Saturday, August 04, 2012

Week Thirty Three: The Boat That I Row Won't Get Me There Soon

At some stage towards the end of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, whilst Britain was pulling in its best collective medal haul in a century, Australia, by contrast, were having one of their worst Olympics for some time. Although, interestingly, nowhere near as bad as the one they're currently having this year. But, we'll come back to that. Someone in the Australian media - and nobody seems certain exactly who it was that actually said it - is widely reported to have noted that Britain only ever seemed to win medals in events in which you 'sit down.' As though, in some way, that relegated those to second-class status as sporting achievements. It might, to an extent, have been true - Britons do, undeniably, have the odd problem tripping over hurdles now and then, for instance - although it was still a hell of an insult to all of the world class Aussie cyclists, rowers, riders, yachtsmen and women, et cetera. Is Anna Meares, one of the best track cyclists the world has ever seen, 'only' an exponent of a second-class 'sitting down' sport, for example, cobber? Anyway, this blogger mentions that little bit of rank and utter glakery, not only because the Aussies are, currently, having a ruddy wretched time (winning but one gold medal so far) but also because, on so-called 'Super Saturday' of the London 2012 Olympiad, Britain yet again, excelled in a couple of the sitting down sports. And in a couple of standing up ones as well. And one of the 'jumping into a sandpit' type affairs. Britain claimed six gold medals and a silver on Day Eight to enjoy their most successful single day at an Olympics - at least, in terms of gold medals won - in one hundred and four years. Saturday's stunning series of successes keep the host nation third in the medals table with fourteen golds, behind the United States and China. Britain has now won twenty eight medals overall, having also taken seven silvers and eight bronzes. First up were two rowing gold medals in a matter of twenty minutes around lunchtime at Eton Dorney. The men's coxless four (careful) triumphed, before the women's lightweight double sculls also came home in front, roared on by a highly enthusiastic crowd. The men's lightweight double sculls then finished second following a restart after one of their seats broke. The men's four - Andy Triggs-Hodge, Pete Reed, Andy Gregory and Tom James - led from the start, as did Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland in the women's lightweight sculls. Britain was aiming for its fourth successive victory in the coxless four. Only twice previously have a national crew managed such a feat - Britain between 1908 and 1932 and East Germany between 1968 and 1980. Reed, Triggs-Hodge and James won their second Olympic gold medal after their success in Beijing, but it was the first for Gregory. Copeland and Hosking became the third female British boat to win a gold medal at the London 2012 regatta - before this event, no British woman had ever won an Olympic title. Zak Purchase and Mark Hunter needed a restart but were just edged out by Denmark in the re-run in the double sculls. In rowing, Britain have won four golds, two silvers and three bronzes - a new record for an Olympic regatta. From there, we moved to another 'sitting down' sport, cycling - something which Britain is really pretty decent at these days, dear blog reader. You might have noticed. We've got on our bikes and ridden, as it were. Britain's third gold of the day came from the woman's pursuit team of Dani King, Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell. Who, for the sixth race in a row, broke their own world record to secure gold. USA got the silver, and Canada the bronze. Again the Velodrome was packed to the rafters (including yer actual Sir Paul McCartney loaning the voice that once screamed 'Long Tall Sally' to that of the masses in acclaiming the girls' quite outrageous peddling). As yer actual Jake Humphreys noted on the Beeb, it seems that Britain's 'love affair with cycling' just keeps on continuing. 