Thursday, December 29, 2016

Stop The Year I Want To Get Off

The Return Of Doctor Mysterio achieved an audience Appreciation Index score of eighty two. For the uninitiated (and, that should be no dear blog readers hereabout), the AI is a measure of how much the audience enjoyed a particular television programme. The score, out of one hundred, is compiled by a selected panel of around five thousand viewers - including this blogger as it happens - who go online and rate and comment on particulr programmeswhich they have watched. Any score for a drama above eighty is considered to be 'good'. The score of eighty two is identical to that received by last year's Doctor Who Christmas episode, The Husbands Of River Song.
Without, this blogger hopes, anthropomorphing an artificial man-made construct like a year any more than is absolutely necessary 2016, it seems, has little or no intention of letting up on 'the death thing' right to its very final knockings. From the astonishingly sad demise of David Bowie in early January to the loss of Carrie Fisher on the day after Boxing Day, via Ed Stewart, Alan Rickman, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Harper Lee, Terry Wogan, Umberto Eco, George Kennedy, Dave Swarbrick, Ronnie Corbett, Sir George Martin, Keith Emerson, Adrienne Corri, Johan Cruyff, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Peter Shaffer, Carlos Alberto, Tony Crozier, Dale Griffin, Merle Haggard, Victoria Wood, Prince, Gareth Thomas, Burt Kwouk, Ken Adam, Robert Banks Stewart, Robin Hardy, Guy Hamilton, Jean Alexander, Sylvia Anderson, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Alan Vega, Scotty Moore, Michael Cimino, Frank Finlay, Bernard Gallagher, Frank Kelly, Andrew Sachs, Caroline Aherne, Gordon Murray, Jimmy Perry, Robert Stigwood, Tony Warren, Gene Wilder, Pete Burns, Bobby Vee, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Leon Russell, Peter Vaughan, Ron Glass, Rick Parfitt and George Michael among many others, the worlds of entertainment, sport, literature and art have lost some if their most admired figures in 2016. And, here are but the latest to leave us:
The great Liz Smith, who played Nana in The Royle Family and Mrs Cropley in The Vicar Of Dibley, has died aged ninety five. A family spokeswoman announced that the BAFTA-winning actress had died on Christmas Eve. Liz first found fame as an actress at an age when most people would be considering retirement. It was a long road to eventual stardom, during which she struggled to raise a young family after a broken marriage. She became best-known for her roles in sitcoms but her talents encompassed serious drama too. And, while she made something of a name for herself playing slightly dotty old ladies, the real Liz Smith was far removed from those on-screen personas. She was born Betty Gleadle in Scunthorpe in December 1921. Her early life was not happy, her mother died in childbirth when Liz was just two years old and her father abandoned her when he remarried. 'My father was a bit of a sod, really,' she noted. 'He just went off with loads of women and then married one who said he had to cut off completely from his prior life. That meant me.' Liz started going to the local cinema with her grandfather when she was four and she quickly gained a fascination for acting. By the age of nine, she was appearing in local dramatic productions, often playing the part of elderly ladies. The war thwarted her immediate plans and she joined the WRNS because, as she later told Desert Island Discs, she loved the naval uniform. She continued appearing in plays and entertainments while serving and met her future husband, Jack Thomas, while she was stationed in India. The couple married at the end of the war. Liz's grandmother had left her enough money to buy a house in London and she later remembered that she had picked it at random from a magazine and bought it without crossing the threshold. But, what had been an idyllic marriage at first failed shortly after the family moved to Epping Forest and she was left to bring up her two children alone. With money tight, she worked in a number of jobs including delivering post and quality control in a plastic bag factory. But her love for acting remained and she began buying the theatrical magazine, The Stage and sending her photo to casting agents. Eventually, she became part of a group studying method acting under a teacher who had come to the UK from America. She performed at The Gate Theatre in West London and spent many years in repertory, as well as spells as an entertainer at Butlins. In 1970, she was selling toys in a store in Regent Street when she got a call from the director Mike Leigh to play the downtrodden mother in his debut film Bleak Moments. Leigh cast her again in Hard Labour, part of the BBC's Play For Today strand, a role which allowed her to shine. She received critical acclaim as the middle-aged housewife who endures a life of domestic drudgery, constantly at the beck and call of her demanding husband and daughter. It was the breakthrough role she had sought for years and, as she later recalled: 'I never went back to grotty jobs again.' Thereafter, she was seldom off the screen over the next thirty years, with appearances in a number of TV series including Last Of The Summer Wine, The Sweeney, The Duchess Of Duke Street, Ripping Yarns and The Gentle Touch. She was superb as the mother in Peter Tinniswood's I Didn't Know You Cared, the sweetly comic story of a working-class family, the Brandons, in South Yorkshire. She was cast as Madame Balls in the 1976 film The Pink Panther Strikes Again, but her scenes were left on