World of Chig   

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no, let me do MYMU instead

Brian Harvey - forced out of East 17 after giving too much information in a radio interview about his E usage.

Big Brovaz - sacked one of their members after a 'drugs scandal'.

Justin Hawkins - forced out of his own brother's band and admitted to cocaine addiction.

Welcome to Making Your Mind Up!

Liz McClarnon, Scooch and Cyndi - never been near any drugs in their lives.

It's interesting to note that neither the BBC's press release this morning nor the BBC News coverage mentioned a date. Most of us had assumed that it would be 10 March because it can't be this weekend (3 March) as it's too late. All countries have to submit their songs at the Eurovision Heads of Delegation meeting on Monday 12 March, so that only left Saturday 10 March (when there was a MYMU shaped hole in the schedule as of last week) or possibly Sunday 11 March.

Tonight though, this BBC profile of the contestants reveals the date to be 17 March! Have we been given 'special dispensation' to submit our song late? (UPDATE: Yes, we have.) This page also reveals that Lordi will be there, keeping up the tradition of the Eurovision winner appearing in all four MYMUs. Lordi aren't appearing at any other national finals, unlike previous winner Helena Paparizou, who toured quite a few last year. There'll be no more queuing in the cold outside TV Centre; this time the show is in a studio in Maidstone, with an audience of a thousand and a 'new look' that includes ditching Natasha Kaplinky-plonky and her fabulous shoes in favour of last year's UK vote-giver Fearne Cotton. (Who can forget her 'metal' hand gesture as she gave Lordi our douze points?) The male presenter looks vaguely familiar. He should be pleased that the show is taking place on St. Paddy's Day, especially as it's also the final day of the Six Nations rugby union championship, which will probably see Ireland sealing their victory on the best possible date.

So, which song's your winner?

Listen to clips of all the songs on each artist's page.
BBC press release.
BBC News story.
BBC News - contestant profiles.
BBC News - Eurovision hopefuls rate their chances.

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Yesterday & Tomorrow

I must apologise for a shameful omission yesterday. We neglected to mention that Chig's favourite living sixties icon, Sandie Shaw, was celebrating her 60th birthday. A belated Happy Birthday, your Eurovision-winning goddessness.

In a welcome reversal of the whole present-giving thing, Sandie has something for us, and it's not cakes. On her refreshingly first-person official website, there's a free download available. Not just any old free download, oh no. Dagenham's finest export (apart from the cars and the girl pipers) has 're-imagined' (my word, not hers) her finest hour and transformed Puppet On A String into something rather more laid back than it was in 1967. Now called 'Puppet's Got Brand New String', it is beautiful, and very soothing if you've just been listening to the Bulgarian wailing and throbbing (below). The intro sounds a little bit like 'Eternal Flame' in its Atomic Kitten version, which brings us nicely to...

Tomorrow, when Auntie Beeb has promised we will find out at last which lucky pupsters are volunteering for the firing line to have their music careers ended in Helsinki in May. Some of the speculation over who's in Making Your Mind Up IV has stepped well over the border into ridiculous territory. Most of the rumours are rounded up here. We'll also throw in the The Puppini Sisters, the almost forgotten Big Brovaz and a reformed Scooch (when what we really want is Deuce again), but we know it won't be Morrissey, Daz Sampson again or Billie Piper. However, there have been no denials from ex-pop groupers Brian Harvey (two solo hits, 2001) and Liz McClarnon (one solo hit, 2006), to continue the Atomic Kitten connection from above, so draw your own conclusions. There are also reasons for thinking that Queentastic with a Thomas G:son song may not be a complete flight of fantasy, but we'll see.

You'd be amazed how any people have sidled up to me in the last few weeks and asked me if I have any gossip on MYMU. You would think that I write about the contest for a well-known magazine, or that the producer is my ex-boyfriend's cousin and that the said ex-boyfriend stayed over at Chig Mansions last week. Actually, that's all true. But no, I'm privy to nothing. This is a very late announcement indeed, just ten days before the show is televised (if it's 10 March) and with 23 countries' songs already chosen and out there in the ether. (Indeed, Belarus's entrant, Dmitry Koldun, has almost completed his world tour of national finals to promote his excellent song. I've seen him on the telly/internet in programmes from Ireland and Spain, and he was the much needed interval act in the Montenegrin final on Sunday.) The Beeb's delay has only led to fans speculating that we're either in desperation territory or that someone fabulous is going to be announced.

Funnily enough, Liz McClarnon is no stranger to the UK's national selection programme, as the regular reader may remember. Four years ago, she was snapped with yours truly at the aftershow party for the last ever 'A Song For Europe'. However, I don't think that the phrase 'friend of Jemini' is going to do her too many favours, so I think she'll be playing down the connection this time.

For the record, although the inclusion of Brian Harvey opens up a debate on the morality of who we have representing us - it's already started in various Eurovision fora, as if no one who has sung for the UK before has ever taken drugs - what may surprise some people is that he really can sing. He impressed me enormously doing a gig at the Nightingale a few years ago. If the photos of that night weren't locked away on the hard drive of my dismantled PC, I'd be showing you some of them now. You'll have to make do with Liz and Chig instead.

Fingers crossed for something good tomorrow.

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Who cares if there's no key change?

