One night every year TV viewers help to choose Europe's favourite song. From Portugal to Poland, the Ukraine to the UK, millions watch as European nations perform new songs. The singers are completely forgettable. The songs are always excruciating. A massive phone vote across the continent takes place. And then you can take your ear plugs out for another twelve months.
The Eurovision Song Contest is to music what Richard Nixon was to Presidential integrity. It's the pits.
By tradition the worst entries come from Norway. Norway is a grim place, bathed in darkness much of the year. Any song from Norway is guaranteed to be mournful, tuneless, and very unpopular. Four times running Norway has received no votes at all - nul points, as they say in Europe …. and you can't get lower than nul.
Here in Britain, on the other hand, we have won five times, and we usually appear in the top three. But last weekend, something strange happened. Last weekend the British entry, our song for heaven's sake, bombed. Sure, it was bad. But all the entries are bad, and it was far better than anything from Norway. Yet we came bottom. Nul points. And to add insult to injury the Norwegian dirge came fourth.
Why? People in the know blame politics. This year Iceland thought Norway's song was so good they gave it twelve points. Well, either Iceland is stone deaf or there's something fishy going on. Actually there is. Whales.
Iceland has just resumed commercial whaling, despite a global ban. Norway is the only other country in Europe to kill whales. So it was a vote for political solidarity. The British jury didn't vote for the Russian song or the French one. Probably because Russia and France were dead against war in Iraq.
And who won? Would you believe, Turkey? Yes, that's right, Turkey, the very country that just a few weeks ago wouldn't let US troops onto its soil. But getting nul points, as we Brits did, seems to confer a twisted popularity of its own. Our song has just been released here as a single and is racing up the charts as I speak. It's a sort of British protest vote.
Meanwhile, would you like to borrow my ear plugs?
By Ed Boyle