World of Chig   

Welcome to the washout

17:30 It's Birmingham Pride today, reduced to a one day event this year instead of the usual three day drinkfest, and it's a washout. The weather gods have frowned on Birmingham, just like last year, when only one of the three days was a decent day. Not only is it raining here, but it's also cold. I've just popped home after following the parade through the city centre in the rain, then huddling with the gently steaming masses in the Loft Lounge. I need to get some dry clothes on before going back later. It's miserable on the streets, with hardly anyone out. When we walked past the main stage about an hour ago, there was no one on and no one waiting for anything to come on either. I'll just go back for Scooch and Bjorn Again before tonight's main event; the Duckie club night, which should bring some much-needed enjoyment.

We did get Liberty X last night though at the Nightingale, just a few days after they announced that they are going their separate ways later this Summer. It was a bit of a coup in that respect; they were drafted in at the last minute to replace Right Said Fred, who decided they'd rather do a TV show in Germany. I wasn't complaining though. Liberty X did a great performance of all their hits, with live vocals for nearly all the songs (which I always like to point out as so many acts mime their whole PAs). They were thoroughly enjoying themselves and it really transmitted itself to the audience. I only got to speak to one of them afterwards, but it was Kevin, so that's another thing to tick off the list! I told him they were much better than Right Said Fred would have been.

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Pet Shop Boys - last night, Wolverhampton Civic

Dancing in at number 28


Verka Serduchka (left), the Ukrainian bacofoil drag queen who came second in Eurovision last week, has entered the official UK chart today at number 28, entirely on the strength of downloads. The song came third in the UK's televote, behind Turkey and Greece, getting our 8 points.

The song has fallen away a little from its midweek position of #18 (apparently), but at least we have just had the surreal experience of Dancing Lasha Tumbai being played on the Radio1 chart show.

This is the first time that a non-winning, non-UK Eurovision song has made the UK charts Help, anybody?

It's possibly the first ever UK chart hit to feature Mongolian in its title, if it really is Mongolian, as claimed, but not the first in Eurovision, as Dschingis Khan and their eponymous song would have a claim to that. Ha, ha.

It's the second of Ukraine's Eurovision entries to make the UK chart, as Ruslana's winner, Wild Dances, spent one measly week at #47 in 2004, after coming 6th in the UK televote, getting 5 points. It's not bad going though, for a country which has only entered Eurovision five times.

Verka Serduchka has also entered the Swedish chart at #6, despite receiving only three points from Sweden last Saturday. Serbia's winner, which Sweden rewarded with 10 points, has entered the Swedish Hitlistan at number nine.

UPDATE: (Thanks Martin, and Dave in the comments.) From a debate that's already happened on the above issue, on the Eurovision Nation message board, it seems it was 1974 when a non-UK, non-winning song last made the UK chart. Thirty-three years! Respect to the tinfoil goddess and the UK's sense of humour! In 1974, the whole of the Eurovision top four charted here, with the top three all charting higher than the UK entry and having longer chart runs:

1974 Eurovision position / song & artist (country) / UK chart peak (Weeks on chart)

1st Waterloo - ABBA (Sweden) #1 (9 weeks)
2nd Si* - Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy) #8 (10 weeks)
3rd I See A Star - Mouth & MacNeal (Netherlands) #8 (10 weeks)
4th Long Live Love - Olivia Newton-John (UK) #11 (8 weeks)

*Gigliola charted here with the English version, 'Go (Before You Break My Heart)'.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Scooch have fallen only three places in their second 'proper' week on the chart, to number 8. I understand that, in the middle of the week, if downloads weren't being counted and the chart were based on CD sales only, Scooch were Number One!

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The song which was number one in midweek, by Maroon 5, has failed to clinch the top spot today, in a genuine surprise. They have been nudged away from the top spot by Rihanna and her 'Umbrella', probably helped by the rain here in the last week(!)

THE LAST UPDATE: Last week's number one, by McFly, has broken a record quite spectacularly, by falling from #1 to #20. This breaks the record for the biggest tumble ever from the top spot for a non-limited edition single. This record had been held by Harry Belafonte since January 1958, when Mary's Boy Child fell from the top to #12. McFly have even equalled the all-time fall from number one, set two years ago by Elvis Presley's One Night / I Got Stung (also the 1,000th Number One), which was a limited edition release. No single has ever fallen lower than #20 from #1. All of this indicates that McFly's niche market gets more niche and more tuned in to first week sales with every release, and that the singles chart is excitingly unpredictable.

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Close every door

I'm in shock. He's gone! The person I thought would win Any Joseph Will Do (sic) has been ejected tonight. I am gobsmacked.

Poor, poor Daniel. What you gonna do?

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Jason Donovan - gig reviews

Last night, Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham.

Chig's short review: Excellent.

Mike's longer review: here.

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I'm due for an odd day today. Half a day's work, then this afternoon I'm having a CT (or CAT) scan of my sinuses, to try and establish if there's a physical cause of the sinusitis which has now been getting me down for a full seven months. It looks a bit scary.

Tonight, instead of seeing Mika, who's playing here in Brum, I'm off with Mike to see one of his recent interviewees, Jason Donovan, in concert in Nottingham. (Who organises these conflicts of interest?) By the miracle of television recording technology, just after Jason leaves the stage in Nottingham, he'll be on the sofa in London with Graham Norton on BBC2. I suspect they won't be talking about how the Nottingham gig went, unless the lovely Jason is the next Doctor Who. Now there's a thought...

On Friday night, I'll be at the launch party of the Fierce festival, which is always massively entertaining and mildly controversial, but sometimes clashes with my Eurovision trip. No such problems this year.

Somewhere along the way, we will restart the UK50 project.

Then there's the Pet Shop Boys in Wolverhampton next Friday, followed by three days of Birmingham Pride, including the unmissable 'We Are 10' party from Duckie and the aforementioned Fierce festival. The Divine David, Amy Lamé, Readers Wifes, Jay Cloth and Mrs. Barbara Nice, all at once? Yes please!

Busy, busy, busy. Eurovision? That's so last week.

PS. Something quite disturbing happened during The Apprentice tonight. I began to warm to Tre. It's from the starting point of a complete permafrost, but it's progress. And there was an interesting little revelation about Lohit, wasn't there? Call me dim, but the penny hadn't dropped here, even though I think he's rather sexy, in a quiet kind of way.

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Chig’s Eurovision night - Part three

From the stage at the Nightingale, I announce the top ten in reverse order after the club's voting:

10th Russia, 40 points
9th Serbia, 43 points
8th Germany, 44 points
(No 7th)
= 6th Belarus and Slovenia, 47 points each
(No 5th)
= 4th Latvia and Spain, 57 points each
3rd Sweden, 61 points
2nd Greece, 91 points
1st United Kingdom, 120 points

There is a sense of inevitability about the winner, as I haven’t barred people from voting for the UK, specifically to see how popular Scooch would be if we give people the chance to vote for them. In fact, fourteen of the fifteen voters have given them points, more than any other country. The UK have received seven 12s and two 10s, but there are 1s, 2s, 3s and 5s as well. I say, “So the real winner is Greece. Enjoy the rest of the evening!” and scuttle off the stage.

People are watching the voting fairly attentively on several different screens around the room. I spend the rest of the voting moving around the room, watching it and seeing how people are reacting. It’s not that lively, simply because we aren’t getting any points and both the UK and Ireland have slipped to the bottom of the scoreboard from very early on. I go back on the mic to tell everyone that the UK will be the fortieth of the forty-two countries to give their points, so we’ll have to wait quite a while for the lovely Fearne Cotton.

I strike up a few conversations with people along the way and find myself explaining the Big 4 issue a couple of times; why people in other countries don’t have any reason to vote for those four countries as they’re already in next year’s final. I bump into a couple of friends and end up watching with them. As Ireland are about to give their votes, I say that if we don’t get any here, we might as well give up. There is a massive cheer as the seven points appear on the screen, but there is more excitement to come! As soon as the 12 points from Malta are revealed, there is just one thought on my mind; this is down to the Schlagerboys. Oh. My. God. Oh. My. God. Unfortunately, both of their numbers have dissappeared from my new phone (because they were in the phone memory of the old one, not the SIM card) or I would be phoning them in Helsinki right now! They must have realised. I wonder what they’re thinking? Oh my god, two friends of mine are national saviours! So I do the next best thing and text our mutual friend, Bryan, saying that the Schlagerboys “are responsible for the twelve from Malta – seriously!”

