Eurovision is broadcasting this evening, normally a must-watch, but we have no TV this year. I wrote this 12 years ago, please bear with the slightly ponderous sub-academic vibe. Edited for semicolon use.

Visions of Europe
The Eurovision Song Contest 2004

Once more a carefully orchestrated attempt to bring together the peoples of the northern single-figured longitudes. Once more the TV screens glow in Eurovision. It’s a hopelessly hopeless and dated concept, peddling tat tunes that even the makers of Pop Idol would probably have a hard time tolerating, sung by identikit babes and David Gray balladeers, all ground out in a framework of drink-shiny bonhomie, mutual backslapping and strategic voting… but this view belies the reality. Through the layers of Formica, Eurovision is a reassuring throwback/continuation of a pan-European ideal of community. More than that, it transcends its own perceived cheesiness through the gleeful self-awareness of the participants.

Participants includes the commentary, provided in Britain by Terry Wogan, may choirs of angels sing his name. During the long night’s festivities he was always close to the microphone with timely sneers, lyrical exegesis and predictive scoring, often with a kind of eerie Nostradamus-level accuracy. Essentially, Mr Wogan plays the role of the drunken uncle passing scathing comment at the wedding party with all the aplomb of a genuine genius drunken uncle; however it is clear that he, like the contestants, like we, bothers to turn up because he actually likes the whole pseudo-embarrassing rigmarole. Pseudo-embarrassing because it’s meant to be profoundly dislikeable, and powerfully uncool, and yet it is massively endearing, and popular. It’s the faded romance of Vienna, the look of Berlin in a spy film from the sixties: the word ‘Eurovision’ has a cosy air of nostalgia swinging from its faded signage, like ‘Transworld Consortium’, all beautiful semi-utopian futuristic aspiration and simultaneous clunky anachronism and complete inadequacy to confer meaning.

More importantly, especially in the face of institutionalised Europhobia attempting to convince the people of Britain that all Europeans wish to move into the spare room and maliciously straighten bananas, it gives us a valuable taste of what ‘being in Europe’ is really like. The shared sense of trotting out these dismal songs has become a kind of exercise in onedownmanship. It’s clear that Terry is not the only person to see the Eurovision experience as a great opportunity to take the piss out of the neighbours, getting hopelessly drunk on their retsina, dancing on the lawn at three in the morning before turning down a nude sauna with the Jonssons from number six.

None of the participants, I believe, think they’re creating important or lasting works of art, although there has to be a collective desire to unleash another song with the Ikean efficiency and sheer majestic visionary splendour of ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’. About halfway through the voting, as Terry trenchantly reminded us, it was clear there weren’t going to be any prizes for template tampering in Turkey. The songs were mostly disco-lite stompers for the clubs of the north west, or hopeless sub-Bryan Adams balladeering (UK, I’m talking to you), or Wogan-baiting chicks in leather bikini outfits (eventual winners Ukraine).Host nation Turkey’s attempt at a kind of Manu Chao-meets-The Offspring ska-punk, complete with tartan trews and large tattoos, was at least a diversion from the standard synthed strings and guitar miming. The singer’s best contribution was raising the blood pressure of the producers, responding to the surely stoned Green Room interviewer woman’s ‘anything to say?’ with a shouted ‘peace , love and respect!’

Ultimately, though, the contest tries to transcend these problems of the real world. The aim is a kind of family variety show in which something surprisingly nice might happen but essentially it’s all about the taking part. Of the 36 participating countries, sensibly only 18 were actually allowed to take part, thus lessening the possibility of a country receiving no votes at all. Indeed, despite the generally uninspired performances, the vibe was all Big New Europe handshaking. It was a far cry from the pointed politics of last year’s contest, where Iraq-bound UK got nul points. Such antics were put aside in favour of a kind of reassertion of familial fairness. We watched in horror as the voting drew to a close and ‘plucky’ Norway were still floundering on zero; in popped the Swedish jury with a lagom three points and no one went home empty handed. Terry Wogan, mad with Bailey’s and feigned boredom, presumably went off to consume some strong black coffee and then frug with the Jonssons. We marvelled at the distraction and uncorked another bottle of Spanish red, toasting community.

