If you were going into battle and needed a rallying war cry, you could do worse than ask Bonnie Tyler.
No one can bellow, rasp, boom and give off SPARKS like Tyler. Hers is a voice hewn in the Welsh valleys, a gravelly foghorn of longing and intent, filtered through Port Talbot smog, Elnett and dry ice.
And we are going into battle. Eurovision is here again and Tyler has been chosen to represent the UK in Sweden in May. Will she win? Or at least hoist us out of 25th place, where we ended up last year, thanks to Engelbert Humperdinck, and where we have ended up a remarkable three times in the 10 years since 2003 – when we came 26th?
For the second year running, the BBC has adopted a papal-conclave approach, rejecting an audience vote to present the UK entry to the public in a puff of smoke and a swish of suede fringing. The reasoning is clear: Tyler has big hair, a big voice and is big in Europe.
The song, “Believe in Me”, is easily grasped, consisting largely of those three words, predictable chords and all-encompassing arm gestures – it’s the ballad equivalent of Esperanto. Nevertheless, fans are braced for failure. The fact is – Daniel Day-Lewis may beg to differ – that no cultural prize is harder won than the Eurovision crown. Just when you think you’ve grasped what it is about – Eurotrance on ice skates, Finnish heavy metal Orcs, global politics – it veers off-script and picks a German ballad by a girl in a black dress as the winner. You can’t second-guess Eurovision. It makes as much sense as one of Lady Gaga’s costumes.
UK fortunes have not been helped by a recent policy of never entering anyone who reflects its current musical scene. Nor by its affecting to hold the whole silly, spangled thing at ironic arm’s length while secretly quite wanting to win. If we didn’t want to win, we’d surely just send in the clowns – or Scooch – every year and have fun. Instead, we secretly calculate what might get votes and always end up one step behind. Eurovision doesn’t do reason and it doesn’t do irony. It might love Tyler’s sincere belting – but then I said the same about The Hump last year.
* Is Sebastian Faulks becoming the Rory Bremner of the bookshelf? The author is writing a new Jeeves and Wooster story, the first new adventure of the gentleman and his butler to be published since PG Wodehouse's death in 1975. The homage, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, will be published in November and is approved by the Wodehouse estate who asked Faulks to write it, no doubt aware of his literary chameleon credentials.
The author has already slipped on Ian Fleming's bow tie to write a new James Bond novel, Devil May Care in 2008. Before that he spent a decade as a team captain on Radio 4's The Write Stuff, churning out erudite and often very funny literary parodies. So he is doubtless the right man for the job, but that doesn't explain why he would want to take it on. With a successful career as novelist and an established voice of his own, attempting to embellish the beloved Wodehouse canon is a brave move.
What's more, Faulks is an ardent fan, having declared a scene from The Mating Season, in which Bertie impersonates Gussie Fink-Nottle, to be his favourite "in the whole canon of English literature". So there is the danger that he might be too reverent in his homage, when what characterises Wodehouse's writing is its utter irreverence.
On a similar note, next weekend, a new version of Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes will screen on BBC1, made by television director Diarmuid Lawrence. Like Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, the remake of the 1938 classic will try to imitate the work of a master, a bold, some may say foolhardy, endeavour. Especially when one only has to rifle through one's shelf to find the originals waiting there, ready to be enjoyed over and over again.