Saturday, June 02, 2012

Don't Be Told What You Want, Don't Be Told What You Need

As reported last week, Jenna-Louise Coleman has now officially joined Doctor Who; speaking on The Richard Bacon Show, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) commented on the impact that Jenna's arrival has had on the series: 'It's very exciting. When a new companion comes in it sort of reboots the show a little bit, it makes you look at The Doctor differently, it makes the show feel different, that's already happening. It's literally a new beginning, you're back to chapter one, in a way it's always a story of someone getting to know the Doctor, and now it's Jenna's character. There's a lot of ways she will be different, but I'm not telling you what they are! Jenna is just wonderful and spiky and salty and clever: again - just as Doctor Who always does - it becomes a different show, and I'm thrilled with her, everyone's going to be.' The complete interview covering subjects as diverse as Doctor Who, Sherlock, and the Kennedy assassination is available to listen to worldwide from the BBC iPlayer until next Monday afternoon. The episode currently being filmed is not Jenna's debut - that will be this year's Christmas Special (which Moffat reports is still being written and and is somewhat overdue) - but will be one of the 2013 episodes; it has been written by the very excellent Neil Cross ([Spooks], Luther), and is being directed by Jamie Payne (Ashes to Ashes, Primeval and the recent Call the Midwife). Locations filmed thus far have included the Manor House at Plas Llanmihangel, Margam Country Park and Gethin Woodland Park - the latter eliciting a comment from rock group Let It Fall, who tweeted: 'We was going to write some music in the woods, but we bumped into the Doctor Who film crew, cool ay?' Yeah, bitchin' dog, innit? As I believe the Young People all say these days. Other unconfirmed reports indicated another trip 'across the bridge' to England, possibly to Bristol's historic harbour side.

Meanwhile in other Doctor Who news this week, Sherlock writer Steve Thompson mentioned that he would be writing an episode for the forthcoming series, and commented that he needed to read the scripts of the first five episodes. With the Christmas Special known to be episode six, this would place Thompson's story in the second half of the series. Thompson, of course, also wrote last year's The Curse of the Black Spot. Mark Gatiss recently confirmed that he was also writing a story for 2013, saying that 'it's for the new companion, Jenna-Louise Coleman, that's all I can tell you or I will actually be shot!' As well as Moffat, Gatiss and Neil Cross, other writers believed to be contributing towards the eight 2013 episodes include John Fay and Tom MacRae.

Three further episodes of the new 'J' series of Qi have been filmed this last week. Jack and Jill will feature first timer Katy Brand along with series regulars David Mitchell and Sue Perkins. Jolly sees the return of Rob Brydon for the first time since 2010 along with two newcomers, Not Going Out's Tim Vine and Australian presenter, actor, singer and comedienne Julia Zemiro. Julie will also appear in another episode, Jeopardy along with Sue perkins and Ross Noble. Stephen Fry and Alan Davies, of course, will also feature in all of the episodes.

Jeremy Paxman has been criticised - not by anybody important, of course - over comments he made on the BBC's Newsnight this week likening Greece to a 'bad kebab' that was about to be 'vomited out.' Some might argue that's a pretty accurate assessment. Particularly a few German politicians. The BBC, thankfully, has refused to issue an apology for the comment, claiming that it was in keeping with Paxman's 'provocative style and use of humour.' In a discussion with guests about the Greek economy on Wednesday night's programme, Paxman said: 'So the rest of the Eurozone now contemplates something we were being told wasn't conceivable recently, that, like a bad kebab, Greece is vomited out of the single European currency.' Appearing live from Athens during the debate, Greek minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou responded: 'Can I take issue with your "bad kebab" analogy, which I find offensive. The Greek economy is in a crisis and the Greek people are going through a lot, and deserve some respect, and I really did not find that very appropriate.' Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, also appearing on the programme, shared the minister's disapproval. 'I think that was, actually, quite inappropriate, to say that the Greeks have done something terribly wrong,' Krugman said. The BBC confirmed that it had received - an unspecified number of - whinges about Paxman's comment, but ruled out taking further action. 'Regular Newsnight viewers will be aware of Jeremy's provocative style and use of humour,' a spokesman told the Daily Torygraph. 'The comment was firmly in that tradition. The guests responded to the comment within the debate, which quickly moved on to a wider analysis of the situation.' Last October, the European Commission demanded an 'unqualified apology' from the BBC over what it claimed was the 'disgraceful' treatment of one of its spokesmen by Paxman on Newsnight. It didn't get one.

