World of Chig   

Ray of Light

More than any other photo, this picture of my feet and jeans sums up yesterday, the first day of Birmingham Pride. One word: quagmire.

Still, those who managed to endure the mud and the rain had a good time, and it was all very well organised, it seemed to me. For me, it was hard work, working for three organisations and trying to take photos of everyone and everything, but it was fun at the same time (and to be honest I wouldn't have it any other way - I love being busy on days like this).

Respect is due to rapper Q-Boy for being such a good sport and being one of those moments of fun (below) as he protested 'You're objectifying me!' Well, yes, I can't deny it, but what a nice guy he was. Thank you.

Today, thankfully, the weather has improved and the Pride parade this afternoon brought Birmingham city centre to life. The Nightingale team, led by the irrepressible dance leader Andy, stole the show with their combat costumes and formation dancing. They were stunning. (Those costumes were kept secret from everyone wearing them until today - the dancers didn't know what they were wearing until they turned up for the parade.)

Before I zip off back into town to do it all again, probably until 6am like last night/this morning, here's a picture of me and my favourite Serb, just after the parade hit the gay village this afternoon.

There's a really good atmosphere around the gay village today. We have a very nice new bar/restaurant, the Loft Lounge, which I attended on Wednesday for a private opening party and which opened to the public on Friday and is spilling out onto Bromsgrove Street today. I also met someone there on Wednesday who has put a spring in my step for the last few days, and I keep bumping into him over this Pride weekend. (Okay, I keep tracking him down.) Something clicked between us in a way I haven't felt for months...years. He's lovely and I keep getting butterflies in my tummy when we speak. I am smitten. There's a clue in the title. Watch this space.

One of the managers of the Loft Lounge has very kindly offered to feed me, 'on the house' I think, so I must go back. This isn't payola; it really is a lovely bar.

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It's the start of Birmingham's 10th annual Pride weekend today. This year, the first day is in a park for the first time; my local, Cannon Hill Park. It's now 11:45 and it's raining. Oh great.

But spare a thought for the other big Pride event this weekend; the first ever Moscow Pride. They have been beset with difficulties, opposition and threats of violence, and the event has been banned by the mayor, but is still going ahead. We've got it easy here.

Despite being 'big in Russian media' (Oh how long can I milk this?) I'm sticking with the local gig (now working for THREE organisations), but our thoughts are with those in Moscow. Solidarity with our Russian brothers and sisters. Good luck. And if you manage to keep going for a few years, Dima Bilan will probably be available for the main stage...

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Happy 50th Birthday to Eurovision!

Yes, it's today! It may well be a whole year since the 50th Eurovision Song Contest, in Kyiv. We've even just had the 51st, in Athens. The EBU's official celebration of 50 years; the huge Congratulations show in Copenhagen that the BBC didn't bother to broadcast (perhaps wisely, I thought, after watching it on the web), was way back in October. Despite all that, it's today that Eurovision celebrates its 50th anniversary. It's a whole half century since Lys Assia won on Thursday 24th May 1956. I wrote all about it last year, so I won't do it again, but why not read what Lys Assia herself has to say about it?

I doubt if she ever thought that 50 years later, the gentile scene above would have been transformed into this...

...but there's progress for you - and Lordi did get flowers too. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, as someone probably said in Switzerland that night in 1956.

One thing I'm damn sure Lys Assia didn't foresee was that some concerned fan 'stroke' journalist from Birmingham would have to hurriedly set up his own union flag on the stage before the UK entrant's second press conference, because no one else had bothered, but that's what happened last Tuesday. The things one does for one's country...

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Hail Sezer!

Continuing the shirtless theme from yesterday...

Oh good gracious...I've just seen sexy Sezer for the first time without his shirt on. Winner!

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Woof, woof! There was I, thinking I was actually at the TV event of the year so far, in Athens on Saturday. Little did I know it happened last Tuesday on This Morning! Phil'n'Fearne really shouldn't be allowed to have something like this on during the daytime. At least not without a fair bit of advance notice so that we can set our videos.

Ahh, Ben, Ben, Ben. (Sigh)

View more of the pictures (in bigger versions) here on Famous Males or on texkenobi's flickr page.

The serious bit: Ben Cohen and Jason Cundy were on the sofas to raise awareness of testicular and prostate cancer via the Orchid Cancer Appeal. Jason is a professional footballer who has survived testicular cancer himself.