'If these cyclists go any faster they are going to need parachutes to slow them down,' said Chris Broadman, the man whose 1992 gold in Barcelona kick-started the stunning revival in British track and road cycling. Also at the Velodrome, Jason Kenny set a new Olympic record in qualifying for the men's individual sprint which will take place on Sunday. But, it wasn't all 'sitting down' stuff, dear blog reader. Oh no. In the Olympic Stadium, one of London 2012's three 'poster girls' did what Victoria Pendelton did, and Rebecca Adlington couldn't manage. She beat the world. Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon in a truly breathtaking performance over two days of competition. In one of the most iconic moments of the games so far, the woman long anointed as The Golden Girl of 2012 handled the pressure and fulfilled her destiny with a series of brilliant personal bests that left her rivals helpless and trailing in the dust. Jess had dominated the heptathlon from the start, leading her rivals after the four events on day one. She then effectively clinched gold with strong performances in the long jump and javelin on day two, before rounding off victory in the eight hundred metres. Having set three personal bests in the first six events, Ennis was in relentless mood in a two-lap coronation that brought the eighty thousand people present to a deafening crescendo. McCartney had somehow managed to blag his way into this one as well. Bloody Beatles, they get here, there and everywhere. Jess went off hard, led at the bell and was overtaken by Tatyana Chernova on the back straight only to kick on and storm down the home straight to victory. Twelve years on from Denise Lewis's heptathlon gold in Sydney, the Sheffield-born athlete somehow handled the enormous weight of expectation placed upon her slender shoulders to produce her best ever competition when it mattered most. Her time of 2:08.65 meant that she broke her own British record for the event with six thousand nine hundred and fifty five points. If that gold was one that the stadium crowd were expecting, then Greg Rutherford's victory in the long jump (the first British gold medallist in the event since Lynn Davies in 1964) was something that came from completely out of left field. The Milton Keynes athlete produced a series of impressive jumps, including the winning eight metres and thirty one. 'He took the competition by the scruff of the neck,' noted Steve Cram. Just at the point when it seemed it couldn't possibly get any better, it did. Magic Mo Farah produced one of the great ten thousand metre performances of all time to win Britain's third track and field gold in less than an hour. In the tennis, Andy Murray, who is already through to the men's singles final, also reached the mixed doubles final with his partner, the teenage Laura Robson. They beat Germany's Christopher Kas and Sabine Lisicki in the last match on Court One at Wimbledon. Meanwhile, back on the athletics track, defending champion Usain Bolt looked awesome as he reached the semi-finals of the one hundred metres, strolling to victory in his heat in 10.09 seconds. To be honest, he could've walked and he'd've still beaten most of the opposition. American Ryan Bailey qualified fastest in 9.88, with world champion Yohan Blake running ten seconds flat. Young Adam Gemili, who was playing non-league football as recently as January, also qualified in 10.11 for Britain, behind Jamaica's Asafa Powell. Dwain Chambers is also through to Sunday's semi-finals. Dai Greene sneaked into the four hundred metres hurdles final after making it through as one of two fastest qualifiers. Greene, the reigning world champion, was beaten into fourth in his semi-final but after a nervous wait he made it through to Monday's final. Christine Ohuruogu qualified for the final of the women's four hundred metres after coming second in her semi-final. And, South African Oscar Pistorius became the first amputee to compete on the track at an Olympic Games - he finished second in his four hundred metres heat to qualify for the semi-finals. Although, just to prove that some things never change, in the football Britain, as usual, went out in the quarter final. To South Korea. On penalties. Life? Don't talk to me about life. Olympics organisers, meanwhile, have praised British spectators for coming out in force to support the games in such massive numbers. LOCOG said there were more than half a million spectators at various Olympic events on Friday including two hundred and twenty one thousand at the Olympic Park in East London. Spokeswoman Jackie Brock-Doyle said athletes and officials had been 'wowed' by the response of the British public.

