THE HALL in rehearsals, and should sneak in.

It will be horribly underserved if the Bulgarian drivel of Lorrain in the rain gets through, but I'm wondering if, with neighbourly voting and a constituency of people who like plodding songs, it might surprise us. If Bulgaria get through and Iceland don't that would be a hugh double shock for the bookies, but I can see both events being very possible. If Selma doesn't make it, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst The Gays (but not me).

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Predictions for tonight's qualifier - made last weekend

Last Friday, my first full day here, seven of us went to experience the not-very-local cuisine of TGI Friday, which is considered quite a treat here in Kyiv. To be fair, the food was excellent (as were the margueritas), but I felt a sense of shame that it could easily have been the TGI Friday at home in Birmingham. Same decor, same staff uniforms. Don't worry though, I have made amends admirably and partaken of quite a few local culinary delights since. While Andrew was tucking in to 'rabbit and pig fat' yesterday (I kid you not), I was having veriniki (stuffed pancakes) and I have eaten so many delicious dumplings here at Palats Sportu that I am beginning to look like one.

Anyway, the point of this was not to discuss my diet or Ukrainian food. The seven of us wrote down, before seeing any of the second rehearsals from each country, our predictions for the ten songs that would go through from tonight to Saturday's final. Here are the results. Voici les resultats du jury brittanique/irlandais.

Andrew (UK, BBC Radio Forth, Edinburgh)
08 Belarus
09 Netherlands
10 Iceland
13 Norway
14 Romania
15 Hungary
19 Switzerland
20 Croatia
22 Ireland
25 Poland

Chig (UK, Gaytimes, The Pink Paper and

01 Austria
06 Monaco
08 Belarus
09 Netherlands
10 Iceland
13 Norway
14 Romania
15 Hungary
20 Croatia
25 Poland

Dermot (Ireland, LMFM Radio)
07 Israel
08 Belarus
09 Netherlands
10 Iceland
13 Norway
14 Romania
15 Hungary
17 FYR Macedonia
19 Switzerland
25 Poland

Keith (Ireland, All Kinds Of Everything website)
07 Israel
08 Belarus
10 Iceland
13 Norway
14 Romania
15 Hungary
16 Finland
19 Switzerland
20 Croatia
25 Poland

TV's Roy Delaney (UK, heat magazine, amongst others)
01 Austria
04 Moldova
06 Monaco
08 Belarus
10 Iceland
13 Norway
14 Romania
15 Hungary
20 Croatia
22 Ireland

Franko (UK, of Ukrainian parentage, "assistant to Roy Delaney". It says that on his badge, so it must be true.)
06 Monaco
07 Israel
09 Netherlands
10 Iceland
13 Norway
15 Hungary
20 Croatia
22 Ireland
24 Denmark
25 Poland

Phil (UK, OnEurope website)
01 Austria
04 Moldova
06 Monaco
09 Netherlands
10 Iceland
12 Estonia
13 Norway
14 Romania
15 Hungary
22 Ireland

So, adding them all together, these WERE the ten songs that, collectively, we thought would get through, with the total votes received:

Hungary (7)
Iceland (7)
Norway (7)
Romania (6)
Croatia (5)
Belarus (5)
Netherlands (5)
Poland (5)
Monaco (4)
Ireland (4)

By a stroke of luck, the cut-off point of four votes gives us exactly ten songs.

The number of votes cast for the other songs were as follows:

Austria (3)
Israel (3)
Switzerland (3)
Moldova (2)
Denmark (1)
Estonia (1)
Finland (1)
FYR Macedonia (1)

So that's eighteen in all which received a vote from at least one of us, leaving seven songs which, last Friday, no one thought would qualify:

02 Lithuania
03 Portugal
04 Latvia
11 Belgium
18 Andorra
21 Bulgaria
23 Slovenia

Since the meal, we have now had the predictions of another friend, who wrote them down a couple of days later, after seeing each country's second rehearsal, but not their first.