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Who stole the Summer?

God, it's depressing enough leaving Athens, but I come back to this?
Yesterday, Sunday, it hit 95 degrees in Athens, and three of us were up at the Acropolis and out drinking late outside the EuroCafé. I knew it had been cold here, but as I got off the plane tonight at Birmingham airport, I could see my breath and it was raining. Jeez.

So, that was Eurovision, and I am thrilled with the result, and the show. My bank account is very pleased with the Finnish win and the Bosnian third place too. Now, bring on Big Brother (I think I fancy at least three of them already - am I wrong?), Birmingham Pride and the World Cup! It's going to be a busy few months! (Birmingham Pride is this weekend and I am doing photography for two different organisations. Should be interesting.)

But the Eurovision fix hasn't ended. More photos and stuff to come this week.

In the meantime...

Why not see what Lordi really look like? Mr Lordi here and other band members here. (The latter are surprisingly pretty boys, je crois.)

Or read some stats about the Eurovision results here?

Or listen to the second (and final) Athens podcast that I've contributed to on Thoroughly-Good? It's podcast 23. You can download it as an MP3 or listen to it live. I haven't heard it yet, but my bed beckons...and at least I have my Dima Bilan pillow...

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Tonight's show

Don't miss the start of tonight's Eurovision final. Mike and I were in the dress rehearsal last night and were jaw-droppingly stunned by what happens above our heads. I'll say no more, but we watched the second dress rehersal from the middle of the fifth row of the stalls, which was as perfect as perfect could be. I was able to take amazing photos, and get all that out of my system, so that tonight I can put the camera down, relax and enjoy myself.

Mike and I are sitting in different parts of the auditorium tonight. Mike's in row 6, seat one, which is the right hand end as you look at the stage. I'm in row 21 and I'll have a big union flag and a teeny-weeny Bosnian one. If I can mug a Croatian on the way in, I'll have one of theirs too. Neither of us has any idea who we'll be sitting with, which all adds to the excitement. My sister and Tom are up on the balcony, but near the front of it. It's very high up, but they'll have a great view of the crowd, the screens and the stage, so that's great too.

I'm still predicting a win for Bosnia-Herzegovina, in line with the each way bet I placed on 1st April, despite it being drawn in position thirteen, after the break when people are still in the toilet. I've also done each way bets on Finland and Germany. Of those two, I really want Lordi to win as I find the German song a bit dull.

Finnish trivia, which may have to be re-written tonight:
Finland have only received twelve points three times.
They have NEVER finished higher than the UK.

Enjoy the show! (Despite the terrible hosts.)

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The serviettes of death - the results

Way too busy yesterday (Friday), but here are the results of our prediction competition. We had an astonishing 18 Brits and Irish people turn up to the Fame restaurant in Iraklion (which surprised the restaurant) and it was yours truly who ended up being guardian of the entries and the 36 Euros that we collected as prize money. In the end, all the money has gone to one person, Julie W, who was the only person to predict nine of the ten qualifiers. I've already paid up. Well done Julie!

Here are the full results from our posse:

5 correct: Kyeth W. (Hadn't seen the rehearsals, Kyeth, had you?!)

6 correct: Jill P

7 correct: Andrew M, Anthony S, Chig, Dave B, Dermot, John S, Mike, Nick, Paul C and Roy.

8 correct: Andrew W, Keith M, Phil C, Ryan, Spencer. (Well done to all five, but especially Ryan there, as the other four all work on, or own, Eurovision websites, whereas Ryan doesn't.)

9 correct: Julie W. Predicted Estonia and not Armenia, but all nine others went through.

Until next year in Helsinki/Hamburg/Sarajevo...

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Only missed three of the qualifiers for the final. More on this later, but Daz Sampson is on soon. Must dash next door into the hall and see what reaction he gets from the crowd. Will then stay for Greece and Finland. What a run of three that's going to be, and with Lithuania before them as well...

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Nipples, fireworks and the serviettes of death

We're off in a few minutes, for what is now the third annual UK and Irish media boys' pre-qualifier prediction meal. Phew! What a mouthful.

This is where we write down, sometimes on our napkins (hence the 'Serviettes of Death' name) our predicted ten countries to get through from tonight into the final. So, even though I made a prediction in the Thoroughly Good podcast on Tuesday, here are my ten as of now. Earlier this afternoon, Mike and I were in the sixth row for the final dress rehearsal for tonight's show. Let me tell you one thing.


