Monday, December 05, 2011

Holier Than Thou (Christmas, A-Well-A-Well-A-Well-A, Christmas)

We start off today's From The North bloggerisationisms with the single greatest bit of TV news since Mr Logie Baird thought 'I know, I'll put moving pictures on that box in the corner of the front room, that'll be good for a laugh.' Risible odious waste-of-space greed-monsters (and drags) grumpy faceache Adrian Chiles and The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley have presented their final edition of Daybreak. After being sacked. Requested to leave the premises and never darken their door again. Made redundant. Handed their P45. Given their cards. Let go. Become surplus to requirements. Pointed in the direction of the Job Centre. And lo, the church bells are ringing, street parties have been organised and there is unbridled joy throughout the land. ITV recently confirmed that the thoroughly unlikable, traitorous and over-paid duo - who defected from the BBC in a blaze of publicity and a shower of cash last year - would leave the struggling breakfast show 'to focus on their peak-time projects.' Although that wasn't the real reason they got the tin-tacked, dear blog reader. Oh, no. Not even close. The real reason was because the show was crap and it was all down to them two. Ahead of hosting alongside grumpy Chiles for the final time this morning, The Curiously Orange Bleakley tweeted: 'Morning all, what lovely messages this morning for my last 3am wake up all [sic].' And again, but this time in English please? 'As some of you will know, this is our last show,' Chiles told viewers. Which indicates he believed some of them didn't know. Ah, bless. Deluded and in denial to the last, Ade.
'As a leaving present, I'm taking my funny animal clips clipboard with me. We would just like to say thank you to the rest of the on-air team.' Chiles continued: 'I'm off to concentrate on the football and Christine is being put on ice so to speak. Good luck have a great Christmas. Bye for now,' while Bleakley concluded: 'That is just about it from us, good luck, have a great Christmas. Bye bye.' Good riddance to bad rubbish, frankly. Tony Blackburn and Chris Tarrant were among the guests on the duo's final edition of Daybreak. Bit of a comedown from the opening episode when they had Tony Blair!

The BBC have released the first teaser trailer for the upcoming new series of Sherlock, which is due to begin in early January. And, it rocks the shack!
Series Two of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss's critically acclaimed modernisation of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories will include three ninety-minute episodes - A Scandal In Belgravia, The Hounds Of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall - and will see the return of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson, Rupert Graves as Inspector Lestrade, Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson and co-creator Mark Gatiss as Mycroft. The trailer features scenes from A Scandal in Belgravia and gives viewers their first look at Lara Pulver's much-anticipated take on Irene Alder. Another guest star, Being Human's Russell Tovey recently told the CultBox website that The Hounds Of Baskerville is 'big-time scary' and features 'a completely modern twist.' Andrew Scott will also reprise his role as Moriarty.

If you've been having a gander at this year's Christmas TV schedules, dear blog reader, and you've got yourself into that Daily Scum Mail-style 'it's not as good as it used to be' frame of mind - and, let's face it, we all do it from time to time - then this website might confirm your suspicions. Or, it might shatter some long-held illusions and slay some previously unslayable sacred cows in the area. Take, for instance, the legendary 1976 Morecambe & Wise Show. How shocking it is to find out that it was followed on BBC1 that night by the movie Airport(!) and that it had opposition from a clip show on BBC2 (Forty Years of Television) and The John Curry Ice Spectacular on ITV. It's not a bit of wonder it got ninety seven million viewers!

