What is The Eurovision Song contest? Let me rephrase that. We all know what Eurovision is: a yearly competition to find Europe’s ‘best’ song. But what is it? Putting to one side for a moment the fact that Europe’s ‘premier’ song writing competition has recently added Australia (no really) to its roster of qualifying countries, it’s very difficult to actually define what the competition is about aside from being surprisingly hilarious.
It quickly becomes apparent when watching Eurovision that what it doesn’t actually feature is the best song writers/performers from every country in Europe. Well you hope not. What it does have is performances camper than a row of tents and consistently some of most laugh out loud moments of TV available anywhere in the world. Want to see something that will leave you genuinely speechless today? Check out Poland’s ‘performance’ from 2014 below. Aside from a gratuitous attempt to win votes that would leave even Donald Trump red faced, you’ll genuinely wonder how this was allowed to be broadcast during what is essentially a family entertainment show – not to mention a rather misguided attempt to reach Eurovision’s ‘core’ audience.
Thankfully, in most cases like the Poland entry, tongues are so firmly in cheeks from all involved that it’s a surprise most of the acts can actually sing their songs (I use ‘sing’ and ‘songs’ in the loosest possible sense of the word). Though conversely, and this too is what makes Eurovision so weirdly beguiling, is the fascinating undercurrent of political strategic voting. First time viewers would be shocked at the geopolitical manoeuvrings that are played out through the extraordinarily complex voting system. Seriously, for a show frothier than a treble cappuccino, it is oddly political, with an international incident almost breaking out after the anti-Russian protest song from the Ukraine won this year.
Political intrigue aside though, it is for the most part utterly hilarious and in May descended on Stockholm like a giant glitter ball Death Star.
For a country as seemingly reserved as Sweden, they absolutely adore Eurovision. I suspect it originates from when a little ensemble musical group you may have heard of called ‘ABBA’ won the competition back in 1974. A time when I can only assume writers of the calibre of Benny and Bjorn were doing a serious amount of ‘stimulants’ and thought it would be a laugh to throw something in.
Everyone seems to be at a house party or pilling into the bars and cafés which show it live. It is insanely popular. To put that into context, Alex’s friend Gillian had flown over with a few friends to attend the event but couldn’t get a ticket for the 16,000 seater arena which was broadcasting the final itself. No bother, they settled instead for the ‘overflow’ arena which held an additional 20,000 people!
In the build up to the event, seemingly every available lamppost in the main pedestrian streets was festooned with banners announcing its imminent arrival,
It was whilst wandering down one such street, Götgatan on our Island of Sodermalm (coincidently one of the most famous streets in Stockholm) that we came across a large crowd of people gathered outside the local music shop. A small stage had been erected on which a group of musicians were doing a very solid rendition of the Eagles, Take It Easy,
Well imagine our surprise when later that night this random band turned out to be Dutch entry ‘Douwe Bob’. Unfortunately, though perhaps unsurprisingly given it’s a classic of is genre, their own song didn’t quite match up to Eagle classic they’d performed earlier that day and they finished ‘mid-table’ – I cant say where exactly, as I said earlier the voting system is monumentally complex.
However what I can say is that I now have a new found respect for the people who perform on Eurovision. For too long they have been ridiculed as chances, karaoke pub singers… actually who am I kidding, most them are still complete turd. However it does remain one of the funniest things on TV.
Anyway moving on. One thing you need to know about Swedes is they love staying fit. They are forever bloody running up things, jumping over things, lifting this, dropping that, stretching, reaching, straining … honestly, you’ll see more lycra in a day walking round Stockholm than a week watching the Tour De France.
But off all the fitness things they love, running is the one. Oh man, they are obsessed with running. In one year we’ve had one marathon, two half marathons and couple of 10K’s go past the road outside our flat.
The most interesting, in my min sinister, of these is The Stockholm Midnattsloppet (midnight run) http://midnattsloppet.com/en/stockholm/information-before-the-race/. It takes place, wait for it, during the night … though ironically, and somewhat of a missed opportunity you’d have thought, doesn’t start at midnight. Anyway, it’s completely bonkers and seems more like a piss up with some accidental running than a proper sporting event.