On Saturday, we were busy looking North and South, watching Sweden's 4th Melodifestivalen heat and Spain's Mision Eurovision final. Meanwhile, over in the East, something astonishing was happening. Bulgaria, until now amongst the also-rans of Eurovision (19th and 17th in the qualifier in their two appearances so far), suddenly woke up. They picked this performance for Eurovision. I am gobsmacked. I absolutely love it.

Turn this up LOUD!

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01:39. Just home from Schlager Towers. Spain eventually chose the boyband Nash to finish near the bottom of the Helsinki scoreboard for them, with the Thomas G:son song 'I Love You Mi Vida'. It was a tortuous process which filled 3 hours and 40 minutes of Spanish airtime, only finishing at 02:10 Spanish time (01:10 here). Out of the songs which finished in the top two of the scoreboard (from the 25 original options available) it was the wrong song, by the less talented singers. It should have been Mirela, with La Reina de la Noche.

Sweden got it half right, choosing Andreas Johnson for the final, but dumping saucy After Dark, who finished fifth, in favour of a ballad that won't go very far in the final.

It's bedtime. We'll be watching more national finals tomorrow (ie. later today); Armenia choose their second ever Eurovision entry and Montenegro choose their first as an independent country. Oh yes, the Balkan block increases by another one this year!

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Schlager och cançiones

We're decamping (ahem) to Schlager Towers tonight for an evening of Swedish schlager and Spanish cançiones, with heat 4 of Melodifestivalen in Sweden and the final - at last - of the tortuously long Mision Eurovision process in Spain. (If you click on the picture of the contestants here, you can listen to all of tonight's Swedish songs in a radio player-type thingy.)

Two highlights in Sweden should be Andreas Johnson and After Dark. Andreas would have won last year if the witch hadn't entered, although inevitably tonight's song is weaker than Sing For Me, which was one of my favourite songs of 2006 (not just Eurovision-related). See it here:

After Dark is a drag act, with possibly the most innuendo-laden song ever seen in a national selection. Their song translates roughly as 'Oh, When You Take Things Into Your Own Hands', but it's more complicated than that. We'll have more on this nxt week. In the meantime, let's marvel at After Dark's performance of La Dolce Vita, which secured them third place in the 2004 Melodifestivalen final. This is a much watched performance at Glitterball Mansions, our usual refuge of TV watching during the Eurovision season. Keep your eyes peeled - there are two people in the act, although tonight it's only the skinny one because the other one is recovering from pneumonia.

Give me glitter and glamour!

In Mision Eurovision, we are faced with the intriguing and bonkers situation where we have five songs left, and five acts. Four of the acts are solo women and the last one is a boyband, called Nash. Tonight, if I've understood this correctly, each act will perform at least part of each song, giving the Spanish public a mind-boggling 25 possible permutations on which to vote. Most of the songs are good and most of the acts are good, but whether each act is suited to each song is another matter entirely. What we're really hoping for, which will be hilarious, is for Nash, the boyband, to end up singing 'Busco Un Hombre' (I'm Looking For A Man) or 'La Reina de la Noche' (Queen Of The Night). We will also be continuing our disagreements over which one of Nash is the better-looking one. For me, it's obviously Basty, who reminds me of J from 5ive.

With 25 possible combinations and TV España's fondness for chatting in between things and programmes over-running massively, I'm taking my sleeping bag and a food parcel to Schlager Towers. We could be in for a long night!

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Last night I was mostly...

...watching the Nottingham leg of The X Factor on tour, with Mike, who has reviewed it in the local paper today. (It's online here.)

Due to some inexplicable box office mix-up, we were delayed going in. We weren't that bothered as we walked in late, just in time to catch Nikkita's last song. But then we found out from the girls in front of us that we had missed Eton Road. They'd been on first! Gutted. Never mind though, we'll catch them when they return at the end for whatever all the acts are going to do together. And Eton Road's Danny and David were compering the whole event, so we saw a lot of them.

Except there was no other appearance. Leona did her number one single at the end of her set. Flames, ticker-tape bombs, firework curtain, Leona leaves, lights up, bugger off. Thank you and goodnight. It was a terrible, anti-climactic ending to the evening.

So, I drove a one hundred mile round trip and still haven't seen little Anthony and the other one on stage. Bugger.

Still, I did recognise two of the dancers, as they were Turkey's dancers at Eurovision in Athens. I chatted to one of them on the phone afterwards and he revealed that the X Factor tour's choreographer is the same guy who choreographed the 'Superstar' routine for Turkey. It was still a good night out, even watching the desperate ones, and Leona was fantastic. I was entertained by the crowd too, almost as much as the singers at times, but I still can't believe we missed Eton Road.

Here's that Turkish routine again, because it's fabulous:

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Fire! Higher! (Overdose!)

God bless the Bulgars! This is one of the songs in this year's Bulgarian final to choose their Eurovision entry. The group, S-lavina, seem to have bought 'The Eurovision Book of Rhyming Clichés', but it was the misprinted edition which only includes the entry for 'fire/desire/higher'.

And we all feel a lot better for it. Someone needs to make up for last year's Eurovision, where the fire/desire rhyme was curiously absent from all countries' songs. S-lavina are certainly trying their best. Despite a total absence of 'desire', they have more than compensated, with the following word count (roughly):

'higher' x 22
'fire' x 9

Thanks to Roy D. Hacksaw for finding this.