An average of 9.4m viewers watched BBC1's Olympic coverage between 6:55pm and 10:05pm on Friday night, according to Sam Hodges on Twitter, with a peak of 11.8m around 10pm. Approximately fifty per cent of the viewing audience at that time were fixed to the Women's ten thousand metres. The figures, which combine BBC1 and BBC Olympics HD, do not account for crowds watching in pubs and on big screens. Rebecca Adlington's swimming bronze had a peak audience of 11.3m earlier on in the evening. BBC1's star-studded evening coverage, featuring the likes of Jessica Ennis and the gold medal victory for the cycling men's pursuit team, never dropped below eight million once between 6:55pm and 10:05pm.

The BBC has also attracted record visitors to its digital coverage of the Olympics. Cait O'Riordan, the corporation's head of product for Sport and the Olympics, blogged that the broadcaster has seen 'huge growth' across PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV. The BBC Sport website has seen an eighty per cent rise in users, with Olympics web pages attracting a peak of nearly eight million readers in the UK and 10.4 million global. The previous sport site record was 5.7 million (UK) and 7.4 million (Global). People accessing BBC Olympics content on mobile devices is also significant. A peak of 2.3m mobile users accessed content on Wednesday, with around 1.5m having downloaded the BBC Olympics smartphone app. The BBC Sport website has received twenty nine million requests for its Olympics interactive video streams, with a clip of Bradley Wiggins winning his gold medal seeing seven hundred and twenty nine thousand requests - the largest so far. Each of the BBC's twenty four Red Button streams drew one hundred thousand viewers at some point during week one of the Olympics, with seventeen million accessing the Red Button so far. The biggest event on the Red Button up to now was the Men's cycling road race with Mark Cavendish, which drew an audience of 1.3m.

The read-through for this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special took place on Friday (just when everybody else in the country was watching the action at the Velodrome), with the show's Facebook page releasing a tantalising glimpse of the cover page for the script (title, of course, redacted). The episode will see the series debut of Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara (or, Avocado - sources vary), though a number of episodes featuring her have already been recorded. Guest stars for the special have yet to be revealed. Principal photography is expected to kick-off in the next couple of days, with a number of familiar locations being pressed into action. Monday and Tuesday of next week will see Cardiff's Coal Exchange in use once again; the building has appeared in a number of episodes over the years, including the 2007 Christmas Special Voyage of the Damned where it became the Titanic passenger lounge. Wednesday and Thursday will then see a visit to Fields House in Newport. Used as the Weeping Angels' haunt in Blink, this time filming will instead take place in the renovated half of the building (the lounge of which can be seen in Sherlock's A Scandal in Belgravia as Irene Adler's apartment). And, at the end of the month the production team will descend upon Treowen Manor on Bank Holiday Monday, whose notable staircase played a 'starring' role as part of Torchwood House during the episode Tooth and Claw.

This we come to yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Saturday 11 August
Mister Gary Lineker his very self introduces the concluding evening of athletics coverage at the Olympic Stadium, and the final of the men's ten metre platform diving competition. The final evening of athletics is always a highlight of any Olympics, and tonight should be no exception, with the finals of the men's five thousand metres and the sprint relay set to be the feature attractions. Mo Farah has developed into one of the leading long-distance runners in the world in recent years, and is the world and European champion at five thousand metres. He is expected to challenge for gold here. The men's four by one hundred metres relay is the concluding race on the track and one that promises to be spectacular. The Jamaican squad set a world record in winning gold four years ago, with Usain Bolt running the third leg and Asafa Powell leading the team home, ahead of Trinidad & Tobago and Japan. That record has since been lowered, again by Jamaica, and they should again line-up as favourites this evening. The full schedule features the finals of the women's high jump, the men's javelin, the five thousand metres, the women's eight hundred metres, the women's four by four hundred metres relay and the men's four by one hundred metres relay. With commentary by Steve Cram, Paul Dickenson, Brendan Foster and Jonathan Edwards, analysis by John Inverdale, Denise Lewis, Michael Johnson and Colin Jackson, and trackside reports by Phil Jones, interviewing various out-of-breath participants and asking, as usual, either 'how do you feel at breaking a world record?' or, 'what went wrong with the handover?' Plus, there's diving coverage from the Aquatics Centre from 8.30, where the final of the men's ten metre platform competition takes place, with Britain hoping to have Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield involved. Commentary is by Bob Ballard and Leon Taylor. Over on BBC3, Jake Humphrey and Manish Bhasin introduce coverage of this evening's men's boxing finals, along with more from the diving and the men's hockey final. The boxing finals take place at the ExCeL London and feature the light flyweights, bantamweights, light welterweights, middleweights and heavyweights. The men's hockey final takes place at the Riverbank Arena, where the successors to 2008 champions Germany are decided. With commentary by - at various events - from Ronald McIntosh, Richie Woodhall, Jim Neilly, Barry Davies and Sean Kerly. Earlier in the day, there's men's kayak canoeing, some sailing, the modern pentathlon, the mountain bike cross country and the final of the men's football, plus volleyball and basketball. Packed day.