Mark (UK, BA High Life magazine)

01 Austria
04 Moldova
08 Belarus
09 Netherlands
12 Estonia
13 Norway
14 Romania
15 Hungary
19 Switzerland
22 Ireland

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Audio Chig

Right then, now it can be revealed! I haven't been entirely wasting my time since being allowed into the Eurovision Media Bouncy Castle. (I'll have to take a picture of this, won't I?) Yesterday, Chig did an interview from here at Eurosong Central in Kyiv, over one of those telephone things, talking about tonight's qualifier and assorted sundries. This is for Thoroughly Good, a website which I recommend having a look around, or a listen to, to be precise. This is Chig's second interview about Eurovision for Thoroughly Good, after recording one last week. You can listen to them both (as MP3s) by following these links:

Eurovision One - general preview
Eurovision Two - report from Kyiv / preview of tonight's qualifier

Please let me know what you think of them, because, here's the rub, I CAN'T HEAR THEM! There are no speakers on the PCs here, and although I've downloaded one of the MP3s to the desktop here, I can't work out a way to drag it onto my MP3 player. We're on Linux here, not Windows, which everyone finds bewildering, as none of the familiar Windows programs (Word, Excel, Photoshop) are available to us. I guess I'll have to wait until I get home next week.

Eurovision Three will be recorded tomorrow lunchtime and should be online at Thoroughly Good sometime later in the day.

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Read someone else's blog

Mike at Troubled Diva (who has been to Kyiv before and would have been my guide, if he had decided to come out here) has reviewed all of the songs for tonight's qualifier. Not only in Time Out, the magazine for London folk, but on his blog too. Part One here. Part Two here. And do you know what? We agree on almost everything. Crikey. That doesn't normally happen. It does get me off the hook though, as I haven't done any reviews myself. I was actually quite ill and in some pain for most of the month prior to coming out here, with a condition I'd never heard of before, called costochondritis. Go look it up. Someone asked me if it was painful, to which I replied, 'Only when I breathe', so you can imagine what a barrel of laughs the last few weeks have been. But did I mention it on here? No, I didn't. I'm such a bloody martyr. Life? Don't talk to me about life.

I'm rambling again...

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Off my chest

Late in the day, I know, but can I just correct a few oft-repeated errors surrounding this year's Eurovision? Yes, I can. It's my bloomin' blog and I'll say what I like. So there. (Ooh, get her! Who does she think she is - Angelica Agurbash?)

1) There are no Eurovision semi-finals
Tonight's show is a qualifying round for Saturday. It should be called a Qualifer. By definition, you can't have one semi-final; there would have to be two. EBU, please stop this 'semi-final' nonsense at once!

2) We're in Kyiv, not Kiev.

The only excuse for using 'Kiev' is if you're Russian. Which, admittedly, the majority of the city's inhabitants are, but, officially speaking, 'Kiev' went out the window ten years ago, even if traditional upholders of factual accuracy, like the entire BBC News website, have failed to notice. There was an official Ukrainian government decree in 1995, to standardise the spelling as Kyiv. So, if you can be bothered to wade through the legalese, read it here, then impress your friends and use the proper, official spelling, as favoured by Ukrainians: Kyiv.

At the start of the Eurovision season, the EBU was producing publicity material with both spellings. (You may have seen some 'Kiev' logos around.) However, the NTU (Ukrainian Television) lobbied successfully for all 'Kiev' references to be removed, and there's no sign of it anywhere here. (It still says 'Kiev' on the UK version of the CD though, possibly all versions of it, as that was produced earlier.)

3) We're in Ukraine, not The Ukraine.

Simon on Quarter Hours addressed this weighty issue back in November, when there were more important things going on here in Ukraine. I agree with his analysis in the final paragraph as to why we often hear and read this error.

4) This is not the 50th anniversary of Eurovision.

Hell, we haven't even had the 49th anniversary yet! That will be next Tuesday, 24 May; the 49th anniversary of the first Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Lugano, Switzerland. This is the 50th contest. The 50th anniversary will be on 24 May 2006, although the official 'Fifty Years of Eurovision' concert, with all of Europe able to choose the favourite Eurovision song ever (which will be Abba's 'Waterloo', so don't hold your breath) will be in Copenhagen in October this year. Disgracefully, the BBC currently plans not to show it, but we'll see what the EBU press conference here tomorrow has to say about that. As a licence-payer, I demand to see it, at least on BBC3, if not BBC One.