I had a 'Eurovision moment' near the end of their song for Finland. The sixth row was FAR TOO NEAR the flames - we copuld actually feel the heat. It is pyrotechnic overkill and absolutely bloody brilliant! It made me shudder in a goosepimpley way, and I wrote the word AWESOME in big letters in my notebook. That's how good they are.

Top totty in tonight's show: Monaco's dancer, Thierry. He's the Caucasian one of the two. Nipples ahoy! I've spoken to him. He oozes sex. Actually, he looks really camped up on stage (as he's wearing a sarong and a lot of make-up, but in real life...phwoar! Bloody gorgeous.

We also have UK-based dancers (two of whom I'd met before, back at home) dancing for Turkey. One of them is Glenn Ball who used to be in Pop!, the pop group. Yes, the one I saw in Selfridges recently. Glenn, Scot and (possibly) Jamesd are all Brits, and Arthur is London-based, born in Armenia and raised in Belgium. They're all nice guys, with a few interesting tattoos and a lotn of big muscles between them. All four of them are fit as hell and dance superbly. I'll be thrilled if they get through, but the song may not be strong enough, so enjoy them tonight in case they're not in Saturday's show.

My friend Stephen has not only started a blog this week, but also predicted his ten. They're from listening to the CD though and don't take into account things like Monaco's poor singing and my general lack of interest in Portuguese girlgroups. However, see Stephen's list here.

So, here we go. Remember, I correctly predicted only six last year, after eight in 2004, so who knows how this will go. There are 'head vs. heart' issues with some of them as well, but I think the ten will be...

None of the first seven songs. (Stick with it; the show gets better later.)

Roughly in order of certainty:

FYR Macedonia

Yes, Ireland. Who'd have thought?

Next would come Cyprus and Ukraine.

Netherland and Portugal have no chance whatsoever. All the rest is up for grabs. Have fun if you're watching, and could someone please record Big Brother's opening night for me? Ta.

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Big cock

One of the joys of my new camera is discovering what it can do, and it's mightily impressive. (I'm going to skip over the tears that were shed yesterday when Mike's laptop swallowed my first 230 pictures, possibly never to be seen again, as I've deleted them off the camera, because it's too upsetting.)

Anyway, we had a day off rehearsals yesterday, so I went trolling around Athens, taking photos, and I've taken pictures of a very big cock indeed. There I was, wandering around the National Garden of Athens, when I saw it. Actually, I heard it first. There is a mini zoo in the middle of the park, which I stumbled across. There, amongst the hens and geese, was a huge cock, crowing away. Honestly, your mind is just filthy!

There were also peacocks, rabbits, goats and an ostrich. Or was it an emu? I'm never quite sure. Whatever it was, it was demented. I'm particularly pleased with the photo of the goats shagging which I will probably be able to sell to a 'specialist' website.

If I can ever get my photos downloaded onto someone's laptop which isn't going to crash and eat them, you may see more of them someday. As it stands, it's impossible, because they won't let us put CD-burning software onto these PCs here in the media centre. Pah!

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Read Mike!

Mike, of Troubled Diva fame, with whom I am sharing a lovely apartment, is here doing proper work, with deadlines and stuff. His first report for is online now, for your reading pleasure. Please bear in mind that it's written for an American audience and therefore the slant is rather different from the stuff I write, where I can presume that the Gay Times readership will at least have heard of Eurovision!

(Mike is also in those Daz Sampson pics on ESC Today that I've linked to below. It's not all work, work, work, you know.)

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Look at Chig!

ESC Today is showing a great selection of the photos from Daz Sampson's photoshoot, which we were all involved in on Tuesday. I love the one of me giving Mandy a piggy back.

So if you want to see grown men (including me) and women dressed in school uniforms (and I know some of you enjoy that kind of thing), check out ESC Today's twelve pictures, starting here.

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Listen to Chig!

Our first Eurovision podcast is now available for your listening pleasure. Listen to it or download it here from Thoroughly Good. Thanks Jon. I've just listened to it and, modesty aside, even *I* found it entertaining - and it was me being interviewed! Shocker. The sound quality is MUCH better than last year's (which are also still available). Jon has also done other Eurovision podcasts recently, including an interview with 'our' lovely 2004 entrant James Fox. Why not go and have a listen?

