Sunday, October 06, 2019

"A Stage Where Every Man Must Play His Part. And Mine, A Sad One ..."

Once again, dear blog readers, From The North has been dragged from its - temporary, work-relate - hiatus by the need to report (and comment upon) the deaths of in this case a trio of people whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping really rather admired.
We start with Ginger Baker, one of the most innovative and influential drummers in rock and/or roll music, has who died at the age of eighty. A co-founder of Cream, he also played with Blind Faith, Hawkwind and Fela Kuti during a long and varied career. His style combined the lyricism and subtlety of jazz with the power and volume of rock. One critic said that watching him was like 'witnessing a human combine harvester.' Ginger was also a temperamental and argumentative figure, whose behaviour frequently led to on-stage fights and broken friendships. Nicknamed Ginger for his flaming red hair, the musician was born Peter Edward Baker in Lewisham shortly before the kick-off of World War Two. His bricklayer father was killed in action in 1943 and Ginger was brought up in near poverty by his mother, step-father and aunt. A troubled student, he joined a local gang in his teens and became involved in petty theft and violence. When he tried to quit, gang-members attacked him with a razor. His early ambition was to ride in the Tour De France but he was forced to quit cycling when, aged sixteen, his bicycle got 'caught up' with a taxi. Instead, after some recuperation, he took up drumming. 'I was always banging on the desks at school,' he once recalled. 'So all the kids kept saying, "Go and play the drums" and I just sat down and I could play. It's a gift from God. You've either got it or you haven't. And I've got it: time. Natural time.'
The strong legs he had developed on long bike rides helped him play the double bass drum set-up he favoured and Baker soon talked his way into his first gig. He played with jazz acts like Terry Lightfoot and Acker Bilk but his style - fragmented and aggressive, but articulate and insistent - was often an odd fit in such surroundings. Instead, he gravitated towards London's burgeoning rhythm and blues scene and, in 1962, joined Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated on the recommendation of their departing drummer, Charlie Watts who was leaving to join The Rolling Stones. Ginger gained early fame as a member of The Graham Bond Organisation alongside bassist Jack Bruce - with whom he enjoyed a near telepathic musical partnership though the personal relationship between the pair was always volatile. It was their subsequent partnership with Eric Clapton in Cream that made the trio superstars. One of rock and/or roll's first supergroups, Cream fused blues and psychedelia to dazzling effect on songs like 'Strange Brew', 'Sunshine Of Your Love', 'Tales Of Brave Ulysses', 'Badge', 'White Room' and 'I Feel Free'. They sold more than thirty five million LPs and were awarded the world's first ever platinum disc for their LP Wheels Of Fire (though, arguably, its predecessor, 1967's Disraeli Gears is their true masterpiece. It's certainly one of this blogger's favourite records).
Along with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who, Cream expanded the vocabulary of heavy rock, especially during their incendiary live shows, where the three musicians would stretch simple riffs into long, exploratory improvisations. 'It was as if something else had taken over,' Baker once said of playing with Cream. 'You're not conscious of playing. You're listening to this fantastic sound that you're a part of. And your part is just happening. It was a gift and we three had it in abundance.' But the volatility that fuelled their performances was rooted in animosity. Baker and Bruce's arguments were frequent and sometimes violent, sometimes driving the more introspective Clapton to tears of frustration. Once, Baker attempted to end one of Bruce's solos by bouncing a stick off his snare drum and onto Bruce's head. 'So I grabbed my double bass,' Bruce later recalled 'and demolished him and his kit.' The band eventually split after two years and four LPs, with a farewell concert at London's Royal Albert Hall in late 1968 which was filmed by Tony Palmer for the BBC's Omnibus strand. 'Cream came and went almost in the blink of an eye, but left an indelible mark on rock music,' wrote Colin Larkin. Bands who built on Cream's template included Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin - not that Baker was overly impressed by any of these. 'I don't think Led Zeppelin filled the void that Cream left, but they made a lot of money,' he told Forbes. Following the band's demise, Ginger teamed up with Clapton and Steve Winwood to form Blind Faith, followed by the ambitious ten-piece Ginger Baker's Air Force, which combined his interests in jazz and Afro-fusion.
While the musicianship was of a high standard, the eclectic mix of jazz, blues, African music and a surfeit of drums - there were three percussionists - was never going to inspire a wide following. After one studio LP and a live concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Air Force, undermined by personnel changes, were finally grounded. The drug-related death of his close friend, Jimi Hendrix, persuaded Baker that it was time to get himself clean. He left Britain to live in Nigeria, where he recorded with local legend Fela Kuti and built his own recording studio. He helped Paul McCartney record the classic Wings' LP Band On The Run at the studio in 1973, although their relationship subsequently soured over claims that he was never paid. Financial problems of one sort or another dogged him throughout this period and he eventually lost control of the studio. Away from music, he took up rally driving and, somewhat incongruously, developed a love of polo, building up a sizeable collection of ponies, despite his tendency to get injured. 'I've had a lot of falls which have wrecked my body,' he told the Torygraph in 2013. 'They had to take a piece of my hip bone out and screw it into my neck.' In the 1980s, he played with Hawkwind (on 1980's Levitation), Atomic Rooster and Public Image Limited (John Lydon - an equally volatile character - was another huge admirer), while continuing to form and discard new bands that combined his African and Western musical influences, like African Force and Middle Passage. While commercial success eluded him, his reputation, particularly with a new generation of drummers, remained high. 'His playing was revolutionary,' said Neil Peart of Rush. 'He set the bar for what rock drumming could be.' Cream were inducted to the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, briefly reuniting to play three songs, then teamed up again in 2005 for a series of concerts in London and New York. Almost inevitably, the performances ended with Baker and Bruce fighting on stage. 'It's a knife-edge thing for me and Ginger,' Bruce said afterwards. 'Nowadays, we're happily co-existing in different continents although I was thinking of asking him to move. He's still a bit too close!' Baker had, in fact, relocated to South Africa, where he spent the Cream reunion money buying polo ponies and funding a veterinary hospital.
In 2012, he became the subject of a hugely enjoyable film documentary - Beware Of Mister Baker - which illustrated how his jaw-dropping drumming was neither as wild nor as extraordinary as his complicated personal life. In the opening scene, the musician was seen attacking the film's director, Jay Bulger, with a metal cane, declaring: 'I'm going to put you in hospital.' He later settled down to reflect, cantankerously, on the trail of broken bands, ex-wives and neglected children that he had left in his wake. Contributors marvelled at his talent, but little else. 'He influenced me as a drummer, but not as a person,' recalled Free's Simon Kirke, who toured with Cream. In later years, Ginger was beset by ill health, breaking most of his ribs and subsequently being diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition and the onset of emphysema. 'God is punishing me for my past wickedness by keeping me alive and in as much pain as He can,' he told Rolling Stain at the time. The musician fought osteoarthritis to record his final CD, Why?, in 2014. Two years later, he underwent open heart surgery and announced his retirement from touring. 'Just seen [the] doctor - big shock - no more gigs for this old drummer,' he wrote on his blog. 'Of all things I never thought it would be my heart.' Baker's death will see him feted as one of rock's most influential musicians, but he scoffed at such accolades, insisting: 'Drummers are really nothing more than time-keepers.' He told Rhythm magazine: 'It's the drummer's job to make the other guys sound good.' He is survived by his three children, Kofi, Leda and Ginette.
Of the many news bulletins Peter Sissons read over a forty five-year career with ITN, Channel Four and the BBC, the one he will probably be remembered for is the Easter Saturday broadcast in 2002 when he told the nation that the Queen Mother had died aged one hundred and one. The programme showed Sissons, who has himself died this week aged seventy seven, at his best: able to react immediately, live on-air, to changing news. The fact that he did so while wearing a burgundy-coloured tie instead of a black one, however, produced a - wholly manufactured - furore in the tabloid press, which scummishly used this trivial issue of the supposed 'insensitivity' of his neck wear to indulge its traditional sport of beating the corporation with a stick. The veteran newsreader was scarcely to blame, though the BBC allowed him to shoulder most of the responsibility. 'Their first reaction was to land their presenter in it,' he recalled, bitterly. The news had broken only a few minutes before the bulletin was due to be broadcast - an earlier message from the corporation's royal correspondent had not been passed on - and he had been told by a producer to 'skip the black ... she had to go some time.' It irked him that his sensitive live interview during the broadcast with the Queen Mother's niece, Lady Margaret Rhodes, who had been present at the death two hours earlier - a fact he only learned about as they spoke - got lost in the subsequent row. A former colleague at Channel Four News, the Gruniad Morning Star journalist Anne Perkins, recalled: 'He was absolutely professional. We would often go into the studio not knowing who the main interviewee was or news would break while we were live on-air and I never saw him flummoxed. He had a capacity to live on his wits and communicate directly with the viewer. On the programme after the Brighton bomb in 1984, I was handing him handwritten notes and he read them, never fluffing.' On the day of Princess Diana's death in 1997, Sissons was on-air for more than ten hours, reacting to the story and conducting live interviews. 'I made up the editorial policy as I went along,' he said later. 'I ignored the guidance which was that it would be inappropriate to ask awkward questions rather than just reflect grief and shock.' He was understandably annoyed by BBC executives' subsequent self-congratulatory away day gathering to discuss the success of the coverage, to which the editorial staff were pointedly not invited.
Born in Liverpool, Peter was the son of George Sissons, a merchant navy officer and his wife, Elsie, who worked in a department store while her husband was at sea during the war, bringing up four boys. Peter was educated at Dovedale Primary School, where the future alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon and Jimmy Tarbuck were fellow pupils and, then, at the Liverpool Institute alongside Paul McCartney and George Harrison, leaving in 1961. (In later years he enjoyed a memorably terse interview with his old classmate Macca on Channel Four News after having the temerity to give a less-than-flattering, if entirely deserved, opinion concerning Give My Regards To Broad .)
Peter then went to University College Oxford, where he obtained a degree in philosophy, politics and economics and had his first journalistic experience, writing football reports for Cherwell, the student newspaper. That was not enough to get him his preferred job on the Liverpool Post & Echo, but it did win him a place on the ITN graduate trainee scheme in 1964. Starting as a bulletin subeditor, he became a general reporter in 1967, where his career - and indeed his life - was nearly cut short during the Nigerian civil war, when he was shot through both legs. The wound shaved his femoral artery and left him in lasting pain thereafter. Returning to Britain, Sissons became ITN's industrial editor during the union militancy of the 1970s and, from 1978, a news presenter on ITN's News At One bulletin. Following the chaotic launch of Channel Four News in 1982 with its experimental range of presenters, he was employed to restore some order and gravitas and led the evening bulletin five nights a week for the next seven years. In 1989 he was poached by the BBC to present the Six O'Clock News, being warned as he did so by David Nicholas, ITN's editor, that the corporation was 'only doing it to harm its rival.' The lure was that he would chair Question Time in succession to Robin Day, which he did for four years, a move that was not regarded as a success by either the BBC or Peter himself. But he also presided in turn over the Nine O'Clock News then its transmogrification to Ten O'Clock News in 2000. Told in 2003 that the corporation was seeking younger presenters, he spent the final six years of his career presenting bulletins for BBC News Twenty Four. In later years, Sissons would become frustrated by the BBC's management and bureaucracy and, after his retirement, he railed against its editorial standards to sympathetic conservative newspapers. 'There's this belief that there's this magic lot of young people who will watch more avidly if you put younger presenters up front,' he told The Sunday Times. 'Never believe you can't go out of fashion.' In 2013 he wrote in the Sunday Torygraph: 'The BBC today for all its high salaries is woefully short of great managerial and editorial talent, the sort of leadership you would follow over the top or into the jungle.' He left the BBC in 2009 - 'without a pang of regret', he told the Scum Mail on Sunday. A lifelong supporter of Liverpool FC, Sissons was a member of the Hillsborough Disaster Independent Panel: 'It was the most worthwhile thing I have done because its work corrected such a mammoth injustice,' he said. He also lectured on Saga cruise ship holidays and published his memoirs, When One Door Closes, in 2011. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia Bennett, whom he had met at a Liverpool youth club, in 1965. The couple had two sons, Jonathan and Michael and a daughter, Kate.
Anna Quayle, who has died aged eighty six, was a multi-talented and versatile actress with a flirtatious smile and a sardonic touch that she frequently deployed to devastating effect. She could be both playful and deadpan and was as adept at a sly aside as she was at delivering a musical number with wit and gusto, whether on stage, film or TV. It was as the Baroness Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) that she broke through on the big screen, duetting with Gert Fröbe on the number 'Chu-Chi Face', where the couple declare undying love for each other as he attempts to kill her by various slapstick means. More than twenty years later she was still a familiar face on British television screens, as the eccentric but kind-hearted teacher Mrs Monroe in the children's drama Grange Hill. But it was on the stage that Quayle's many talents were honed and shone brightest. In 1960, Anthony Newley came to see her in the revue ... And Another Thing, alongside Bernard Cribbins and Lionel Blair and thought her perfect for the female lead in his musical Stop The World - I Want To Get Off (1961). Written and scored by Newley and Leslie Bricusse, it was an odyssey following its lead character, Littlechap (played by Newley himself), from cradle to grave. Quayle was cast as the four women in his life - his wife Evie, the Russian Anya, the German Ilse and the American Ginnie - showcasing her vocal dexterity and mastery of comic, dramatic and musical material. The show began in Manchester but soon transferred to The Queen's Theatre in the West End and Quayle won the London Critics Circle award for her performance. She accompanied the show to Broadway in 1962, where it ran for over five hundred and fifty performances. At the 1963 TONY awards it was nominated in five categories (including best musical) but won only one - Quayle herself winning best performance by a featured actress in a musical.