He replies, “Just said the same thing to [them]. They’re definitely on for another medal.”

So, what’s the reason for this jubilation? Well, the Schlagerboys had been relentlessly supporting Olivia Lewis’s Maltese entry on their website for weeks. This hadn’t gone unnoticed in Malta. They had also interviewed the songwriter and Olivia herself and addressed important issues such as what dress she should wear in the qualifier. Of course, they had also now met her in person in Helsinki. Earlier in the week, as I reported, I had popped round to see Schlagerboy A as he spent a couple of days back here and I had seen the box of promotional DVDs which Olivia’s people had sent them from Malta. He told me that they had been invited to appear on a Maltese TV programme called Xarabank on Friday, the day after the qualifier, as Olivia’s English fans. We contemplated how awful this would be if she failed to get through on Thursday night, and of course that’s what happened. She didn’t make it to the final. But the programme happened, and there are comments on the Schlagerboys' blog from Maltese people saying that they are national heroes, how Malta loves them and how Malta will surely give points to the UK on Saturday to thank them for their support. Lo and behold, we get the twelve! I am incredulous.

Now, in case you think this is just a fluke or coincidence, let’s remember that there are only 402,000 people in Malta, equivalent to 40% of Birmingham’s population. It’s not difficult to get a message out to the people in 24 hours. Malta takes Eurovision very seriously and Xarabank is apparently a very popular programme. On Friday, Malta was angry that the televote hadn’t delivered a place in the final for Olivia, and there was talk of boycotting the phone vote on Saturday night as a protest – a futile protest if you ask me, but it was being discussed. If the net result of that was that many people decided not to vote, and those who did decided to give a thank you vote to the Schlagerboys, then our twelve points were down to them. To be honest, I can’t think of any other explanation. Malta’s votes were so out of step with everyone else’s that it must be down to the boys. The BBC should be giving the Schlagerboys an official reception, for saving the nation from humiliation again. Boys, I am proud to call you my friends.

So, back in the club, much whooping and cheering. I can’t explain any of this to anyone as it would take too long, but for a while this becomes far more significant than who’s winning. After being really surprised that the UK 12 went to Turkey (for the first time ever), it’s all over and I look gleefully at the top three countries, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia, which were all amongst the five each way bets that I placed. I text Bryan again; “I’m in the money! Top three! Who cares about Latvia and Sweden?”

We don’t get to see the reprise, so I still have that joy to come. The club is pretty full by this point so the DJ starts the music – with a new mix of Scooch which the remixer has just delivered, of course. Then I suddenly have an idea. It hasn’t occurred to me beforehand, but I have the English dance mix of the Serbian winner on my PC at home. Damn! Why didn’t I bring it in? Then, remembering my taxi dash home and back earlier in the space of twenty minutes, I realise I have 45 minutes before I need to meet Katrina at the front door, so I tell the DJ how good the dance mix is and ask if I should go home and get it. He agrees, so I catch my fifth taxi of the evening, go home and burn three versions of the Serbian song onto a CD while I phone Mike and burble excitedly about the Schlagerboys. By amazing good fortune, the taxi driver who picks me up outside the club lives around the corner from me, so he pops home, and ten minutes later we’re on our way back to the club, where I deliver the CD to the DJ. I can’t wait to hear the reaction when it’s played and people realise they’re dancing to the Eurovision winner already, but despite all my efforts and me asking a couple of times later, he didn’t play it at all. What an opportunity missed. It really is a brilliant dance track, and it sounds ‘right’ in its English version too, not like a bad translation (although it’s nowhere near as depressing as the Serbian lyric).

Miss M and I then have to work out a strategy to get Katrina in through a fire exit when the taxi drops her off, which all works out fine. I (re)introduce myself and lead her and her partner to the dressing room. (We’ve chatted before, once in the dressing rooms at G-A-Y and once at the Retro bar, but these meetings were nine and two years ago respectively, so I hardly expect her to remember.)

Four of us chat until 1am and partake of her champagne. (No demands for Smarties with the red ones taken out. Champagne is her only rider request.) I take the backing track CD down to the DJ and explain which ones Katrina is doing. When I leave the room for Katrina to change, I cheekily ask if she’s putting the green shirt on and she tells me that it (the ‘winning shirt’ from Dublin 1997) is in the Belgian Eurovision museum. So now you know.

We all troop downstairs, Miss M introduces Katrina onto the stage to a rapturous reception and she sings four songs brilliantly, singing live and chatting about Eurovision in the middle. She ends with Love Shine A Light and Walking On Sunshine, of course. I take photos from the side of the stage and go a bit misty-eyed when I think ‘that thing we were watching tonight – she WON it! She’ll probably be our reigning champion for ever!’ The crowd love it, especially when Katrina dedicates a song to Scooch and says something unrepeatable about the voters of Europe(!)

Afterwards, we go back to the dressing room, where Miss M and I then engage in drinking and conversation with the other two and various visitors for what turns into nearly three hours, until 4.20am. The time just flies by. We’re having a real laugh. When they get up to go, Katrina says that would normally have disappeared earlier, but they were having a good time talking to us two, which is very kind of her. I shall treasure that. My new career: artist liaison. I can get drunk with the best of them!

And that, my dear reader, if you’ve lasted this far, is the story of Chig’s unusual Eurovision night this year. I got home about 5.15am, in my sixth taxi of the night, clutching my VCR and my newly autographed copy of the ten year old Love Shine A Light single. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable night, once my blood pressure had returned to normal about an hour in. I would do it again, but next year Belgrade beckons. I’m not missing being at Eurovision again! I hope your Eurovision night was a little more relaxed and just as much fun. Here’s to next year!

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Chig’s Eurovision night - Part two

(Part one is below.)

I haven’t been able to take any notice of the opening act. Before the songs start, I speak to a guy standing near the bar, who I think I’ve met before. We establish it must have been at the Nightingale’s comedy night, over a year ago. Funny how some people stick in your mind, isn’t it? Probably because he’s lovely. Sunderland accent. I could speak to him all night. In fact, I often do, as he knows all the songs, so he is my reference point for the evening.

The opening song from Bosnia-Herzegovina passes me by completely. Must have been chatting. I hardly see anything of Spain. Just enough to drool a bit over Basty and think how sexy all of D’Nash look in white. The first one I actually stop faffing around for and watch properly is Belarus, which has people quite captivated by the whole act, wondering how those people are floating in the air. It does look brilliant on TV, but I cannot contemplate a Belarussian win. How can we go to the last dictatorship in Europe, where homosexuality isn’t tolerated? Shudder.

Next up is Ireland, and even in this club, with the booming sound, it’s obvious that this isn’t the performance we expected from Dervish. They were picked by RTE because they have years of live experience, continuing the move, which they initiated last year with Bryan Kennedy, away from talent show wannabes. How ironic and awful then, to hear the singer sounding nervous and out of tune. This is such a shock and a disappointment. The Irish blood running through my veins goes cold at this point and I am reminded how it can go horribly wrong for anyone.

I force people to concentrate when Slovenia comes on at song 7 and tell a certain DJ/producer before it starts that he should get his hands on this track. He agrees with me when he’s heard it. In fact, I won’t be surprised if an unofficial remix appears.

I’m chatting to people way too much and giving out scoresheets to late arrivals. I’ve already realised that I’ll have to watch this Eurovision another time. Tonight is not the night. Because we’ve moved downstairs to the main dancefloor, I seek an assurance from the duty manager that we are going to stick with this until the end, with the sound on for all of the voting. The whole reason we didn’t plan to be on the main floor is that ‘other’ people would be coming in, expecting the DJ to be on, from about nine. My worst fear is that this will end in vision only, watching votes flying in to a soundtrack of the Freemasons and Kylie. It’s okay though. The duty manager is telling everyone who wants dancing to go upstairs, where the DJ will be on from 10pm. He tells one group of young people that Eurovision is on and one of them says. ‘What’s Eurovision?’ He replies, ‘It’s been going for over fifty years. Surely you’ve heard of it.’ Blank looks all round.