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More media appearances

I've recorded an interview for Thoroughly Good, in which I have foolishly predicted which ten countries I think will get through from Thursday's qualifier into Saturday's final. And those ten countries are... be revealed when the programme is edited and you can download it from Thoroughly Good. You should be able to listen to it in the next couple of days.

We've had TV cameras poked in our faces more than ever this year. The conversation generally goes something like this:

"Hello, where are you from?"
"England, the UK." (I never know how to answer that question in a Eurovision context.)

"Mmm yes. And which song is your favourite?"

"Mmm yes, thank you. Can you sing?"
Sing what?

"Sing your favourite"
No, it's in Croatian.

"Mmm yes. What is your song?"
The UK's song?

"Mmm yes."
"Teenage Life"

"Can you sing just leetle bit?"
"No, it's a rap."

Despite my unhelpful attitude, I'm told that one such interview with me was indeed shown on Greek TV this morning. That must have scared a few Greeks over their cornflakes.

Still, wait until they see the school uniform photoshoot that we did today...

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Random mutterings from Greece

I'm not quite sure why, but I'm not sleeping very much out here in Athens. After getting to bed at something like 3.30 this morning, I found myself wide awake at 7.50am, wondering why. I couldn't sleep after that, even though the first rehearsal today was only starting at 11.00. So, I lay in bed and deleted some of the rubbish pictures from my camera. I only got through the first 600; I appear to have taken about 1,500 so far! You would hardly believe it's possible, but it's true!

I even had time to wash some clothes, so I will have clean underwear for later in the week. Just in case you were concerned about that.

Yesterday evening was hectic, and a little fraught with anxiety at times, mainly due to useless taxi drivers, who don't appear to know their own city, or much English. (I know, I know, why do we always expect other people to know English? But taxi drivers, in a modern European capital...come on.)

The UK's first rehearsal was on quite late yesterday, and then we had to wait for Daz's conference, as I wanted to ask a question (which I did). We then had to dash off back to the apartment and swap my beachwear (yes, it's that hot during the day) for clothes more befitting of a reception with the mayor. We needn't have bothered though, because the delay in Daz's rehearsal, coupled with a taxi driver who 'didn't know' how to drive to one of the most conspicuous buildings in Athens, made us an hour late, so we didn't see the mayor anyway. Then it turned out not to be a posh do at all, but a live TV show in which we were just the audience. It had its moments and I enjoyed the whole spectacle, but give me the sumptuous reception that we had in Istanbul any day over that. The food was rubbish too (and mostly gone by the time we arrived). All I had last night was cheese sandwiches and chooclate éclairs, washed down with white wine, Amstel beer (heavily sponsoring the whole thing) and a few vodka and cokes later. I really should have been more drunk than I was.

I'm doing a radio interview /podcast later for Thoroughly Good, so must dash, but I'll keep popping back when I have chance. This afternoon, we also have the BBC photocall for those of us who have brought school uniforms out here. I have made a half-hearted attempt, with a shirt and tie, but couldn't get a cap. Others have made MUCH more effort!

Read a full report of Daz's superb rehearsal and entertaining media conference yesterday on ESCtoday here. It was me who asked the question about betting!

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Chig: Big In Russia

I am absolutely amazed at the news that Andy from has left in my comments boxes. (Thank you Andy!) It seems the word of Chig has been spreading across Russian printed media, on the subject of their singer, Dima Bilan. Andy lives in Kazakhstan, and his website is a very reliable source for Eurovision news from all of the former Soviet countries. We have spoken in person a few times, as Andy has attended Eurovision once (in Istanbul, I think?)

He wrote this yesterday:

Hi, Chig! Hope you will have good time in Athens. Just wanted to let you know one interesting fact. Eurovision review of Gay Times is heavily reprinted in Russian media with notification that Bilan is considered one of the favourites there. Not sure whether you are connected with that review, but may be interesting for you.

I wasn't just connected with the review - I wrote the whole page! I had a look last night at the May issue of Gay Times, to remind myself what I wrote about Dima Bilan, and it wasn't very much. But Andy has explained this today, as the Russian media have also reported some of my other comments. Andy again:

Great, that I can do some translation and you can compare with what you wrote:

"Famous British magazine Gay Times has included Dima Bilan in the list of the most good looking singers of this year Eurovision. "If he undress on stage, he will have great chances". Magazine also mentiones Mihai, Luiz, Anzej ... Then they speak on them and others ... In the end magazine predicts win for Hari Mata Hari, with ethnic ballad, but we think that as Bilan also has ballad, and we consider his chances to be better than old and not goodlooking Bosnian..."

