How I got into Eurovision.
Part 2: MartinF
All good things come from faking an illness to get the day off school. But let me start from the beginning.
I’ve always watched the Eurovision Song Contest, of course. I’m sure I would have done even without the dual patriotic duty engendered by having a Swedish mother and a British father – but that made it even more of an event in our household, right from my earliest Euro-memories of singing “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley”, Vikki Watson performing on Top Of The Pops (despite not reaching the top 40 – swizz!), and Johnny Logan triumphing over my preferred Lazy Bums.
I even kept careful notes of my family’s votes and my thoughts during the 1990 and 1991 contests – Amina, later to become a favourite of mine, was brusquely dismissed as a “farty French woman” – but it was the much-maligned 1992 competition in Sweden’s third city, the delightfully dull Malmö, where everything changed. My parents had gone out for the night and, eager to keep up our habit of watching the show together, I recorded it on our already ageing VCR so that they could at least check out the winner when they got home later that evening. That done (“Ireland, really? Oh well, let them have it, they don’t win very often”), the videotape was returned to the “blanks” shelf to be recorded over at some point.
A few days later, I decided that, being thoroughly unprepared for a Maths test and not wishing to lose face against my long-term class nemesis Nadia, it would be advisable to pretend to have caught a cold – something made more plausible by my status as an otherwise keen student. I was regretting it within a few hours, though – not being able to leave the house is boring even for a bookworm, and if you watch the lunchtime “Neighbours” then there’s nothing left to watch at teatime. So I spotted that Eurovision video, mercifully still untainted by a new recording, and thought: why not?
And I found myself… actively enjoying it. Even more than I had done first time round. Noticing little details, things I hadn’t spotted on Saturday night. Humming along to the now-familiar songs. Watching the voting all over again, point by sacred point. Slowly falling in love with the scoreboard and the eccentricities of the jury spokespersons. Seeing the whole thing less as a backdrop for a night of family entertainment, and more as something to be devoured and savoured in its own right.
So I rescued the video from the Shelf of Imminent Deletion and kept it for myself. I watched it again, and again, and again. I waxed lyrical about the show to my patient schoolfriends, extolling the virtues of everything from “Yamma Yamma” to the boobies you got to see in the Cypriot postcard, not to mention the singing minx that followed. (A few of them even asked to borrow the tape. That five-minute Cyprus section became particularly worn-out and blurry, for some reason. Hey, we were 13 and didn’t know what an internet was yet.)
Life is dictated by chance at the best of times, of course, but those of us who were around in the Olden Days will testify that being a fanboy with something of a niche interest meant things could be particularly random. Although I didn’t understand why news of my budding ESC obsession had filtered through the classroom gossip network at a speed normally reserved for rumours of what he did with her round the back of the bike sheds – I mean, it wasn’t that weird, was it? It surely couldn’t say anything about me? – I was to become eternally grateful that word had spread. On our very last day of middle school, having learned all we were going to learn before graduating to the scary high school on the other side of the main road, we were allowed to bring in games, magazines and other distractions to pass the time. And two classmates just happened to mention that, listed in the “Fan Clubs” section of their teenie girl mag alongside the Kylies, Jasons and Chesneys of this world, there was some organisation called “OGAE (UK)” claiming to be for Eurovision fans. Talk about missing your target audience, right? Except when the actual target audience happens to sit at the next desk over…
…so I wrote away to the address, became a paid-up member later that year – and the rest, as they say, is history. Countless penpals and extended bouts of cassette- and video-swapping quickly followed, not to mention squandering a silly amount of my teenage pocket money on 7″ singles of past entries (couldn’t someone have told us that mp3s were just around the corner?), before the internet slowly entered our lives in earnest at some point around the 1996 season and communities like our very own #esc started forming. It was still a world away from the interactivity and social networking we know today, but the possibilities it opened up for us ESC fans were already jaw-dropping – and immediately removed the randomness involved in finding like-minded souls.
So who knows? If Ruth and Tracy hadn’t been reading “Just Seventeen” on that last day of school, if I hadn’t been a little duplicitous about that Maths test a couple of months earlier, if my parents had decided to record “Coronation Street” that Monday instead of watching it, if I hadn’t been blessed with Scandi genes in the first place – maybe I wouldn’t even be writing about the evolution of my ESC fandom now. Something tells me I would be, though.