Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday 29 May 2010

Eurovision 2010 - Oslo - The Final - Saturday 29 May 2010

OK - I do have internet connection here in Bilbao so shall be live-blogging (and 'Tweeting') the evening's events, which are about to kick-off in aboout 5 minutes, as I type - this blog entry will be updated in reverse chronological order just below this introduction, as the events happen. I didn't see either of the semi-finals and have heard only the UK and Spanish entries, so it will all be new and 'fresh' to me. So here goes!

00.12 CET+1 - The final result is announced

1st - Germany with 246 points!!
2nd - Turkey with 170 points
3rd - Romania with 162 points

Congratulations to Germany!!

23.25 CET+1 - Results of voting commences very soon
Armenia - gives 12 points to (the last country to vote)
Sweden - gives 12 points to Germany
Georgia - gives 12 points to Belarus (thanks for 3 points for UK!)
Moldova - gives 12 points to Romania
FYR Macedonia - gives 12 points to Albania
Israel - gives 12 points to Armenia
Netherlands - gives 12 points to Armenia
United Kingdom - gives 12 points to Greece (just about the worst song!)
Belgium - gives 12 points to Greece
Switzerland - gives 12 points to Germany
Belarus - gives 12 points to Russia (amazing, eh? - but it was a good song!)
Lithuania - gives 12 points to Georgia
Cyprus - gives 12 points to Greece (surprise, surprise!)
Norway (host nation) - gives 12 points to Germany (now leading on 182 points!)
Malta - gives 12 points to Azerbaijan
Latvia - gives 12 points to Germany
Ukraine - gives 12 points to Azerbaijan
Bulgaria - gives 12 points to Azerbaijan
Slovakia - gives 12 points to Germany
Spain - gives 12 points to Germany (now leading on 134 votes!)
France - gives 12 points to Turkey
Denmark - gives 12 points to Germany
Iceland - gives 12 points to Denmark (surprise, surprise!)
Greece - gives 12 points to Cyrpus (surprise, surprise!)
Azerbaijan - gives 12 points to Turkey
Portugal - gives 12 points to Spain (amazing, eh?!)
Russia - gives 12 points to Armenia
Estonia - gives 12 points to Germany
Slovenia - gives 12 points to Denmark
Finland - gives 12 points to Germany
Bosnia & Herzegovina - gives 12 points to Serbia
Poland - gives 12 points to Denmark
Croatia - gives 12 points to Turkey
Turkey - gives 12 points to Azerbaijan
Albania - gives 12 points to Greece
Serbia - gives 12 points to Bosnia & Herzegovina
Germany - gives 12 points to Belgium
Ireland - gives 12 points to Denmark
Romania - gives 12 points to Denmark

23.09 CET+1 - Bill's vote: I liked the UK and Iceland, but for me it boiled down to a choice between Romania and Russia. I really liked Romania, but in the end for me it was pipped by Russia, so I just voted for them. Deed done - now just wait for the real votes!

DENMARK (22.50 CET+1) I thought there were only 24 songs, but this is number 25 - must be new rules. Male-female singers singing in English. Quite a nice ballad, decently-performed. A simple song that might just appeal across different audiences.

ISRAEL (22.45 CET+1) A gorgeous-looking man, black suit, open-necked white shirt. Singing in Hebrew. It sounds as if it's a very nice song, a sort of ballad and he has a lovely, true voice. He's nice-looking, too. Did I mention he is gorgeous? Unlikely to win, though. Still, a very worthy entry. Oh God, his voice is going off-tune near the end - sad.

22.43 CET+1 - Bill's round-up with just one song to go. So far I like iceland, Russia and the United Kingdom. Not yet made up my mind whom to vote for. As I'm in Spain I could vote for the United Kingdom if I chose to.

PORTUGAL (22.41 CET+1) A very beautiful lady singing, praise-be, in something other than English. It's a good, but not a great song and her voice is sadly not entirely perfect.

GERMANY (22.37 CET+1) A very pretty dark-daired and black-clad lady singing in English. A very lively and quirky song with a good beat, she is singing it pretty well - I quite like this, but probably not a winner.

