Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Resolution: 'Intercepted Unknown Drone!'

'This is the DNA of the most dangerous creature in the universe.' 'Does it have a name?' 'The Dalek ... the mutated remnants of a warring race, genetically created and housed within a metal case, designed to be a relentless killing machine.'
'A long time ago on the battlefields of Britain, an army of enemies came together to face an impossible opponent [from] beyond their wildest nightmares. This unlikely army fought and won the bloodiest of battles. But only just. Their opponent had been so remorseless the fear it placed in them was absolute. So, they made a pact. They split their opponent's vanquished body into three pieces to be buried at opposite ends of the world. And vowed the burial sites would forever be guarded as a precaution. The three swore an oath of secrecy - the terrifying opponent was to be erased from history. The three custodians undertook their long journeys over land and sea locating isolated sites and carrying out their task with monastic dedication. Passing their duties down through the generations to protect the future the custodians were unyielding. All except one, whose journey was never made, felled at the first by an unwitting assailant who would never know the full impact of his arrow. And time moved on, obscuring the lost custodians body leaving the other two custodians and their descendants unaware of their comrade's fate. For eternity. Almost.'
'Nineteen New Year's Eve's in a row, which was your favourite?' 'I did love Mesopotamia.' 'Ah, the original!'
'You've landed on my chair.' 'Well, if you will leave chairs around the place!' 'This is my front room!' 'Where's your kitchen? I just need to get some eggs to check the protein alignment in the goo. Is that your intruder alert or mine?' 'It's the doorbell!'
'Ryan's dad.' 'It's complicated.' 'Yeah. Dads are ... So I've heard.'
'What are you?' 'I am your pilot now ... You are my prisoner. You are my puppet.'
'Come on Doc, one squid verses seven billion humans. And you. Odds have got to be in our favour, surely?' 'I always think I'm rid of them. I never am. Trust me, Graham, even if it's just one, it's enough. It's going to kill anyone that gets in its path and it's no going to stop until it has taken control of this planet.'
'Here's what you find out when you get older. There are things that you've done in your life, to others, the decision you've made, maybe when things were difficult. You get it wrong. But, by the time you realise you got it wrong, it's too late. You can't fix it because the damage is done. And so you run, because you're too ashamed to make it right. That's what I did.'
'There's been a Dalek buried on Earth since the Ninth Century waiting to revive.' 'I'm sorry, what?' 'Alien psychopath.' 'Are you kidding?' 'No.'
'So, it's even worse than the really bad thing you were worried about in the first place?'
'I know you can hear me right now.' 'Who are you?' 'I'm your secret conscience. Not really, we both know you don't have one.' 'How are you communicating?' 'You might have temporarily disabled my navigation but I still know a trick or two. Like I know you're a refugee from the planet Skaro. What sort of Dalek are you, anyway?'
'I'm so sorry, UNIT operations have been suspended, pending review.' 'What? No, it can't have been! UNIT is a fundamentally vital protection for planet Earth against alien invasion.' 'Yes, but when did that last happen?' 'Now!' What happened to it?' 'All UNIT operations were put on hold following financial disputes and subsequent funding withdrawal from the UK's major international partners .. Other armed forces are available if you can answer a couple of questions to help me redirect your call!' 'We're on our own!'
'What do you call this look, junkyard chic?' 'Humanity will surrender.' 'It really won't. Trust me, I've seen them in action! They've fought off so many things, including the worst of their own people. They're really stubborn, have you not worked that out yet? Even the Recon-Scout Daleks, the first ones out of Skaro. Humanity bands together, vanquishes you and buries you for centuries.' 'Yet, I survived.' 'Yeah, you're good at that. But it won't be enough.'
'It's diverting every bit of power it can take from the whole of the UK to power the transmission. It's shutting down the wi-fi, the phone signals. Woah, that Dalek just shut down the whole of Britain's Internet.' 'What, on New Year's Day? When everything's shut and everyone's hungover?' 'What a monster!'
'Here's a New Year's message for you to send. Earth is protected. By me and my mates. This year and every other!'
'I hate New Year's Day. Everything's closed, everyone's hung over and there's nothing to do!' Well, guess what dear blog reader? Yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought that was great. And now, we've got twelve months to wait for a follow up. That's okay. Hopefully, patience will be rewarded ('patience'? From Doctor Who fans. A novel concept, I'm sure you'll agree dear blog reader). 'This is my favourite year, ever. Already, just one day in!'
'I'm fast enough for this plan, right?' 'Err ... probably.''Maybe.' 'Possibly.' 'Okay, Well, that one needs work!'
Resolution was watched by 5.15 million overnight viewers, a share of just over twenty two per cent of the total TV audience, according to initial figures. So, with a Seven Day-Plus timeshift roughly on a par with those of the recent series, that should be a consolidated figure of somewhere in the seven million punters range. The rating made Doctor Who the fourth highest rated overnight for New Year's Day. Top was the return of the BBC1 drama Luther with 5.63 million. On ITV Coronation Street had 5.39 million, while Emmerdale drew 5.17 million. EastEnders was watched by 4.74 million viewers and the Mrs Brown's Boys New Year special had 5.06 million. The return of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? attracted 3.39 million viewers, but Jezza Clarkson was beaten by That There Bradley Walsh with The Chase drawing 3.86 million. On Channel Four, The Great British Bake Off special had a surprisingly low 2.64 million. Final and consolidated Seven Day-Plus figures should be available next week, which will include those who recorded the programme and watched it later and catch-up viewing on iPlayer.
And now, dear blog reader, the first in a new, semi-regular, From The North series, Things That Bother Yer Actual Keith Telly Topping Whilst He Is A-Watching His Telly. Number one: Why was The Divine Victoria Coren Mitchell dressed as The Riddler on the Christmas Eve episode of Only Connect? Answers on a postcard if you'd be ever so kind.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was back on his recent - surprisingly good - form during that particular episode, managing to get the answer to three whole questions before either of the teams did. Once again, dear blog reader, this suggests that either this blogger is getting smarter as he gets older (jolly unlikely, he would have said) or, that the questions on Only Connect are getting easier. Keith Telly Topping will leave it up to you to decide on the likely answer to that one.
And, finally in this attractive mini-Only Connect takeover of this very bloggerisation, it's time for Things We Learned From The Latest Episode Of Only Connect. The Divine Victoria repeated the oft-told, if possibly apocryphal, story of when the young Miley Cyrus used to tour with her father, Billy Ray, she was allegedly paid ten dollars per night to collect all the bras and knickers that (female) fans had thrown at her father during the gig. 'It was the same for me when I went to see recordings of The News Quiz in the old BBC Radio Theatre,' claimed Victoria concerning her own late father, the broadcasting legend that was Alan Coren. 'I didn't know she'd gotten those ten dollars as well. It's nice to feel less alone!'
TV Comedy Moment Of The Week: The Godlike genius that is Lord Noddy Holder's contribution to Would I Lie To You? when claiming: 'One December night, whilst dressed as Joseph I had to shove a donkey off a country lane.'
The BBC has confirmed that the second-half of Qi's P series will begin with the episode Pain & Punishment on Friday 11 January, the Beeb having - seemingly - given up on the daft idea of showing the series on the, wholly inappropriate, Monday nights. There is currently no news on when the extended XL version will be broadcast. Although, hopefully, it won't be the chaotic and, frankly, silly about six weeks later when we eventually get round to it as an afterthought that the first half of the series suffered. Pain & Punishment will feature guests Jimmy Carr, Lee Mack and Alice Levine.
Michael McIntyre's annual festive 'special' - and, one uses that word quite wrongly - was the surprise Christmas Day TV hit this year, beating Strictly Come Dancing and EastEnders by drawing 6.1 million overnight viewers on BBC1. The Strictly special, which brought competitors such as Caroline Flack, Anita Rani, Jake Wood, Aston Merrygold, Michael Vaughan and That Bloody Awful Widdecombe Woman back to the dance floor, attracted an average overnight audience of 5.8 million. Call The Midwife kicked-off its eighth series with an emotional Christmas episode that drew 5.5 million, whilst Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas episode had 4.7 million overnight viewers. Nine of the top ten shows on Christmas Day were broadcast on the BBC. Coronation Street was ITV's highest rated programme, watched by an overnight audience of 4.6 million people - a figure which includes those who tuned into the ITV+1 channel. When audiences on all channels were combined, The Queen's Christmas Message was the most watched broadcast, with an audience of 6.3 million - 5.2 million viewers on BBC1 and 1.1 million on ITV (again, including ITV+1 viewers). The message was also broadcast on Sky. The combined figures for BBC1 and ITV, however, were down 1.2 million punters on last year's overnight figure. The Queen used her Christmas address to say that the message of 'peace on Earth and goodwill to all' was 'needed as much as ever.' She called on people to set aside their differences and 'treat others with respect.' Yeah, cos that's likely to happen, isn't it? Although the Queen usually remains publicly neutral on political matters, her comments 'could have been interpreted as referencing the turmoil over Brexit,' according to someone of absolutely no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star. Though it 'could', just as likely, have been a reference to the Glasgow derby taking place a few days later, with kids gettin' sparked and aal sorts. McIntyre's festive show was recorded at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and featured live music from the Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins. Chris Kamara was also featured, playing Send To All, a segment in which McIntyre sends a 'funny' text to every contact on a guest's phone and then reads the replies. Which, trust this blogger, is every single bit as unfunny as that description makes it sound despite the suspiciously dubbed-on sounding roars from the theatre audience. Charlotte Moore, the director of BBC content, said: 'We are happy so many people chose to watch BBC1 this Christmas Day. Whether it be entertainment shows such as Michael McIntyre and Strictly Come Dancing, drama like Call The Midwife or comedy with Mrs Brown's Boys, we want to offer something for everyone.' The BBC also dominated the Christmas TV ratings last year (and, indeed, every year for most the last decades), with eight of the ten most popular broadcasts. About 6.8 million overnight viewers - thirty two per cent of the television-watching public - tuned in to watch 2017's Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special. Christmas Day overnight ratings have been in steady decline for some years. Call The Midwife won the top prize in 2016, but although 9.2 million people tuned in, according to consolidated ratings which include timeshifting, that was the smallest audience for the most-watched show on Christmas Day since the current method of calculating ratings began in 1981. 'The decline appears partly down to wider choices as viewers turn in droves to the US streaming companies Netflix and Amazon,' sneered this flaming plank at the Gruniad, managing to shoe-horn the paper's obligatory reference to Netflix into just about every article it publishes on the subject of television whilst producing zero evidence that anyone but some Middle Class hippy Communist Gruniad Morning Star readers were watching Netflix on Christmas Day as opposed to the BBC, ITV or any other channel for that matter. This year's figures are, let it be noted, a far cry from just ten years ago when Wallace & Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf & Death drew a viewing figure of 16.2 million and Kylie's appearance of Doctor Who had over fourteen million. In the 1980s the average audience for festive TV was 18.5 million, although, of course, there were only four TV channels in those days as opposed to several hundred now. 'The 1986 EastEnders Christmas special, when Dirty Den handed Angie her divorce papers, remains one of the most watched TV moments during the festive period, with a record 30.6 million tuning in on Christmas Day and for its repeat a few days later,' continued the Gruniad's ancient history lesson. 'Last year broadcasters released box-sets to compete with Netflix and Amazon. The BBC packed iPlayer with more than forty box-sets, which included Peaky Blinders and Thirteen.'
Speaking of Mrs Brown's Boys, here is a very good piece by the BBC's Thomas McMullen, The Long Life Of A Critic-Proof Comedy which gives a long overdue strides-down caning to some sneering, full-of-their-own-bastard-importance 'critics' at the Gruniad and the Observer. 'It doesn't help that so many of our mainstream critics have the kind of class and educational backgrounds which have historically taught them that art forms such as opera or ballet or classical music are somehow more worthwhile than TV or comedy,' says Megan Vaughn, a theatre criticism researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London. 'Everyone's sense of humour is different, but our sense of humour develops via our experiences and social interactions; perhaps if we gave opportunities to new and more diverse TV reviewers, we would get criticism that was less wedded to old-fashioned cultural hierarchies and more representative of viewers' tastes.' Word, sister.
Lee Mack tempted the TV gods with the live Not Going Out 'Christmas' episode and, aside from a few minor dialogue fluffs, the cast managed to give viewers their money's worth. The episode was broadcast on Friday 21 December, taking a delightfully meta approach by having Lee and Lucy (Sally Bretton) planning their own Christmas variety show, Ding Dong Merrily On Live Christmas Spectacular, to raise money for the kids' school. Unfortunately, quality talent is hard to find, so the couple had to throw together a line-up which included an 'animal impersonator,' an egg-juggler and a knife-thrower. With hilarious consequences. The episode started with Lee and Lucy delivering a monologue to camera about all the potential problems that a live show can pose. Within two minutes of the episode starting, Bretton had fluffed a line whilst, ironically, describing just how easily live shows can go all tits-up. 'What if it's a disaszzz,' she stumbled, before correcting herself: 'What if it's a disaster?' Mack looked directly to camera and effectively broke the fourth wall: 'I dunno, I think you carried it off quite well there!' Later in the episode, Lee slipped a topical reference into the debate over whether Jeremy Corbyn referred to Prime Minister as 'a stupid woman' in Parliament. When Lucy complained that Lee was 'just a stupid man,' he replied: 'Well you really are a ... stupid people!'