     Born in Birmingham as Anne, she was the eldest child of actor-manager Douglas Quayle and his wife Kathleen and was educated at the Catholic girls' Convent of Jesus and Mary Language College in Harlesden. A theatrical career was inevitable: she had already made her stage debut, aged three, in one of her father's productions, the first of many such engagements.
Whilst studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1955, she decided that her future career was more likely to be in comedy than tragedy. Immediately upon graduation she was at the Edinburgh Fringe in the revue show Better Late (1956), before providing comic support for Cyril Fletcher in Summer Masquerade at the Sandown Pavilion, Isle of Wight the following year. Other revue appearances followed, in Do You Mind? (Edinburgh Palladium, 1959) and Look Who's Here! (Fortune Theatre, 1960, her West End debut), which led to ... And Another Thing at the same theatre later that year. After Stop the World - I Want To Get Off she appeared in Homage To TS Eliot (at the Globe Theatre, 1965), Full Circle, her own one-woman musical show (Apollo Theatre, 1970), Out Of Bounds at the Bristol Old Vic (1973) and Pal Joey, as Melba Snyder, at the Oxford Playhouse (and later in Edinburgh, 1976). She hit the West End again in Anthony Shaffer's The Case Of The Oily Levantine (Her Majesty's Theatre, 1979), played Madame Arcati in a 1980 tour of Blithe Spirit, Madame Dubonnet in Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend (Old Vic, 1984) and Marigold in After October (Chichester Festival Theatre, 1997). Her first notable film role came in Dick Lester's A Hard Day's Night (1964) as Millie, the delightfully scatty (if, somewhat short-sighted) actress who recognises but cannot quite place John Lennon.
Other big-screen appearances included opposite Tony Curtis in Drop Dead Darling (1966), the swinging London musical Smashing Time (1967), the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (also 1967), Up The Chastity Belt (with Frankie Howerd, 1972) and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976). On television she was in classics including Not Only... But Also (1965) and a memorable role as a Russian spy in The Avengers (1967) and was just as comfortable in high-end fare such as BBC Shakespeare adaptations (as Alice in Henry V, 1979), Brideshead Revisited (1981) and Mapp & Lucia (1986) as she was opposite Basil Brush (1977) and Sooty (1987). Quayle was Anna was also familiar enough to audiences to appear as herself, in the likes of Juke Box Jury (1963), Call My Bluff (1967), What's My Line? (1973, as a regular panellist) and Give Us A Clue (1983). Her final appearance on screen was in 2002, in Things They Said Today, a DVD documentary on the making of A Hard Day's Night. She is survived by her younger brother, the actor John Quayle and by Katy, her daughter from her 1976 marriage to the agent and theatre producer Donald Baker.
Lost footage of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) has emerged after - allegedly - being found in a bread bin in Wales. What it was doing there, we just don't know. Going mouldy, presumably. The film, which has been valued at ten thousand knicker, was found during a clearance of a house and shows the band being interviewed in Cardiff in 1965. The find comes a day after a woman found signatures from The Fab Four which had been left in a cupboard. Paul Fairweather, from Omega Auctions, said the lost reels were a 'great find.' In the footage, the band are seen joking with a journalist attempting to interview them, with alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon saying that yer actual Paul McCartney has five children in Swansea and Ringo Starr joking their next film could be a Western. They also break into a rendition of 'There's No Business Like Show Business' and pull a series of funny faces throughout the interview. Other footage, from 1967, shows spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and The Be-Atles being questioned about their adherence to his teachings. Lennon says in the clip: 'Of course it's not a cult and if we didn't take it seriously we wouldn't be here.' And, six months later he was writing 'Sexy Sadie' to prove it. A third sound recording captures Lennon giving an acoustic rendition of his post-Beatles song 'God' and has also been valued at ten grand. Fairweather said: 'All four Beatles are in fine form throughout both of the Cardiff films, laughing and joking, while the interviewer tries to remain serious. The sound and image quality is fantastic. I expect these have never been seen since 1965.'
Matty Longstaff capped an impressive Premier League debut with the winning goal as this blogger's beloved (though, tragically, unsellable) Newcastle moved out of the relegation zone and continued The Scum's troubled start to the season. Longstaff, nineteen, drilled home a lovely, low finish from outside the box to leave The Red Devils just two points above the bottom three and with two wins this season. Longstaff, playing in midfield alongside older brother, Sean, could have scored in the first half but rattled the crossbar with a thunderous twenty five-yard drive, while Fabian Schär flicked a header narrowly over from a corner. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side looked bereft of ideas in front of goal: Andreas Pereira's curling strike was comfortably saved by Martin Dubravka, while Harry Maguire sent a free header wide from four yards out. The visitors' tally of nine points after eight games is their lowest since the 1989-90 season. These two Uniteds had some tremendous title tussles during the 1990s, but the situation is different these days with both sets of fans deeply unhappy with their respective owners. Though big money was spent in the summer - Newcastle signing striker Joelinton for a club record forty million knicker and their opponents bringing in defender Maguire for eighty million - both face the prospect of a difficult season ahead. The Magpies are fighting to remain in the top flight and while The Red Devils are, in theory at least, attempting to claim a European place, they currently find themselves in twelfth place in the table a mere point ahead of Th' Toon. The Scum last won away from home in the league in February and extended that run to eight games with another lifeless and uninspiring showing. Their defence has improved from last term, conceding eight times so far which is the third-best record in the division, but it is in attack where the major problems lie. Solskjaer's men failed to get a single shot on target against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday and, again, struggled to carve out clear-cut chances in the final third at St James' Park, the best opportunity falling to Maguire, who should have converted his close-range header in the first half. Playmaker Juan Mata contributed little, while in attack Marcus Rashford received no service in a side that has not scored more than one goal in a game since hitting four against Moscow Chelski FC on the opening weekend. Newcastle boss Steve Brucie (nasty to see him, to see him, nasty) had tried and failed to beat his old employers as a Premier League manager on twenty one previous occasions, but that all changed with this result. His job was under considerable scrutiny after an embarrassing  five-nil capitulation at Leicester in their previous game, but Newcastle's first home win of the campaign moves them up to sixteenth place with eight points. Brucie, managing in a Premier League game for the four hundredth time, gave a first top-flight start to Matty Longstaff and his impressive showing was rewarded with a delightful goal. Longstaff did not look out of place alongside his brother and Miguel Almirón in midfield, making more passes (thirty nine) than any team-mate and contributing in defence by winning the ball back four times. He told BBC Sport after the game: 'I think getting to play with Sean was unbelievable. We used to kick each other in the garden growing up so to be on the same team, for our hometown club, and to win against Man United, who are a good side, is a bit surreal. I found out I was in the team after training yesterday. Your belly starts to turn a bit, you get a bit nervous and then you don't sleep much. I dreamed about it last night, this is kind how it of went.' The lively Allan Saint-Maximin dragged a shot wide, Almirón - who played well - continues to seek his first goal for the club as a low shot was brilliantly blocked by Maguire and substitute Andy Carroll steered a diving header over the bar. The expression on Brucie's face at the end of the game confirmed that a week really can be a long time in football.
Odious full-of-his-own-importance slapheed Mark Lawson has written a half-way decent piece on the fiftieth anniversary of the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus for the Gruniad Morning Star which is worth a few moments of you time, dear blog reader. You can check it out, here.
And, finally, a recreation of a long lost Doctor Who episode is to be released on the official Doctor Who YouTube channel, exactly fifty four years after it was screened for the only time in the UK. Mission To The Unknown was broadcast on BBC1 on Saturday 9 October 1965. It was a prequel to the upcoming twelve part story The Dalek Masterplan and is the only Doctor Who episode in the history of the BBC's long-running family SF drama in which neither The Doctor or any of his companions are featured. The original episode was destroyed by the BBC many years ago, but the story has been faithfully recreated by a team of students, graduates and staff of the University of Central Lancashire. The new production will be premiered on the Doctor Who YouTube channel at exactly 5.50pm on the 9 October to mark the anniversary of the original broadcast. The project was masterminded by Andrew Ireland, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Digital and Creative Industries at the university and brought together a dedicated group of students from a wide range of disciplines including film and television, acting, fashion, music, design and dance to recreate the episode from the original script as authentically as possible, carefully researching and reproducing as faithfully as possible the original 1960s production techniques to re-create the look of the series. The recreation caught the imagination of several Doctor Who luminaries including Nicholas Briggs, who has provided the Dalek voices for the recreated episode and stars including Peter Purves, who played 1960s companion Steven Taylor and Edward de Souza, who played Marc Cory in the original episode, visiting the new set to lend their support. You can watch the trailer here.
Edited to add: One from the I Will Not Celebrate Meaningless Milestones column: On Sunday evening, this blogger spent three whole minutes of his life on this blog clicking 'reload' every ten seconds just so that he could capture this moment! Keith Telly Topping is, genuinely, not sure which is the saddest aspect of the situation; him caring enough to do this or the fact that there have been six million page hits on From The North across the last thirteen years. This blogger could go either way on this one, dear blog reader ... Thank you for allowing this blogger into your homes.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

"Life Is As Tedious As A Twice-Told Tale"

A slight return, dear blog reader. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's first From The North bloggerisationism update in almost a month will - by necessity - be a fairly short and matter-of-fact one. Which, this blogger assumes will come as something of a relief to those dear blog readers who often find the sheer verbosity of From The North somewhat intimidating. To briefly sum up where were at the end of August, this blogger had been and gone and got himself a (temporary) job, hadn't he? Well, the good news (especially considering that the last time he did something similar, in 2016, he lasted just over five weeks and ended up with clinical depression) is that he's still got it - or, at least, he is still working for the same company, albeit, from next week, in a different department. The work (and the environment and the colleagues that this blogger has been working with these last five weeks) have all been fine (in the case of the latter, better than fine). And - as those who have been following Keith Telly Topping's regular updates on how his employment has been progressing on his Facebook page will know - although the original three week contract, which was subsequently extended to five, has now ended, this blogger has succeeded in getting himself another gig with the same company. So, as a consequence, From The North will remain somewhat infrequently-updated for the time being whilst this blogger continues to pursue his professional commitments and, also, enjoys something of a minor revival of his - frequently missing-in-action - social life. At the same time, he has been regaling his social media fiends with regular tales of the tedium of two hours of public transport per day; how his MP3 player seems to have developed sentience and the ability to predict with uncanny accuracy what the day ahead is going to be like; shopping for new shoes; rediscovering the delights of slightly-more-expensive-than-normal Chinese takeaways; his dentistry misadventures; occasional bouts of mad insomnia; the day he thought he had lost his wallet (but, thankfully, hadn't); the Hellish roadworks at Benton Park Road roundabout; the glories of jam tarts (don't ask!) and this blogger's colleague Malcolm having an even better knowledge of British film history than Keith Telly Topping his very self. In a nutshell, this blogger has been rather enjoying life much more than he has done in quite while. To be blunt, dear blog reader, this blogger somewhat needed an (albeit short-term) return to the banality of a structured working week for the sake of not only his bank balance but, also, his mental well-being. Normal From The North service will, eventually, resume, of course. But, not just yet.
At work, this blogger's desk was, initially, sandwiched between a - very nice - younger chap called Steven who is a big sports fan, so at least this blogger could chat to him (between phone calls) about football, boxing or cycling. On the other side was Malcolm who, as noted appears to know as much, if not more about telly and (specifically) British movies than this blogger does. So, one day, Keith Telly Topping took a copy of his 2004 book on British horror movies, A Vault of Horror in to see if that impressed Mal! As this blogger predicted to his Facebook fiends in advance, Malcolm spent most of the following morning, a Sunday (between a handful of calls) reading the book cover-to-cover and occasionally tutting 'well, that's wrong!' or 'you should have included Horror Hospital!' He was, of course, absolutely correct on both occasions, it was and this blogger should have (although the mistake he spotted was, in fact, a captioning error so, it was nowt to do with the author. That's Keith Telly Topping's excuse and he is sticking to it).