London boy Sarbel looks to be shaking it okay for Greece, but by this time the sound is starting to be drowned out by the growing crowd, so I can’t tell if he’s in tune or not. (I understand now that it was a bit dodgy.) I’m so concerned I’ll forget about the Scooch-related goodies when the time comes that I decide to give them out earlier, rather than wait until the UK is on, so I don’t miss the performance. I spend most of Sopho and The Ark’s performances going round the club with a tray of lollies and little bags of peanuts, saying ‘Salty nuts sir?’ and ‘Something to suck on madam?’ to punters, to reactions varying from bemusement to people who totally get what I’m doing. (I didn’t explain to anyone.)

Goodness only knows what happens when France are on. I don’t remember seeing them, but Latvia sound superb and I begin mentally counting my money from my 25-1 each way bet. One of them’s very sexy as well, although it in no way makes up for the others.

I’m keen to see Russia, so I watch them quite attentively. I think the whole performance is superb, as is the lighting of the stage. Yay! More money. Roger Cicero next seems excellent as well, as I also watch the cute German bar boy for his reaction. He's too busy. Then I pop over to the bar and alert some lesbians to the fact that it’s Serbia next and they might want to watch the screens. I go back to watch another excellent performance from Marija. At the end, a bloke shouts over, ‘The lesbian vote is in – they said that was shit.’ Honestly, some people. I then remember what I wrote during the afternoon about UK people not getting Balkan ballads, but I smile to myself, think ‘you’re all wrong’ and think about PaddyPower again, which makes me feel all warm inside. Or is that the two glasses of champagne?

When Ukraine comes on, people are transfixed. Of course, I haven’t seen this before either, just photos and the video of the Ukrainian national final, and it seems much more obvious right now just how little song there is in this performance. By this point I am standing at the bar, because it’s funny to watch people’s reactions, but I am also singing along, perhaps a little too loudly, shouting ‘EIN, ZWEI, DREI’ and holding the appropriate number of fingers in the air on each note. Some people probably think I’ve gone mad, but I find the whole thing very entertaining, even the bit where Verka hobbles around in those boots and pinches the bum of one of her team.

Scooch next, so I’m paying attention again. As the intro plays, Wogan is still burbling on right up to the point where Russ does his spoken intro and I’m screaming, ‘He’s starting! Shut the fuck up! Oh my god, he even spoke over the UK’s vocals.’ There is much tutting going on in the club. The man’s an idiot. I can’t believe he’s still being allowed to ruin this show. From what I could hear, Scooch sounded good, and the whole routine is bright and colourful. I’m still wondering if we can get any points from anywhere, but they seem to have done their best. What more could we hope for?

I must have been chatting over Romania. Bulgaria was fantastic, as I kept insisting to people around me who thought it was awful, then Turkey, then the bog roll tree of Armenia. “We try to get the loo rolls out of the trees in Balsall Heath”, I quip to some nearby bloke. I miss Natalia from Moldova as I’m speaking to Miss M about what we’re going to do next. Did she show her crotch again? Natalia, I mean, not Miss M.

Miss M announces that people should give their scoresheets to me, so they do. I miss the whole interval act, as I’m standing behind the bar adding up the points. It’s easier than I’d feared though and I can do all 24 sums in my head as there are only seventeen scoresheets and two of them have to be ignored. It’s a higher percentage of spoilt papers than even a Scottish election, but one of them has votes for fifteen countries and one has fewer than the required ten. I’m vaguely aware that the interval act seems to be nothing but two run-throughs of the reprise, but I’m not looking. Was that it? Those shirtless Latvian boys whipping themselves with twigs in 2003 have never really been challenged as best interval ever, have they? (Please don’t say Riverdance, thank you kindly.)

The voting starts before I’ve finished doing the sums, but I keep one ear on it, knowing that it will go on for several weeks and Fearne Cotton won’t be giving the UK points until slot 40 of the 42. I notice that the points are going to the expected countries right from the start and I’m happy. I decide to go on the mic and announce the club’s top ten from the stage, before it all hots up. So I get the DJ to turn down the TV sound and I stand on the main stage and sing ‘This is my moment…’

No, I didn’t. I made up that bit. But as soon as the sound went down, I said to the assembled throng, which was quite a lot of people at this stage, that I would be quick and only announce the club’s top ten and they could still watch the Eurovision voting on the screens. Despite this, I sensed that my appearance was about as popular as a pig in a synagogue, so I rattled through the top ten really quickly.

And the Nightingale’s points went where?

I think it’s time for a break (and a day at work after eleven days off!)

Part three tonight.

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Chig's Eurovision night - Part one

Saturday night then. Blimey, it seems like a long time ago.

So, I taxi to the Nightingale for 18:00, complete with camera, scoresheets, salty nuts and lollipops. Miss Maxi’s there already, slumped against the outside wall, waiting for them to open up. It’s only the second time I’ve seen him in man drag. It’s a lovely evening. I'm excited.

We go upstairs and switch on the mixing desk and plasma screen. Test the mics, put more chairs out and wipe down the furniture as there’s still dust caused by the refurb which is still being finished downstairs. Have a word with the technical people. Put up the easel and flipchart that we’re going to use later to display the Nightingale’s Eurovision vote.

All fine so far, but after about twenty minutes, the picture on the screen starts scrolling and flickering horribly. This is the main one above the little stage. There’s a plasma screen working perfectly in a smaller corner, but that is coming from a different feed and apparently has no sound.

I know that, a week before, they hadn’t sorted out the TV, but I’d been in on Friday and been told it was all sorted, and indeed it was, until the picture started going funny. A group of techies and staff all appear and fiddle around with the Freeview box and the aerial, but no joy. From 19:00, people start coming in. Instead of greeting them, as planned, I ignore them and try not to give away that I am panicking inside. I think the words ‘No Signal’ which keep appearing on screen may be giving the game away though. Miss M misses most of this, as obviously she has a transformation to do backstage.

The manager, a friend of mine for fifteen years or more, had said to ring him in Gran Canaria if there were any problems, so I do. He suggests trying to view the TV through a VCR instead of the Freeview box. Good idea, but I ask the staff and there’s no VCR in the building. Why would there be? Can we just move the whole evening downstairs to the main dancefloor? No, because the electrics haven’t all been finished after the refurb. We can’t get any TV signal on the screens down there. Only one thing for it, so I check with the techies that a VCR would definitely work and run downstairs to call a taxi. I ignore the growing number of punters and phone Miss M backstage saying ‘Can you look after everybody?’ It’s 19:40 when I hop in the cab, heart pounding, to drive back to my house and grab my VCR. I’m fuming that we’re probably going to miss the beginning of Eurovision and the whole opening act. The Te Deum on CD, the funny routine I had worked out, the explanation of the scoresheets, everything we had planned has gone down the pan. Apart from that, we may have a riot on our hands if there’s no picture by 20:00. So, one very understanding taxi driver. One sprint into my house as the taxi driver turns the car around. One mad Chig, pulling all the leads out the back of the telly and plug sockets at home, while thinking, 'I just set this two hours ago to record the bloody show – what am I going to do now? Sprinting out of the house past neighbours in the avenue, with a VCR, trailing electrical leads behind me. Back in the taxi, apologising for looking like a burglar. Miraculously, back to the club at 19:56. I bound up the stairs, two at a time. Miss M looks serene behind the mixing desk. Only half a dozen punters, looking astonishingly calm. No sign of frazzled technicians. They’ve managed to move it downstairs after all. Some customers have followed. Others have no idea what’s going on. The techies are just checking it works. I run downstairs. BBC One is on the screens. Joseph has ended. We’re seconds away. Can we bring people down? Yes. Run back upstairs and Miss Maxi announces on the mic that we’re moving downstairs. Oh, and there’s nowhere to sit. People move. I grab the scoresheets and hide my VCR, which is now completely redundant and not even recording the show for me. Eurovision starts as I run down the stairs onto the dancefloor again. The punters are amazingly calm and nice. I try to be calm while explaining what’s happened to the ones who ask. They’re all very understanding but my heart is pounding and I’m sweating rather too much to appear cool.

