Sunday, 15 May 2011

Eurovision Song Contest After A Dose Of Vallium

When you are an ageing bus driver, what's the definition of an agonising choice?

A. To do some shuttling of passengers in Carlisle for the Radio 1 Big Weekend. B. To have to sit at home and be forced by the children to sit through the entire Eurovision Song Contest.

It was a tough choice.

The chaotic nature of the sub-contracting of buses for the Cumbrian event, meant that it was cancelled at the last minute, and I was moved onto the Vallium Run for an eleven hour shift. This meant that it conveniently finished, just as the Eurovision Song Contest began.

Curiously, I rather enjoyed it. Apart from most of the contestants choosing an X-Factor style song, which they sung in English, presumably because this heightened the possible number of future sales on iTunes, there was still a uniqueness about each contestant. They epitomised their country's national characteristics. For instance the Moldovans wore over-the-top hats, the Italian was schmoozing like a 1930's nightclub singer mixed with a little Paolo Conti, the Frenchman resolutely refused to sing in English and the Georgians ... well, the Georgians ... no one had any idea what they were about ... they were Post-Modern Goths from the Caucasus, I suppose.

I swore that I would never watch the blooming contest again, when Terry Wogan retired and was replaced by Graham Norton. And Graham Norton is no Terry Wogan. Well I eat humble pie. He's quite good and developing nicely in the roll. Fortunately there was no Albanian entry this year, as he successfully managed to alienate all the Albanians in 2008 by commenting, just before Kejsi Tola began to sing:

'The bad news is that you are about to watch Albania. She's only 17 so please bear that in mind. Where was her mother? Why didn't she step in and say no?'

Diplomatic relations were on the verge of being severed. The BBC had to issue an apology. That was then, last night Graham Norton had come of age and was politely rude about the contestants, not controversially rude. He had learnt from Terry.

As the evening went on I found myself wanting two countries to win, either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Azerbaijan. this had nothing to do with the singing, but of tenuous connections from my past. Years ago I had briefly met the Bosnian singer Dino Merlin in Mostar, when he gave a concert. I have fond memories too of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. A dry and fascinating city, I visited sometime just after the fall of communism. Azerbaijan Airlines had managed to lease or buy a second hand Boeing 727 which commuted between London and Baku. It was quite an experience.

When I returned to the depot following the Vallium Run, I told another driver that I was going to be cajoled into watching the Eurovision Song Contest, if only to listen to Graham Norton's insults.

'Insults?' he said. 'You want to hear an insult. You should have been to the town that I have been to today. It is so pisspot poor, that they bypassed it twice. The first bypass was not good enough so they had to build a bigger better one. and the idiots still have not got the message!'

When I got back to the depot after the Vallium Run, I wa

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