So, anyway, yer actual Christopher Eccleston has been announced as a guest at the annual Gallifrey One Convention to be held in Los Angeles early next year. The appearance will see the actor attend both days of the convention, now in its thirty-first year. Big Ecc had, for many years, been reluctant to discuss his time in Doctor Who. He was cast as The Doctor when the series returned to TV in 2005, but only served for one series. However, in recent years he has been more amenable to discussing his role as The Doctor and in his recent autobiography, he paid generous tribute to the show's fans: 'Yes, I have felt bitter and yes, I have felt betrayed, but I know also that Doctor Who was the best thing that, professionally, ever happened to me, not so much a learning curve as a plunge down a well and a long climb towards the sunshine I see now. These days, I feel nothing but positive about the show, to the extent I have even started doing conventions, something I'd been wary of because I always wanted to earn my money from acting.' He also revealed how meeting his fans at conventions has 'healed' him after some difficult years. Ecc has recently released a new - and highly acclaimed - memoir I Love The Bones Of You: My Father & The Making Of Me, a gritty account of his life, his battles and his relationship with his father, who currently suffers from dementia. In the book, the actor discusses his own mental health, revealing that he has lived with eating disorders and once considered suicide. He revealed that while making Doctor Who he was suffering from anorexia. 'People love the way I look in that series, but I was very ill. The reward for that illness was the part. And therein lies the perpetuation of the whole sorry situation.' A spokesperson for the eating disorder charity, Beat, has praised the actor's courage speaking about having anorexia. Christopher, meanwhile, will be discussing the book at a forthcoming public event being held at The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays on Monday 14 October.
Recommended reading for all of those suffering with From The North withdrawal is the Gruniad's Kate Abbott's piece We Got Obama Elected! West Wing Stars Relive The Parties, Pranks & Power Games, an impressive series of interviews related to the From The North favourite and its immense impact on both television and - for a while - real-life politics in the US and beyond.
There is a fine round-up of the recent EMMY-award ceremony in Los Angeles at the BBC News website on what was a triumphant night for Fleabag and for several From The North favourites - Game Of Thrones, Killing Eve, A Very British Scandal and Chernobyl.
From The North favourite Peaky Blinders concluded its six-episode fifth series last week with a suitably apocalyptic and extraordinary finale. There is a useful round-up of several of the more positive reviews (and, one particularly whinging one from some prick of no importance at the Daily Torygraph) here which manages to, rather, damn the episode with faint praise. The Gruniad's review, by Sarah Hughes, is probably the best example of those reviewers who, essentially, got it. Also recommended is a piece by the same newspaper's Andy Welsh on the popular Birmingham period gangster drama's A-list international fandom.
And, speaking of the Gruniad Morning Star, congratulations to the paper for producing Met Chief 'Outraged' At Line Of Duty Over Corruption Portrayal in which London's most senior policewoman, seemingly, hasn't got enough to do in trying - and failing - to deal with a knife-crime epidemic and various other illegal doing in the nation's capital but, instead, wishes to revocate and become a TV critic. At the risk of sounding a bit patronising, this blogger's advice to the excellently-named Cressida Dick is simple; stick to your day job, madam and leave the reviewing of excellent TV dramas to the professionals. Or, indeed, the amateurs like this blogger.
And finally, from this much-shorter-than-usual bloggerisastionisms update, dear blog reader, From The North's TV Comedy Line Of The Week award. Which, of course, comes from the latest episode of From The North favourite Qi's Q series - Queasy Quacks - which featured From The North favourite yer actual Victoria Coren Mitchell. And her story about, during the filming of Balderdash & Piffle, explaining one potential (though, probably dubious) origin for the word 'codswallop' on-camera whilst holding a pair of rams testicles. 'We went to a butchers shop,' Victoria noted before adding that the knackers of a ram are 'enormous,' much to Claudia Whatsherface's obvious amusement. 'Can I just say this is not the direction I thought [this piece of the episode] was going to go in,' interjected a horrified Sandi Toksvig.
One last thing worth mentioning, dear blog reader, was Keith Telly Topping's absolute favourite news story of the last month, which you can read all about here. The police, of course, say that they have 'nothing to go on.' Come on, this blogger is working with limited material here ...
And, on that bombshell, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping now returns the Interweb to its recent From The North-free state. It's been emotional ...

Monday, September 02, 2019

Terrance Dicks

Less than a week ago, this blogger grandly announced that, due to him recently gaining a spot of temping, From The North would be taking a (shortish) hiatus 'unless something Earth-shattering happens.' On Monday of this week, dear blog reader, something properly Earth-shattering did.
Terrance Dicks, best known - and truly beloved - by fans for his long association with Doctor Who, has died at the age of eighty four. Terrance worked as script editor on more than one hundred and fifty episodes of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama between 1968 and 1974. He also wrote numerous episodes for the series both during that period and in the decade afterwards. Yet, he is arguably as well, if not better, known for the many Doctor Who novelisations he wrote for the Target Books imprint during the 1970s and 1980s; in the days before DVD's and videos, these were the only way for Doctor Who's growing fandom to relive old episodes of the series. Indeed, there is an entire generation or three of authors who ended up writing Doctor Who novels (and, other media) for a living - or fan-fiction as a hobby - who would probably never have picked up a pen or a typewriter or a laptop in anger if it hadn't been for Terrance Dicks, this blogger very much included. The author Jenny Colgan said that Terrance had 'helped more children (especially boys) develop a lifelong love of reading than almost anyone else who's ever lived.' This blogger's fellow Virgin Books and BBC author Daniel Blythe added: 'I probably would not be a fan or a reader without Terrance Dicks, who may well be the author whose books I have read more of than any other ... I would seek out one of his books every week at Tenterden or Maidstone library and they were my gateway to other worlds and stories I could not possibly have seen in the pre-video age. In 1993 I was lucky enough to do a Waterstones event with him and I met him a few times after that - one of Doctor Who's legends and gentlemen. He will be much missed.' Neil Gaiman also paid tribute, saying that he would have never written for Doctor Who had Dicks not shown him 'how to do it.' Mark Gatiss, another member of the Doctor Who writing family, remembered Terrance as 'a brilliant TV professional [and] a funny and generous soul.' He was also, Mark continued, 'an inspirational writer who took so many of us on unforgettable journeys into space and time.' Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who's current show runner, said Terrance had been 'responsible for some of the show's greatest moments and iconic creations. The lights of Doctor Who are dimmer tonight,' he said in a statement. 'He was one of the greatest contributors to Doctor Who's history, on screen and off. Everyone working on Doctor Who sends his family and friends our love and condolences at this difficult time.'
This blogger knew Terrance over a period of almost two decades, corresponded with him during a time when we were writing simultaneous novels for the BBC's Eighth and Past Doctor Adventures ranges and enjoyed a couple of memorable dinners with Terrance at conventions in Los Angeles. He was, always, a sweet, brilliant, influential, inspiring and delightful man, happy to give advice if asked and to offer nuggets from his vast experience in both the TV and the publishing industries. When, for example, this blogger once told Terrance that it was reading his novelisation of The Day Of The Daleks during a family holiday on the Isle of Wight in the wet, cold summer of 1974 that had made me want to be a writer in the first place, he reacted with characteristic modesty and surprise. 'You would have got there eventually, with or without me,' he said.
'The Doctor believes in good and fights evil,' Terrance once wrote in what many fans refers to as 'The Mission Statement' - a term coined by one of Terrance's great protégé's, Paul Cornell. 'Though often caught up in violent situations, he is a man of peace. He is never cruel or cowardly. In fact, to put it simply, The Doctor is a hero. That, at least, hasn't changed - and it never will.' This distillation of the character was one that then showrunner Steven Moffat (a fan of Terrance since childhood) included in the series' fiftieth anniversary episode, The Day Of The Doctor (2013) and, again, in Peter Capaldi's finale, 2017's Twice Upon A Time.
Born in East Ham, in 1935 the only son of William and Nellie Dicks, Terrance studied English at Downing College, Cambridge and, later, did two years National Service in the Royal Fusiliers. Following his discharge, he worked for five years as an advertising copywriter and wrote radio scripts for the BBC in his spare time. His breakthrough in television came when his then flatmate, Malcolm Hulke, asked for Terrance's help in scripting The Mauritius Penny, an episode of the second series of the ABC action-adventure The Avengers, for which Terrance was awarded a co-writer's credit (he had, he claimed, expected to receive nothing more than, perhaps, Hulke paying his rent for a week). His work on radio included the 1966 comedy series Joey, featuring Alfie Bass and Harry Flowers. In 1968, Terrance was hired as an assistant script editor on Doctor Who and was promoted to script editor the following year, towards the end of Patrick Troughton's tenure as The Doctor. One of his best-loved episodes was 1983's The Five Doctors, the BBC show's twentieth anniversary special but he also wrote such well-remembered stories as The War Games (Troughton's finale co-written with his friend of frequent collaborator Hulke), The Brain Of Morbius (under the pseudonym Robin Bland), Horror Of Fang Rock and State Of Decay. Terrance also worked on such shows as The Avengers (four episodes, all co-written with Hulke), the popular ATV soap Crossroads, Moonbase 3, Space: 1999 and numerous examples of the BBC's Sunday Classics Serial including The Diary Of Anne Frank, Beau Geste, The Hound Of The Baskervilles (with Tom Baker in the role of Sherlock Holmes) and a 1983 version of Jane Eyre starring Timothy Dalton. He and his close friend, Barry Letts were nominated for a BAFTA in 1987 for their adaptation of David Copperfield to go alongside the Writers' Guild of Great Britain award for Best Children's Drama series that the pair won in 1974 for the final Jon Pertwee series of Doctor Who.
Terrance Dicks was, ultimately, more than 'just another Doctor Who writer.' His stories were some of the most influential of the original series. His first credited script was The War Games - although he had already contributed uncredited material to earlier episodes in his role as script editor (most notably 1969's The Seeds Of Death featuring The Ice Warriors). Producer Derrick Sherwin had suggested the concept that The Doctor came from a race called The Time Lords. The War Games - at ten episodes, Doctor Who's second-longest serial - took that idea and successfully introduced audiences to one of the series' most popular and longest-running elements. As script editor, Terrance - together with producer Barry Letts - was one of the creators of The Doctor's arch-nemesis The Master, introduced in the Jon Pertwee story Terror Of The Autons. Dicks formed a highly productive working relationship with Letts, serving as script editor on all of Letts's five series as producer from 1970 to 1974. Both left the series at the same time as Pertwee but, not before casting the then unknown Tom Baker as his replacement. Terrance persuaded his replacement as script editor, Bob Holmes, that a tradition existed in the BBC drama department that an outgoing script editor always got to write the opening episode of his successor's reign (no such tradition, in fact, existed!) and subsequently wrote Baker's debut four-parter, Robot. His other work for Doctor Who included two stage plays, Doctor Who & The Daleks In The Seven Keys To Doomsday (1974) and Doctor Who - The Ultimate Adventure (1989). Just as importantly, the huge number of Doctor Who novelisations he wrote were instrumental in awakening a love of reading and an enduring passion for books in a generation of children in Britain and beyond.
Terrance contributed heavily to Target Books' series, writing more than sixty titles. As he explained in an interview in the documentary Built For War, he served as the unofficial editor of the Target range. In this role, he would attempt to enlist the author of the original scripts to write the novelisation whenever possible, but if they refused or had other commitments, Terrance would usually undertake the work himself. During the 1990s, Terrance contributed to Virgin Publishing's line of officially licensed original Doctor Who novels, The New Adventures, which continued the series' storyline following the TV cancellation in 1989 and he continued to write, occasionally, for the franchise after BBC Books assumed the licence in 1997.
It was through his work on Doctor Who books that Terrance became a writer of children's fiction, authoring many successful titles during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, he wrote a trilogy for Target, The Mounties, concerning a Royal Canadian Mounted Police recruit. They were followed from 1979 to 1983 by another trilogy, Star Quest. He also wrote The Baker Street Irregulars inspired by the Arthur Conan Doyle characters; the series eventually ran to ten books, the last published in 1987. In 1981, he commenced work on a series of six children's horror novels with Cry Vampire. As well as his numerous fictional works, Terrance also wrote several non-fiction books for children, including Europe United, A Riot Of Writers, Uproar In The House, A Right Royal History and The Good, The Bad & The Ghastly.
       Terrance, who lived in Hampstead, is survived by his wife of fifty five years, Elsa, their three sons, Stephen, Jonathan and Oliver and two grandchildren.
Edited to add: A fuller - and much better-written - obituary of Terrance, by Toby Hadoke for the Guardian, can be read here. And Jon Arnold's generous tribute at the We Are Cult website can be read here. And Rob Shearman's outstanding tribute on Facebook, picked up by the New Statesman which you can access here

Thursday, August 29, 2019

"A Jest's Prosperity Lies In The Ear Of Him That Hears It"

Some major, albeit, hopefully temporary, changes are afoot at Stately Telly Topping Manor which will - in the short term at least - probably affect the frequency of forthcoming From The North bloggerisationisms updates. Be not afear'd, dear blog reader. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping remains committed to your happiness and well-being. if not, necessarily, his own.