BBC2 has reportedly pushed the second season of newsroom drama The Hour back to the Autumn. The Hour was expected to return to BBC2 later this month although the corporation had yet to officially name a date for its return. Broadcast now reports the BBC has decided to delay the drama's return to avoid a clash with the Olympics which will start in July. BBC2 appears to believe the clash would cost The Hour ratings. The Hour was the first BBC2 drama to be commissioned for a second season in over a decade. The drama is set in a 1950s newsroom during the early days of television journalism and stars Dominic West, Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai and Anna Chancellor. The Hour was created by Abi Morgan and the first series was set against the backdrop of the Suez Canal crisis. The second will reportedly cover the 1958 Notting Hill Riots.

The Matt Lucas Awards has been recommissioned for a second run. No, this blogger doesn't know why either.
News International could be facing more than five hundred civil claims for damages from alleged victims of Scum of the World phone-hacking, the high court has heard. At a case management conference at the high court in London on Friday, Mr Justice Vos also ordered News International to 'preserve' the company iPhones of two - unnamed - senior executives and their e-mail contents. It is understood the request for access to the iPhone e-mails is related to allegations of concealment over phone-hacking and would not necessarily point to evidence of hacking beyond the time when Glenn Mulcaire was jailed. 'This could be very significant,' an alleged 'source' told the Gruniad. The case management conference was called to discuss budgets for the second tranche of civil claims against News International and heard that the company believes it could face up to five hundred and twenty claims in total. There are currently forty nine individuals who are suing the company including Cherie Blair, David Beckham's father Ted and Wayne Rooney. Three new names have been added to the list since the last case management conference at the end of April. Professor John Tulloch, who was just three feet from Mohammad Sidique Khan when he detonated his rucksack explosives at Edgware Road tube station in the 7/7 bombings, submitted his claim two weeks ago, as did Hannah Pawlby, aide to former home secretary Charles Clarke. A third new claim was submitted last week by Lewis Sproston, the boyfriend of murdered model Sally Anne Bowman. Friday's order made by Vos adds a fresh layer of intrigue to the phone-hacking saga as iPhones were not available in the UK until November 2007, nine months after Scum of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for phone-hacking. 'There is evidence suggesting that senior executives at News International which have company iPhones which were heavily used during the period. Our primary concern is the preservation of these iPhones and the e-mail accounts that relate to them,' David Sherborne, counsel for phone-hacking victims, told a case management conference on Friday. News International, which had already agreed to preserve the Apple smartphones for examination, said it did not know yet what was on the iPhones belonging to the two senior executives, who were not named in court. 'It has not been established yet what these materials are, whether they exist, whether they are relevant. This in the investigations stage,' said Michael Silverleaf, QC for News International. Vos again issued strong advice to alleged phone-hacking victims to go to one of the twelve to fifteen law firms that have now accumulated experience of the litigation to keep costs down for all sides. He heard there were currently sixty nine law firms with potential claimants with twelve with victims who have issued claims. Vos has repeatedly said that victims have the right to legal representation but they are not entitled to go to a solicitor who has no experience of phone-hacking litigation and charge News International for time spent on catching up. He agreed a seven thousand smackers fee per case but said that this would be reduced when common costs were taken into account. The court heard that it would be 'erroneous' to multiply five hundred and twenty cases by seven grand to come up with a total bill for legal fees because part of that amount would be divided by each law firm's number of clients.

