Saturday, July 02, 2016

He's Come To A Sticky End, Don't Think He Will Ever Mend!

'We've been asked to speak politics to you today.'
The Chernobyl-style fallout fiasco from last week's EU Referendum continues as Westminster rapidly turns itself into a soap opera to make even the biggest fan of the genre utterly aghast and terrified at the same time. Because, if the last six years have taught us but one thing, dear blog reader, it's this.
There's a properly fascinating piece by the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg about the various Westeros-like conspiracy theories currently doing the rounds over the exact reasons why the rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty duplicitous slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and tit) Gove did the dirty and stabbed his supposed 'friend' and political ally Boris The Spider (and hairdo) in the back which you can read here. The Torygraph has a similar, possibly even more in depth, piece here.
In the interests of balance, of course, this should also be reported.
Now, dear blog reader, this satirical website may not be the height of reasoned and dignified political debate, admittedly. And that is, of course, entirely regrettable. But, that is still funny. Quite addictive and therapeutic as well. Although slapping the real Mister Gove - whom the Torygraph allege Boris Johnson acolytes have described as 'a Machiavellian psychopath' - is definitely not advised.
Fancy a quick flutter, dear blog reader?
This blogger thinks he may have a shy tenner on Hitler, actually. I mean, he's got the Daily Scum Mail behind him. As usual. (By the way, if you're an American dear blog reader and you haven't got a clue that the blithering fek is going on in Britain at the moment, here's a handy guide.)
Ooo, little bit of politics there. How very 1986.
Anyway, on to more weighty matters. The former Doctor Who executive producer, Piers Wenger, has been appointed as the BBC's new drama chief, one of the most powerful jobs in the broadcasting industry. Wenger, who is currently Channel Four's head of drama, will succeed Polly Hill, who left the BBC to join ITV earlier this year. Wenger's other BBC credits included the award-winning Parade's End, starring yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall her very self and the acclaimed biopic Eric & Ernie. His recent Channel Four shows include Humans - which was excellent - and Indian Summers - which was recently cancelled because it was shit and no one was watching it. In his new role, Piers will be responsible for drama commissioning across the whole of the BBC, overseeing more than four hundred and fifty hours of drama a year. Wenger, who will take up his new role in the autumn, said: 'I have had an unforgettable and brilliant time at Channel Four and it is with real sadness that I am saying goodbye. But the scope and scale of BBC drama make this an irresistible challenge and I could not be more excited about joining the talented team there and for the new relationships and creative adventures which lie ahead of me at the BBC.' BBC drama has been acclaimed in recent years, with shows such as BBC1's The Night Manager and Poldark and Wolf Hall and Line Of Duty on BBC2, benefitting hugely from a boost to its budget at a time when other areas of the corporation have been cut back. Charlotte Moore, the BBC controller of TV channels and iPlayer, said: 'Piers is a brilliant creative leader with great taste and a passion for writing. He has a breadth of experience and knowledge of the global industry, as well as a real understanding of audiences.' Before joining Channel Four, Wenger was head of drama at BBC Wales and was executive producer of Doctor Who when yer actual Matt Smith was in the lead role. The outgoing Doctor Who showrunner, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) has described Wenger as 'incredibly brilliant and sharp,' and 'a very effective manager of creative talent. He makes you feel clever all the time when it's actually probably him,' said yer man Moffat. 'You go out with a flattering sense of your own brilliance when in fact what you are doing is what he wanted you to do in the first place.' Wenger was a close friend and collaborator of Victoria Wood, who died in April this year. He met her after writing her a fan letter while he was working at ITV, where he began as a trainee script editor in 2000. 'To my great amazement she replied,' he told the Gruniad Morning Star in an interview four years ago. 'I was a massive fan to an almost embarrassing degree. I could quote big swaths of her sketch shows. She understands characters' emotions and lives in a way that no one else does. She has a very thin skin which allows her to absorb and have insights into other people's emotional lives that audiences find a ring of truth around.' Personally, this blogger thought Wood was hugely over-rated although he was very sorry when she died. That's probably why Piers Wenger is going to be the new head of drama at the BBC and Keith Telly Topping, you know, isn't. Wenger began his career as a journalist on Just Seventeen magazine, but in his late twenties he took nine months out of journalism after his father was paralysed in a serious car accident. 'I found myself watching lots of television drama and the depths and intellectual challenge of working in drama started to appeal,' he remembered. Wenger has been head of drama at Channel Four since 2012, commissioning dramas for both Channel Four and E4. He will be replaced at Channel Four by his deputy, Beth Willis, who also worked with him at BBC Wales. Wenger has boosted the broadcaster’s homegrown drama slate with shows such as Humans, currently filming a second series, and Paul Abbott's acclaimed No Offence, which will also return. His other Channel Four dramas include the BAFTA winning This Is England 90 and Southcliffe, with Jack Thorne's National Treasure and Peter Kosminsky's as yet unnamed Isis drama currently in the works. Channel Four's chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, has appointed Willis as Wenger's long-term replacement, but with Willis due to go on maternity leave in the summer, Channel Four's comedy chief Phil Clarke will take up the role on an acting basis. Hunt said: 'I've loved working with Piers. He's been an exceptional head of drama, delivering award winning shows with record breaking audiences. It's a fitting tribute to what he has achieved at Four that he has been poached for the biggest job in drama commissioning. Beth is a passionate programme maker and a superlative commissioner. She has played a critical part in Channel Four's success and I am looking forward to working with her on the next phase of great drama at Four.

Matt Lucas has given Doctor Who fans a short taster as he started shooting the upcoming series. Lucas is, as previously reported, reprising the role of Nardole in the tenth series of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama. He spent some of the last week on location at Cardiff University as production got underway and gave fans a glimpse of the action in a fifty one-second video which was released on Twitter.
Meanwhile, filming has also been taking place in Tenby for the new series of Sherlock. Crowds gathered on the town's South Beach according to the Western Telegraph hoping to catch a glimpse of yer actual Benny Cumberbatch and Marty Freeman his very self. Amid high security, scenes for the fourth series were shot on and around the historic St Catherine's Island and fort on Monday and Tuesday. Pembrokshire Council said that it was 'delighted' to welcome the cast and crew of one of the BBC’s biggest shows to the county. Councillor Rob Lewis, cabinet member for transportation and major events, said: 'Our county always looks good on film and I've no doubt the exposure it will receive will boost visitor numbers in the future.' This follows a recent batch of - highly publicised - filming in London.
Game Of Thrones broke its own overnight ratings record with series six's action-packed blood-soaked carnage-filled finale. Just like the Tory and Labour leadership contests, so it was. A fraction under nine million overnight viewers tuned-in to watch HBO's first broadcast of The Winds Of Winter' in the US on Sunday - topping (or, even Telly Topping) the previous years finale's overnight audience of 8.1 million. Across the series, Game Of Thrones averaged twenty three million viewers per episode when traditional viewing, streaming, DVR and encore broadcasts were combined. This is a hefty fifteen per cent increase over series five. It's no surprise that Game Of Thrones continued to build on its already-massive audience in series six - with key moments like Jon Snow's resurrection, the Battle of the Bastards in the penultimate episode and the (non) trial of Cersei Lannister promoted as major television events. This new ratings record must come as bittersweet news to HBO, as in the middle of this week producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss confirmed there are only 'two more seasons' left. 'It's not just trying not to outstay your welcome,' Benioff explained. 'We're trying to tell one cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end.' 'We want to leave while all the people watching this show are really into it,' added Weiss. 'Get out at a high point and not have it be, "well thank God that's over."'
So, Game Of Thrones only just wrapped its sixth series this week - you might have noticed, dear blog reader - but we've now got our first nugget of official news on what's to come next. HBO has confirmed the four directors who will be taking charge in series seven – expected to be comprised of either seven or eight episodes. Alan Taylor – who had directed six previous Game Of Thrones episodes, including Ned Stark's final outing Baelor – will return to the popular fantasy drama for the first time since 2012, Entertainment Weekly reports. Jeremy Podeswa will also be back, having previously secured an EMMY nomination for directing the controversial Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken – in which Sansa was raped by Ramsay. Next comes Mark Mylod, a four-time director on the show; the British director took charge of The Hound's comeback in this year's The Broken Man and Arya's epic chase sequence through the backstreets of Braavos in No-One. Finally, Matt Shakman who had not worked on the show before, but has directed episodes of The Good Wife, Heroes Reborn, House and thirty nine episodes of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Notably absent from the roll call is Miguel Sapochnik, who directed both this series final two episodes, Battle Of The Bastards and The Winds Of Winter.
Series six came to an explosive conclusion this week with The Winds Of Winter, and that incredible wildfire scene was one of the most memorable from the entire series. Now, it has been revealed that the opening movement - from the moment the episode started to Cersei Lannister's terrible vengeance on The Faith Militant - took a whopping five months to film. Director Miguel Sapochnik told TVLine: 'Blowing up The Sept; did not see that coming or think they'd go there.' He added: 'The trial and the destruction of The Sept in the opening sequence was a bit of an undertaking. [It entailed] lots and lots of scenes shot over four or five months in various countries, so it took a long time before we actually even had all the pieces there to start editing.'
If you're heading to Comic-Con International this summer, the Game Of Thrones panel line-up has been announced. Sophie Turner and Iwan Rheon are among the cast members who will attend a panel moderated by It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Rob McElhenney in Hall H on Friday 22 July. The event will also include Liam Cunningham, John Bradley, Nathalie Emmanuel, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Conleth Hill, Faye Marsay and Kristian Nairn.
The most jaw-dropping aspect of the aftermath of England's calamitous Euro 2016 exit was the truly excellent bug-eyed rant that Danny Baker used his Twitter account for shortly after England lost to Iceland. Seldom, dear blog reader, have more richly deserved expletives been used to describe so few. 'Absolutely disgraceful, England. You useless over-paid, over-indulged mollycoddled shits. You are beyond shame. [A] disgrace to working people.' And, that was one of the nicer bits! You go, Candyman! ITV's former tame England manager, Glenn Hoddle, also got a savaging from Baker: 'Oh, we are getting Glenn Hoddle's reaction now. Next up the reaction of a paving stone in Blackpool.' Heh.