Then they keep on speculating mentioning that probably Dima should follow advice and undress indeed. About 10 news sites and printed papers including famous tabloid MK, have your review covered.

Wow! I'm amazed! Imagine how many Russian people are reading all those publications and websites! And how rude of them to call Hari 'old and not goodlooking'!

I saw Dima's rehearsal earlier today and it was good, but sadly he hasn't taken my advice and is keeping his kit on throughout. I also saw his press conference from very near the front and then saw him outside and took some good photos of him. Hilariously, I also caught one of his printed cushions, which he threw into the audience at the conference, so I can sleep next to his face if I so desire.

'Rahmet' and 'spasibo' to Andy for telling me that news. It has made my day!

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Hands up if you're this year's contribution to pouffy dancing!

Albanian rehearsal

Eyes and cheekbones to die for.

Belarussian hotpants

Happy with this one, Glen?

Albanian conference

Andorra's Jenny in rehearsal.


Andre of Armenia.

Eric asks a question.

Hello from Hellas!

Kalispera! We're in! Access to PCs an' all! So, thankfully, last year's trauma of five days without a PC won't be repeated. Weather is hot. Venue is enormous. Our apartment is fantastic. The flights here were great.

My main challenge today is to fully understand the functions of my new camera and use them. I've taken some photos already, just by pointing and shooting, but must get to grips with it quickly.

In the meantime, if you want to see some faulous pictures from rehearsals already, taken by my friend Andrew, with whom I shared a flat in Kyiv last year, check out the All Kinds of Everything LiveJournal photoblog.

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Just in case you've forgotten...

Where am I going today?

That's right! See y'all soon! Don't go away! Probably back on here on Sunday.
Athens, here I come!

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Why we're all off to Athens...

Tonight's Retro Bar results (and Edinburgh's)

The votes are in. Our intrepid reporters Luca and Mike have verified the results, and we can report that the winners of tonight's London Retro Bar 'Douze Points' video vote are:

Germany and their middle of the road Radio 2 country effort. Yawn.

Bloody queens. They can't be trusted. As if to prove the point, the idiots have voted a Christian homophobe into second place. Turkeys and Christmas, anybody? WAKE UP YOU FOOLS! SHE HATES YOU!

Full results then, in descending order:

1st Germany
2nd Sweden
3rd Greece
4th Slovenia
5th Iceland
6th Belgium
7th Romania
8th United Kingdom
9th Russia
10th Finland
11th Malta
12th Estonia
13th Denmark
14th Bosnia-Herzegovina (which will win the real thing)
15th Spain
=16th Norway & Croatia
18th Monaco
19th France
20th Switzerland
=21st Poland & Latvia
23rd Moldova
24th Israel

Let's compare these with the results from the Edinburgh chapter of Eurovision fans, who held a vote on the very same videos last Friday night (in someone's house):

1st Sweden (I despair.)
2nd Slovenia
3rd Iceland
4th Romania
5th Belgium
6th Greece
7th Monaco
8th Ukraine
9th Finland
10th Malta

Despite both groups being predominantly gay men, with some heterosexuals thrown in, one result is startlingly different. The Scots have very sensibly ignored Germany altogether! Kate Ryan's gay vote is slipping, and it's pleasing to see Finland's monster rockers Lordi being universally appreciated, including by my Mum, who said she likes their song. Rock on mother! She has gone for Malta as this year's winner, based solely on the CD and no videos, as has my Irish friend Dermot. I feel another each way bet coming on...

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And they're off!

Eurovision rehearsals started this morning in Athens, with débutants Armenia kicking things off. The stage sounds fabulous, as it is based on an ancient Greek amphitheatre, with rising and falling 'steps' around the edges.

Our correspondent Roy D. Hacksaw reports that Belgium's Kate Ryan is not exactly ugly but has an overcomplicated dance routine. No great surprise there. He also reports back favourably on Belarus and Bulgaria's rehearsals.

Another advance party reports that it is HOT in Athens. Hurrah! That's all the news I needed to hear. This has helped me decide what to pack for tomorrow...

Talking of hot, here's a reminder of why we're off to Greece. This is one of the dancers from Helena's winning performance last year, at the after-show party, shortly after Chig joined the Ukrainian boy scouts...