the cutting-room floor. However, she did appear in the same role six years later in The Curse Of The Pink Panther. In 1984 she received a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress when she played Maggie Smith's senile mother in the film A Private Function. Two years later she appeared as Patricia Hodge's alcoholic mother in the BBC drama The Life & Loves Of A She Devil. It was a part, she said, that she really enjoyed as it gave her the chance to wear more glamorous outfits than her usual roles required. And, she was able to dress up again for her next film appearance, this time in Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. She was still much in demand at the beginning of the 1990s, appearing in the sitcom 2point4 Children and in series like Lovejoy and Bottom. In 1994 she became truly a household name with her portrayal of Letitia Cropley in The Vicar Of Dibley. The character was famous for her idiosyncratic recipes such as parsnip brownies and lard and fish-paste pancakes but she was killed off in 1996. Two years later, Liz starred as Nana in The Royle Family. She played the part until 2006 and the episode in which Nana died. Typically, Liz attributed her success to Caroline Aherne's scripts rather than her own talent. 'They were great roles,' she later remembered. 'I was so lucky that things did come my way then.' Unlike some actors, she watched recordings of her own performances looking for ways in which she could improve. She continued to appear in feature films, playing Grandma Georgina in Tim Burton's 2005 version of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and she was the voice of Mrs Mulch in Wallace & Gromit - The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. In 2006 she published her autobiography, Our Betty and moved into a retirement home in North London but continued acting. She appeared in the BBC's Lark Rise To Candleford, finally announcing her retirement in 2008 at the age of eighty seven. It was a belief in her own talent that drove Liz Smith on when her life was at a low ebb. 'All I wanted was a chance,' she told the BBC. 'It was wonderful when it did happen.'

Carrie Fisher has died aged sixty, days after suffering from a cardiac arrest. As mentioned in a previous blog, Carrie was taken ill on-board a flight from London to Los Angeles last Friday and was taken to hospital when the plane landed. But, a family statement said with 'deep sadness' she had died on Tuesday morning. In a statement released on behalf of Carrie's daughter, Billie Lourd, spokesman Simon Halls said: 'Carrie was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.' Carrie Fisher's acting career was dominated by her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars franchise. It was a part that catapulted her into the limelight as one of the most famous faces on the planet. But fame brought a price and her personal life was dogged by failed relationships, mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. She later turned to writing before returning to Star Wars in the 2015 movie, The Force Awakens. Carrie Frances Fisher was born in October 1956, the daughter of Academy Award-nominated actress Debbie Reynolds and the singer Eddie Fisher. Carrie's parents divorced two years later after Fisher had an affair with one of Reynolds' closest friends, Elizabeth Taylor ('you had to keep your husband in the garage if Liz Taylor came to visit' Reynolds once memorably told the Daily Torygraph). He and Taylor later married (then divorced). Carrie was a self-confessed bookworm as a child reading poetry and classical literature. Her high school education was disrupted by the lure of the stage when she appeared in the musical Irene alongside her mother and, as a consequence, she never graduated. As a child, she rarely saw her father; as an adult, they took cocaine together. Her arguments with her mother could be cataclysmic. As a teenager, Carrie once threw milk in Reynolds’s lap; Reynolds responded by dumping baked beans in Carrie's hair, it was that sort of relationship. If anything, Carrie's difficult background made her seem impossibly savvy and whip-smart. 'I was going to be this nonchalant, seemingly tough kid,' she wrote in 1991. 'I was going to handle it. I was going to put my head down and get through it as quickly as possible and get out.' She moved to London as a teenager where she enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama before returning to the US and attending the Sarah Lawrence arts college near New York. Carrie made her screen debut in the 1975 film Shampoo, alongside Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, but it would be another two years until she got her big break in George Lucas's Star Wars. She told the Daily Scum Mail in 2011 that when she got the part in 'a little science-fiction film,' she - like most of the cast - simply thought of it as a bit of fun and a chance to hang out in the UK for three months. 'But, then Star Wars, this goofy, little three-month hang-out with robots did something unexpected,' she said. 'It exploded across the firmament of pop culture, taking all of us along with it. It tricked me into becoming a star all on my own.' Carrie's memoir, The Princess Diarist, released this year, revealed for the first time that the then nineteen-year-old actress had an affair with her co-star Harrison Ford, who was then married to Mary Marquardt. In the memoir, Carrie wrote: 'I don't remember much about things like the order we shot scenes in, or who I got to know well first. Nor did anyone mention that one day I would be called upon to remember any of this long-ago experience.'
