Sunday 24 May 2015

A Confession

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I am very tired today because I was up late last night, partying: it was our annual Eurovision Song Contest party.  I know that such parties have become very popular in recent years, but we have been doing it since the 1990s.  Get me, ahead of a trend!
If you are not familiar with this annual event, it began in 1956, when seven European countries participated.  The UK joined the party in 1957 and the first one I can really remember is 1974, when seventeen countries took part.  Olivia Newton-John was our chosen representative and one Saturday evening in February, she sang six songs in a special tv programme.  Viewers sent in their votes on a postcard and the winning song was announced the following Saturday.  How quaint that seems now!  No telephone votes, no internet votes, just the good old Royal Mail. (I have just told The Mathematician about that and she is killing herself laughing.)  We chose Long Live Love, and by the time the contest was held three months later, we knew all the words, the song having been played to death on the radio and television, and we knew that it was one of the favourites to win.  You can have a listen here if you'd like to.  Glory, glory, hallelujah!
So, fast forward to the big night in May and the contest was held in Brighton.  I was staying with my grandparents and being of very tender years, I had to go to bed before the end.  So it wasn't until the following morning when I saw the newspaper headlines that I discovered that Olivia hadn't won, despite a terrific performance.  What a disappointment!  The winners, of course, were an unknown Swedish group called ... ABBA! 
And so began my love affair with Eurovision (and ABBA, but I'll save that for another time).  I can sing all the words to "Ding A Dong" by Teach In, who won for The Netherlands in 1975; I can do all the dance moves to Brotherhood of Man's "Save Your Kisses For Me", our winning entry from 1976; I can sing "Rock Bottom" by Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran, our second-placed entry from 1977.  I loved it - please remember that I was still at primary school.  It's OK to love pop music when you are at primary school, isn't it?
I fell out of love with Eurovision in the 1980s - I was growing up and I had far better things to do on a Saturday night than stay in and watch the television. 
By the 1990s, I had small children and no babysitter, so watching television was just about all I could do on a Saturday night.  Michael Ball, 1992, "One Step Out Of Time" - terrible song, why on earth did we select it?  His performance was brilliant, though, he did his best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and there I was, watching Eurovision again.  In 1994 we got together with two other families and decided to have a Eurovision party.  Twenty-five countries participated and we had a dish or a beverage from each of them - bear in mind that we didn't have the internet for research then, it was much more difficult but we had a spectacularly successful evening.  Frances Ruffelle represented the UK and came tenth but nobody really cared who won that year because the interval act blew us all away: it was Riverdance
We have had a Eurovision party every year since.  Sometimes, our children's friends have attended.  We always have score sheets - we used to have to make our own and we devised our own categories because let's face it, it's about so much more than the song!  We gave points for choreography, costumes, amount of glitter...and there's always an extra ten points for a gold bikini.  However, I can be quite moralistic and I deduct points for "slutty costumes" and inappropriate dance moves.  I deducted quite a lot of points from Poland in 2014 (and confiscated the Best Beloved's spectacles).
As the contest grew and grew and so many countries wanted to participate that semi-finals were introduced, it became unrealistic to represent every country in food and drink, especially as there are now just two of us providing the meal, so now we do a themed buffet with dishes from the host country.  Here are some pictures of last night's Austrian fare -

Pork schnitzel...

Tiroler Eirspiese, a hot dish of potatoes, eggs, anchovies and breadcrumbs...

Tomaten Kohl, another hot dish, tomatoes and cabbage with caraway seeds and allspice...

Liptauer, cream cheese with paprika, capers, caraway seeds and mustard...