BBC3 controller Zai Bennett - the glake who cancelled Ideal - has denied press reports claiming that a Christmas edition of Doctor Who Confidential has been filmed but would not be broadcast. Doctor Who Confidential was cancelled by Bennett earlier this year after six seasons on BBC3 giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at the making of individual Doctor Who episodes. The axe prompted a campaign by fans to save the series with thousands signing an online petition. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping didn't as I reckoned Confidential had, pretty much, run its course. I realise it's vastly annoying to find oneself agreeing with pretty much anything Zai Bennett has to say for himself but then, dear blog reader it's worth remembering that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Yes, that is a line of dialogue from a Peter Davison Doctor Who episode - what do you want, originality? From me? Last week a report in the ever-reliable tabloid newspaper the Sun claimed that a Christmas edition of Confidential had already been filmed but would not be broadcast. The newspapers report was based entirely on an article in the Doctor Who Magazine in which Confidential's producer Gillane Seaborne whinged: 'The biggest regret is the episode of Confidential we've filmed for this year's Doctor Who Christmas special which now won't be shown. So I guess in the fine traditions of Doctor Who, we now have our very own missing episode.' However, a BBC source subsequently told the tabloid: 'This is the first we have heard of it. We're being told there is no Christmas show.' Bennett denied that there is any such episode of Confidential. The controller was appearing on BBC1's series Points of View when he addressed the press reports. He stated 'That's absolute nonsense, there is no finished programme sitting on a shelf. That show, however, was made for lots of different people, so for DVD and for BBC Worldwide, and there was some footage, which was about ten minutes, which will end up going online - but there's definitely not a finished show.' Bennett's comments came after a question about the cancellation of Confidential from a viewer to which the BBC3 controller replied 'Doctor Who Confidential was a brilliant series that we made six series of. It's a show about the making of another show - Doctor Who - and there are only so many ways explaining how a show is made, and in these straightened times when BBC3 is actually cutting its budget we have to prioritise the shows that we think are most important to our viewers. Doctor Who Confidential was a great show, but after six series we think that it had a very good go explaining how to make Doctor Who.' Can't really argue with that. Unlike the cancellation of Ideal, you numskull.

Meanwhile, the BBC have released an introduction to year's Doctor Who Christmas special from showrunner Steven Moffat. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe will be broadcast at 7pm on Christmas Day on BBC1 and, for the first time in five years, it'll be up against something other than Emmerdale. Moffat's introduction reads as follows: 'The Doctor at Christmas - it always just feels so right. When I was a kid, Santa and The Doctor somehow lived in the same place in my head - two generous madmen that I loved so much. So now that The Doctor is a regular feature of Christmas the world is just that bit more right. This time we're in England in the 1940s, and recently widowed Madge Arwell hasn't told her children, Lily and Cyril, that their father has died flying his bomber home over the channel, because she doesn't want Christmas to become the day that broke their hearts. But when they're evacuated to a draughty old house in Dorset for the holidays, and meet a mysterious young caretaker in a bow tie, events take an unexpected turn. What could be inside that big blue parcel under the tree? Soon the Arwells find themselves in a battle for survival in a magical new land. As ever, at this time of year, The Doctor is trying to make things right, and as always it doesn't go according to plan. But maybe he's reckoned without the power of a determined mother. This Christmas, it might just be the lonely Time Lord who's shown the way home.' Ooo ... is it nearly Christmas yet?
Eddie Izzard has revealed that he became such a master of walking on one leg that he can almost run. The actor and comedian - who in 2009 completed forty three marathons in fifty one days for Sport Relief - stars as Long John Silver in Sky's new two-part new adaptation of Treasure Island and had to train to play the peg-legged pirate. Eddie revealed: 'The whole one leg thing, that was tricky, because you know if you have one leg now you have two handles and two crutches, so you can get around. This is one stick and no handle, getting that right was really hard. I can go forwards and backwards on it. I can even do a fast walky-run for the chase scenes. And yes, I have kept the crutch.' The forty nine-year-old stand-up enjoys a challenge after perfecting his French to perform seventy one gigs in France. Next year he plans to do stand-up in Berlin, Moscow, Cairo and Madrid, all in their respective mother-tongues. He admitted: 'Those will all be pinnacles to climb. My Spanish is - there's not much there, but I could probably get it. Russian will be tough, Arabic will be tough, German I did two years ago so I can.'
News International appears to be pulling out all the stops to fight off Glenn Mulcaire's demand that the company should continue to pay his legal fees. It has recruited a QC, Alain Choo Choy, who is variously described as 'a heavyweight', 'massively intelligent', 'thorough', 'an exceptionally clear analyst' and the 'first port of call for many of the City's leading solicitors.' News International is defending a breach of contract action brought by Mulcaire, the private investigator who served a jail term in 2007 after admitting that he hacked phones on behalf of the Scum of the World. The now-defunct disgraced and disgraceful tabloid's publishers withdrew funding from Mulcaire after two of its senior executives - chairman James Murdoch and the former chief executive Rebekah Brooks - were pressured by a Commons select committee to concede that News International was still paying his fees. It had previously agreed to underwrite costs involved in fighting cases brought in connection with the hacking scandal. After the company announced in July that it had terminated its arrangement 'with immediate effect' Mulcaire responded by launching a case for breach of contract. His solicitor, Sarah Webb, argued that News International was 'legally liable' to indemnify Mulcaire for a high court appeal in which he sought to avoid answering questions that could incriminate him. (That appeal was heard last week and judgement was reserved.) In October, Murdoch wrote to the Commons media and culture select committee to say that the company would pay any damages awarded against Mulcaire in instances where it is proved that was instructed to hack phones by Scum of the World staff. The breach of contract case is due to begin next week. Mulcaire is seeking a guarantee that News International will indemnify all legal costs relating to the hacking claims. Choo Choy will not have it all his own way. Mulcaire's counsel, Ben Williams, has received much praise for his costs litigation work. He has been called 'mesmerising' and 'a quick-witted, brave and eloquent advocate who continually impresses with his general brilliance.' Book your seats in the front row now.