The Mortal Bath was meant to have about three new pieces floated in it in the last week. Sorry for the delay. Final week of summer holiday teacher plannery plus car insurance wrangling following an accident that wasn’t our fault – nuff said.

Thusly… here is a short soak. It’s a bit of a channelling of two of my favourite blogs, Wit and Pendulum and Views from the Couch, for it is rude, scriptish and about, like, wimmin’s stuff. And written by a woman. Well, spoken by one… I didn’t have to do anything but type the words. Thanks my love.

Scene: J – familiar to readers of the Holy Flying Circus skit – returns from work toting her 33-week baby bump (her lovely lady lump, ba-rumpa-dumpa-dump) and a bag with ‘Bounty.com’ and ‘Mum-to-be pack’ written on the side. The bag is emptied out on to the sofa.

J: Free treats! (Claps hands, assessing the Bounty bounty).
Ah, a Sudocrem sample. What is it? Sudocrem (French accent)… It’s a cream for nappy rash. (Reads ingredients) Dreadful. I wouldn’t put anything with liquid paraffin in on my skin, so of course I’m going to smear it on my new born baby’s bottom. Meh… some people swear by it, but I’m not touching it. Next!

(Fast voiceover: Paraffin-based products can be useful for some temporary dry skin conditions… The Sudocrem website actually says “Nappy rash cream and products for the whole family”, which bit of uncertain syntax brings to mind delightful images of a wholesome 1950s-type family, all in nappies – rashless baby; rashless dad, with a pipe, in crossword nappy; rashless mum in apron and nappy in the kitchen, etc)

Now, look at these! (J holds up a sachet of Vanish stain remover in one hand and a Fairy Non-Bio tab in the other). Oh yeah, cause that’s what a mum-to-be needs, isn’t it? Cleaning products! “Women! Know your place.” And here, look at this… vouchers to make you feel guilty. “Is your house really baby ready?” Vouchers for Dettol! What are they saying? “Mum-to-be, your so-called home is a bacteria-ridden HELLHOLE. How can you think about bringing an INFANT into this FLEAPIT OF SHAME?” (Flings paper across the room. On the voucher is a picture of a baby with a disapproving expression). This is a joke. Studies have shown that kids brought up with dogs have stronger immune systems. It’ll be a Glade Plug-In Asthma Attack Deluxe next.

…no, no more freebie tat. Right, the catalogues! Hmmm… (leafing) No… no… Jesus… No… Ooh, shall I get one of these? (It is the Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra:)

Ridiculous! Surely you can’t be so busy that you don’t have five minutes to sit down and pump your tits. “It is essential I have BOTH hands free at ALL TIMES!” Think what I could be doing! (Mimes doing office work with a gleeful Stepford Wife expression and thrusting tits. Hilariously, when I look up the “Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra” for further information, there is this picture:

The Breast Pump Review Centre suggests that “this ingenious product was designed by a group of creative and entrepreneurial moms who have taken it upon themselves to come up with a product that could help them attend to their parenting and household duties more efficiently – all without pumping breast milk getting in the way of their tasks.” This is read to J.)

I love that image of pumping breast milk getting in the way, like New York fire hydrants going off or something. And attending to my DUTIES! Duties, against all of which paying sole attention to my CHILD’S NUTRITION for a moment is simply an inconvenience. Are you even supposed to pump both breasts at the same time? “Come on, Daisy, let’s get these on your baaags.” No, you’d feel like a right cunt sitting in that.

(shakes head in disappointment)

AND, I had to wait in Superdrug 15 minutes for this, because the voucher wouldn’t scan. They couldn’t just give it to me – this free item. They had to go and Sort It Out, make it Official. Brrr! Baby big business bollocks. I look forward to the New Mum Pack. There better be pile cream and a rubber ring for me to sit on.