Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Back to Eurovision

Let's skip a few years - partly because of a lack of goos clips, and partly because I need cheering up - to 1967 and Vienna, Austria. After been the runner-up for most years up to that time, the United Kingdom finally get their first winner with the original Posh Spice and Essex Girl, Sandie Shaw with Puppet On A String!

So what others delights did the Barefoot Princess beat that year? Well.....

Here's the entry from little Monaco - Minouche Barelli with Boum-DabaBoum.

And meanwhile, here's Sean Dunphy of Ireland with If I Could Choose

From Holland, we have Thereze Steinmetz with Ringe Dinge

And finally,filling the "Famous Singer/Song you may have heard of elsewhere" slot, we have young Vicki representing Luxembourg with L'Amour Est Bleu. You might just recognise this song, as well as the singer - her surname is Leandros...

What we see here is the start of the Eurovision style of lyrics with an onomatopeotic quality - but it would be a few years before this ran riot. Join me tomorrow as we go into 1968, and the fresh faced UK Prince of Pop takes his first stab at the contest...

Monday, 30 March 2009

Belated Berlin Blogging finale

The best laid plans o' mice and men may aft times gang aglay, as the poet Burns once said. I got back Wednesday night, and it;s taken me until now to wind down and sort myself out.

Part of that is the fun and frustration of Tegel airport. The airport is on a continental style - so that once you check in you have to make your way straight through to the gate. Fair enough, except (a) the check-in and bag drop does not open until an hour before the flight, and (b) there was only one person taking bags onto the carriers, so there was a back up at the bag drop and I had to wait about an hour.

To make things even more fun, the shopping is on one side of a large circle, and the only big cafe/restaurant is up an escalator hidden down a side passage, where a large party of Japanese students were queuing to get through customs.

Still, at least I avoided the news - which is just as well, as the recent passing of Jade Goody has upset me a bit. Not that I knew the woman - one of the great creations of Reality television in the UK, I was one of those who made fun of her some years ago, a fact I bitterly regret now. Nor do I blame her for wanting to ensure the financial security of the children she has. I just feel upset at the "In Remembrance and solemn mourning" stand of some of the magazines that have covered her story.

I lost my oldest niece to cervical cancer when she was about the same age as Ms Goody. So maybe I'm more sensitive than most, but it just makes me sick.

Hopefully more interesting stuff tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Berlin Calling Part 2

The problem with agreeing to blog from a trip is that you find yourself too busy to update as you intended to. So my apologies that this is part 2 of 3, rather than 3 of 4 - life is like that sometimes.

For those who wondered - jive dancing is jitterbugging, which is what they did a lot of in West Berlin in the fifties, and was the theme of the Conference Networking event in the restaurant next to the ICC in Berlin. This is part of what was the World´s Fair site, and is an imposing building. Having said that, while the dancing was excellent, the food was a little too fattening, so I made my excuses, left early and crashed out at the hotel.

Since then - non stop meetings and talks, but I have managed to see a little of this intriguing city. Sadly, not as much as when I last visited in 2001. In particular, I wasn´t able to visit the Wall or Checkpoint Charlie. These days, if you visit you will see from the West side a picture of a young man in American military uniform. If you view from the East, a young man in Russian uniform. It takes a few minutes for you to realise it´s the same young man - a poignant reminder of the troubled past of this city, twenty years after the fall of the Wall.

I´ve also spent some of the evenings wondering around the area near my hotel, which includes the main cathedral of Berlin. This was virtually flattened in the war, but a new cathedral of glass and metal was built up through and around the ruins. You also realise just how much influence the Americans had in the rebuilding of the city - advertising everywhere on buildings and walls.

There´s also reminders of the other side of the past of Berlin. Just down from the train station is the Museum of Erotica - exactly what you think it will be.

