Malta Diary 15: Bracing up for the worst week in the year
Malta is bracing itself for a week of tension, trauma and drama. No, it’s not General Election week; nor is it the start of World Cup fever; the Russia-Ukraine stand-off has not so far caused any perceptible concern.
It’s Eurovision Song Contest week!
Now, if there has to be a totally useless, tasteless, talent-less, mind-numbingly boring and horrendously effete variety show, it just HAS to be the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, anyway, that is my take of it.
By Gad – it’s going to be a week of euro-song-this and euro-song-that. Malta’s 26 performances since it first entered in 1971 will be dusted down, analysed and regurgitated; debates will be held and Malta’s entry and prospects will be discussed ad nauseum and the song will be played so many times you will eat, drink and dream it. Back-to-back air time on radio and television stations will ensure round-the-clock awareness the finals will be held in Copenhagen this Saturday – and bookies have given odds-on Malta will once again make the final on the big night.
Families and groups of friends will cluster around television sets; every restaurant and bar will tune in for the event; house parties will be organised and aspirant brides and grooms will ensure their wedding night will not clash with the event.
So, what lies behind this craze for what is really nothing more than a kitsch Lady GaGa charade? Malta is the smallest nation in Europe and mixing it annually with the big boys on their own territory seems to get the adrenalin boiling. Many feel the national honour and prestige to do well is at stake and hence the tremendous surge of energy that goes into selection, rendering and execution.
Considering Malta’s miniscule population compared to the teeming millions of other nations, the country has fared remarkably well. The first few appearances in the early 70s were in Maltese and the lyrics were good but totally wasted and the decision taken that as from henceforth English would be used. Malta pulled out in 1976 but returned with gusto in 1991 and at one point achieved eight top ten places in a row including second place finishes in 2002 and 2005 and three third places. Indeed, the general opinion in 2005 was that Malta deserved first place but was pipped at the post by a bloc vote for Greece.
Malta has the best placement record of the countries that have never actually won the contest.
This year’s entry will be rendered by the group “Firelight” singing “Coming Home” (maybe shades of the England World Cup national football song although the World Cup has miserably failed to “return home” to England since 1966!). The group is a family unit of siblings and cousins with antecedents who were also past participants.
Fortuitously, Malta has never actually won because winners have to follow-on by staging the next year’s contest and the financial burden on the island’s economic resources would be pretty crippling, besides which I would have to face a whole year of wallowing in accompanying tripe.
There was a time when contestants like Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw, Gigliola Cinquetti and Domenico Modugna made the contest bearable but that time has long passed. However, the shameful bloc voting technique has remained; Sweden votes for Norway, Finland and Denmark; Norway votes for Sweden, Finland and Denmark whilst Russia and The Ukraine vote for each other – but AH – will they do that this year? One wonders …
Meanwhile, don’t bother to give me a shout this week because I will be wearing ear muffs and blinkers – that is unless somebody writes to tell me that Terry Wogan has come out of retirement and will once more be giving his blisteringly sarcastic commentary of the event – the ONLY reason I bothered to watch the event in recent years.