ARMENIA (22.33 CET+1) A very attractive female singing a lively song in English, with Caucasian-overtones. It's a good song, but a bit of a 'dirge' I'm afraid, not bad, but forgettable. I do wish that a few more countries sung in languages other than English - I know it is a reality that English dominates, and commercial success is predicated on that, but it is a great pity. Not a winner, I think.

RUSSIA (22.29 CET+1) A lovely song, sung in English, with what seem to be religious overtones. Nice-looking bearded lead singer with a very true tenor voice. If this won, it would be a worthy winner. There are a LOT of very good songs this year, more so than usual, I'd say.

ROMANIA (22.24 CET+1) Black-clad males and females singing in English. All quite nice-looking (the bearded singer is very nice-looking). It's a good song with a good beat and quite quirky and humourous. Could do well - I quite like this. I wouldn't mind hearing this again. The voices are all good - the tight-black rubber-clad(?) lady in particular has a great voice.

FRANCE (22.20 CET+1) A very lively song for summer. Even if it does not do well in Eurovision, I'm sure this will be quite popular in the discos of the Cote d'Azur this summer. Bum-wiggling male and female singers/dancers. Might be French, but it is definitely hardly in any language - has bits of Spanish. It's really just a disco song, with only very few words - fun, but unlikely to be the winner.

UKRAINE (22.17 CET+1) A very beautiful blond lady singing in English what is to me a slowish-ballad, but her voice is (in my opinion) awful, I just hate this!

ICELAND (22.13 CET+1) Plump red-dressed lady singing in English. She has an excellent voice and the song is good - a sort of jazzed-up ballad. If this won (and it could well do so on merit, in my view) could the country afford to host the show next year? Could anyone get there if this volcano continues?

ALBANIA (22.09 CET+1) A quite nice-looking female singer with a powerful voice singing a very lively 'beaty' song in English. This really is quite good - could easily do very well.

TURKEY (22.05 CET+1) A very lively song sung in English. Male leather (or silk?) clad lead singer, not particularly good-looking, but he can sure sing and it is a nice performance of a different song - not at all 'Turkish', if you know what I mean, seemingly designed to appeal to an international audience, which is a requirement for a ocntest like this. Altogehter quite an impressive performance! I like!

GEORGIA (22.01 CET+1) Pretty female red-dressed singer, singing a ballad in English. White-clad dancers. She just gave the camera a cheeky-wink. She is a good singer and this is really quite a nice tuneful ballad. I wonder what marks Russia will give this? I think this should in a fair world do well, but other 'more traditional' eastern-European nations may mark it down I think (e.g. Russia and Belarus?).

UNITED KINGDOM (21.54 CET+1) A nice-looking young man singing a rather catchy tune and singing it well. Definitely the UK's best effort for quite a few years, Nice female backing singers and male dancers. In a fair world this should do quite well, but not in my view 'the winner', even if he is a handsome young man. He can sing though.

GREECE (21.50 CET+1) A male singer and male backing singers/dancers. Singing a weird song mostly in Greek and a little English - has some Greek/Turkish elements that are not bad, but really it is too strange. Won't win. Will I have to eat those words? I hardly think so!

IRELAND (21.46 CET+1) Female singing a slow ballad, accompanied by a female playing a (?) penny-whistle, with a couple of other backing singers. A nice tune, but slightly 'dirgish' - quite 'formulaic', too, I'd say. Most unlikely to win, I think.

BELARUS (21.42 CET+1) Nice-looking male and female singers singing a slow ballad in English. They are performing what is a nice song pretty well - the second male singer is a 'bit of all right' in a Caucasian way. This is basically a very traditional kind of ballad and if a country like Belarus is coming up with this then maybe it could do well and western-Europeans like me wouldn't moan it was a 'fix'.

SERBIA (21.38 CET+1) An Asiatic-looking blong, trendily dressed and singing what could be a catchy tune, but in my view it is all off-key and it's not just the style of singing, some of it is genuinely off-key. Male dancers back-up are pleasing on the eye. A 'dog' of an effort, in my humble opinion - if this does well, then the world is a very strange place indeed!

BELGIUM (21.35 CET+1) A nice-looking fellow singing in English and playing a guitar. It's a nice 'self-referential' tune and he is singing very well. In a fair world this should walk it (of those I've heard so far - but there may be others that are better). I like this though - and he is very 'easy on the eye'!