When it was announced that From The North favourite Gotham's fifth and final series was going to be a shorter run than what we've been used to, many fans wondered if the production team would be able to wrap up everything properly. There is the No Man's Land adaptation, getting Bruce Wayne to the point where he becomes The Batman and all of the various other heroes and villains' ongoing back stories to be concluded. But those behind the show don't seem nervous about it. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the show's executive producer John Stephens said: 'We've been planning [this arc] for about three years now. It's a cataclysmic event in the history of the city, so we had to save it for the end. Once we knew that we were only going to do one more season, it was like, now's the time! We're telling the long-term story of the city that created Batman so we want to feel like that story came to a satisfying end.' Ben McKenzie added that: 'We definitely are trying to satisfy a lot of those demands, those requests for certain specific characters to appear, specific interactions to occur,' in order to create a really fan pleasing series. The series - which will, reportedly, be twelve episodes long and not the initially announced ten - will be back on FOX in the US on Thursday. And, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is expecting his preview copy to arrive through the mail as soon as the post office opens after New Year. No UK premiere date has been announced yet.
American Gods has shared a first in-depth look at its troubled second series by releasing the series' opening scene. And, it looks fantastic. In October, Starz revealed the first teaser trailer for series two, which will begin on 11 March - almost exactly two years after fans last saw the Neil Gaiman adaptation. The official series two synopsis reads: 'The battle between Old Gods and New Gods continues to brew as we join Mister Wednesday just a few short hours after his declaration of war and the epic showdown that ensued at Easter's party. While Mister World plans revenge for Wednesday's attack, Wednesday continues his quest to pitch the case for war to the Old Gods with Shadow, Laura and Mad Sweeney in tow. When things don't go as planned after an encounter at The House On The Rock, both Old and New Gods, as well as those they meet along the way, find themselves on quests across America - all destined in some way for Cairo, Illinois. Shadow will begin to understand this strange world of the Gods and carve out a place in it as a believer in order to survive. But change will require sacrifice.'
The Digital Spy website has 'revealed' that It turns out Daenerys' dragons in Game Of Thrones aren't actually dragons at all. And, this constitutes 'news', apparently.
BBC is celebrating an exciting coming year of TV drama ahead by releasing sneak previews of the return of Killing Eve, Peaky Blinders, Call The Midwife, Luther and Poldark. Although, by the time you've read this update, dear blog reader, likely you'll have already seen the first episode of Luther. To ring in 2019, the Beeb unveiled a trailer previewing many of the new and returning dramas that will be rolling out over the next twelve months. And, to be fair, it really does look proper tasty. Among the new shows getting a preview are the recently-premiered Les Misérables, the science fiction epic War Of The Worlds and The Missing's spin-off bringing back Tchéky Karyo as investigator Julien Baptiste. Several returning favourites are featured as well, including Line Of Duty following its first-look preview last week. Back on the streets of London once again is Idris Elba, who has to deal with the dual threats of a masked killer on the loose and a local crime boss putting a hit on him. And,of course, the return of a lady from his past. Wonder who that could be? 'This season is extremely complex,' Elba recently promised. 'There is one antagonist, one killer, but so many things fall out of that and it starts to unfold and unfold.' Peaky Blinders will also resume in 2019 with Tommy tackling his most intimidating foe yet, Whitehall' In the new series, he will tangle with 'a politician with a vision to change Britain forever.' So, that'll be that terrible old fascist stinker Oswald Mosley, more than likely. The period drama is also revamping its cast, with Sam Claflin, Anya Taylor-Joy and Emmett J Scanlan being added to the ensemble. Also back in 2019 will be another huge From The North favourite Killing Eve for its second series, which Jodie Comer has teased will centre around Villanelle 'battling with her conscience' for the first time.
Z-List Celebrity Big Brother was the most whinged about TV programme of 2018, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom (a politically-appointed quango, elected by no one) has confirmed. Though, tragically, not because it was a load of old worthless toot that should have been thrown into the gutter along with all the other turds years ago. The show received twenty seven thousand six hundred and two whinges in total, the vast majority - from people with, seemingly, nothing better to do with their time - relating to an incident involving Roxanne Pallett and Ryan Thomas. Pallett claimed that Thomas had 'punched' her, but most viewers who had seen the footage and commented upon it said that he was only 'play-fighting.' And, everybody else really couldn't care less about such abject nonsense. The former Emmerdale actress and gross self-publicist subsequently apologised, acknowledging that she 'got it wrong' after a wholly social media and tabloid created furore. This was the last series of Z-List Celebrity Big Brother to be broadcast on Channel Five after the network announced that they were not renewing either the z-list celebrity or standard version of the show and shovelling the pair of them into the nearest gutter all with all the other turds. The second most complained about programme was an episode of Loose Women which saw another pair of horrible crass self-publicists Kim Woodburn and Coleen Nolan indulge in some 'big fight, little people'-type malarkey. The pair, who had fallen out on a previous series of Z-List Celebrity Big Brother, attempted to 'sort out their differences' live on-air. But, an almighty - if, spectacularly funny - row ended with Woodburn 'becoming emotional' and walking off-set in a geet stroppy huff. Nolan took a break from the show and cancelled all her other work for several weeks after the clash. Other TV shows to receive complaints included Sky News, Emmerdale and Coronation Street. An episode of Love Island, in which Dani Dyer 'became visibly distressed' when shown footage of her boyfriend, Jack, being housed with an ex-girlfriend, also attracted complaints. If his reaction to topping last year's most complained about chart is anything to go by, odious oily twat Piers Morgan will be very disappointed that Good Morning Britain was only in seventh place this year.
The BBC has confirmed it will not broadcast its long-running Film series next year. The programme was first shown in 1971 and has since been fronted by Barry Norman, Jonathan Ross and Claudia Whatsherface. 'In 2019 we will be creating an enhanced offer for lovers of film both on television and online,' the corporation told the BBC News website. 'We're still working through the details and will have more news about what this will look like soon.' Film's title has changed annually since it launched, to reflect the year in which it was being broadcast. It began, being broadcast only in the South East area of the UK at first, with rotating guest presenters including Joan Bakewell. The following year, Film 72 was broadcast to the whole country, with Bazza Norman its first permanent host. Whatsherface, the show's most recent regular host, left the show in 2016 and the programme has since been fronted by various guest presenters including Edith Bowman, Clara Amfo and Charlie Brooker. But, its profile was at its highest in the twenty six years when it was hosted by Norman, who was such a well-known TV presence that he was caricatured as a puppet on Spitting Image. And, why not? It was a time when Norman combined his incisive although, often completely wrong - reviews of the week's releases with on-set reports of future releases and interviews with Hollywood's biggest names. In 2014, he named Jamie Lee Curtis, Martin Scorsese, Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney as four of his favourite interviewees during his time on the show. But, even when the programme was at its height, fixed in a regular time slot, it did not appear on TV throughout the year - which meant that some major releases (particularly summer blockbusters) only got a summary review from Norman when the programme returned from its annual mid-year break. The BBC said in a statement that its new plan to cover film from now on would 'fix that anomaly,' offering 'a more consistent approach across the year.'
It is more than two years since Cold Feet returned to a warm reception from critics and fans alike, following a thirteen-year hiatus. For TV viewers of a certain age, this blogger included, it was like reuniting with old friends as we navigated the pitfalls of middle age together - teenage kids, relationship woes and the menopause. And all done, of course, with the humour, pathos and warmth we had come to expect from the ITV comedy drama. But, something didn't feel quite right about last year's follow-up series, which saw Adam (James Nesbitt) split with partner Tina (Leanne Best) after an affair with a colleague, while Pete (John Thomson) and Jenny (Fay Ripley) renewed their wedding vows following marriage problems. 'I think the first series was back with a bang, as it should be after thirteen years pre-production - no excuses,' said Thomson. 'It was a bit of a phenomenon. The second [series was] not great. The difficult second album. Ill-prepared. It was a very slow burner. It dragged its feet and then found its way and that showed. We were supposed to do eight [episodes], we didn't, we did seven,' he explained. 'It wasn't a bad series, don't get me wrong [but] they've learned from the mistakes of [series] two and they've gone to six [episodes]. They've consolidated everything. This is why this series is the absolute strongest. We've got some gold on our hands.' There was also a scheduling issue for the last series, with its Monday night slot changed to Fridays. Thomson told the BBC the Friday slot was 'a mistake' and that he 'wasn't alone' in thinking that. 'I've always felt the British people are creatures of habit. We did Monday [when the show returned in 2017], that was a triumph. We had a nice slot,' he explained. 'Then we found out [it would be moved to] Friday and we went, "What?" If it's not broke, don't fix it! It was always Sundays for the original six [series] and they said: "You can't have Sundays, Victoria's got that now. Then they went "Monday," great, Monday worked and then they went "Friday."' Series eight, which will be shown next month, is back on Monday nights again. Series eight opens with the cast preparing for a wedding, Adam appears to be on the lookout for love (again) and there is trouble brewing between David and his son, Josh. The fact that the cast have been on board since day one gives them a certain leverage when it comes to characterisation. 'In pre-production, [the writers] will give you an idea of what your story arc is, where you're going and they will listen to you,' Thomson added. Jimmy Nesbitt concurred: 'We have our own palettes - if your character is going in the wrong direction, you could say.' So what can we expect from the upcoming series? Robert Bathurst says: 'It's sharp, it's rigorous, it's got a confidence, in that we're not overlaying the comedy [but] it's funny. It's also very affecting. I think it's really on form.' Nesbitt says: 'I think there are things in it that will surprise people a lot. It has all the elements that made [the show] a success in the past.' 'It's a different show now because of the climate,' says Thomson. 'It was all Blair and Brits this and Brits that and no recession. It was all feel-good. [But] we've maintained the idea behind the show that it's aspirational. We've put Manchester on the map.'
He has been behind two of ITV's biggest formats and now the BBC, too, has turned to Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' company to produce a hit stablemate for Strictly Come Dancing in the form of dance talent show judged by its audience. So, that should be worth avoiding, then. The Greatest Dancer, which starts on 5 January, 'transfers power to the people' in a competition that offers the winner fifty grand and a guest appearance on Strictly. In a departure from Wee Shughie McFee's previous formats, The X Factor and Britain's Got Toilets, where alleged 'talent experts' decide the winner, on The Greatest Dancer, the studio audience are the judges. If seventy five per cent of them vote for an act by turning on a light on their seat, the mirror behind the performer splits open to reveal them to the audience. Also in the audience are three 'experts' - singer Wor Geet Canny Cheryl, Strictly professional dancer Oti Mabuse and Glee actor Matthew Morrison - who will coach the final nine acts and give them feedback. Morrison said: 'It's hard to sit there as someone who has studied dance, but it comes down to the general population's take on dance. It can be a great thing and it can also be a bad thing because they don't understand the hours and the commitment and the sacrifice it takes to be a great dancer. But perhaps there was something in them that didn't connect.' Nigel Hall, global head of television at Wee Shughie McFee's company Syco Entertainment, said: 'You can't be a star in showbiz if people don't want to see you and often it wasn't the best technical dancers but the dancers who had that heart and passion and dedication that received the seventy five per cent and so opened the mirrors. As Simon often says, you have to have the likeability factor!' Which is ironic given that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads is, himself, about as likeable as geet big hairy growth on one's chap-end. Hall, who used to be executive producer for Stars In Their Eyes, said: 'I thought combining a kind of doors opening with the splitting of a mirror down the middle and turning it into a reveal would be something new and unique to dance.' He said Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, who has not worked for the BBC before, had been 'key' to the creation of the show, funding the pilot, helping fine-tune the format with co-producer Thames and 'he even told Cheryl she would be mad to turn this down.' The Greatest Dancer will be presented by Alesha Dixon and Diversity dancer Jordan Banjo and features 'a diverse line-up of contestants.' The BBC's director of content, Charlotte Moore, described The Greatest Dancer as 'epic, warm and very much a people's show. We are very excited about it.' When asked how being a mentor on The Greatest Dancer compared with being a judge on The X Factor, Wor Geet Canny Cheryl said it was different: 'It did feel more competitive with X Factor, because at the end someone was winning a massive record contract. With this show, you're not trying to create a career. Hopefully a platform, but not a career.' Thames's managing director, Amelia Brown, said all kinds of dance acts were welcome, from ballet to street and 'the result is a dance show with a little bit of magic.'