If you don't fancy sport ... tough, cos that's what everybody else will be watching. Try reading a book instead. One alternative this blogger does wish to highlight, however, is London: The Modern Babylon - 9:20 BBC2. Legendary documentary film-maker Julien Temple (director of The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, among many others) turns his camera on London to explore the city's history from the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Using a mixture of archive material and contemporary interviews, he reveals how the English capital has been shaped over the years by a succession of musicians, artists, writers, political radicals and counter-culture figureheads. Reaching back to the dawn of film in London at the start of the Twentieth Century, the story unfolds through film archive, voices of Londoners past and present and the flow of popular music across the century; a stream of urban consciousness, like the river which flows through its heart. Looks rather good. Maybe worth setting your recording devices for whilst you're watching Usain Bolt run like the wind on the other side.

Sunday 12 August
And so, it's finally all over - it's the last day of competition in the Thirtieth Olympiad. Highlights include the men's marathon, all the boxing that didn't take place yesterday, the basketball finals and the conclusion of the handball, volleyball, water polo and wrestling. Clare Balding and Gabby Logan present the conclusion of the women's modern pentathlon at Greenwich Park, where the last medals of London 2012 will be decided, featuring the show jumping and combined events. Samantha Murray and Mhairi Spence are Britain's entrants, with Spence among the favourites after winning gold in the team and individual races in this year's world championships, at which Murray also claimed third in the individual discipline. With commentary by Eleanor Oldroyd and Steph Cook. At 7:30 on BBC1 there's a look back at the London Games, including an assessment of the achievements of the British squad. Will ninety minutes be long enough? After 'Super Saturday', it's a valid question. Then, from 9pm, Huw Edwards leads the commentary team as the Olympiad reaches a spectacular conclusion in the traditional closing ceremony. After sixteen days of tense and exciting competition that will live long in the memory, the athletes can now relax as their feats are recognised and celebrated in spectacular fashion. Featuring more than four thousand performers the show is entitled A Symphony of British Music, and celebrates one of the nation's greatest cultural exports over the past fifty years. Produced by artistic designer Kim Gavin, with music direction by Bond composer David Arnold, the performance is rumoured to feature appearances by chart stars past and present, and although specific details are being kept strictly under wraps, names being mentioned include Adele, Take That, The Who, Pink Floyd, One Direction and The Spice Girls. Or, maybe it'll be none of those. The concert is followed by the appearance of the athletes who say their farewells en masse, not divided by country, a way of bringing the competitors together as 'one nation'. Boris Johnson then takes the stage for the official handover to Rio de Janeiro, hosts of the 2016 Olympic Games, before the chairman of the International Olympic Committee declares the games closed and calls upon the youth of the world to gather in Brazil in four years time to do it all over again. And then, the flame will be extinguished and we can all go back to actually having a life. It's BBC3 yer actual Keith Telly Topping feel the most sorry for. They've spent two and bit weeks getting some of their best ever audiences and just becoming used to the idea of being an all day channel when, from tomorrow, it's back to the 7pm starts. Tragedy.