Some people gather round one of the screens which doesn’t have any sound coming from it directly. The others lean on the bar and watch the big new video wall, where you can see a big picture, three times in fact, but broken up across six and nine screens. It’ll have to do. The bar staff perform miracles, setting up a bar which wasn’t supposed to be open, in the space of a few minutes. Eurovision has started, but thank god for long Eurovision intros and I’m also thinking ‘it’s only Bosnia’ if I miss the first song. I give out the scoresheets. Only a few people don’t want them. They’re generally well received (and I know my sheets are also being used at parties in Bristol, Buckinghamshire and Israel at the same time, which feels good). People tend to take one for each group, which makes my life much easier later on. One man says he can fill it in now if I like. I’m relieved. There are fans here! Then I shudder at the thought of how much worse it could have been with no picture on the TV.

After all that, it takes about an hour for my heart rate to return to normal and for me to feel relatively calm, aided by some champagne that someone has brought in. I’ve been almost off alcohol since September due to a liver problem, which may or may not have cleared up, but by this point I’m past caring. Because the TV sound is coming through a club’s PA system, we can hear the music okay, but hardly a word of what Wogan is saying. Result! I can’t think of a better way to watch Eurovision.

Part two tomorrow!

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Shivers down my spine

I just had a moment. One of those moments when you realise how much it means to a 'new' country to win Eurovision, for all that we dismiss it in the UK.

If you're not at least slightly moved by this, I'll be very surprised. It's Marija Šerifović's homecoming to Belgrade last night, where she is joined by 50,000 fans, most of whom seem to be singing along to 'Molitva'.

Courtesy of RTS, via ESC Today

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Some clever person in Germany has taken out all of the points given by Eastern European countries in Saturday's Eurovision final, to see what the results would have been if it were only the West voting. You know, the West, the lovely Wogan's friends, the ones who know about music, the sensible ones who were running the damn Eurovision before Johnnyovski Foreignovic and the bloomin' Soviets and Yugos took it over. (Yes, yes, I know Finland won last year, but it's almost Siberia, isn't it?)

So, let's look at the REAL results, with all the points given by those dangerous and suspicious ex-Soviet Union and ex-Yugoslav countries removed. This'll show 'em.

How the Western countries actually voted:
Western result /(Real positions)/Western points/Country

01 (01) 128 Serbia
02 (02) 111 Ukraine
03 (04) 111 Turkey
04 (03) 84 Russia
05 (05) 80 Bulgaria
06 (09) 79 Hungary
07 (08) 76 Armenia
08 (07) 69 Greece
09 (13) 58 Romania
10 (11) 56 Bosnia-Herzegovina
14 (19) 40 Germany
17 (20) 27 Spain
19 (23) 19 United Kingdom
23 (22) 8 France
24 (24) 0 Ireland

What? That can't be right? The ten through to next year's final are almost the same? The winner's the same? And the second place? Oh no.

Hungary did even BETTER with the Western countries? Are you sure you've added that up right? I don't even like goulash.

The Big 4 countries are STILL all in the bottom half of the scoreboard? No, you've got this all wrong. They must have voted for each other, surely?

Ah, here it is, two of the Eastern countries that got through on Saturday would have failed. Hah! There you go! Sensible West. Belarus and Moldova wouldn't have made the top ten. They would have been replaced by...let's see...Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bugger. It looks like everyone liked the Eastern songs this year. This must be stopped. People must not vote for the songs they like! The world will end!

I'm off to join the BNP and find another target for my xenophobic rantings. How do we break this to Wogan?


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My head hurts

It may be something to do with the stress of yesterday, because the TV screen broke down at the club shortly before Eurovision was due to start, or the long hours (getting home after 5am) or the champagne and vodka that I was drinking, after having nothing more than a shandy since September.

Whatever it is, I've had a headache all day and a lovely friend has invited me round for dinner, so I'm leaving this PC for today. I hope you all had fun last night. I did, in the end!


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Flying in at number 5

Wow! Despite last night's equal 22nd place at Eurovision, Scooch have managed to re-enter the chart today at number 5. This is the highest chart placing for the UK entry since the woman I was chatting and drinking with for three hours earlier today made #3 in 1997. We're having a bit of a renaissance with our UK entries, it seems, in terms of sales.

Scooch's result last night, 22nd out of 24 songs, was exactly the same as Javine's in 2005, with just one point more than her eighteen, but they have outperformed her quite significantly chart-wise.

The Scooch single is a re-entry today because it charted for one week at #61 on 25 March, on downloads only, before the download versions (which include mixes not on the CD or DVD formats) were withdrawn from sale until this week. (Yes, they were withdrawn from sale. James Masterton's chart commentary last week, which implied otherwise, was wrong and I have told him.)

Leaving that technicality aside, this is really the first UK Eurovision song to enter in the top ten since Precious in 1999 (if they did enter at #6, which I think they did), so congratulations are due. Heaven knows, we need some silver lining to the big grey cloud hanging over the UK. It also means that Scooch have easily beaten the #8 chart peak of Daz Sampson last year in just one week, when he took three weeks to climb there.

Well done Scoochers!

Chart peaks of the most recent UK Eurovision entries:

05 Scooch - Flying The Flag (For You) - 2007
08 Daz Sampson - Teenage Life - 2006 (Entered at #13, rose to #12, then #8.)
18 Javine - Touch My Fire - 2005
13 James Fox - Hold Onto Our Love - 2004
15 Jemini - Cry Baby - 2003
13 Jessica Garlick - Come Back - 2002
32 Lindsay - No Dream Impossible - 2001
34 Nicki French - Don't Play That Song Again - 2000
06 Precious - Say It Again - 1999
15 Imaani - Where Are You? - 1998
03 Katrina & The Waves - Love Shine A Light - 1997
01 Gina G - Ooh Aah...Just A Little Bit - 1996

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Is it all over?

05:27 and I've just got in. Bloody hell. What a demanding night. Somewhere along the way, the best song won Eurovision. I won loads of money by betting on all three of the top three and the Schlagerboys plus a few people in Ireland rescued the UK from the total humiliation that we feared. My evening started off as a nightmare and has involved SIX taxi journeys this evening. I haven't really watched Eurovision, nor do I now have a copy to watch, despite setting my video earlier. All will be explained later. It got better, but I never imagined I would spend three hours drinking with our special guest after she had performed. And I'm supposed to be off the sauce.

That post mortem may be later than planned, but well done Serbia, you deserved it!

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Scroll down for your downloadable Eurovision scoresheet.

Eurovision: Final bits and pieces

Sieben, sieben ai lu lu, sieben, sieben, ein zwei!
Sieben, sieben, ai lu lu, EIN, ZWEI, DREI!

It’s 16:00 and the Eurovision butterflies have kicked in already. I’m not even there, but I’m just anxious that everything goes to plan tonight at our Nightingale party. My 6’ 5” glamourous co-host Miss Maxi is trolling around the city centre for last-minute accessories at this very moment. It’s going to look like the little and large show, beauty and the beast, Marija Serifovic and her backing beauties. In short, a night of contrasts lies ahead.

Before I get completely carried away, it’s a sobering thought that today is missing Madeleine McCann’s 4th birthday and my heart goes out to her family, which is why I’ve put that picture on the left. It came from Myspace, who have set up a homepage for the appeal to find her. In the space of a few hours, it has attracted 140,000 friends. Let’s hope it works.

Sara Cox has just done a lovely interview with David Scooch from Helsinki, and played the Scooch single, possibly for the first time on Radio 1. The single is hovering around number 10 or 11 in the midweeks, meaning that it will probably chart tomorrow around #13, as our Eurovision song has an eery habit of doing in recent years. More on this tomorrow.

Yesterday, I read a lot of nonsense about Thursday night’s results. Let me say, here and now, that I have no problem whatsoever with any of the songs that got through to the final. There’s no conspiracy, no block voting. Individuals cannot organise themselves to vote en masse. The Eastern countries had the better songs and the better draws in the running order (with none after the breaks). All of the dodgy vocals came from Western countries; Denmark and Andorra (both flat) , Switzerland (out of breath because of the dancing) and Belgium (almost painful at times, but recovered a bit). Plenty of Eastern countries failed as well. Some people seem to have forgotten that. We’ll probably see, when the results are revealed tonight, that some countries got through with Western votes, not despite them. Enough moaning, The people have spoken and Eurovision doesn’t need to be reorganised. The West just needs to get its act together and submit better songs.

On a separate matter, please don’t assume that because any act, including the UK’s, says they can win, that they really believe it. They have to say it, for the folk at home. It’s just PR.