There was also the, widely reported, silly season story about the Manchester comedian Joe Hart who got bombarded with abusive messages on Twitter after some planks mistook him for the wank hands England goalkeeper of the same name. Congratulations to Joe (no, the other one) for taking it all with a joke and suggesting that, despite the fact that he's 'a chubby gay comedian', if England want a replacement for his namesake, he is available! You certainly couldn't do any worse than the other Joe, Joe. (This blogger particularly enjoyed the bit about the poor chap called George Osborn [sic] who told Joe, in commiseration, 'I know how you feel, mate!')
How nice it was, also, to see notorious - but, sometimes quite funny - Twitter gobshite Joey Barton, finally come around to the suggestion Keith Telly Topping made two years ago that maybe, just maybe, wank hands Joe Hart might want to consider doing a few less of those wretched shampoo adverts (for which, one presumes, wank hands Joe Hart gets paid an obscene amount of wonga) and a bit more time practising his goalkeeping. Just a suggestion.
Sarah Michelle Gellar's Cruel Intentions TV spin-off isn't quite dead. Yet. Despite being passed over by NBC for the 2016-2017 season, TVLine reports that the network has extended its contracts with the cast. The new agreement will let NBC look at retooling Cruel Intentions until December, potentially allowing it to be picked up for summer 2017.
How lovely it's been to see one of this blogger's favourite popstars-turned-vicars, the very lovely  and extremely Reverend Richard Coles (Facebook chum of yer actual KTT don'tcha know?!) being splendidly entertaining - and, actually, pretty good - on the latest series of Celebrity MasterChef this week. And, ultimately, qualifying for the Semi-Finals. This, after in a rather self-deprecating interview with Radio Times Richard claimed that his mum told him he'd likely be knocked out in the first round!
Top Gear USA has been cancelled, the BBC has confirmed. The programme, broadcast on the History channel in the US, is one of several spin-offs from the popular motoring series. Presenter Rutlege Wood first announced the news on Facebook - and suggested the show could return on a new channel. 'I'm not saying Top Gear is done, but it's done for the immediate future on History,' he wrote. Wood described co-presenters Adam Ferrara and Tanner Foust as 'like brothers to me' and described working on the show as 'a total dream come true. The three of us will stick together and hope to bring you much more Top Gear USA, albeit somewhere else,' he said. Top Gear USA has been running since 2010 - racking up seventy two episodes across six series. A spokesperson for BBC Worldwide North America said: 'History treated Top Gear USA with great care, and the show had a solid five-season contractual run with the network. We are fully committed to the hugely successful Top Gear brand - known all over the world - and have begun exploring new opportunities for the series in the US.'
It's also worth noting that the Daily Scum Mail have run yet another Top Gear In Crisis story this week. So, there must be a 'y' in the day, clearly.

A drama about Bobby Moore and his wife, Tina, is to appear on ITV, starring Coronation Street's Michelle Keegan and Grantchester's Lorne MacFayden. Moore was, of course, the only Englishman ever to lift the World Cup, as captain of the winning 1966 team. You knew that, right? The three-part drama charts their lives from 'humble beginnings to the dizzy heights of superstardom.' Patsy Kensit will also join the cast as Tina's mother, Betty. ITV have said that Tina & Bobby will be 'an epic love story about an ordinary girl from Essex who fell head over heels in love with an ordinary boy, who just happened to be an extraordinarily talented footballer.' 'Most people will know the story of Bobby Moore's achievements as captain of club and country' said ITV Studios' executive producer, Kieran Roberts. 'Far fewer will know the story of his life with Tina - a love story every bit as dramatic and epic as Bobby's exploits on the pitch. We are delighted to be dramatising Tina and Bobby's amazing story for ITV and, in Michelle and Lorne, we think we have the perfect casting of the "golden" couple and we are thrilled.' Filming is set to start in Manchester this summer.
Coronation Street is to be screened six times a week from late 2017, ITV has announced. The broadcaster's director of television Kevin Lygo claimed that the idea of an extra episode had been one of the first things he had 'wanted to explore' when he took up the role in February. He said that the move would be 'the next exciting chapter in Corrie's story.' It will see the soap's set expanded and more studios created on its eight acre Trafford site. The show currently uses four studios and its exterior set. Space for 'a further filming zone' had been identified, an ITV spokeswoman said.
Casualty will mark its thirtieth anniversary with a feature-length episode that will include 'a shocking stunt,' its producer has said. Too Old For This Shift will, reportedly, feature scenes that will hit 'the very heart of the hospital' as key characters will be 'put in danger.' The BBC show is the longest-running emergency medical drama in the world. The episode, which will see the return of some old faces, will be broadcast on 27 August. Derek Thompson, who plays mainstay Charlie Fairhead, is also celebrating thirty years on the show, having been a cast member since its debut on BBC1. 'From day one of filming Casualty in 1986, I've been so proud of its true-to-life storytelling, representing everything the NHS stands for,' Thompson said. 'I've been a part of a few anniversaries over the years, but this really feels like a significant moment in British television history.' Alongside Thompson will be Holby's cardiothoracic consultant Jac Naylor (Rosie Marcel), CEO Henrik Hanssen (Guy Henry) and Adrian Fletcher (Alex Walkinshaw), who will all play 'key roles' in the episode. Executive producer Oliver Kent said: 'Casualty's thirtieth anniversary episode is a huge celebration of everything that the show does best.' Kent also said it 'will make the audience gasp, laugh and cry buckets. There will be plenty of surprises for the audience, including some old faces that they won't have seen for a while. Best of all, it has the incredible Charlie Fairhead centre stage.' The storyline will also see a crossover with sister show Holby City.
NCIS has extended contracts for four of its cast members for its fourteenth and fifteenth series'. CBS handed the contract extensions to original cast members Pauley Perrette and David McCallum as well as veterans Sean Murray and Rocky Carroll according to Deadline. NCIS got a two-year renewal from CBS earlier in 2015, after leading man Mark Harmon signed and new deal with the network. Brian Dietzen and Emily Wickersham - two other regular cast members - are apparently on 'different contract cycles' from the rest of the cast. CBS successfully secured the core cast's contracts following the departure of Michael Weatherly at the end of the recently competed thirteenth series. Wilmer Valderrama will be debuting in the next series as 'a mysterious deep-cover agent eager to join the team.'
A BBC Radio 4 show broadcast on the Queen's ninetieth birthday which included 'jokes' about her sex life was 'in serious breach' of editorial guidelines, the BBC Trust has ruled. The episode of Don't Make Me Laugh (which, trust this blogger, entirely lives up to its name if you've never heard it), sees comedians 'discussing topics' without causing the audience to chuckle, was broadcast on 21 April. It included the subject 'The Queen must have had sex at least four times.' Classy. The BBC received over one hundred complaints and grovellingly apologised the following day. After presenter and creator David Baddiel introduced the subject, panellists - including the alleged comedian Russell Kane (very popular with students, if not with anyone that actually has a brain) - made crude sex-based jokes about the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh that the BBC Trust ruled were 'personal, intrusive and demeaning.' And, far more importantly, not in the slightest bit funny. In its findings, the Trust stated 'the offence felt was compounded by the date of the programme's transmission,' but it added that it would be 'hard to imagine circumstances in which this broadcast at any time or on any day would not have given rise to significant unjustified offence.' Trustees were mindful that they had previously expressed their 'concerns' about humour which singled out individuals for attack in a way which was 'humiliating or crude.' They had also expressed their concerns about the broadcast of 'derogatory comments about individuals' who were not in a position to respond. There had been a conversation between the BBC and the production company about the balance between freedom of speech and the BBC's editorial responsibility for its output, the report noted. The independent production company which makes the programme had responsibility for filling in a compliance form, the report noted. The form for the programme in question arrived with the BBC on the Monday of the week of transmission. The form asked whether the output included: 'potentially controversial references to public figures.' The question was answered 'no.' The form did not note the reference to Her Maj, although by this point, the date of transmission was already known. The Executive Producer at So Radio knew the transmission schedule and the form asked the Executive Producer to make a judgement about its 'suitability' for the intended slot. In grovellingly apologising for the show, a BBC spokesman said: 'We never intended for the scheduling of the programme to coincide with the Queen's birthday and are sorry for the offence caused by its timing and content.' He added that BBC Radio 4 comedy was 'a broad church and often pushes boundaries.' Sadly, he didn't conclude with a promise that the BBC will never employ Russell Kane (very popular with students) ever again, honest. Which might be regarded as an opportunity missed, one could suggest.
Maxine Peake and Lesley Sharp are to star in a new BBC1 drama based on the true story of the victims of the Rochdale sexual abuse scandal. Peake, who has previously starred in Shameless and Silk on TV and Hamlet on stage, and Sharp, star of the hit detective show Scott & Bailey, are to play two women who listen to the victims after years of them being ignored by the authorities. Written by Nicole Taylor, responsible for The C Word starring Sheridan Smith, the three-part drama is produced by the team behind Five Daughters, the multi-award winning BBC drama about the murder of five women in Ipswich in 2006. Taylor said: 'Whatever I thought I knew about what had happened in Rochdale, I knew nothing until I met the girls and their families. Listening to them was the beginning of understanding – not just of the terrible suffering they experienced but of the courage it took to persist and persist over years, in telling authorities who didn't want to know, and ultimately participate in the court proceedings that brought justice.' The drama is made with the cooperation of the victims and their families. Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for the North-West and consultant on the drama, described the Rochdale case as 'both groundbreaking and heartbreaking.' The BBC said that the drama would 'focus on the abuse' of the girls and their 'betrayal by the system' rather than whether the fact that the perpetrators were all Asian men played a part. 'It's about how these girls were let down by the system,' said a spokeswoman. Charlotte Moore, the controller of BBC TV Channels and iPlayer, said that the drama was a result of the production team spending three years 'talking to the girls unravelling the shocking scale of abuse, the horror of what they've been through and the enormous courage it's taken for them to speak out.' The three hour-long episodes also star Paul Kay, Lisa Reilly and Jill Halfpenny as parents of the girls, alongside Ace Bhatti as Nazir Afzal.
