Tag Archives: Eurovision

Wordy Weekend

I spent most of the weekend reading. I’m not even ashamed to say it. Tune in this coming Saturday for more on what I read (I’ll sum it up here by saying it was a YA dystopian trilogy which was problematic in at least fifty-thousand-squillion ways but – and this is the important bit – I read all of it. So, draw your own conclusions.) Those bits I didn’t spend reading I spent watching the final of the Eurovision Song Contest and getting teary-eyed at how awesome Europe can, at times, be; I also did a bit of panicking. As you do.

Image: businessinsider.com

Image: businessinsider.com

I panicked about many and varied things, dear readers. Perhaps the following will give you a flavour of it.

One of the weirder things I do in terms of my writing is convince myself that I’ve made a dreadful error once something has been submitted, or gone live, or been posted, or whatever. I make myself so certain that I’ve flubbed – I can see the error, dancing before my eyes like it’s taunting me, the traitorous lines of the letters going ‘nyah-nyah-nyah-NYAH-nyah!’ in their most irritating voice – and I have no peace until I check the text. I rake over it, heart pounding, searching for the nasty little mistake, feeling the sweats starting.

And, 99% of the time, do you know what I find?

There’s no mistake. My mind concocted the whole thing. The words I thought I’d misspelled, or put in the wrong order, or which I’d convinced myself were grammatically incorrect are either fine, or not there at all. This is weird. It’s strange for your mind to remember something so clearly which then turns out to be a fiction, but it’s far from being the first time this has happened to me. When I was a kid, I used to have a hard time telling dreams from reality; I regularly woke up convinced that what I’d just dreamed had actually happened, and lots of my ‘memories’ from childhood are probably not memories at all, but half-remembered dreams. Even still (as recently as this morning, in fact), I find it hard to shake off dreams when I wake up, and they linger – a touch, or a scent, or a voice, or a sensation like rain or cold wind or fear – long after I’m out of bed and going about my day. So, it’s no shocker to me that my brain can make me believe funny things. I suppose, too, that one of my biggest fears is making a mistake in a document; the fact that I’ve started up my business, Yellow Road Editing Services, has made this slightly worse. Now, I really have to turn out perfect copy, time after time, or risk professional meltdown.

But then, I’m a person who, as a kid, used the word ‘laudable’ incorrectly in her diary; at the time I used it, I thought it meant something akin to ‘laughable.’ When, years later, I discovered it meant something else entirely, I hunted down that diary and went through it until I found the incorrect word. I erased it, and replaced it, and sighed with relief as I slid the diary back into its hiding place – where nobody but me would ever even see it. Such is the level of word-nerdiness we’re dealing with here.

Anyway. So, I convinced myself I’d made errors all over the place – in blog posts, in Facebook status updates, in Tweets (one of those was correct, actually, but we’ll move on swiftly) – and it took major self-control not to whip the laptop out and pore over everything I’d written for the last month. I just sat and worried about it instead, in silence.

Panic? Who's panicking? Not me! No way, mate. Image: juliakovach.wordpress.com

Panic? Who’s panicking? Not me! No way, mate.
Image: juliakovach.wordpress.com

Panic – or anxiety, I guess – is no stranger to me at the best of times. I usually have a mild form of it buzzing just underneath my consciousness, muttering things like Are you sure this is a good idea? Shouldn’t you be writing now? Perhaps you should be doing xyz instead of abc. This story idea is no good, you know – it’s bound to burn out around 25,000 words. Then, what’ll you do? Silly girl. Who do you think you’re fooling, here? Writing blogs like this really help to shut it up, but nothing – besides total, complete absorption in my work – can really quiet it. However, it’s hard to become totally absorbed in my work when this buzz-saw voice is keeping my brain from focusing. It tends to make me flit from one task to another, not completing either of them very well; it makes me feel as though I’m incapable of doing anything right, and then I feed it by falling into its trap.

But you know what helps, too? Reading. Spending a weekend with my loved ones. Taking my eyes away from a screen and engaging with the real world. Watching an awesome bearded lady become Queen of Europe. Remembering to breathe. Being thankful for all the happiness which my panic sometimes makes me forget about. Realising that everyone makes mistakes from time to time and that, if I do, the world’s not going to end.

Now. Let’s see how long I can keep these lessons in mind as I get stuck into a new week…

Mondaaaaaay! Let's be havin' yaaaaaaa! Image: rottentomatoes.com

Mondaaaaaay! Let’s be havin’ yaaaaaaa!
Image: rottentomatoes.com

All Humanity is Here

Break out the glitter balls, people. It’s Eurovision season.