Good, glad we got all that sorted. Yes, it's very hot here in the media bouncy castle. I'm feeling just a wee bit dehydrated and ever-so-slightly tetchy. Perhaps the fact that I'm feeling ever-so-slightly, er, testosterone-charged, with no bloody, er, release, so far this week has something to do with it. (Are you reading 'sexual frustration' between the lines here, dear reader? I do hope so.) I also seem to be losing my voice, which isn't surprising, with the number of 'shouting in the ears' conversations I've had at the Euroclub every night so far. It was bound to happen. My mate Dermot, reporting for Irish radio, lost his voice completely the night before last, with hilarious cconsequences, as he took to communicating at the Euroclub by typing in his mobile phone and holding it up to people. The message "I normally speak", which he waved in the face of the BBC's lovely commentator Paddy O'Connell, as I was having a conversation (out loud) with Paddy, was a particular favourite of mine. Poor old Dermot had to hand over his slot, so to speak, so his mate Keith, of Irish Eurovision website All Kinds Of Everything, did yesterday's radio report to Ireland instead - very well, so I hear.

Normal service will be resumed later, hopefully with some predictions from Chig and the assembled masses out here.

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The link I gave you last week to the amazing and sometimes surreal Eurovision art of Dwain + Anne was actually a link to their oeuvres for last year.
Their representations for this year's Eurovision are actually here, although they don't seem to have done them all yet. The page for the Netherlands, with the hair samples is absolutely spot on.

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Chig's favourite picture so far....

(c) Chig 2005

Romanian boys Sistem turn up the heat at their press conference.
No one ended up in hospital as a result of this photo being taken.

Apologies that this, and subsequent photos, may take a while to load.
There doesn't seem to be any option to resize pics on the software that's available to us here in the Eurovision Media Bouncy Castle.

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Pryvit! At last!

It's 12:45 on my sixth day in Kyiv, and at long last my accreditation has been sorted out. I'm in the media tent for the first time, as I have had no access to it until now, and therefore no PC, since arriving here on Thursday. I'm feeling immensely relieved. Bureaucracy here, in many different areas of life, is as bad as I feared, and worse than I expected.

Anyway, Chig is having a good time, despite that. Everything else here is great. Our apartment is spitting distance from the Palats Sportu - in fact I don't know anyone staying nearer to the Eurovision venue than we are. It's superb, and only costing me about 23 pounds per night. That includes daily cleaning and towel changes. Unfortunately, despite it being niceley decorated and very clean, we have so far killed four cockroaches in the bathroom - a fifth one ran across my bed one morning, while I was in the bed, and it disappeared under the pillow. Rather worrying, but we'll gloss over it. They are baby cockroaches compared to the monsters in Gran Canaria, which have refused to die, even when I've jumped on them, so it's all relative, innit?

I've just left Javine's second (and final, until she wins) press conference. Both UK rehearsals (yesterday and today) have gone well. Her voice is faultless every time, and the dance routine is tight. We like a lot. Of course, it doesn't mean she's going to come anywhere decent, but at least she'll give a good show. The only negative that people keep mentioning is that the song becomes repetitive towards the end and, as a friend just said, runs out of steam half way through. The danger is that Javine will be eclipsed (in many senses of the word) by Chiara who follows her, in position three. She is just awesome. Much bigger than 1998, but still awesome. Her song captures you from the start, is very easy on the ear, and very hummable. Big danger of her winning, but I'm still tipping Hungary, and for Malta to be a dead cert for top 4. Worth an each way bet too, as Malta were still 14-1 yesterday, which is absurdly generous.

More later today. Lots to do.

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Kyiv -1

...and you think I have time to write anything here? Packing frenzy! Early night needed. See you in Kyiv, if I can get onto a PC.

In the meantime, why not check out this Eurovision art?

(Thanks to Andy & Cliff for the link.)

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Kyiv -2

...and it's all working out okay. "The chicken has landed in Kyiv." That was the text message I received at lunchtime today from the advance party, in the shape of my soon-to-be flatmate Andrew. In a strange twist of fate, it wasn't in Kyiv where he was challenged over not having a visa, but at Amsterdam airport's transfer desk. They asked where his visa for Ukraine was, and he had to explain to them that the visa requirement has been waived. Shocking.

Andrew will be reporting for Keith's All Kinds Of Everything website, and you can see his profile here.