'We own the ropes, who's going to hang us now, eh?' The return of Peaky Blinders on Sunday evening has been broadly praised by critics. Set in 1929, the fifth series of the popular period gangster drama begins as the Wall Street Crash hits and Tommy Shelby is forging a career as an MP. The Daily Scum Express's Fay Watson said: 'Everything that makes Peaky so great is right back in there for fans to enjoy. From the killer soundtrack to enough cigarettes to make you feel like coughing yourself.' In her five-star review, Watson continued: 'What the episode really excels in [is] its ability to avoid the creakiness of plot that could result from its longevity. This comes into its own in one of the final scenes of the episode, where in a conversation with a journalist, Tommy rivals the menace of Al Pacino's Michael Corleone and showcases what makes the show so compelling.' Writing in the Metro, Tilly Pearce said in her four-star review: 'Peaky Blinders season five has been one of the most anticipated returns to TV for the past year, so Tommy Shelby and the gang had some high expectations to fill. Thankfully, they do - and then some. Welcome back, fellas.' She praised Cillian Murphy and his ability to 'portray a million emotions through one look" but acknowledged the performances of the rest of the cast. One of the best things about Peaky Blinders is there are no weak links - with every actor standing out in their own right within this twisted Birmingham gangster world.' Ed Power in the Independent wrote the new series had arrived 'with [a] swagger' and was 'slick, a bit superficial and absolutely gripping. It's a reminder, too, that Peaky Blinders is at its best when it sets realism to one side and spirals into a Brummie-noir fever dream. There's lots of that in the episode. As is the tradition, the show literally hits its stride when Tommy dons cap and walks in slow motion while some interesting punk rock strikes up in the background. Scenes such as this encapsulate what Peaky Blinders has become. It's a rock'n'roll riot in vintage clobber and, judged by those standards, an absolute triumph.' The BAFTA-winning Peaky Blinders is being shown on BBC1 for the first time with this new series - a move which meant another hit period drama, Poldark, had to been brought forward to an earlier slot. Peaky Blinders' move gave it its highest overnight ratings so far, pulling an average audience of 3.7 million people, peaking at four million. ITV1's new Jane Austen drama Sanditon, being shown at the same time, attracted an average overnight audience of 3.3 million, peaking at 3.6 million for its first episode. Peaky Blinders' channel hop was a point picked out by Gerard O'Donovan's four-star review in the Torygraph. 'There's no sign of Peaky Blinders softening its act yet, despite a promotion to BBC1 and, even more provocatively, to Sundays,' he said. He went on to praise the look and atmosphere of the episode, while still poking fun at one scene in particular when Tommy 'emerged from the mist on horseback against an impossibly panoramic West Midlands landscape' before picking up the phone to order a hit. Ludicrous in any other hands, but here positively mythic,' he said. He also highlighted the actresses in the show, led by Helen McCrory. 'The women ... in Peaky Blinders have power, if only by association with Tommy, the pivotal point of all their lives. And none more so than Helen McCrory's parodically sensual Polly.' Of course, some critics were determined to be contrary. Odious Jim Shelley in the Daily Scum Mail felt it was all a case of deja vu whinging 'the episode had everything you'd expect from its grand return or season debut.' But, he continued that it lacked 'a special ingredient that took it to another level the way other gang dramas like Gomorrah, Boardwalk Empire, or The Sopranos had long before they reached their fifth series. Peaky Blinders didn't take any chances with its audience or give us something we hadn't seen before.' And, jaded disappointment was the tone of Stuart Jeffries in his three-star review in the Gruniad Morning Star, a newspapers which, as previously noted, has a somewhat schizophrenic history when it comes to Peaky Blinders (from sneering to having its tongue rammed so far up the production's asshole there was no room for anyone else to get in there). Jeffries whinged that the episode was 'a poor show' but, good news for fans as 'the formula is the same. Sharp duds that reprove today's sartorial slobathon? Check. Caps that allow middle-aged chumps like me to feel ancestral connection with their great-grandads? Check. Gaudy, exploitative violence? Sure,' he sneered. 'The six-abreast Reservoir Dogs strut across cobbles, backlit by factory flames? But of course. Cillian Murphy as mob boss Tommy Shelby in existential crisis like Tony Soprano? Oh, go on then.' But Jeffries, added that 'the pleasure of watching period drama is pointing out its shortcomings.' And, showing how fekking pure dead clever you think you are to all of your Middle Class hippy Communist colleagues, obviously. By contrast, one of those colleagues - Sarah Hughes - wrote a piece on the episode that was much more positive. 'Steven Knight has always been particularly good at beginnings and this ferociously paced opening episode was one of his best yet. It set a number of storylines in play, from the effect of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 on the gang's legitimate business to Tommy’s attempts to build a political career as a man of the people-style politician. It also threw in a reminder in the brutal closing moments that the middle Shelby brother remains a killer at heart, albeit one who is no longer quite so impervious to the aftermath of his decisions.' This blogger, if you're interested, thought it was great, dear blog reader.
'May Carleton spoke about you the way I imagine one might about a party they barely remembered, where you crash the car into the dovecote and live on champagne and cocaine for three whole days - you know that kind of party?' And, if anything, Monday night's second episode - Black Cats - was even better. And, it seems Sarah at the Gruniad agrees with this blogger's assessment. Maybe, Sarah could have a word with her sneering colleague, the odious Jeffires and advise that he, you know, shut up.
Meanwhile, the unexpected appearance of Tommy's dead wife, Grace (Annabelle Wallis), in the opening episode certainly had lots of viewers talking. And, whether Grace was supposed to be an actual ghost or a grief symptom of Tommy's is not made clear in the episode, this one scene would nevertheless seem to now qualify Peaky Blinders as an example of the Telefantasy genre in much the same way as Ron Craven's interactions with his dead daughter, Emma, shoehorned Edge Of Darkness into the same column. Believe it or not, dear blog reader, there are people who care about this sort of thing. This blogger, for one! Peaky Blinders has, of course, delved perilously close to supernatural plotlines before - from the supposedly 'cursed' jewel which may (or may not) have caused Grace's death to Polly's uncannily accurate pregnancy premonitions.
The final episode of Poldark has been warmly received by critics, although some viewers whinged that they were disappointed. The fifth and final series of the period drama, which starred Aidan Turner and began in 2015, drew to a close on Monday. An average audience of 4.1 million overnight viewers tuned in to watch the episode live. That number will climb when catch-up figures are included. The show was praised by Roisin O'Connor in the Independent, who called for the drama to carry on. 'While many would argue it is about time the show concludes, Poldark's soap opera nature is precisely why it wouldn't be a poor decision to continue,' she said. 'Beneath the ruffles and wigs are stories with real heart and characters we can fall in love with again and again. Which is why you can't help but feel hope, as the show ends on Ross's last words to Demelza: "I will return."' The Gruniad Morning Star's Emine Saner said the finale was 'as gloriously hammy and cheesy as a croque monsieur.' In her review, she added: 'It has pushed me to my limits with its jumpy approach to time and ludicrous storylines and the finale nearly sent me over the edge. And yet, like that moment when Dwight Enys grabbed George as he was about to go over the Cornish clifftop in episode three, they pulled it back. Just.' The episode also received four stars from Joe Clay in The Times, who said the series 'went out with a bang. There were scenes between Ross and Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) that showed off the superb chemistry that exists between the actors,' he wrote, adding: 'Farewell for now, then, Poldark, you've been proper 'ansom.' Ally Ross in the Sun was happier to see the back of Poldark, saying his end had come 'about a series too late for his good and my own liking.' But then, nobody that actually matters gives a shite about what Ally Ross of the Sun thinks. About anything.
It has been confirmed that From The North favourite Qi will return to Beeb2 for its latest - Q - series next Friday, 6 September with an episode called Quirky featuring Loyiso Gola, Jason Manford and Wor Geet Canny Sarah Millican. The second episode of the series, Quintessential, follows a week later, with Cariad Lloyd, Holly Walsh and Josh Widdicombe. As with last year, there is no initial news as to when the extended XL editions of the these episodes will be shown. So, it looks as though the BBC have decided to ignore the pleas of most viewers who just want them to show the damn things in the same week and stop faffing about. Which is bloody annoying, frankly.
The BBC should 'cough up' and pay for TV licences for all over-seventy fives, the prime minister has sneered. It comes after the BBC announced in June that it would restrict the benefit to those in low-income households. Speaking to reporters at the G7 summit, well-known hairdo Bashing Boris Johnson said that the BBC's funding settlement had been 'conditional' on it continuing to fund the free licences - something the corporation disputes. Labour accused Bashing Boris of 'blaming the broadcaster for government policy.' The BBC hit back at Johnson, saying: 'We've reached the fairest decision we can in funding free TV licences for the poorest pensioners, while protecting BBC services. If the BBC funded all TV licences for the over-seventy fives it would mean the closure of BBC2, BBC4, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5Live and several local radio stations. It is a matter for the government if it wishes to restore funding for free licences for all over-seventy fives.' Continuing to fund the free licences would have cost seven hundred and forty five million knicker - a fifth of the BBC's entire budget - by 2022, the corporation said. The decision, meaning around 3.7 million people aged over seventy five will have to pay £154.50 for a colour TV licence from next June, sparked protests outside BBC studios. Johnson told reporters at the summit in Biarritz: 'The BBC received a settlement that was conditional upon their paying for TV licences for the over-seventy fives. They should cough up.' People aged over seventy five were granted free TV licences when Labour was in power, in 2000 which the government paid for. Maintaining it was a Conservative manifesto pledge in 2017. However, the charter agreement hammered out with Conservative ministers in 2015 saw the BBC - under huge political pressure and at suspiciously short notice - assume responsibility for funding the commitment from 2020. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'It was the government which decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over-seventy fives and Parliament gave responsibility to the BBC to make a decision on the future of the scheme. There was no guarantee that the BBC would continue to fund free licences for the over-seventy fives.' In June, the lack of culture secretary at the time the settlement was reached, the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale, said 'it was understood that this would be a possible outcome.' In the same month, the BBC insisted that cutting the salaries of their highest paid talent would not save anywhere near enough money to pay for over-seventy fives' licences. 'Even if we stopped employing every presenter earning more than one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, that would save less than twenty million,' said director of policy Clare Sumner. 'If no senior manager were paid over one hundred and fifty million pounds that would save only five million.' Limiting the scheme to households where one person receives pension credit is expected to cost the BBC around two hundred and fifty million notes million by 2022. Labour deputy leader Tommy Watson ('power to the people!') called on the government to 'stop passing the buck. This prime minister's disregard for older people is appalling,' he said. 'Because of this government's refusal to fund the concession, millions of older people will have their free TV licences scrapped next year.' And, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw - a former BBC journalist - said: 'The BBC is an independent broadcaster. It's not a branch of the Department of Work and Pensions. This was always going to happen - the BBC was stupid to accept this as part of the licence fee [settlement] but it certainly wasn't a condition of it. And, if the government wants over-seventy fives to continue to receive free licences it needs to fund it.' Some six hundred and thirty thousand people have signed a petition organised by charity Age UK, which is calling on the government to take back responsibility for funding the free licences and honour the Tories' 2017 manifesto commitment. Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: 'The BBC and the government clearly are in different places on this and it is old people who are in the middle - which we are very uncomfortable about. The government created this situation by passing responsibility for the licence fee to the BBC at the last settlement without giving them all the money to pay for it. Whether the BBC is quite as skint as it is telling everybody I can't possibly say, I'm not a media commentator. It would be sensible for the two parties to come together and draw a line and try to stop this escalating row.'
Meanwhile, Channel Four News has said that Downing Street froze it out of a planned interview at the G7 summit because of criticism of Bashing Boris Johnson by the channel's head of news, who had described him as 'a known liar' and 'a coward.' According to the editor of Channel Four News, Ben de Pear, a team of journalists had flown to Biarritz after being invited but Downing Street advisers then said that Dorothy Byrne's previously reported criticism of the prime minister - and hairdo - had 'resulted in access being denied.' He added that the programme was 'looking for clarity' after Bashing Boris was said to have suggested the lack of access was 'due to a shortage of time.' The row follows a warning last week by Byrne, Channel Four's head of news and current affairs, that politicians - including Johnson and Comrade Corbyn - were adopting the tactics of Donald Rump by declining to appear on major news programmes to subject themselves to scrutiny. In a speech at the Edinburgh television festival, she asked: 'Here is what we all need to decide: what do we do when a known liar becomes our prime minister?' The Channel Four News Twitter account claimed that a planned interview with Johnson, who spoke on Sunday to a range of media outlets including the BBC and ITV on the fringes of the summit in the French city, had been cancelled, despite the team being told to travel to the summit for the interview. 'Decision by 10 Downing Street was made following criticism from Dorothy Byrne that Mister Johnson limits access to media like Putin,' it stated. It added that Downing Street's reasons for the cancellation had varied, with one senior adviser allegedly saying that the interview was scrapped 'because of Byrne's speech.' Alleged - though anonymous and, therefore, probably fictitious - Downing Street 'sources' have, allegedly, briefed that they were 'unhappy' about the Byrne speech at the Edinburgh television festival, but 'decided not to take action.' Although what 'action' they could have taken is a question perhaps best left for another day. Mind you, all of this is according to the Gruniad Morning Star so, it is probably worth taking with an unhealthily large pinch of salt. However, the same alleged - though anonymous - 'sources' allegedly said that an interview Byrne gave to Sky News after her Edinburgh speech 'crossed the line of impartiality' for a broadcaster. Attempts were also made to 'brush off' the idea the prime minister was 'evading scrutiny,' with Downing Street pointing out that he had granted interviews to 'a range of other broadcasters.' Just not Channel Four News. Bashing Boris himself was tackled about the issue by ITV's political editor, who suggested that the prime minister had 'shot himself in the foot' in the response to Byrne's critique. Johnson sidestepped the specific issue around the Channel Four interview, insisting he had been 'speaking to lots of other media.' It was unclear which specific comments Downing Street allegedly took such umbrage against. In her interview with Sky News, Byrne said: 'That L word isn't a word that I would bandy about but I think that when we are divided the one thing that we must unite on is the central importance of truth. In the US it has started to be that a number of political figures have said that each person's truth is just a matter of their own opinion, there is no such thing as truth,' she said.