It is a common whinge from comedians of a certain vintage – now seventy one-year-old David Jason has joined the chorus of criticism against 'modern comedy' (whatever the hell that means) for its 'bad language and offensiveness.' The Only Fools And Horses star said: 'The trouble is now we have stand-up comedians who have forgotten about innuendo. In music hall days, and especially at the BBC, you were never allowed swear words so they came up with brilliant wheezes in Beyond Our Ken, The Goon Show and Round The Horne — "Hello, I'm Jules and this is my friend Sandy." Everyone knew what it was about and the audience filled in the gaps. Today they push down the barriers. Take the F word. It's become commonplace. Language has implications and it's offensive if it's meant to denigrate something or someone. Only Fools had nothing unpleasant, really.' But, Jason did admit that writer John Sullivan slipped Del Boy's insult 'dipstick' past unsuspecting BBC executives, saying: 'Had they known the Cockney rhyming slang [prick], they might have taken it out.' Sir David's comments come in an interview with the Christmas edition of the Radio Times, to promote his first new sitcom for the BBC for twenty years, The Royal Bodyguard. Which, sad to say and, in modern parlance, looks shit. He said: 'It's a lovely piece of fun. Okay, being an old fart, it's for viewers who want something safe as well. The most important thing for me is I can sit back and watch it with my ten-year-old daughter Sophie without thinking, "Whoops, why did they say that? Oh, blimey" — and then unable to get to the "Off" knob fast enough. There wasn't much on the telly the other night so with Sophie and her friend we watched Laurel and Hardy, made in the 1930s, and these kids laughed like drains. That's humour — doing what funny people have done since comedy began without being edgy and pushing boundaries.' 'Safe' - now there's a word you want to hear when describing a comedy, isn't it?

The BBC have released a set of promotional photos of The Fades' Iain de Caestecker in their new drama Young James Herriot, which begins on BBC1 later this month. Also starring Amy Manson (Outcasts), Gary Lewis (Billy Elliot) and the great Tony Curran (Vincent in Doctor Who), the three-part series was filmed in Glasgow this summer and follows the adventures of James Herriot in his early years as a student vet at Glasgow Veterinary College in the 1930s.
Gary Barlow joined the so-called 'media supergroup' No Expectations, featuring ITV's Peter Fincham and Tim Hincks of Big Brother producer Endemol, at a charity fundraising gig at a 'hot and sweaty' Ginglik Club in Shepherds Bush last week. Harry Hill and Vernon Kay also joined the band on-stage at the concert which raised two and half grand for Great Ormond Street. But the facilities weren't entirely what the Take That songwriter and The X Factor judge is used to. Barlow, who sang 'Back in the USSR' and 'Hey Jude' alongside Fincham (keyboards) and Hincks (guitar), had to hide in the gents' toilet at the end of the gig to avoid 'the baying mob.' This is all according the Gruniad, mind, so it's probably a load of old cock.