I shouldn't have been such a pessimist. There was a man waiting for Andrew at the airport, as promised, to take him to the apartment, which does exist after all. "It's actually fine - two rooms, with amenities," he texted, before adding, "I don't believe it - we seem to be a few minutes walk from Sports Palace." Hurrah! We won't have to rely on public transport, negotiate with taxi drivers, or spend money. Hurrah again!

The weather in Kyiv "was dull and wet, but now it's sunny" at 15:25 today. We also have two sets of keys for the flat, which is a relief. I thought they might make us share one. I feel much better about things now, and I can't sit here writing any more. I have stuff to do!

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Kyiv -3

...and the horrible pre-packing, pre-travel, nervous stomach has started. Oh dear.
Andrew, my Kyiv flatmate (if our flat exists) flies out tonight from Edinburgh and I join him on Thursday. If the flat really doesn't exist, or - yes, the price has doubled, did we forget to tell you? - we're going to be ripped off, poor Andrew has two days to sort out the mess before I swan in two days later. We haven't had to pay a deposit for the apartment, and the agency hasn't revealed the exact address either. Hmm. See why I'm worried? See you on the campsite!

Two of my friends from London and Paris arrived in Kyiv on Friday, along with a Monacan, Monagask... a friend from Monaco. I spoke to one of them yesterday in the briefest of brief conversations to a mobile - the expense! - mainly to check if they encountered any problems at the airport. We were all a bit concerned that, even though the government decided last month to waive the visa requirement for EU citizens and other delegation members, they might have forgotten to tell the airport security. However, there were no such problems, and R. also reported the following snippets:

1) Kyiv is more attractive than they expected, with wide boulevards and lots of evidence of Eurovision.

2) There is a good gay club, with a darkroom and lots of cute Russian men. Ahem.

3) You can get a decent lunch for £1.50 (2 Euros).

4) CD albums cost £2.00 (3 Euros).

What more could we need to know?

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Happy Europe Day!

(L) Malta's Chiara, shot by Chig at one of the NIA photoshoots.
(R) Chig and the lovely Michaelis Hajiyannis from Cyprus.

Can it really be seven, yes SEVEN, years ago today that Eurovision came to Birmingham? Yes, it really is. On Europe Day, Saturday 9th May 1998, Dana International pipped Imaani into second place and Malta's Chiara into third, all on the last vote. It was a gloriously sunny day. Chig went to Eurovision for the first time, along with Mike, and other friends B&K and there was no looking back. Kyiv will be Chig's sixth Eurovision in eight years. And this year, Chiara is back for revenge!

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Kyiv -4

...and it seems appropriate to link two current themes today. Ukraine is inextricably linked to VE Day anyway, because Yalta, scene of the Yalta conference of February 1945, where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin planned the end of hostilities, is in Ukraine (in the Crimean region).

Something which has surprised and shocked me though, is the assertion that Ukraine was possibly the country (although not an independent country at the time, due to Soviet rule then Nazi occupation) which suffered the heaviest loss of life in WWII. One website claims up to 20% of the WWII dead were Ukrainians.

According to this website about WWII in Ukraine:
"...the overwhelming brunt of the Nazi occupation between 1941 and 1944, as of the devastating Soviet reoccupation, was borne not by Russia but by the Baltic States, by Belarus, by Poland, and above all by Ukraine.... nowhere is it made clear that the largest number of civilian casualties in Europe were inflicted on the Ukrainians, millions of whom were killed both by the Nazis and by the Soviets. Thanks to persistent wartime prejudices, many British and Americans still harbor the illusion that most Ukrainians spent the war either as auxiliaries in the concentration camps or in the Waffen-SS Galizien....[but] the Waffen SS recruited three times as many Dutchmen as Ukrainians."
(New York Review of Books June 9, 1994, p. 23).

Back to the frivolous stuff tomorrow, including, on Europe Day, first reports from Chig's mates who have arrived in Kyiv already.

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It was 60 years ago today...

Kyiv -5

...and it had to happen sooner or later. The stage might not be ready on time.

All is not lost though; a new host has been announced, to replace Ruslana. Her name is Masha Efrosnina. This announcement is welcome, if only for comedy purposes. It means the hosts are now called Pasha and Masha.

