Archive for May, 2011

Eurovision 2011

The annual Eurovision Song Contest took place in Düsseldorf nearly two weeks ago, so I’ll clarify why it’s taken me until now to write about it.  It’s not because I’m an avowed hater of this musical extravaganza and just didn’t want to talk about it – I generally find the whole spectacle very entertaining and a great excuse to have a few drinks – but on 14 May I was sitting in a motel in Missouri, USA.  There may have been a TV in the room, but all efforts to locate a channel that might be broadcasting Eurovision proved, unsurprisingly, futile.

Thanks to BBC iPlayer, I watched most of the entrants a week later on the day of my return.  That is, I semi-watched sleepily until jetlag set in halfway through the Ukrainian effort.  By the time I woke up on Sunday afternoon, the programme was no longer available.

Moldova at the Eurovision 2011 Finals
Moldova at the Eurovision 2011 Finals

Eurovision always has its fair share of critics, but I’m still glad I saw most of the show, even if it couldn’t be amongst the company of friends eating over-barbecued burgers.  The yearly dose of musical madness was delivered; from Jedward ‘dancing’ around like twin yo-yos for Ireland, to Moldova’s wonderfully random staging of their entry ‘So Lucky’, which put me in mind of a modernised, musical breed of garden gnomes.  By contrast, French tenor Amaury Vassili gave a refreshing performance that showcased true vocal talent, heightened by dramatic clouds that billowed across the screens behind him.

I’ll assume the usual cynicisms were voiced during the voting, but I’m pleased that Blue finished in a fairly respectable 11th place for the UK.  Somebody out there must have written a thesis on the wider political implications of the contest, year on year, but even in my jetlagged state, all that mattered was that there were still performances that didn’t take themselves too seriously and proved Europe is home to a wide variety of musical cultures.  Not that I’ll be travelling to Moldova any time soon…

A Toast to Coast

When you live with four other students, two of whom are die-hard film fanatics who own over 500 DVDs, it is rare to find yourself alone in the house with unique control over the television.  Yet this golden scenario presented itself to me a few weeks ago.  The housemates were all out and my latest essay was finished, so I settled myself on the sofa with a ham and mushroom pizza, delighted at the prospect of watching exactly what I wanted for an entire evening.

So, what does a twenty-two year old opt for when all of Freeview is available to her? It may surprise you, but after a brief flick through most of the channels I settled on BBC 2 to watch Coast.  I’ve always enjoyed dipping in and out of this programme, with its combination of geography, history and local culture, but this episode particularly appealed to me as it was filmed across the Channel in Brittany, where I’ve enjoyed annual family holidays since I was a toddler.

Sunset over Kervillen Beach

Plage de Kervillen Sunset

Neil Oliver and company (no pun intended) travelled from St Malo, where we usually get off the ferry, down to Guérande, a town I visited way back on the Year 9 French Exchange.  Interviews with veterans who had responded to “L’Appel”, Charles de Gaulle’s famous call to the French people in 1940, made me forget the laborious hours spent in archives and see my undergraduate dissertation about the Free French leader through rose-tinted spectacles.  The report on the many uses of seaweed, however, whilst interesting, did not leave me inclined to sample beer made from the green salty plant any time soon.  The crowning minutes instead came with a section on the standing stones of Carnac, strange megaliths in long rows that tourists and academics alike have wondered at for centuries. With nobody else in the house, let alone the room, I could hardly point at the screen and exclaim “Look! I’ve been there!” but the urge to do so nonetheless remained.

The rest of the evening was also spent conservatively on the terrestrial channels, watching Supersize vs Superskinny and Dan Snow’s latest venture, Filthy Cities.  I tried not to imagine what I would smell like if I’d lived in the sewage-ridden streets of Medieval London, or worse still, what my long-gone pizza would look like at the bottom of Dr Christian’s feeding tube.  Both shows were informative and entertaining, albeit with something of a shock factor, yet they weren’t as enjoyable as the first sixty minutes of my TV reign had been.  Call it clichéd, but Coast had taken me on a journey; from joyful childhood summers to recent academic pursuits, a wealth of memories came to the surface from watching just one hour of television.

I recently discovered that Coast is made by BBC Birmingham, which amuses me considering you can’t really get much further away from the sea.  Nevertheless, the programme never fails to deliver a mixture of fascinating maritime trivia, stunning panoramas and, if you hit the right episode, a good dose of nostalgia.

Well here I am, a first-time blogger trying to get my head around WordPress!  I like TV and I like writing, so I thought why not combine the two and give a weekly or fortnightly round up of what’s made me laugh, cry or shout at the moving picture box in the corner of the living room recently.  Here goes…