No matter how well Serbia do tonight, even if Wee Jimmy Krankie and the Lipstick Lesbians win for them, I bet they won’t get any UK points. The UK public just doesn’t get Balkan ballads. The irony is that Wogan’s Radio 2 listeners would love the song if they heard it a few times on the radio (and Marija has already recorded a fabulous dance version in English, called Destiny). Sadly, they won’t get the chance

The UK will have an enormous part to play in the tension of the final result if it’s close. Fearne Cotton will be giving our votes and we’re the 40th of the 42 countries to do so. Let’s hope it’s a nailbiter, but if Serbia is ahead with two sets of votes to go, they should have it in the bag, because the penultimate country to vote is FYR Macedonia (with Hungary last).

My prediction for the UK televote:

12 to Latvia
10 to Ukraine
8 to Ireland
7 to Greece (British lad)
6 to Sweden

That should be our top five. It’s the order I’m not so sure about.

My prediction for the top:

1st Ukraine
2nd Latvia
3rd Serbia

My prediction for the UK’s position: 18th – 20th, if we’re lucky.

Remember that, in the 41 other countries, most people know that France, Spain, Germany and the UK will be in next year’s final automatically. (Their commentators remind them during the show, just in case they didn’t know already.) This has two effects. It causes resentment, so people are already predisposed to dislike our entry and not vote for it. It also has a financial effect. If you live in a poorer country (and we’re the fifth biggest economy in the world, so that’s everybody else), you’re not going to waste money on a televote for a country that doesn’t need your vote. If you’re an Armenian factory worker who likes, for example, the German and the Georgian songs, you’ll spend money voting for Georgia, not Germany, because Georgia needs the assistance. Forget about ‘political voting’. This is practical voting. Unless the Big 4 countries submit themselves to the possibility of relegation, they will always underperform on the scoreboard. That will never happen, so we’re stuck as we are. Let’s just get used to it and agree to entertain the masses, as that’s what Scooch will do later.

No country deserves to win and host Eurovision more than Slovenia. Their national final lasts for three days, they produce well packaged compilation albums of all the songs and they take their music really seriously. Even though I haven’t bet on them, I will be ecstatic if Alenka wins, and she may. Message to Samo, who reads this: I will be coming to Ljubljana if she does it. It will be good to meet you again!

Right, that’s it. I have to be at the Nightingale for about 18:00 to set up. Katrina’s not arriving until 00:30 and performing at about 01:00. It’s going to be a long day! Have fun, mes amis, whatever you’re doing and we’ll be back for the post mortem tomorrow.

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Eurovision: The unpublished preview

Nearly six weeks ago, I spent a sunny Sunday indoors when I could have gone out to play, writing a preview of Eurovision for a well-known magazine, as I have done before. It was all done, proofed by a handful of friends who I knew were in that day, improved and amended and submitted the next day.

When the magazine plopped through my letterbox, I searched in vain for the article. Something else that I wrote and photographed has gone in, but unless I've missed it, the Eurovision article isn't there. I'm still waiting for a reply to my e-mail asking why. I'll be buggered if it's going to waste completely, so let's publish it here instead, complete with the two alternative titles. Enjoy.

Eurovision – enjoy the ride


It’s Eurovision time! Your exits are here, here and here

It might require a little more concentration than usual to follow Eurovision this year. Firstly, there are a record-breaking 42 countries in the two shows, as we welcome debutants Georgia and the Czech Republic into the qualifier and the prodigal Austro-Hungarian empire returns after both countries had a strop last year. Serbia and Montenegro arrive in Helsinki separately, after their tetchy 2006 divorce, increasing the number of former Yugoslav countries to a useful six (with two of them sending singers called Marija, just to confuse people). All 42 of these countries will be giving their votes in full at this year’s final, as last year’s experiment, where only the top three countries were announced by each spokesperson, has been abandoned. You may like to go out clubbing after the songs. The voting will probably still be on when you get back.

Secondly, there’s the potential language confusion. The Latvian entry is in Italian and the Belgian entry is in English – the first time the French-speaking Belgian broadcaster has done this. Even the French entry is in Franglais. Not to worry though, there is a song in French – it’s the Cypriot entry. Got all that? Good. The Norwegian song has a Spanish title, the Spanish song has a Spanglish title, the Ukrainian entry includes bits in German and Mongolian, while the Romanian song has more languages in it than we can count, in a shameless attempt to connect with populations all over Europe (much like the UK entry’s listing of European cities).

Ah yes, the UK entry, by Cyndi. Sorry, by Scooch. Following the lead set by Slovenian dragsters Sestre in Eurovision 2002, Scooch are dressing up as trolley dollies to sing ‘Flying The Flag (For You)’. It’s the smuttiest, most innuendo-laden song that Eurovision has ever seen, from any country, but we get away with it by calling it ‘traditional British postcard humour’. Would you like something to suck on for landing sir?

So what if our song doesn’t have much in the way of verses? It’s choruses we need and choruses we have. You can’t accuse the UK of not sending entertainment to Eurovision, with this and Daz Sampson’s classroom rap last year, and we might as well, because we don’t stand a chance of winning, so we should aim to entertain. The last three years have shown that the good people of Europe cannot be persuaded to spend their hard-earned cash on voting for the Big 4 countries (France, Germany, Spain and the UK), when they already have a place guaranteed in the next year’s final, so they cast their televotes for a country that needs the points instead.

All that Scooch’s song needs to add is a key change, which is sadly lacking in the original version. It’s obvious where the key change should go, so let’s hope they sort it out. Finnish television has also warned participating countries that the ‘runway’ part of the set in Helsinki is only for the presenters and the interval act, which is going to make Scooch’s line, ‘Your exits are here, here and here’, slightly less effective, unless they stage an act of rebellion on the night.

There’s more variety than ever in Eurovision this year, with German swing, proper Finnish rock (not the pantomime rock that won for them last year), Slovenian and Latvian popera, a homage to Pink from Estonia, grizzly rock from the Czech Republic and Iceland and some strong pop from Moldova, Belarus, Turkey and Greece (whose Sarbel is also this year’s top hunk – and he’s British!) Serbia provides the best of the big ballads, again. Georgia’s début, if singer Sopho repeats her performance from the Georgian national final, should display the biggest ‘performing dress’ we’ve ever seen. Who could ask for more?

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Eurovision: My bets

I placed bets on the ten songs that I predicted to get through yesterday. It was only for fun, as the financial rewards are practically nil when more than one in three songs will succeed.

I only put one pound each on eight of them, plus two pounds on Belgium, as the odds were longer. (They failed, which was why.) I did put a fiver on Latvia though, so this has bumped up my winnings somewhat. Well, I say somewhat, as my total return on fifteen pounds has been £16.75, making a grand profit of £1.75. I will try not to spend it all at once.

Tomorrow night is where the big money comes into play. I've done the following five bets, all five pounds each way. Only the top 4 pay out, so one will definitely lose, but I decided it was worth the risk. I'm pretty convinced I have the top three amongst these.

Serbia 6-1 (Was 6-1 joint favourite with Sweden and Switzerland a week ago. Now second favourite, between 7-2 and 5-1.)

Sweden 6-1 (Was 6-1 joint favourite a week ago. Has now drifted out to sixth favourite at an average 10-1.)

Ukraine 11-1 (Now favourite across the board, as low as 3-1 on PremierBet.)

Russia 12-1 (Currently fourth favourite, between 5-1 and 10-1.)

Latvia 25-1 (Currently 4-1 second favourite on PaddyPower. Was about 33-1 or 40-1 with all bookies yesterday. I'm tempted to say "the fools!", but we'll wait and see.)

Lots of Eurovision odds here. The UK is currently finish last.

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Katrina on TV

The woman I'm 'looking after' tomorrow night is on TV later today, to talk about Eurovision tomorrow (and possibly last night). Katrina is due on five news, which I think must be the 17:30 show. If she was on five's lunchtime news, I missed it and I apologise for this meaningless post.

UPDATE: She was on at 17:30, but it was a 'blink and you'll miss it' pre-recorded sentence or two. The standard of journalism on the five news piece, about Eurovision tomorrow, was pathetic. They trotted out the same tired old clichés, instead of trying to inform. It made me very angry.

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Eurovision: Download Chig's scoresheet

Here is the scoresheet I've designed for tomorrow night's Eurovision final.