And finally, Chig's media career has stuttered slightly. At the Retro Bar's Eurovision night last month, Radio 4 were there, interviewing a few people about the contest for a documentary. That documentary, Eurovision: The Politics Of Pop was broadcast this morning (listen again here) and it does feature Retro bar punters, but Chig's words of wisdom have hit the audio equivalent of the cutting room floor. Mind you, I was pissed. God only knows what I said. The comments from other people are much more interesting.

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Kyiv -6

...and I picked up my currency and travellers' cheques today. US dollars both, as Thomas Cook don't supply Ukrainian hryvnas. Apparently, this doesn't matter, as all the tourist guides say you can spend US dollars in various places, including taxis. I just have to change a few dollars into Ukrainian currency once I get to the airport in Kyiv.

I also spent my birthday afternoon buying a few new clothes for the trip. Tonight I've been out for a drink with my friend Gregster, then a takeaway curry, then round to another friend, Beckster's, for a glass of wine and to eat the aforementioned curry. And now I'm knackered - it could be something to do with only sleeping between about 6.30 and 11.30 this morning!

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Respect is due

Wow! I'm now living in a marginal constituency! Roger Godsiff had the 6th safest Labour seat until today, with a majority of 16,246. Tonight, that has been slashed to 3,289 by Respect. That means the Labour majority has dropped from 44.3% to 8.6%. Respect's Salma Yaqoob has pushed the LibDems, a distant second in 2001, down to third. Turnout here is up slightly, to 51.8% from 49.3% in 2001.

If only we had known just who the closest challenger was. The combined vote of Respect and the LibDems would have booted Godsiff out, but that was always the problem. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Labour achieved their parliamentary majority at 4.28am. It's now 5.30am and I'm going to bed. 595 results are declared so far, with 51 to come.
The standings so far are:
Lab 343
Con 184 (Already up 18 on their 2001 total.)
LibDem 56 (Already up 4 on 2001, with more to come - their best result since 1923. Hurrah!)
Others 12 (including Kidderminster Hospital Health Concern retaining Wyre Forest, George Galloway (Respect) taking Bethnal Green & Bow and an Independent Labour candidate knocking the stuffing out of Labour in Blenau Gwent.)

This has been a very unusual way to start a birthday. Goodnight!

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Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me-ee (and my mates Jacko and Jamie)...Happy Birthday tooooo meeee.

04.03 Right. Got that over with. Now back to watching the election results. Haven't heard any mention on TV so far that it's now Tony Blair's birthday too, even though he's been on, giving two speeches after winning his own constituency.

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Kyiv -7

...and on this day of voting (and because I'm short of time today), it seems a good day to reveal the votes of the Edinburgh Eurovision jury. Thanks to Andrew, my Edinburgh-based friend and soon-to-be Kyiv flatmate, these are the results of the Edinburgh fans' get-together, held last Saturday night:

1st Hungary
2nd Bosnia-Herzegovina
3rd Switzerland
4th Malta
5th UK
6th France (Big shock here - I think it's a bit rubbish.)
7th Romania
8th Iceland (Which won the Retro Bar's vote.)
9th Spain
10th Denmark

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A quick note to anyone who's sent me an e-mail in the last few days...

Wanadoo/Freeserve isn't allowing me to reply, or compose new messages. No idea why. Will get back to you when I can. Sorry.

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Vote, vote, vote!

Above: A message to Blair and Howard.

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Kyiv -8

...and the official Eurovision merchandising has gone online today. Some of this stuff will only be on sale in Kyiv, so if you want me to buy you a Ukrainian Eurovision teatowel, you'll have to get the money to me sharpish.

There has also been news today that Ruslana has stepped down from her Eurovision presenting role. As Eurovision's head honcho, Svante Stockselius, explains, she'll still be performing at the start of the final and as part of the interval act, and one of those performances will include a new song; this year's Eurovision anthem. However, she won't be the English-speaking presenter. (DJ Pasha is handling le francais.) We don't know yet how this will be resolved. Will they bring in someone new at this stage?

In the comments below, Joe has kindly pointed out that this was actually a World Of Chig exclusive, several weeks ago. Perhaps Ruslana didn't lie to me after all in that interview on 5 March. Perhaps she knew all along that she wouldn't be presenting, and she just told me the truth. Thank you Ruslana, and sorry for ever doubting you.

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10 reasons why Chig won’t be voting Labour tomorrow.