The Night Manager and Doctor Foster are among the nominees for 'best new drama' at the TV Choice awards. Tom Hiddleston has also been nominated for the best actor award for the ceremony on 5 September. Hiddleston's competition includes Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi and Peaky Blinders' Cillian Murphy. ITV's Marcella and the BBC's epic adaptation on War & Peace are also shortlisted in the new drama category. Downton Abbey mirrors Peaky Blinders by being nominated in the best actor, best actress and best drama series categories. Jim Carter and Laura Carmichael are singled out for their Downton contribution, while Helen McCrory is cited for her work in Peaky Blinders. Doctor Foster's Suranne Jones and Happy Valley's Sarah Lancashire complete the line-up in the best actress category. EastEnders and Emmerdale lead the field overall with five nominations apiece in the four soap-oriented categories. Mary Berry makes two appearances in the shortlist, with The Great British Bake Off - up for best talent show - and her BBC2 series, Foolproof Cooking nominated in the food show category. The best daytime show category, meanwhile, sees one BBC show - teatime quiz Pointless - ranged against three ITV offerings - The Chase, Loose Women and This Morning. All the nominations for this year's awards, to be hosted in London Jo Brand, can be found on the TV Choice magazine's official website.
Huge Laurie, Ryan Reynolds and Eva Longoria are to be awarded stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The brass stars emblazoned on Hollywood Boulevard honour personalities from the worlds of music, film, radio and TV for achievement in the entertainment industry. Mark Ruffalo, Amy Adams, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Goldie Hawn and Chris Pratt (no, me neither I'm afraid) have also been announced as recipients. They will be honoured at the famous landmark in Los Angeles in 2017. Huge, who was born in Oxford, is best known in the US for his lead role in the medical drama House - which ran from 2004 to 2012. And, in the UK for Blackadder and his comedy partnership with Stephen Fry. You knew all that, right?
Earlier this week,dear blog reader, this blogger caught the end of Von Ryan's Express on some obscure digital channel. Frank Sinatra got shot at the end. And, this blogger was really sure he was going to get away this time ...
And now, dear blog reader ...
Lord Puttnam has whinged about the BBC's coverage of the EU referendum, describing it as 'constipated.' And, he has accused all broadcasters of 'a criminal act' by not putting the claims of leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson 'under more scrutiny.' Puttnam, the former deputy chairman of Channel Four, said that the media as a whole had 'failed to tackle' the 'Monty Pythonesque vision of Europe' which, he said, had been 'allowed to go unchallenged for the last thirty or forty years.' He said the BBC had, effectively, 'been hamstrung' by the strict rules on impartiality which govern it, which meant that as soon as one campaigner said something it had to find someone to say the opposite. In particular, Puttnam accused broadcasters of failing to challenge Johnson over footage filmed for the BBC eight years ago in which he appeared to make a passionate case for Turkey joining the European Union. Puttnam said that he had sent the clip to broadcasters, including the BBC Director General Tony Hall. 'It's an absolute abrogation of journalistic responsibility that that clip was not used continually throughout [the referendum debate],' Puttnam said. 'The fact he was able to go unchallenged and make the assertions he was about Turkey was nothing less than a criminal act.' The BBC later hit back, saying that Puttnam was 'mistaken' - and, that he's a Bitter Old Red who is pissed off that it's not still the 1960s - as it had used the clip in the run-up to the referendum. A tweet referred to presenter Martha Kearney playing it to Johnson on Radio 4's World At One. Challenged about his apparent change of mind in the programme on 22 June, Johnson said: 'That's how I felt then. I still think it would be good for Turkey to join EU, but only on condition UK leaves.' Speaking at the launch of a report into the future of public service broadcasting on Wednesday, Puttnam said: 'I found the BBC's coverage constipated. I'm not sure you can run programming like that, I don't think it works really.' He said that during the EU referendum campaign eighty four per cent of print media stories had been found to be 'negative' about Europe. 'If you've got fifty-fifty in broadcasting by statute and eighty four-sixteen in newsprint, that's not balance, that's imbalance,' he said. 'The Monty Pythonesque vision of Europe has gone unchallenged for thirty or forty years. None of us understood what the long-term consequences were,' he added. 'I am still dizzy with what I feel to be a death in the family.' Puttnam said that he had 'successfully campaigned' for the BBC to change the way it covers climate change and suggested it needed to have a similar overhaul of the way it covered issues such as membership of the EU. Yeah. Like that's going to happen.
Professor Brian Cox (no, the other one), has criticised the 'growing intolerance' of no-platform speaking bans at universities and colleges, describing them as 'nonsensical.' The Wonders Of The Universe presenter and The People's Scientist also attacked the 'deeply flawed national conversation' which, he said, meant people were unwilling or unable to change their minds on issues such as the European Union. The 'no platforming' policy of the National Union of Students, which allows it to block certain individuals or organisations from speaking at their events, has drawn criticism from both the political left and right. Cox, who lectures at the University of Manchester, told the new issue of Radio Times: 'I suppose they're trying to build a less aggressive space, which I understand – modern discourse is polarised. But university is supposed to be a place where civilised debate takes place. If not in the university, then where do you debate the most difficult questions? So, I disagree very profoundly with the idea that there's such a thing as a safe space intellectually at a university. It's nonsensical to me. The point of university is to build an intellectual armoury. You should expect that you're not going be abused by a shouting loudmouth – you wouldn't want modern political discourse to be brought off Twitter and into the student union. I understand why they don't want that and they're right not to want that. But it's not difficult to build a debate. That's the basis of liberal democracy. We understand that. That's why there are lines in the House of Commons greater than two swords' length apart. We've worked that out.' The NUS has said that the policy, backed by the majority of its students, 'allowed free speech without intimidation.' Cox said: 'I teach first years and I don't see it in physics. There's not much room for personal opinion there. But because I'm a professor at Manchester, I do watch the way that this intolerance is growing. Which is a word that they would object to.' Cox, whose new series, Forces Of Nature, begins on BBC1 next month, said that he was 'worried' about the current 'polarisation of debate,' not least around Britain's membership of the EU. 'Changing your mind in the face of evidence is absolutely central to a civilised democratic society,' he said. 'I think there is something wrong, because polarisation tells you that people aren't thinking. Science is a collection of things, some of which are more likely, some of which are almost certainly right, some of which are less likely and some of which are wrong – the central point is that you change your mind all the time. If you look at the Brexit debate, it's interesting to note that I can't see one politician or columnist who's actually changed their mind. The amount of new evidence that's come forward – new positions and new data – is huge, but not one of them has changed. That tells you there's something deeply flawed about the national conversation. I think if you accept that you're probably wrong, that's probably the most valuable thing that a curiosity about nature or society can give you. Maybe that's the goal. Then a more civilised, less certain debate will ensue. Although I could be wrong.' Cox, touted as the BBC's successor to Sir David Attenborough, also highlighted what he described as the way schools were 'conditioning pupils' to 'obsess about exams.' He added his voice to parental concerns about SATS tests in primary schools but stopped short of taking his son out of school during a boycott earlier this year. 'One of the things that annoys me most, and I think is an unfortunate reflection on the way that schools are conditioning students to obsess about exams is that I will be teaching my first years about relativity and they'll keep asking, "Is this in the end-of-year exams?"' Cox told Radio Times. 'I say, "I'm not telling you. I'm teaching you to be a physicist, not pass exams." They are supposed to be learning about nature. If they go to work for BAE Systems on the ejector seat of a Eurofighter, at some point someone's going to say, "Is that safe, that ejector seat?" They can't ask anyone to mark their work. The measure of success is understanding and taking charge.'

Traffic Cops has been dropped by the BBC after fourteen series. Someone having, seemingly, decided it was long overdue to leave that sort of nonsense to Channel Five and use the money on some real programmes instead.
And, speaking of nonsense, Adverts That Really Grate This Blogger's Cheese, number four: That sodding annoying ClearScore.com advert with the bloke who has, seemingly, married a ginger moron and owns a talking dog which gives him far more unconditional love than her. She's kicking you in the head, fer Christ's sake, ditch her, now and run off with the talking dog. And, it might be an idea not to repeat, parrot fashion, everything she says.
Adverts That Really Grate This Blogger's Cheese, number five: Three words. 'Seven thousand pounds.' That's 'seven thousand pounds' just in case you didn't hear her the first time. Firstly, for the general information of Promis Life, not all funerals cost that much, or anything even remotely like it - this blogger has some recent experience in the field so, don't come round here with yer Brexit-style scare-stories. Secondly, don't blame your late husband for the situation, darlin'; he was not only stupid enough to fail to save for his own funeral but, also, to marry a miserable-faced woman like you. No sympathy. Anyway, there is money to be made if you're really desperate ...
The advertising watchdog has very banned a TV advertisement for Nurofen for 'misleading viewers' with claims that it has 'special painkilling prowess,' in a landmark ruling likely to spark a crackdown in the way in which pharmaceutical companies are allowed to market painkillers. The ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority follows a separate action by Australia's Federal Court which fined Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of Nurofen, almost two million Aussie dollars for misleading customers by claiming its products targeted specific pains, such as migraines. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had asked for a hefty six million dollar fine. Reckitt Benckiser had already been warned about its advertising claims in the UK when it was forced to remove a TV advert, for Nurofen Express, earlier this year after the ASA informally resolved customer complaints that it was 'misleading' without launching a formal public investigation. However, the UK drug company has not managed to abide by its agreement not to run adverts which 'could imply' that its products have 'a special mechanism' that targets specific types of pain. The ASA received eighteen complaints about an advert for Nurofen showing a woman who fixed her back pain by taking its Nurofen Joint & Back product rather than any of its painkilling brands. The complainants whinged that it was misleading to imply the product could, specifically, target back pain. 'Viewers were likely to infer that the product had a special mechanism or contained an active ingredient which made it especially effective for back and joint pain in comparison to other painkillers,' said the ASA. 'We understood the product was absorbed by the stomach and distributed to sources of pain wherever they may be located around the body via the bloodstream and that there was no mechanism by which the product actively sought out the source of pain in a user's back or joints.' The ASA extremely banned the advert in a landmark ruling that is likely to set a precedent that will see a crackdown on the large number of pharmaceutical products in the market that are advertised as being able to target specific pain ailments, when in fact they are just general painkillers.