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A Song For Dervish

Tonight we are mostly...after Ugly Betty, of course....watching Ireland choose the song that folky group Dervish will perform at Eurovision.

It's on the webbynet here. Late, Late and Live!

The contenders are:

Song A: The Thought Of You - written by Matti Kallio.
Song B: Walk With Me - written by Stigg Lindell.
Song C: Until We Meet Again - written by Malachi Cush, Pam Sheyne, Martin Sutton and Don Mescall.
Song D: They Can’t Stop The Spring - written by John Waters and Tommy Moran.

I missed song A, but song B is a corker! That would do brilliantly in Helsinki. It's written by a Swede!
Song C was more upbeat, but less Eurovision.
Song D is also quite strong, with an interesting political lyric, sounding a little like a 1960s style protest song by Joan Baez.

Liam from the Hothouse Flowers is now performing their hit, Don't Go, which was part of Eurovision's interval act during the Irish occupation (of the Eurovision throne) in the 1990s.

They've now allowed an ex-presidential candidate from North of the border to grab the mic and sing. Yes, it's Dana Provincial, singing All Kinds Of Everything, her Eurovision winner from 1970.

Eimear Quinn's in the studio now, performing her inexplicable Eurovision winner, The Voice, so it's time to put the kettle on and visit the bathroom.

Wow! They're really on the ball. They've just played Denmark (the drag queen DQ, who was picked last Saturday), Norway and this year's winner, Malta, on VT. Now the Belarussian entry Dmitry Koldun is in the studio performing this year's runner-up, the lost Bond theme, Work Your Magik. Sounds good.

The Brotherhood Of Man are on now. No need to tell you which song. Still alive, still the original line-up.

Our host is now ringing Caroline, a possible winner of the car. (The vote hasn't been corrupted like last year by only voters for the winning song being able to win a car. This year, all voters, for any song, can win, which is as it should be.) She has to answer who sang All Kinds Of Everything in 1970. Given that Dana has been sitting there talking, it's no surprise that Caroline now owns a new car.

The host said 'ear piss', then corrected himself and said 'ear piece'. Snigger.

4th place: Song A
3rd place: Song B. Shame!

That's the two foreigners out of the way then. (The writers are a Finn and a Swede.)

And the winner is... Song D!

So, 60s-style protest song it is! This is a really unusual choice for a Eurovision entry by any country. It'll be intriguing to see how it does in the Eurovision final. (Ireland are straight into the final this year.) Latvia at least should give it some points; it mentions the country in the first verse. 'They Can't Stop The Spring' may not be such a popular title in Prague though, for the Czech Republic's debut year. (A joke for politics students there.)

"They may scare the blackbird, but they'll never stop him sing"

Take That are on the Late Late Show next week. Maybe we'll watch the webcast again.

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No news is good news, so they say. But Auntie Beeb has been unusually tight-lipped about whatever may be happening to choose our Eurovision song this year. It's a very special year, as it's the UK's 50th entry (and the tenth anniversary of our last win, but as we had a gap of sixteen years between the last two victories, let's not get too hung up on this one).

However, news has emerged today that...oooh let me check that again. Yes, the news is that 'there will be some news soon'. Great. But at least we know it will definitely be called Making Your Mind Up again. They haven't called it UK50, which was my suggestion, which leaves that title nicely available for World Of Chig to use as planned next month for what promises to be a VERY EXCITING INTERACTIVE PROJECT which will be needing your assistance. I claim copyright now on that title, and if someone creative could make me a little 'UK50' logo, like a button badge, with a 50 on the Union Flag, or something similar, that would be very nice. Now all I have to do is learn how to edit MP3s.

In the meantime, if you're in a 'music and voting' mood, now would be a good time to check out Troubled Diva's fab Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? extravaganza, which returns this week for its annual outing. We've only had numbers 10, 9 and 8 so far. You can catch up easily and help to decide, scientifically, which of the last five decades is the most poptabulous, musically speaking. You can also get carried away and leave inappropriately long and gratuitously offensive comments about some of the artists and songs. Like I have.

Start here with the number 10s.

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Could've made a killing

If only we'd spotted this page of the BBC website yesterday. Think of the money we could have made at the bookies.

All the winners of last night's Brits listed, but look when the page was last updated; "Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 17:52 GMT". That's over 24 hours before the awards ceremony took place. Curses!

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Pot. Kettle. Black.

Noel Gallagher: "It's like a song writer who's eternally ripping off someone else's song and just changing the odd line a little."

I know what you're thinking, but no, he hasn't written his autobiography. It's about David Cameron, and to be honest, it's hard to argue with anything he says in this Newsnight interview. (Also available in video.)

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"i dont know who writes your column,but you need to find somebody else."

Cool. Infamy at last.

Last night, my friend Simon and I went to see sexy Shayne Ward in concert in Nottingham, staying at Hotel Troubled-Diva afterwards. I was reviewing the gig for a local newspaper, but I wasn't prepared for our press seats to be the two most central seats in the front row. So I can tell you now, from only a few feet away from the hairy-chested Manc for the whole gig, that Mr Ward is even more stunningly sexy in the flesh than even I had thought for the last year or so from his telly and photographic appearances. He just oozes sex, and.... oh I'd better not go on. We're pretending to be an objective popular music journo. Last night I had to put on my mature head and write a review after the gig, which has appeared in the paper today. Luckily for you and the fan who doesn't seem to like me very much (see comments), you can also read it online.