The reasons for not voting Tory don’t need to be explained. Chig may be slightly bonkers, but he is not insane and he does see a world beyond his own back yard, so voting Tory will never be an option. But why won’t Lefty Chig be putting a cross in the Labour box?

1) Because I never will until the Labour Party supports a fair electoral system.
If people thought their votes would count, they would be more likely to vote. It’s not rocket science. In the meantime, Labour’s ‘I’m alright Jack’ complacency sees democracy withering and dying away. Radio 1 Newsbeat’s survey yesterday revealed that only 31% of young people intend to vote tomorrow. That’s already down by another 7% from last time. It’s shameful. Don’t even get me started on postal voting…

If you’re a Tory in Scotland, a non-Tory in Sutton Coldfield, or a Green Party supporter anywhere, your vote is almost worthless (although I still say vote for who you believe in – you’ll feel much better about yourself). It’s time to change. If our first past the post system is so wonderful, why is it that not one of the Eastern European countries that emerged from the shadow of communism 15 years ago adopted our electoral system? Did South Africa adopt the UK system when they had the chance to wipe the slate clean and start again? Did they my arse! Because it’s unfair and undemocratic and it’s a stain on the image of this country.

2) Because Blair took us into an illegal war, based on lies.
A war founded on useless ‘intelligence’ and 100,000 people in Iraq are dead because of it. Even if Blair truly believed the intelligence he presented to Parliament (and I don’t believe that for a minute), he deserves to be punished for overseeing such bloody useless intelligence agencies. How many other things have they got wrong?

3) Because here in Birmingham we don’t need to vote Labour – we have corrupt Labour councillors who will be doing that for us, whether we like it or not.
So does Bradford. Goodness only knows where else they are fiddling the figures too.

4) Because the Labour government thinks that detention without trial and trial without jury are a good idea in a modern, Western democracy.
I’m ashamed to live in a country where the state can imprison people without telling them what they are supposed to have done, and without ever bringing them to trial. These are crimes against humanity.

5) Because yesterday Blair threatened to bring back David Blunkett.
This is a man who makes Genghis Khan look a bit woolly round the edges.

6) Foundation hospitals.
A ridiculous idea, if ever I heard one.

7) Council tax.
Because it’s a mess, and unfair. A local income tax would be much fairer and, crucially, would be much cheaper to collect. The Inland Revenue already exists. We would just use them and scrap the bureaucratic mess of each council’s Council Tax department completely. No more valuations of property needed either.

8) Because Roger Godsiff is one of the laziest, most complacent MPs in the country.
Don’t take my word for it, look on They Work For He clearly doesn’t. He’s known around here as the absentee MP. He hardly ever features in local media, and hardly turns up in Parliament either. So what is he doing with his time, in between trips (of vital interest to his poor, unemployed inner-city constituents – not) to Botswana and Vietnam? Answers on a postcard….

9) Peter Mandelson.
Enough said.

10) Student fees.
Because Blair told a blatant lie to all students last time round. We will not introduce top-up fees, they said. And then they did. To think that I spent my time at university in the late 1980s campaigning against Tory proposals for education charges, and then Labour brings in a system that’s even worse. It’s a complete betrayal. We can’t believe a word Labour say.

I would never tell anyone how they should vote. I can live with people having opinions that differ from mine, but what really angers me is people who have no opinions at all. I just ask that you vote. If you don't vote, the rest of us will assume that you're happy with the way things are, on every issue. That's not the case, is it? If we don't vote, we have also lost our right to complain about anything the government does for the next four or five years, because we did nothing to influence it. People died so that we could vote, so please, please do it. Think of the people in Zimbabwe and Iraq, who have willingly risked their lives recently in order to vote. Think how lucky we are, even if our electoral system is the most unbalanced and unfair in Western Europe.

Just do it! Please.