A TV campaign for a Sky-branded casino has been banned for using 'a roulette rock star' character which, allegedly, 'glamorises gambling.' The TV advert for Sky Vegas, part of a group of companies including Sky Bet and Sky Poker in which billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's pay-TV group holds a minority stake, featured an everyman type character called Michael who transforms into 'a betting legend' whenever he gambles. 'This morning he was doing his recycling,' runs the voiceover, 'but right now he's in Sky Vegas. And here, he’s the roulette rock star riding an electric riff of red and black.' The Advertising Standards Authority received a lone complaint that the advert 'glamorised gambling.' Bonne Terre, which trades as Sky Vegas, claimed (unconvincingly) that Michael only felt like a rock star 'because of the excitement' of playing on the casino site. 'There was no reference or inference that he was, indeed, a musician whose abilities were enhanced and became a better musician or "rock star" because of his gambling,' the company weaselled. 'Michael remained the same person with the same everyday qualities, he only "felt like a rock star" because of the excitement of playing at Sky Vegas.' The ASA extremely disagreed and said that when Michael – who is introduced as having just put out his recycling – gambles, he is depicted as 'exuding the confidence, personality and qualities of a rock star and improved his self-image. Although no physical transformation was depicted, we considered the ad implied a distinct change in Michael because he was playing roulette on Sky Vegas – taking the character from "everyday Michael" to "rock star Michael,"' said the ASA, which banned the campaign. 'Therefore, we concluded that the ad suggested that gambling would enhance the personal qualities of those gambling.'
The former star of Tracy Beaker, Dani Harmer, has given birth to a daughter. She and her partner Simon Brough confirmed the news, saying that they had decided to name their baby Avarie-Belle Betsy Brough. Poor little lass. One imagines the child will now grow up with a massive chip on her shoulder and will, no doubt, come to a bad-end what with being saddled with a name like that. Anyway, 'Mother and baby are doing well - the baby is beautiful like her mother!' Jill Harmer, Dani's mum, told that bastion of heavyweight reportage Hello magazine. 'People still see me as a teenager,' Dani - who is now, in fact, twenty seven - previously told the magazine. 'I did The Rocky Horror Show a couple of years ago and some people were like, "Hang on, Tracy Beaker's going to be in her underwear on stage?"' She and Simon were, she said, 'over the moon' when they found out they were expecting their first child. 'I still wake up every morning and go, "I'm pregnant." It was amazing seeing the scan. I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating,' she added. 'What an amazing, clever thing to be going on inside my body.' Since leaving Tracy Beaker, Dani had a stint on Strictly Come Dancing, where she was partnered with Vincent Simone. The pair finished in fourth place.
Yer actual Saint Keef Richards is 'to explore his formative years' in a BBC documentary and curate 'an incredible weekend' for the broadcaster. Director Julian Temple's Keith Richards - The Origin Of The Species will look at the guitarist's pre-Rolling Stones life in Dartford as part of BBC2's My Generation season. Saint Keef said the documentary looked at an era when it felt like 'time to push limits.' The seventy two-year-old rock God will also 'hand-pick' two nights of films and live performances for BBC4. Keith Richards' Lost Weekend - great title - will run in September and feature a fresh interview with The Rolling Stone each night, in which he will explain his selections. Describing Saint Keef as 'an avatar of rebellion, buccaneer, soul survivor, as well as the coolest dude on the planet,' the BBC said that Temple's film would be broadcast in July. Temple said the sixty-minute documentary would explore how both Richards 'and the Sixties in England came about.' Richards said that he was 'heavily' into model aeroplanes as a child, but was 'not very successful' at building them, adding that he 'liked the glue.' He said that during the late 1950s, 'there was a feeling that there was a change coming. Harold Macmillan actually said it - the "winds of change" and all that - but he didn't mean it in quite the same way [as we did]. I certainly felt that for my generation, the feeling in the air was - it's time to push limits. The world is ours now and you can rise or fall on it.' The BBC's head of music TV commissioning, Jan Younghusband, said that Saint Keef was 'an outstanding talent and an inspiration to us all. We are thrilled to be able to bring his unique and entertaining insights to our audience. I know it will be a totally original experience.'
A firm in Geneva plans to open a café where customers can enjoy a side order of, ahem, oral sex whilst they sip their morning coffee. According to media reports, not everyone is happy with the idea. How very surprising?
Spectre generated the most whinges to the British Board of Film Classification in 2015, the ratings body has revealed. The James Bond movie, which was rated 12A, received forty whinges that focused on its 'scenes of violence.' Because, of course, James Bond movies are never normally violent, are they?
Released last October, it featured Daniel Craig's 007 battling a criminal syndicate lead by a pussy-stroking madman. This blogger thought it was a rather good, as it happens. Violence, and all. Other films which generated 'public feedback' to the BBFC - ie. whinging - included Kingsman: The Secret Service and Minions. According to the BBFC's annual report, published on Friday, Spectre's distributor 'sought advice' on how it could secure a 12A classification during the film's post-production. 'One scene involving an eye-gouging was slightly too strong for the company's preferred 12A classification,' the report said. 'We therefore suggested reductions to this scene. What remains in the classified version of the scene is a brief implication of what is happening, with only limited visual detail.' Another scene, showing the bloody aftermath of a suicide, was similarly reduced. The BBFC added that a separate 'torture scene' involving 'a larger-than-life hero' like Bond contained a 'lack of detail' which made it acceptable for a 12A rating.
Sir John Hurt has pulled out of Sir Kenneth Branagh's production of The Entertainer, on the advice of his doctors. The seventy six-year-old legend had been due to play the part of Billy Rice, the father of Sir Kenneth's character Archie, in John Osborne's play about a music hall performer. Sir John said that he had been hospitalised recently with 'an intestinal complaint' and had been told it was 'too soon to undertake [an] arduous stage role. It is therefore with great sadness and disappointment that I must withdraw.' The actor went on to wish director Rob Ashford 'and the entire company [his] very best wishes for a happy and successful production.' The Entertainer is the last play in Sir Kenneth's year-long residency at London's Garrick Theatre, on 20 August. A spokesperson for the company said that Sir John's replacement 'would be announced in due course.' In a statement, the actor said that he was 'following doctors' advice' despite being 'much improved and on the road to a full recovery' following his recent hospitalisation.
An electronic sequencer and synthesiser has been built based on designs produced more than forty years ago by electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram. Oram, who died in 2003, co-founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the 1950s and developed a system of creating sounds and compositions using drawings. The machine is thought to have remained unfinished in her lifetime. But, experts say the Mini Oramics's approach to composition and performance would have been influential had it first appeared when she devised it. Tom Richards, the researcher who finally constructed the machine, told BBC Radio 4's The World At One programme it had helped answer the question: 'What if this had come to pass in 1973?' The Mini Oramics developed ideas first realised in the earlier and considerably larger Oramics Machine, designed in the early 1960s. The earlier instrument is sufficiently important to the history of experimental electronic music to have formed the centrepiece of an exhibition - Oram To Electronica - at the Science Museum in London. However, that machine is no longer playable. By drawing 'graphs' - lines and dots drawn or painted on to blank movie camera film stock and clear glass slides - the Oramics Machine enabled sounds and compositions to be created visually, albeit on a machine the size of a chest-freezer. The stacked 'tracks' of the machine resemble those of modern music sequencing software. But although it was certainly ingenious and in many respects ahead of its time, the machine's construction relied heavily on clever improvisation, using bits of furniture and repurposed oscilloscopes. The suitcase-sized Mini Oramics kept the same essential concept and interface, but in a smaller device that could be sold to studios and professional musicians, says Tom Richards, who completed the design as part of a PhD between Goldsmiths, University of London and the Science Museum. 'That was her intention,' he said. 'The next version was to be smaller, transistorised, using slightly more modern technology.' In completing Oram's designs, Richards has tried to keep close to the spirit of 1970s technology, eschewing the use of microcomputers such as the Arduino, for example. The completed Mini Oramics resembles an overhead projector. Dots and lines drawn on clear cellophane control elements of the composition and musical expression such as the note, octave and vibrato. On a separate unit, sliders like those found on a graphic equaliser shape waveforms used to synthesise the sound. A variety of factors caused Oram to abandon plans to build the machine, according to Richards, including a lack of funds and anxieties that her approach to creating music was falling out of fashion compared with computer-based techniques. But the build of the Mini Oramics, mostly using technology available in the 1970s, shows Oram's approach to 'drawn' music could have been popularised, musicians who have used the new machine say. 'It's almost like a third way,' James Bulley, a composer who works at the Daphne Oram Archive, told the BBC. 'You are composing and performing in real-time.' Doctor Jo Thomas, of the University of East London, said: 'I felt privileged to use it. This gives instrumental pleasure and compositional pleasure at the same time, that's what makes it a brilliant instrument.' In the four decades since the design of the Mini Oramics, music technology has developed rapidly. For example, there is now an app that simulates in software the original Oramics Machine. But, in 1972, Oram told a radio interviewer that the full development of electronic instruments could take much longer. 'The violin has taken an enormous number of years to evolve, to get to the state it is, probably six hundred years or more,' she told Nicholas Wooley on The World At One. 'Now, if you give me six hundred years, I might bring this up to that sort of stage.'

