The spray-on kitsch is fairly hard to take, but even harder to take is that the organisers actually take it seriously
✒It’s the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, the 57th. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was the last? At least for us. BBC1 could put on reruns of Flog It!, or pro-celebrity badminton. The song contest would disappear on to one of those cable channels with audiences so small they can’t be measured – Eurosport 3, perhaps.
Because it is so utterly, horribly grim. Acts which would not get a gig on Ladies’ Night at the Baku Freemasons appear in front of millions singing like a cement mixer tackling Celine Dion’s greatest hits, or, because they are always decades behind, doing punk in Finnish, or there’s some preening poltroon in sky-blue vinyl who resembles a rapper as much as I sound like Jose Feliciano.
It was bearable when Terry Wogan sent the whole thing up (Graham Norton isn’t bad, but there’s no avoiding the fact that he quite likes the spray-on kitsch) but – and here’s how it compares to the EU – the organisers got angry with Wogan because, and you may find it hard to believe, they take it seriously! They imagine that it really is a feast of fine music, brought together to bring nations together in harmony, when in fact it’s a steaming bowl full of ordure!
When we pull out, the other nations – (is Azerbaijan, this year’s host, technically a nation? Or was it invented by Sacha Baron Cohen, to satirise torture, political oppression, etc?) will claim sour grapes, since the UK hasn’t won since the 1997 landslide that came two days after Tony Blair’s landslide, and because in 2010 we came last. But Britain is the second biggest producer of genuinely popular music around the world! We don’t need Eurovision! This is like Chelsea playing park football. In gold lamé jumpsuits.
✒Incidentally I went to see Baron Cohen’s The Dictator last weekend. I thought it was very funny, my wife less so. I noticed that the reviews divided along “gender” (ie sexual) lines. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave it five stars, the Sunday Telegraph’s female reviewer gave it one. Guys, go and see this hilarious film! And leave your womenfolk behind!
✒Brung! The phone rings, and this time it is me, calling Barry Cryer to ask for his latest jokes. He has one furnished by Jim Naughtie. A vet and a taxidermist go into business together. Their slogan: “Either way, you get your dog back.”
A chap warns his parrot that if he goes on swearing, he’ll be punished. So after another four-letter word, he puts the bird in the fridge for twenty minutes. When he takes it out, the parrot says, “Blimey, that was bad. But what the hell did that chicken do?”
“I love this hot weather! I went to the beach yesterday. It was so crowded that if the woman in front of me hadn’t had her ears pierced, I wouldn’t have seen the sea at all.”
Barry is slightly hard of hearing so he watches the news with the instantaneous subtitles. This week he read about the “Queen’s jubilee jeer” and at the Olympic torch ceremony in Greece, “the handing over of the blame.”
✒There’s a nasty flavour coming into the Olympics. All those small shopkeepers told they can’t make a display from the Olympic rings. The woman in Norfolk who knitted a pullover for a doll in a charity sale with the rings and “GB 2012″ on it, and was told it was in breach of copyright. Yes, I know that McDonalds and Coca-Cola and other purveyors of health-giving nutrients have forked out billions in sponsorship. But the biggest sponsors of all, by a huge margin, have been the taxpayers of Great Britain, who seem to be shut out of everything as completely as we are from the special car lanes for Olympic bureaucrats.
✒Oh, we do have a role to play. If you live in the East End of London you might have a rocket launch site on your roof, so that if a suspicious plane comes in it can be shot down and kill you and your neighbours rather than anyone in the Olympic park. And London Underground is certainly doing its bit. This week I missed by minutes a great Jubilee line snarl-up which kept 700 near-hysterical passengers stewing in a tunnel during a heatwave because the idiots who run the system can’t keep their trains properly serviced. The Jubilee, the one line that the entire Games depend on!
✒ My friend Bob Lindo, former RAF pilot, now world-renowned winemaker, staged an angry protest of his own the other day. Bob makes Camel Valley, which along with some other wines has made British sparkling wine among the very best in the world – some say close to being the best. He was at the duty-free in Gatwick when he saw a display of sparkling wine labelled “Best of British”. It was for Lanson champagne, which is of course made in France. The bottles were wrapped in Union Flag jackets. He was furious, and refused to leave the store until they took down the display, following up with a letter to Theresa May. As he points out, in a recent blind tasting Lanson came 87th, behind no fewer than 83 British sparklers. I wonder how the French would feel if Bob sold his Cornish wine at Charles de Gaulle under a label, “Gloire de France”.
✒Your letters; many thanks. Apparently there are loads of memorials to former prime minister Spencer Perceval, including a street in north London, but of course still none in parliament. And I was quite wrong about James Bond not drinking lager. Joshua Topp has gone through the entire written canon and found that in Goldfinger, he drinks a bottle of Löwenbräu while in Alsace, and in The Man With The Golden Gun, a gorgeous barmaid sells him a Red Stripe for 1/6 – 7½ pence. No mention of Heineken, though.
✒And a huge harvest of labels and signs. Margaret Crisell and John Post spotted this warning sign outside the Ladies at Bristol airport: “During a terminal evacuation, red lights will flash … ” More next week.