Monty Python's Flying Circus's Michael Palin has been extremely knighted and the model Twiggy made a dame in a New Year Honours list that also recognises the achievements of England football manager Gareth Southgate. And his waistcoat. Southgate becomes an OBE after guiding The Three Lions to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia - the same honour goes to another sporting hero from 2018, Tour De France winner Geraint Thomas. The former England cricket captain Alastair Cook and His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman are among the other new knights, while The Handmaid's Tale novelist Margaret Atwood joins the Companions of Honour. There are honours and bravery medals for seven members of the team of British divers who rescued twelve young footballers from a Thai cave in July. Forty three people - including medics and police officers - have been recognised for their response to the terror attacks in Manchester and London in 2017. Palin's honour means he is the first member of the Monty Python's Flying Circus comedy group to be knighted. But, the seventy five-year-old, who became a CBE in 2000 for his TV work, is being recognised for services to travel, culture and geography following his career as a writer and presenter of documentaries that have taken him all over the world, most recently to North Korea. He said to mark his latest achievement, he may 'just have a quiet celebration, just myself and a glass of Horlicks and then go to bed.' He also noted that this is, in fact, the second time he's been a knight, a reference to Monty Python & The Holy Grail. The damehood for Twig The Wonderkid - born Lesley Hornby - is for services to fashion, the arts and charity. She shot to fame as a face of 1960s London and referring to her new title, said: 'I'm a very proud Brit, I feel I'm an ambassador for Britain, I always have. My only sadness with this is my mum and dad aren't here to know. They'd have been so proud.' Southgate, whose World Cup run came less than two years after he took over as England manager, said: 'I hope that everybody that has supported me throughout my career feels pride in the fact that I've received this honour because I wouldn't be in this position without that help and guidance.' Overall, one thousand one hundred and forty eight people are on the main honours list. Some seventy per cent of recipients have been recognised for work in their community and forty seven per cent of the total are women. Meaning, obviously, that fifty three per cent are not. The Foreign Office has announced an additional ninety three honours and there are separate lists covering the gallantry awards and for service personnel in the military. The dramatic rescue of a Thai boys' football team stranded in a cave captivated the world in July. Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, the first divers to reach the teenagers, have been given the George Medal, the second highest civilian gallantry award. Seven firefighters who saved elderly residents from a blaze at a care home in Cheshunt in 2017, receive Queen's Gallantry Medals. Meanwhile, fourteen-year-old Joe Rowlands, from Cheshire, who saved his father from drowning in a kayaking incident off Anglesey, receives a Queen's Commendation for Bravery. Among those honoured after the 2017 terror attacks is Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Lam, family liaison lead for Greater Manchester Police, who receives a British Empire Medal for services to policing and the community. Colin Kelsey, who led the NHS response to the Manchester Arena bombing, Doctor Malik Ramadhan, who was in charge of A&E at the Royal London hospital after the London Bridge attack and Paul Woodrow, operations director at the London Ambulance Service, all become OBEs. From the arts world, there are CBEs for violinist Nicola Benedetti, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan and the actress Sophie Okonedo. Children's novelist Julia Donaldson - creator of The Gruffalo, Zog and many other much-loved characters - also receives a CBE. Conservationist, broadcaster and all-round Top Bloke Chris Packham is made a CBE alongside three artists - Tacita Dean, Yinka Shonibare and Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing. The latter's statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square in April. Actors Jim Carter and Thandie Newton, seen recently in Westworld and Line Of Duty, have been made OBEs. Mike Peters, the frontman of rock band The Alarm, has been made an MBE for services to charity. He has raised thousands for cancer care projects after recovering from the disease. The sporting honours include an MBE for England skipper Harry Kane, who felt the ferocious heat when he won the World Cup's golden boot after scoring six goals at the tournament. And, never passed to Vardy. There is a knighthood for Bill Beaumont, former England rugby union captain, a CBE for outgoing Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore and an OBE for jump jockey Richard Johnson. England netball star Geva Mentor, who was part of the team's Commonwealth Games gold medal victory, becomes a CBE. Scotland rugby legend Doddie Weir who set up a foundation for motor neurone disease research after being diagnosed himself is made an OBE. Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg who survived the Munich air disaster in 1958, becomes an OBE for services to football and there is an MBE for Glasgow Rangers and Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley. There are MBEs for former Fulham and West Hamsters United player Leroy Rosenior, now vice-president of Show Racism the Red Card, for services to tackling discrimination in sport and Women's Sport Trust co-founder Joanna Bostock for services to gender equality. The same honour goes to former world darts champion John Lowe, Welsh triathlete Helen Jenkins and three-time Olympic rowing silver medallist Frances Houghton. From the world of business, former Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia is made a dame for her contribution to financial services and women in the industry. Ann Gloag, co-founder of Stagecoach, who set up a healthcare charity for women in Africa, is recognised with a damehood for services to business and philanthropy. The other new dames include former the athlete Louise Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation and Glenda Bailey, editor of the US edition of Harper's Bazaar magazine, for services to journalism. Christopher Bailey-Woods, president of Burberry and Whitbread's chief executive Alison Brittain receive CBEs. Three MPs have been given knighthoods for political service - Labour's Alan Campbell and Conservatives John Redwood and Gary Streeter. The unexpected knighthood last month for MP John Hayes prompted speculation that Downing Street would seek to use honours as an incentive to persuade politicians to back the PM's Brexit deal. However, decisions on awards for political service are made by an independent committee and the Cabinet Office stressed that soon-to-be-former Prime Minister Theresa May's 'strategic steer' for this honours list had been that it 'supported those working to help children and tackle discrimination.' One or two people even believed them. Notable figures in the world of science have been recognised with knighthoods for Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world's largest medical charities, Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser and Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group. There are knighthoods too for Professor Mel Greaves, who researches childhood leukaemia at the Institute for Cancer Research and Professor Jonathan Montgomery, a specialist in healthcare law at University College London. Professor Ewan Birney, joint director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, is made CBE. Youth magazine founder Saeed Atcha, aged twenty two, is the youngest person on the main list. His MBE is for services to young people and the community in Greater Manchester. The oldest person is one hundred-year-old Robert Lingwood, a World War Two veteran whose receives a British Empire Medal for services to the community in County Tyrone. John Clough, whose daughter Jane was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Blackpool, gets an MBE for his campaigning work on behalf of domestic abuse victims, while Mark Prince, whose fifteen-year-old son Kiyan was killed outside a London school in 2006, has been made an OBE for tackling gang crime. Melissa Mead, from Penryn, whose son William died in 2014 of blood poisoning, becomes an MBE after campaigning to raise awareness of sepsis. The same honour goes to Colin Crooks, from social enterprise Tree Shepherd, who has helped disadvantaged communities in London since the 1980s. Meanwhile, the BBC have produced a jolly useful list of some of those who have been offered an honour in the past but turned it down - for a variety of different reasons - including the late David Bowie, Paul Weller, Alan Bennett, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jim Broadbent and Nigella Lawson.
Dame June Whitfield who died this week aged ninety three was a constant presence in British post-war comedy. Often playing the female stooge to some of Britain's most famous entertainers, she called herself 'a comic's tart.' But, after six decades on radio and television, she established herself as a star in her own right. The actress always said that she was 'very bad at getting round to things.' But from her early radio appearances in the 1950s, through to her scatty antics on Absolutely Fabulous, she featured in more than thirteen hundred radio and television shows. June Rosemary Whitfield was born in Streatham in November 1925. Her father was a telephone company executive, her mother an amateur actress who pushed her young daughter into dramatics and dancing. Trained at RADA, to which she attributed her work ethic, Whitfield took her first professional acting job in 1944. She was soon in demand on stage, radio and later television and her long and varied career made for some surprising connections. When she appeared in the London production Ace of Clubs, she was befriended by the show's creator, Noel Coward and spent many weekends at his glamorous country home. Later she joined the chorus line of South Pacific, with its American lead Mary Martin, even dating Martin's young son, Larry Hagman. However, her husband of forty six years, Tim Aitchison, was not from the same industry, but a chartered surveyor. Whitfield's ability to conjure up characters and superb sense of comic timing kept her in demand from across the entire canon of British comedy. Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Ronnie Barker, Benny Hill, Bob Monkhouse and Tommy Cooper all clamoured to work with her. She called her autobiography ... And June Whitfield, in recognition of the fact that she always seemed to get second billing. 'The greatest of show business mysteries,' Denis Norden once said, 'was how anyone could contemplate doing a comedy show without June Whitfield.' With Frankie Howerd, she recorded a cover version of the song 'Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)', but even their spoof, complete with ironic heavy breathing, was considered too risque for the time and, like the Serge Gainsboug and Jane Birkin original, was banned by the BBC. Her most memorable radio role was in The Glums, Frank Muir and Denis Norden's spoof family soap, part of the popular series Take It From Here. For seven years as the long-suffering Eth, her most oft-heard line was the lamenting 'Ooh, Ron,' addressed to her hapless fiance (Jimmy Edwards). And, for two decades, she read The News Huddlines for her long-time friend and colleague Roy Hudd, in radio's longest-running audience comedy. During the next fifteen years June had many supporting roles on television, including Hancock's Half Hour, My Pal Bob, Whack-O, Yes, It's The Cathode-Ray Tube Show!, Dixon Of Dock Green, Arthur's Treasured Volumes, The Arthur Askey Show, The Seven Faces Of Jim, The Rag Trade, The Benny Hill Show, Steptoe & Son and Frankie Howerd. She played the nurse in the opening scene of the most famous Hancock episode, 1961's The Blood Donor. Her first starring TV role came in the BBC sitcom Beggar My Neighbour, with Reg Varney and Peter Jones, in 1966. She went on to form her first working relationship with Terry Scott in Scott On ... before the pair teamed up again for Happy Ever After and Terry & June. The chemistry between the unflappable Whitfield and her hare-brained husband was so solid that many viewers believed they were married in real life. Described as the apotheosis of undemanding, Middle-Class, primetime comedy, Terry & June attracted audiences of fifteen million during its eight-year run. She had also appeared in The Best Things In Life, The Goodies, The Dick Emery Show, Bless This House, It Ain't Half Hot, Mum, Minder and The Pallisers. Whitfield described herself as living 'in the suburban corner, in real life and in the parts I've played. Very English, and nothing wrong with that.' She also became the face of a string of adverts for Birds Eye frozen ready meals with the punchline: 'It can make a dishonest woman of you.' Her big screen appearances included four Carry On films, and, in 1996, the part of Aunt Drusilla in a film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. 'The Carry Ons were a nudging sort of humour, like seaside postcards,' she said. 'Not at all politically correct, which was always a good thing.' She also played Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in a number of BBC Radio 4 adaptations between 1993 and 2001. In 1992, she became an unlikely icon to a new generation of fans with her portrayal of Edina's unworldly mother in the internationally successful Absolutely Fabulous. Originally scheduled to appear in just one episode, she went on to become one of the show's most popular characters. 'As Joanna Lumley says, Ab Fab made us born-again actresses,' she commented. As the new Century dawned, Whitfield continued a wide variety of roles including All Rise For Julian Clary, Midsomer Murders, Coronation Street, Jonathan Creek and that retirement home for actors of a certain generation, Last Of The Summer Wine. In 2009 she was one of a number of nostalgia figures who appeared in The End Of Time, David Tennant's final Doctor Who two-parter. She was awarded an OBE in 1985 and CBE in 2000 and, in 2017, became a Dame. Despite her success, Whitfield never wanted a lead role, explaining that she lacked the drive and confidence. And, as the on-stage muse to stars like Hancock and Cooper, she was all too aware of the personal cost. When they died prematurely, she attributed this to 'the responsibility, the stress and strain' of carrying the show. Instead, June Whitfield revelled in her role of versatile sidekick for three generations of audiences. She enjoyed enduring popularity and success, a life she described in her autobiography as 'full of love, affection and laughter, of gigs, gags and a couple of gongs.' She is survived by her daughter, the actress Suzy Aitchison.
TV art historian and nun Sister Wendy Beckett has died at the age of eighty eight. In the 1990s she became one of the most unlikely television personalities. Emerging from her hermit-like existence in a caravan at a Carmelite monastery in Norfolk, she hosted unscripted BBC shows from art galleries across the world. Wendy could be dismissive of the high-profile television work that made this hermit nun with owl-like glasses into an unlikely household name during the 1990s. 'If I had known how much time it would take, I would never have started it,' she said. Wendy, a clever and perceptive woman, was herself aware of these contradictions and struggled to square the circle, some times more successfully than others. When asked once what the other Quidenham nuns thought about her going round the world with a camera crew, she replied, 'they feel sorry for me.' Born in South Africa, Sister Wendy moved as a child to Edinburgh, where her father, Aubrey, studied medicine, joining a convent when she was sixteen. BBC director of arts Jonty Claypole paid tribute, saying Sister Wendy had 'a unique presentation style, a deep knowledge of and passion for the arts.' He added: 'She was a hugely popular BBC presenter and will be fondly remembered by us all.' In 1950 Sister Wendy's order sent her to Oxford University, where she lodged in a convent and was awarded a Congratulatory First Class degree in English literature. She returned to South Africa in 1954 to teach, but in 1970, with her health deteriorating, the Vatican gave permission for her to pursue a life of solitude and prayer. After obtaining permission to study art in the 1980s - largely through books and postcard reproductions of the great works obtained from galleries - Sister Wendy decided to write a book to earn money for her convent. Contemporary Women Artists, published in 1988, was followed by more books and articles. In 1991 the BBC commissioned her to present a television documentary on the National Gallery in London. Dressed in her habit, Sister Wendy stood in front of paintings and, without script or autocue, discussed them to the camera. Her programmes included Odyssey, Sister Wendy's Grand Tour and Sister Wendy's Story Of Painting. Her impact on audiences was so great that she even had a musical written about her. Postcards From God: The Sister Wendy Musical, created by the originators of Jerry Springer: The Opera, ran briefly - and camply - in a small West End venue. Sister Wendy herself said that she was rather bemused but not displeased by the accolade. Her health was never good - she had suffered from a weak heart since childhood - and could very quickly run out of energy in mid-take. After Sister Wendy's American Collection and Sister Wendy At The Norton Simon Museum had made her name with US TV viewers in 2001, she declined any further TV offers. Despite her old-fashioned garb, her views on Catholicism were anything but traditional. In private - and, occasionally in public - she would question the church's strict code on sexual ethics as a distraction from the real business of bringing people to God, whatever their gender, chosen method of contraception or orientation. And, her views on God were challenging. When asked once what she felt about God, she replied, sharply: 'I don't think anyone can feel God. Those who believe in him most are most aware of his non-feelability, as it were. God is such a total mystery. My heart sinks when the word God is bandied around glibly.'