Image: eurovisiontimes.wordpress.com

Image: eurovisiontimes.wordpress.com

Eurovision and I have a long and chequered history. I loved it as a child – because who wouldn’t? Explosions, shoulder pads, BIG hair, sustained warbling, all the emotion, the gallons of fake tan, the excited squealing (and that’s just the fans) – but as I grew up, I decided it was utterly passé. Then, in my early teens, I made a friend who’d grown up in the Caribbean (where, of course, the delights of Eurovision are unknown) and she was fascinated by it. She came up to my house to watch it the first year she lived in Ireland, and the mixture of horror and utter absorption on her face has pretty much defined my reaction to it ever since. I didn’t follow it properly for years, but over the past few competitions I’ve found myself extremely involved.

Oh, all right! I’m coming out. Judge me if you dare – I don’t care any more!

I love the Eurovision.

Anyone remember the babushki from a few years ago? I voted for them... Repeatedly. Image: eurovision.tv

Anyone remember the Babushki from a few years ago? I voted for them… Repeatedly.
Image: eurovision.tv

Scientifically, I shouldn’t be a fan of Eurovision. If you think about it like this: I love music, to the point where I can’t function without it; I have very powerful opinions on the kind of music I like; I don’t have any time for TV ‘talent’ shows, which the Eurovision can sometimes resemble. Yet, I still love it. I think it’s because the Eurovision is such a celebration – it’s not people competing against one another for their ‘one chance’ at a recording contract, or whatever it is. Most of the Eurovision competitors are already musicians in their own right, with successful careers in their home countries; the Eurovision is not their last chance. The desperation that can characterise other TV singing competitions is not part of their performance. It’s all about fun, and I love that.

I love the crazy traditions, too. I love that countries who are at war, in every real sense, will block-vote for one another even though it’s utterly insane. I love the fact that countries like those which made up the Former Yugoslavia will all give one another twelve points, even though they spent years tearing one another apart. I love the fact that Ireland and Great Britain will always give one another some sort of recognition, despite everything those countries have been through. It’s a sort of respectful nod, like that you give over your garden fence at the neighbour you can’t stand because he keeps sending his dog over into your property to bury his bones, and the trailing branches of his overgrown trees are blocking the light into your very expensive sunroom. You nod to keep the peace, and because you want him to know I’m watching you. It’s, in a very weird way, the most passive-aggressive form of warfare ever invented, and nobody has to get hurt, and everybody goes home singing.

I think it was when Lordi took part in the competition, in 2006, that my adoration for Eurovision reached feverish proportions, though.

Lordi, Finland's winning entry in 2006 Image: savageminds.org

Lordi, Finland’s winning entry in 2006
Image: savageminds.org

I don’t think I’ve ever voted so much for any act – and I know most of the youth of Europe were doing just the same thing. A ‘metal’ band, dressed up like mummies and zombies and corpses and rotting Vikings, playing the closest thing Eurovision had ever seen to rock? They swept to victory on a wave of adulation. The reason they won (besides the fact that ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ was a hilariously good song) was because they were shocking – not to younger people, but to the older generation who’d been used to acts like this:

German band Wind, with 'Lass die Sonne in dein Herz', their entry for the 1987 competition Image: eurovision.de

German band Wind, with ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’, their entry for the 1987 competition
Image: eurovision.de

Lordi took the Eurovision from a level of hilarious irrelevance into a new world of meaningful engagement – and it showed that, truly, there’s room for everyone on the Eurovision wagon.

The competition has always had a subversive element to it, a sense that it was pretending to be a simple celebration of European music, a friendly competition between nations no longer at war and a symbol of European unity, but that underneath all that there were knowing, sly winks towards a different reality, one that perhaps the stuffy traditionalists wouldn’t like. Over the past ten years or so, we’ve seen young performers and old, slender ones and not-so-slender, people of all colours and (probably) creeds, people of all sexualities and none, and – particularly this year – a singer who defies all gender boundaries take to the Eurovision stage and show the rest of us how it’s done.

Image: independent.ie

Image: independent.ie

The utterly fabulous Conchita Wurst – for that is she – sang last night for Austria and performed with such power and poise that I wouldn’t be surprised if she stole the crown right out from underneath the noses of all the other acts. I love that this is what the Eurovision does, and that acts like Wurst’s can cause consternation in some circles and celebration in others. I love that performers like Conchita can sing, and be celebrated as part of what makes Europe great, and reach a huge global audience, and allow others who define themselves as gender neutral (as, I believe, Conchita does) to look to a role model and see that there is a place for them in the world.

This is what makes Eurovision great. Not the costumes, or the pyrotechnics, or the goofy but hilarious hosts. Decidedly not the music, either – but its sheer awfulness is part of the fun. What makes Eurovision great is that all humanity is on that stage, and that everyone is welcome, and that it’s a celebration which does not exclude. With every year that goes by it shakes the status quo just a little more, and I think that’s a good thing.

I can’t wait for the final tomorrow night; I know who I’ll be cheering for!