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Take Me To Your Heaven

I was reminded this weekend of a rather marvellous day that took place back on Good Friday 2019 where I got to meet the marvellous Eurovision luminaries Nicki French and SuRie and a host of other wonderful people at the Retro Bar in London.

Basically it started one Saturday earlier in 2019 when I was blearily scrolling through my phone in the early morning and a text message arrived from Rob Holley, a friend and frequent collaborator with whom I’ve done various types of multimedia-based quizzes over the years.

“Do you think you could be able to do some tech for a Eurovision thing I’m planning with Nicki French?” was basically the gist of the message. I think I blinked a couple of times, and then decided I couldn’t possibly respond to this just on my phone so decided to get out of bed and face the world and see what madness I was about to be pulled into.

Many happy memories have started with a text from him like this. Basically when he says jump, I jump…

The task in hand was to get a group of people together at aforementioned bar, play clips of the 60-ish UK Eurovision entries and get the guests to rank them. There was an expert judging panel including Nicki and SuRie and James Rawson – a QI Elf, no less – but I was on the tech side: I’d play the clips, make sure all that side worked seamlessly, play music during bar and loo breaks, and occasionally banter with the guests and also Other Rob who was main host. We’ve done this before and are a pretty good team together so I thought it could be fun.

The day rolled round and I have to say it was a blast. You can read up on the final results in Rob’s article for the Independent here, but the important thing was that it was simply a joyous afternoon/evening. It was a specially invited group and everyone had a raucously good time. I seem to remember a general feeling among the crowd that Ronnie Carroll was ridiculously good-looking and would totally get it, and a claim from Nicki that “One Step Further” by Bardo was a very difficult song to sing. (I think I blotted my copy-book at that point by bitchily saying their performance proved how difficult it was, but I stand by it. And for the record: I think Nicki’s version is amazing.)

So it was all a lot of fun, but made even more wonderful by Nicki and SuRie who were so giving of their time. They happily posed for pictures, signed CDs, made sure everyone went and got food before we all got too drunk, and threw themselves into it with gusto. They also got well deserved acclaim for their performances. In particular, SuRie’s dignified reaction to the infamous stage invasion she suffered got a lot of love – as did her adorable dog. They were a couple of class acts and I am still thrilled to have this amazing picture with them.

Nicki, Rob and Surie.
Yes, I am this tall.

One thing sticks out in my mind though. After we were all done and collected the sheets, I put on a Eurovision playlist before Retro Bar opened up properly. There was a lot of dancing and laughter and enjoyment again, but when Charlotte Perelli’s “Take Me To Your Heaven” came on Nicki immediately raptured about how much she loved it and I and a few others ended up dancing with her to it. It became possibly my happiest moment of that year.

They say sometimes you shouldn’t meet your heroes. But you know what? Sometimes you really should. Because sometimes they prove to be amazing.

I miss doing things like this. Come on, Covid-19, pipe down a bit would you? We need more days like this in our lives…