The humble Melton Mowbray pork pie is at the centre of an unlikely political dispute about British exports. Bashing Boris Johnson had claimed that pork pies are exported to Thailand and Iceland, but cannot be to the US 'due to red tape.' However the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association said that the pies were not exported to Thailand and Iceland. Downing Street insisted that such pies were exported, citing producer Walker & Son - however, the company immediately said that this was 'not correct.' Walker & Son told the BBC that it had, previously, exported 'a tiny amount' of pork pies to Singapore, but had not done so for 'at least two years' and is, now, 'entirely focused on the UK market.' When asked if the company had ever exported to any other countries, the spokeswoman said she was unsure. The topic of pork pies arose on Sunday at the G7 summit in Biarritz, when Bashing Boris was discussing a possible post-Brexit free trade deal with the US. Johnson spoke about trying to 'prise open the American market' by removing restrictions on UK exports. Offering an example of an American trade restriction, Johnson claimed: 'Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don't know, some sort of food and drug administration restriction.' Matthew O'Callaghan - who chairs the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, which represents the pies' makers - told Radio 4's Today programme that, as far as he knew, the claim was entirely wrong. Asked if Johnson was correct in his assertions, O'Callaghan replied: 'Not really. With all of these things there is a little bit of give and take. We don't actually export to Thailand or Iceland.' When pressed, O'Callaghan said: 'Not that I know of I'm afraid. It is certainly available in Iceland the shop!' O'Callaghan said that there was 'a possibility' that pies 'could' be exported frozen to the US or Australia and cooked in the country. Speaking about trading with the US, O'Callaghan said: 'A Melton Mowbray pork pie is a delicate fresh meat product so the Food and Drug Administration, like most other countries in the world, are very aware of meat products and you have to go through all the regulations to get them over there. Because of the short shelf life it is not really viable economically.' In response to O'Callaghan's comments, Downing Street continued to insist that Bashing Boris was correct when he said that Melton Mowbray pork pies are exported to Thailand and Iceland. And, therefore, that Bashing Boris knows more about pork pies than the people who make them. Although, if the lady from Channel Four is to be believed, he certainly tells plenty of them. Bashing Boris's remarks, Downing Street added, were 'based on a briefing note' from the Department for International Trade, which claimed that the company Walker & Sons exports 'small shipments' to Iceland, Thailand, Singapore and the Caribbean. It also claimed that the information 'came from a document' produced by Walker & Son. However, when contacted by the BBC, Walker & Son - which says it makes eighty per cent of all of the UK's Melton Mowbray pork pies - said it no longer exports any pork pies. 'We are entirely focused on the UK market,' a spokeswoman said. The company said it used to export a 'tiny amount' to Singapore - but had not done so 'for some time.' The BBC also spoke to the British owner of one independent retailer in Singapore, who said they previously stocked pork pies, but that their distributor 'unfortunately doesn't do them now, due purely to demand rather than restrictions.' Melton Mowbray pork pies are distinctive as they are made from uncured pork, to ensure the inside is grey in colour. The Melton Mowbray pork pie has special protected geographical status under EU rules, similar to Stilton cheese or Champagne. It means that only producers making pork pies using the traditional recipe and in the vicinity of Melton Mowbray can use the town's name. During the Tory leadership contest earlier this year, Johnson waved an Isle of Man kipper at the final hustings and claimed EU regulations require kipper suppliers to keep their products cool with ice pillows when they are delivered. However, the EU rule covers fresh fish and not smoked products, such as kippers and it is for national governments to set any rules.
Actors, writers and, you know, normal people have all criticised the Daily Torygraph columnist Charles Moore for claiming that Olivia Colman has 'a distinctly left-wing face' in remarks which suggested she was unsuitable to portray The Queen in the upcoming series of The Crown. The suggestion provoked bemusement on Twitter, with the comedian David Baddiel describing it as 'idiot columnist rhetoric' and Little Britain actor Matt Lucas saying it did not make 'the remotest sense.' Like most of the shite that the odious, hateful, full-of-his-own importance louse scum has to say. 'Speculation builds about how well Olivia Colman will succeed Claire Foy as the Queen in the coming third series of The Crown,' Moore sneered on Monday. 'Ms Colman herself has expressed anxiety on this score. There is no doubt that she is one of the best actresses of the age, but I have a doubt, too. She has a distinctly left-wing face. This is hard to describe, but easy to recognise. It is something to do with looking slightly resentful and ironic at the idea of having to play a public role which satisfies the demands of others. The real live Queen has no such face - allowing almost no difference discernible in public between the role and the person. I hasten to add that I have no idea what Olivia Colman's political views are. I just have a hunch, which I hope will be proved wrong.' What an ignorant twat. Colman, who came to prominence in comedy series Peep Show, won best actress at this year's Oscars for her performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite. She has replaced Foy to play Queen Elizabeth II during the early 1960s to early 1980s for series three and four of The Crown, which will be shown on Netflix in November. Her contemporaries derided the suggestion that she would not succeed in the role. The writer Will Black tweeted: 'To be fair though, Charles Moore looks exactly like my perception of a callous, creepy, misogynistic, embittered, out of touch, enraged, impotent and dated Tory hack. He looks like one of those pompous establishment psychopaths John Fortune played brilliantly.' Well, quite.
Despite recent comments from Kevin Lygo, ITV is giving scripted comedy on the main channel another go. The broadcaster has ordered Kate & Kolo, a six-episode studio sitcom starring Brenda Blethyn and Jimmy Akingbola. Kate & Kolo follows the titular Kate, a working-class woman who runs an old-fashioned café in a neglected seaside town and who develops a strong, if sometimes volatile, friendship with Kolo, an asylum-seeking African doctor. Well, that sounds about as funny as Love Thy Neighbour, despite the presence of From The North favourite Brenda in one of the title roles. Admittedly, comedy greats Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton have created the series and are writing the scripts. Under ITV's fifty/fifty scheme, the duo will also supervise a trainee writer. Production is expected to get underway in 2020 ahead of a premiere later that year. ITV said that further casting would be announced at a later date. 'ITV is the perfect home for Kate & Kolo, written by two of the country's top writers and with two great actors like Brenda and Jimmy, it's a wonderfully funny and sometimes touching comedy about real people coping with life at the sharp end,' claimed Jimmy Mulville, the Managing Director of Hat Trick Productions.
The BBC has handed out a pilot order to Bumps, a comedy from writers Lucy Montgomery and Rhys Thomas. Amanda Redman is to star in the lead role. The pilot has been commissioned as part of the BBC's Comedy Playhouse strand, which was most recently used to successfully pilot King Gary. Bumps follows Anita, a divorcee with two grown up kids and no stork on the horizon threatening to bring grandchildren. Anita may be in her sixties, but inside she feels twenty. She's adventurous, energetic and a bundle of fun. She wants to pack as much into life as she can whilst she still has her own joints. With the aid of an egg and sperm donor she decides to have a baby. Unbeknown to her it happens to be at the same time as her forty year old daughter, Suzanne, discovers that she is expecting her own first child. Anita hasn't really thought through the impact a baby will have on her body. Or her psyche. Or her finances. Not for a second has she considered how her decision to have a child will impact on her children. She thinks she's earned the right to do what she wants and she doesn't realise the emotional bomb she's detonated. 'Bumps brings a modern spin on the family sitcom through its lens on the mother and daughter dynamic,' said the BBC's Controller of Comedy Commissioning Shane Allen, who commissioned the pilot alongside the BBC's Director of Content Charlotte Moore. 'Rhys and Lucy have created a vibrant world of endearing characters who capture the dysfunction, frustration and love at the heart of family life.'
'Could you ask me in front of all of these people, all of these witnesses, could you please ask me: am I going to play Obi-Wan Kenobi again?' Ewan McGregor said to Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy as Star Wars fans screamed from the audience of Disney's D23 Expo. The answer, of course, was 'Yes.' It has been a long time coming. There have been rumours of an Obi-Wan spin-off for some years, originally as a movie - but when the Han Solo film prequel (2018's Solo) underperformed at the box office, it seemed Disney had put Obi-Wan on ice. However, the rumours returned when the launch of new streaming service Disney+ was announced. Could this provide a potential home for an Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series, fans wondered? It turns out that it could and Ewan McGregor, who played the character in the Star Wars prequel movies, is firmly on board. 'It's been four years of saying "well, I don't know,"' he told fans. 'Now I can say "yes, we're going to do it."' With the show now officially confirmed, we can hopefully look forward to more details soon. But, according to Kennedy, the scripts are already in the works and filming will begin next year. Disney+ also has two other Star Wars TV shows on its slate: bounty hunter series The Mandalorian and an, as yet untitled, show featuring Diego Luna's Cassian Andor before the events of Rogue One.
Could Death In Paradise's Humphrey Goodman be set for a comeback? Kris Marshall has declared he 'absolutely' wants to return to Saint Marie for a cameo and the show's executive producer is, reportedly, quite prepared for that eventuality. Marshall announced that he was leaving Death In Paradise in 2017, passing on the baton to Ardal O'Hanlon, who now leads the cast as Jack Mooney. The Daily Mirra boldly claimed that an alleged 'show insider' had, allegedly, confirmed Marshall left Death In Paradise to take over from Peter Capaldi as The Doctor in Doctor Who. Only, he hadn't. Does anyone else remember when the Daily Mirra used to be a real newspaper? No, this blogger neither, dear blog readers, he's only fifty five. Unlike his unfortunate predecessor in Death In Paradise, Richard Poole (Ben Miller), Humphrey managed to escape Saint Marie without being extremely murdered. Instead, he moved to London to be with the woman he loved. Asked if he would take up an opportunity to bring his character back for a cameo, Marshall replied: 'Absolutely.' The actor originally left Death In Paradise because it was 'no longer practical' to spend half-the-year filming in Guadeloupe. But, speaking at a press event for his upcoming Jane Austen drama Sanditon, Marshall said: 'Would I go back and do a cameo in Death In Paradise? Unequivocally yes.' In fact, Sanditon and Death In Paradise are both made by the same production company and Belinda Campbell is an executive producer on both. 'Great question. Loving this,' Campbell joked as she listened to Marshall's answer. 'My ex-boss and my current boss is over there,' the actor explained, gesturing towards Campbell. 'And so, unequivocally yes.'
Fans of Breaking Bad will only have to wait until October for the movie El Camino. Netflix teased fans with a trailer for the film and tweeted that it will be on the streaming service on 11 October. It will see Aaron Paul returning as crystal meth cook Jesse Pinkman and it has been written by the show's creator, Vince Gilligan. It is still unknown if Bryan Cranston, who played Walter White, will return for the film. Earlier this week Bob Odenkirk, who plays lawyer Saul Goodman in the series, revealed that the whole movie had already been shot. Which, if it's due to be released in six weeks time, is hardly bloody surprising. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, he that he is, himself, surprised the 'secret' of the movie's production never got out. According to Netflix, El Camino will see Jesse escape from captivity and 'come to terms with his past in order to forge some kind of future.' It is, reportedly, a sequel to the series. A prequel, Better Call Saul, has already run for four series on Netflix and a fifth is planned for next year. Aaron Paul certainly hinted to Variety magazine that he would be involved, pointing out 'in case you haven't caught up on the TV series, Walter dies, so it has to star Jesse. When it comes together I'd love to be a part of it. I would love to do it.' A bigger question is whether Bryan Cranston will return as Walter White - despite him and Aaron posting the single word 'soon' on social media in July. Bryan's Breaking Bad character might be dead in the series but he has told Entertainment Tonight, 'rigor mortis has a way of allowing that to happen. Could be in a flashback, or a flash-forward. I'm still dead, Walter White, I don't know what could happen.'
Pluto's status as a planet has, once again, been called into question after the head of NASA said that he believed the celestial body to be a planet. Speaking at the FIRST Robotics event in Oklahoma, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine placed himself firmly on one side of the Pluto debate. 'Just so you know, in my view Pluto is a planet,' he said. 'You can write that the NASA administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. I'm sticking by that, it's the way I learned it and I'm committed to it.' Pluto was declared to be a planet in 1930 after it was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. At the time it was believed to be the ninth planet from the Sun, existing on the outer edges of the solar system on the fringes of what subsequently became known as The Kuiper Belt. Its status remained unchallenged for the next sixty two years later until some other, similarly-sized, objects were discovered in the same region of space. In 2005, astronomers discovered a dwarf planet called Eris that was twenty seven per cent larger than Pluto. A year later, the International Astronomical Union laid out its official definition for what constituted a planet and Pluto was not included. Since then, it has been classified as a 'dwarf planet,' though the icy object has attracted a dedicated following of people who refuse to accept that Pluto should not be considered a planet simply because of size. In 2015 NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto made several major discoveries which added fuel to the debate. Alan Stern, the NASA scientist who led the New Horizons mission, subsequently co-authored a paper calling for Pluto to be 'reclassified.' The Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet (for they do, indeed, exist) has campaigned for Pluto's status to be upgraded. And, for what it's worth, this blogger is with them on this score since his late mother was always most keen for her son to know that size doesn't matter. 'For over seventy five years school children all over the world have learned that our solar system has nine planets,' the group's website states. 'Pluto's status as a planet has sparked the human imagination for decades. Now is not the time to downgrade Pluto's status.'