We start now, dear blog reader, on what is certain to be a rather melancholy few thousand words: The great Caroline Aherne has died at the age of fifty two. Caroline had suffered from cancer, her publicist said. The comedy actress and writer said two years ago that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, having previously suffered from both bladder and eye cancer earlier in her life. Her publicist, Neil Reading, said on Saturday: 'Caroline has sadly passed away, after a brave battle with cancer. The BAFTA award-winning writer and comedy actor died earlier today at her home in Timperley, Greater Manchester. The family ask for privacy at this very sad time.' Caroline Mary Aherne was born in Ealing on 24 December 1963, the daughter of Irish immigrants. By the time she was three her father, Bert a railway labourer, had moved the family to the Wythenshawe district of Manchester. Her father was an alcoholic and, Caroline later recalled, the family struggled to make ends meet. Caroline also battled ill-health from an early age; both she and her older brother, Patrick, were born with a rare cancer of the retina. When she was four, the local Catholic church raised money to send the two children to Lourdes. However, their mother Maureen decided to put her faith in St Bartholomew's Hospital in London and took Caroline and Patrick there for regular treatment. Despite the best efforts of doctors, Caroline spent the rest of her life with only partial sight in one eye. She swiftly developed the role of the family joker and gained an ability to accurately mimic characters on television. 'Nobody else in the family was like that,' her brother recalled. 'But she was funny from the time she was really little.' By the time she was fifteen, Caroline had taken the decision to become a writer, after seeing the award-winning Mike Leigh Play For Today, Abigail's Party on the BBC. She was extremely bright, achieving nine Grade A O-Levels at a local convent school before going on to study drama at Liverpool Polytechnic. One of her first jobs was with the BBC in Manchester, as secretary to Janet Street Porter, but the performance bug was already ingrained in her. She became a regular on the thriving Manchester comedy circuit in the character of Mitzi Goldberg, a spoof country and western singer. The sarcastic nun Sister Mary Immaculate was another early creation. Caroline's career was boosted when she met Craig Cash, with whom she worked on Manchester's KFM radio station. He encouraged her to further develop the character of an agony aunt and chat show host she had created called Mrs Merton and sent tapes to the presenter Martin Kelner, who played them on his Radio 2 show. The Mrs Merton Show launched on BBC TV in 1995 and ran for five seasons and had is own spin-off sitcom - the not particularly good Mrs Merton & Malcolm. A series of guest stars were subjected to gentle, but often extremely embarrassing, questioning in front of a live audience of pensioners. 'And what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?' was one of the gems aimed at guest Debbie McGee. Carol Thatcher was asked if she had been breast-fed as a baby, whilst George Best was quizzed as to whether it was 'playing all that football that made you so thirsty?' Caroline was also appearing regularly as one of the cast of the cult BBC sketch comedy The Fast Show, notably as Poula Fisch, the Channel Nine weather girl whose forecasts were always 'scorchio.' But, by the third series of Mrs Merton, she was feeling the pressure of continual live performances and her personal life was beginning to unravel. Her marriage to New Order bassist Peter Hook collapsed and a Mrs Merton series filmed in Las Vegas was not a success. Her dependency on alcohol increased and she began suffering long periods of depression. This culminated in a well-publicised suicide attempt in 1998 after which, Caroline took herself into rehab. 'I actually have no recollection of it,' she said later. 'But I'd been down for a while, and my mind was whizzing at night, so I was drinking to sleep.' Her retreat from alcohol coincided with the first series of The Royle Family, which first appeared on BBC1 in September 1998. The series, co-created by Aherne and Cash, in which Caroline played the family daughter Denise Royle, was an immediate hit, although not before Caroline and Craig had to fight off attempts by BBC executives to change their original ideas. They fiercely resisted the pressure to shoot scenes on-location and held out for the final format, which barely moved from the Royle family's living room. Caroline also fought off moves to bring in a studio audience which, she said, would have completely ruined the gentle tone of the show. She incorporated elements of her own father in the character of the feckless Jim Royle, played magnificently by Ricky Tomlinson. 'My dad was always going on about the immersion and about lights being left on,' she said. The Royle Family - which also starred Cash, Sue Johnston, Liz Smith and Ralf Little - was a perceptive, warm, often hilarious, occasionally very touching portrait of working class family life and eventually ran for twenty five episodes, attracting audiences of up to ten million at its peak. But, Caroline fell out with Cash over the future of the show and other writers had to be brought in to keep the production on track. She moved to Sydney in Australia in the early 2000s; it became the setting for her BBC2 sitcom Dossa & Joe, which was shown in 2002 to mixed reviews. Caroline dropped out of the public gaze, re-emerging briefly for Royle Family specials in 2006 and 2010 and a Fast Show revival in 2012. More recently, she was the voice of hit Channel Four show Gogglebox, which she had narrated since it began in 2013. Caroline continued to battle against ill-health; she suffered a bout of bladder cancer and, in 2014, revealed that she had undergone treatment for lung cancer. Behind her sometimes dopey characters was an astute observer of life, succinctly summed up by her Royle Family co-star Ricky Tomlinson. 'Caroline acts like a dope and a dumb blonde,' he once said, 'but she's as sharp as a box of razor blades.' Rumours that wafer-thin ham will be served at Caroline's funeral 'for vegetarians' cannot, at this time, be discounted. God bless ya, Carrie, you made us laugh and you made us cry. You won't be forgotten.

The film director Robin Hardy has died at the age of eighty six, a family friend has confirmed. He was best known for cult 1973 British film The Wicker Man, starring Sir Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward. The film told the story of a Christian police sergeant sent to a remote Scottish island search for a missing girl finding rampant paganism and human sacrifice. Hardy, who went on to make a sort of sequel, The Wicker Tree in 2011, died on Friday, the friend said. Last year, Hardy said that he wanted to make a third Wicker Man film as a tribute to Sir Christopher, who had recently died. Hardy was said to be working on his next film, The Wrath Of The Gods, which would have completed The Wicker Man trilogy, at the time of his own death. The Wicker Man was Hardy's feature debut and he went on to direct only two more feature-length films. The second, The Fantasist, came thirteen years after his debut and was largely ignored by moviegoers. He also co-wrote and produced 1989's straight-to-video Forbidden Sun. Although by all accounts a very happy shoot, The Wicker Man's post-production was a troubled one and it received a very unsympathetic reception from British Lion Films. In a 2013 interview, Hardy said that the studio - which was going through financial problems at the time - feared The Wicker Man was 'rubbish and undistributable' and tried to change many aspects of the movie, including giving it a more conventional, 'happy' ending. Hardy's one hundred minute directors cut (since restored and released on DVD) was eventually heavily edited to a mere eighty four minutes and released as the second movie on a double-bill with the acclaimed horror film Don't Look Now. However, due to some excellent reviews the studio eventually gave the film a wider release and it, subsequently, became a genuine cult item and is now regarded as one of the most acclaimed British movies of all time. Among those to pay tribute to Hardy was the director Edgar Wright, who said that his own movie Hot Fuzz would never have been made without The Wicker Man's influence. Robin St Clair Rimington Hardy was born in Surrey in October 1929 and, after his education, studied art in Paris. He began his career as a director with the National Film Board of Canada and in the US where he directed episodes of Esso World Theater [sic], an omnibus programme about cultures from around the world (one 1965 episode about India, which featured footage of Ravi Shanker, is particularly well-remembered). He eventually found a steady career in commercials and educational films and was a partner in a film company with The Wicker Man writer Anthony Shaffer for thirteen years. Hardy returned to London where he directed television commercials. He also formed his own TV production company and was involved in creating historical theme parks in the US. In addition to writing the highly-regarded novels Cowboys For Christ and The Education Of Don Juan, Hardy also published a novelisation of The Wicker Man. He is survived by his wife, Victoria and his son, the TV director Justin Hardy.
The Italian actor, filmmaker, writer, sportsman and politician Bud Spencer, who starred in a number of memorable Spaghetti Westerns, has died aged eighty six. He died peacefully on Monday in Rome 'and did not suffer from pain,' his son said. Spencer, whose real name was Carlo Pedersoli, was known to his fans as 'The Big Friendly Giant of the screen.' The actor, who was also a professional swimmer and water polo player, appeared in more than a hundred movies from the 1950s to the 1990s. He frequently appeared as part of an acclaimed double act alongside another Italian actor, Terence Hill - whose real name was Mario Girotti. Spencer's best known movies included Double Trouble, Go For It!, Ace High, A Friend Is A Treasure and the two for which he is probably most remembered, the classic Spaghetti Western They Call Me Trinity (1970) and its sequel Trinty Is Still My Name (1972). 'With our deepest regrets, we have to tell you that Bud is flying to his next journey,' Spencer's family said on his Twitter account. The actor's son, Giuseppe Pedersoli, added: 'He had all of us next to him and his last words were "Thank you."' Paying tribute to the actor, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tweeted: 'Ciao Bud Spencer, we loved you so much.' Russell Crowe was a known fan of Spencer's work - at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year he thanked a journalist for comparing his double act with Ryan Gosling in the movie The Nice Guys to Spencer and Terence Hill as Bambino and Trinity in Enzo Barboni's Trinity movies. Crowe said: 'Dude, now you're talking! That's a really flattering compliment, thank you very much.' Crowe also took to the Internet to send his sympathies to Spencer's family. Bud was born on 31 October 1929 in Santa Lucia, a historical rione in Naples and in the same building as the writer Luciano De Crescenzo with whom he went to school. Bud played several sports and showed an aptitude for swimming. In 1940, due to his father's work, he moved to Rome, where he attended high school and later enrolled at Sapienza University, studying chemistry. In January 1947, the family moved to Brazil and from 1947 to 1949, he worked in the Italian consulate in Recife, where he learned to speak fluent Portuguese. He returned to Italy in 1949 to play water polo in Rome for Società Sportiva Lazio Nuoto and won the Italian swimming championships in freestyle. As a professional swimmer, Spencer was the first Italian to swim the one hundred metres in less than one minute in September 1950 in Salsomaggiore. He had made his international debut a year earlier and was called up for the European championships in Vienna where he swam in two finals, finishing fifth in the one hundred metres and fourth in the relay. He participated in three Olympics for Italy, in 1952 in Helsinki where he reached the semi-finals in the hundred metres freestyle, a feat he repeated four years later in Melbourne, and in 1960 in Rome. As a water polo player, he won the Italian Championship in 1954 with Lazio and the gold medal at 1955 Mediterranean Games in Barcelona with the Italian national team. Pedersoli's first film role was in Quel Fantasma Di Mio Marito, an Italian comedy shot in 1949. In 1951 he played a member of the Praetorian Guard in Quo Vadis, Mervyn LeRoy's Hollywood epic shot in Italy. During the 1950s, he appeared in minor parts in numerous Italian films including Mario Monicelli's A Hero Of Our Times, with Alberto Sordi and