If my Eurovision book had a publisher (well, let’s be transparent about this – if I’d got off my arse and got myself an agent), then a revision would be required to the final draft.
What follows would almost certainly be the final chapter, because where me and Eurovision is concerned, I think this is the end of the line.
In blogging terms you’d expect that what’s to follow is some kind of angry rant. Bitterness and resentment directed at an entertainment format, the people who make it, and the thing they make.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Something has changed.
Truth be told, I can count on the fingers of one hand the people who will be rolling their eyes and saying “Yep. You were saying that last year Jon, and yet here we are again.” What I’d say in response to them is, “Sure I was saying it last year. Now I know that the hunch I had last year has turned out to be the case. My suspcions have been proved right.”
I went to Brighton following the clear instructions on the press invite that said ‘dress to impress’. There is little on my clothes rail which could be said to meet that criteria. So, I donned my current favourite flowery shirt, old faithful meeja jacket, and finished the whole thing off with the shawl I bought from Nepal last year but haven’t dared where outside the house. I justified this last minute addition on account of the chesty cough I still haven’t shifted. Anyone who dared laugh could go to hell, as far as I was concerned.
As it turned out, I was reluctant to go. I wanted to be at home. But meetings called. Then a commitment to go to the Eurovision You Decide Final after that. My last meeting of the day overran. East Croydon station’s signage and digital displays are a good deal more confusing too. Then there were the cancellations. And after that the creeping worry that I may not even make it in time for the beginning of the live broadcast anyway. And after that the self-imposed guilt trip about having spent £18 on an off-peak return.
I had a meeting with myself and concluded that I still wanted to go. I wanted to see former colleagues, give them a smile and a hug. Sit down, watch, and probably just like any other year, something would happen and enthusiasm would spew forth.
“Would you like an EU flag?” shouted a woman at me insistently as I made my way to the Brighton Dome Box Office. Don’t get me wrong, my response was polite, but I was a little curt.
Former colleagues identified, greeted and hugged, I stepped into what was an unexpectedly intimate theatre. Considering the files I pored over researching the BBC’s staging of the ’74 contest at Brighton Dome, the place looked a whole lot smaller in real life than it ever did in my imagination. People lingered at the back. I approached an usher, showed her my ticket and asked where I should sit. “They’re unreserved darling. If it’s empty, take it.”
There was none of the usual audience ‘whoosh’ when Charpentier’s Te Deum. No last minute whizz of excitement at the thought of us dysfunctional Brits having our go at picking a song for the Contest. Instead, it was me sat in the stalls, with my jacket still buttoned up and my shawl tied up like a scarf keeping me warm, sat watching proceedings on stage and the autocue at the back of the theatre.
People cheered, applauded and occasionally booed (when expert panellist Rylan piped up about performance technique) all around me. I sat motionless, tweeting my way through an event I still didn’t feel I’d arrived at, reluctant to sacrifice any of my outer garments for fear of signalling I was actually present.
If I was coaching myself here (it does happen sometimes), this would be the point in time when I’d be reminding myself of the thorny issue of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Hadn’t I created my own reality? Wasn’t I wanting to revel in my own misery so that I can walk away from it saying that it was nothing but misery and I was right in the first place?
It would only have been a self-fulfilling prophecy if having identified it as such I now regretted this Eurovision moment passing with me revelling in misery.
The fact is, I don’t. And the reason why I don’t is because I think this particular relationship has shrivelled up and died.
I don’t care about it anymore. I don’t care who represents us. I don’t care whether the song is great or shit. I don’t care who wins. I don’t care who comes last. Eurovision has rather eaten me up and, as this season gets underway I discover to my partial delight there is little left in the tank to get me stoked up again.
I only say that now – on the train home with a couple of those mini bottles of wine you can get from M&S. I wasn’t thinking it when I strolled out of the Brighton Dome shortly after the last song was sung. At that point I was thinking something completely different.
I’d accidentally bumped into a former colleague at the back of the theatre. We smiled. I said she was looking well. She asked me how I was. I told her how much nicer the outside world is. She smiled knowingly. Then she saw someone across my shoulder, asked me to stay where I was and then she disappeared.
It’s that kind of event. People do that kind of thing. There are distractions everywhere. It’s really not a problem.
It was a reminder of what I’d left behind. The faces, the names, and the longing for acceptance and validation. The constant unexplainable need to be seen to have succeeded in an environment teaming with imposter syndrome sufferers in need of a diagnosis and a prescription.
It’s served me. It’s helped me. But now it presents itself as just a little bit toxic.
I headed out of the doors. An impressively tall drag queen approached. There was a beat. I’m a gallant chap. Shouldn’t I step aside?
I needn’t have worried. She barged through anyway. Stopping in front of me, she puts her hand on my chest and gasps. “You’re surely not going before the announcement, are you?” I told her I was. “Oh my god darling, that’s awful.”
I didn’t linger. I strode. I messaged the Other Half.
“God it feels good to leave early.”
“I can imagine. Like taking off a pair of tight shoes.”
I’ll still watch. I might even still write about it.
Unlike other things I’ve jettisoned recently, I owe Eurovision. It enabled and empowered me just as has for a great many other people.
Things are different now. Not better, just different. I’m not sure it necessarily wants or needs me or people like me around. And even if it does, it’s not giving anything back.
By the time I arrived at Victoria I felt the same sense of elation I did the day I started telling everyone I was taking voluntary redundancy from the BBC. No music in my earphones. No resolute positive self-talk. Just an overwhelming sense of relief.
Somewhere behind me I heard an Australian woman shouting, “Excuse me!”
I turned around to see her picking up something from the platform. “You dropped this.” She handed me a ticket. “You might need it.”
I thanked her and took the bit of paper from her. My ticket to Eurovision You Decide. “I don’t need it,” I replied. “But I’d like to keep it.”