A couple of old London reprobates decided to slum it in the shires for the day, joining us for a belated celebration of our wedding anniversary. Happily, the sun also joined us, and we went in search of an al fresco lunch. We found it at the Britons Arms, one of Norwich’s oldest buildings – all thatch, beams and creaky floorboards. Dating back to the Fourteenth Century, the building is reckoned to be the only English example of a medieval ‘beguinage’, a community of lay women living in poverty and chastity – just the place for a quartet of stately old homos to anoint themselves with the Devil’s brew. As I reminded my old mucker, Ian, the only time he was ever chaste was circa 2003 when he shunned the amorous advances of a randy German with a nasty feather-cut who was stalking him along a frosty canal in old Amsterdam. Ah, those were the days.
Converted to an ale house in the Eighteenth Century, the Britons Arms has been a coffee house and restaurant since the early Fifties. The pretty, secluded garden tumbles over the graveyard of nearby St Peter’s Hungate, one of Norwich’s most ancient churches and now a centre for medieval art. Lunch at the Arms was simply divine and the boys kindly picked up the tab. We’re always grateful for the kindness of our well-to-do metrosexual cousins. Especially when the wine bill alone reaches three figures. When the boys headed home to the Smoke the following morning, they were carrying their livers in a Sainsbury’s bag. They’re off to Vienna next month for the Eurovision Song Contest. Not that they’re gay stereotypes or anything. This time, they’ll be flying their livers back from Austria in their hand luggage. Business class, naturally.
2014 has been quite a year for us and our brethren…
Okay, okay, I tried to make it scan to the tune of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ but failed miserably. Liam’s the musical one, not me. With such a helter-skelter year, I guess it’s it’s no wonder I didn’t get the second book out in time for the festive rush. The good news (or bad news, depending on your point of view) is that it’s with my publisher and will be out in the new year. Liam is hyperventilating at the prospect – my fiercest critic seems to like it. The blog’s done brisk business too with over ninety posts. Here are the top ten hits for 2014 – the usual diet of Turkish delights, smut, divine retribution, emigrey nonsense, men in women’s clothes, internet curios, fine guides and the love that dare not speak its name. I’m nothing if not predictable.
Conchita Wurst’s hair-raising victory at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest was historic for two reasons:
A country not associated with the Balkans, Baltic and/or the former Soviet Union actually won for a change; and
She was a he in a frock and whiskers (just in case you hadn’t noticed).
Naturally, the Russian Orthodox Church (among other right wing reactionaries) is outraged by the swirling cesspit of sodomites that the contest has become. After all, real bearded men don’t wear dresses do they?
The Eurovision Song Contest is like herpes. There is no cure. The overblown glittery bandwagon pulls into Copenhagen this year, no doubt costing the Danish economy more than the Nazi occupation. Reduced to back-slapping bonhomie between neighbours and century-old foes, the songfest has been given an extra political frisson this year by the nasty homophobic laws in Russia and Tsar Putin’s annexation/repatriation (delete according to taste) of the Crimea; continued unrest in eastern Ukraine might earn Kiev a few sympathy votes from other former Soviet Republics and old Warsaw Pact nations. In a strange twist of fate, the people of Crimea can vote for Russia because the telephone service hasn’t yet switched sides, so it could be douze points from Ukraine. They may be the only points Russia gets. We can only hope.
Last year, Turkey threw a hissy fit and withdrew from the competition. It hasn’t entered this year either but nobody’s noticed, well apart from Liam who is terribly upset. In any case, Prime Minister Erdoğan’s probably banned the extravaganza along with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Alan Carr’s Chatty Man. Britain’s entry is Children of the Universe sung by Molly Smitten-Downes. No, me neither. We could enter the Teletubbies for all the difference it would make. Our money’s on the Austrian drag queen if only to get up the noses of our more reactionary cousins east of the Oder-Neisse Line.
The lead up to the show always causes a flurry of excited emails between Europhiles and Eurosceptics. This year was no different in the Scott-Brennan household. Here’s a small selection:
“Talking of Eurovision, your thoughts on Molly’s effort? We like Sweden, and there are a few anti-Russian efforts which should add to the event. I’m sure the TV sets in Moscow will go blank when the first bars of Austria’s entry wail in. We can only hope. Really looking forward to the annual camp-fest. Oh, I’m such a cliché.”