Norman Gimbel, the Oscar and Grammy-winning lyricist, has died at the age of ninety one, his family has announced. Gimbel's work included 'Killing Me Softly With His Song' - recorded by Roberta Flack, The Fugees and many others - and the theme to TV series Happy Days. He also wrote the English lyrics to the Brazilian bossa nova melody, 'The Girl From Ipanema'. Gimbel died on 19 December at his home in Montecito, California, his son Tony Gimbel told The Hollywood Reporter. Music rights organisation BMI said that it was 'greatly saddened' by news of Gimbel's death. It described him as 'a truly gifted and prolific writer' who would be greatly missed by friends and fans. Norman Gimbel was born in Brooklyn and began his career with music publishers David Blum and Edwin H Morris. His early successes included the lyrics to Andy Williams's 1956 hit single 'Canadian Sunset'. He was best known for his work in film and television, writing the songs for popular shows such as Laverne & Shirley, Wonder Woman and HR Puffnstuff. Gimbel formed a long-term collaboration with the composer Charles Fox and the duo won a Grammy Award in 1973 for 'Killing Me Softly'. He and composer David Shire shared an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1979 for 'It Goes Like It Goes', which was sung by Jennifer Warnes in the film Norma Rae. In 1984 Gimbel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
French resistance fighter Georges Loinger, whose bravery and invention saved hundreds of Jewish children in World War Two, has died aged one hundred and eight. His death was announced by France's Holocaust Memorial Foundation. Born in Strasbourg to a Jewish family, he was captured by the Nazis in 1940 but escaped. One of the methods he used to save children was to take them to the Swiss border, then kick a football over the frontier and get them to chase it. 'I spotted a football pitch that was on the border. It was made up of fences two-and-a-half metres high. I saw that there was nobody,' he said. 'I made the children play, I told some of them to lift up the fences and I passed the ball.' Loinger was serving in the French army when he was caught by the Nazis in 1940 but his blond hair and blue eyes apparently concealed the fact that he was Jewish from his German captors and this enabled his escape from a prisoner of war camp. Returning to France during the war he joined an aid agency trying to help Jewish children whose parents had been killed or sent to concentration camps. Another method he used involved dressing children as mourners and taking them to a cemetery on the French-Swiss border, where they would climb up a gravedigger's ladder to neutral territory. He is believed to have saved more than three hundred and fifty children. Loinger's cousin was another French resistance fighter, the mime artist Marcel Marceau.
Music retailer HMV has confirmed it is calling in KPMG as administrators. The move, the second in six years, involves two thousand two hundred staff at one hundred and twenty five stores. Owners Hilco, which took the company out of its first administration in 2013, blamed a 'tsunami' of retail challenges, including business rate levels and the move to digital. Not, perhaps, the most tactful of analogies given that an actual tsunami took place a few days earlier in Indonesia causing environmental devastation and killing at least four hundred people. Hilco said HMV stores would continue to trade while negotiations were held with major suppliers and it looked for buyers. Paul McGowan, executive chairman of HMV and Hilco Capital, said: 'Even an exceptionally well-run and much-loved business such as HMV cannot withstand the tsunami of challenges facing UK retailers over the last twelve months on top of such a dramatic change in consumer behaviour in the entertainment market.' He pointed out that HMV sold thirty one per cent of all physical music in the UK in 2018 and twenty three per cent of all DVDs and Blu-rays, with its market share growing month by month throughout the year. But, he added that the industry consensus was that the market would fall by another seventeen per cent during 2019 and therefore it would not be possible to continue to trade the business. Holders of gift vouchers are being advised to consider spending them 'sooner rather than later.' According to consumer publication Which?, whether vouchers and returns will be accepted following administration 'depends on the administrators.' Which reminds one of the whole vouchers malarkey which personally affected this blogger the last time HMV went into administration. What a right how-do-you-do that was. The administrators' role is to 'try and save the company' and in doing so, they 'may take the decision not to accept returns.' Hilco's ownership saw HMV host live events in store, with musicians including Kylie Minogue, Stormzy and The Darkness. Digital music revenue overtook sales of physical formats like CDs and records for the first time in 2012. Since then, online shopping, downloads and streaming provided by platforms such as Amazon, Spotify and Netflix, have continued to eat into sales of physical music. Julie Palmer, partner at business consultancy Begbies Traynor, said the fall of HMV had been 'coming for many years.' She added: 'It has been revealed that the business turnaround has been built on a bed of sand rather than rocks.' With video and music still its main sources of revenue, HMV was always likely to be one of the retailers struggling to make it through the Christmas holidays. But this is about more than a struggle to adapt to changing consumer habits. In millions of households, watching a movie now means turning to Netflix or Amazon Prime rather than selecting a DVD, and listening to music means streaming it from Spotify instead of heading up to the attic to hunt through old CDs. HMV faced the same pressures of low consumer confidence, high rents and a lacklustre Christmas that have put other high street names in danger. The Entertainment Retailers Association points out that when you tot up music, video and games there is still a market of nearly two billion smackers worth of physical products. Richard Lim, Chief Executive, Retail Economics, said HMV's situation came amid a weak retailing climate. 'Poor Christmas trading has claimed its first victim,' he said. But, the chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association, Kim Bayley, said there was hope. 'What is clear is that following its first move into administration in 2013, HMV has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround and it is conceivable that this will happen again. The fact is the physical entertainment market is still worth up to two billion pounds a year so there is plenty of business there.' Britain's shops have also faced uncertainty over Brexit, which sparked a fall in the pound and therefore raised the price of imported goods, as well as rising labour costs, higher business property taxes and unseasonably warm weather. HMV, known for its iconic logo featuring the 'dog and trumpet,' is Britain's last surviving national music retailer. It was launched by English composer Edward Elgar in 1921, selling gramophones, radios and popular music hall recordings.
And, still on the subject of HMV's latest collapse, this blogger is grateful as ever to his old mucker Danny for alerting him to the following piece of sneering slavver written by the Gruniad Morning Star's Penny Anderson (no, me neither). 'This is arrant nonsense,' writes Dan, persuasively. 'It was possible, Penelope, to buy records at both the big chain stores like Virgin/Our Price/HMV and the small indie "boutique" record shops you euologise with your somewhat "ben trovato" anecdotes of being Swindon's coolest eleven-year-old.' All of which is very true. Plus, 'look at me, aren't I like, the coolest kiddie that ever did live?' rubbish like this, which appears with monotonous regularity in the Gruniad is just one more reason to loathe the newspaper and all the Middle Class hippy Communists who sail in her.
The couple arrested and then released without charge in relation to the pre-Christmas Gatwick drone incident could take the more scummy end of the UK press to the cleaners and win 'at least' seventy five knicker from those newspapers who foolishly identified them, according to a leading libel lawyer quoted by the Gruniad Morning Star. Mark Stephens, the head of media law at Howard Kennedy, said that the couple 'had a strong legal case' if they wished to pursue legal action. And, let's face it, after the disgraceful way in which they were treated by the Scum Mail on Sunday in particular, they'd have to be daft not to do exactly that. 'Absent of a compelling reason and the police saying you can, you may no longer identify people who have been arrested. The damage is likely to be in the region of seventy five to one hundred and twenty five thousand pounds. It could be more when you total all of the news outlets, because each one is going to pay something for the damage it caused. I don't see any lawyer who wouldn't take it on a no-win-no-fee basis.' Oh, of course not. No lawyer with a bank account is going to turn down the chance to get a few tabloid editors in the dock for a very awkward cross examination on the subject of morality. Money for old rope, that. And, let's face it, who doesn't enjoy seeing sneering organs of the media being given a damned good pants-down hiding in the courts for strutting about like they own the gaff? Stephens said that the case is 'the first major test' of privacy law since Sir Cliff Richard's infamous privacy victory against the BBC earlier this year, which set a much higher bar for naming individuals who have been arrested but not charged with any offence. The couple were taken in for questioning on Friday of last week, with Sussex police confirming only that a forty seven-year-old man and a fifty four-year-old woman from Crawley had been arrested in relation to the incident, which saw one of the world's busiest airports effectively shut down for thirty six hours in the run-up to Christmas. They were subsequently identified in many newspapers and the Scum Mail on Sunday ran the couple's picture on its front page next to the quite astonishingly prejudicial headline: Are These The Morons Who Ruined Christmas? As it turned out, they were not that or anything even remotely like it, although the Scum Mail on Sunday were the morons who ruined the couple's Christmas. Later that day, whilst the newspapers were still in the shops, Sussex police announced that they had released the - completely innocent - couple without charge. Not all parts of the media named the couple, with most broadcasters and some national newspapers deciding to stick to the details contained in the police statement. The couple later identified themselves as Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk, making a public statement outside their home on Christmas Eve in which they said that they felt 'completely violated' by the arrest and the subsequent coverage. 'Our home has been searched and our privacy and identity completely exposed,' said Gait. 'Our names, photos and other personal information has been broadcast throughout the world.' Good Morning Britain host the odious oily twat Piers Morgan has already snivellingly apologised for calling the pair 'clowns' and suggesting that they were 'terrorists.' Neither of which is true although, again, the former might well be with regard to the odious oily twat Morgan himself. Sussex Police's chief constable subsequently said he feels 'really sorry' for the couple. The newspapers who named them, meanwhile, said ... nothing. Nothing. It is unclear whether the couple are currently planning legal action - though, as noted, they really should - but a spokesperson for the Hacked Off press reform campaign group said that the incident showed the need for tougher press regulation. 'Once again, innocent members of the public have been subjected to appalling accusations in a newspaper over a crime they did not commit,' they said. 'Almost eight years to the day since Christopher Jefferies was vilified in the press for a murder he had no part in, the targeting of this couple shows that when it comes to press standards at some titles, nothing has changed since The Leveson Inquiry.' Meanwhile, the Sun's former political editor That Worthless Kavanagh Individual - a regular crass apologist for sick tabloid excesses - attempted to defend newspapers' decision to name the couple, telling Radio 4's Today programme on Monday that the 'information' was snitched to the press by a neighbours of the couple - whom, one imagines, is currently keeping a very low profile. And, going on to - quite ludicrously - suggest that publishing the couple's personal details had 'helped hasten the process of the law. Were it not for the press, I don't think the police would have been so quick to discover this particular suspect had a cast-iron, watertight alibi,' this moronic fraction of an individual claimed. Because, of course, the police regularly don't bother to check out people's alibi until some newspaper has splashed the person all over their front page, do they? The truth is, of course, that the press who did name the couple are, currently, shitting themselves that they are about to have their knackers sued for an eye-wateringly massive amount of damages. And, as the Gruniad's Roy Greenslade wrote in a - very forthright - op ed piece, it serves the stupid bastards right for taking tittle-tattle grassed by neighbours as gospel in their desperate search for an exclusive. The broader media handling of the Gatwick drone incident subsequently descended into abject farce, with a Sussex police officer on Sunday raising 'the possibility' that there never had been a drone buzzing Gatwick in the first place. By Monday, the police had backtracked and, eventually, got their story straight, blaming 'poor communications' in a phone call with government ministers for the mix-up and insisting that there had, indeed, definitely been a drone. In an attempt to get a grip on the incident, security minister Ben Wallace issued a statement insisting the government 'could cope' with any similar future drone incident, although he did not give details about the technology involved. And, frankly, very few people believed him given the current government's outstanding track record on 'dealing' with pretty much anything. Particularly anything that involves direct and decisive action. 'The huge proliferation of such devices, coupled with the challenges of deploying military counter measures into a civilian environment, means there are no easy solutions. However, I can say that we are able to now deploy detection systems throughout the UK to combat this threat,' Wallace claimed. Gatwick has offered a fifty thousand knicker reward through Crimestoppers to any individuals with information on the real perpetrators of the disruption, with the charity's boss Lord Ashcroft offering a further ten grand.
A man has been charged with 'causing a public nuisance' after an incident involving a drone being flown from the M48 Severn Bridge. The crossing between England and Wales was closed on 31 December for thirty minutes after 'a concern for welfare.' Alexandru Scutaru, of Northampton, was given police bail with conditions not to go to either Severn crossing pending a court appearance.