      In 1980 she reappeared in The Empire Strikes Back and, three years later in the third Star Wars film, Return Of The Jedi. In the latter, she wore that gold bikini; it was 'the moment when she stopped being a princess and became, you know, a woman,' according to Phoebe in Friends. Carrie herself was less impressed: 'I remember that iron bikini: what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell!' She married the singer Paul Simon in 1983. The pair had been in a relationship for the previous five years, but they divorced just a year later. Carrie had other roles during the decade, including in Woody Allen's Hannah & Her Sisters (1986) and When Harry Met Sally (1989), as well as The Blues Brothers during the filming of which her co-star Dan Ackroyd reportedly saved her life by performing the Heimlich Manoeuvre when she was choking on a Brussels sprout, but none had the same impact as the Star Wars franchise. Having managed to kick drugs and alcohol, she was rushed to hospital in 1985 after accidentally taking an overdose of sleeping pills and prescription drugs and had her stomach pumped to save her life. 'I'm glad they did it,' she said, 'because that was a very powerful piece of evidence that drugs and I had to part ways.' That incident, and a subsequent month-long spell in rehab, formed the basis for her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Postcards From The Edge, in which she satirised her own dependence on drugs and the difficult relationship she had with her mother. Three years later Carrie adapted it into a screenplay and it was made into an acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid. There were two further novels, Surrender The Pink and Delusions Of Grandeur. She had a number of minor roles in various films but she found herself unable to recapture the profile that Star Wars had given her. Carrie - who had bipolar disorder - also wrote and frequently talked in public about her years of drug addiction and mental illness. In 2001, she told Psychology Today: 'Drugs made me feel normal. They contained me.' She featured in the Stephen Fry's acclaimed 2006 documentary The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive and spoke widely of her bipolar disorder, declaring herself 'Joan of Narc, patron saint of addicts.' She claimed that therapy had been 'my only serious relationship' and said of actual relationships: 'Sex is out of my element. I'm much more successful during the cigarette.' It was exactly this mix of candour, sweetness and wit that prevented her from appearing bitter. No matter how hard her life was, or how poor some of her personal choices had been, her wry observations always seemed suffused with hope. She was no cynic. By the turn of the century she had made something of a reputation as a script doctor, revising and polishing screenplays by other writers. Among the films she listed as having worked on were Hook, Sister Act and Lethal Weapon 3. She was, however, an outspoken critic of Hollywood's treatment of women and revealed that she had been asked to lose weight to play Leia both in the original Star Wars and, shockingly, in the seventh instalment, The Force Awakens, nearly forty years later. 'They don't want to hire all of me – only about three-quarters! Nothing changes, it's an appearance-driven thing. I'm in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up. They might as well say get younger, because that's how easy it is.' In 2007, she wrote and performed her autobiographical one-woman show Wishful Drinking, which was released as a book the following year. It was confirmed in 2013 that she would reprise her role as Leia in Star Wars VII. She appeared alongside original cast members Harrison Ford and (briefly) Mark Hamill. Billed as a sequel to The Return Of The Jedi, the film became the highest grossing episode of the Star Wars franchise. Her character led the resistance against The First Order, as she continued to seek her missing bother, Luke. Carrie won a Saturn Award in 2016 for Best Supporting Actress. Although she did not shoot any new footage for the Star Wars prequel-cum-spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), she made a surprise appearance at the end of the movie in digitally manipulated footage drawn from her 1977 performance and had recently finished production on Star Wars Episode VIII, due to be released next year. As well as her marriage to Paul Simon, Carrie also had a three-year relationship with the talent agent Bryan Lourd, which resulted in the birth of her daughter, Billie Lourd. Carrie Fisher's fame as an actress rested on just one role, but it was a role in one of the best known and most successful - and well-loved - film franchises in cinema history. She was remarkably frank about the personal difficulties she had fought and overcome. 'There's a part of me that gets surprised when people think I am brave to talk about what I've gone through,' she once said. 'I was brave to last through it.' In her book, Wishful Drinking, Carrie wrote about her eventual obituary: 'I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.' Several obituaries and retrospectives - including this one - featured the quote as a respect to her wishes. At the time of her death she was survived by her daughter, her brother, Todd, two step-sisters and her mother (albeit, tragically not for long, see below).