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Microsoft Outlook 3, Chig 0

I give in. Last night (Monday), I wrote a 'thank you' e-mail to everyone who I'd invited to my birthday party; not just those who came, but everyone, including those who sent presents and/or cards, but couldn't attend the party. I sent it off in the early hours of today (at 00:44, to be precise). Today, it seems that no one has received the e-mail. I know this partly because I sent it to myself at work and it wasn't in my inbox this morning, and I asked a few of my friends.

So, tonight, I have tried to send it again. It was sitting there in my 'sent items', looking very much like a sent item from last night, so why has it not been delivered anywhere? I sent it again tonight, including to my 'other' e-mail address and it still hasn't been delivered. Sure, my McAfee software does make a message pop up, saying, 'You are sending this message to 107 recipients', but I've clicked 'continue what I was doing' to make it go. Then I'm getting a 'protocol error' message, whatever that is, but it only seems to relate to one person's e-mail address. I've tried it twice tonight, and the e-mail goes to 'sent items', but it hasn't been delivered to me, so I wonder if anyone else has received it. If Microsoft think I am going to sit and send the e-mail to 107 people, one at a time, they are very much mistaken. I don't have all week. Sometimes I hate technology.

So, after three failed attempts to send a simple e-mail, I give up. This comes after previous messages, which were all fine and dandy when they left me, were delivered to some people as gobbledegook (but not all people). What the hell is wrong? I'll just have to hope that the people I'm trying to reach are reading this. This was never intended for the blog, but I am at the end of my tether now, so here is the e-mail I've been trying to send you all:

Dear friends,

One last mass e-mailing from me, and we’ll see if Outlook manages to turn this one into a load of old nonsense as well! Then I’ll shut up. Possibly for another ten years…

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to my party on Saturday. It took me all of yesterday (Sunday), after dinner out, to recover from it, and it took until Sunday night to finish opening the incredible amount of cards and presents that I have had. (Then, after midnight, I found one more bag of presents, so it took even longer!) As I said yesterday on my blog, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of cards and presents I have received, not just at the party, but in person and in the post beforehand as well. When I decided to have a party, getting presents was the last thing on my mind; I just wanted an opportunity to get as many friends together as possible, and I think I succeeded in that, even though lots of you were also away or busy, which is quite understandable. The presents were an unexpected bonus and they have been amazing! Thank you all for your imagination and ingenuity! Now for the embarrassing bit. I never expected to get so many presents at the party, and although I started opening them, I was soon torn between opening them and greeting people, and had to give up on the presents. We tried to keep the cards with the presents, but there are three or four which have become detached, so I don’t know for sure who they’re from. I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but maybe I should say a great big general thank you now, and if you want to tell me which one was yours… I can’t think of any other way to do it and I apologise for the confusion. Even without this slight hiccup, I may not have had time to thank everybody individually anyway, as I now have three days left before flying to Athens on Friday, and have to be at work for the next two of them, so I am running out of time. (I had to do holiday shopping today and have bought myself a new camera, so that took some time.)

Thank you also to those who let me know that they couldn’t come to the party. It’s amazing how far some people went, just to avoid it: Malta, Maldives, Malaysia…possibly some other places beginning with ‘MAL’, and even Leeds! You were all missed, so I thought you might like to see the first photo of the night, which is why I’ve sent this to everyone. It’s on my blog now, at (Thanks to Jonathan.) With any luck, before I fly to Athens on Friday, I’ll post some more photos, so keep looking!

Finally, I’d like to say a really big thank you, here in public, to my sister, for taking up the challenge of a mad idea that I had while driving home a few weeks ago, and providing the entertainment. (When [she] was at college in York, she made a music video as Kim Wilde, singing Kids In America. When I suddenly had this idea, while listening to the radio in the car, to ask her to sing at my party, Steve Wright played Kids In America about a minute later, and I knew it was fate!) I know I’m biased, but I think my ears are fully functioning and she seemed amazing to me. I’m just sorry the lighting was so poor, and sorry about the bloke who got up and ruined the second song. :-) I was one very proud brother when she was on stage.

So, back to reality – until Athens on Friday and a week of Eurovision preparations, rehearsals and parties. I’ll see lots of you out there, and the rest when I get back. Remember, if you’re having a Eurovision party this year, school uniforms are the way to go, to support our Daz!

