Ah, Eurovision. It is a time of great joy across our fair landmass, a time when people from all creeds and nations can come together as one, to compete in the greatest (and only) continent-wide song contest and, most importantly, to laugh at the United Kingdom and its pitifully bland music. Every year the same thing happens: while the rest of Europe are gamely celebrating the most ridiculous aspects of their own cultures – throwing on elderly gangsta rappers, black metal druids and neon-painted techno matadors – there is an audible lull in proceedings as the UK entrant emerges. Quivery of lip and sensible of costume choice, like a recently-emerged hibernating animal daubed tastefully with glitter and foundation, he or she wheedles something about sharing a dream for a few minutes, there is polite applause in the stadium and Graham Norton says something about ‘best hope for years’ without really meaning it. Then, thank goodness, it’s back to the bonkers stuff for another couple of hours. There are many theories about why we do so badly: politics dominate these – but the simple truth is that we’re not as good as flaunting our madness as everyone else is.
My favourite part of Eurovision is the scoring section, when shiny newsreaders and/or entertainment correspondents from every corner of Europe attempt to say something witty in the home country’s language, while the hosts have a nervous breakdown. Typically the dialogue will go like this:
Exasperated Hosts: Hello (country we’re desperately hoping to reach)!!!
Over-Excited Entertainment Correspondent: Hello (host city)!!! You both look great!!! **Wonkily-pronounced phrase in host nation’s language**!!!
EH: Wow, thanks, I’ve never actually heard that saying before!!! Do you have your scores ready?
O-EEC: Oh yes we do!!! In fact we’ve just decided to use the exact same scores as last year and give our neighbours the highest mark, even though their song was utter drivel!!!
EH: Brilliant!!! Same time next year?
Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little and the scores are more flexible. One thing is for sure, though: We aren’t going to win this year. So why not reminisce about a time when Eurovision actually had some decent music, with the greatest band ever to come out of the competition: ABBA. The Abba Guide to Stockholm (Premium Publishing £29.95) is a fabulous resource for those interested in some serious Eurovision history, as well as a handy travel guide. And From Abba to Mamma Mia (Premium Publishing, £34.95) provides an intimate and uncompromising look at over 20 years of one of the world’s most successful pop groups. So maybe this year, instead of wincing your way through another tepid UK performance, pop the TV on mute and turn ‘Waterloo’ up to full blast on the stereo. Make sure you put the sound back on before the techno matadors appear, though.