In a cruel twist of fate, Debbie Reynolds, who once starred opposite Gene Kelly in the 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain, died the day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher. The US actress, eighty four, had been rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke. Her son, Todd Fisher, said that the stress of his sister's death had 'been too much' for Reynolds and that in her last words, she had said she wanted to 'be with Carrie.' Reynolds had been at her son's house in Beverly Hills, apparently discussing the arrangements for Carrie Fisher's funeral, when she was taken ill. She was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre suffering from breathing difficulties and her death was confirmed a few hours later. Debbie Reynolds was leading lady in a succession of major Hollywood musicals and comedies in the 1950s and 1960s, including The Tender Trap, This Happy Feeling, It Started With A Kiss, Tammy, Bundle Of Joy, How The West Was Won, The Singing Nun, Divorce, American Style and What's The Matter With Helen?. But, like her daughter, her career was dominated by her first major role; she rose to stardom with Singin' In The Rain, at the age of only nineteen. She also received a best-actress Academy Award nomination for the 1964 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown. In what Reynolds once called 'the stupidest mistake of my entire career,' she made headlines in 1970 after instigating a fight with the NBC television network over cigarette advertising on her weekly television sitcom, The Debbie Reynolds Show. Although she was, at the time, television's highest paid female performer, she quit the show for breaking its contract: 'I was shocked to discover that the initial commercial aired during the premiere of my new series was devoted to a nationally advertised brand of cigarette (Pall Mall). I fully outlined my personal feelings concerning cigarette advertising that I will not be a party to such commercials which I consider directly opposed to health and well-being.' When NBC explained to her that banning cigarette commercials from her show would be impossible, she decided to remain. The show drew mixed reviews, but NBC said that it captured about forty two percent of the nation's viewing audience. Reynolds said later that she was 'especially concerned' about the commercials because of the number of children that were watching the show. She continued to make other appearances in film and television. From 1999 to its 2006 series finale, she played Grace Adler's theatrical mother, Bobbi, on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, which earned her an EMMY nomination. She also played a recurring role in the Disney Channel Halloweentown film series as Aggie Cromwell. Reynolds made a guest appearance as a presenter at the Sixty Ninth Academy Awards in 1997 and in 2013 she appeared in Behind The Candelabra, as the mother of Liberace. In 2015, she was given a lifetime achievement award by the Screen Actors Guild. The award was presented to her by her daughter. Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955 and had two children, Carrie and Todd. The couple divorced in 1959 after news emerged of his affair with Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds married twice more, to billionaire businessman Harry Harl (1960 to 1973) and real estate developer Richard Hamlett (1984 to 1996).