Monday 13 August
And so, day one of 'reacuqiring a life' commences with one that we should have had earlier but for The Law. The Riots: In Their Own Words - 9:00 BBC2 - is the first of two documentaries reconstructing the events of August 2011, when riots broke out across England following a protest against police in Tottenham, north London, that began peacefully but ended in violence. In this film, actors perform the words of those who participated in the disturbances, while little-seen footage is used to shed further light on what took place. Watch it to find out what the fuss was all about and whether the judge that banned it really is as big of an slaphead as he appears to be from his judging.

Or, alternatively, there's Ruth Rendell's Thirteen Steps Down - 9:00 ITV. A two-part psychological thriller based on the novel, starring Luke Treadaway, Geraldine James, Gemma Jones and Elarica Gallacher. Notting Hill resident Mix Cellini has two dangerous obsessions - his hero, serial killer John Christie, and local supermodel Nerissa Nash. Mix is convinced he and Nerissa are in love and goes to extraordinary lengths to be close to her - but as his fixation grows more powerful, reality and fantasy blend - with disastrous results.

Near the end of the Second World War, a group of British officers dreamed up an audacious plan to escape from the high-security Nazi prison using a two-man glider made from bed sheets and floorboards a story told in Escape From Colditz - 9:00 Channel Four. They hoped to fly to freedom from the roof of the castle, but the conflict ended before they could put their plan into action. Here, Cambridge University's Hugh Hunt, whose uncle was a prisoner in Colditz, leads a team of aeronautical engineers and carpenters as they rebuild the glider in the attic where the original was constructed and attempt to see if the mission would have succeeded.

Tuesday 14 August
Accused returns tonight at 9:00 on BBC1. Oh, joy. Individual dramas, written or co-written by full-of-his-own-importance gobshite and bitter old Red Jimmy McGovern, each focusing on an ordinary person who ends up in the dock. And, presumably, McGovern will be using all of the publicity interviews he'll be doing for this to, just as he did last year, slag off the hard work of other TV professionals instead of concentrating on talking about whatever it is that he's suppose to be good at. Making viewers want to slit their own wrists in misery, usually. Anyway, Sean Bean stars as Simon Gaskell, a college professor harbouring a dark secret - he is a transvestite, who at night dresses up to the nines in a blonde wig, skirt and stilettos and trawls the gay bars of Manchester as Tracie Tremarco. Looking uncannily like Pauline Calf. But he wants more than just fun - he is looking for a lasting relationship - and when satellite engineer Tony offers him a lift home, the pair are instantly smitten and a love affair begins. However, Tony has a secret too, leading to a terrible chain of events that ends in the courtroom. Stephen Graham, Michael Maloney and Rachel Leskovac co-star. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins present as a dozen enthusiastic bakers - an, ahem, baker's dozen, if you will. No? Suit yerself - take part in a contest to determine which of them is Britain's best amateur in the first of a new series of The Great British Bake-Off - 9:00 BBC2. They will be facing three challenges a week devised by judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. To begin with, they tackle an upside down cake, before following Paul's recipe for rum babas, a hybrid of cake and enriched dough that baffles some of the competitors. Finally, they are challenged to produce a show-stopping cake that reveals a hidden design when sliced into. Who will be first to leave?

One of 2011's surprise hits, Seven Dwarves, is also back - 9:00 Channel Four. Following Max Laird and Karen Anderson from last year's documentary series as they prepare for their big day. On the spur of the moment, they decide to tie the knot at a forthcoming music festival, leaving them only two months to make all the arrangements. First on the guest list are the other dwarves, who have known the couple since they lived and worked together in Woking during pantomime season. This programme catches up with the group, from Jamie John, who has taken his drag act to the Costa del Sol, to Laura, who is now giving motivational speeches to prisoners.

It's also the gripping series finale of CSI - 9:00 Channel Five. A dinner for the sheriff's re-election campaign is interrupted when a drug dealer, his bodyguard and the wife of the sheriff's friend are all found dead. Suspicion immediately falls on the latter victim's husband, until a secret medical condition rules him out, but it is clear someone is trying to set him up - and a revelation about the dead woman backs up that theory. However, emotions run high following the forensic examination of the gun, which leads to a villain well-known to the CSI team.