the 1954 war movie Human Torpedoes with Raf Vallone. After the Rome Olympics, Pedersoli retired from swimming and married Maria Amato, the daughter of Italian film producer Giuseppe Amato. He signed a contract with RCA Records to write lyrics for singers such as Ornella Vanoni and Nico Fidenco and for soundtracks. A multi-talented man, Pedersoli also produced documentaries for the national public broadcasting company RAI. In 1967 the director Giuseppe Colizzi offered him a small role in a Spaghetti Western, God Forgives ... I Don't! On the set, Pedersoli was reaquainted with another relatively unknown actor, Mario Girotti. The director asked the two to change their names, deeming them to be 'too Italian-sounding' for a Western. Pedersoli chose Bud Spencer, with Bud inspired by Budweiser beer and Spencer by his favourite actor, Spencer Tracy. Bud had previously met Mario, on the set of Hannibal in 1959. They went on to become a duo. While Terence Hill's characters were agile, youthful and usually heroic, Spencer always played the 'phlegmatic, grumpy strong-arm man with a blessed, naive child's laughter and a golden heart.' Overall, Bud and Terence worked on over twenty films, last working together in 1994's Troublemakers. Spencer wrote the complete or partial screenplay for some of his movies. His feature film career slowed down during the 1980s, shifting more toward television. In the 1990s, he acted in the television action-drama Extralarge. His autobiography was published in 2011. In addition, he also published a recipe book including his favourite dishes. In 2005 Bud entered politics, unsuccessfully standing as regional councillor in Lazio for Burlusconi's Forza Italia party. Spencer stated: 'In my life, I've done everything. There are only three things I haven't been – a ballet dancer, a jockey and a politician. Given that the first two jobs are out of the question, I'll throw myself into politics!' A qualified pilot, Bud is survived by his wife of fifty six years, Maria, their three children Giuseppe, Christine and Diamante, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
The director of the 1978 Viet'nam War film The Deer Hunter has died. Double Oscar winner Michael Cimino's body was found at his Los Angeles home on Saturday, his former lawyer Eric Weissmann said. Cimino, seventy seven, who directed a total of eight films, will be remembered for a career of extreme highs and lows. While The Deer Hunter has been hailed as one of the most important movies in Hollywood history, his next project, Heaven's Gate, was derided as a flop which effectively caused the collapse of a studio. Albeit, it's a movie that this blogger rather likes a bit more than The Deer Hunter, he has to confess. Weissmann said that Cimino's body was found after friends had been unable to contact him. No cause of death has yet been determined. The Deer Hunter with its infamous 'Russian roulette' scene starred Robert de Niro and Christopher Walken and won five Oscars including the award for the best film in 1979. It chronicles the lives of a group of friends from a Pennsylvania steel town and the devastating effect of the Viet'nam War, both on those who fought in it and those who stayed at home in small-town America. It is a fine movie - beautifully shot - but it's not, perhaps, the masterpiece of its reputation. Indeed, recently, the BBC film critic Mark Kermode - whose opinions this blogger respects in most areas - challenged the film's status: 'At the risk of being thrown out of the "respectable film critics" circle, may I take this opportunity to declare officially that in my opinion The Deer Hunter is one of the worst films ever made, a rambling self-indulgent, self-aggrandising barf-fest steeped in manipulatively racist emotion and notable, primarily, for its farcically melodramatic tone which is pitched somewhere between shrieking hysteria and somnambulist sombreness.' So, not a fan, then. 'Our work together is something I will always remember. He will be missed,' de Niro said in a statement (rather longer than most statements Bobby makes) after the director's death was announced. Based on the success of The Deer Hunter, Cimino was given pretty much a blank cheque to do whatever he liked next and wrote and directed Heaven's Gate, loosely based on the historical Wyoming Johnson County War of 1889 to 1893. It was a twenty four carat financial disaster that went four times over its intended budget was a year behind schedule and pretty much bankrupted the United Artists studio. But the film, starring Christopher Walken, John Hurt and Kris Kristofferson, has more recently been hailed by some critics as an under-rated masterpiece. It's not, but it is frequently beautiful and nowhere near as woeful as suggested by its early reputation. That was, at least in part, shaped by Stephen Bach's book Final Cut: Art, Money, & Ego In The Making of Heaven's Gate, The Film That Sank United Artists which included a rather hostile portrait of Cimino as a perfectionist, an egotist and someone with a sometimes fragile grasp on the truth. Heaven's Gate was such a devastating critical and commercial bomb in 1980 that public perception of Cimino's work was tainted in its wake; the majority of his subsequent films achieved neither popular nor critical success. Peter Biskind offered one of the harshest criticisms of Cimino when he described the director as 'our first, home-grown fascist director, our own Leni Riefenstahl.' Other critics, notably Pauline Kael and John Simon, criticised Cimino's abilities as a filmmaker and storyteller. His failure with Heaven's Gate led some commentators to suggest that he should give back his Oscars for The Deer Hunter. In his earlier career, he was an advertising executive who moved into film with his debut, the really rather good Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges crime caper, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, in 1974. He also directed Year Of The Dragon (1985), which he co-wrote with Oliver Stone, Desperate Hours (1990), starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins, the gangster movie The Sicilian (1986), adapted from a novel by The Godfather author Mario Puzo and Sunchaser (1996). In writing about his experience working on The Sicilian, producer Bruce McNall described Cimino as 'one part artistic genius and one part infantile egomaniac.' Cimino was born in New York City in February 1939. A third-generation Italian-American, Cimino grew up in Long Island and was regarded as something of a prodigy at the private schools his parents sent him to. But, he rebelled against his parents by consorting with delinquents. Cimino described himself as 'always hanging around with kids my parents didn't approve of. Those guys were so alive. When I was fifteen I spent three weeks driving all over Brooklyn with a guy who was following his girlfriend. He was convinced she was cheating on him and he had a gun, he was going to kill her. There was such passion and intensity about their lives. When the rich kids got together, the most we ever did was cross against a red light.' After graduating, he entered Michigan State University studying graphic arts and later attended Yale. During the production of The Deer Hunter, Cimino had given co-workers (such as cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and associate producer Joann Carelli) the vague impression that much of the movie's storyline was autobiographical, somehow related to the director's own military experience and based on the men he had known during service in Viet'nam. Just as the film was about to open, Cimino gave an interview to The New York Times in which he claimed that he had been 'attached to a Green Beret medical unit' at the time of the Tet Offensive of 1968. When the Times reporter, who had not been able to corroborate this, questioned the studio about it, studio executives panicked and fabricated 'evidence' to support the story. Universal Studios president Thom Mount commented at the time, 'I know this guy. He was no more a medic in the Green Berets than I'm a rutabaga.' Tom Buckley, a veteran Viet'nam correspondent for the Times, corroborated that Cimino had done a stint as an Army medic, but that the director had never been attached to the Green Berets. Cimino's active service – in fact, just six months in 1962 – had been as a reservist at Fort Dix and he was never deployed to Viet'nam. Cimino's publicist reportedly said that he intended to sue Buckley, but Cimino never did. Cimino himself had been known to give exaggerated, misleading and conflicting (or simply tongue-in-cheek) stories about himself, his background and his filmmaking experiences. 'When I'm kidding, I'm serious and when I'm serious, I'm kidding,' he once said. 'I am not who I am, and I am who I am not.' After graduating, Cimino moved to Manhattan to work in Madison Avenue advertising and became a director of television commercials. He shot adverts for L'Eggs Hosiery, Kool Cigarettes, Eastman Kodak, United Airlines and Pepsi, among others before moving to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter and, ultimately, director.
Pioneering rock guitarist Scotty Moore, who was a member of Elvis Presley's original backing band, has died aged eighty four. He died in Nashville on Tuesday after several months of poor health. Scotty is credited with helping Elvis to shape his music that came to be called rock and/or roll and inspired a future generations of guitarists. Moore was the last survivor of Elvis's original trio which included bassist Bill Black and drummer DJ Fontana. As part of The Blue Moon Boys, Scotty backed Elvis on many of his legendary songs for Sun and RCA including 'That's All Right Mama', 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'Blue Suede Shoes' and 'Jailhouse Rock'. Keith Richards was one of those inspired by Moore. He once said: 'When I heard 'Heartbreak Hotel', I knew what I wanted to do in life. It was as plain as day. All I wanted to do in the world was to be able to play and sound like that. Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty Moore.' Scotty Moore was born near Gadsden, Tennessee in 1931. He learned to play the guitar from family and friends at eight years of age. Although underage when he first enlisted, he served in the United States Navy between 1948 and 1952. Moore's early background was in jazz and country music. A fan of the guitarist Chet Atkins, Scotty led a group called The Starlite Wranglers before Sam Phillips at Sun Records put him together with the then teenage Elvis Presley. Phillips believed that Moore's lead guitar and Bill Black's double bass were all that was needed to augment Presley's vocals. In 1954 Moore and Black accompanied Elvis on what would become the first legendary Presley hit, 'That's All Right Mama', a recording regarded as a seminal event in rock and roll history. The session, held the evening of 5 July 1954, had proved entirely unfruitful until late. As they were about to give up and go home, Presley took his guitar and launched into Arthur Crudup's 1946 blues number which he had recently learned. Moore recalled, 'All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool and then Bill picked up his bass and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open. He stuck his head out and said, "What are you doing?" And we said, "We don't know." "Well, back up," he said, "try to find a place to start, and do it again!"' During the next few days, the trio recorded a bluegrass number, Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky', again in a distinctive style and employing a jury-rigged echo effect that Phillips dubbed 'slapback'. In 1958, when Elvis was drafted into the army, Scotty began working at Fernwood Records and produced a hit record called 'Tragedy' for Thomas Wayne Perkins, the brother of Johnny Cash's guitarist Luther Perkins. In 1960, Moore commenced recording sessions with a now demobbed Elvis at RCA, and also served as production manager at Sam Phillips Recording Service, which involved supervising all aspects of studio operation. In 1964, Scotty released a solo LP on Epic Records called The Guitar That Changed The World, played using his Gibson Super Four HUndred. For this, he was reportedly fired by Sam Phillips. Moore reunited with Fontana and Presley for Presley's acclaimed 1968 NBC television special. This was the last time that the musicians would play with Presley and, for Scotty, it was the last time he ever saw Elvis. Moore also had a long working relationship with his friend Carl Perkins and also worked with artists including Ringo Starr, Saint Keef Richards, Jeff Beck and Rockin' Ronnie Wood. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and in 2015 he was placed at number twenty nine in Rolling Stone's one hundred greatest guitarists list. Scotty Moore was thrice married and divorced; he is survived by a son and four daughters.