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Every Day Is Like Sunday

Chig did something deeply, deeply shameful yesterday - Bank Holiday Monday, which kept feeling like it was Sunday anyway - and has to get it off his chest. No, not the immensely satisfying gaydar shag in the afternoon. (It can happen! It can happen! After all these years!) Oh, sorry, where was I? No, not that. Earlier in the day, I did something so boringly predictable that I am very worried about what is happening to me. I went...oh God, I can hardly bring myself to say it. Okay, deep breath. I centre! Aaaaaaaaaagh! Is there no hope? Has conformity finally come home to roost? I didn't want to do it, I really didn't. I know it's what people are supposed to do on Bank Holiday Mondays. I tried to resist, but I needed things, after clearing, digging and weeding my proposed vegetable patch in the front garden (which the local cats think is for them to shit in) over the last couple of weeks. Truth is, I got up too late on Sunday to make it then. The shame. So, I found myself queuing for the car park at Homebase, thinking 'what am I doing here?' before toddling off to buy slug pellets (loads of slugs and snails around here), cat and dog repellent (to ward off the shitters), some canes, seeds and begonias (£1 for a tray of six - bargain). I have become middle-aged.

All of this came on the third day of a top weekend, where I managed to do loads during the day, including cycling twice, once along the canals and once to Cannon Hill Park. I managed to go out, and consume alcohol, on all four nights. Hurrah! Radio 5 Live said this morning that it was the warmest May Day Bank holiday ever, or since the holiday was introduced, in 1978. This in itself was news, as I don't remember the holiday - which I've always seen as being in honour of my birthday (ahem!) - being introduced when I was twelve; I thought it had always been there.

All was well until last night, when my Mum rang to tell me that one of her cousins - someone I looked upon as an uncle, especially when I was younger - had died yesterday afternoon. It was so completely out of the blue. He was at home with his wife, children and grandchildren after a day out in Stratford-upon-Avon, and died quietly in his chair, with people all around. It reminded me, as I watch far too much TV, of the way that Ray Langton died in Coronation Street the other week. Peaceful, yet shocking. But my Mum's cousin hadn't been ill and had no history of heart problems (although they are in the genes on that side of my family). He was 66, just four years older than my Mum, and I could tell it has really shaken her. She went to school with him and his brothers and sisters. (Six of them in all - we are Catholics after all.) When my Mum rang, it was clear from the way she said, 'I've got something to tell you' that someone had died. I thought she was going to say that my Great Aunt had died. She's about 92 and the last surviving sister of my Grandad and their 11 other siblings. (Yes, thirteen of them! We're Catho... oh, I've mentioned that already.) But no, she's apparently fit and well (and adorable, incidentally). Instead, it's the first of the generation below her who has died. With my birthday approaching, that certainly makes me feel old. Even more than going to a garden centre on a Bank Holiday.

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Kyiv -9

...and Javine has won! Well, she has won the vote amongst Turkish Eurovision fans at the Turkish OGAE fanclub meeting. Result! Of course, if you enter a Turkish-sounding song, you'd have to be pretty worried if it wasn't appealing to Turkish fans, but let's not be dismissive. Javine's song is also very popular on a Greek fansite, and last night she performed it to a mainly Greek/Cypriot crowd in London, along with Constantinos, this year's Cypriot entrant. It's almost unheard of for any other countries' singers to perform their songs in the UK prior to the contest, but tonight we have another one, with Albania's Ledina Celo also performing in London. More of this please!

Not such good news for Javine from Russia though, where OGAE Russia also had their vote over the weekend, with the UK not featuring in their top ten. They've gone for the Estonian girlband Vanilla Ninja to win instead. That's Switzerland's entry, not Estonia's, for those who haven't been paying attention at the back.

It's interesting to note the six songs that appear in the top tens of both countries. (Well I think it's interesting, although probably pointless, but let's do it anyway.)

Greece: 2nd & 3rd
Iceland: 3rd & 4th
Hungary: 4th & 6th (carrying the burden of Chig's money, lest we forget)
Switzerland: 5th & 1st
Romania: 6th & 9th
Spain: 10th & 2nd

This would seem to justify UK bookies William Hill having Greece as the favourite, at the ridiculously short odds (before we've even seen any rehearsals) of 9/4. Whether or not Helena wins for Greece, I have a feeling that she will get 10 or 12 points from the UK, with Sweden being the other country in the UK's top two.

A little birdie told me that Irish fans had a get-together in Dublin a couple of weeks ago. I can hardly believe my source, but I'm told that Finland was voted as their favourite this year. Seeing as Finland's godawful song, 'WAAAAAAAH!'* is battling for 37th place (out of 39) in Chig's list of favourites, I can only assume that the Irish fans got bored and/or drunk and picked the winner out of a hat.