Strictly Come Dancing's Robbie Savage has 'hit back' at 'shocking' claims that he attempted to exploit the death of his friend Gary Speed during his run on the BBC celebrity dance competition. Savage, who exited the contest this weekend after performing a tribute to the late Wales manager, said that his critics should 'have more sympathy' for Speed's loved ones. Err ... I don't think it's them they were criticising, Robbie. Rather it was you. Not that I agree with 'em, necessarily but if you're going to defend yourself then do it properly and don't use other people. 'It was hard as you have to concentrate on dancing,' he told the Sun. 'But comments on Twitter like "Robbie's only doing it for sympathy" were ridiculous, shocking. I don't want pity but I lost one of my closest friends. They should have sympathy with Gary's family. It's a huge loss to me but more importantly to his lovely wife, two great kids and adoring father, who travelled the world to watch us play. Gary was a family man, he was an icon. He had everything. I just hope now that everybody lets his family mourn and lets Gary rest in peace because that's what he deserves. It's the end for Gary, but his family have got to live through this for the rest of their lives.' Savage also said that he was thankful to have Speed's support throughout Strictly and would always remember his appearance at a live show several weeks ago. 'I didn't think he would come but he was there in the front row,' he recalled. 'He phoned me every single week. He loved the show. He was on the phone to me as soon as he heard I was doing it. He said, "Go for it! Show people your true personality." My lasting memory of Gary is high-fiving him in the front row at Strictly with a smile on his face.'

It may be that chief creative officer Jay Hunt's new mantra of 'naughtiness' is already being misunderstood at Channel Four. The Gruniad Morning Star - taking a brief moment off from their eight (count 'em) Jeremy Clarkson stories over the last three days, claims that Mary Portas's next project for Channel Four will see her trying to 'revive British knicker-making' – the working title, they allege, is Mary's Bottom Line. I say. 'Jamie Does Aphrodisiacs, Hugh's Huge Treats and Ramsay's Bedroom Nightmares will no doubt be along shortly,' said some Gruniad lice trying - and failing - to be funny. So, no change there, then.

Christmas means many things, of course, dear blog reader: Stockings, mince pies, fat men coming down the chimney and the awkward aftermath of office Christmas parties. Then there's massive indigestion, boredom, family arguments and a vague feeling of spiritual emptiness. But more important than all of those - obviously - has to be the Christmas television, and one of the most-anticipated shows this year is the Downton Abbey Christmas special. If you want a sneaky peek at what's coming up in the episode, you are in luck.
'Let's shoot some poor people and set the dogs on them.' You can tell this was written by Lord Snooty himself, can't you?

Ah, but here's something that'll have Lord Snooty thrashing his butler like a good 'un, no doubt. Downton Abbey has been 'rebuked' by the media regulator Ofcom over a series of sponsorship credits for the insurance firm Aviva that contained advertising messages. The launch of the second series of Downton Abbey in September was accompanied by sponsorship from Aviva Income Protection, involving a narrative 'mini-drama' inspired by actual experiences of people who had claimed on their insurance. A series of short clips showed around the advertising breaks during Downton Abbey dramatised the motorbike accident of a character called Gary, including his recovery after he found himself unable to return to work and forced to re-train for a different career. At one stage Gary was talking to his wife while reading a document. He said: 'It's my insurance policy. I think I'm still covered if I do that course!' Well, that;s about as subtle as a brick. Ofcom launched an investigation of the credits because strict rules stipulate that programme sponsorship 'must not encourage the purchase or rental of the products or services of the sponsor or a third party.' Which does, of course, make one wonder why any business would, therefore, want to sponsor a TV programme if they're not going to get anything out of it. It's called capitalism, guys, get used to it. Channel TV, the Channel Islands broadcaster which was acquired by ITV in October, complies Downton Abbey on behalf of the ITV Network. Channel TV tried to argue that the mini-drama idents were intended to create a 'thematic link' between the ITV Drama being broadcast and Aviva. Ofcom described this as 'a load of old bollocks. They're clearly adverts trying to sell viewers insurance, are you on drugs, or what?' Or something. It claimed that Aviva's sponsorship of ITV drama was the 'primary message' of the credit, and said that it was not possible to see any Aviva branding on Gary's 'insurance policy.' However, Ofcom said that the majority of viewers 'would have assumed that the character was reading his Aviva Income Protection policy, irrespective of the absence of any visible Aviva branding or information on the documents. Ofcom judged that the line, "It's my insurance policy. I think I'm still covered if I do that course!" promoted a benefit of the sponsor's Income Protection policy, because it conveyed the message that under an Aviva policy, you can undertake a training course and still receive income protection,' said the watchdog. 'Ofcom noted Channel TV's argument that, because most insurance companies' income protection policies offer the same benefit, this was a brief description of the sponsor's product rather than an advertising message. However, Ofcom did not agree. Irrespective of whether the benefit is unique to Aviva's Income Protection policy or shared with its competitors' products, the reference to it in this credit nevertheless promoted a specific benefit of the sponsor's product which, in Ofcom's view, amounted to an advertising message.' Some viewers complained that the launch episode of Downton Abbey was marred by Aviva's sponsorship idents and an excess of advertising. While acknowledging the viewers' concerns, the show's executive producer Gareth Neame later claimed that without the adverts and sponsorship, Downton Abbey 'wouldn't exist.' A ludicrous suggestion given that it's one of ITV's highest-rated shows. Last month, Sky Sports was also criticised by Ofcom over sponsorship credits for its international cricket coverage that constituted advertising for the performance of Jaguar cars.