"and ive been to more famous bands than him"

More than who? More than me? More than Shayne? If it's the latter, I would think you're right, but how would you know how many bands I've seen? Just curious.

UPDATE: I think I've now worked out what she means. I reckon it's neither of the options above. She means that she has been to see people who are more famous than Shayne Ward in concert. It kind of makes sense now.

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The Brits - pointless predictions (and winners)

It's back! With just minutes to spare, here we are with Chig's traditional pointless predictions for tonight's Brit Awards 'Live'!

You might think that, having posted all the nominations as they were announced on 16 January, I would have given some serious consideration to who's likely to win and who I'd like to win (and where these two might overlap in the Venn diagram of popular music) but no, I haven't. So, here we go - completely made-up-as-I-go-along predictions. Check back later for the results. Or watch it 'live' (with a thirty second delay for sweary bits) on ITV1 soon.

*** = my preferred winner
Bold = my predicted winner
Green = the actual winner

Outstanding Contribution Award:
I'm pretty confident on this one.

British Single:
To be decided during tonight's show, by televoting. The original eleven nominees have already been voted down to five survivors by readers of The Sun, O2 mobile phone customers and some other people:

Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae
Fill My Little World - The Feeling
A Moment Like This - Leona Lewis
You Give Me Something - James Morrison
She Moves In Her Own Way - The Kooks
Smile - Lily Allen
***America - Razorlight
I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair) - Sandi Thom
Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
Patience - Take That. Aaaah, I'm choked.
All Time Love - Will Young

British Album:
Alright, Still - Lily Allen
Black Holes and Revelations - Muse
Back To Black - Amy Winehouse
Eyes Open - Snow Patrol
***Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - Arctic Monkeys. This time, they're dressed as The Village People. The cards!

The winner should really be: Twelve Stops and Home - The Feeling

British Male:
James Morrison !!! Four awards so far this evening, and four shocks! Never in a million years would I have predicted this one.
Jarvis Cocker
***Lemar (One day, matey, one day. Keep plugging away.)
Thom Yorke
Paolo Nutini

British Female:
Amy Winehouse. Ace! Have a drink love! Oh, you have. (Meanwhile, Lily Allen tries to look happy at her table.)
***Lily Allen
Corinne Bailey Rae
Nerina Pallot

British Group:
Snow Patrol
***Arctic Monkeys. Nice outfits, boys! (In their acceptance film, they're dressed as the four main characters from The Wizard of Oz. Who knows why?)

The winner should really be: The Feeling

International Album:
St. Elsewhere - Gnarls Barkley
Futuresex/Lovesounds - Justin Timberlake
Modern Times - Bob Dylan
***Ta-dah - Scissor Sisters
Sam's Town - The Killers. Crikey! Love 'em, love Brandon, had the album for Christmas, but didn't expect this. Excellent.

British Breakthrough Act:
***The Kooks
Lily Allen
James Morrison
Corinne Bailey Rae
The Fratellis !!! Second award tonight, second shock, but a good one for my second choice in this category.

The winners should really be: The Feeling

British Live Act:
Robbie Williams
George Michael (Because it's Radio 2 voters who will choose.)
***Muse !!! A very pleasant shock. Have most Radio2 listeners ever heard Muse, let alone seen them live?

The winners should really be: Take That

International Male:
Jack Johnson
Damien Rice
Bob Dylan
***Justin Timberlake. The fifth award given tonight, and the first really predictable winner.

International Female:
Cat Power
Christina Aguilera
***Nelly Furtado. If I'd put on just one bet, it would have been this one. No one came near her success last year.

International Group:
The Killers. Again! Hurrah!
***Gnarls Barkley
Scissor Sisters
The Flaming Lips
Red Hot Chili Peppers

International Breakthrough (Voted by MTV viewers):
***Gnarls Barkley
The Raconteurs
Ray LaMontagne
Orson !!! Tonight's third award, and third surprise!

The scores on the doors:
I'm slipping. Only six out of thirteen winners predicted correctly. Blimey were there some surprises tonight! Lily Allen, Gnarls Barkey, you leave...with nothing!

As far as my preferred winners were concerned, the score was the same: 6/13, with five overlapping (ie. both predictions and favourites winning). I'm counting oasis in both of these categories, being overly generous to myself in the process.

Overall, a good show but not massively exciting. No interesting collaborations at all this year, and trust oasis to make tits of themselves by swearing so much that the sound was dipped during their speeches and their songs. Liam may think he has something important to say, but if the sound gets turned down because of your language, no one's going to get your message are they? The numbskull.

In TV terms, it was a great success; it finished exactly on time!

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You might think I'm alive. I couldn't possibly comment.

Francis Urquhart's dead too. House of Cards was one of the best TV drama series ever, ever, ever, and if any actor was ever identified with one rôle, despite playing a multitude of parts in a long career, it must be Ian Richardson. He was brilliantly creepy in the rôle of Urquhart, scared me when he spoke directly to camera and tarnished my view of politicians for evermore (if it wasn't already). Another sad loss.