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA (21.31 CET+1) Nice-looking young man dressed in red and black singing in English and playing an electric guitar with male/female backing singers. A 'beaty' tune, not bad, but a bit old-fashioned, but probably will be well thought of amongst his fellow Balkans. May do quite well, I suspect.

CYPRUS (21.26 CET+1) Male singer, playing a guitar and singing in English. The song is quite good. His fellow male guitarist is 'yummy'! Female pianist. and a couple of other back-up singers. A nice ballad and in a fairer world this should do well - but probably won't, because it may not appeal to the East Europeans amongst us.

MOLDOVA (21.23 CET+1) - Female singer, male singer, a hip-thrusting male instrumentalist and various other add-ons. Quite a catchy tune, sung (presumably) in whatever language they speak in Moldova, plus some English. Typical East-European 'europop' - could do quite well, I suspect.

NORWAY (21.20 CET+1) - Good-looking man singing in English. The song is quite nice, if a bit 'plodding', but his voice ain't great - he can sing well, but there are some off-notes, unfortunately. Not a winner. But what do I know? Norway won last year with a pretty mediocre effort (in my opinion).

SPAIN (21.16 CET+1) - Blong curly-haired youth in shiny pale grey suit, with cartoon characters miming, dancing, etc. Again, not a bad song (sung in Spanish), but once more Spain's effort (after two years ago) is decidedly quirky. Not a winner - perhaps that's why it was chosen.

AZERBAIJAN (21.12 CET+1) - Pretty female singing in English, with female backing and a black-clad man prancing about doing whatever he is doing. Not the worst 'ballad' I've ever heard and she's performing OK, but I can hardly believe this will win.

Monday 24 May 2010

Little things to remember before a journey ...

I leave Mazarrón (Murcia, Spain) tomorrow to begin my journey back to Nairn in the Highlands of Scotland and apart from trying to leave the house here in a reasonably clean condition, there are other little things to remember:

My first day of driving will take me to Córdoba where I will be spending a couple of days - there are reputdely many marvellous things to see there and I've wanted to visit it for a few years now. This is a week of fairs in the city, so it should be particularly lively.

On Thursday I'll be driving the relatively short distance to Toledo, another of those Spanish cities I've wanted to go to for quite a few years and will again be spending a couple of days there. The city has a very rich and diverse cultural history and of course there are many works by El Greco exhibited in venues there.

On Saturday I will have a longer journey to Bilbao, where I shall be spending a night prior to my departure for Portsmouth on the P&O ferry.

Once in the UK I shall be 'dawdling' my way up to Scotland, spending the first night in Winchester (the ferry arrives late-afternoon in Portsmouth so I can't go too far that day), before heading up to Manchester for a couple of nights. I've only ever transited the city before, by train or 'plabe, but there is much to do there, so I'm told - and this is my chance to find out. Finally, I will be spending a night in the Scottish Borders (a much under-rated area I've often just passed through on the way to somewhere else) before heading up to Nairn and home.

... and I shan't be neglecting to take my passport and other vital documents, as the little boy in the video did at first.

Friday 21 May 2010

The Labour Party - such [un]lovely people

I thought I should put the 'un' in the title in square brackets, because I wanted to avoid any possibility that the irony of calling these people 'lovely' might have been miscontrued by someone (most probably a humourless Labour drone) as reflecting my true opinion. That little matter cleared up, there's a really good article in yesterday's Times by Rachel Sylvester and she has some fantastic attributions of remarks made by various of the Labour Party 'players', which one presumes are all true - I strongly suspect they are, though. Read the whole article, but here are just a few of the juicier bits, which help to illustrate the disfunctionalities, rivalries and petty squabbles of this deeply-unpleasant bunch of people who have driven the UK economy into the ground by their inept management and flawed policies.

Her first quote is from John McDonnell, the 'left-winger' who is one of the leadership candidates (the one whom late-announcing candidate Dianne Abbott charmingly suggested could not get sufficient support for his nomination to go forward) referring to most of the other 'white Oxbridge-educated men in their forties who were special advisers in 1997' as:

".... the sons of Blair and sons of Brown"

A former Labour Minister is quoted as saying, of the two favourites [who] are brothers [and] who grew up in a rarefied left-wing intellectual bubble in Primrose Hill, North London, went to the same school, read the same subject at the same Oxford college and, until a few years ago, lived in the same house, divided into flats, [that it] is more than a little incestuous:

"It is weird, I can’t imagine standing against a sibling. I told them both — just decide between you — but they didn’t. I don’t really understand why."

