Oh dear. Clive James is giving up his TV reviews in the Telegraph to concentrate on finishing two books.
Here's a taste of his latest review for those of us who love the familiar, surprising prose of Clive James:
Victorious in the Eurovision Song Contest (BBC One), the Austrian singer Conchita struck the most triumphant blow for bearded male transvestites since the heyday of Kenny Everett, or possibly even of King Edward II.
Nobody knows what Edward II sounded like when he sang, but now the whole world knows what Conchita sounds like. She, or he, sounds like incoming artillery. One hundred and eighty million people in 45 countries were blown sideways by the uproar emanating from a young woman pretending to be Russell Brand, or perhaps it was Russell Brand pretending to be a young woman.
No, it was neither: it was a bloke called Thomas Neuwirth. Back in Austria he had spent several years developing his identity as a bearded lady, or whatever it is he is. But in Copenhagen, the site of the world’s greatest song contest, his identity stood fully revealed: he was a bearded lady draped in a gold-embellished fishtail gown. He shimmered in the light-storm like an upright carp with a bad shave. Hosting the British TV transmission, Graham Norton explained that Mr Neuwirth’s achievement could be important to all those of us “struggling to come to terms with their sexuality”.
After struggling with my sexuality all my life, I’ve finally realised that I should have been Graham Norton all along. The guy is so at ease with himself. He doesn’t even bother to dream up a few lines in advance, as Terry Wogan used to do. He just reacts to what we can all see. “In a minute, lots of indoor fireworks. Ooh! There you go.”
On the other hand, he was quite Woganesque when he postluded the performance of some moaning Norwegian by saying, “I think he’s delighted that’s over. As are we.” Pretty good gag: we just need more of them.
But Graham has charm. He tactfully played down the inconvenient truth that the UK singer Molly Smitten-Downes came only 17th. I studied Molly carefully to see what she lacked. Alas, it was all too obvious: a beard. She might have done better had she been twins, like the two Russian women tied together by their hair: but to win she would have needed a transgender element. I couldn’t remember Lulu having anything like that, when she won the contest back in 1969: but then, those were different times.
Women have come a long way, if they can now conquer the world by growing a beard and being a man really. And it’s all happened in the lifetime of my generation.