Wednesday 15 August
Broadcasters Anneka Rice and Phil Tufnell are joined by TV presenter Joe Swift as they travel the country transforming neglected gardens in The Flowerpot Gang - 8:00 BBC1. Oh dear. Their first stop is Woodland View, a nursing home for people with dementia on the edges of Sheffield, where the residents have a large green area but cannot enjoy it because the paths are too dangerous. As Joe and his team get to work on the plot, Anneka goes in search of locals to help and novice gardener Phil picks up his first few green-fingered tips, while also befriending the residents and relatives who visit the home. Christ, this sounds bad with a capital B.

From the ridiculous to the, hopefully, sublime. Who Do You Think You Are? is back - 9:00 BBC1. Former EastEnders actress Samantha Womack sets out to trace her ancestry, having grown up with only a fractured sense of her family history as her parents separated when she was young. She begins by looking into her grandfather's military career, to discover if the rumour that he was gassed during the First World War is true. However, the story takes an astonishing turn when she finds a puzzling discrepancy in his military record.

Death Camp Treblinka Survivor Stories - 9:00 BBC4 - gives an insight into how Samuel Willenberg and Kalman Taigman escaped from the concentration camp in Poland, where more than eight hundred thousand Polish Jews died during the Holocaust. The two men were able to flee during a revolt in August 1943, before one of them sought vengeance in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and the other appeared at the trial of Adolf Eichmann for war crimes in 1961. This film documents their respective stories, the fate of their families and offers fresh accounts of an almost forgotten death camp. Apocalyptically horrific subject matter but an important subject, handled sensitively and with dignity. Necessary TV.

There's also live international football tonight, England versus Italy - 7:30 ITV. Coverage (rotten, of course, since it's on ITV) of the friendly at the excellently-named Stade de Suisse Wankdorf in Berne, Switzerland (home of yer actual Young Boys, no less). Where England will aim to avenge their recent penalty shoot-out defeat at the hand of the Italians in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri outplayed the English for the majority of the match before going on to finish the tournament as runners-up to Spain, and are likely to provide Roy Hodgson's side with another difficult challenge. Presented - incompetently - by risible breakfast TV flop Adrian Chiles, with commentary by Clive Tyldesley and utterly worthless interjections from that buffoon Andy Townsend. Followed, at various points by a singular lack of analysis from Roy Keane, Lee Dixon and Gareth Southgate.

Thursday 16 August
The Best of Men - 9:00 BBC2 - is a fact-based drama about the birth of the Paralympics in 1948. Pioneering neurologist Dr Ludwig Guttmann arrives at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire and begins to transform the lives of his patients - Second World War servicemen with spinal cord injuries. He suggests using sport as a key part of their rehabilitation, and gets them involved in activities including wheelchair polo and basketball. Eddie Marsan plays Dr Guttmann, an inspirational doctor who transforms the lives of his patients and staff. Rejecting the general view that paralysis was a terminal condition, Guttmann throws out the old care regime and brings in a new philosophy - to get all his patients to live full and useful lives. Sport is his big idea and he uses it to help build physical strength as well as self-respect. Rob Brydon plays Sergeant Wynn Bowen, a Welsh soldier with a large personality, whose life is forever changed after he is paralysed and admitted to Stoke Mandeville under the care of Guttmann. In the summer of 1948, Guttmann held the first national athletic event for disabled athletes, which took place on the same day as the opening ceremony for the 1948 London Olympics. George Mackay and Niamh Cusack also appear.