Further sad news; Gordon Murray, the creator and puppeteer of the popular BBC children's series Trumpton, has died this week at the age of ninety five. His son-in-law, William Mollett, confirmed the news in a statement to the BBC. The so-called 'Trumptonshire Trilogy' - Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley - were shown, weekly, by the corporation from 1966 for over twenty years. Camberwick Green, which was made using stop-motion animation, was believed to be the first children's show to be made and broadcast in colour on the BBC. Gordon was born in London on 3 May 1921 in Wandsworth - the youngest of four children. He attended Emanuel School, where he studied Classics - but later gave up Latin and Greek, after which he spent most of his time in the art and drama departments. Mollett told the BBC that Gordon enjoyed going to the Victoria Palace Theatre with his father as a child to see variety shows - and particularly liked the marionettes. Gordon was nine years old when his father died in 1930. After leaving school, Gordon started working as a journalist and joined the Territorial Army. In 1939 he was enlisted in the London Scottish Regiment. Having been commissioned into the Royal Corps of Signals, Murray took part in the Gold Beach Normandy landings as a platoon commander and fought in post-D-Day Europe. After the war, he worked as an actor in repertory theatre, and appeared in Shakespeare plays and Peter Pan - where he met his wife, the ballet dancer Enid Martin. In the 1950s, Murray established a puppet company touring theatres in the UK, and it was whilst doing this that he was scouted by BBC producer Freda Lingstrom. He was offered the job of pulling the strings of Spotty Dog ('the biggest spotty dog you ever did see') in the new series for toddlers The Woodentops. In 1955, Murray took a BBC production course and was taken on as a contract producer in the children's department. As well as The Woodentops he also worked on The Flowerpot Men before creating a television version of the popular radio series Toytown. He went on to produce several successful marionette shows for the BBC including Hans Christian Anderson's The Nightingale and thirty three episodes of The Rubovia Legends. His first official television credit was in 1954 as a puppeteer on Bengo - a programme about the adventures of a puppy. Murray devised new puppet techniques for television (introducing stop-motion filming a style imported from Eastern Europe), wrote scripts, built puppets and trained a team of puppeteers to use rod and glove puppets as well as marionettes worked by strings. He worked with John Ryan on the popular Captain Pugwash series, and also produced the Sketch Club series with the artist Adrian Hill. Gordon at one point had the opportunity to become the BBC's head of children's programmes, but chose instead to form his own production company, based in a converted church at Crouch End in North London. His stop-motion Trumptonshire trilogy began in 1966 with Camberwick Green, which should have been called Candlewick Green but for a typing error by a BBC secretary preparing Gordon's contract. Animated by Bob Bura and John Hardwick, it was a gentle village soap opera set deep in the English countryside with a galère of characters ranging from the gossipy Mrs Honeyman and Doctor Mopp with his boneshaker car, to the village copper, PC McGarry and perhaps the best-remembered character of all, Windy Miller of Colley's Mill. Each episode began with narrator Brian Cant's announcement: 'Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?' As it rotated and ticked before its audience, triangular segments on the top would slide apart and the character destined to be the focus of the episode's adventures would rise up on some hidden clockwork mechanism and wave. As the villagers went about their business, toy soldiers garrisoned at Pippin Fort, under the command of Captain Snort and Sergeant Major Grout, were on hand to sort out any village problems; of which there seemed to be, conveniently enough, roughly one per episode. The first series was an instant success. A year later Murray introduced some of his Camberwick Green characters - along with many new ones - into Trumpton, a small town in which the trouble-shooting was handled by the local fire brigade rather than the soldiery. The daily roll-call 'Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb' became a children's catchphrase. (Murray explained the presence of the two Pughs by pointing out that they were twins.) Each episode opened with the town clock 'telling the time for Trumpton' and ended with a concert by the fire brigade band in the local park. In 1969 Murray devised the third instalment of his trilogy, Chigley – a hamlet 'near Camberwick Green, Trumptonshire' – in which he introduced a new cast of characters which were joined by some familiar ones from the earlier series like Windy and Chippy Minton. It also featured the weekly adventures of Lord Belborough and his little train. Although Murray made only thirteen episodes of each series, repeats were broadcast for many years and while the storylines were limited and the songs repetitive, his charming characterisations – and Cant's whimsical, comforting narration – elevated the series to classic cult status, memorably celebrated in songs by Merseyside indie satirists Half Man Half Biscuit. Murray, reportedly, rather resented the arrival in 1981 of the series Postman Pat - Pat, he pointed out strongly resembled Peter the Postman in Camberwick Green. Indeed he was so upset when he saw it that 'I never [watched] it again, on principle.' He was, by all accounts, occasionally given to such petulant gestures: when he felt his eight-inch characters were no longer earning their keep, in the mid-1980s he made a bonfire in his back garden and burned the lot, including the sets, saying later that he 'didn't want them to get into the wrong hands.' Ten years afterwards, Channel Four bought the rights for all thirty nine of Murray's films and broadcast them to an entirely new generation of Trumptonshire fans. The programmes were digitally restored and re-released in 2011, after the original footage was found in the family's attic and in the BBC archives. Murray said at the time: 'I'd love to see the people who first watched it back in the 1960s enjoying it again, in pristine digital quality, with their grandchildren. I'm so delighted it's been so lovingly brought back to life. I was really worried it had been lost forever and I can't imagine a world without Trumptonshire.' Murray regarded his work as an elegy for lost innocence and the abbreviation of modern childhood. 'Children grow up far too soon,' he reflected. 'Before you know it, they're having condoms handed out in class. It's not a world that encourages them to be people.' 'There's no crime in Trumptonshire,' Murray told an interviewer in 1995. 'It's a happy world and a lot of people say "Well you shouldn't encourage children to think that the world's like that." Some people throw their children into the deep end of the swimming bath at an early age and say "Swim." You know, that's the way to learn, life's hard. I don't believe in that.' He believed, rather, in the innocence of childhood. 'I am very upset, because I'm an old man now, at the short length of childhood that children have. They don't have childhood for long and I think that's a wicked shame, because childhood is the most marvellous thing you've got to remember for the rest of your life.' In 1975, Gordon produced a stop-motion remake of The Rubovian Legends called simply Rubovia and three years later made Skip & Fluffy, which was screened as part of the BBC's Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. His final series The Gublins was braodcast in 1979. He turned to the production of miniature books under the Silver Thimble imprint, working from home, binding them by hand, inscribing them with calligraphy and illustrating them with his own watercolours. The books are now regarded as collectors' items in Britain and America. In 1988 Murray recreated some of his Trumptonshire characters for an advertising campaign for Hovis which, reportedly, paid him twenty thousand pounds a year for the copyright alone. In recent years Gordon lived with his family near Stamford and is survived by his daughters Emma and Rose and his four grandchildren.
Jason Roy scored a second century in three games to give England a series-clinching six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the fourth one-day international on Wednesday. Roy made one hundred and sixty two, the second-highest score by an England batsman in an ODI. It led England to three hundred and eight, their second-highest successful ODI chase, with eleven balls to spare in a match reduced to forty two overs per side because of rain at The Oval. Sri Lanka posted three hundred and five for five, a total increased by the Duckworth-Lewis System, but could not stop England taking a two-nil lead in the five match series. It is a third one-day series win in five for England since their awful World Cup campaign of 2015. The two defeats, against Australia and South Africa, were both in deciding rubbers. Sri Lanka are still searching for their first win over England on this current tour, with only Saturday's fifth ODI at Cardiff and a Twenty20 in Southampton on Tuesday remaining. Opener Roy, brought into the England side immediately after the World Cup, has epitomised the improvement which has seen them score one-day runs faster than any other international team since the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Following his record-breaking stand of two hundred and fifty six with Alex Hales to win the second ODI, the Surrey right-hander could not be contained on a perfect batting surface at his home ground. With a bottom-hand technique that saw him take one hundred and twenty of his runs on the leg side, Roy three times shimmied down the pitch to hit sixes over long-on. After Moeen Ali, opening because Hales had a stiff back, edged behind, Roy shared a one hundred and forty nine partnership with Joe Root, who cut and pulled his way to a much-needed sixty five. Dropped by bowler Suranga Lakmal on one hundred and thirty three, Roy seemed certain to better the ODI record one hundred and sixty seven not out made by Robin Smith against Australia in 1993 when he missed a swipe at a Nuwan Pradeep slower ball and was bowled. Roy said later that he had been unaware of the record and, had he known he was so closed, he may have batted differently. That left Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler to complete England's fifth successful chase in excess of three hundred and their third in the past year. A feat once remarkable for this team is now becoming routine. Asked to have first use of such a true surface, Sri Lanka put in their best batting effort of the series but, despite four men passing sixty, lacked a match-winning contribution. Kusal Mendis added drives to his usual strong back-foot play in seventy seven, while Danushka Gunathilaka drove well and worked to the leg side effectively in making sixty two. They shared one hundred and twenty eight for the second wicket but both fell after the rain, which arrived in the nineteenth over, to the leg-spin of Adil Rashid. Despite the platform that has been previously lacking, Sri Lanka were never able to fully kick-on, even though Dinesh Chandimal took sixes over mid-wicket and third man in his quick-fire sixty three. After he was bowled by David Willey, it was left to Angelo Mathews to provide the late impetus with an unbeaten sixty seven. Eighty-eight runs came in the final nine overs and the adjusted total looked at least competitive. Roy proved it was anything but. Roy is the fifth England opener to score two centuries in a bilateral series, after Graham Gooch, Nick Knight, Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook. Roy and Joe Root's partnership of one hundred and forty nine is the highest second-wicket stand for England against Sri Lanka in ODIs, beating Alec Stewart and Graeme Hick's one hundred and twenty five in the 1999 World Cup.

Welsh Wales produced the performance of the tournament so far to beat Belgium in the Quarter Finals of Euro 2016 on Friday evening. In an exhilarating display of counter-attacking football, they beat the highly fancied Belgians three-one and, in doing so, showed England's pampered, over-paid prima donnas what it's like to actually have the will to win a match instead of, you know, being more concerned about poncing around doing crap shampoo adverts. Wales reached the Semi-Finals of a major tournament for the first time after a stirring fightback in Lille backed by a huge travelling support. Radja Nainggolan put Belgium ahead with a thunderous twenty five-yard strike in the first half but Wales's captain Ashley Williams headed in from a corner to equalise soon afterwards in a breathless period of play littered with chances at both ends. Welsh celebrations reached stratospheric levels when Hal Robson-Kanu, a striker currently without a club, gave them the lead with a superb turn and finish. After withstanding late Belgium pressure, Wales sealed victory through a header from substitute Sam Vokes that set up a Semi-Final against Portugal and a potentially mouth-watering duel between Real Madrid team-mates Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. Two of the most arrogant - if, admittedly, highly talented - men in football.