Interestingly, and in the only mildly positive remark I have ever read about one of the other leadership candidates, Ed Balls, Raches Sylvester writes that he: 'became increasingly frustrated with Mr Brown in the run-up to the election' - a sentiment one can well understand! Even more damning, of Gordon Brown, is when she writes that: 'Ed Miliband once deleted his number from Mr Brown’s phone because he was so fed up with being rung at all hours'. So it is not just people like me, who are no admirers of Labour generally, or of Gordon Brown in particular, who think of Gordon Brown as an obsessive and unpleasant 'weirdo'!

Of course it is true that Labour passed numerous pieces of legislation favourable to the LGBT community over its 13 years in power and I have always acknowledged this in my blog and elsewhere and that the Conservatives have often been decidedly lacking (i.e. at best 'recalcitrant' and at worst plain 'homophobic') in this area. So it is interesting that one of the leading-lights in the Labour 'spin machine' for many years, and reportedly a 'friend' of Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, referred to ' Mr Blair, Mr Brown and Lord Mandelson as the "three poofs". ' - obviously the tolerance that allowed the legislative changes to happen doesn't extend far below the surface and certainly not amongst the 'thuggish' tendency that Campbell represents - and let's not forget that some of those changes happened only because the Labour government was forced into doing so as a result of rulings against the UK by the ECHR.

In any case, whilst the 4-month leadership contest may well provoke considerable amusement amongst bystanders, it is unlikely to be of great relevance in the governance of the UK as the likelihood of Labour returning to power any time soon is probably quite small and by the time it might do so there will be a new generation of Labour apparatchiks and the present group will be mere footnotes in history [... I hope].

Wednesday 12 May 2010

The Conservative-LiberalDemocrat agreement

The agreement signed yesterday between the Conservative and LiberalDemocrat parties to frame their relationship in the new ruling coalition has now been published and can be downloaded here.

This initial agreement document is not very long and is worth reading in full. Of particular interest to me (although other parts of the document are of great importance, too) is point 10., which covers the broad issue of Civil iberties and I quote this section below in full:

Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations
Agreements reached
11 May 2010
- 10. Civil liberties

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion. This will include:
  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

If these plans are carried through, and I hope they are implemented fully and rapidly, it will be nothing less than the destruction of the 'Police State' the previous Labour government has been busy implementing these part 13 years.

Quite apart from all the other sensible and pragmatic matters touched upon in the Coalition agreement, the section on 'Civil Liberties' does it seems to me justify a special celebration!

Her Majesty the Queen invites David Cameron to form a government

David Cameron visited Buckingham Palace yesterday, where Her Majesty the Queen invited him to form a new government, appointing him as Her Prime Minister to succeed Gordon Brown who had just tendered his resignation:

Whilst I am tremenduously pleased that the period of uncertainty seems to be over, the task ahead of David Cameron, the Conservative Party and their coalition LiberalDemocrat partners is daunting. Recovering from 13 years of Labour government and its mismanagement and squandering of the nation's resources will take many years, clear thinking and determination. I wish the new Government luck - their limited initial popularity is likely to take a severe beating in coming months as the austerity measures they are likely to announce become clear and start to take effect.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Nairn SNP provost sacked in a move reminiscent of getting Brown out of Downing Street

Forgive the [slight] hyperbole, but it appears that the blind refusal to accept political realities is not confined to the ranks of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party refusing to accept that whatever else happened in the recent Westminster election, there is no justification for Labour remaining in government in any shape or form.

In any case, returning to the [slightly] more 'parish pump' politics of Nairn, it seems that the Provost, SNP councillor Liz MacDonald, has had to be sacked by her fellow Nairn councillors after having declined to agree to go peacefully by resigning. This really is the denouement of the fact that an majority-led 'Independent' Highland Council has had its head wagged by the SNP-tail ever since this dubious arrangement was arrived at after the last local government elections.