Monday, 31 May 2010

EUROVISION: TIME TO SIGN OFF?

They tried their best. Electric violins from Moldova, another out-of-tune UK entry and a song about apricots by Armenia. But once again the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 represented everything that is wrong and embarrassing about Europe to us in Great Britain. And once again it proved that very few of our neighbours like us - with the UK finishing bottom for the third time in eight years. Josh Dubovie [pictured] was not really any better than Andy Abraham (2008) and Jemini (2003), and what is even worse is that he got past a number of competitors in a contest to make it that far.

Eurovision is something of a joke in this country now, as everybody knows the voting is political and rarely based on the song. This year’s winner from Germany - Satellite, by Lena - is already quite well-known in Europe and that helped its success, but it’s not a particularly good tune. It sounds generic and, like most entries, is about two decades out of date. The irony about this is that the UK has one of the best music industries in the world, and it fills the radio schedules of many stations abroad - but when it comes down to it, however good the entry is, we just won’t win.

The pre-scripted jokes and awful outfits were a source of fun for Terry Wogan over the years, and Graham Norton is doing a reasonable job as hosting it nowadays, by poking similar humour at the contestants and presenters. But the whole style of Eurovision is so cheesy and clich├ęd that you wonder whether we should just quit now to save the embarrassment of finishing behind countries that most people couldn’t pinpoint on a map and certainly didn’t even exist when the competition first started.

The Conservatives in government can’t really enjoy the whole ‘embracing European-ness’ idea either, with the Eurozone in such dire straits at the moment thanks to our friends in Greece. Whether being in the European Union has been beneficial for our country or not - and that’s a whole different topic - nights like Eurovision just sum up why we don’t get on very well with our continental neighbours. I believe the money spent on it by the BBC each year could be better invested elsewhere. How about relaunching Top of the Pops?

* * *

Sandwiched in between Aslan’s Kebabs and Popeye’s on Sheffield's West Street, Bargain Beers is not a great place to be on a Saturday night. Unless you happen to be a drunkard looking for your fix of dry cider - in which case it’s paradise. But it doesn’t just share a similar name to that of Bargain Booze, a chain now operating 630 stores across Britain, and given a glowing review in yesterday's The Sunday Times. It also shares the alcohol pricing philosophy that by charging consistently low prices, you will build up customer loyalty and generate stable sales.

These discount stores - which offer nothing but alcohol and a few nibbles - battle with supermarkets for the £14billion market of alcohol sold in the UK outside the pub trade, and are very successful in doing so. It seems that you can build up customer loyalty by undercutting supermarkets on average price - even if they do beat you with special deals on multipacks from time to time. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) will this week recommend government ministers to launch a minimum price on alcohol per unit. This could see the price of cheap wine especially soar - and this will hit the supermarkets and cheap off-licences.

The problem with the argument of putting up the price of alcohol is that it will not deter people from drinking if they really want to. When you go into a pub, the price of a pint will usually be somewhere between £2 and £3, and it’s unlikely you would change your opinion of whether to buy it or not. Similarly, if you’re having a house party and want to get a certain amount of beer or spirits, you’ll buy them whatever the price (within reason). And for alcoholics, this is the case even more so. I doubt that the price elasticity for alcohol is what Nice understand it to be, but they are the economic experts, so we’ll see what happens.

* * *

As regular blog readers may guess, I do like football a bit. I managed to get to 49 matches this season, including midweek trips to Shrewsbury, Tranmere and Scunthorpe. And that’s supporting Southend (200 miles from Sheffield) and Newcastle (150 miles away). So it’s absolutely no surprise to me that a Heineken survey last week showed British men spend more time watching, playing, reading and talking about football than anywhere else in the world. The figure is 11 hours 12 minutes a week, which I reckon I could easily surpass in one day.

With the World Cup only 11 days away now, it’ll be a great excuse to watch even more of the beautiful game than usual, and I can’t wait for it to get going. The two-week break between the official end of the domestic season yesterday and the start of the tournament in South Africa will hopefully pass pretty quickly, and then the pubs, bars and betting shops will be full with noisy Englishmen. Wonderful. It’s a tribute to our nation that we get behind our team so much and are the most football-mad country in the world. It’s a great time for the country to come together in praise of 11 men kicking an inflated pig’s bladder more than 5,000 miles away from home.

PICTURES: Digital Spy; Bargain Booze; Reuters/Mail