Jessie J has apparently accidentally revealed the other panelists to appear on The Voice UK. The singer, who was announced as the first coach on the upcoming singing competition in October, claimed that the musicians would sit beside herself and will.i.am on the panel in a new interview with the Daily Lies. 'The Voice is going to be amazing. I'm shitting myself. But in a good way. I can't wait to meet Tom Jones. He's Tom Jones, after all,' Jessie J said. 'I've never met Will Young before either, so that will be cool. I'm a big fan of them all, which is a good job because it would be horrible if I didn't like any of them.' So, that'll be Tom Jones and Will Young, then? Okay. The twenty three-year-old continued: 'I've met will.i.am briefly and can't wait to get started. I'm really happy that I'm the only girl on the panel.' It is not yet know what punishment Ms J will received from the BBC for such rank and arrant glakery although, tragically, a spanking is probably out of the question. And, whilst we're about it hang on. Is there any 'good way' to be shitting oneself? Answers on a - dirty - postcard. The Voice will debut on BBC1 in early 2012. Jessie J previously promised that The Voice won't turn contestants 'into laughing stocks' in the way that, she claimed, shows such as The X Factor do 'for entertainment value.'

Jeremy Paxman may hold the UK all-comers' record for asking the same question the most times (twelve, in that infamous interview with a particularly truculent Michael Howard), but his colleague the thoroughly obnoxious Emily Maitlis perhaps achieved a feat of her own in this week's Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook. Asked by Maitlis - in her usual 'look at me, I'm it' way - about the way pressing a 'like' button can mean you're part of an advert without giving permission, Facebook's Elliot Schrage spent a horrible twenty five seconds (broken only by 'let's pause' and 'that's a profound, um...') in thought before coming up with some blah to answer her. Bizarrely, Schrage is no luckless programmer Mailes grabbed out of the office but is actually Zuckerberg's head of public policy. Or maybe, by now, that should already be ex-head of public policy.

Arch rivals Sheikh Yer Man City FC and The Scum will face each other in the tie of the FA Cup third round in January. The Scum will make the short trip across Manchester to the Etihad Stadium looking to avenge October's 6-1 drubbing at the hands of City. Elsewhere, The Arse meet Dirty Leeds, Bristol Rovers will host Aston Villains whilst in-form Stottingtot Hotshots face the might of Cheltenham Town. Non-league Tamworth are rewarded for reaching the third round by having to travel to Everton, Wrexham face Brighton and Fleetwood will play Blackpool if they beat Yeovil in a second round replay. The clash of the Manchester giants is the obvious stand out tie of the draw - with the teams currently sitting first and second, respectively in the Premier League. The neighbours met in the FA Cup semi-finals last season at Wembley with Roberto Mancini's side winning 1-0 to reach their first final in thirty years. They triumphed 1-0 against Stoke. The clubs have only met once in the FA Cup at Manchester City's home ground - back in 1954-55 when City won 2-0. The tie was one of only two all-Premier League affairs to emerge from Sunday's draw, with yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Magpies hosting Blackburn Rovers in the other at St James Park. Or, whatever Ashley and his chimp are calling it that particular week. Moscow Chelski FC's manager Andre Villas-Boas's first taste of the FA Cup will come at home to Championship side Portsmouth, who won the FA Cup in 2008. Martin O'Neill's first FA Cup tie in charge of relegation-haunted Blunderland will come at another Championship club Peterborough, while Stoke's manager Tony Pulis returns to one of his former clubs, League Two Gillingham. Peterborough director of football Barry Fry said: 'I am absolutely delighted, it is a great draw. It should be a sell-out and with Martin O'Neill going there it gives us half a chance of being on TV.' The Thieving Scouse Schleps must await the outcome of the second-round replay between Southend and Oldham to discover their opponents. Neil Warnock's Queen's Park Strangers face a tricky-looking visit to Milton Keynes where the Dons are pushing for a promotion to the Championship next season. Blue Square Bet Premier Tamworth will be happy with a lucrative trip to Premier League Everton while Wrexham's reward for a stunning 1-0 win at League One Brentford is a tie against Brighton & Hove Albino. Nottingham Forest will host Leicester in a no-love-lost East Midlands derby and Birmingham and Wolverhampton Wanderlust meet at St Andrew's in an equally-no-love-lost West Midlands derby. Derby, meanwhile, play Crystal Palace. Which isn't an anything derby. There is definitely one all-London tie after Poor Bloody Fulham Haven't Got A Chance and Charlton Not-Very-Athletic were paired together. Notlob face the winners of the Chelmsford versus Macclesfield tie.