I have now added the ten flags, qualifying songs and performers from last night. Please feel free to download it here.

Please let me know if have any problems downloading it, or if you notice any mistakes, or if there are any improvements you can suggest. If you are having a party and you use it, please let me know how you get on. It would be good to have some feedback.

For those of you who are coming to the Nightingale for Eurovision and Katrina, you'll be seeing this tomorrow, along with lots of salty nuts and some things to suck on before landing. (Lollipops!) I now have two spare bags of Maltesers mini-packs, bought on the assumption that Malta would get through last night. I guess I'll just have to eat them. The prize we have has come from Olivia Lewis as well, direct from Finland this week. Damn you, Europe!

UPDATE: I've printed 60 colour copies of this today, so if there are any errors, it's too late. The nightmare will be the adding up! Thank goodness alcohol and I aren't mixing at the moment.

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Eurovision: The Great Divide

The ten countries which qualified last night for the Eurovision final:

(Apologies to Serbia and Montenegro, which haven't been separated by, which I used to produce this map.)

Sixteen of the eighteen countries which didn't make it:
(Israel and Montenegro not shown.)

The 24 finalists:

Adding the 14 already in the final to last night's ten qualifiers, you can clearly see the East-West split, can't you? Let battle commence!

Create your personalised map of Europe

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Prepare for the Easternvision song contest!

Ten countries through. Six of them correctly predicted by me yesterday (increasing to seven tonight after watching the performances - I have proof in writing). Seven of the ones I wanted to get through (see yesterday's list below) made it. This always happens. I should always go with my heart and use my wishes as my predictions!

Not one country from what we might call 'Western Europe' is through, with apologies to Slovenia. Not one country through tonight was in Eurovision in the 1950s or 1960s; the one with the longest Eurovision history is Turkey, who first entered in 1975.

The full ten qualifiers, in the position they've been randomly allocated in Saturday's final are;

03 Belarus

06 FYR Macedonia
07 Slovenia
08 Hungary

11 Georgia

14 Latvia

17 Serbia

21 Bulgaria
22 Turkey

24 Moldova

My prediction success appears to have stalled at six. Since the qualifying round was introduced, I started with seven correct in 2004, peaked at eight in 2005 and bottomed out at six last year and tonight.

I'm not shocked by any individual song that got through tonight, except perhaps Georgia, but by the geographical shift. Slovenia was the most Western country to get through, and out of the ten, only Turkey was in Eurovision before the Berlin wall fell. Shocker. Not one of Jacques Chirac's Old Europe made it through. Only four of the ten qualifiers are in the EU, and they're all former Eastern bloc countries; Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia.

All of this can only help Scooch (he said, optimistically). The only songs approaching 'pop' to get through were Belarus and Turkey. Well done to Slovenia and Belarus for getting through after failing in all three previous qualifiers, but I'm absolutely gutted about Andorra (four tries and still no final) and Malta. Poor, poor Olivia.

It's worth noting that, after both of the commercial breaks, the next three songs all failed to get through, strengthening the conventional wisdom that people go away in the break and don't come back in time. In fact, the first FIVE songs after the first break failed to qualify. There was only one Eastern country in those six songs which failed to qualify in the first three after the ad breaks, but that was Albania, which was rubbish, so wouldn't really have figured anyway.

The Netherlands, as expected, suffered from the ad break again. It's apparently the third time they have been drawn immediately after a break, which is rotten luck. Edsilia gave a superb performance of a not brilliant song, and will go no further.

It was pleasing to see that the qualifying songs were dotted right through tonight's running order, with the songs performed first and last both getting through. There were four from the first third, two from the second third and another four from the final third.

On the plus side, the TV presentation was superb, wasn't it? The stage, lighting, backdrop and the TV sound were all excellent. Even the Finnish hosts were good. There was no Te Deum at the beginning or end of the show though, so it didn't feel like a proper Eurovision show. Also, Paddy and Sarah on BBC Three didn't read out our e-mails. I shall have words!

PS. It looks like Haloscan is down, so I don't think you can leave comments at the time of writing this (23:55). I certainly can't access them to read them. Curses.

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Surprise guest

Look out for a very special visitor at Eurovision either tonight or tomorrow. It hasn't been revealed, but we have deduced that Finland's most famous resident may be putting in an unseasonal appearance. If you have kids, you'll have some explaining to do...


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Dean & Gerry, you have been spotted!

And I'm glad someone else believes Latvia can win too. I currently think it's between Ukraine and Latvia on Saturday, depending on Latvia's draw (and assuming they get through tonight), with Serbia coming close again. The bookies now have Ukraine as clear favourite, with some odds as low as 4-1, while Belarus are now up into second and Serbia down to third. Sweden and Switzerland are next in the betting, followed, rather pleasingly, by Bulgaria in sixth. (A week ago, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland were all joint favourites at 6-1.) Latvia seems like an excellent each way bet to me (for a top 4 placing). I got them at 25-1, but they are available at 40-1 with some bookies - and as low as 16-1 with one other. Please don't waste money on my advice though. Other gambling activities are available.

My Midlands chums Dean and Gerry appear in this with 1:33 left. I'll be quite happy for Sweden to win again if the bloke at 1:42 left is going to be there. Cute!

WARNING: Don't watch this if it annoys you when people refer to Ukraine as 'the Ukraine'.

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He's bringing sexy back

Meanwhile, in other news (and it seems it always is news when it happens), David Beckham has 'unveiled' another new haircut. Somehow I don't think Becks wears a veil, let alone removes one, but that's by the by.

There's a rule with David Beckham and haircuts: the shorter the better, so we can officially say, "PHWOOOAAARR". Welcome back baby!

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We're in The Guardian!

The online version anyway. Thank you Anna, that's jolly nice of you. I'm not sure I can live up to expectations this year, but crumbs, I'm blushing now.

Oh crikey, as Anna mentions in the article, she mentioned us last week as well. I didn't know. Thanks again.

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Having a Eurovision party?

For tonight, you'll have to make do with the BBC's version of a scoresheet, downloadable here.

However, for Saturday's final, I have already done a much better one (if I say so myself). It has the song numbers on it for a start, which you'll need in order to televote. Silly BBC. It also has all the flags and mini photos of all the artists. The only person who's seen it so far said "Wow!", so there you go. I've designed it for the Nightingale on Saturday, but I'll make it downloadable from here tomorrow, as soon as I've filled in the gaps with tonight's ten qualiifiers. I'm nice like that.

Have fun tonight if you're watching. This will be the first time I've seen the qualifier on TV. I've been in the hall for the last three and never bothered to watch them afterwards. I'm looking forward to the novel concept of casting a vote, and it will be going to Olivia Lewis from Malta, whatever happens. Bless her little cotton socks.

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Film review: Next

Yesterday, I went to see Next, the film starring Nicolas Cage and Julianne Moore. Fortunately, it's nothing to do with the clothing retailer where I spent a lot of money on Monday. That would have been dull. It's Cage playing a man who can see two minutes into the future. Because of this, the FBI wants to use him in order to stop a gang of terrorists from exploding a nuclear bomb. Why the terrorists want to do this is never explained. Who the terrorists are is never explained. (Two of them speak French and one of them seems English. This is never explained.) How Mr Cage would be able to stop the bomb going off, given only two minutes' notice is, you guessed it, never explained.

Having said all that, once I'd accepted that the basic premise was preposterous, I quite enjoyed it. Cage is quite convincing in the part, even if he does wipe shaving foam off his face in one scene when he has clearly not finished shaving. The idea is quite clever and the 'loops' in the timeline are, surprisingly, not overdone, so you have to concentrate and work it out for yourself sometimes, which is more rewarding. It's no Memento though.

The real star of the first part of the film is Las Vegas, where Cage's character works as a magician/illusionist, because of his special gift. I had a fabulous few days in Las Vegas in 1999, so I always enjoy films which use the neon city as a backdrop. However, there are a couple of a car scenes which use the worst green-screen effects I've seen in a modern day film. You assume that this kind of effect is going to get better and better, don't you? The overlay effect was so obvious that I half expected to see someone walk past the backdrop or for the camera to pan out and reveal a technician rocking the car. Dreadful.