“Actually, we’re not quite in the Euro groove yet – we’re fashionably late this year with our research. Yes, we have heard the Brit entry- bit of a screamer who’ll probably sing flat on the night. They always do, you know. So what’s the Russian entry this year? Orthodox nuns with Kalashnikovs trying to reclaim the Kattegat?”
“For the record, my votes go to the Albanian diva and the Austrian drag queen. Not that I’m gay or anything. And I haven’t got a clue why the awful Armenian dirge is hot favourite. Especially looking forward to the Irish muscles boys and their out-of-sync diddly-diddly dancing, the Latvians on how to bake a cake and possibly the worst song ever presented to Eurovision, a misguided torch song massacred by a fat Belgian. It’s gonna be a corker.”
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. Forget the worst recession since the South Sea Bubble, dust off that cracked glitter ball and drag out those tarnished bacofoil hot pants. It’s time to get crushed by the sequined juggernaut that is the Eurovision Song Contest, the rightful heir to the fall of Communism. This year, the travelling freak show has pitched the big top in Malmö (pronounced Malmurrrr), Sweden. Expect high camp, a blizzard of glitzy ticker tape and enough dry ice to halt global warming. Expect virginal visions in white, gay-bar strippers, fake blonds where collars and cuffs don’t match, notes as flat as the Fens and tunes once heard, never remembered. Don’t expect ABBA. The land of the midnight sun and real blonds is throwing an enormous street party like a UEFA cup final but without the drunken thuggery. The annual warble-fest costs so much to stage it attracts its very own IMF bail-out. Let’s hope nobody votes for the unkindly named PIGS (Blighty might be joining that popular club any day now). Winning will send them over the fiscal cliff.
Turkey has thrown a hissy fit and withdrawn from the competition. TRT (the Turkish broadcaster) does not like changes to the voting rules in recent years (50/50 between the public and a panel of music experts) which it claims disadvantages the Turkish entry by reducing the influence of the Turkish diaspora across Europe. That’s the point, silly. TRT also objects to the automatic qualification of songs from the so-called ‘Big Five’ broadcasters (the BBC among them) that pay the lion’s share of the costs. If TRT wants a free ride to the final, it’ll have to sign a much bigger cheque. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune. To top it all, TRT got its pantaloons in a twist over a lesbian kiss live on stage. At the semis, Finland’s Krista Siegfrid landed a sloppy smacker on the lips of one of her backing dancers. Krista doesn’t actually drink from the furry cup in her day job, she just objects to the Finnish Parliament’s refusal to vote on marriage equality. Her song ‘Marry Me’ is through to the final where she’s threatening to repeat the tonsil-tickling outrage. Whether Krista has qualified because she kissed to be clever or despite of it is anyone’s guess. Overcome with moral indignation and shock, TRT has pulled the show completely. As we all know, watching a bit of girl-on-girl action turns you lesbian and there are no lesbians in Turkey, the land where men are men and goats are nervous.
Britain’s entry is an old-school power ballad sung by the gravelly-voiced Welsh chanteuse of yesteryear, Bonnie Tyler, she whose heart was totally eclipsed in ’83 after she got lost in France in ’77. The song’s not half bad (and half good either) but it hardly matters. We could put up Sooty for all the difference it would make. Mark my words. It’ll be a heartache for Bonnie. She’ll need more than a hero to fight the rising odds against a rout by the former Warsaw Pact. Well, I suppose it serves us right for Iraq. Poor old Auntie Beeb keeps wheeling out the golden oldies with their careers behind them, presumably because no-one with a career in front of them would touch Eurovision; it’s the kiss of death. Despite the parochial politics and regional gerrymandering, we’ll be waving our little union flags, raising a glass of bubbly to the campest show on Earth and hoping against hope that we don’t come last.
Remarkably, wrinkly Engelbert (aka Arnold Dorsey) can still hold a note at 75. Mr Humperdinck will be singing for his pension at the 57th Eurovision Song Contest with a sweet little ditty called Love Will Set You Free. It’s actually not a bad ballad in a Lionel Bart musical kind of way. Come Eurovision night in May, the streets of Soho will be empty, the middle aged ladies of the Carpathians will be chucking their knickers at the screen and Caucasian grannies will be swooning in the aisles in Baku. But, can Engelbert win and bring glory back to Blighty after 15 luckless years? Not while the Baltic league and Balkan cartel are in the driving seat, methinks. What do you think?