Labour is set to force a vote in the Commons over the conduct of the beleaguered lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, after a defiant David Cameron insisted that his friend had handled News Corporation's bid for BSkyB fairly. The prime minister backed the vile and odious rascal Hunt despite a day of gruelling evidence at the Leveson inquiry in which it was disclosed that the lack of culture secretary had repeatedly contacted James Murdoch the small about the bid. Labour's deputy leader, Mad Hattie Harman, said the party would call a vote in the House of Commons on whether the vile and odious rascal Hunt's actions should be referred to the independent investigator on the ministerial code. Within minutes of the vile and odious rascal Hunt finishing six hours of evidence, No 10 announced that Cameron would not be referring the vile and odious rascal Hunt's handling of the BSkyB bid to his independent adviser on the ministerial code, a decision branded as 'disgraceful' by Harman. She told BBC Breakfast on Friday morning that the vile and odious rascal Hunt had 'clearly' breached the rules, insisting there was 'no evidence' to the contrary. 'He has broken the ministerial code and it obviously, as far as David Cameron is concerned, is perfectly acceptable for his secretary of state to break the rules but actually the ministerial code is important,' she said. 'It is not acceptable to us that these rules should have been broken and we are going to call a vote on it in the House of Commons.' She added: 'The ministerial code is what is supposed to govern the way secretaries of state behave, and when David Cameron came into power he said it was very important indeed. He was going to have higher standards in public office and he upgraded the code. Now he has just torn it up.' The Liberal Democrats said it was 'a matter for the prime minister alone to decide how to handle issues of discipline concerning Conservative ministers.' The Leveson inquiry heard on Thursday that on 21 December 2010, hours before taking responsibility for the takeover, the vile and odious rascal Hunt texted the News International chairman, James Murdoch the small, to congratulate him that the European commission did not object on competition grounds. The vile and odious rascal Hunt texted: 'Great and congrats on Brussels, just Ofcom to go!' Even after receiving authority over the bid process, the vile and odious rascal Hunt remained in contact with Murdoch the small via text, receiving one message on 3 March, just after the lack of culture secretary had publicly announced he was 'minded' to approve the bid, that said: 'Big few days. Well played.' Two minutes later, the vile and odious rascal Hunt replied: 'Thanks think we got right solution!' The vile and odious rascal Hunt conceded he had seen a successful takeover as vital to the future of British media, but claimed he had set aside this belief in deciding whether to grant the takeover. It now seems likely, thanks to the lack of interest from his boss, that the vile and odious rascal Hunt's job is safe - at least until a late summer reshuffle. But, his authority in the media industry has been severely damaged. Among many revelations, it was disclosed he considered resigning – admitting he was 'shocked' when he learned of the volume of the communications between News Corp and his special 'rogue' adviser Adam Smith. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said the language sometimes used by his adviser in a series of text messages had been 'inappropriate.' But, he suggested that News Corp besieged Smith and claimed that the 'barrage ended up pushing him into certain situations and language that wasn't appropriate.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt told the inquiry he had accepted Smith's resignation with an incredibly heavy heart, and for two days personally thought Smith had no reason to quit. On hearing leaked remarks by business secretary Vince Cable disparaging News International, the vile and odious rascal Hunt texted George Osborne, the chancellor, saying: 'Seriously worried we are going to screw this up.' He also e-mailed his concerns to Andy Coulson, the No 10 director of communications. Four hours later, he was appointed by Cameron as the impartial judge of the takeover, along with other media issues transferred from Cable's department. Commenting on the decision, Osborne texted the lack of culture secretary: 'Hope you like the solution!' In what was a taxing opening ninety minutes of the hearing, the vile and odious rascal Hunt also confirmed that he had 'circumvented' official advice he should not meet James Murdoch the small to discuss the bid by instead talking to him on a mobile phone to 'hear out his concerns' and 'basically hear what he had to say about what was on his mind at that time.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt admitted he had been wrong to attempt to set up a meeting between himself, the prime minister, Nick Clegg and Cable to discuss the wider implications of the News Corp bid. He said that he was 'frustrated' following complaints from News Corp about Cable's handling of the issue, and wrote to Cameron on 12 December seeking a meeting. The vile and odious rascal Hunt conceded: 'I now realise that it would not have been possible for Vince Cable to attend such a meeting and he would have been advised not to attend such a meeting.' Downing Street said in a statement: 'As the permanent secretary of the department [Jonathan Stephens] made clear, Jeremy Hunt set up a process which left him with a "vanishingly small" chance to "manipulate" the bid for "political or other ends." There are some lessons to be learned from this process and that's why the cabinet secretary has already written to all departments regarding the way quasi-judicial decisions are taken.' The statement added that the prime minister would not be referring the vile and odious rascal Hunt to Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser on the ministerial code. Allan has no powers of his own to initiate an investigation. The vile and odious rascal Hunt asserted at Leveson that at the time he did not have a full understanding of what a quasi-judicial decision involved. He was also forced to disclose that, unusually, he communicates exclusively via private e-mail. He said that in future he would not meet media executives without officials being present taking notes. The vile and odious rascal Hunt conceded that he had been 'more than sympathetic' to the BSkyB bid as lack of culture secretary, saying: 'I didn't think there was a major plurality issue with this acquisition."' Criticising the way Cable was handling the bid, he told Lord Justice Leveson: 'We're a party that believes in the free market, in supporting enterprising companies, in government bureaucracy not getting in the way of companies that want to expand and backing people who take risks, and I think that I felt that the approach the government was taking felt inconsistent with that.' He said that he saw 'this bid and the potential of the bid as an opportunity to help modernise the industry so that it could carry on playing [a] free and vibrant role.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt argued that once he was given quasi-judicial responsibility for the bid he was able not to wipe his mind clear of his previous views, but to 'set them aside.' He had repeatedly taken decisions in relation to the bid that infuriated the Murdoch empire, including referring the undertakings on BSkyB editorial independence offered by News Corp to Ofcom, the media regulator.