In Jennifer Saunders: Back in the Saddle - 9:00 ITV - the comedy actress sets out to re-engage the nation with equine sports and returns to the saddle after a forty-year break from the world of competitive riding and showjumping in the latest of ITV's witless celebrity fronted documentary conceits. Her husband's also in quite a few of these, dear blog reader, you might have noticed. In the first of two programmes, Saunders takes a trip down memory lane at a children's pony club in Cheshire, and an interview with Clare Balding inspires her to agree to ride in a grass-roots competition at Badminton. As the reality of what she has let herself in for dawns, she visits Princess Anne's Gloucestershire home Gatcombe House to witness a similar event, and takes all-important lessons from equestrians Tim Stockdale and Piggy French.

Car salesman-turned-TV star Terry Tibbs (as played by Kayvan Novak in Fonejacker and Facejacker) has hit the big time with his own chat show, Verry Terry - 10:55 - part of Channel Four's Funny Fortnight. It says here. Because, frankly, it sounds about as 'funny' as a dose of severe pain in the groinal area. Studio guests are Hollywood tough guy Mickey Rourke and 'perfect housewife' and TV presenter Anthea Turner.

Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery - 9:00 BBC3 - sees the comedian recounts his own battle with heroin as he goes on a personal journey to challenge established views on drugs, meeting scientists researching the psychological aspects of addiction. He also talks to people involved in alternative therapies and addicts taking the first steps toward rehabilitation as he tries to gain new insights that could influence the policy-makers who deal with the treatment of drug abuse.

And, so to the news: Andy Torbet the extreme adventurer, presenter and zoologist is to lead a new BBC2 series Operation Iceberg as the expedition's ice climber and ice diver where he will be collecting samples for the team and exploring the glacier and iceberg's most inaccessible places. As an extreme adventurer, Andy is a highly qualified climber, caver and diver. After completing a degree in Zoology he spent ten years in the British Forces as a Bomb Disposal Officer, Diver and Paratrooper on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo. Since he left the forces he has presented on programmes including Coast, Landward and The Adventure Show. He is a highly qualified, experienced and respected cave, deep mixed gas and commercial diver as well as a freediver. He also holds some of the highest qualifications as a mountaineering and climbing instructor, caver and sea-kayaker.

Strictly Come Dancing 'bosses' allegedly want Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle for the next series. Mind you, this is according to the Sun so it's almost certainly made-up shite. Producers, they claim, plan to 'capitalise' on the popularity of London 2012 and are targeting the most successful British female gymnast of all time, 'as well as other Team GB stars.' Nameless, of course. Tweddle, a three-time world champion, will retire after the Games but she has yet to sign up to Strictly. 'The bosses have made it clear their priority is to secure as many London 2012 competitors as possible,' an alleged, anonymous, and almost certainly fictitious 'source' allegedly told the tabloid scum newspaper. 'The Games are by far the biggest event of the year and they want to reflect that by getting some big sporting names on board. The attitude is that if someone has won a gold medal, we should be considering them. But securing Beth would be a big coup. She is a popular member of the British team and her retirement leaves her able to consider other projects. There's no doubt she would be capable of some phenomenal moves on the dance floor. Nothing is confirmed yet but we have our fingers crossed.'

Fancy reading a superb article on the BBC's 1981 adaptation of The Day of the Triffids written by yer actual Keith Telly Topping's old mate Greg Bakun, dear blog reader? Then look no further.