Royal Mail has withdrawn a stamp design marking the seventy fifth anniversary of D-Day - after the BBC News website pointed out it showed US troops landing in what was Dutch New Guinea, nearly eight-and-a-half thousand miles from France. The stamp was due to be released next year in a 'Best of British' collection. Captioned 'Allied soldiers and medics wade ashore,' it was said to depict the Normandy landings but was actually taken in what is modern-day Indonesia. People who saw the error in a social media preview called it 'embarrassing.' The image appears on the American National WWII Museum website, attributed to the US Coast Guard, and is said to show troops carrying stretchers from a landing craft at Sarmi, Dutch New Guinea on 17 May 1944. The D-Day landings did not take place until 6 June of that year, when British, US, Canadian and Free French forces landed on the beaches of Northern France. The landings were the first stage of Operation Overlord - the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. Royal Mail had revealed a preview of its 2019 Special Stamp programme, showcasing the 'Best of British' on Thursday. Others depicted a red kite to celebrate the UK's birds of prey and commemorated the bicentenary of the birth of Queen Victoria. The seventy fifth anniversary of the D-Day landings was to be marked by a set of eleven stamps, in what the Royal Mail called 'a timely commemoration of all those who participated' using 'images from the day itself.' Well, mostly of the day itself. Late on Thursday, a Royal Mail spokeswoman said: 'We work very hard to ensure that our Special Stamp programme appropriately commemorates anniversaries and events that are relevant to UK heritage and life. We would like to offer our sincere apologies that our preview release for our 2019 Special Stamp programme included a stamp design which had been incorrectly associated with the D-Day landings. We can confirm that this image will not be part of the final set, which will be issued in June 2019.'
A Swiss man won a million Euros and then immediately lost it on Saturday, when a televised Swiss lotto draw went chaotically wrong. With hilarious consequences. For Andreas Bürkli it would have been a lottery dream come true, when his name was pulled out of a drum and announced by the German singer Herbert Grönemeyer. Swiss public TV channel SRF apologised after declaring him the winner, explaining that 'a mistake' had been made due to 'technical problems.' Swiss website Blick tweeted the moment that Bürkli's win was declared on Swiss German TV show Happy Day, complete with ticker-tape fanfare and a briefcase loaded with cash. As Grönemeyer and host Röbi Koller prepared for the draw, the names of potential winners rolled on a screen behind them. All ten in the draw had to be ready by their phones. More names were held in reserve to be added if someone was not contactable. One of the ten was not contactable and another had a phone number missing, so the organisers moved on to lots eleven and twelve. As lot twelve was not contactable they passed on to lot thirteen. At this point there was confusion as only nine names appeared on the screen. With time running short, a lotto official rushed in and mistakenly put eleven lots into a drum manually. Bürkli's name came up and Grönemeyer rang his number. There was no answer and the show came to an end. In a later statement, a Swisslos official snivellingly apologised and said that the draw had to be carried out manually because of unspecific technical problems. 'In the hectic rush,' it said eleven names were loaded into the drum rather than ten and 'the extra one' had been drawn. The official stressed that, according to the rules, the man declared the winner was 'not eligible' because he had not picked up his phone. Asked how Bürkli had accepted his moment of lottery misfortune, the Swisslos official said he had 'taken it very well: You could even say he was a good sport.' Just, not a very rich one.
Iran's state broadcaster, Irib, has sacked the head of a regional TV channel after it broadcast a Jackie Chan film without removing a sex scene. A video posted online apparently by a viewer on Kish Island showed the Hong Kong martial arts star having sex with a woman in the film Shinjuku Incident. Iranian media said that the 'immoral' scene was broadcast by Kish TV 'in total violation of Irib's regulations.' Physical contact between men and women is not permitted on-screen in Iran. Although, seemingly, that does not apply to real life unless the birth rate in Iran has come to a standstill and no one noticed. Censors are also said to be required to remove men and women exchanging 'tender words or jokes,' unveiled women, close-ups of women's faces and exposed necklines, as well as 'negative portrayals of police and bearded men.' The Tasnim news agency reported that the head of Irib, Aliasgari Ali Askari, had 'ordered an investigation' into the incident and pledged 'to seriously deal with the offenders and report them to the relevant authorities.' Some Iranians mocked the broadcaster's response on social media. Some noted that officials had so far avoided dismissal over the fatal bus crash that killed ten students at Tehran's Islamic Azad University last week. One imagines that, once The Guidance Patrols nab those doing the mocking, that such comments will likely earn their respective commentators a few damned good canings. To be fair, though, you normally have to pay good money for that sort of thing in the West so, who says Islam doesn't have a sense of humour?
A female Islamic State group member accused of letting a five-year-old girl die of thirst in scorching sunlight is facing war crimes charges in Germany. The twenty seven-year-old German, identified as Jennifer W and her husband bought the child as 'a house slave' in the IS-occupied Iraqi city of Mosul in 2015. Her husband allegedly chained the girl up outside after she fell ill and Jennifer W 'did nothing to save her,' prosecutors claim. She also faces murder and weapons offences charges. If found guilty in the terrorism court in the city of Munich she faces a maximum sentence of life in The Slammer. The five-year-old girl was among a group of prisoners-of-war when Jennifer W and her husband bought her. German media suggest the child 'may' have been a member of the Yazidi minority, many of whom were captured and enslaved by IS as the militant group swept across Northern Iraq in 2014. 'After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die in agony of thirst in the scorching heat,' prosecutors said in a statement. 'The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.' Jennifer W travelled to Iraq in 2014, where she became a member of IS's self-styled 'morality police,' the allegations against her say. Her role saw her patrol parks in Mosul and another IS-occupied city, Fallujah, armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a pistol and an explosives vest, prosecutors said. 'Her task was to ensure that women comply with the behavioural and clothing regulations established by the terrorist organisation,' said the statement. Jennifer W was very arrested by Turkish police months after the girl's death after she visited the German embassy in the capital Ankara to renew her identity papers. She was extradited to Germany, where she was initially allowed to return to her home in Lower Saxony because of a lack of evidence against her. German police re-arrested her in June as she tried to travel to Syria and she has been in custody since then. No date has yet been set for the trial. Mosul was liberated from IS last year after a three-year occupation and the group has now lost almost all the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria.
Banksy's latest artwork was attacked as 'a drunk halfwit' tried to damage the mural on a garage wall in South Wales according to reports. A security guard chased the drunk halfwit away on Saturday as he tried to pull down the newly-fitted plastic screen which protects the Port Talbot graffiti. Police were called and the local community fears the artwork may become a target for 'some idiot who wants to make a name for themselves.' Extra security guards have been drafted in to protect Season's Greetings. 'Some drunk halfwit has tried to pull the fencing down and the protection glazing at the Banksy artwork,' Gary Owen posted on the local Facebook page. 'This art is for Port Talbot, Neath and surrounding areas. We do not want it wrecked.' The mural was not damaged during the incident which took place just hours after half of the artwork in Taibach was covered by a protective plastic screen. Hollywood actor Michael Sheen contributed towards the cost of the screen and the local movie star is also helping pay for the security. 'It's amazing and such an honour that Banksy chose to come and paint his latest piece in Port Talbot.' added Owen, the man who messaged Banksy in August to ask if he would paint a piece in Port Talbot. 'We should be treasuring this privilege and it's very sad that some people want to spoil it for everyone and give Port Talbot a bad name. I do fear it'll become a target for some idiot who wants to make a name for themselves - and that's sad.' The image appears on two sides of a garage in Taibach and depicts a child enjoying snow falling - the other side reveals it is a fire emitting ash. A local businessman covered one side of the work with a temporary protective plastic sheet on Saturday afternoon. A more permanent solution is expected to be installed in the new year. Volunteers working to protect the elusive artist's latest mural said at least two thousand visitors have turned up to see it over the first two days. It appeared on Ian Lewis' breeze block garage on a lane behind Caradog Street in Taibach on Tuesday. Banksy confirmed the image was his when he posted a video on his Instagram account on Wednesday.
One of the first men to orbit the Moon has told BBC 5Live that it is 'stupid' to plan human missions to Mars. Bill Anders, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 8, the first human spaceflight to leave Earth's orbit, claimed that sending crews to Mars was 'almost ridiculous.' NASA is currently planning human missions to the Moon. Although, whether they'll ever get around to it is another matter entirely. Anders said he is a 'big supporter' of the 'remarkable' unmanned missions programmes, 'mainly because they're much cheaper.' But, he says that the public support 'simply isn't there' to fund vastly more expensive human missions. 'What's the imperative? What's pushing us to go to Mars?' he said, adding 'I don't think the public is that interested.' Meanwhile, robotic probes are still exploring Mars. Last month, the InSight lander, which will sample the planet's interior, successfully touched down at Elysium Planitia. In a statement, NASA said it was 'leading a sustainable return to the Moon, which will help prepare us to send astronauts to Mars. That also includes commercial and international partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.' In December 1968, Anders, along with crewmates Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop a Saturn V, before completing ten orbits around the Moon. The crew of Apollo 8 spent twenty hours in orbit, before returning to Earth. They splashed down in the Pacific on 27 December, landing just over two miles from their target point. They were picked up by the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. It was the furthest humans had ever been from their home planet at that point - and a vital stepping stone on the road to Apollo 11's historic moon landing just seven months later. But the former astronaut is scathing about how NASA has evolved since the heady days of President Kennedy's pledge to land a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s. 'NASA couldn't get to the Moon today. They're so ossified. NASA has turned into a jobs programme, many of the centres are mainly interested in keeping busy and you don't see the public support other than they get the workers their pay and their congressmen get re-elected.' Anders is also critical of the decision to focus on near-Earth orbit exploration after the completion of the Apollo programme in the 1970s. 'I think the space shuttle was a serious error. It hardly did anything except have an exciting launch, but it never lived up to its promise,' he said. 'The space station is only there because you had a shuttle and vice-versa. NASA really mismanaged the manned programme since the late lunar landings.' It is a view that might seem surprising from a proud patriot and servant of the US military, who still remembers his own mission to space with great fondness. It is also a view which Anders accepts doesn't sit too well with some in the space community. 'I think NASA's lucky to have what they've got - which is still hard, in my mind, to justify. I'm not a very popular guy at NASA for saying that, but that's what I think,' he explained. His former crewmate, Frank Borman, who commanded the Apollo 8 mission and also spent two weeks in Earth orbit during the Gemini programme, is slightly more enthusiastic. 'I'm not as critical of NASA as Bill is,' he told 5Live. 'I firmly believe that we need robust exploration of our Solar System and I think man is part of that.' But, asked about the the plans of Space X founder Elon Musk and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos - who have both talked of launching private missions to Mars - Borman is less complimentary. 'I do think there's a lot of hype about Mars that is nonsense. Musk and Bezos, they're talking about putting colonies on Mars, that's nonsense.' Reflecting on their own historic mission to the Moon, Borman described Apollo 8 as 'a great endeavour' and agreed that it had won the space race. Anders said he felt that the 'lasting legacy' of the mission would be 'Earthrise' a photo taken by the crew showing humanity's home planet hanging in the blackness of space above the lunar horizon. Speaking to Radio 4's PM, their crewmate Jim Lovell also reflected on the Earthrise moment: 'When I looked at the Earth itself, I started to wonder why I was here, what's my purpose here? It sort of dawned me,' he said. 'And, my perspective is that God has given mankind a stage on which to perform. How the play turns out, is up to us.'
History will be made on Tuesday when NASA's New Horizons probe sweeps past the icy world known as Ultima Thule. Occurring some four billion miles from Earth, the flyby will set a new record for the most distant ever exploration of a Solar System object by a spacecraft. New Horizons will gather a swathe of images and other data over the course of just a few hours leading up to and beyond the closest approach. When its observations are complete, the craft will then turn to Earth to report in and begin down-linking the gigabytes of information stored in its memory. Mission scientists, gathered in a control centre at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, are excited at what lies in prospect. /It's electric. People across the whole team are ready. They're in the game and we can't wait to go exploring,' says New Horizons' principal investigator Professor Alan Stern.