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On a good day, in the Summer, I can drive from my house in Birmingham to Brighton in under four hours. I can be most of the way to Edinburgh in that time too. Tonight, it has taken me that long (3h 45m, to be precise) to drive home from work; a ten mile journey that normally takes 25-35 minutes. It's gridlock city and I am in a foul mood.

The 'funny' thing is, we had excellent advance notice from the Met Office of yesterday's snow, which turned out to be a little less than expected, but the roads were still gritted, traffic stayed away, no problems. There was no more snow forecast for today, In fact, a Five Live reporter confirmed at lunchtime today what I had thought earlier; the Met Office didn't predict any snow across the West Midlands until it was already snowing, about 10:00 this morning. Great! In the end we've had more snow today than yesterday. None of the ten miles of A roads on my journey home have been gritted today by Sandwell or Birmingham councils, so it's a nightmare out there. Cars are crawling and sliding all over the place, in rutted ice, or snow, or slush. It took me over an hour to do the last mile, nearest to the city centre. The constant radio travel reports which kept butting into my radio listening were referring to 25 mile traffic jams, then 40 mile traffic jams, and stationary traffic between ten junctions on Midlands motorways. We're really not very good at coping with a bit of snow, are we?

It's not the first time I've wondered this, but what is the point of weather 'forecasting'? It seems a very hit and miss occupation, to say the least.

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Snow patrol

I found myself looking out of my bedroom window at around 3am (no snow) and again just after 7am (lots of snow). I dozed off again until around 8am and became aware that children were playing in the snow outside. With a heavy heart, I realised it wasn't quite enough snow to justify not going into work, and so I left the house early and arrived early as there was no problem on the roads at all. (Everyone made it in okay.) The children in my avenue had already built a decent snowperson by the time I stepped out of the house, camera in hand, only to hear one of them shout, "Let's get [Chig]!" Luckily, they were pathetic shots. Only one of their snowballs managed to hit me, and that's because it was from a range of zero feet. I fixed one of the child neighbours with my best Paddington stare, and said, "If you get snow anywhere near this camera..." He looked sheepish, mumbled "okay" and shuffled off, along with his friends. Oh, the power and respect I have amongst the local youngfolk!


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...and she never did get the old guy's money


Shades of Marilyn Monroe in her death, as there were in her image in life, and what a bizarre life it was. Last September, Anna Nicole Smith gave birth to a daughter and lost her 20 year-old son just three days later, and now, just as she seemed about to win the court case to get her hands on her billionaire husband's money, eleven years after he died in his prime at the age of 90, she's dead herself.


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Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

At least there are some advantages of living in a country where the whole national infrastructure is in danger of collapse at the merest hint of snow. Our manager at work has already acknowledged in an e-mail today that some of us may not be able to get into work tomorrow, so I really hope this predicted heavy snowfall materialises overnight and doesn't turn out to be a false dawn. The chances look good, with Birmingham right at the heart of the '90% chance of disruption' area on a Met Office map that I saw earlier. I love it when it snows and I don't have to go anywhere, so bring it on! Driving ten miles to work will hopefully be far too dangerous to attempt in the morning and I'll be able to go out and take lovely photos of a snow-covered neighbourhood, then watch people moaning all day on the TV news about how the government really should have done something to prevent it. Fingers crossed.

Note to British people: Some countries have snow quite a lot. They manage.

In a well-timed move, the Asda store next to work today had a big stock of traditional looking 'slatted' sledges, for £20 each, plus some cheaper things which were basically plastic trays, but with a bit sticking out of the front for holding on to. This led to a conversation with a colleague where I wondered if my old sledge (which my Dad made) is still in my Mum's shed, twenty miles away. And then I wondered why I was even considering going sledging, when I realised that there are plenty of parks within walking distance of home, but I can't think of anywhere that has even the slightest hill. Damn.


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Suspect device

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, what with bird 'flu and snow*, we had another terrorism alert in Birmingham this afternoon, with Broad Street and other roads closed in the city centre. Luckily, the traffic jams had cleared by the time I left work, so I was able to pass the roadblock at the end of Broad Street at about 19:30 without any hold-ups. Tonight, the police have announced that it was a 'deliberate hoax'.

*I'm not really worrying about either of them.

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Last night in London

Mika was excellent. The whole party/gig was fabulous and very well organised by a certain mobile phone company, in a marquee that had a Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, candy pink theme to it. JG from OverYourHead was wonderful company, coping very well with my moaning that I couldn't take advantage of the free alcohol because I currently have a faulty liver. (Oh, woe is me.) We schmoozed and chatted to interesting strangers. We stared at The Feeling, and stood next to them but were too shy to speak to them. One of them had brought the wife, so we stared at her as well (because she's Sophie Ellis Bextor). Emma B trod on me as I was fiddling with my camera bag while crouched on the floor. She very politely said 'sorry' as I looked up and thought 'you're Emma B, even from this angle'. (We didn't speak properly, even though we have mutual friends from her time in Brum.) I chatted to a young spunk while JG entertained the cutie's mother, in a novel collaborative approach to scoring at public events. (I didn't, but we swapped numbers and I took photos of him. I have a feeling we'll be hearing more of him.) We laughed with drag queens. We saw lots of people who looked vaguely familiar, probably off the telly, without being able to place them. We didn't get around to having a candy floss, but a young woman did bribe me with a toffee apple to e-mail her some photos, which worked. I'm that cheap. I recognised a boybander (two top ten hits) who I first met (and photographed) nearly four years ago, so we reacquainted ourselves at the end of the evening. Quite a charmer he was too. And I nearly got one of my photos of Mika into tomorrow's Independent newspaper. Oh, it's a giddy social whirl!