This is a sort of pate, a "bread spread" made of chicken livers, onions, garlic and paprika...
We do get ridiculously excited about this, researching dishes online and putting our menu together and along the way, we learn about the food and culture of other countries.  We found it difficult this year to find suitable recipes.  Which leads me to the next picture, which I am showing you in the interests of authenticity.  Here is The Burnt Thing -
This is kasdonnala, a sort of cross between a pizza and a quiche.  It took us ages to find a recipe and when we did, it was in German, of which I have none, and we used the computer to translate it.  This meant that it wasn't very easy to follow!  I cooked it for the recommended time and was really disappointed when I took it out of the oven because, as you can see, it looked burnt.  I could have cried.  I toyed with the idea of putting it straight in the bin but was persuaded to take it with us...and it all went!  It really didn't taste burnt and everyone loved it.  Lesson learned.  I think I'll be making it again.
We printed ready-made score sheets off the computer -
As always, we had a fabulous evening: good food, plenty of wine, super company and a very entertaining (and very long) show on the television.  Again, the UK gained very few votes, again, the Balkan countries all voted for each other and again, Sweden came up trumps.  They really are good at this - remember Charlotte singing Take Me To Your Heaven in 1999?  I do, and no, I didn't just look that up, I really do remember it.  If you were here, I could sing it to you.
So thank you to Myra for hosting our party, to the European Broadcasting Union for remaining committed to uniting countries through music, to Austria for hosting the contest, to the forty countries who took part this year (although thankfully, only twenty-seven sang in the final), to Electro Velvet whose cracking performance deserved more than five points and to the very winsome Mans Zelmerlow who deserved to win.  You can watch him here.  See you in Stockholm next year.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


  1. Wow, what a wonderful night you had!!!!! You have great memories too of Eurovision, thank you for sharing them and rekindling memories of my own!! I wish that I could come and join your party next year as it sounds like a lot of fun!!! I think that we deserved more than 5 points too. My favourite though was Serbia that ended up not doing nearly as well as I though they would. I was thinking at one stage that Russia would win, but I didn't like their song, so I was very glad that it was Sweden in the end! You did an amazing job on the food, especially translating all the recipes! I am sure that you and your friends must have really enjoyed it!!! xx

  2. Amy, I totally agree with you on the Russian entry, I thought it was a fantastic performance of a second-rate song and I didn't understand why it was one of the favourites. And Serbia was fab, the epitome of Eurovision! Hope you are able to enjoy the bank holiday. x

  3. Wow, your parties sound wonderful and what a great tradition to keep it going all these years. I have very early memories of the Eurovision Song contest - I remember Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson singing about a little bird and then another Johnson singing somethign about 'Singing High, high, high singing low low low' probaly late 50s early 60s I was only a child. I remember Sandie Shaw winining, Mirelle Mathieu singing about a street and a tree and also Abba and Waterloo too but I don't think I've watched it since then. I see Sweden have won this year:)

  4. Living out here on the western edge of Canada I have never heard of the Eurovision Contest, but what a lot of fun! You make quite the event of it.

    I played Abba with the volume high just this past Friday for house cleaning motivation. There's nothing like dancing around the house with duster, rags and vacuum cleaner to the accompaniment of Dancing Queen!

  5. Your party sounds like so much fun, I dont usually watch it but I used to many years ago when the Uk had a chance of winning, I find it too political nowadays, but if you can make a fun event out of it then that's great I'm coming to yours next year with Amy. :) xx

  6. I'm dead impressed. What a good memory you've got! How about Boom Bang A Bang or is it boombangabang? The light show is great these days but the songs are not very memorable. Fancy Australia being included, did they know I had Australian visitors staying or was it just a coincidence? :-)

  7. Brilliant idea to have a party and also thinking of the different dishes. I only watch now to listen to Graham Norton (he cracks me up with his comments!). I often wonder if the judges in each country were not told the country, could not see the performance, then how the voting would change and not just be for those who they border! My teenage daughter has really got into this now and loves the more camp performances and unusual singers. :-)

  8. Your Eurovision party sounds so much fun!! I started watching Eurovision when I was working in the Middle East in the late 1990's. One evening I was watching the telly and it was on BBC Prime. I was fascinated and I've been watching it every year ever since-- most of the time just to see who'll come up with the most outlandish bonkers performance. Yes I remember those milk maids from last year. And remember those Russian grandmothers? I don't think there's anything like this show in the world, and although we're dismayed every year at the UK' s low scores, we'll still be watching again. It's bonkers but fun! X