Now, dear blog reader, here's a really gorgeous picture of Hadrian's Wall at Housesteads Fort in Northumberland in the early morning light. There's no particular reason for it to be here other than the fact that this blogger's been there several times and has some very good memories of family trips to the gaff. Plus, it's pretty, isn't it?
Peter Murphy, the former singer of Bauhaus, has announced that he has made 'a full recovery' from the heart attack he suffered earlier this month. The sixty two-year-old was taken to hospital when he experienced shortness of breath before a gig in New York. He has since been in intensive care at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Murphy said after 'seeing myself go through the rigours of intensive care, I am very happy to say that I have made a full recovery.' Murphy went on to thank the medical team for their care, his colleagues for 'saving my life' and his friends and fans' for their support. 'Thanks to the superb team of doctors, specialists, nurses and care staff. I am so glad to say I am up and running again,' he said on Instagram. 'My tour manager Brian Lowe and my assistant Chantal Thomas were directly instrumental in saving my life and to whom I cannot thank enough. I also want to thank every single friend and fan who has been supporting me throughout this ordeal. I remain grateful especially to my Bauhaus bandmates.' His statement also encouraged fans to donate to the American Heart Association. Doctor Akshai Bhandary, director of the cardiac care unit at the Lenox Hill hospital, said that Murphy had 'an angioplasty operation' and received two stents to his right coronary artery. 'Since then, Mister Murphy has done excellent and is expected to make a full recovery,' Doctor Bhandary said in a statement. 'We wish Peter and his family the absolute best.' Due to his heart attack, Murphy was forced to postpone four concerts in his twelve-show residency at New York City's Le Poisson Rouge.
Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' has topped a poll of the most popular Motown songs of all time in the UK. The 1972 single beat classics by The Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and The Temptations. The list of the top one hundred Motown track songs was compiled by the Official Chart Company based on all time downloads and streams. 'I am proud to have been chosen at the top of such an incredibly talented group of artists,' said Stevie. Overall the singer-songwriter had the most songs on the list with twenty. His next most popular song was 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)', which was at five. 'Motown is one of the all-time great labels and I've been associated with it all my life. Many of the artists have been my friends and family,' said Wonder. 'I am proud to have been chosen at the top of such an incredibly talented group of artists.' The top ten includes two Jackson Five songs: 'I Want You Back' at number two and 'ABC' at number seven. Marvin Gaye and Terrell's classic 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' is at number three. The full list was unveiled on Radio 2 on Monday to celebrate sixty years of Motown Records. Craig Charles played a selection of songs from the list before Trevor Nelson presented part two of the list. Charles said: 'They are songs that have inspired, informed and entertained me for the whole of my life. From bubblegum pop to political protest and social agitation. The music from the motor city is cross generational, timeless and guaranteed to put a wiggle in your walk.' Nelson added: 'The top three are three of the most timeless songs of all time, true classics which appeal to music lovers of all ages.'
This blogger's beloved (though, tragically, unsellable) Newcastle's win at Stottingtot Hotshots last Sunday will 'hopefully shut a few people up,' says alleged 'manager' Steve Brucie (nasty to see him, to see him, nasty). Not this blogger, it won't. Keith Telly Topping still feels Brucie's appointment was a massive backward step for a club which has specialised in such nonsense over the last decade and one feel-good victory (with, admittedly, a fine performance from the players) isn't going to change that any time soon. And that the managerial abilities of Bruice (nasty to see him, to see him, nasty) are still, validly, open to question at this time. Record signing Joelinton's first-half goal was enough for The Magpies to earn their first league win of the season as reported in a previous bloggerisationisms update. Brucie (nasty to see him, to see him, nasty), who replaced Rafael Benitez this summer, has been criticised by some - for which read 'most' - fans since the start of the season. 'We have tried to quieten the storm. After two games, it's been hard to get that criticism. I hope that gives us a little a bit of time,' Brucie said. 'It is only the first win but we have seen some big performances today.' An opening-day defeat by The Arse was followed by a cowardly three-one loss to promoted side Norwich. Following the match at Carrow Road, comments about the players' warm-up by defender Paul Dummett led fans -and, parts of the media - to criticise aspects of Bruce's management, while former Newcastle striker Michael Chopra said that players 'did not know their jobs.' Speaking to Sky Sports, Brucie added: 'The only way we can respond to criticism is like that. We have had a tough week so we have had to respond in the right way and thankfully the players have. I mean, to say I "cannot even do a warm-up" is mad. I have managed nine hundred-odd games and over the years you would think there would be some sort of respect. I go back to the fact that whoever took over from Rafa Benitez was going to get the abuse. I hope that is a line in the sand.' You've got two hopes, pal. Bob Hope and no hope. Speaking of hope: 'I hope Steve Bruce can do well at Newcastle. He is a friend of mine and if there is anyone I want to achieve success at the club, it is him,' wrote Alan Shearer in a piece on the BBC Sport website. You've got two hopes as well, Big Man. 'The one-nil victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a huge result for Steve because it has been a tough start for him. He has had two poor results, including one very poor performance. This will be massive for his confidence and for the players too.' Albeit, any extended feel-good factor earned by one battling performance in the capital lasted all of but four days before Wednesday saw The Magpies defeated on penalties to Leicester City in the Carabao Cup and Bruice (nasty to see him, to see him nasty) with a face like a smacked arse in the press conference afterwards whinging about 'cruel' and 'frustrating' luck. It has all the makings of one of those seasons, dear blog reader.
But, not for Bury it doesn't. Bury have been expelled by the English Football League after a takeover bid from C&N Sporting Risk collapsed. The League One club had been given until 5pm on Tuesday to complete the deal, having been granted an extension to Friday's initial deadline. Bury have become the first team to drop out of the EFL since Maidstone's liquidation in 1992. League One will comprise twenty three clubs for the rest of the season, with only three teams to be relegated. 'When the news broke at Gigg Lane, fans instantly let out a huge cry - for help, of disbelief,' said BBC Radio Manchester's Mike Minay. EFL executive chair Debbie Jevans said that it was 'one of the darkest days' in the league's history and added: 'I understand this will be a deeply upsetting and devastating time for Bury's players, staff, supporters and the wider community.' No shit? 'There is no doubt today's news will be felt across the entire football family.' The EFL had suspended each of Bury's first six fixtures this season, requesting evidence The Shakers could pay off creditors and had the funding to make it through the campaign. In a statement at 11 o'clock on Tuesday, the league said that it had decided 'after a long and detailed discussion' to withdraw Bury's EFL membership 'with enormous regret. No-one wanted to be in this position but following repeated missed deadlines, the suspension of five league fixtures, in addition to not receiving the evidence we required in regard to financial commitments and a possible takeover not materialising; the EFL board has been forced to take the most difficult of decisions,' Jevans claimed. Bury were initially given until Midnight on Friday to either provide the required information or find a buyer to take them over. With the third-tier side effectively an hour from being thrown out of the EFL, owner Steve Dale told BBC Radio Manchester that he had sold the club and they were set to survive. That news subsequently secured them an extension over the Bank Holiday weekend to complete the deal, but C&N Sporting Risk quickly 'expressed concern' that it was still not enough time. An estimated three hundred volunteers turned up at Gigg Lane on Tuesday to help get the ground ready for Saturday's scheduled game against Doncaster Rovers, but their efforts were in vain. Reacting to news of The Shakers' expulsion, Bury North MP James Frith was critical of the EFL and claimed there was 'a lack of consistency' in how it has treated the situations at Bury and nearby Notlob - allowing The Wanderers to play games whilst under threat of expulsion but not Bury, for example. 'I'm angry. My head is in my hands. I feel Bury is the victim… and those left to pick up the pieces are the town and the community. Yes we will rise again and keep the faith but we shouldn't be at this point,' he told 5Live. 'We have to make this a moment in time for lower league football. We are just the latest victim of this. I have had clubs speak to me who are a default payment on a mortgage away from this.' Founded in 1885 and first elected to the Football League nine years later, Bury were playing in what is now known as The Championship as recently as 1999 and have twice won the FA Cup, in 1900 and 1903. No club has ever dropped out of the third tier before and The Shakers also become the first FA Cup winners to have been expelled by the League. England women's manager Phil Neville, whose mother Jill resigned as Bury's club secretary last week, described their demise as 'an absolute disgrace' on Friday. Supporters staged numerous protests in the build-up to the deadline, with former director Joy Hart handcuffing herself to a drainpipe outside their ground and a coffin reading 'RIP Bury FC 1885-?' was placed at the directors' entrance. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham also wrote to EFL chief Jevans pleading for the club to be granted more time 'given the urgency of Bury's plight.' At the end of April, Bury were celebrating promotion back to the third tier of English football, but they were already enduring a torrid time off the pitch. The club was in deep financial trouble when Dale bought it - for a quid - in December from previous owner Stewart Day, with players and staff often being paid late. A winding-up petition filed against the club was adjourned three times before eventually being dismissed by the High Court on 31 July. By then, creditors had approved a company voluntary arrangement put forward by Dale, which was proposed to help settle some of their debts. The CVA meant unsecured creditors, including HM Revenue & Customs, would be paid twenty five per cent of the monies owed - but also triggered a twelve-point deduction in the League One table under EFL rules. Furthermore, the EFL were 'unsatisfied' that Bury had given 'enough evidence of their financial viability,' leading to a string of postponed fixtures while the organisation awaited 'the clarity required.' On 9 August, The Shakers were given a fourteen-day deadline to provide the necessary information or face expulsion. The EFL had already outlined how it intended to balance the leagues if Bury were expelled: The current League One season would be completed with twenty three teams, with the number of relegation places reduced to three. Four teams will still be promoted from League Two this season, ensuring League One is rebalanced in 2020-21. Only one team will be relegated from League Two, with two to be promoted from the National League as usual. It is not yet certain what will happen to Bury Football Club, its staff and players or the stadium. Paul Wilkinson was appointed manager on 2 July, but has not taken charge of a game.
There was better news for Notlob Wanderings a day later, as their survival was secured - for the time being at least - after Football Ventures (Whites) Limited completed its protracted takeover of the club. Administrators had warned that the club could be placed into liquidation on Wednesday without a finalised takeover. That looked to have collapsed on Monday, leading to bleak warnings about the future of the one hundred and forty five-year-old club. 'I'm delighted we've finally reached a satisfactory conclusion with the sale,' said joint administrator Paul Appleton. 'I have every sympathy for the staff, players and fans who have been forced to stand by while their club was taken to the brink. I am delighted their loyalty, dedication and patience has finally been rewarded.' On Tuesday, the Football League had gave Notlob fourteen days to complete a deal or face expulsion from the competition like nearby neighbours Bury. 'At times it has been difficult to keep our counsel but we took a decision to remain on the sidelines even when further damage was being inflicted by delays outside of our control,' said a statement on behalf of Football Ventures. 'Now we are excited to begin restoring this magnificent football club to its rightful position, securing its future for the fans, the loyal club staff, and the players.' As a result of the takeover Notlob are now out of administration, with their place in the EFL no longer under threat. 'These past few months have undoubtedly been challenging and, at times, fraught - never more so in the past few days - and I would like to thank all parties for their efforts in achieving the desired outcome,' said EFL executive chair Debbie Jevans. Appleton praised one of the main creditors, the Eddie Davies Trust for being 'willing to find a compromise to save the club' during the talks - but he was critical of the club's former owner Ken Anderson whom, he claimed. was 'responsible' for the deal initially collapsing on Monday. He added that the Trust was 'determined not to allow Bolton Wanderers to suffer any longer at the hands of Ken Anderson. Sadly, Mister Anderson has used his position as a secured creditor to hamper and frustrate any deal that did not benefit him or suit his purposes,' he added, bitterly. 'Thankfully, with the assistance of the Trust and others, we were able to overcome this obstacle.' Notlob, who started the season with a twelve-point deduction, called off last week's game against Doncaster Rovers amid 'welfare concerns' for younger players, while Phil Parkinson also resigned as manager. 'At times, some of the hurdles appeared insurmountable and the frustration felt has been immense, not least by the supporters who have had to endure too many weeks of uncertainty,' added Appleton. 'Now there can be a fresh start with owners who, I believe, will run the club for the good of the supporters and the community as a whole.' Football Ventures (Whites) Limited, led by Sharon Brittan, were named as preferred bidders on 1 July by administrators David Rubin & Partners. The takeover has faced numerous hurdles since then, with the deal appearing to have collapsed completely on Saturday despite being close to completion the previous day. In a statement issued on Monday, the administrators said that if they were unable to resurrect the move, the club was 'not in a position to carry on trading' and would enter liquidation, leading to the 'inevitable loss of over one hundred and fifty jobs.' Wanderings were beaten five-nil at home by Ipswich Town on Saturday in front of just five thousand four hundred and fifty four fans - the lowest attendance for a league game at the University of Bolton Stadium in its twenty two-year history. With the majority of the club's senior players having left, they have fielded sides made up almost entirely of youth-team players in their five matches so far this campaign - including their youngest-ever side against Coventry City on 10 August. 'It's just fantastic. I was down at the stadium when the statement came through. It's what everybody has been waiting for,' said Maggie Tetlow, co-founder of the Notlob Wanderings Supporters Trust. She told Radio 5Live: '[The new owners] have got a good track record in business.' Bolton were relegated from the Premier League in 2012. Four years later their football existence was threatened as former striker Dean Holdsworth was part of a takeover at the club. Anderson took control after Holdsworth's company Sports Shield was wound up. Wanderers entered administration in May after being relegated from The Championship, before Football Ventures agreed a deal to take over the club. The deal was almost stopped after Laurence Bassini, who had bid to buy the club before administration, was awarded a court order blocking the sale on 8 August. The court order was adjourned, paving the way for the takeover to continue before it eventually collapsed. The club called off their match against Doncaster last week citing welfare concerns, having only five senior outfield players available. And, only four of them had shorts. Parkinson resigned last Thursday after three years with the club and a young side lost against Ipswich on Saturday.