The probe is famous for making the first ever visit to the dwarf planet Pluto and its several moons in 2015. To reach Ultima, it has had to push a billion miles deeper into space. Virtually nothing is known about this next target for New Horizons, however. Telescopic measurements indicate it is about twenty to thirty kilometres across, although scientists concede it could actually be two separate entities moving very close to each other, perhaps even touching. Ultima is in what's termed The Kuiper Belt - the band of distant, frozen material which orbits far from the Sun and the eight major planets. There are probably hundreds of thousands of Kuiper objects like Ultima and their frigid state almost certainly holds clues to the formation conditions of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago. 'About one day out we'll turn on all our instruments,' explains mission scientist Doctor Kelsi Singer. 'We'll take black and white images; we'll take colour images. And we'll take compositional information. This is just such a new object because we've never been to an object like this before. It's hard to predict but I'm ready to be surprised by what we find.' NASA wanted to explore something beyond Pluto and this object was reachable. Remarkably, Ultima Thule was only discovered four years ago by the Hubble telescope. Initially catalogued as (486958) 2014 MU69, it was given a more catchy name after a public consultation exercise. Though, if the public consultation had taken place in Great Britain it's now likely that New Horizons would be approaching Small Spacey Thing McSpacey Thingface. Ultima Thule is a Latin phrase that means 'a place beyond the known world.' Like many Kuiper Belt objects of its size, it is likely to be composed of a lot of ice, dust and maybe some larger rock fragments, which came together at the dawn of the Solar System. Theories suggests that such bodies will take on an elongated or lobate form. Distant telescopic observations suggested its surface is very dark, with a bit of a red tinge. That darkness (it reflects only about ten per cent of the light falling on its surface) is the result of having been 'burned' through the eons by high-energy radiation - cosmic rays and X-rays. New Horizons will study Ultima's shape, rotation, composition and environment. Scientists want to know how these far-off worlds were assembled. One idea is that they grew from the mass accretion of a great many pebble-sized grains. Unlike the encounter with Pluto in July 2015, however, there won't be increasingly resolved images on approach to admire. Ultima will remain a blob in the viewfinder pretty much until the final hours of the flyby. However, the much reduced separation between the probe and Ultima (three-and-a-half thousand kilometres versus twelve thousand at Pluto) means that finer detail in the surface will, eventually, be observed. Features as small as thirty metres across should be discernible if the pointing of the cameras is spot on. Because New Horizons has to swivel to point its instruments, it cannot keep its antenna locked on Earth while also gathering data. Controllers must, therefore, wait until later on New Year's Day for the probe to 'phone home' a status update and to start to downlink some choice pictures. In some ways, this event is more difficult than the pass of Pluto given that the object in the viewfinder is almost a hundred times smaller. New Horizons will get closer than at Pluto, which is good for image detail; but it means that if the pointing is off, the probe could be sending back pictures of empty space. Because Ultima was only discovered four years ago, its position and movement on the sky are much more uncertain than the coordinates for Pluto. Every image taken on approach has been used to refine the navigation and timing models that will be critical to the control of New Horizons during the flyby. The team working on the probe is going ask NASA to fund a further extension to the mission. The hope is that the course of the spacecraft can be altered slightly to visit at least one more Kuiper belt object sometime in the next decade. New Horizons should have enough fuel reserves to be able to do this. Critically, it should also have sufficient electrical reserves to keep operating its instruments into the 2030s. The longevity of New Horizon's plutonium battery may even allow it to record its exit from the Solar System. The two 1970s Voyager missions have both now left the heliosphere - the bubble of gas blown off the Sun. Voyager 2 only recently did it, in November. This occurred at a distance of eighteen billion kilometres from the Sun. New Horizons' power system could probably run to about fifteen billion kilometres.
The remains of a horse still in its harness have been discovered at a villa outside the walls of Pompeii, in what archaeologists are hailing as a find of 'rare importance.' The horse was saddled, possibly to help rescue Pompeians fleeing the AD79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius which ultimately buried the town in ashes. It was found with the remains of other horses at the Villa of the Mysteries. The villa belonged to either a Roman general or a high-ranking military magistrate. Archaeologists at the luxurious Villa dei Misteri have already found wine presses, ovens and extraordinary frescoes. The latest discovery came during an excavation of a stable at the villa to the North of Pompeii, according to Massimo Osanna, the director of Pompeii's archaeological park. The apparently well-groomed horse, along with a saddle and a harness with fragments of wooden and bronze trimmings, was found alongside two other horses. The horses had all come to a 'fierce and terrible end,' Osanna said, suffocated by ashes or by the boiling vapours from Vesuvius's ash cloud. The estate was originally dug up early in the Twentieth Century but much of it was reburied and has since been targeted by looters. 'The whole area will be excavated and returned to the public,' said Osanna.
US Strategic Command, which oversees America's nuclear arsenal, has snivellingly apologised for a tweet that said it was ready to 'drop something much, much bigger' than New York's Times Square ball. The message, posted on New Year's Eve, was accompanied by a video showing a B-2 dropping bombs. Strategic Command later deleted the initial tweet, saying it was 'in poor taste' (no shit?) and replaced it with a grovellingly apology. The incident sparked predictable outrage online.
The eagle has landed - not once, but twice. Two American football fans got the surprise of their lives on Saturday when a North American bald eagle 'went rogue' at a college football game in Texas and decided to perch in the crowd. The bird, which goes by the name of Clark, was apparently meant to fly around the stadium during the national anthem, before a ninety thousand-strong crowd watched The Cotton Bowl, the college football play-off semi-final between Notre Dame Fighting Irish and The Clemson Tigers. But, instead of landing near his handler, he made straight for Notre Dame fan Albert Armas. Who promptly shat in his own pants. Armas later admitted he was scared when the huge bird took hold of his shoulder. His thirteen-year-old son Jaysen, who got tickets to the game for Christmas, spent twenty joyful seconds chuckling at his dad's expense. Footage from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington show fellow fans cheering and whipping out their phones to capture the moment. Clark wasn't content with visiting one spectator, however and a second Notre Dame fan, Tuyen Nguyen, was delighted to lend an arm. He told Sports Illustrated: 'When I saw the bird land [on Armas], I thought the bird had to be very tired. So I put my hand out to see what happens. And it landed on me. It was very interesting. I was very excited. It was amazing, I couldn't even believe it.' His wife, Kim, had gone to the toilet and missed the whole thing. Nobody was injured by the bird's unplanned antics, and Clark himself was successfully retrieved by his handlers. Sadly for Notre Dame, Clemson still beat them thirty-three.
A football fan who slapped a player in the mush during a game has been banned from attending matches for three years. And, quite right too. Bury fan Stefan Camps struck Grimsby Town striker Charles Vernam at Gigg Lane on 8 September during a League Two clash. Camps, was handed the ban at Manchester Magistrates' Court after pleading very guilty to assault. The court heard that Camps struck Vernam when he slid off the pitch after making a tackle. After the incident Camps casually strolled back to his seat in the South Stand all casual, like, the court was told. But, the slap was followed up by Greater Manchester Police after referee Anthony Backhouse included a reference to the incident his match report. Camps was subsequently extremely arrested and given a thirteen-month community order, with a curfew requirement and has also been banned for life by Bury from attending home games. Which, to be fair, some might regard as a not so much a punishment as a reward for his naughty ways. PC Rob Smith, Greater Manchester Police's liaison officer for Bury, said: 'Violence has no place at football matches and anyone found committing such offences will be dealt with appropriately. Whilst we appreciate that football can evoke passion and emotion from fans watching a game, it does not give you an excuse to behave irrationally and assault another person. Stefan Camps is a grown man and is ultimately responsible for his own actions. Those actions now mean that he can't go and watch his team, or any other side, in person in the UK for the next three years.'
Swansea City may play in English football's second tier but they are 'charging parents Premier League prices for children to be mascots' according to a rather shitehawk 'Shock! Horror! Pictures!' 'exclusive' by the BBC Sports website. As if anybody with half-a-brain in their head actually gives a stuff about such nonsense. It reportedly costs 'up to' four hundred and seventy eight knicker for a match-day 'mascot package' at the Championship club, 'research' by BBC Wales found. So, in that case, don't pay it and don't let your child be a mascot, what's the problem? Only three teams in the Premier League charge more than Swansea, while the experience is free at most of the top clubs - including, astonishingly, this blogger's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies. Although, one imagines the second Mike Ashley discovers there's good money to be made from the gullible parents of desperate young boys, that'll sharp change. Swansea's local rivals Cardiff City charge two hundred and fifty five pounds. Swansea said that prices were 'reduced' this year following relegation so Christ only knows what they were making punters pay last year. Consumer groups have 'branded' (that's tabloidese for 'described' only with less syllables) the higher prices as 'outrageous.' Most normal people couldn't care less. 'For many youngsters, the chance to walk out onto the pitch with their football heroes is a dream come true,' the BBC sneer. 'Indeed many clubs tell parents the package is the "ultimate gift your child will never forget."' Yet while many of the biggest clubs in the country, including Premier League champions Sheikh Yer Man City, The Scum, Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws, The Arse, Moscow Chelski FC, Everton and, just to repeat because it is, frankly, a Hell of a surprise to pretty much everyone, Newcastle United, do not charge for the opportunity, others are cashing in more than seven hundred smackers per child. And, we're supposed to be what, outraged? Naff off, there are actual, real, important things in the world to get angry about rather than this sort of nonsense. Most packages include a full kit, match tickets, photographs and autographs as well as walking onto the pitch with the team before kick-off. But a two hundred and seventy quid deal at Fulham does not include kit while a one hundred and eighty five knicker package at Bournemouth does not come with a ticket to the game. So, you can go out on the pitch with the team before the game at Dean Court but, unless your dad coughs up for a ticket, then you get yer ass slung out of the gaff before the referee's even blown the whistle. Harsh! Martyn James, of the consumer website Resolver, who clearly hasn't got anything more important to do with his time, said: 'It's absolutely outrageous that some richer kids can effectively buy their way to the top of the mascot list. When I was younger, being a mascot was a reward for super loyalty or for having been through a great deal. Charging any money for these packages is unacceptable - and it's pretty unknown too.' Well, not now, it isn't. 'It makes a mockery of all the things that our national game is supposed to represent.' What, like greed and a desperate need make lifelong supporters part with as much money as possible before they get pissed off, give up and spend their match day's watching Sky Soccer Saturday instead? Hate to break it to you, Martyn, but that sounds exactly like 'all of the things our national game is supposed to represent.' This is the Twenty First Century, mate, not 1953. Supporters on various fan Interweb forums have 'slammed' (that's 'criticised' only will less syllables) the prices as 'unfair' and 'scandalous'. Although, to repeat, they are only those things if you are actually dumb enough to pay the prices changed. If nobody did that, one imagines, the prices for such packages would rapidly tumble. Swansea claimed the 'truly once in a lifetime experience' includes four hospitality places, a meal and half-time penalty competition on the pitch. Plus, watching Swansea City playing a second division match, obviously. Definitely 'once in a lifetime.' A spokesman added: 'We've reduced prices this year following relegation, from four hundred and fifty pounds plus VAT to three hundred and ninety nine pounds plus VAT for weekend, and three hundred and forty nine pounds plus VAT for weekday matches. We also give one space free to charity every match and this was brought in this season.' Mascots at the likes of Moscow Chelski FC, Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws, The Arse and The Scum are reportedly 'picked at random' from their junior fan club and are free. Cardiff City offers the chance for children aged between four and ten to 'turn dream into reality' for a mere two hundred and fifty five knicker and have sold out for many of their most popular home fixtures. Clubs have been 'urged' to 'find a good deal' for fans. Although, quite why they would do that when they've shown no inclination to do so or anything even remotely like it in the past is not, at this time, known. The Football Supporters' Federation whinged: 'Clubs should speak to their supporters about what they think represents a good deal for parents and if fans have specific concerns, we'd be happy to look into it. Our campaign focus will primarily remain on affordable ticket prices - particularly fair concessionary and fair young adult prices.' Yeah. And, how's that going, lads? Let us, once again dear blog reader, simply stand up and salute the utter shite that some people chose to care about!
This blogger has asked this question before, dear blog reader, but it bears repeating in light of the previous non-story. Can you remember the exact moment when football began to lose its soul? For yer actual Keith Telly Topping it occurred at some point in the mid-afternoon of 12 May 1990, the date of that year's FA Cup Final. For those who don't remember, the final itself was actually a terrific game between The Scum and Crystal Palace which ended in a three-three draw, but the day had already been soured for this blogger by events from an hour or so earlier. In those days the Cup Final was still a big deal and was covered extensively by both BBC1 and ITV. During the course of the BBC's six hour plus coverage, an interview took place between the late Tony Gubba and Palace's then owner the, now also late, Ron Noades. I dare say there will be quite a few younger dear blog readers who won't even remember who Noades was so, for you, a brief history lesson. Noades was a multi-millionaire who had made his money in developing golf courses before getting involved in football and becoming owner, firstly, of Wimbledon and then of the Palace (and, later, Brentford). He was, in those days, something of a controversial figure, one of the first of a new breed of media-savvy, full-of-their-own-importance owner-chairman who seemed to relish the limelight in a way that few of the dull grey boardroom men of previous generations ever had and were to be found getting their boat-races on telly as often, if not more often, than the managers they employed. Of course, these days, where our clubs are mostly owned by a series of very shady figures - floggers of mucky books or cheap sports gear, Russian oligarchs who used to be in the KGB, Arab oil billionaires or American or Indian or Malaysian absentee landlords - a figure like Ron actually seems rather tame by comparison. But, nevertheless, in 1990, he was known for his outspoken pontificating on all manner of subjects in front of the cameras and, thus, the Beeb felt an interview with him during the course of Cup Final Grandstand would probably be value for money. And, they were right. During the interview, Gubba asked Noades a fairly straightforward question about how the Palace owner responded to criticism of the way in which he ran the club from the supporters who, after all, paid their money through the turnstiles. Didn't they deserve a say in the way in which their money was being spent, on players rather than corporate boxes for example? Noades's reply is etched onto this blogger's memory: 'Gone are the days,' he began, 'where supporters can makes those sort of demands of chairmen because they pay the players' wages.' He went on to explain that match day receipts at Palace - and, therefore, he presumed at other clubs - now only accounted for about half of the income which a football club depended upon (this blogger believes the exact figure he quoted was fifty five per cent, the rest being made up by external merchandising, sponsorship and other commercial activities). Now, remember, this was 1990, two full years before the first Sky TV deal was done which would make that situation a million times worse over the course of the next three decades. This blogger can remember being astounded by what Noades was saying; effectively suggesting that paying football supporters were perceived to be less important by those who ran their clubs than the number of replica shirts they could flog in the Far East. 'You might well be right, Ron,' yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought to himself. 'But I'll tell you what, I'll bet you and all of the other wideboys that run our clubs would, collectively, shite in your own pants and run a mile if, next Saturday, no one turned up at any football ground in this country.' Of course, that will never happen, our fandom ultimately works against us in this regard. But, that was the first moment where the mask, momentarily, slipped and many football fans realised the true level of utter contempt with which they, as consumers, were held by those in charge of this game we all love. And that's the reason why this blogger finds himself wholly unable to get all worked up about Swansea and others clubs charging such a massive wedge of coin to children to be their mascot. On a list of 'things that are hideously, obscenely wrong with football' dear blog reader, sadly, that's not even in the top twenty.