It also appears that the finish line might be a gateway to hell.
What Fraser? Hey, I’m as surprised as you and it’s certainly not something I was thinking about on the morning of the event when they were setting up which seemed pleasant enough. Indeed there was nothing in the local paper to suggest any devilish anarchy at play – though looking back perhaps those plumes of fire above the start line were a subtle warning of things to come?
Intrigued, and as is my duty to you dear reader, I decided to check it out.
It’s 11pm. I’m heading out of the flat and the first thing I hear is a quietly thumping baseline. As I turn the corner and head down the hill to the road on which the event is being run, I first notice the large group of people huddled round a rapidly erected DJ booth. The baseline grows loader, the crowd bigger. Believe me when I say this is going to be unlike any 10 K you’ve ever seen,
Don’t be fooled by the upbeat music in the following video, instead focus your attention on whatever, in all things Holy, that strange glow in the distance is that all the runners are literally racing towards…
I decided to go investigate for the good of this blog. That’s my commitment to you dear reader. Other bloggers would have headed for the hills, not me, onwards! As I draw closer the lights grow wilder, the noise more intense, am I witnessing the end of days? Is this a portal to another realm? Why is everyone smiling, do they not know the danger they are in? And still the people race towards the abyss.
I guess we’ll never know for sure, perhaps it was just a heavily illuminated finish line to fully exploit the fact the race is taking place at night… Or maybe it was portal into the underworld, Beelzebub choosing to use cheesy Euro pop to draw in unsuspecting heathens … Whatever it was, next year I’m going to find out for sure and do the run. I will be expecting others to join me on my quest for the truth.
My own view on fitness is that it’s fine if it serves a purpose and is enjoyable – I really struggle to see where the satisfaction comes in lifting, dropping, then lifting again an inanimate object over and over again. Seriously, what’s the point? To this end during the summer I illustrated this by walking to work – about as strenuous as it gets these days. I’m not just saying this because I’m fortunate enough to live here but Stockholm in the sunshine is hard to beat and as commutes go, pretty good.
Two other exciting things happening around this time were a family wedding in Rome and a 90th Birthday party.
To make the most of the trip to Italy, myself, Alex and Rosalyn headed over a few days early to the tiny fishing village of Sperlonga. Renowned as one of the best places to eat seafood in the entire region of Lazio, I enjoyed some of the finest ‘fishy food’ I’ve ever had. Alex, a non-seafood eater had a rather different culinary experience having to consistently order the one thing on any given menu that didn’t include some element of something that had recently been plucked from the sea.
Rome itself was spectacular. As a first time visitor and big fan of Roman history I would strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t been to book a flight immediately. At the risk of this blog turning into ‘what I did last summer’, some of the sites on view in that city defy belief and description: The Colosseum, Forum, Basilica, Vatican… I could go on but it seems like every road you turn down there’s another structure in front of you designed purely to take your breath away. It is simply spectacular and unimaginable to think what impact these buildings and monuments must have had on people at that time who for the most part were living in shacks. Taking aside views on religion and the like, The Vatican in particular – where not one single penny was held back in construction (standard Roman Catholic stuff) – must have blown people’s minds. And still does to be honest. Still, as spectacular as the surrounds were they were as nothing compared to the brilliance of the wedding of Laura and James – congratulations you two and thank you for having us as part of your special day, even if Rosalyn did provide running commentary to the last part of the service.
Shortly after Rome were back in the UK for Alex’s Grandad’s 90th. The man, the legend, Eddie Mcateer. For 90 he’s wearing incredible well, Eddie I salute you sir.
The great thing about these family get togethers is that Rosalyn gets to see her cousins Anna and Orlagh. Here are the three of them in matching doughnut dresses for no other reason than it’s very funny,
Not that Rosalyn was ready to start interacting with other children more often at this point in our little Swedish advantage but here she is making friends with the Vacuum cleaner. Thankfully nursey was not far away, a story I’ll be covering off in a few weeks’ time.
Pic of the Week
You looking at my bottle son?
Track of the Month
Poland’s 2014 Eurovision song contest entry. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a family TV show broadcast early in the evening but if you are reading this in the office I suspect it isn’t suitable for work. Stick with it, but you have been warned.