Ex-Liverpool striker Dean Saunders has been very jailed for ten weeks for refusing to provide a roadside breath test. The - soon-to-be-former BT Sport pundit was stopped by police on suspicion of drink-driving in Boughton, Chester, on 10 May. Saunders, who was capped by Wales seventy five times, was slurring and had to prop himself up against his Audi when he was asked to get out of the vehicle, Chester Magistrates' Court heard. Jailing Saunders, District Judge Nicholas Sanders called him 'arrogant.' Outside court, Conor Johnstone, defending Saunders, claimed that his client would be appealing against the sentence as he 'believed it was excessive.' Saunders was refused bail and his application to appeal will be heard at the crown court at a later date, Mersey Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service confirmed. Saunders, who was sent straight to The Pokey, was 'in shock' and 'disappointed' with the sentence, his lawyer said. The former Derby County, Oxford United and Aston Villains forward told the court he had been at Chester Races and had drunk two pints. The court heard how a police patrol spotted Saunders' car 'driving at speed' and 'failing to give way at a roundabout,' causing another vehicle to brake. He was arrested for failing to provide a breath test and taken to a police station when he, again, 'refused to comply.' His lawyer suggested that the alcohol 'might' have 'interacted' with the medication he takes for injury to his knees and for his asthma. One or two people even believed him. Judge Sanders said: 'Throughout these proceedings you have shown yourself to be arrogant, thinking you are someone whose previous and current role in the public eye entitles you to be above the law. In fact the opposite is true - someone in the public eye should expect a deterrent sentence when they flout the law.' Saunders had initially denied failing to comply with a roadside breath test and failing to provide a sample at a police station, but later changed his tune and pleaded extremely guilty. He was also banned from driving for thirty months and ordered to pay court costs of six hundred and twenty notes.
People who post racist abuse on social media 'hide behind fake identities,' said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after The Scum's Marcus Rashford was targeted by numbskull bellends this week. No shit? Did you work that out for yourself, Ole? Of course they do, that's how they manage to get away with posting their hideous, repulsive views. If they did it under their own name, they'd be - rightly - arrested and up a'fore the beak for hate-crimes. Rashford was abused after missing a penalty in Saturday's shock two-one home loss to Crystal Palace. Which is sick and wrong on so many levels (although, it was a rubbish penalty). His teammate Paul Pogba was also targeted after a spot-kick miss. Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out called the abuse 'vile' and said 'decisive action' needs to be taken against those responsible. Which, indeed, it should, although finding them first might be a step in the right direction. Earlier this week, Twitter said it will 'meet any stakeholders' to show the 'proactive work' being done to tackle abuse after Pogba was targeted following a missed penalty in a one-all draw at Wolverhampton Wanderings. Several of Pogba's team-mates - including Rashford - criticised the abuse, while England women's manager Phil Neville called for footballers to 'boycott' social media.
Bologna manager Sinisa Mihajlovic made an emotional return to the dugout after being diagnosed with leukaemia just six weeks ago. The fifty-year-old Serb oversaw a draw in Bologna's opening Serie A game of the season at Hellas Verona. Mihajlovic, who has vowed to 'win this battle,' is having chemotherapy. He promised his players he would be with them for the first game and he made it after spending the previous forty one nights in hospital. According to reports in the Italian media, Mihajlovic has kept up to date with events at the club by watching live videos of training sessions from the cancer ward of the Sant'Orsola Hospital in Bologna. His appearance at the game was announced in a simple Twitter message by the club an hour before kick-off, while there were lots of messages of support - including one from Serie A rivals Napoli stating, 'Forza Sinisa Mihajlovic.' There were also chants of supports from the visiting fans when Mihajlovic, looking physically weak, came out with his team at the start of the game. The former Yugoslavia defender, who played for Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan among others, returned to Bologna in January for his second spell in charge and guided them to a tenth place finish.
England's - genuinely - remarkable one wicket win in the third test written about (at length) in From The North's last bloggerisationisms has, needless to say, taken up a lot of ink and bandwidth in the days afterwards. There might have been a crucial meeting of world leaders, Brexit and a kerfuffle about the BBC licence fee to fret about. But Ben Stokes's batting heroics have given Britain's newspapers the perfect bank holiday Monday front page. The Sun splashes on the cricket with the headline Go Urn, My Son, a fitting pun on the fact that Stokes has single-handedly kept The Ashes battle alive. BBC Sports' Stephen Shemlit went down an inevitable route, evoking the spirits of 1981 and 2005 with his article Ben Stokes Evokes Memories Of Ian Botham & Andrew Flintoff whilst the BBC's cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew felt that Headingley 2019 tops Edgbaston 2005. Interestingly, Agnew - who used to be a cricketer of some description - used his column just a day previously to declare England Waste Their Chance - It Feels Like Ashes Are Gone. Tell you what, Aggers, despite your career of two hundred odd first class games for Leicestershire (and, let us never forget, a whopping three tests for England) you, seemingly, haven't grasped the ability to tip sugar, let alone, the outcome of a cricket game. To be fair to Agnew, he was hardly alone - all manner of journalists were writing off England's chances on Saturday only to be looking like foolish fools following Ben Stokes' single-handed heroics on Sunday. Take former England captain Michael Vaughan, bemoaning in the Torygraph that You Do Not Win Tests With Players Who Love Whacking White Balls. Oh, do you bloody think so, Vaughny? His piece on Monday morning sheepishly avoided mentioning his crass defeatist whinging of a day previously and, by the end of the week he was using an interview with 5Live to talk, in almost Mystic Meg-style language about the English summer being 'written in the stars.' Jesus, some people don't half talk a right load of old crap! Nevertheless, the manner of England's astonishing and unexpected victory did bring out some extraordinarily good writing from the pres box. Take the Gruniad Morning Star's Vic Marks - one of this blogger's favourite writers - and his piece Ben Stokes Inspires England To Sensational Third Test Win. Vic's Gruniad colleague, Sam Perry, had a typical Gruniad Morning Star - albeit, perhaps for once, understandable - right good sneer during his round-up of the Australian media's coverage of the events at Headingley in Benevolence, Blame And Everything In Between: How Australia Reacted To Ashes Defeat. 'While Wikipedia was busy revising its explanation of The Ashes to "a test cricket series played between Ben Stokes and Australia," across the wide brown land there is benevolence, blame and everything in between. And it's not just cricket experts proffering reactions. The result in Leeds went to the very top (administratively speaking), with Prime Minister Scott Morrison electing to comment from the G7 Summit in Biarritz, saying he was awaiting some stick from his UK counterpart,' wrote Perry. He added: 'According to the Kübler-Ross model, denial is the first in five stages of grieving and The Australian ensured that sizeable market was catered for with its headline: Ben Stokes Was Out, So Third Test Heroics Should Not Have Counted. Close your eyes and you can just about imagine a nine-year-old child conjuring such a line after an unfavourable call in a backyard cricket game. Is that the age of Australia's collective conscience? It's hard to say, though what is more sure is the uptick in online traffic from the UK this headline will garner.' Another former England cricketer, Derek Pringle - one with a far more impressive international career than Agnew - wrote a splendid piece in the Metro: 'There are test innings which attract universal admiration and then there are those rare few that serve as monuments to the game we love and play and which become milestones in the folklore. Ben Stokes' unbeaten one hundred and thirty five against Australia at Headingley on Sunday is one of those, possibly even its finest - a bravura display of batting that went thrillingly from first to sixth gear when all but the last man had crashed around him.' In the Torygraph, where Michael Vaughan had already made himself look like a right foolish fool, both Nick Hoult and Scyld Berry wrote admirable think-pieces about, Stokes in the case of the former and the test as a whole from the latter. 'It might not have been the greatest test match,' Berry wrote, somewhat flying in the face of popular opinion being widely expressed elsewhere, 'because there have been two thousand three hundred and fifty seven of them. But Ben Stokes's match-winning and series-saving one hundred and thirty five was, unequivocally, the finest ever played for England because of the immensity of the pressure he was under.' The Independent's Jonathan Liew's Ben Stokes Resurrects England From The Ashes With Innings Of Bravery, Violence And Pure Undiluted Theatre and Matt Dickenson's Ben Stokes: True Greats Shape World Around Them in The Times and Nick Friend's When Adrenaline Dismantled Logic: Ben Stokes' Bloody-Minded Headingley Miracle are also worthy of a few moments of your time.
Specsavers look to have granted Ben Stokes' request to offer Jack Leach free glasses for life after his role in England's unlikely third test victory. While Stokes, understandably, took most of the plaudits on Sunday after his incredible innings sealed a remarkable comeback win to keep the series alive, Leach also played a vital part. The Somerset spinner only added one run in an hour as England - skittled for a measly sixty seven in their first innings - successfully chased down three hundred and fifty nine, but by getting through seventeen deliveries unscathed he provided the final platform necessary for his batting partner to flourish at the other end. Leach cleaning his spectacles became a focus of attention on social media and, after his match-winning knock, Stokes tweeted the series sponsor, Specsavers, to say: 'Do yourself [sic] a favour and give him free glasses for life.' That post commanded over nine thousand retweets and fifty six thousand likes and Specsavers responded an hour later in the affirmative.
Six people were injured after two lightning strikes at the season-ending golf Tour Championship in Atlanta. Play was suspended at 4.17pm local time because of thunderstorms in the area and at 4.45pm there were two lightning strikes close to the fifteenth green at East Lake Golf Club. A tree was hit and debris from that strike injured six people, the PGA Tour said. A statement added that the injuries 'do not appear to be life-threatening.' Organisers said paramedics tended to six fans on the course, with five were taken to hospital by ambulance. Though the identities of the injured were not revealed, speculation exists that at least one of them was called Bernie.
'Trolls' who posted 'insulting' and 'defamatory' comments about BTS have been reported to police in South Korea. Big Hit Entertainment, the company behind the pop band, says that it is 'taking action' over posts that 'exceed the reasonable and accepted boundaries of expression and personal commentary.' The firm did not go into detail about the nature of the comments. However, it has previously sued over claims of 'sajaegi' - bulk-buying CDs to inflate BTS's chart position. Earlier this summer, the company also asked for court authorisation to seize and destroy bootleg merchandise being sold outside the band's concerts. In a statement, Big Hit explained that it 'routinely monitored' social media and message boards for posts about its artists that contained 'ill-intentioned criticism, the spreading of groundless information and personal attacks.' It has also established a hotline for fans to report allegedly offensive or defamatory content. The company claims that police have already launched investigations into its complaints, adding: 'We have responded with zero tolerance against insults and defamation against our artists. We emphasise that there is, and will be, no leniency or settlement with the perpetrators of these acts.' Unlike the UK, where 'truth' is a defence against defamation charges, South Korean law allows for an individual to be punished if they make a factually-accurate statement which brings another person 'into disrepute.' Even if they really deserve it. In the wake of the Me Too movement, there have been calls for a revision of the law, which makes it particularly difficult for victims of sexual assault to speak out publicly. There is, however, no suggestion whatsoever that members of BTS have been accused of sexual assault. The 'Report Army' Twitter account, which helps BTS fans identify and report offensive content, suggests contacting Big Hit over death threats, 'trolling' and offers to sell the band's personal information. BTS, who won their first MTV Award on Monday night, are the most successful band to emerge from the K-pop scene and recently sold out two nights at Wembley Stadium. Earlier this month, however, Big Hit announced the septet were 'taking an extended period of rest and relaxation' in order to 'rest and recharge in their own personal ways.'
Love Island type person Theo Campbell says that he has lost sight in his right eye after he was hit by a champagne cork. Campbell, who appeared on the 2017 series of the ITV2 show, was on holiday in Ibiza when the accident happened. He was taken to hospital and subsequently underwent surgery. In an Instagram post, he wrote: 'Two eye surgeries later after a really unfortunate accident, I've lost all vision in my right eye as it got split in half. Who would have thought a champagne cork would be the end of me? But I still have one eye left, looking at the bright side of things.'
