Things I never expected to experience

1. Sitting in Belgrade while several thousand assorted people shouted out the word “Portugal” with increasing desperation
2. Saying to the person next to me “If that envelope doesn’t contain the word Portugal, there’s going to be a riot in here”

Just in case everyone here is right and it’s *not* just a particularly severe case of Week 2 Eurovision Madness, I’ve slung a tenner at a Portugal win at average odds of just over 60/1 on Betfair. I don’t think the draw’s helped it much, unless there’s a commercial break immediately after Song 13 – which is possible. If there isn’t, she shouts Senhora Do Mar at the screen and 35 seconds later a camp pirate comes on ands shouts “With a hi hi ho and a hi hi hey…”, which is probably the best segue in ESC history. Apart from Finland to Croatia 10 minutes earlier.

Seriously, yesterday night was one of the best Eurovision shows I’ve had the pleasure to be part of. The sudden and unexpected groundswell of support for Portugal is something that you really need to be here to totally understand – but it was quite something to watch my mate Carlos’ face sitting in the winners’ press conference when he was asked “Are RTP ready to stage the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest?”, with the question earning a spontaneous round of applause.

When I say my mate Carlos, I jest not. He’s been a regular on the message boards and IRC channels for many years, and takes everything in his stride. He’s been trying to get to Eurovision for years, having got quite a few songs into Lithuanian finals in the past (nature of the beast – it’s easier for a Portuguese songwriter to get a foot in the door in Lithuania than it is in Portugal). Oddly, I’ve yet to meet him in person, and I suspect this might not be the right week to do it. He’s a tad busy, you’d think!

Other songs qualified and/or didn’t, too. I regret the loss of Malta and Bulgaria from the final particularly, and also FYR Macedonia was perhaps worth a place too. At the same time, there’s no actual qualifier that I’d unhesitatingly remove to put any of those ones in.

Last year, after the semi-final, I listened to all the finalists in running order, and it became clear that the Verka Serduchka bandwagon had been posed a problem that would probably stop Ukraine from winning. Last night, I listened to all the 2008 finalists in running order, and very few things are obvious. The UK, Germany and France all seem to be in desperate trouble for coming out of the bottom 5 of the scoreboard; Serbia is a spine-tingling change of pace but ending the show with three strong ballads gives all of them a difficulty.

I really don’t know what’s going to win now. It’s an absolute stunner of a line-up, and I’m almost certain that one of them’s going to win. Just DON’T ask me who, because I won’t tell you!

Unless I do.