Jon Plowman, one of the UK's most experienced TV comedy producers, has warned that there can be no sustained 'golden age' for the genre, despite Sky, ITV and Channel Four ramping up their commissions, unless writers are paid more. The former head of BBC comedy, whose producer credits include Absolutely Fabulous, French & Saunders, The Office, The League of Gentlemen and The Thick of It, said that the rate for writers working for the corporation, both new and relatively experienced, is about six thousand quid per half-hour episode. Plowman now works for the BBC as a freelance, producing shows including Twenty Twelve and Roger and Val Have Just Got It. 'Rates for writers are not terrible but they are by no means great for those starting out, six thousand pounds per episode or thirty six thousand pounds per series. If, like John Cleese writing Fawlty Towers, you take three months per episode, and if like him you write with someone else, that is one thousand pounds a month,' he said. 'The commissioning process may take a while. It's not all BAFTAs and Bacardi breezers.' Isn't it? Shit, I'm in a wrong job. On one level the outlook for UK TV comedy writers is brighter than at any time for at least a decade, with several commercial broadcasters increasing their commissioning in the genre. Sky1 has broadcast and re-ordered nine sitcoms and comedy dramas in the past year, and some, such as the current Sunday night Starlings, are eight hour-long series. ITV has recently created a half hour slot on Thursdays for new family oriented sitcoms and Channel Four is also expanding its commissions, in the belief viewers want light relief during the recession. Experts estimate UK production has doubled compared to five years ago. However, Plowman has reservations. 'A golden age maybe for the amount of output. But not if you are a writer struggling in a garret. Even when a show has been commissioned and broadcast, writing the next one is hard because you will be anything but rich,' he said. 'We have to look at supply and demand. Writers worry about creating big mainstream shows mostly because it is bloody difficult, possibly the most difficult thing to do in television. Creating an off-mainstream show is difficult too, and in either case we need writers with real passion.' Plowman added that the industry is going to take time to adjust to the greater demand for TV comedy. The obvious solution is that increased competition means pay rates will have to go up. The BBC's head of comedy, Cheryl Taylor has also said that the corporation is looking at fast tracking recommissions. Plowman remains to be convinced. 'Where does the money come from if you are the BBC? In a way part of it is, if you have lots of short runs, as we do here, you need lots of writers. I am asking how we encourage new writers when they face abject poverty.' He added that one quite well-known comedy writer he deals with regularly has trouble paying his mortgage, without the stability of regular income.

Michael McIntyre has joined the anti-The Voice brigade. He claims that so few people are watching the BBC1 talent show that he has had to scrap jokes about it on his nationwide tour because the audience doesn't care. The Daily Lies reports that he got a few chuckles at the beginning, the novelty swivelling chairs were good for a gag or two, but 'now no one is watching on TV' his live audiences 'don't laugh at the jokes.' Of course, the most recent consolidated ratings for The Voice show that it's still pulling in between five and six million viewers each week. More than the average episode of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, for a kick-off. McIntyre reckons to pull the ratings back up producers will have to 'think outside the box and persuade Holly Willoughby's breasts to sing a duet' to save this series. And as for series two? Given that Planet Earth Live beat The Voice on one ratings battle, McIntyre suggests: 'The BBC should combine the two and and just film badgers having sex in revolving chairs. I'd watch.' Yeah. I reckon you probably would, pal.