Most shoppers do not trust 'social media influencers,' a survey has indicated. And, in other news, apparently, bears do shit in the woods. 'Social media influencers' just in case you were wondering dear blog reader, are people - mostly people that you've never heard of - who use social media to promote products and services, seemingly in the mistaken belief that these endorsements will 'influence' normal people to buy them too. In the research for BBC Radio 4, eighty two per cent of people who took part said it was not always clear when an 'influencer' had been paid to promote a product. The Advertising Standards Authority has launched new guidelines to help 'influencers' stick to the rules. The Competition and Markets Authority is also looking at whether 'social media celebrities' (whatever that ridiculous descriptor entails) 'admit' when they have been paid to promote a product. The survey of more than one thousand shoppers was carried out for Radio 4's You & Yours by consumer analysts Savvy Marketing. It found that fifty four per cent of eighteen-to-thirty four-year-old beauty buyers were 'influenced' by social media suggestions. Alastair Lockhart from Savvy Marketing said: 'The shoppers of the UK are a knowledgeable lot and tend to be pretty wise when deciding how much to trust an influencer's recommendations. However, we can see from the research that it's not always clear and a lot of younger people in particular are influenced by their suggestions.' The growth of social media over the past decade has changed marketing and advertising in many ways. A major part of that has been the rise of 'social influencers.' Cosmetic brands are spending millions of pounds promoting their brands through these 'influencers.' They have moved away from traditional TV and magazine advertising campaigns to Instagram and YouTube. Online z-list 'celebrities' post video tutorials on those sites, demonstrating how to put on make-up - because, obviously they believe normal people are too thick to have worked out how to do it for themselves - and promoting the products they use. One of the highest-paid YouTube 'celebrities' is Jeffree Star (no, me neither). Forbes magazine estimates that he earned eighteen million smackers this year. Although, for what, exactly is not entirely clear. Star joined YouTube in 2006 after becoming the most followed person on MySpace. He started posting make-up tutorials and quickly 'became famous' for his dramatic looks. The beauty industry has adopted 'influencer' advertising more fervently than any other industry and it has, allegedly, had a big impact on sales. In 2017, the beauty and personal care market in the UK was worth more than thirteen billion knicker, up by seventeen per cent in the past five years, according to figures provided by Statista. L'Oreal group, the world's largest cosmetics company, whose annual global sales amount to over twenty three billion quid, reportedly spends half of its marketing budget on social media. The group's director of innovation, Lubomira Rochet, said that L'Oreal was 'embracing influencers.' She said: 'Sometimes we consider influencers as our extended marketing teams. They are so creative. The return on investment is obviously a bigger concern, especially when you spend forty two per cent of your marketing budget in digital, so we are monitoring the whole area of all our initiatives and influencers are pretty positive.' Selfridges' beauty director David Legrand said: 'When you have an influencer speak about product straight away, almost within an hour of them promoting something, you can see uplift in sales. Brands are trying to influence the influencers or have influencers of their own.' But Legrand warned consumers that it is 'not always easy' to work out when an 'influencer' is being paid to influence and when they are not: 'It's sometimes difficult for the public to work out what is and isn't bias.' When a brand rewards an 'influencer' with a payment, free gift, or other perk, any resulting posts become subject to consumer protection law. When a brand also has control over the content, they become subject to the UK Advertising Code as well. The ASA said that the rules were clear. It has recently published guidance for online 'influencers.' For its part, the CMA has launched an investigation into 'concerns' that 'social media stars' are 'not properly declaring' when they have been paid, or otherwise rewarded, to endorse goods or services. As part of its investigation, the CMA has written to a range of z-list celebrities and 'social media influencers' to 'gather more information' about their posts and the nature of the business agreements that they have in place with brands.
Gwyneth Paltrow, 'a well-oiled influencer' (whatever the bleedin' banana that means) according to some complete bell-end of no importance at the Metro has 'taken to Instagram' to pass judgement on Kate Hudson's recently revealed 'insatiable love for chopping boards.' Because, seemingly, she's got nothing better or more constructive to do with her time. 'Just a note to anyone shopping for Kate Hudson this holiday season. She doesn't need anymore cutting boards,' the actress wrote. 'Maybe they're BDSM paddles.' So, there you have it dear blog reader, apparently Gwyneth Paltrow believes either Kate Hudson is really into spanking or that she secretly beats her kids, one or the other.
Now, a lovely proper heart-warming free-good story for the holiday season; a cat which had been missing for five years has been reunited with her owners. Roxy, aged seven, escaped during a visit to the vets in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire in 2013. Owner Vicky Stokes scoured the streets searching for her and put up posters of the beloved tabby, all to no avail. But, after a bedraggled Roxy started hanging around in Amy Ward's garden recently, she took her in. Ward said: 'She looked really thin and obviously had fleas so we started feeding her and even called out the RSPCA to try and catch her but she freaked out. I even tried to put her in a box but she nearly tore me to pieces so we just started feeding her closer and closer to the house.' Gradually Ward won Roxy's trust and she started coming inside and was able to give her several flea treatments and then entice her into a box. She unknowingly took the cat back to the same vets that she had disappeared from and as she was microchipped they were able to trace her actual owner. Stokes, who has since moved received the phone call on 29 December. She said: '[Roxy] is our little Christmas miracle, we are totally elated. I thought she was dead but she seems okay, we are so grateful to Amy for bringing her in.'
A plan to break records by releasing one hundred and thirty thousand balloons at a resort in the Philippines on New Year's Eve has been cancelled after 'a backlash' - from hippies, it would seem - over its 'potential environmental impact.' The party, at Okada Manila, was being headlined by Pete Tong. Organisers had insisted that the indoor event held no environmental risk as the balloons would be recycled. But, the hippies were having none of it and, on Sunday, both the resort and Tong confirmed that it had been cancelled 'after the government got involved.' In a statement, Okada Manila said it 'voluntarily' decided to cancel the event 'as a sign of respect' for the government's campaign to protect the environment. But, mainly, because they're scared of hippies. The resort, part of a sprawling hotel and casino complex in the Philippine capital, had said that the balloons were made of 'biodegradable latex materials' and they would be recycled afterwards - not released into the air. However its social media pages had been inundated with concern about its message, including from campaigners such as Greenpeace Philippines. And, other hippies with, seemingly, nothing more important to worry about this shit like this. In a Sunday night tweet Pete Tong confirmed that promoters had 'dropped the balloon stunt.' Environmental groups around the world, including the UK's Marine Conservation Society, have warned about the dangers balloons can pose to marine life. The organisation says that even latex balloons marked as biodegradable can remain in an ocean environment for four years. Some places, including parts of Australia, have already banned balloon releases because of their impact.
A sixty three year old grandmother killed her 'tyrant' son by hitting him over the head with a large frying pan, before using a power saw to cut his body into more than seventy pieces. And, that was end of his shit. The Russian woman, named only as Lyudmila, was found extremely guilty of murder but was spared jail because she was 'provoked' by her son repeatedly abusing her and making her life 'hell.' Mind you, this is all according to the Sun so it's probably a load of lies. On one occasion the forty two year old man - who is unnamed in the report - allegedly 'attempted to rape' his mother 'after drunkenly mistaking me for his ex-wife.' Lyudmila had begged police to protect her but officers did no more than speak to her son, she claimed. The woman had been detained in Khabarovsk, as she carried 'suspicious' black bin liners from her flat to a waiting taxi. Neighbours had snitched her up to the rozzers right-good-and-proper because they detected the 'smell of a dead body' from her apartment. She told officers that the bags contained 'rotten bear meat' brought by her son from a hunting trip. But, a police examination showed human hands and feet in a bag and she was detained and thrown in The Slammer. A police source said: 'For about three hours the woman kept telling us the story about bear meat. But, then she realised that it was nonsense and told the truth.' She then told how her life had been 'turned upside down' when her son was thrown out by his wife and came to live with her. After a year, when the father-of-two was sometimes 'wild' and was 'like a tyrant,' she 'snapped' on a day in August when he attacked and abused her after messing up the bathroom in her flat. She said: 'I took a frying pan from the kitchen and hit him over the head.' He collapsed, dead. She repeatedly stabbed his corpse. She said: 'I knew that I had to get rid of his corpse somehow and I was afraid of calling police.' In extraordinary testimony to a local news source she explained how she used an angle grinder power tool to disembowel and dismember her son into seventy-plus parts, severing his head and cutting off his penis. She added: 'It was as if my mind switched off. I was doing everything like a robot. I went to buy a power saw, because my hands were aching and I could not use a knife. I covered the floor with plastic, then I cut off his legs, arms and head. I disembowelled him, sliced off his penis and took out inner organs.' She told detectives she threw his cut off body parts in the bin. She continued: 'I had to remove muscles tissue from bones, carefully putting the cut off pieces into plastic bucket, container and a basin. Then I packed each into plastic bags and tied them up. I put his head, feet, hands and main body part - spine with ribs - separately. I did not shed a single tear while doing all this. I was in a peculiar state of mind, as if moving in a fog.' She hurt her hand while grinding her son with them power tool and went to hospital. Lyudmila was admitted for a week - during which the human remains in her flat began to smell. Neighbours phoned her and told her about the obnoxious smell - so she discharged herself and went home, intending to get rid of the body parts.
Police in Texas said that they stopped and arrested a man who, allegedly, said he was on his way to a church with a gun to 'fulfill what he called a prophecy.' The Seguin Police Department said in a Facebook post that they stopped a man on Sunday morning carrying what was believed to be a handgun. An officer arrived at the scene and saw that the man was wearing tactical style clothing, a surgical face shield and was carrying a loaded gun with extra ammunition. Authorities said that Tony Albert, was allegedly on his way to a church to 'fulfill what he called a prophecy.' Albert - who is, obviously, not mental nor nothing - was very arrested and taken to the Guadalupe County Jail and booked in for possession of marijuana, being a felon in possession of firearm and 'talking absolutely bollocks.'
Floyd Mayweather extremely knocked Tenshin Nasukawa out in the opening round as their big-money bout to knock the other guy out 'turned into a farce.' Kickboxer Nasukawa was left blubbing like a girl in his own corner after being sent tumbling to the canvas three times in the first two minutes of the fight on New Year's Eve in Saitama. Mayweather boasted about earning nine million dollars to take on Japan's golden boy - and he collected his money with a minimum of fuss after making his opponent look both foolish and as soft as shite. When the first bell sounded the unbeaten five-weight class boxing champion strolled out with a grin on his face as his opponent took to the centre of the ring. The American, who in the hours before the contest posted a video on Instagram advertising his strip club, then showed utter disdain for his opponent as failed to throw a single punch for the opening thirty seconds. Nasukawa looked completely out of his depth in his first boxing match, swinging wildly in an attempt to land a blow on his opponent. One landed on the glove of Mayweather and that appeared to sting Mayweather into action as he returned with a sharp flurry to deck the home favourite with a short left to the body. The fight descended into a farce when another sharp jab from Mayweather left Nasuwaka staggering back before falling down for a second time and begging Mayweather not to chin him any more. Another punch to the side of the head sent Nasukawa to the canvas for the a third time and his corner then threw in the towel after a mere one hundred and thirty six seconds of the fight. 'I want to say thanks to God for the turnout, my team, thank you to Mayweather productions and all the entertainment teams,' Mayweather said. 'Thank you to the fans you guys have been amazing. It's all about entertainment. It's not going on anyone's record. Tenshin is still one hell of a fighter and one hell of a champion.'
The authorities in the Galapagos islands have banned the sale and use of fireworks in the archipelago to protect its unique fauna. Fireworks which produce 'light but no sound' have been excluded from the ban. Although to be honest, fireworks that don't go 'bang' are about as much use a alcohol-free lager. Or, pork-free pigs for that matter. Conservationists say that animals suffered from elevated heart rates, trembling and anxiety after pyrotechnic events. Thousands of people visit the islands every year, drawn by its biodiversity and pristine environment. The Galapagos are located about six hundred miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador. 'This is a gift to conservation for Ecuador and the world,' the president of the local council, Lorena Tapia, wrote on Twitter. 'Ecosystems as sensitive as that of the Galapagos Islands are affected [by fireworks], especially its fauna, which is unique,' she added. The authorities also said that fireworks caused many injuries every year, particularly among children. The campaign against fireworks began in 2017. The measure, which takes immediate effect, bans transportation of fireworks to the islands as well as their sale or use. There is increasing pressure on the Ecuadorean government to do more to protect its sensitive ecosystems. Single-use plastics have also been banned on the islands, which have a population of twenty five thousand people. The indigenous species found on the Galapagos islands, including iguanas and tortoises, played a key role in the development of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
An Egyptian court has sentenced a twenty five-year-old woman to three years in The Big House for 'sexually harassing' a monkey, Al-Ahram reported (and, the Daily Scum Mail re-reported). A court in Mansoura charged Basma Ahmed with 'inciting debauchery' and 'committing an obscene act in public,' an alleged 'judicial source' allegedly told the newspaper. She was arrested in October after a ninety-second video of the incident went viral, 'particularly among young people and students,' Al-Ahram said. The video showed Ahmed laughing whilst touching the genitals of a monkey at a pet shop in the Nile Delta city and 'making sexual innuendos as people around her chuckle.' In court she 'confessed to the incident but, said she did not mean to commit an indecent act and that she had been tickling the monkey.' And, that she was just, you know, monkeying around. Hey, hey.