Following the success of BBC Radio 2's previous Bank Holiday programmes celebrating The Beatles and The Bee Gees, the station will be celebrating the August Bank Holiday weekend by hosting a season of programmes honouring yer actual Sir Elton John, culminating in Old Elt his very self presenting a two-hour show full of his favourite tunes. The six time Grammy award winner, who has sold a quarter of a billion records worldwide, has hand-picked a playlist from some of his favourite artists, including The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Amy Winehouse. Mark Hagen, Executive Producer, BBC Radio 2, says: 'Working with Sir Elton John has been a real joy and we are delighted to be hosting such a special season of programmes on BBC Radio 2. Elton is a real core artist for Radio 2, and an absolute favourite with the listeners so to have him host a show is a match made in heaven.' The Season starts on Wednesday 22 August with The Trevor Nelson Soul Show: Elton Special which delves into the more soulful side of star. On Thursday 23, Jo Whiley presents an In Concert special, giving listeners another chance to hear The Red Piano Show, recorded at London's 02 Arena and packed with hits from the legendary singer-songwriter's career. Elton@thebeeb features a compilation of Elton's performances for the BBC across his career on Friday 24 and on Saturday 25 Paul Gambaccini presents an Elton John-themed America's Greatest Hits. On Sunday 26, Terry Wogan is joined by singer Kiki Dee, who will be performing 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart', live on the show. Elaine Paige on Sunday then looks back at Elton's theatrical writing career, with shows including Billy Elliot and The Lion King. On August Bank Holiday Monday, The Elton John Show sees Elt presenting a show of the music that he grew up with, influenced him and that he admired. Finally, on Bank Holiday Monday evening Johnnie Walker looks back at the recording, making and results of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road LP in Johnnie Walker's Long Players.

Video footage of the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, smiling and shaking hands with billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch at the Olympics on Friday suggests the pair are 'as close as ever,' a Labour MP has said. ITN filmed the vile and odious rascal Hunt talking to the News Corp boss near the Aquatics Centre. Labour's Jim Sheridan said the film suggested 'no contrition' for past mistakes since the vile and odious rascal Hunt faced questions over his handling of News Corp's BSkyB bid. But the vile and odious rascal Hunt's office said the meeting was an 'exchange in passing.' News Corp said that it had 'no comment' to make on the affair. Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch had been invited to the Olympics by London Mayor (and hairdo) Boris Johnson. In the video, shot on a mobile phone in the Olympic park, the News Corp chairman and the vile and odious rascal Hunt are seen smiling, shaking hands and conversing briefly before the lack of culture secretary gets into a car and is driven away. Sheridan, who sits on the Commons committee which probed the phone-hacking affair, said: 'It looks like the relationship [between the vile and odious rascal Hunt and billionaire tyrant Murdoch] is as close as ever. 'The relationship between the Conservative Party and the Murdoch empire still looks strong. And after everything that's gone on, the very fact that Boris Johnson invited Murdoch to the Olympics is outrageous. What do Milly Dowler's family make of that I wonder? There appears to be no contrition whatsoever for the mistakes.' Murdoch was questioned by MPs and Lord Leveson in connection with the phone-hacking scandal, which led to the closure of his Scum of the World title. Former News International head and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and other senior journalists have since been arrested and charged with various offences related to phone-hacking. All deny the charges. A spokeswoman for the vile and odious rascal Hunt claimed, unconvincingly, that the meeting between had been 'an exchange in passing.' She said: 'They met in the margins at an event and they said hello and it's nothing more than that.' She confirmed that the vile and odious rascal Hunt did know that billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch would be at Olympic Park as a guest of Boris Johnson, but said the greeting was by chance. The cabinet minister was in the Olympic Park to watch Rebecca Adlington's event, the spokeswoman said. 'They happened to be in the same place. They just said hello. If you meet someone you know, you normally say hello. It wasn't prearranged,' she added. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's relationship with the Murdochs was examined by the Leveson inquiry into media ethics after it emerged the cabinet minister had written a memo to Downing Street backing a News Corp takeover of BSkyB. Although the memo was written before the vile and odious rascal Hunt inherited the job of deciding whether the takeover should go ahead, critics said he had compromised his role because he could be seen to be not impartial. At the time, the lack of culture secretary said he 'strictly followed due process' in the matter, and denied that News Corp had any 'back channel' of influence with his office. The vile and odious rascal Hunt also said claims made on 4 July 2011 that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked had made him re-evaluate the News Corp bid. The lack of culture secretary's special adviser later resigned over 'inappropriate contact' with News Corp.

Which brings us, nicely, to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Well, it was either this, or 'The Eton Boating Song.' I think I made the right choice, frankly.

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