Pete Waterman has a lot to answer for. I started the day of 12th March 2010 as a fairly casual Eurovision fan. Admittedly, by “casual” I mean “watched religiously every year since age seven and could still remember most of the words to Sonia’s Better The Devil You Know”. Still, I limited my Eurovision fandom to contest night and the British selection show. Waterman changed all that. He and the BBC were responsible for a national final so awful it twisted my psyche and created a Eurovision obsessive.
“Eurovision: Your Country Needs You” was a disaster from the start, with the normally slick and professional Graham Norton left a gibbering wreck by a malfunctioning autocue. There followed a Stock Aitken Waterman covers round that served as a depressing reminder of just how kitsch and dated our songwriter was. Gradually all hope was being drained away from the programme as average to mediocre performers took turns to sing twenty year old dross. It all built up to the big reveal of the naffest most dated song I’d ever seen us send to Eurovision. The performances were worse. We were left with a choice between a girl who forgot her words, a guy who couldn’t hit the high note or Josh Dubovie.
Like any young man angry at something he’d seen on tv, I took to the internet. My first mistake was to join a Eurovision forum where I found many like-minded individuals who shared my fury. I also discovered that I didn’t know as much about Eurovision as I thought I did. Being a lover of quizzes with an ego built around knowing more stuff than other people, this presented me with a challenge.
My second mistake was to reason that the only way The UK would avoid last place in the final was if a fellow member of the big 4 sent something even worse. So it came to pass that the first non-UK song I listened to before Eurovision was France’s entry by Jessy Matador. I loved it instantly and was certain it was a winner. I was a little less keen on the German entry by a girl called Lena, but was confident that both her and Daniel Diges from Spain would easily outclass poor unfortunate Josh. One of those two would grow on me.
I was keen to avoid listening to any more entries before May, so as not to spoil my enjoyment of Eurovision proper. Of course, I made an exception for Azerbaijan who were one of the bookies’ favourites. And Denmark. And Ukraine are always good, aren’t they? Plus, Ireland were sending Niamh Kavanagh again. I had to check that out, much as I can never forgive her for beating Sonia. And Estonia were sending a guy called Malcolm. But, come Eurovision, I was glad I’d saved Albania’s entry for live tv.
After the big show I hung about the forum. I had Eurovision history to discuss and the prospect of Lena’s second consecutive entry to look forward to. Then in December, I made my third mistake. I had nothing else to do that night; why shouldn’t I watch the Swiss national final? Maybe I should also make it up to Albania and watch their final too? And Ukraine are always good.
By 2012, there is no going back. I create this blog and an associated twitter account. I start to become comfortable telling people I like Eurovision (I then tell them I’m not gay). When I go on tv game show, Countdown, the next year, the top item on my bio is “Eurovision fan”. Branded for life. That is what I now am. Pete Waterman has a lot to answer for.