The author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died aged ninety six, his daughter has confirmed. The children's classic about a colony of rabbits in search of a new home after the destruction of their warren was first published in 1972. The tale, first told by Adams on a long car journey with his daughters, turned into a best-seller. Yet Adams spent his first fifty two years in relative anonymity. And, when he did complete his book, he struggled at first to find anyone to publish it. Richard George Adams was born in May 1920, in Newbury, the son of a country doctor and was brought up in the rolling countryside with views towards the real Watership Down, on the Hampshire border. One of his earliest memories was seeing a local man pushing a handcart full of dead rabbits down the street. 'It made me realise, in an instant, that rabbits were things and that it was only in a baby's world that they were not.' He suffered the fate of many middle-class boys of the period when he was sent to boarding school at the age of nine, where, by all accounts, he had a thoroughly miserable time. He won a scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford, but his education was interrupted by World War Two and he served for five years in the army before returning to his studies. He joined the civil service and spent part of his career managing the clean air programme designed to reduce pollution, especially that caused by the many coal fires still burning in British households. The event that changed his life occurred on a car journey with his family to see Twelfth Night at Stratford-upon-Avon. His bored daughters asked for a story and he began telling them about a group of rabbits attempting to escape from their threatened warren. Adams was persuaded to write it down, a process which took him more than two years, but he was, at first, unable to find a publisher. Many of his rejection letters complained that the book was 'too long' and his characters did not fit 'the common perception' of cuddly bunnies. His rabbits were described with biological realism; they defecated, had sex and engaged in violent battles for dominance. Eventually, after fourteen rejections, the publisher Rex Collings saw the potential and agreed to take it on with an initial print run of two thousand five hundred copies in 1972. It was instantly hailed as a children's classic, going on to sell more than fifty million copies, helped by readings on BBC radio and a dramatic performance in London's Regent's Park. Watership Down sold particularly well in the US where canny distributors placed it on the adult publishing list. On his promotional tours across the Atlantic, Adams played to the American idea of the archetypal Englishman, wearing a bowler hat and insisting on English marmalade and mustard wherever he went. The book, and the subsequent animated film in 1978, became synonymous with rabbits and at least one enterprising butcher reportedly advertised: 'You've read the book, you've seen the film, now eat the cast.' Inevitably it attracted criticism from some snooty-arsed highbrow reviewers. 'There is something to be said for myxomatosis,' was one caustic comment by some wanker of no importance whom history has forgotten the name of. The sudden flow of wealth enabled Adams to retire from the civil service and become a full-time writer. It also drove him into tax exile on the Isle of Man, although he later returned to his roots in Southern England. By the time Watership Down was published, he was already writing his second novel Shardik, which he considered his best work. It is an epic tale of a bear who is a God in an imaginary world and who is abused by the humans in the story. Shardik did not find favour among critics with some describing it as 'preachy', a judgement that Adams did not disagree with. His commitment to animal welfare was expressed in his third novel, The Plague Dogs, an outspoken attack on animal experimentation. He admitted that his indignation about vivisection might have got the better of him but the book became another best-seller and another much-admired classic for a generation of readers. He became president of the RSPCA but his attempts to persuade the charity to adopt a more campaigning stance did not find favour with some of the more conservative members of the ruling council. He resigned just ahead of a vote which would have severely curtailed his presidential powers. Despite his campaigning for animals Adams insisted he was not a sentimentalist. He refused to condemn a decision to gas rabbits on the real Watership Down in 1998 after their burrows began undermining the hill. 'If I saw a rabbit in my garden I'd shoot it,' he once said. In all, he wrote more than twenty books, including The Girl In A Swing, a ghostly love story with an undercurrent of eroticism and a prequel to Shardik - entitled Maia - which was again criticised by glakes for its 'sexual and sado-masochistic content.' None of these achieved the success of Watership Down or The Plague Dogs and even a 1997 sequel, Tales From Watership Down, failed to recapture the magic of the original. Richard Adams was essentially a traditional Englishman with a love of the countryside and a belief that, somehow, things were better in the past. It is perhaps surprising that this natural conservative, from a conventional middle-class background, should have written a book which had such a revolutionary impact on children's literature. Adams married Elizabeth Acland in 1949 and they had two daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, all of whom survive him.

Of course, many people have been jolly busy anthropomorphising this current year as 'The Grim Reaper Of Death Its Very Self And That.' Or, rather more amusingly, as a horror movie. Which is a bit ... odd, frankly. Yes we lost a lot of good and some great people in 2016, but it should be noted that we are at a point in the history of our civilisation where the childhood and adolescent heroes of a generation of Baby Boomers (like this blogger) and also a generation of Generation X-ers are all of an age where deaths are more likely than not. Many of those whom we lost in 2016 were, after all, in their seventies, eighties and nineties. It doesn't make the loss of any of these people any less sad of course, this blogger is not minimising that in any way. But, this current year is, to put it simply, 'the two thousand and sixteenth orbit of our planet around the Sun since an arbitrarily-chosen point in time' (Keith Telly Topping's thanks to the author Graeme Burk for that particular description!) A year, after all, is a man-made construct based on a celestial constant, it's not a serial killer.