JG's report sums up an excellent night, with some photos from his cameraphone which are so good that you wonder why anyone would bother buying a camera. The rest of his photos are here. Thank you JG! Thank you Mika! Thank you well-known-mobile-phone-company for your competition prize and lovely PR people! Mwah!

The Evening Standard's reviewer was there too. Spot the two factual errors in his review. I mentioned them both in my comment, which now appears at the bottom of the article, but they have seen fit to edit out one of them. The swines! So, let me point out here that Mika has been number one for three weeks, not four. (Yet.)

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Mika Monday

He's number one for the third week, as the CD version of Grace Kelly joins the downloads in the combined chart.

His album, 'Life In Cartoon Motion', is released today, and I can honestly say it's the best album I have heard in years and years and years. There's not a poor track on the album, and nearly every one of the eleven songs could be a hit single.

He's doing a 'private' gig in London tonight for the company that pays my wages, and guess who WON the ONE pair of tickets made available to our hundreds of staff in a ridiculously easy competition on our intranet? Oui, c'est moi! I am sooooooo excited!

Yes, it's Mika Monday, and I'll be watching the man of the moment singing like a nightingale in Berkeley Square tonight, in a marquee. I'm sure there will be a report about it on at least one blog soon, if not two, as my plus one will be the lovely JG from OverYourHead.

He could be Green, I could be Violet Sky.

(If only everybody could appreciate just how funny and clever that last line is, but sadly that's the problem with in jokes. Sorry.)


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Olivia clears the first hurdle

00:51. Well done Malta! Olivia Lewis won by a mile tonight with Vertigo. Just the qualifier and the final in Helsinki to go! I'm betting on this song to win Eurovision as soon as the bookies open the betting.

We watched Slovenia's EMA tonight (Saturday) and they chose the right song in their final too. The initial televote reduced the field of fourteen down to two, who sang again; an amazingly good, operatic singer, Alenka Gotar and a not very good singer, Eva Cerne, who happens to be the latest Slovenian Pop Idol. Bearing in mind that Slovenia has sent her Pop Idol winner to Eurovision for the last two years, the signs weren't good, but sanity prevailed and Alenka Gotar won the 'superfinal' vote with her 'popera' song, 'Cvet z Juga' (Flower of the South). We're presuming it will be performed in English in Helsinki and it should give Slovenia a hope of getting past the qualifer for the first time. They're one of the six countries who have failed to reach the final all three times since the qualifier was introduced in 2004.

Here's Alenka's operatic pop song on the Slovene news. Her song now becomes my third favourite of the seven songs picked so far for Helsinki, after tonight's Maltese winner and Moldova. We were a bit surprised that hunky Sebastian came 9th out of the 14 finalists in Slovenia tonight. He came second in our house. (Ten gay men. It was the song, honest. Let's have another look at Sebastian's website. Sigh.) To be honest, his song would have caused great concern had it won, as it bears a striking resemblance to 'Show Me Your Love', last year's Ukrainian entry for Eurovision by Tina Karol, and questions would have been asked. He did it without the skipping rope and the mini dress though, but he was wearing a nicely poufy gold shirt.

We also watched the videos of the songs in tonight's Polish and Estonian finals, then watched the results in each country. They were both disappointing. Old faves Vanilla Ninja and Ines both failed in Estonia, although their songs were weaker than their previous entries, so that wasn't such a big surprise. Although Vanilla Ninja have represented Switzerland, they've now failed three times in their attempts torepresent their home country. Estonia has gone for Gerli Padar, a woman who looks a lot like Pink, with a soft rocky/pop concoction called 'Partners In Crime' which may be favoured by the Eastern side of Europe in May, but does little for me.

Poland chose a song which looked like a load of drivel to start with, but then morphed into a sort of 'Christina Aguilera does swing' kind of song. Only not as good as that would actually be. It's still very poor overall. On the plus side, one of the lead artists is a black man, which is still a rare sight on the Eurovision stage, so good to see from an Eastern European country. On the down side, it involved rapping, which is rarely good.

There were thirteen televised national finals or heats tonight across Europe, including the first heat of Sweden's Melodifestivalen. We didn't watch them all, but we had a damn good go. I've been at my friends' house with the moveable satellite dish for six hours! Time for bed.

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Relax, take it easy

Oh, Kylie, Kylie, Kylie.

Poor 'Poor Kylie'.

She's not having much luck, is she? Cancer, stopping a gig halfway through because she came back too soon, and now, it's official; her and Olivier have split, and the BBC files this under 'Entertainment'. HAVE THEY NO SYMPATHY FOR THE POOR WOMAN?

Kylie, take some time off. We won't mind.

Meanwhile, the world's heterosexual males have suddenly perked up a bit.