Thank you all again. I’m proud to have you all as friends, especially as the manager of Patrick Kavanagh’s said to me on Sunday that the barman had reported back to him that “everyone was very friendly, which is what counts really”, so he was very pleased, and so was I. Cheers!

Hugs to all,

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Thank you

I have been completely overwhelmed by cards and presents from my birthday party last night, which I had to give up opening at the party itself as the trickle of guests arriving became a flood. I have only finished opening them tonight, and I'd like to say a huge thank you for all of them. I'll try to get around to individual thank yous in the next few days, but there is the small problem that I don't know who some of them are from as they were all put into a pile in the pub, then into my car today and into my house later. It's obvious with most of them, but I apologise now if I get it wrong when I come back to you!

In the meantime, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came to my party. I had a great time - I hope you did too. Thanks to the Patrick Kavanagh bar, DJ Martin and the Milan Sweet Centre for providing the venue, music and food respectively, all of which were ideal and fantastic. Thanks also to everyone who has sent cards, texts, e-mails and phone calls. Most of all, thank you to my amazing sister for providing the entertainment last night, singing five of my favourite Eurovision songs, and making one 40 year-old brother very proud.

I'm a very lucky boy man.

Special thanks to Jonathan from Over Your Head for this photo too! (There were other people at the party, but this was taken at the beginning!)

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New Kid on the Blog

In other news...

My friend Simon has started a blog: Simon in the City. Hurrah! Another blog for Brum. Welcome to the blogosphere, matey. Here's an 'arty' (or is it just blurred?) picture of me and Simon from 2002, just to prove that he is not the England cricketer who shares his name, although he is just as good-looking.

(He's not this one either.)

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Absolutely Fabulous!

00:30 I couldn't resist opening one little package before bed, and what a fabulous card (literally) and present I have found within!

As Mark says on the wrapping of his present, it is almost from 1966, as it's a cassette of a France Gall album, which includes her 1965 Eurovision winner for Luxembourg, Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son. That just happens to be one of my top ten Eurovision songs ever. A wonderful present. Thank you Mark!

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40 in 0 days: 2006

00:01 And that momentous event of 40 years ago today has been mentioned on the radio already! But enough of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady's sentencing, it's my fortieth friggin' birthday! I know, this has probably come as a surprise. I mean, I've hardly mentioned it, but it is. Feel free to leave birthday greetings and any offers of money in the comments box. Mwah!

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40 in 1 day: 2005

One day until I'm 40 and what a day it's been, after staying awake(ish) until goodness knows what time, watching the local election results in bed. I wasn't bothered about being up late, as the weather today was supposed to be awful: thunderstorms. But what do you know? The weather people were completely wrong AGAIN and it's been a glorious day here in Brum. The local mood is great too, as Salma Yaqoob won our council seat for Respect, shoving out a useless Labour duffer who was restanding. Last time round it was a Lib Dem here who won one of our 'safe' Labour seat, this time round it's Respect. We really are very good at tactical voting round here; voting for the best candidate. Don't worry, I haven't suddenly become a big fan of George Galloway, but Salma Yaqoob is a superb candidate and will be a great councillor, as anyone who's seen one of her many TV appearances will know. She nearly became our MP last year, reducing a massive Labour majority to a marginal, so it's no surprise that she has become our councillor. And it means I have a clear concience as I voted Green yesterday. I really wanted two votes as I wanted Salma to win, but to vote Green and that's exactly what happened. The Greens came fifth of six in our ward, but nearly beat the Tory into fourth place, and the BNP vote here was possibly the lowest in Brum (where they stood in all seats). I'm proud of Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook today!

Here are some photos of last year. At 10:40am tomorrow, I will be forty. At 10.40pm tomorrow, I will hopefully be very drunk, at my own birthday party. Until then...

Sunday in the beer garden of a very nice Bristol pub, the day after Bristol Pride. This is an early picture. We were there all day. What a weekend that was!

Another one for the Athena collection.

I've never actually seen Clare's face, as it always has a glass or a bottle attached like this. See you two tomorrow!

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40 in 2 days: 2004

Photos have been added for 2002 and 2003, so feel free to scroll down. Pics from 2004 will be here tonight.

19:50 Just got in after visiting friends who can't come to my party on Saturday, for a bit of present collecting. (Thank you, B and K.) The cards started arriving in the post two days ago, which is nice, and there's an interestingly shaped parcel today too. I've been very good and haven't opened anything yet.