The latest recruit to the Dragons' Den panel, Hilary Devey, is leaving the BBC show for her own Channel Four series. The millionaire businesswoman will appear in one more series of Dragons' Den, as the investors look to discover the latest budding entrepreneurs. Devey's new Channel Four programme, The Intern, will see her attempt to secure internships for candidates in large companies. Sort of The Apprentice, only cheaper. It is understood the BBC could not compete with Channel Four's salary offer. Devey, who previously appeared on The Secret Millionaire, joined Dragons' Den to replace James Caan, who left to pursue his business interests and charity work. She made her fortune in freight haulage, launching her own company in 1996 and building it up into a highly successful firm. She joined the Dragons' panel in 2011, sitting alongside Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis as they attempt to uncover and financially back 'the next big thing.' A spokeswoman for the BBC said: 'Hilary has been a formidable Dragon in the Den and we're sorry to see her go. It is believed Channel Four tempted Devey with a financial package the BBC could not compete with, as it continues to cut costs following the licence-fee agreement. Well, somebody has to pay for those shoulder pads.

Long Lost Family has been renewed for a third run, according to presenter Nicky Campbell. Campbell, who co-hosts the family reunion show with Davina McCall, tweeted: 'Long Lost Family recommissioned for series three. The work begins.' Production company Wall to Wall's chief executive Alex Graham supported Campbell's statement, adding: 'Long Lost Family ends its run with strong numbers. See you on series three.' Though ITV could not confirm that more episodes have been ordered, the broadcaster has been advertising for contestants to apply for next year, with auditions taking place between 1 April and 31 May 2013, suggesting the third run will play out in the autumn. Long Lost Family, which ended its second series this week, has been in decent ratings form for the last seven Thursday nights - never falling once below four million viewers. The programme's first run was broadcast in April 2011 to similarly solid audience figures. Wall to Wall also produces BBC1's successful family history format Who Do You Think You Are?, which began in 2004 and has now been sold to several countries from the US to Norway.

The boyfriend of a woman found dead in a lake in Bedford has won a libel action against police who appeared to claim in a press release that he had 'probably' killed her. Amilton Bento, was awarded one hundred and twenty five thousand smackers damages and costs at the High Court after suing Bedfordshire Police. Kamila Garsztka, was found dead in Priory Lake, in January 2006. Bento's conviction for her murder was quashed on appeal in February 2009, but the police later issued a statement implying that he had escaped justice. Bento was cleared after judges agreed that expert interpretation of CCTV pictures during his trial in 2007 had been 'unsatisfactory.' During the trial, the jury was told the footage showed Garsztka had been carrying a bag close to Priory Lake, shortly before she died. The bag was later found at Bento's flat in Rutland Road, Bedford. But after the BBC's Newsnight programme commissioned independent analysis of the pictures by forensic experts in the UK and US, it was established Garsztka had not been carrying the bag at all. It was 'merely a shadow on the film.' Bento's conviction was quashed, in July 2009, and the Crown Prosecution Service decided to drop plans for his retrial and formally acquit him. The CPS decision prompted Bedfordshire police to issue a press release, which has now been deemed libellous by Mr Justice Bean. During the libel hearing Richard Rampton QC, for Bedfordshire Police, said his clients aimed to prove Bento 'probably killed Kamila, and that this was either murder or manslaughter.' Rampton told the High Court the force's press release was 'justified' in view of anticipated public criticism of their investigation and because it was covered by qualified privilege. However Mr Justice Bean, who heard the case without a jury, was told its content suggested Bento was guilty of murder and had wrongly escaped justice. Hugh Tomlinson QC, Bento's counsel, told Mr Justice Bean his client had last seen Garsztka one morning in December 2005, when he left for work from his flat, where she had stayed the night. She was then captured on the CCTV cameras at Priory Lake that evening. 'There was no evidence that [Bento] was anywhere near the lake that night,' Tomlinson said. Garsztka's body was later recovered from the lake after being spotted by young people having a canoe lesson, but post-mortem tests were inconclusive as to the cause of her death. The libel hearing was also told there was no evidence Bento, a man of good character, had ever been violent to anybody or had any motive to attack or kill Garsztka. Tomlinson also said he did not accept the police's reason for issuing their press release. Bean agreed and rejected the police defences of justification and qualified privilege. In a statement, Bedfordshire Police said they accepted the judgement and their insurers would pay the damages and Bento's court costs. Not that they could really have done much else without landing themselves in even more bother. Quite why any police force feels it has the right to pass comment on any decision by a court is another matter entirely. That's not your job, gentlemen.