It's not a film I'll be in a rush to see again, but it occupied a couple of drizzly hours on a Wednesday afternoon quite nicely. My Belgian friend didn't like it much.

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Eurovision: Omen

1997: Two days before the Eurovision final, the United Kingdom changes its Prime Minister. Europe responds by voting the UK to a resounding Eurovision win.

2007: Two days before the Eurovision final, later today, the United Kingdom's Prime Minister will announce a change of Prime Minister. Tony Blair met Scooch backstage at Loose Women last week and had his photo taken with them. It's obvious that Downing Street is saving these photos for Blair's announcement today. He's doing it for Scooch! It's a sign! It's a sign!

And relax.

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Tomorrow's Eurovision qualifier: Chig's predictions


I'm glad I held back until after reading the reports of today's two, public rehearsals. (All Kinds Of Everything and Nick's OnEurope report, which made me laugh out loud at least three times. He's commenting live, first on the postcards between the songs, then on the performances.)

I have therefore been forced to put Belgium into the ten qualifiers. I think it's boring, and I have told my Belgian friend this several times too often in the past ew weeks, again yesterday at his birthday party and again today at the cinema. However, not only is Belgium's show reported to be 'big in the hall', but my parents, quite independently, have picked the song as a favourite from the CD which I forced them to play. Gadzooks! Are the Krazy Mess Groovers the new Tanel & Dave stroke Olsen Brothers?

Cue the Te Deum! Here are my ten predicted qualifiers. It's been very, very hard to decide and I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow. (Figures in brackets are the position in the running order.)

UPDATE on Friday 11/05/07:
The countries which qualified are now in bold. I predicted six correctly here and seven after watching the live show, as I put Hungary and Bulgaria in (both correctly) and took Belgium out. Unfortunately, I took FYR Macedonia out as well.

1st (15) Serbia
2nd (28) Latvia

3rd (21) Andorra
4th (26) Turkey
5th (04) Belarus
6th (25) Slovenia

7th (20) Malta
8th (08) Switzerland
9th (24) Belgium
10th (18) FYR Macedonia
11th (22) Hungary
12th (03) Cyprus
13th (14) Poland
14th (01) Bulgaria
15th (12) Denmark
16th (09) Moldova
17th (10) Netherlands
18th (02) Israel
19th (05) Iceland
20th (17) Portugal
21st (06) Georgia
22nd (19) Norway
23rd (07) Montenegro
24th (16) Czech Republic
25th (11) Albania
26th (13) Croatia
27th (27) Austria
28th (23) Estonia

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Tomorrow's Eurovision qualifier: Chig's hopes


If I had my way, this would be the order in which the songs finish tomorrow.
I've discovered, now I've put these in order of preference, that there are fourteen songs which I'd like to take the ten places in the final, so disappointment is inevitable here.

(Figures in brackets are the position in the running order.)

UPDATE on Friday 11/05/07:
Seven of my ten favourites went through, but not Malta. Once again, my preferences were more successful than my predictions. Once again, I remind myself that I should just go with my gut feelings and use my preferences as my predictions.

1st (20) Malta
2nd (01) Bulgaria
3rd (15) Serbia
4th (04) Belarus
5th (25) Slovenia

6th (03) Cyprus
7th (21) Andorra
8th (26) Turkey
9th (28) Latvia
10th (09) Moldova

11th (22) Hungary
12th (08) Switzerland
13th (12) Denmark
14th (06) Georgia
15th (10) Netherlands
16th (18) FYR Macedonia
17th (19) Norway
18th (05) Iceland
19th (27) Austria
20th (17) Portugal
21st (23) Estonia
22nd (14) Poland
23rd (24) Belgium
24th (07) Montenegro
25th (16) Czech Republic
26th (11) Albania
27th (13) Croatia
28th (02) Israel

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Tomorrow's Eurovision qualifier - in ten minutes

Happy Europe Day!

Now I know what you're thinking. 'I'd really love to have an opinion on all 28 songs in tomorrow night's Eurovision qualifying round, but I really can't be bothered to listen to them all or watch the videos'.

Help is at hand! Some clever person has edited all 28 songs together, in tomorrow's performance order. Have a look at this, and then tell us:

(a) which ten songs you would like to go through
(b) which ten songs you predict WILL go through

Chig will be back later to do those two things.

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Today I am mostly...

...feeling very happy about my shopping choices yesterday. I couldn't really decide between six different styles of jeans that I tried on in Next, so I bought four pairs! Strangely, I had to buy a bigger waist size than all my previous jeans. Next clearly have them labelled wrongly. Ahem. They all came with belts though, in a variety of styles. Which is nice. I also bought three shirts, a pair of shorts, some socks and both physical formats of the Scooch single. Birthday money is nice. (The Scooch singles were racked almost at floor level in HMV, so their target audience should see them easily. I thought I'd make the joke before someone else does.)

...avidly reading the excellent Eurovision rehearsal reports on All Kinds Of Everything and OnEurope, and leaving comments. You're doing a smashing job lads! Keith has even been nice about the UK entry! I've almost given up reading ESC Today. You read their bland reports first and then read the blogs to get the true picture. It's almost as if ESC Today are afraid to criticise anyone. Perish the thought.

...visiting Schlagerboy A for a cuppa tea and a quick chat. He has been released from Finland on a brief 36 hour stay back in Blighty because the following conversation did not take place in a Birmingham school;

"Sorry kids, can you manage without your teacher for a whole week? I have to follow the Maltese Eurovision entrant around Helsinki."

"Okay sir. Have fun!"

He's back tending to the little darlings today and tomorrow before flying back to rejoin Schlagerboy D in Helsinki tomorrow. He'll be doing more flying than Dmitry Koldun at this rate.

...going bowling and eating tonight. Probably in new jeans. It's a Belgian friend's birthday today, so we have to give him one pleasurable night out this week, because he certainly won't be getting one on Thursday and he'll have nothing to cheer for on Saturday. We'll be with him for the Eurovision qualifier too, and if the word 'Belgium' comes out of one of those envelopes, then I will eat something unpleasant that's not a hat.

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Today's Eurovision stuff

Helsinki held the officially swanky Eurovision reception last night. It sounds as if it was more in keeping with the overwhelmingly fabulous one that we had in Istanbul, rather than the 'Radio Athens roadshow in the park with no food' that we had to endure last year.

Read Mr. Roy D. Hacksaw's account here and look at his brilliant photos here.


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Culture Club meets Scooch

I've now watched Scooch's rehearsal and I was reminded of one thing:

I'm interested to know what you think of the backdrop that Scooch are using. For me, this is the worst thing I could possibly have imagined. It surely won't win us any points at all. Having the Union flag in the background while singing 'We're flying the flag all over the world' will just be interpreted as triumphant imperialism. They might as well replace the words 'from Paris to Tallinn' with 'from Kabul to Basra', as that's how it will be interpreted by some people and some whole countries. Wrong imagery, wrong time. Big mistake.

By the way, notice how some of the planes at the end are crashing!

On the plus side, the vocals sound okay for a first rehearsal.

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Eurovision in a nutshell

If, like me, you're feeling rather swamped by the sheer volume of interwebby stuff coming from rehearsals in Helsinki, may I recommend something, before I pop off into town to buy the Scooch singles and a new outfit for Saturday?

Phil and Nick from OnEurope have posted an audio blog today with their Mark & Lard style ramblings and rantings about the second half of the songs in the qualifier. It's very, very good. Informative, funny and bitchy, all at once, which is exactly what you would expect if you read the OnEurope blog itself.

Scooch have just been on Loose Women, doing the song and with Natalie and Russ being interviewed. They told me on Friday that they had done the show, but I thought it had been shown already. While they were at the studios, they met Tony Blair and had their photos taken with him, yet Tony Blair wasn't on the programme. I can only assume that Mr Blair will be combining his resignation announcement later this week with his Prime Ministerial 'Good luck to Scooch' message and that it will be shown first on Loose Women, as befits a double announcement of this importance to the nation.

The vibes I'm getting from Helsinki are that Andorra and Ireland are both going to do better than many expected, in the qualifier and the final respectively. Later in the week (probably Wednesday), I will list the ten songs which I think are going through to the final. (Or, to be precise, the eight songs which are going through with Serbia and Latvia.) It'll be fun if you join in too, so feel free to start doing that now. I'll take any predictions from the comments box and publish them here on the blog itself on Thursday. Despite the fact that I won't be there in Helsinki, I will still be taking part in the 'fourth annual journos and fans' meal and prediction competition' with my assorted British and Irish chums, by the wonders of technology. In other words, I'll eat my tea and send one of them a text message.