Two giant pandas have arrived in Edinburgh, after a nine-hour journey from China. Which, of course, allowed the Gruniad to use a headline it had been saving for a rainy day - Eats Shoots and Arrives. All right, even yer actual Keith Telly Topping his Gruniad-hating grumpy self cracked a smile at that. The specially-chartered flight for Edinburgh Zoo's new residents, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, touched down just after 13:00. The pair are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for seventeen years. The pandas arrived to wintry conditions in Edinburgh with temperatures of about three degrees, having left temperatures of ten degrees at Chengdu Airport. BBC Scotland correspondent Colin Blane said: 'I have been told the male panda, Yang Guang, is very fond of a roll around in the snow. The conditions should be to his liking.' He said the pandas had very different characters. 'The female is more coy and shy, whereas the male is more outgoing,' he said. 'Neither is aggressive, they're both easy going - eating and sleeping a lot of the time.' Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Edinburgh's Lord Provost George Grubb, and the Chinese Charge d'Affaires were at the airport to meet the pandas. Tian Tian was first to be taken off the 777 aircraft, the FedEx Panda Express, in her specially-designed crate with perspex sides. The female panda and Yang Guang were then loaded onto a lorry for the fifteen-minute trip to the zoo. FedEx Express said the pair had 'enjoyed' in-flight meals of bamboo, apples, carrots, a special panda cake and mineral water. They were accompanied by a vet and two animal handlers from Edinburgh Zoo and the Bifengxia Panda Base. Messages and artwork by more than one thousand Chinese children, wishing Tian Tian and Yang Guang good luck in their new home, were sent with the pair. Crowds gathered at the zoo to welcome the pandas as they arrived. Tian Tian, meaning 'sweetie', and Yang Guang, meaning 'sunshine', will have two weeks to settle in to their new enclosure before going on display to the public. The pandas' new two hundred and fifty thousand smacker home at the zoo includes two separate enclosures. When Tian Tian comes into season the pair will be introduced to each other - possibly in February or March. Tian Tian has had twin cubs in the past, and Yang Guang has also fathered cubs.

The start of Switzerland's ski season has been delayed by a shortage of snow across the Alps. The country has experienced its driest autumn on record, meaning many slopes have yet to receive any snowfall, the BBC reports. The largest resorts such as Davos and St Moritz have used snow cannons to open in time for the traditional start of the season, while many other slopes remain closed. BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes said the news is worrying for Swiss tourism, which has already taken a hit from the strong Swiss franc, which makes a skiing trip to Switzerland more expensive than going to France, Italy and Austria. Snow was spotted in some parts of the Swiss Alps on Saturday, although experts said it wasn't enough to mark the beginning of the ski season. Ski resorts in neighbouring countries have also suffered from a lack of snow. One hotel in Austria's Katschberg mountains has apparently hired fifteen chimney sweeps - good luck symbols in the country - to 'pray' for snow. 'We're confident things will go well now,' the hotel's manager Wolfgang Hinteregger said. Shortly before being taken away to the loony bin.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, he's a veritable Christmas cracker from yer actual Frankie Goes To Hollywood. If you've got the single, get it out and play the b-side, it's effing hilarious!
Tomorrow on From The North, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping will be starting to use Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day for his patented Twenty Two Days of Christmas Countdown. (Yes, I know that'll mean it ends on the 27 December, that's actually deliberate!) In the spirit of the late, great John Peel, however, I can confirm that this will, definitely, be a Greg Lake-free zone. And you can hold me to that, dear blog reader.

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