The switch-hit has been declared a legitimate shot by an International Cricket Council committee. Further guidance from the Marylebone Cricket Club will be requested so laws can be worked out for all levels. England batsman Kevin Pietersen first unveiled the shot, in which the right-hander switches his stance and grip to hit as a left-handed batsman. An ICC statement said: 'The committee decided to make no change to the current regulations.' Pietersen was warned by umpires on day three of the second Test against Sri Lanka in April for time wasting, because bowler Tillakaratne Dilshan chose not to release the ball when he saw the batsman shape to play the switch-hit. There will be further consultation with players and match officials before the MCC reports back to the ICC. The ICC statement added: 'In May 2009, the ICC Cricket Committee endorsed an MCC view that the switch-hit was an exciting shot, which offered the bowlers a good chance of taking a wicket and thus one which should remain a legitimate part of the game. With the more frequent and skilful use of the switch hit, the committee again considered the matter from the perspective of retaining a fair balance between bat and ball.' In its annual meeting at Lord's, the ICC committee also heard that a prototype sensor has been developed, which can be worn during matches and is capable of producing data that indicates whether a bowler's elbow straightens as they deliver the ball. The rules state any bowler cannot straighten an arm more than fifteen degrees when releasing the ball. The ICC also decided to keep the infamous Duckworth/Lewis method - used for calculating revised targets in weather-affected matches - rather than opt for the proposed VJD method, and reaffirmed its support for the Decision Review System. Proposals to abolish the bowling powerplay in one-day internationals, and allow two bouncers per over, are set to be ratified by the full ICC board in June.

The Olympic flame took a ferry 'cross the Mersey to Liverpool at the end of day fourteen of the torch relay. Iraq war veteran Craig Lundberg carried the flame off the boat from Birkenhead before lighting the cauldron at the evening celebration in the city. It followed a tour of North West England, from Bolton, through Lancashire and on to Merseyside. The flame has visited Aintree, home of the Grand National race meeting and Knowsley Safari Park where torchbearer Jane Campbell fed a giraffe as she completed her leg in Prescot. Olympic track cycling champion Chris Boardman MBE and former Spice Girl Mel C were among the day's one hundred and fifty seven torchbearers. First up was swimmer Antony Evitts, sixteen, from Bolton, who attends Canon Slade School, won the Bolton Sport and Physical Activity Award for Sports Achiever of the Year in 2010. He is hoping to represent Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Among the Olympians carrying the torch were cyclist Boardman, born in Hoylake, who won the individual pursuit at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and kick-started Great Britain's resurgence of interest in cycling. And Olympian Earnest Mike Hatcliff, seventy eight, carried the torch through Horwich. The former swimmer represented Great Britain at the 1956 Games and in 1971 he started his own School of Swimming in Lytham St Annes. He estimates he taught around forty two thousand children to swim. Norman Wells, ninety one, ran with the torch through Ormskirk. In 1946 he was a key founder of the Liverpool Trojans baseball club and in 2011 he won the Sefton Sport Lifetime Acheivement award. On the journey from Bolton to Liverpool the flame travelled through Horwich, Chorley, Euxton, Croston, Burscough, Ormskirk, Southport, Ainsdale and Formby. Then it was taken to Crosby where torchbearers carried it to Antony Gormley's Another Place. It then visited St Helens and Knowsley Safari Park and headed to Huyton, yer actual Knotty Ash (yes, it is a real place!) and Old Swan on its way back to Liverpool. Just before lunch, the flame made a stop at Aintree Racecourse where it was taken through the grandstands and out on to the racecourse, accompanied by this year's Grand National winner Neptune Collonges. Later in the day it took the tunnel under the Mersey to Birkenhead before going back to Liverpool, via the famous ferry that Gerry Marsden sang about. There was an evening celebration on Liverpool's waterfront at Pier Head where an estimated ten thousand people attended. The celebration featured a homecoming performance from band The Wombats.

Astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope to work out when precisely our Milky Way Galaxy will crash into its neighbour, Andromeda. The pair are being pulled together by their mutual gravity and the scientists expect them to begin to merge in about four billion years' time. A further two billion years on and they will appear as a single entity. Our Sun's position will be disturbed but the star and its planets will be in little danger of being destroyed. But then, according to Maxwell's Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy will eventually increase meaning that the universe is gradually slowing down and will, eventually, collapse inwardly on itself when all its thermal and mechanical functions fail. Thus rendering all human endeavours entirely pointless. Just to put everything into some form of context. Viewed from Earth, however, the night sky should look fairly spectacular. That is assuming, of course, that a human species is still around billions of years into the future to look upwards. 'Today, the Andromeda Galaxy appears to us on the sky as a small fuzzy object that was first seen by ancient astronomers more than one thousand years ago,' said lead researcher Roeland van der Marel from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, US. 'Few things fascinate humans more than to know what our cosmic destiny and future fate will be. The fact that we can predict that this small fuzzy object will one day come to engulf and enshroud our Sun and Solar System is a truly remarkable and fascinating finding.' It has long been known that the two galaxies have been heading in the general direction of each other. They are separated by about two and a half million light-years, but are converging at something like two hundred and fifty thousand miles per hour. Which is faster than even the Bugatti Veyron can manage with Clarkson behind the wheel. The new Hubble data provides fresh insight on when and how a union is likely to unfold. This is possible because the orbiting observatory has measured in finer detail than ever before the motions of select regions of Andromeda, also frequently referred to by its catalogue name M31. 'It's necessary to know not only how Andromeda is moving in our direction but also what its sideways motion is, because that will determine whether Andromeda will miss us at a distance or whether it might be heading straight for us,' explained Dr van der Marel. 'Astronomers have tried to measure the sideways motion for over a century. However, this was always unsuccessful because the available techniques were not sufficient to perform the measurement. For the very first time, we've been able to measure the sideways motion - in astronomy, also known as roper motion - of the Andromeda Galaxy using the unique observational capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope.' Computer simulations based on Hubble's data indicate the two great masses of stars will eventually shape themselves into a single elliptical galaxy similar to the kind commonly seen in the local Universe. However, although the galaxies will plough into each other, individual stars will not collide because the space between them will still be huge. Nonetheless, the gravitational disturbance will shift the location of our Solar System, the researchers believe. It is likely also that the merger will kick-off a vigorous phase of new star formation as gas clouds are perturbed and collapse in on themselves. And the supermassive black holes at the centres of the galaxies will become one. In addition, from their observations, the scientists say it is quite possible Andromeda's small companion, the Triangulum Galaxy, or M33, will join in the group hug as well. Whether anyone will be around to witness these events is an open question. In four billion years' time, our star will be running low on its nuclear fuel and will have begun to swell, says Dr van der Marel. 'Due to the natural evolution of the Sun, it will get slightly hotter over time and a few billion years from now it will have got sufficiently hot to make life [on Earth] as we know it impossible,' he told reporters. 'But since we are talking billions of years into the future, I personally do not think that means our civilisation will not be there. For example, if we find a smart way to use solar energy and turn it into air conditioning, we may still be able to live on this planet.'

Falling sheep hit vehicles in the Australian city of Melbourne after a lorry carrying livestock overturned on a flyover. As the truck carrying four hundred sheep hung precariously, its cargo plunged onto the road below. Several cars were smashed as they were hit by the falling animals or swerved to avoid them. Many sheep were killed or injured, but Melbourne police said that there were no human casualties. So, that's all right then. Police say that the lorry was travelling to the town of Geelong when the accident occurred on the flyover above the Princess Freeway. The cause of the incident is still being determined. 'This is quite an unusual event,' Allan Eade, a paramedic, told the Associated Press news agency. 'First of all we looked up and we could see the truck flip on its side and the next minute we were underneath and well yeah it rained sheep,' passenger Christey Davis also told AP.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Jubilee weekend. Now, it should be noted at this point, dear blog reader, that yer actual Keith Telly Topping isn't the world's biggest fan of our royal family in the good old UK. I mean, I don't want anything nasty to happen to any of them - no violent revolutions round our way - and there's even one or two of them whom I quite admire, as people. But, as we enter the second decade of the Twenty First Century I, personally, think it's a farce that just because a thousand years ago a few Norman invaders slaughtered their way to 'ownership' of a land by killing a bunch of syphilitic Saxon peasants that descendant of one of the branches of the same family still enjoy wealth and privilege from birth instead of going out and earning it like normal people. Just, you know, something to pop into your toaster and see if it pops up brown. So, anyway, whilst most of the rest of the country will be brown-tonguing the Windsor-Mountbatten-Saxe-Coburg's for the next few days just like it was 1977 (or, indeed, 1066) all over again with their street parties and bunting and watching Jessie J at Buck House, yer actual Keith Telly Topping will not. His own 'tribute' to Her Maj is contained in the three following songs, which I share with you now. This one
This one
And, of course, this one

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