Today was my last day at work until Tuesday, so guess what my colleagues gave me for my 40th birthday? Go on, guess!

(Pause, while you guess.)

The answer? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They couldn't even be bothered, between the six of them who were in today, to pass a communal card 'secretly' around the office. Do you wonder why I hate going to work?

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Oooh! It's a woman!

Isn't it amazing how the interview process in The Apprentice tonight changed our perceptions of the candidates? Before tonight's programme, I thought that Paul and Ruth would be the two to get through, but Paul came across so badly to the interviewers that we're left with Ruth and Michelle instead.

Previously, I would have said Ruth was a clear winner out of those four, but Tim who won last year was a malleable character, so Sir Alan Sugar may go again for someone he can mould and pick Michelle instead. I'd hardly noticed her until we got down to the last five or six.

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Another reason why tomorrow is special...

If we can be bothered to stay up tonight, until just over an hour past midnight, we can witness a spectacular numerical milestone, where the time and date will be:

01:02:03 on 04/05/06

Marvellous. I'm expecting a full analysis of the frequency of these events from Diamond Geezer tomorrow. He's mentioned it already...

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Election warning

PS. Those of you not eligible to vote tomorrow in the 36 English metropolitan authorities, 88 district councils, 32 London boroughs, 4 mayoral elections and one mayoral referendum are excused, without needing a note. Aren't I kind?

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40 in 3 days: 2003

But first, two images from Monday: our day at the races and the family meal in the evening. Look what someone else has done with a photo of me!

And now for some photos from 2003:

I'm not sure which is the scarier, Abs' sweat or my contact lenses. I wonder what he's doing now?

Triple8 reveal their sixth member. I wonder what the other five are doing now?

If nothing else, this whole 'rod for my own back' photo project has been worth it tonight, because I've found this photo, and three more like it. When Patrick died last October, I couldn't find any pictures of us two together. Finding this by chance tonight has made me happy and sad at the same time.

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40 in 4 days: 2002

And if I may offer some advice: never, ever organise your own party. It takes over your life.

UPDATE: Wed 03/05/06. Better late than never, here are some photos from 2002:

Backstage at Birmingham's Nightingale after Jessica's PA.

Yes, it really was called 'That Gay Show' and, because it was on BBC Choice, I only ever saw this episode, which was filmed in Birmingham. We knew that if we hung around the bar in Equator for long enough we'd probably get on camera, and sure enough...

At the Nightingale again, just after the lovely Rob Conn (centre) won the Mr Gay UK national final that night. Colin and Justin were judges, and we chatted later about the programme they were making at that time, The Million Pound Property Experiment, which seemed to take aeons after that evening to get on air.

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Wrong on so many levels.

But some people may like to see this.

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Moving Out Today?

According to the Labour election broadcast that I've just watched on TV, 'Britain Is Moving'. Could someone tell me when? I'll need to pack.

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40 in 5 days: 2001

A Day At The Races/A Night At The Opera Restaurant

It's May - let the birthday celebrations begin (early)!

We're off to Warwick races today, which was actually the second place I ever earned any money. My Dad has had a part-time job there on racedays for as long as I can remember - more than 35 years - and he still has. I worked there once when I was about eleven or twelve and earnt £5 as a runner. My job was to stand underneath the crane which filmed the race from beyond the finish line and catch the film canister when the photographer threw it down. I then had to run like hell around the course to the stewards' office, in case they needed to look at the photos to adjudicate on any disputed races. Well, it beat my other one-day childhood job, which was washing the meat trays in my uncle's butcher's shop. Actually, it was outside in the back alley and it was cold and revolting. It's no wonder I became a vegetarian!

Today, my Dad has aquired freebie tickets for another three of us, so we'll be taking in the racing before going for a family meal (including the aforementioned butcher uncle) in a Warwickshire village in the evening. Despite the weather on May Bank Holiday usually being pretty good, the forecast today is for rain in Warwick, so we might just have to watch the racing from the bar!

Back tomorrow, with a day off work. Off work on Friday too, to prepare for my party (and birthday). Next Friday (12th) I'm off to Athens for Eurovision. All of which means that, with ten days in Greece and the late May Bank Holiday to come (which is also Birmingham Pride weekend), there are now FIVE consecutive weeks where I'm not working a full five day week (until w/c 5th June). Hoo-bloody-ray! I love May, I do.

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