A gap of seventeen days between posts deserves some kind of explanation, even if I did say that things would be pretty quiet here in the first half of ’04.

I could say that I haven’t been writing about the state of the world because others were quicker to express their outrage and despair, and have already said what I would have. Or that I’ve been taking a long time to write about my travels because recording the bare facts doesn’t seem like enough; what matters is what they mean to you, and that changes over time, gaining new layers of meaning and richness. It can be hard to know when to fix some things in writing, because doing so distorts future attempts to reinterpret them. Writing interrupts the flow of thought even as it helps to preserve it; if consciousness is a stream, the written word is cement that dams it.

I could say all of that, but it’s only part of the story. The dull truth of it is that life has been pretty unpleasant since we got back from the Hebrides. I fell over during a walk through an Uist bog, and my right hip had a spectacular bruise for two weeks. My beloved Nikkormat broke in Lewis, and cost ninety quid to repair. Our increasingly unbeloved amp broke again, and still isn’t fixed two weeks later, so we’re using an ancient CD player that turns guitars into gargling. One of my uncles passed away, at a fine old age but still much mourned by the family. Work is in a state of Heisenbergian uncertainty. And some simmering disputes with a neighbour boiled over when she dropped in a fistful of salt in the form of an official complaint, leading to a week of high drama over the height of pettiness.

I could write about all of that, I guess. In fact, I have; my friends and family have been getting some embarrassingly long emails. But I’m not big on ranting in this space. Unless you’re a master of the form, it’s too easy to sound like a crank, even if it does make tempting blog-fodder.

But none of that is the worst of it. Two days ago, a mysterious sore on my back developed into full-blown cellulitis, which for those without a medical background is what doctors refer to as “freakin’ disgusting”. One emergency appointment later I’m doped up to the eyeballs on antibiotics and cursing their use as bovine tic-tacs. If these bacteria are resistant because some farmer didn’t want his cows to catch cold, I’ll... I’ll... move around the house like an old man because my lymph nodes have gone nuts and my whole waist has been covered by the pyogenic little bastards. And don’t look that up, because it’s disgusting too.

So if you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet lately, it’s because I’ve been depressed, annoyed, angry, anxious, stiff, itchy, and in pain. I should switch to LiveJournal.


But it hasn’t all been darkness and blight. As well as the Divine Comedy gig that graced the front page for two weeks, there was the bliss of Saturday night (the last time I was allowed out in polite company), when a bunch of us gathered at a mate’s place to watch the creme de la kitsch of the Eurovision Song Contest.

So far, my Eurovision knowledge has all been second-hand; I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before—at least, not the whole thing. But this more than made up for it, even if they did carve out half the entries for a semi-final which I missed; because as well as revelling in the awfulness of “On Again... Off Again” and “Shake It”, I discovered hitherto unknown powers of divination. It turns out that my musical cardiograph is in synch with the pulse of Europe, or at least the voters in the Eurovision Song Contest.

We were keeping a running score, you see, so that we could vote for our collective favourites at the end of the night. And whose top scores were eight out of ten for the second-place song and nine out of ten for the winner? Mr Pulse-of-Europe right here, baby. (Not that it made much difference to the contest. Most of Britain chose their local-by-proxy from Cyprus and that “Shake It” song.)

The Serbian entry had the most interesting instrumentation of the night, and was one of the few small-country entries not to pander to the kitschness of the event. Of all of the songs, it was the only one that would work as serious world music. And the winner, Ukraine’s “Wild Dances” by Ruslana, was, despite Terry Wogan’s complaints about this not being the Eurovision Dance Contest, one of the catchiest songs of the competition; it’s been running through my fevered head every night since. If I was travelling around the Ukraine and heard that on the radio I’d be scouring the local CD stores for the single as a souvenir; it summed up the rampaging Cossack spirit perfectly.

So despite the obvious distortions of the parochial voting system, I thought the best song won. A couple of the others were tolerable enough: the guys from Germany and the Netherlands would go over fine in a piano bar, and Spain’s entry was a reasonable facsimile of the run-of-the-mill pop we heard on the radio in Andalucía (and usually switched off, but the standards are different in this context). A couple more were deliciously cheesy; who couldn’t love a lyric like “I’m lying, I’m late, I’m losing my weight” from Bosnia’s “In the Disco”?

There was even one I thought would have a serious chance of being a hit, if only it had a better singer: Russia’s “Believe Me” had strong instrumentation, a good melody, lyrics that actually made sense, and an Avril-Lavigne-alike who just wasn’t up to the vocals.

But when it comes down to it, nothing can beat Cossacks with whips in leather mini-skirts. If the Ukraine play their cards right—by fielding several different permutations of Cossacks with whips in leather mini-skirts—they could beat Ireland’s winning streak of the ’90s.

Just as long as they don’t let any whip wounds get infected.

Here’s what people said about this entry.

Who needs singles when you've got mp3s:


And her official site has a whole album's worth:


Added by Rory on a Monday in May.

Excellent. If I was a clever-ass DJ I'd so be sampling that guy saying "Demo Version" in English and (I presume) Ukrainian. And "dubya dubya dubya" has possibilities as well.

Re your condition: that sounds fucking horrible. I'm truly sorry to hear it, and I hope you're feeling better soon.

Added by BT on a Tuesday in May.

holy crap, you poor ol chicken. hope you're on the mend soon!

(i'm dying to hear the nasty neighbour epic!)

Added by shauny on a Tuesday in May.

Thanks guys. It seems to have stabilised (i.e., not got any worse, but still looking and feeling bloody awful). But I was expecting instant results, dammit. One antibiotic isn't enough—I want them all! I don't care about disease resistance! I don't care about the Coming Plague! Just stop the itching!

And I totally agree about the 'demo wersion', Bill. Here's some more of the Eurowision tunes I mentioned:




Added by Rory on a Tuesday in May.