*It's actually called 'Why?', but you wouldn't know it.

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Kyiv -10

...and the website for Kyiv's Eurocamp is unveiled today. This is where the authorities are providing camping space on Trukhaniv Island in Kyiv for up to 3,000 people (downgraded last week from the original plan for 10,000). So, if you want to see Eurovision in Kyiv, but don't have a ticket or hotel, just register here.

"One can understand Eurovision only by swirling in the middle of it,
getting into the central point of action and sharing this universal feeling
of unity with thousands of like-minded. EuroCamp gives such a chance. Try
not to miss it!"

So says Olena Hantsyak-Kaskiv, the coordinator of the EuroCamp's organising committee. It sounds to me like she's describing being on E. If it's that good, we'll be there!

The plan seems to be to create a kind of Woodstock/Glastonbury/scout jamboree, with a European flavour, with live bands throughout the ten days (14th to 23rd May) and Eurovision shown on big outdoor screens. The idea stems from last November's Orange Revolution, when people spontaneously formed a campsite here, despite the temperatures being several degrees below freezing. It sounds great, if enough people turn up for it. We'll definitely pop there for a visit at some point. Expect a report.

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Chig's Chart Chatter

Tony Christie (and Peter Kay, if we must acknowledge his credit, despite just being in the video) makes it seven weeks at number one today with '(Is This This The Way To) Amarillo?' That means he overtakes Blackeyed Peas' 'Where Is The Love?' as the longest-running number one this decade/century/millennium (all of those), taking us back to 1998 and Cher's 'Believe' before we find a single that's held on for longer. Amarillo will equal Cher's 8 week run if it manages to hold on next week, and who would bet against it? This week saw an unusual 3-way race for number one, with the lead changing hands in the week, but the Comic Relief track fought back and beat both Elvis vs JXL and Snoop & Justin. (Mr. Trousersnake featured on the aforementioned Where Is The Love?, just to increase the connections.) Can there still be anyone who wants to buy Amarillo who hasn't done so already? It always amazes me that so many people only decide to buy a single when it's been out for six weeks already. The availability of downloads probably accentuates that effect even more now, as you don't even have to bother going to a shop to increase a song's chart position.

The Elvis run at last comes to an end after 17 weeks (and 18 releases). In the end, the dominance of the number one spot that some of us feared never quite materialised, and in the end only three of the releases made No. 1, all at the start of the run, but that included claiming the 1,000th number one (plus the 999th and the 1,002nd - see sidebar). All the Elvis singles made the top 5, and the run has given Elvis the record for most chart hits in one year, beating the previous mass re-releases by The Jam and oasis.

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Damn you, Channel 4. I turned on at 8 o'clock tonight, to watch Britain's Most Watched TV, but it turns out not to be a programme about Eddie Izzard after all. Pah!

(Ironically, he was mentioned in the first few minutes, but that was just coincidence.)

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Kyiv -11

...and the Eurovision stage has been delivered. That's a relief, considering rehearsals start in ten days. They're not exactly rushing things, are they?

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Chig at Villa Park (c)Chig 2005, Frank Lampard et al today (c)BBC 2005, Joe Cole, Burton model.

"So, Chelsea win the Premiership title as expected and there'll be dancing in the King's Road tonight. But how is this first victory in half a century being celebrated outside of London? Let's go now to the West Midlands, where our football correspondent Chig reports live from that board with all the sponsors' names on, at the home of football, Villa Park."

"Thanks Gary. Sadly, I've turned up here at Villa Park when there's no one else around, as Villa aren't playing a game today. So there's no one to speak to, but I would just like to offer my sincere congratulations to Chelsea. I'd also like to say how pleased I am for my ex-boyfriend, who's a season ticket holder at Stamford Bridge. I know he must be absolutely ecstatic to experience this for the first time in his life."

"Yes, and I understand he isn't replying to your text messages?"

"That's right Gary, I think he's pissed."

"Er, thank you Chig. Chig there, from Villa Park. Alan, this just proves that money can buy you the Premiership title, doesn't it?"

"Are we off air? Phew, thank God I didn't say anything about wanting to shag Frank Lampard and Joe Cole - that would have been really embarrassing."

"Sorry Alan, just a moment. Chig, your mic's still on."

"Sorry Gary."

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