In the end, Ukraine won Eurovision by a wide margin. After the jury votes, it seemed touch and go, but in the end the result was the one we had all hoped for. The only bitter taste came when we saw that the UK jury gave not a single point to Ukraine’s song, which really begged the question of under which rock the jury has been living, not just in terms of political awareness but also in terms of an awareness and understanding of music – perhaps something which reflects the dreadful standards of mainstream national radio in the UK right now. For those who didn’t watch, Ukraine’s song was a fusion of folk and rap/hip-hop, which is a mesmerising combination. That vote was about as tone-deaf as the opening of Parliament in a golden chamber with a crown worth hundreds of millions of pounds on a throne at a time of austerity and starvation.
All that said, M thinks Eurovision isn’t half as much fun as it used to be, and she has a point. Presenters trying to be spontaneous with tired scripts, scenery changes which are so complex they need the tired scripts and pointless highlights reels from the semi-finals to make time for the changes and thus extend the whole event almost beyond the bearable. And the voting system now where the drama actually comes from the astronomic points totals generated by viewer phone calls which condenses the real tension into the last five minutes of an already overly-long show. And the tours round the countries for jury votes cast the day before is a bit unnecessary – in the early days of the contest it gave it a taste of the exotic, of locations viewers would only ever be able to see, and of accents they would ever only be able to hear, if they were very lucky. The days before we started killing the planet with extensive aeroplane travel. But it’s still fun, just not as much, because it’s not as simple as it was. Perhaps that reflects on us as viewers rather than on the event.
The right-wing media is jumping all over this result, of course, and condemning it as a sympathy vote rather than anything else. As usual, complete tosh, complete ignorance, and the continued expression of the ridiculous desire to keep the UK as a jingoistic island that, in its desperation, loneliness, and intolerance, somehow still believes it rules the world. Don’t make me laugh. The UK public gave Ukraine 12 points. Perhaps the tide is turning. I hope so.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 91
‘Don’t get carried away by your blood lust,’ Aggie says as they pick their way across to the entrance to the kitchen, staying close to the walls the whole time. ‘I don’t want to kill anyone. We won’t get any answers that way.’
‘I’ll try,’ Anna says, breathes deeply, pushes the door fully open that Aggie has pushed only slightly ajar.
‘Do more than try,’ Aggie says. The kitchen is full of people standing around, waiting. They don’t look particularly afraid. She smiles at them gently, aware of her knife in her boot, and determined not to get it out until they’re outside. ‘Everything ok?’ she says to no-one in particular. One of the waiters smiles back at her, and nods. ‘Don’t go out there yet,’ she says. ‘ They’ve got it covered.’
‘We thought as much,’ he says. ‘The old guys always have it covered.’
‘This has happened before?’ Anna says.
‘Not quite like this, but they’re always up to something.’
Anna shakes her head. ‘Weird guys.’
‘Nice guys,’ he says. ‘Just obsessed with games.’
‘This is real,’ Aggie says.
‘All games are,’ he says. ‘The back door is just through there. Be careful.’
‘She always is,’ Anna says, winks at him. ‘We’ll be back.’
By the back door, Aggie stoops to pull the blade form her boot, tests its weight as she always does, because she loves its weight, and it makes her feel safe and complete, just like its pressure against her calf always gives her reassurance. She looks at Anna. ‘You sure about this?’
They walk out into a concreted yard, keeping themselves as small and low as they can. Aggie holds her arms out, her hand across Anna’s chest. ‘Wait.’ She adjusts her eyes and ears, sees and hears nothing but a gentle breeze. ‘Nothing,’ she whispers.
‘Just one of them?’ Anna says.
‘Perhaps. But I can’t look around corners.’
‘You surprise me.’
‘He, they, it, she will be in the huge tree that’s outside the front,’ Anna says.
‘So we approach from two sides?’
‘That’s the most sensible way to do it.’
‘Then I’ll work my way round the right to the road by the Minster.’
‘And I’ll go left and see if I can get to the front of the place that way,’ Aggie says.
‘An owl will have to do. I can’t make any other noises except whistle. There must be owls round here.’
‘I’m sure there are.’ Anna has a gun in her right hand now, screws a silencer to its barrel.
‘Don’t shoot to kill, please,’ Aggie says.
‘I won’t.’ Anna reaches up with her left hand, and pats Aggie on her shoulder. ‘Ready?’
‘Ready as I’ll ever be. See that path through the garden?’
‘That’s your way, I think. Even if there’s no direct route along the ground, you should be able just to climb over the houses. You’re good at that.’
‘I was,’ Anna says. Laughs to herself. ‘And I still am.’
‘I’ll see you on the other side then,’ Aggie says.
‘Sure thing.’ A last quick embrace between the two contrasting silhouettes.
Their feet make no sound on the ground. Aggie watches Anna disappear into the garden, waits for a count of ten before she makes her way round to the left, hopes there’ll be a gap between the tightly-packed old houses for her to get round to the front more quickly than Anna. For her, it’s as light as day now. She moves, slowly for her, across the ground, her left had against the wall, scanning around her all the time, still not convinced the enemy wouldn’t have posted someone here. Just as she thinks she’s going to be disappointed and will have to find another way round, she feels and sees a tiny gap open up between the walls, just wide enough for two people, a couple of steps up into it, creeps up the stairs, the walls closing up around her in the gap’s narrowness, smooth paving stones instead of concrete, slightly worn with the passage of thousands of footsteps over hundreds of years, slips through it and comes to where a few steps descend back to ground level, two or three cars parked here, a random collection of styles. Must be staff cars. She slides past them, a spectre, stops just short of the dim oval of light cast by the street maps. She looks to her left, where the road, straight as a die, leads to the front entrance of the restaurant, opposite a line of trees that populate a small green space, the biggest of them all exactly across from the window Martin had chosen to sit at. She stares at it, tries to discern the natural movement of the leaves in the breeze from any movement made by the presence of someone in there. She waits, eyes wandering from branch to branch, until she sees it, a slight whipping of two branches halfway up, as if there’s someone up there gently balancing on them, biding their time, waiting waiting for a clear line of sight into the restaurant again. She takes a deep slow breath and launches herself across the road in one huge silent leap.