And so on to the final day, and the flight back. I´ll share my thoughts on airports, or rather Tegel, tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Berlin Cailling Part 1

Good evening from room 905 of the Pullman Hotel Schwiezerhof in beautiful downtown Berlin. As some of you know, in my day job I work as a medical statistician for a certain large pharmaceutical company known by a three letter acronym, and I'm here to attend a major European conference as well as give a presentation.

It's been eight years since I was last in Berlin, that time for a medical congress, but by a pure coincidence I have ended up in the same hotel, across the road from the Zoo here in what was once West Berlin. Having got in earlier this evening, I took a stroll down the street and not a lot has changed.

Many of the shops are the same, the street hasn't changed much, and the wonderful Berlin sewage system still leaves its delicate aroma in the street. Last time I was here it was June, warm and stinking. This time it's March, colder and not quite as bad - yet.

So, I sit here typing before retiring - a busy day ahead tomorrow. Forgive the brevity, but hopefully I can report back on jive dancing and German food tomorrow...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

On trials and tribulations

The trial is underway of Josef Frtizl, the Austrian accused of holding his own daughter captive for 25 years and fathering at least seven children by her. The following link has the most recent report.

The BBC Report

Here's the thought - the claim of the prosecution yesterday was that he raped his daughter 3000 times. Under Austrian Law, however, unless they can make the charges of slavery and murder against him - the only two he denies, incidentally - into a successful prosecution, he will get a maximum sentence of about ten years. The number of counts he admits is irrelevant - the sentences for each one run concurrently, unlike the US.

Now, I believe in forgiveness, but when a man admits to what eh has done that forgiveness has to come with him paying an appropriate price - and ten years just does not seem enough. He claims he was made this way by his upbringing, and he was trying to protect his daughter.

As Robin Williams once put it, Bovine Excrement.

Can they win the case for the other two charges? That's the thing - it may not happen. Justice may not be seen to be done here, and that saddens me.

ACH - we need a cheer up, so how about looking at the Eurovision Song Contest in the year I was born - 1963.

The winner that year was a Danish couple called Grethe and Jorgen Ingmann with a song called Dansevise. This may sound familiar to some of you.

The UK entrant was the same as the previous year - Ronnie Carroll, with Say Wonderful Things.

Finally, this year saw the first famous example of a singer being brought in to represent another country - Luxembourg in this case, with a singer from Greece now better known as one of their leading politicians - Nana Mouskouri

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Eurobleech 1960 - 1962

Ready to enter the chamber of song again? Trust me - they're not that bad this time....

The contest in 1960 was held in London, with the prize going to Jacqueline Boyer of France with Tom Pillibi....

While in second place for the UK was our singing Scotsman, Bryan Johnson, who seems to have lost someone. There's a Jeeves and Wooster story where a character belts out a hunting song - makes me think of this every time...

Onwards and upwards - and in 1961 tiny little Luxembourg win qith Jean Claude Pascal singing about his loves...

In second place again, the United Kingdom, this time represented by The Allisons with a typical Brit Pop sound from the pre-beatles days...

In 1962 - a singer from France won with a song about love. Is there a theme developing here....

And in second place - not the UK. Ronnie Carroll came fourth with this song about a girl that seems to ring his bell.

Remember this man - we will meet him again next time....

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Comic Relief - the songs

Friday 13th March is Comic Relief day in the UK. For our American cousins, this was the inspiration for American Idol Gives Back, but here it happens every two years - complete with obligatory singles. Let's look at some examples.

One of the first, and still one of the best, is Cliff Richards and The Young Ones.

More recenlty, boy bands such as Westlife have done songs, but one of the best is an original - this one by McFly.

More recently, it has been the comedy cover that has won through, starting with Mister Peter Kay's take on a Tony Christie classic in 2005.

He followed this up in 2007 with a cover alongside Matt Lucas, as two wheelchair bound men do a Proclaimers number with a little help from some friends.

Much, much better than the official single - a version of Run DMC and Aerosmith...

So what are the songs this year? Well, from the comedy front we have two characters from Barry Island mixing it up in Vegas...

While a girl band try and out-do Depeche Mode....

Who is best? You decide....