The game also provided proof that you can lose forty eight per cent to fifty two per cent and still stay in Europe.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable and, recently relegated) Newcastle United have signed Crystal Palace striker Dwight Gayle and Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie, both on five-year deals. Gayle, twenty five, scored twenty six goals in seventy four games for the Palace after joining them from Peterborough for six million smackers in July 2013. 'Newcastle has a massive fan base and a great history so it is amazing to be here,' he told the club website. Scotland winger Ritchie, twenty six, featured forty two times last season as The Cherries maintained their top-flight place. 'It's an unbelievable feeling to come to a football club like this,' said Ritchie. 'I loved it at Bournemouth - I had a fantastic time there and it had a huge impact on my career. But when a club like Newcastle comes calling, I couldn't pass up this opportunity.' Both fees are undisclosed, but Gayle's move - which happened on the day that Newcastle's England winger Andros Townsend went in the opposite direction in a separate deal - is reported to be worth ten million knicker, while Ritchie's signing is believed to have cost around twelve million notes. The pair are manager Rafael Benitez's second and third signings since the club's relegation from the Premier League, following Wednesday's arrival of Belgian goalkeeper Matz Sels. 'Dwight is a great player, a proven goalscorer, and it is fantastic news that he has joined us,' said Rafa The Gaffa. 'We have been following some wingers for a while and Matt was one of the best prospects for this team. He has great ability and pace, and as soon as we knew that Andros Townsend could be leaving, our priority was to finalise this deal.'
To medical matters of a Telly Topping nature: On Tuesday, this blogger had the results from his latest six monthly diabetes check up, dear blog reader; which were, astoundingly, good. Blood and wee-wee samples were both - thoroughly - in order, this blogger's weight remained stable from last fortnight (when it was the lowest it's been in living memory), blood pressure was slightly down on last fortnight, blood sugar level was forty four (one higher than six months ago but still well within acceptable limits) and cholesterol level was exactly the same as six months ago. This blogger talked to Nurse Sharon about the Telly Topping depression situation but we didn't go too deeply into it since Keith Telly Topping had his next appointment with Doctor Chris on that very subject at the end of the week (see below). So, physically at least, this blogger is, if not in great shape exactly then in far better shape than he has any right to be given the staggering self-induced abuse his body's has had over the years.
Then, on Thursday, this blogger had an extremely excellent meeting with my man Doctor Chris in which we discussed, at some length, the depression and the potential treatment schedule for it. It was really good to talk to him, dear blog reader, which is odd. Because, whilst this blogger seemingly, has no problem whatsoever with talking - for hours, if not days - about that subject on Facebook and with you lot on here(!), in the past, in actual face-to-face conversations, he's found himself feeling somewhat introverted and reticent about discussing the nuts and bolts of the symptoms. With, you know, 'normal people.' It was the first time that this blogger and Doctor Chris have met since Keith Telly Topping started on the Fluoxetine anti-depressants last month and, he has to confess, they doesn't seem to have made much of a difference thus far; but, as this blogger has only been on the drug for four weeks, we are going to give it another month to see if they start to take effect or whether something different/stronger/nothing at all might be more beneficial to Keith Telly Topping's particular needs. (Doctor Chris did say that finding the right medication to treat a particular depression is a bit 'trial and error' as it were and we might have to try a few different things before we eventually hit on the right one for this blogger.) Keith Telly Topping mentioned in the conversation the various things which have been on his mind him of late (the sudden changes of mood he's been experiencing, the appetite changes and weight loss, odd moments of memory impairment, fatigue, occasional anxiety and panic attacks, headaches et cetera). But most of those things he'd already had to some degree or other before starting on the drug so, Doctor Chris seemed to think they were more likely to be symptoms of the depression itself rather than of the treatment per se. He was - as he has always been with my family since he first started treating my mother twenty years ago and this blogger, sort of, inherited him as my own doctor - sympathetic, chatty, kind and open to my ideas rather than imposing anything on yer actual Keith Telly Topping that this blogger was unsure about. He said, as others advised have previously, that depression has no obvious cause and thus, not to worry about what did cause it since that's a never-endingly circular way of thinking with no obvious escape route; that it can happen to anyone; that it's nothing to be ashamed or scared of (neither of which, I think, I am, but the potential is, admittedly, always there); that the treatment can be lengthy and that there may be some setbacks along the way but, ultimately, we'll get there and this blogger will eventually start to feel somewhat better. He said that Keith Telly Topping should continue to do whatever it is that he's been doing physically (and, perhaps, if Keith Telly Topping can, to get back into the swimming if he feels up to it as that would be beneficial) since this blogger's diabetes and hypertension results earlier in the week were, and I quote, 'stunning.' And Doctor Chris was also pleased with the weight loss although less happy - along with this blogger, it must be said - that Keith Telly Topping's appetite seems to have gone through the floor of late ('eating less is good, not enjoying what you are eating, isn't and we need to put a stop to that!') And, Doctor Chris thought that Keith Telly Topping's recent decision to near enough cut out bread from my diet was 'a great idea and, that'll certainly help.' This blogger talked about his sudden, 'flick-of-a-switch' mood swings mentioned in a previous blog update which, this blogger noted, seems to be happening roughly once every two or three days at the moment, often around that time of the evening (8pm to 9pm) where he will suddenly go from feeling relatively okay to, in an instant, thinking 'oh, sod this, I'm off to bed'). Again, the doctor said that this sort of thing wasn't uncommon in depression and nor is the finding oneself feeling emotional and a bit weepy often brought on by some stray fragment of nonsense on the TV. He was positive and witty and most of the things that this blogger really needed at the moment and it was good to talk to someone who actually appears to understand the medical, mental and emotional nuances of depression. And, someone who is neither mollycoddling nor full of easy solutions but, rather, realistic but, at the same time, optimistic without going overboard on the 'this is going to be easy,' route. It isn't going to be but it is, he said, doable, and that's comforting. It's not so much empathy that this blogger finds impressive about my guy, it's the nuance of understanding. It's that fine balance between 'ah, you poor lamb, giz a hug' and 'get up off yer arse, y'lazy shit and stop feeling sorry for yerself!' It's a very tricky thing to pull off. It's what the best doctors manage, however. They're able to know when you give you a cuddle, when to give you kick up the rear and when to suggest some very hard drugs might be the solution. Keith Telly Topping is glad that my guy appears, at least, to have that ability to know what to say and when to say it.

Researchers say that they have found the first clear evidence the thinning in the ozone layer above Antarctica is 'starting to heal.' The scientists said that in September 2015 the hole was around four million square kilometres smaller than it was in the year 2000 - an area roughly the size of India. The gains have been credited to the long-term phasing out of ozone-destroying chemicals. The study also sheds new light on the role of volcanoes in making the problem worse. British scientists first noticed a dramatic thinning of ozone in the stratosphere some ten kilometres above Antarctica in the mid-1980s. Ozone is important because it blocks out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Its absence increases the chances of skin cancer, cataract damage and harm to animals and plants. In 1986, US researcher Susan Solomon showed that ozone was being destroyed by the presence of molecules containing chlorine and bromine that came from chlorofluorocarbons. These gases were found in everything from hairsprays to refrigerators to air-conditioning units. The reason the thinning was occurring mainly over Antarctica was because of the extreme cold and large amounts of light. These helped produce what are termed 'Polar Stratospheric Clouds.' In these chilled-out clouds, the chlorine chemistry occurs that destroys the ozone. Thanks to the global ban on the use of CFCs in the Montreal Protocol in 1987, the situation in Antarctica has been slowly improving since. Several studies have shown the declining influence of CFCs, but according to the authors this new study shows the 'first fingerprints of healing' and the ozone layer is actively growing again. Professor Solomon and colleagues carried out detailed measurements of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere between 2000 and 2015. Using data from weather balloons, satellites and model simulations, they were able to show that the thinning of the layer had declined by four million square kilometres over the period. They found that 'more than half' of the shrinkage was due 'solely' to the reduction in atmospheric chlorine. Normally measurements are taken in October when the ozone hole is at its largest. But this team believed they would get a better picture by looking at readings taken in September, when temperatures are still low but other factors which can influence the amount of ozone, such as the weather, are less prevalent. 'Even though we phased out the production of CFCs in all countries including India and China around the year 2000, there's still a lot of chlorine left in the atmosphere,' Solomon told the BBC World Service Science In Action programme. 'It has a lifetime of about fifty to one hundred years, so it is starting to slowly decay and the ozone will slowly recover. We don't expect to see a complete recovery until about 2050 or 2060 but we are starting to see that in September the ozone hole is not as bad as it used to be.' One finding which puzzled researchers was the October 2015 reading that showed the biggest ozone hole on record over Antarctica. The scientists believe that a key contributor to the record hole was volcanic activity. 'After an eruption, volcanic sulphur forms tiny particles and those are the seeds for Polar Stratospheric Clouds,' Professor Solomon told Science In Action. 'You get even more of these clouds when you have a recent major volcanic eruption and that leads to additional ozone loss. Until we did our recent work no-one realised that the Calbuco eruption in Chile, actually had significantly affected the ozone loss in October of last year.' The study has been hailed as 'historically significant' by some other researchers in the field. 'This is the first convincing evidence that the healing of the Antarctic ozone hole has now started,' said Doctor Markus Rex from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar & Marine Research in Germany. 'Right now, the state of the ozone layer is still really bad, but I find it very important that we know the Montreal Protocol is working and has an effect on the size of the hole and that is a big step forward.' However others are not entirely convinced that the decline shown in the new study is down to a reduction in the amount of chlorine in the stratosphere. 'The data clearly show significant year-to-year variations that are much greater than the inferred trends shown in the paper,' said Doctor Paul Newman (no relation) from NASA. 'If the paper included this past year, which had a much more significant ozone hole due to lower wave driven forcing, the overall trend would be less.' Regardless of these questions, the scientists involved in the study believe the ozone story is a great role model for how to tackle global environmental problems. 'It's just been remarkable,' said Professor Solomon. 'This was an era in which international co-operation went rather well on some issues. I was inspired by the way the developed and developing countries were able to work together on dealing with the ozone hole.' So,it seems that there might be something worth living for, dear blog reader. You know, besides the obvious things.

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