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Well, about time too. I mean, we had the panic over bird 'flu, but no ruddy bird 'flu to go with it and it all felt like a terrible anti-climax. But today, just as we'd forgotten about panicking over bird 'flu and were back to panicking over terrorists and global warming, bird 'flu is finally here in Blighty.

On your marks.

Get set.



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Malta teaser

Blogging LIVE! From Valetta! Birmingham!

It's multimedia multi-tasking night here at Chig Mansions. We're watching Maltese TV on t'internet in the lounge (via the link here on ESC Today's page). Malta is having a qualifying round tonight in their quest to choose this year's song for Eurovision, 'Malta Song For Europe 2007'. This is purely to fill a quiet Thursday night's television in Malta before Saturday's final, which will feature only six of tonight's sixteen songs. And boy, do they know how to fill a night's television, as last year's final was about four hours long. We are also trying to cook dinner and will be watching The Bill with the other eye.

I believe Malta may be sitting on the winner of this year's Eurovision in Helsinki. Olivia Lewis's 'Vertigo' is absolutely bloomin' fantastic. and if it's not one of the six songs that Malta picks tonight for Saturday's final, I will weep. It blends Western pop, Middle Eastern sounds that will allow Wogan to declare it has 'the whiff of the souk' without even waiting for Turkey's entry, and flamenco handclaps which should draw in the Southern European votes. Yet, it doesn't sound like the contrived mess that all that would imply. It has a good intro, a fabulous long note and an impactful ending. I adore it, and a look at my stats reveals that it's the track I have played most on my PC since November! I won't upload it anywhere, as previous ventures in that direction have turned out to be a waste of time, but if you ask me nicely, I will happily e-mail you the MP3.

The Schlagerboys are also tuning in for Malta. They've picked the six songs they think should go through to the final. Well, I say six...


20:15. We're five songs into the webcast and I feel like I've zoomed into the 1980s. Is this modern Malta? Padded jackets and soft rock abound so far. Yuk! Bring on Olivia! Bring on the dancey pop!

Now there's some mincey queen singing Blue Suede Shoes and sashaying into the audience! Is this the interval act?

20:22. Bugger. My broadband connection went down and now the Maltese webcast is 'not accepting any more connections'. The Schlagerboys weren't wrong about that elastic band connecting Valetta to the world, were they? It must have snapped. Back to The Bill then. The spaghetti bolognese with veggie meatballs was lovely, thank you for asking.

20:32. We're still watching this:
Windows Media Player cannot connect to the server because it is not accepting
any new connections. This could be because it has reached its maximum connection
limit. Please try again later.

20:34. Ooh, we're back on! The female presenter is reading out a list of sponsors. This is soooo Malta. We may have missed the obligatory shot of someone or other arriving by Air Malta.

20:39. The Maltese version of Busted are on now. They're called Klinsmann Coleiro. They have clearly been drinking too much Red Bull as their song is called 'She Gives Me Wings'. The webcast is buffering badly, which makes it sound really out of tune. PC Honey Harman's colleagues still haven't twigged that she's dead.

20:43. The next singer, Julie Pomorski, is in a nightdress, on a swing, with a 1980s perm. Honey's fingerprints have been found at the scene of the drugs bust. Still the plods haven't realised that Zain is bent. Nightie girl is quite badly out of tune, even with no buffering.

20:46. Proving that simplicity is often best, Daniela Delicata (great name) is singing a jaunty little song, while playing a big guitar, à la Nicole. Sun Hill have been briefed that Honey is a high priority misper.

20:50. Malta's version of Cher now, half Cher's age but wearing a cross between a poncho and a flamenco dress. Good voice actually, but the song's too MOR for Eurovision. She's called Pamela, and The Bill's on an ad break.

20:54. Maltese TV's on an ad break too. Buitoni pizzas and Peugeot 207. Ooh blimey! They're back in the studio and the presenters aren't ready. Long silence. Someone brings a lecturn onto the stage. Now the presenters are singing Ruslana's 'Wild Dances', very badly. Smithy has found what we already know will turn out to be Honey's blood on the bridge.

20:58. Song 13 is by a band called Scar, or possibly SCAR. Ooh, fit skinhead lead singer, with one of those V-shaped guitars off of the 1970s. Divers are pulling Honey's body out of the river. The song's very average, but he's well horny. Zain has been rumbled. Preview of next episode. End credits.

21:02. Isabelle (or possibly Isabella) follows in the footsteps of Westlife and Justin Trousersnake by singing a song called 'My Love', written by a bloke I've met at a previous Eurovision, because he wrote a previous Maltese entry. It'll come to me later. It's a bit dull at the start, but improves. She could be Chiara's sister. Take that however you like.

21:06. 'Unite' by Mauro. I've had an MP3 of this one for a while, but I think I played it once. I'm remembering why now. Mauro's a pretty boy, but the song's a mess and there's too much business on stage. Someone behind him waves huge white wings, which, behind his white suit, are meant to symbolise a dove. "Peace for all", he says, in English, at the end, for those who haven't quite sussed the message.

21:10. Final song of the sixteen is Starlight by Trilogy, or is it Trilogy by Starlight? No, right first time. Woman starts, joined by one man then another. See how they thought up that name? Padded gold shoulder pads, and that's just the men. The song's passable.