     One other slight fly in the ointment of the '2016 is a complete and total bastard' thing is that, of course, it's only in Western culture that a year begins on 1 January and ends of 31 December. Islamic, Jewish, Thai and Ethiopian years are all different as is the Chinese year which begins in the third week of January. So, there's something for everyone to consider - according to the Chinese (all 1.3 billion of them) not only did David Bowie actually die in 2015 but, 2016 won't end at midnight on 31 December but will carry on for another three weeks. Just sayin'.
Game Of Thrones was the most pirated show for the fifth year in a row, according to the website TorrentFreak. According to data, traffic was 'similar' to last year with the series finale the most downloaded single episode from the sixth series. Around three hundred and fifty thousand naughty people 'actively shared' The Winds Of Winter after the finale was broadcast earlier this year. The Walking Dead came in second place in the list with Westworld in third spot. TorrentFreak says that it has seen 'a noticeable change' towards higher quality downloads this year with many pirates moving from 480p copies to 720p and 1080p videos.
TV Comedy Line Of The Week: From David Renwick's really rather good one-off revival of Jonathan Creek, Daemon's Roost. Poppy (Sarah Alexander) telling Jonathan (Alan Davies): 'So, it couldn't have worked out better, really, could it? Stalked by a homicidal knife-wielding psychopath plus a nice getaway-for-two on the set of The Amityville Horror!'
Interestingly, in the Qi Christmas episode, broadcast last week, in response to a question about 'top-down processing' (in which the brain uses information which it already has to interpret the world when some element is missing - like filling in the words to a song when hearing an instrumental version, for insatnce), Alan Davies noted that: 'It's the same principle as ghosts,' going on to explain 'you think "there's something there, it's a person." It's not, it's usually just a dressing gown on the back of the door!' Now, we know exactly where he got that idea from, it was a minor plot-point in the episode of Jonathan Creek which, presumably, he'd recently filmed when that Qi episode was recorded!
Five-time Olympic champion and King of the Mods Sir Bradley Wiggins has announced his retirement from cycling aged thirty six. The 2012 Tour De France winner said that he had fulfilled 'a childhood aspiration' of making a career out of the sport. 'I've met my idols and ridden with and alongside the best for twenty years,' he said. '2016 is the end of the road for this chapter, onwards and upwards. Kids from Kilburn don't win Olympic golds and the Tour De France! They do now.' Wiggo became Britain's most decorated Olympian in August when he won the team pursuit gold on the track in Rio, his fifth gold and eighth Olympic medal. He secured eight world titles on the road and track and set the world record for the furthest distance ridden in one hour at 54.526km. 'What will stick with me forever is the support and love from the public though thick and thin, all as a result of riding a pushbike for a living,' he added. '2012 blew my mind and was a gas. Cycling has given me everything and I couldn't have done it without the support of my wonderful wife Cath and our amazing kids.' Wiggins had already won team pursuit silver at the 1998 Commonwealth Games as an eighteen-year-old before he began to seep into the public consciousness with a bronze in the same event at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Sixteen years later, he teamed up with Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Steven Burke to neatly bookend his career with team pursuit gold in Rio. In between, he became the first British athlete since Mary Rand in 1964 to win three medals at one Olympics - claiming three on the track at Athens in 2004. Two more golds followed at the 2008 Beijing Games before he opted to focus more of his attentions to the road, finishing fourth in the 2009 Tour De France - later upped to third following Lance Armstrong's disqualification for doping. Following his sensational 2012, Wiggins was knighted in 2013 and went on to win world time trial gold in 2014 before setting a new hour world record at the London Olympic velodrome in 2015. There were also seven track world titles, including two with his long-time friend Mark Cavendish in 2008 and 2016 in the Madison. Brad's final race was in the town of his birth at the Ghent Six Day event in November, where he claimed victory alongside Cavendish.
The MasterChef judge John Torode has left hospital after 'a lucky escape' in a riding accident. A photo posted on Instagram of Torode in a hospital bed sparked concern for the Australian chef's wellbeing. Lisa Faulkner, his partner, wrote that he was 'very bruised' and thanked the staff of St Mary's hospital in Paddington. On Tuesday evening, after the photo prompted messages of support and concern, Faulkner tweeted that Torode was 'well and happy and sitting on the sofa and all is good.'Torode later tweeted that he 'took a tumble while out riding.' He did not specify what he was riding. The former [spooks] actress Faulkner met Torode when she was the winner of Celebrity MasterChef in 2010.