Scooch flew out to Helsinki yesterday. They rehearse today and tomorrow, as do all fourteen of the countries already in the final. Today's rehearsal starts at 17:10 BST (19:10 in Finland), so the blogs should be buzzing with reports straight away. I was relieved to read Natalie Scooch saying in Midlands' Zone magazine (in an excellent interview by my friend Dean) that they won't be having the Union flag on the trolleys at the end of the song. Most sensible people hoped this would be the case. It was okay for a domestic audience on Making Your Mind Up, but it would seem far too imperialist and antagonistic for the rest of Europe. A definite nul pointer. Despite our best efforts on Friday, two of us could not drag out of the Scoochers what they will be doing instead. All will be revealed this evening!

I'll also tell you later in the week which countries I have bet on already for the final. I've placed three of my each way bets (for the top four), but I'm dithering over the fourth one.

Shopping beckons!

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Scooch - live!

Someone didn't waste any time! Here's cameraphone footage of Scooch's Nightingale performance from early yesterday morning, already on YouTube. If the camera had moved just a tiny bit more to the right, you would have seen me on the stage level, taking photos, including those below.

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Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

My first birthday present today was getting to meet Simon Webbe (formerly of Blue) in the early hours, backstage after he sang at the Nightingale. My second present was watching my sister meet him as he gave her a big hug while we took photos. She's rather keen on him!

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Extensive gig review

Scooch, last night, The Nightingale, Birmingham:

Camptastic performance, lovely people.

We're flying the flag...

..for you.

Scooch reveal the secret fifth member.

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UK50: Vote on Group Ira!

That's Ira Losco from Malta 2002. Here's the Group Ira medley to download. See if you can work out how these three songs are related to the letter I, then vote on them in the comments box.

It's 02:52 and it looks like the Tories have taken control of Birmingham City Council for the first time since I've lived here; since 1984. I am not happy.

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Eurovision final night - what are you doing?

Today's the day that the Eurovision artists started rehearsing on the stage in Helsinki. It's also the tenth anniversary of the UK's last win, so it seems a good time to reveal what I'll be doing on the night of the Eurovision final.

On Saturday 12 May, Chig will be co-hosting Eurovision night at Birmingham's Nightingale Club, with the fabulous Miss Maxi and a performance from a certain Katrina Leskanich, celebrating her win of ten years ago today. Maxi and I will be your compères for an evening of watching the contest on the plasma screen upstairs, followed by Katrina performing later on in the massively improved downstairs, which reopened last Friday. The manager and the deputy manager are both away at a Nightingale venture in Gran Canaria (with Dana International and Buck's Fizz, no less), so Maxi and I have been asked to look after Katrina in their absence.

L: Chig at The Nightingale: Two Eurovision shows in two weekends.
C: Miss Maxi at last week's Nightingale reopening
R: Katrina

I'm not going to overplay our rôle. Basically it's three and a quarter hours of watching telly. Wogan does the commentary, not us, but get there well before the start at 20:00 and we will be whooping you up into a frenzy, ready for the Te Deum. There will also be, for the first time at the Nightingale, scoresheets! Yay! During the interval, we will tot up the scores and then reveal the Nightingale jury's vote. Fantastique!

The screening is in the B5 bar on the first floor. The Nightingale has already sold about 20 advance tickets, which I'm told (by the club today) is pretty unusual with over a week to go. I can't wait. I've never actually been 'out' on Eurovision night before. I've either watched it at home, first with family, then with friends, including Mike, or I've been at the event itself (seven times in the last nine years). I am very excited. If you're anywhere near Birmingham, why not come and join us? My sister's coming...

Tickets are available here.

In the meantime, here's a reminder of Katrina's winning performance in Dublin, ten years ago tonight:

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Eurovision: Payola

We would officially like to promote Georgia's Eurovision song today, because they have been kind enough to send us a press release. We're easily swayed. Sopho gave out wristbands at her first conference today in Helsinki. They were made by Georgian orphans. Anyone in Helsinki who can take a photo of one (wristband, not a Georgian orphan) on their phone or camera and send it to me can have it posted on here. I can't say fairer than that. Any other delegation who would like to receive free publicity on here is more than welcome to reward Chig with promotional CDs, DVDs and novelty items in return for a shameless plug. Let's see what we can get away with...

In the meantime, here's the official promo for Georgia's debut Eurovision entry, Visionary Dream by Sopho:

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Vote, vote, vote!

Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament, English councils, World of Chig's UK50 project. We're spoilt for choice today! Exercise your democratic right. I'm off to place my council vote now...

The next set of UK50 songs may appear on here tonight, along with that personal Eurovision night news I promised, if Chig stays up all night to watch the election results and catch up on today's first rehearsals in Helsinki via the Eurovision blogs. This seems likely. I'm on holiday! No work for the next eleven days. Hurrah!

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BBC graphics person, your you're fired!

Did you see the on-screen graphic at the end of The Apprentice tonight? According to the caption, the follow-up programme with Adrian Chiles on BBC Three is called:

The Apprentice - Your Fired.

Yes, it was written like that. I stared at the screen in disbelief for as long as it was on. Perhaps the BBC should stop using the texting teenager on work experience to write their captions and employ someone literate instead? Just a thought. I pay my licence fee. It's the BBC, for heaven's sake, not the local market. The country's going to the dogs. Blah, blah, blah, moan, moan, moan.

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UK50: The next choice

You can choose our next bunch of songs - if you're first here. The observant amongst you will see that the list of available letters has grown slightly. First person into the comments box, please pick one of these medleys: C, D, H or I.

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The happiest days of my life - 10 years on

It's the 300th anniversary of the act of union today. Celebrations seem a bit muted don't they?

Never mind, it's a much more important anniversary period we've entered today. I don't think anyone has ever asked me what the best three day period of my life was, but I just wanted to note that we're entering the tenth anniversary of it today. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd of May 1997 were incredible, joyous, sunny days and have wedged themselves firmly in my mind as the best of times.

Thursday 1st May was general election day, and the false dawn (and abandoned party) of the previous election was about to be wiped away forever. I had a party in my flat on election night. I was about to leave the rented flat (in July) to move into my first bought house, so life was on the up. A handful of us put stickers on a constituency map that I had bought and stuck to the wall. We watched the country turn red through the night and greeted the daylight as Labour did with their Things Can Only Get Better moment. It was joyous, with the sun streaming through my flat's window. One friend then stayed over and we slept for few hours during the morning, getting up in the afternoon as I had taken the day off work, enjoying the first day of my adult life under a Labour government; a day that at times under the darkness of Thatcherism as a student I had feared we would never see.

Friday 2nd passed by and then on Saturday 3rd, we went and won the Eurovision Song Contest! Katrina and The Waves broke our 16 year dry spell. She had always been the hot favourite to win in Ireland, so it probably would have happened anyway, but I remain convinced that the whole of Europe was giving the UK a goodwill message and the benefit of the doubt for getting rid of the Tories the day before.

If Katrina hadn't won on 3 May 1997, Eurovision would never have come to my home city the next year, I would never have known about journalist accreditation, and I may never have gone to six more Eurovisions since and had a fantastic time in six different countries. I have a lot to thank that 72 hours in 1997 for. If only we'd known how unpopular that government would become...

Labour winning a general election and the UK winning Eurovision. Don't they seem distant possibilities now?

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They're off!

Eurovision starts today. Sort of. The media centre at the Haaaaartwaaaalll Areeeeenaaaa opens today. (See, Finnish is easy; you just add vowels.) Some of my chums are in Helsinki already and they will be registering today for the start of media conferences tomorrow. (Artist rehearsals start on Wednesday at 09:00 Helsinki time, with the Bulgarian epic.) For the first time since 2001, Chig isn't going to Eurovision, but oh boy, does he have something exciting planned for Saturday 12th! We are so moist with excitement that we are having to carry a mop around.

More on this on 3rd May, which is a VERY SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY. That's a clue.

In the meantime, let's laugh along with the superbly tacky official Scooch video, before we go and see them on Friday at the Nightingale:

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