Jay Aston Colquhounis, a former member of Eurovision Song Contest-winning group Bucks Fizz, has been selected as a parliamentary candidate for the Brexit Party. The fifty eight-year-old will run to be an MP in the London seat of Kensington, currently held by Labour. She was announced by party leader Nigel Farage on Tuesday as one of six hundred and thirty five 'approved candidates.' 'I want to stand for the Brexit Party and fight to uphold democracy for the sake of the people,' said the singer. Who once sang about 'The Land Of Make Believe'. Just, you know, for context.
Model heads of Guy Fawkes, Oliver Cromwell and Sir Thomas More have been stolen from the front of a London tourist attraction. They were taken from the entrance of the London Bridge Experience on Saturday morning. A man was captured on CCTV using a rope to tug the figures down before walking away with Fawkes's head under his arm. The attraction is offering four hundred quid for help to find the models, saying: 'We just want our heads back.' The custom-made heads were part of a recently-installed entrance at the attraction, which tells 'the dark history of London Bridge.' The real heads of Fawkes, More and Cromwell were all thought to have previously been put on display on the bridge. After they had been cut off, obviously. In the CCTV footage, the very naughty man can be seen kicking Fawkes's head from a spike and walking away with it in his hands and the other two heads in a bag. James Kislingbury, director of the London Bridge Experience, said the thief had 'caused significant damage' to the entrance. 'We just want our heads back,' he said. No arrests have yet been made.
Emergency services were called out to an Essex seafront on Sunday after beachgoers claimed they were struggling to breathe. Police, paramedics and the fire service attended the beach at Fourth Avenue in Frinton-on-Sea, after receiving calls. The cause is unknown and is being investigated. Miriam Lansdell told the PA news agency: 'My daughter started coughing. She said "I don't feel good. It hurts to breathe in."' The mental health worker from Derbyshire said that she also had difficulty breathing as she lay on the sand drying off after a dip in the water. She added that they all began to breathe more easily when they moved further away from the beach, but took the ten-year-old girls to a walk-in clinic to be checked over by medical staff. Lansdell said that her father had been 'told by someone in a speedboat,' whom he assumed to be associated with the coastguard, that there 'might' have been a fuel spill. She said: 'My dad said he had been asked to get out of the water by a man on a boat. He asked why and the man said there had been a fuel spill. He said if anyone is having breathing difficulties they should probably call an ambulance.' She added: 'It's not what you expect when you go for a day out to the beach.' The speculation that a fuel spill might have been to blame was not confirmed by either the police or the ambulance service. One person tweeted that there were 'lots of people coughing heavily,' whilst a mother claimed that her son 'began coughing after swimming' and had to be given his inhaler. A spokeswoman for East of England Ambulance Service said: 'We are aware of an incident on Sunday 25 August with reports of a number of people suffering from coughing on the seafront off Fourth Avenue, Frinton. We are assisting the police and fire services with this incident. The cause is currently unknown.' Essex Police said that its partner agencies were 'working to try to establish the cause' as quickly as possible and advised people not to go into the sea for the time being.
The Queen is said to be 'extremely upset' after 'vandals' spray-painted a sixty foot 'tag' on a royal railway viaduct, 'ruining an iconic view of Windsor Castle.' Mind you, this according to a report in the Sun so, it's probably a load of made-up shite. The graffiti was, reportedly, painted overnight and 'ruins the view for visitors to Her Majesty's favourite home.' Oh, the tragedy. An alleged - though, suspiciously anonymous and, therefore, probably6 fictitious - royal 'source' allegedly told the newspaper: 'The Queen was extremely upset to hear that this view of Windsor Castle has been turned into such an eyesore.' And, you wouldn't like to see The Queen when she's upset, dear blog reader. 'Her aides have been asked to see what can be done to have this gratuitous vandalism cleaned up and the views across to Windsor Castle restored to their former beauty.' The graffiti artist is unknown, the newspaper adds, 'but the tag HELCH has been scrawled on many other sites in and around London including many bridges on the M4, M1 and M25.' So, that'll probably be Helch, then. Just a wild stab in the dark y'understand.
And now, dear blog reader, the From The North headline of the week award. Which, this week, goes to the Radio Today website for Radio Presenters And Journalists Among Top Jobs For Psychopaths. As someone who has done both of those jobs in his time, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping is forced to concede that, yeah, it's a fair cop.
Second prize in the same category goes to BBC News for the epic Metal Detectorists Taken Ill Eating 'Cannabis Cakes' In High Melton.
One of Stately Telly Topping's neighbours was having a barbecue over the Bank Holiday weekend, dear blog reader. And, it smelled delicious. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was not invited, however. And, he was actually quite sanguine about that. Mainly because they had the sound of 'Africa' by Toto blaring out for what seemed like two hours (it was actually only four minutes and fifty five seconds, but it appeared to be far longer). To be honest, if this blogger had been invited round to the gaff, he would have kicked the sodding stereo up a-height. So, his omission from the guest list was probably for the best for all concerned in the end. Because, dear blog reader, this blogger really hates that  sodding song!
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, actual edible living things appeared to be growing in the grounds of Stately Telly Topping Manor. This was most definitely a new development. Though, apparently, not a unique situation. 'We've had a couple of bushes appear out of nowhere,' one of this blogger's dear fiends told him. I think the garden is better prepared for Brexit than the government is.'
So, come Bank Holiday Monday, there you go, dear blog reader, whaddya reckon? £1.99 in a plastic punnet from Morrisons?
Mind you, and, if you will excuse the pun dear blog reader, a short tip: If you should ever think about taking a stroll through the palatial splendour of Stately Telly Topping Manor's manicured lawns in search of blackberries, don't do it in shorts. Just sayin'.
Gosh it was hot on Bank Holiday Monday at Stately Telly Topping Manor when this blogger did his first spot of blackberry picking since he was about twelve; and, thank goodness for the gloves, frankly. In fact, this blogger was about the only person in the area stupid enough to venture out in such oppressive heat. Except for the neighbourhood cat, obviously. Aw, kitty, this blogger knows exactly how you felt ...
So, anyway dear blog reader, as mentioned in the last bloggerisationisms update, Keith Telly Topping has gained himself some - temporary - employment. Tuesday was the final day of freedom for this blogger before the graft started but, he had a few chores to do in town - most notably visiting his employment adviser, Norma, who had arranged the interview last week to let her know that this blogger had, you know, got the gig. Remarkably, this blogger got that out of the way by 9.20am (and, unexpected bonus, got a weekly travel pass thrown in for his trouble. So that's fifteen quid which he had expected to have to cough up, saved). This blogger then had brecky at McDonald's and then, this was the bit that he thought was going to be the easiest task, wanted to pick up copies of the bus time tables for the 62, 63 and 63X which got to his new place of employment. Of course, that, ultimately, proved to be far harder than anticipated. Keith Telly Topping tried the Monument Metro station. The information desk was closed (seemingly permanently). He tried the Central Library. That didn't open till 10am. He tried the information desk in Eldon Square to see if they could advise him where he would be able to acquire what he was after. The lady there, whilst being very pleasant, in short didn't have a frigging clue! Finally this blogger wandered up to Haymarket bus station next to Marks & Spenser - with hindsight, he probably should've tried there first - and, yes, they had a rack with everything he was after on public display. This blogger then got the bus to Morrisons and, thereafter, to Aldi to pick up all of the stuff he would be needing for the next day's packed lunch. He got home, totally exhausted and wondered, loudly, God only knows what state he would be in the following evening after a full day's Captain Kirk.
The first day on the job was certainly bracing, dear blog reader! And, to be fair, not at all unpleasant. The job itself is no problem and pretty much what this blogger expected it to be (answering the phones and some basic computer work) and the company themselves seem quite decent; the commute, however, is utterly Hellish (two buses and an hour in each direction if you make the connections in time; therefore, in practice, closer to an hour-and-twenty(ish)-minutes in each direction). Keith Telly Topping is now working for the next seven days straight before he gets a couple of days off. The hours are a bit ... meh, admittedly (shifts on a rota - 11.30am starts and 8pm finishes for the next couple of days for example, though the weekend hours are a bit more civilised). The pay's pretty good, though. However, dear blog reader, expect to see not a whole Hell of a lot of From The North for at least the next couple of weeks whilst this blogger works out whether he is coming and/or going! Probably both, simultaneously.
And finally, dear blog reader, Sheila Steafel, who died this week aged eighty four, was a versatile and funny character actress with a gift for comic timing and was a regular face on British television for six decades. As well as being the female cast member on The Frost Report (1966) alongside the emerging talents of John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett she also played opposite and, in her own words, 'sometimes against' many of the leading TV comedians of the era, including Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (in Not Only ... But Also), Roy Hudd, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan and Kenny Everett. After the success of The Frost Report, a Golden Rose of Montreux winner, she was very much in demand for guest roles in comedy series. Regular parts included Ivy Watkins in the Granada sitcom How's Your Father (1974), the White Lady in all three series of Richard Carpenter's The Ghosts Of Motley Hall (1976) and the literary agent supporting debut novelist Diane Keen as she starts to overshadow Tim Brooke-Taylor in You Must Be The Husband (1987). But, while she was a great comic foil on TV, she shone as a stage performer in one-woman shows at the Edinburgh festival and London theatres. In The Late Sheila Steafel (1981), Steafel Solo (1982), Steafel XPress (1985) and Victoria Plums (1995) she delivered comic songs and monologues supplied by writers including Keith Waterhouse, Barry Cryer, David Nobbs, Andy Hamilton and Dick Vosburgh. Vocally dexterous but also a fine physical actress, she created Miss Popsy Wopsy, a klutzy ingenue - a music hall entertainer who was never, quite, on note and always just behind the beat. She performed the character in her shows and several times in The Good Old Days in the 1970s and 1980s. In person, she could deliver witticisms and deadpan put downs, making her a fine addition to panel shows like Juke Box Jury, Call My Bluff and Blankety Blank. Born in Johannesburg, Sheila was the younger of two children of Harold, a garage owner from Lancashire and his wife, Eda. Harold directed and performed in amateur productions, particularly of Gilbert and Sullivan and the young Sheila's mother was a talented pianist so her childhood was surrounded by drama and music. She also sang at the local synagogue, where both Harold and Eda were involved. Sheila was educated at Barnato Park school in the Middle-Class suburb of Berea and one year narrowly avoided being expelled for writing a risqué pantomime. At Witwatersrand University she studied fine art, but abandoned the course to travel to Britain to audition for RADA in 1953. She did a term at its preparatory academy, but was reportedly told she was 'unusual' and would probably have to wait until she was in her thirties and become a character actor. Undeterred, she enrolled instead at the Webber Douglas Academy, where she won the Margaret Rutherford award for comedy. After stints in rep in Blackpool and Lincoln, in 1959 she worked as an usherette at The Players' Theatre in Charing Cross, which presented Victorian music hall shows and eventually she plucked up the courage to ask for an audition. She passed and while there honed her comedy skills, created Popsy Wopsy and began to get noticed. Her first West End opportunity came in 1961, when she took over the role of Barbara opposite Tom Courtenay in Billy Liar, directed by Lindsay Anderson. In 1972 she played opposite Robert Morley in How The Other Half Loves at The Lyric and she was cast as a female Harpo Marx in A Day In Hollywood, A Night In The Ukraine (1979), at the insistence of Vosburgh, its writer. She won rave reviews. She was a memorably eccentric, hip-flask swigging Mistress Quickly in an RSC production of The Merry Wives Of Windsor (1985), played Meg in The Birthday Party at the Bristol Old Vic (2006) and carried on to the last performance despite needing spinal surgery when playing Mrs Brice in Funny Girl in Chichester (2008). Her films included the camp classic Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966), Hammer's Quatermass & The Pit (1967) and Bloodbath At The House Of Death (1984), with Everett and Vincent Price, co-written by Cryer. On radio she was a regular cast member of the topical comedy show Weekending for five years from 1977, was to be heard in plays and readings and performed in her own vehicles Steafel Plus (1982) and Steafel With An S (1984). In later years she made character appearances in popular TV series such as Doctors (seven different roles between 2005 and 2016) and Holby City (three between 2007 and 2016). Her CV also included appearances in Unforgotten, The Tenth Kingdom, Grange Hill, Rab C Nesbit, Minder, Bluebirds, Super Gran, Honky Tonk Heroes, Can We Get On Now, Please?, Diary Of A Nobody, Q6, The Goodies, Sykes, Tarbuck & All That!, The Tommy Cooper Hour, Some Matters Of Little Consequence, The Val Doonican Show, Z Cars, Cribbins, Oh, Brother!, The Troubleshooters, The Wednesday Play, Horne A'Plenty, The World Of Beachcomber, The Illustrated Weekly Hudd, Frankie Howerd, Danger Man, It's Dark Outside, Off Beat, The Big Noise, Sergeant Cork, Hugh & I, The Younger Generation, Kipps, No Hiding Place and the movies Never Too Young To Rock, Digby The Biggest Dog In The World, Melody, Percy, This Smashing Bird I Used To Know and Otley. In 1958 she married the actor Harry H Corbett. After their divorce in 1964 she had various relationships but never married again. She described their time together and her career in her autobiography, When Harry Met Sheila (2010), and also published a series of short anecdotal stories based on real-life encounters, Bastards (2012).