21:12 A long shot of the hall reveals HUNDREDS of empty, red seats. Someone's forgotten to tell the hosts that the songs have finished as there's another long, embarrassing silence.

The reprise, in reverse order, seems to reveal that Olivia Lewis's vocal was okay-ish, but a bit exposed and shaky on the one long note in the clip. She was accompanied by two men in white tabards, who looked awful, to be quite honest. One was playing a violin in the way that so spectacularly didn't work for Albania two years ago. Have they learnt nothing? The song cries out for at least four men with large pectorals and no shirts on.

Blimey, is that Brian Dowling fronting the act called Rollercoaster Ride? And that Claudia Faniello clearly isn't worried about emulating her brother's horribly out of tune performance which saw Malta bottom of the scoreboard last year with one solitary point.

"Tony and Guy", say the hoists. "Classic Jewellers". Yes, it's time for another plug for the sponsors. It's shameless. As if they don't have proper ads too. They're on now. (Nestlé Fitness cereal, Melita Digital phone service, JB Scores, Actavis pharmaceuticals. Foto Classic, Toni & Guy Fashion, Activia with the not-made-up-at-all active ingrediant 'bifidus actiregularis', Malta Magic 91.7FM...and the broadband connection's gone again.

21:27. We're back in the hall! The interval act, for the next three hours of televoting, is Ira Losco, who was such a demure young thing when she represented Malta in Tallinn (and nearly won) in 2002. She's now a rock chick, doing G'n'R's 'Sweet Child O' Mine'

21:40. After another broadband loss, we're back with a dreadful band providing more interval 'entertainment'. They're called Gianni & Rug. The rug seems to be on the chest of one of the guitarists, whose shirt is unwisely wide open, with his belly hanging out. Calling this lot an average 'pub band' would be an insult to pub bands.

21:44. They're still on, and cheering greets the next intro. They must be doing a 'hit'. It sounds like the old Oxo ad song; "Only Oxo does what only Oxo can..."

21:55. During another broadband lapse, I rang Schlagerboy D, who assured me that Olivia did enough to get through, but confirmed my suspicion that her routine was a bit rubbish. Maltese TV has clearly run out of interval acts, and is now showing what I can only describe as 'ambient TV'; slow-moving panoramas of Maltese churches and fields, with a 'soft jazz' soundtrack. Time for a coffee. This could be a long night...

22:04. I'm a bit confused by Malta. They have a perfectly good language of their own, and yet there's just been an ad in Italian for a brand of pasta, followed by one for a Maltese garage door company (I kid you not) in English. "Shutters and industrial doors!"

22:08. The international pressure on that elastic band must be building up. I'm getting the sound perfectly okay now, but the picture has been frozen on a smiling woman for the last three or four minutes. Worryingly, WMP isn't buffering or anything. It seems quite happy to think this is all it's supposed to being showing me. The music is some uninspring soft rock. Perhaps it's just as well I can't see the guilty party.

22:16. If the Maltese TV audience is watching what I'm only able to hear, then they have just been treated to performances from Prince, Madonna (La Isla Bonita) and now The Pointer Sisters doing a Girls Aloud cover. (Ahem.) However, I suspect these acts are not on stage in Valetta. My WMP screen is black.

22:25. The Trammps, Gloria Gaynor, Popcorn... They're evidently having a disco in that hall in Valetta. Still no picture.

22:28. Eurythmics, Tears For Fears. The Maltese disco has reached the '80s section. Some cheering audible between songs, so they definitely haven't gone home. My friend James in Bristol is getting the same; audio with no picture.

22:39. The Weather Girls, Mihai's Tornero... Methinks Maltese TV has been taken over by The Gays and they've cut the picture.

22:43. Mihai is actually there in Valetta. He does another song after 'Tornero', then an interview: "I feel great. Malta is great." Why? "Because Malta gave me ten points." And when you go back to Romania, what will you tell them? "I will tell them 'give Malta 12 points'." Bless. Mihai will also be seen at this season's finals in Iceland and FYR Macedonia, he says.

22:46. The hosts introduce song number one, 'Whenever' by Kevin Borg. It's either through to the final or they're about to play all sixteen songs again. No, I heard envelopes mentioned. We're okay. These are the six finalists then. Next up is song 9, 'She Gives Me Wings' by Klinsmann Coleiro (the boyband), then song 13 (SCAR, with the horny singer), then Olivia Lewis (phew!), then song 12 (Pamela's 'All About A Life'). Finally, song 16, Starlight by Trilogy is through.

22:55. Still no picture.

22:57. The picture comes back, OVER THE CLOSING CREDITS. Thank you Malta, and goodnight.

23:00. But hold on, what's this? The lead story on the Maltese TV news is... the six songs just chosen for Saturday's Song For Europe final. Do you see how this Eurovision lark is slightly more important for some countries? And Malta have never even won the damn thing. Stories about some huge fish in a fish market and the Maltese Labour Party conference follow, but it's good to see they have their priorities right.

So, go Olivia! I hope she wins on Saturday, but we'll be watching the Slovenian EMA final on our friends' big TV while Malta's is on. (Slovenia is having a semi-final tonight and another one tomorrow.) The Schlagerboys have interviewed Slovenian fitty Sebastian here, and who cares what his song's like? Phwoar. His official website's here. Phwoar again!

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