A teenager in Southern Germany set a four-story house on fire when she decided to blow-dry her mattress to warm it up. More than a hundred firefighters were reportedly called to the scene. The teenager in Freudenburg, near the German city of Trier, gave the residents of a four-story house a nasty Christmas surprise after snuggling up in bed after a night out ... with a hair dryer to warm up the mattress. Needless to say, she fell asleep and promptly set the bed on fire. Luckily, she woke up and doused the flames with water after her father helped her to drag the mattress onto the balcony. Lulled into a false sense of security, the pair then went back to bed. The mattress, however, caught light again and the fire spread to the outer walls and all the way up to the roof. A passer-by, who happened to be an off-duty firefighter, spotted the blaze and alerted colleagues. It took more than a hundred firefighters several hours to put out the fire. The fire caused two hundred thousand Euros worth of damage to the house though, luckily, no one appeared to have been seriously hurt.
A man was taken into custody after Jefferson County sheriff's deputies found him running naked through traffic. Well, we've all thought about doing it, haven't we? No? Okay, just this blogger then. Deputies from the Centre Point substation were dispatched on Wednesday afternoon on a call of a man running completely nude through traffic. Once on the scene, the deputies tried to take the man into custody but 'had trouble due to the fact the man was sweaty and very athletic,' said Chief Deputy Randy Christian. Once he was apprehended, the man bit through the glove of a deputy. The arrested man, whose name has not been released, was taken to hospital where he was extremely sedated and became 'somewhat lucid,' Christian added. He was read his rights and asked about his actions. He reportedly said that 'The Devil told him to do it.' He was transported back to the jail in Birmingham and charged with resisting arrest, public lewdness, disorderly conduct and being possessed by The Horn'd Beast. The latter charge, of course, carries a maximum sentence of being burned at the stake. The report was forwarded to the Jefferson County Mental Health Unit for further follow-up. 'I guess The Devil saw fit to give me one more naked guy before retiring,' Christian said. 'Clearly we do not pay our guys enough.'
Meanwhile, a Florida woman claiming to be God robbed a mail truck, stealing a package before pedalling away on a tricycle, deputies said. Leida Crisostomo, of Naples, was arrested on Saturday by Collier County Sheriff's Office deputies. Whilst she was being arrested, Crisostomo starting yelling that she was, in fact, 'God' and said 'voices were telling her to do things,' an arrest report stated. A witness told deputies that a woman, later identified as Crisostomo, pointed a gun at her while she was jogging and then walked over to a Postal Service truck nearby. The mail carrier said Crisostomo pointed the gun at him, stole a package and 'fled on a tricycle.' Anyone using the phrase 'Christ on a bike' at this point will, obviously, be excommunicated. A deputy spotted Crisostomo riding on a sidewalk and took her into custody. After Crisostomo was arrested, deputies determined that the gun was, in fact, plastic. Crisostomo faces charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault and impersonating a supreme deity in a built-up area during the hours of daylight.
Christopher Gamboeck, of Madison, Wisconsin, was in a bar enjoying a tasty beverage and the dirge-like metal hammerings of yer actual Black Sabbath when the music was suddenly stopped by the bartender who put on 'some Christmas music' instead. Gamboeck was not having it and proceeded to throw a beer bottle at the bartender. According to NBC News: 'Gamboeck chugged his glass bottle of Budweiser beer and slammed it down on the counter. He threw a bottle of beer in the direction of the female bartender's head after he yelled expletives at her.' Other patrons in the bar prevented Gamboeck from getting behind the counter as he circled the bar with his fists clenched. His uncle eventually 'intervened' and 'directed Gamboeck to the door.' He left the bar, seemingly in a geet stroppy huff, but pulled down a Christmas tree and broke several delicate ornaments before going, according to police. Gaboeck was 'heavily intoxicated' (no shit?) and was yelling what NBC News described as 'gender-based obscenities' towards a female police officer. He was then threatened with a good hard tasering if he didn't calm the fuck down. Gaboeck was then extremely arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property and having truly shocking taste in music. The latter, tragically, does not carry a maximum sentence of being burned at the stake. Though, it probably should.
A rare disease has left a chap unable to have sex because his penis is the size of a small child. In what the Daily Mirra claims is 'believed to be the only case in Kenya,' the man's 'mystery condition' has left him unable to have The Sex due to 'the eye-watering size of his manhood.' Hanging down well below his knees, the enormous throbbing dong has left twenty-year-old Sorence Owiti Opiyo 'miserable' and he has even had to 'drop out of school' due to 'relentless bullying.' Now Sorence, from Kisumu County, is 'struggling to work out how his incredible penis won't stop him from living a normal life.' The illness manifested itself through a swelling similar to a boil which made his reproductive organ keep growing dramatically in size. He has had treatment for the condition, including an operation which has slightly reduced its size but the appendage kept growing and 'ballooned to almost ten times the size of an average penis,' the paper reports. Sorence said the condition is 'painful' and stops him from wearing shorts or trousers because the size 'can't fit in any clothing.' One of his family told local news website BuzzKenya that he is scheduled for another operation at Jaramogi Oginga hospital in Kisumu. The family is now appealing to well-wishers for financial help for the surgery.
A ten-year-old in the German city of Duisburg caused serious damage at his elementary school on Friday morning when he reportedly used 'an extremely powerful firecracker' to blow up a toilet. The result of what may have been a child's prank ended with massive property damage and the risk of serious injury. Police say that the boy placed an illegal Polish firecracker - similar to a Cherry Bomb - next to the toilet, lit the fuse and then ran out of the boy's bathroom. The explosion utterly destroyed the toilet as well as blasting tiles and tile fragments off the walls, collapsing the ceiling and shattering windows, sending shards of glass flying more than fifteen metres into the schoolyard. Police say that they have nothing to go on! They added that they do not - yet - know from whence the little brat acquired the explosive but say he is 'very lucky' that neither he nor anyone else was seriously injured in the incident. And, presumably, they will be beating that information out of him in due course. Police say that the case illustrates the 'serious danger' presented by such illegal explosives, which are much more powerful than those legally attainable in Germany. The purchase and possession of such firecrackers is illegal in Germany and punishable with fines and up to three years in jail under the country's explosives law. Separately, state prosecutors in Cologne also announced that raids had taken place across the country on Friday, in which customs authorities arrested a number of people for the illegal import of explosives similar to those used in Duisburg. Authorities searched fifty four apartments and numerous fireworks warehouses and confiscated seventy four packages of Polish firecrackers en route to customers via parcel services. Prosecutors said customers had 'no idea' how 'absolutely life-threatening' the contents of those packages were.
An Oregon woman was extremely busted on felony charges after a racist rant apparently sparked by a parking space was caught on tape. Amber Rose Rocco was taken into custody on Friday by police after they watched a 'repulsive video' of a tense, minute-long knifepoint confrontation between Rocco and a black couple at a strip mall parking lot in McMinnville on Christmas Eve. 'This bitch is really trying stab him, just because,' Emora Roberson said on the footage in reference to Rocco, who quickly cuts her off. 'No I don't stab nobody,' Rose replied in the clip. 'It's called self-defence,' she added before referring to Roberson with an appallingly racially-specific insult. Rocco was then seen punching the vehicle's passenger side door, startling Roberson and her fifteen-month-old child who was also in the car, as well Roberson's boyfriend, Keysuan Goodyear, KATU reports. The baby began crying over the pounding on the car. 'I was scared [about] what she was going to do, what was going to happen,' Goodyear said. 'At the end of the day, I want her to know what she was doing was unacceptable. It's not good for the next generation; we have to stop this now.' No injuries were reported during the incident, police said. Rocco was charged intimidation, harassment, menacing and unlawful use of a weapon. Roberson and Goodyear, meanwhile, said that they hope she gets the help they think she desperately needs.
Authorities say a Kentucky man was arrested after he threw a large ham at a woman during an argument over which day Christmas dinner should take place. WAVE-TV reports that David Brannon was very arrested on Sunday after he tried to flee from police officers who attended a residence on a domestic dispute call. The Laurel County Sheriff's Office said that Brannon threw various items at the woman, including the ham which was to be eaten for Christmas dinner.
Meghan Markle's half-sister, has reportedly been placed on Scotland Yard's 'Fixated Persons' watch-list, according to The Sunday Times. Placement on the list means that police and royal security will 'keep an eye out' for Samantha Grant should she suddenly turn up at Kensington Palace uninvited and could be detained. The Duchess' personal protection officers are believed to have 'spoken to detectives' from Scotland Yard's Fixated Threat Assessment Centre about Grant, according to The Times. The purpose of the FTAC, according to its website, is 'to assess and manage the risks from lone individuals who harass, stalk or threaten public figures.' Grant has frequently whinged to anyone that would listen to her - which is, basically, every tabloid and several TV shows - about her sister, describing The Duchess of Sussex as 'arrogant and unkind' to her and their father, Thomas Markle. Grant flew to England in October and appeared outside Kensington Palace in her wheelchair. She was, however, not allowed inside. 'Someone like Samantha presents a risk rather than a threat,' an alleged though anonymous and, therefore, probably fictitious - Scotland Yard 'source' allegedly told The Times. 'She is not committing criminal offenves, but she is causing concerns for the royal family. Samantha could make a scene and create headlines with her actions - and let's face it, she's kind of already done that.' Yes, that sounds exactly like the kind of thing an unidentified police officer would tell a newspaper reporter. Markle has,reportedly, not spoken to her sister or father since her wedding to Prince Harry in May. Neither Grant nor Thomas Markle attended the ceremony. Grant was not invited and Markle's father, a retired Hollywood lighting designer who now lives in Mexico, suffered a heart attack before the wedding and was unable to attend. But, since then, he has whinged to the press about the 'cult-like' royals and the 'controlling' duchess. Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, did attend the wedding and is said to be 'close' to her daughter. Markle is expecting her first baby and Ragland, is reported to be 'thrilled' about the news and plans to 'play an active role' in her grandchild's life. Grant 'slammed' (that's tabloidese for 'criticised' only with less syllables) her placement on the watch list, noting on Twitter: 'This is ridiculous as I'm in an electric wheelchair and I live on a different continent and advocating for doing the right thing by our dad is hardly fixation. Stop your lying nonsense or be sued.' Given that the royal family are rich enough to be able to afford legal representation the likes of which will likely make any lawyers Grant can acquire shite in their own pants and cry for their mummy, one imagines any such 'suing' would be well worth getting the popcorn out for and hoping for a ringside seat. Grant also whinged earlier this month about Meghan and Harry's Christmas card, which showed the couple watching fireworks the night of their marriage. She called the card 'incredibly rude' because the two are standing with their backs to the camera. Kensington Palace and Scotland Yard both declined to comment on The Times report. Possibly because it's a load of old bollocks but, more likely because they've got more important things to do with their time.
A woman who orchestrated an online harassment campaign against her ex-boyfriend, before lying about being pregnant and even staging a fake kidnapping has been very jailed for four-and-a-half years. Jessica Nordquist had been working for an East London PR firm when she met colleague Mark Weeks in July last year. However, the US national started 'a programme of abuse' against Weeks after their brief relationship ended, sending messages to his clients accusing him of rape and setting up at least twenty Instagram accounts to post similar claims online. The twenty six-year-old, originally from Alaska, even went as far as to buy a fake baby bump on Amazon to convince her victim that she was pregnant, before going to elaborate efforts to make others believe she had been kidnapped. She was jailed at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Wednesday after being found extremely guilty of stalking, sending malicious communications and perverting the course of justice during a five-week trial in October. Sentencing, Judge Paul Southern told Nordquist he believed her behaviour was 'caused by childhood trauma,' noting that friends had claimed her actions were 'wholly out of character. You are an intelligent, resourceful and well educated young woman with no previous convictions. You came to the UK to advance your career in the company,' he said. 'This has been lost because of what you have done. That potential for advancement in the company has been extinguished. I have described your behaviour as bizarre. It's very unsurprising that police asked for you to undergo a mental health assessment when they arrested you. I am satisfied that your early traumatic experiences has shaped your personality. That does not excuse or justify your offending behaviour, but it does help to explain it.' Tyrone Silcott, prosecuting, told the court that Nordquist had undergone 'a sad descent' between December 2017 and April 2018. She began sending malicious texts and e-mails, including messages to colleagues and clients at PR agency Unruly - where she worked as a campaign manager - making unfounded claims the company had staged a 'rape cover-up.' The court heard how friends and family of Weeks were also targeted as Nordquist's abuse started to escalate. Reading a victim impact statement to the court, Silcott said that the harassment left Weeks 'feeling unsafe in his own home. He was constantly scared and on the edge about what might happened next to him,' he added. 'He mentions specific occasions where he would receive a text from an unknown number saying he was being watched and his home was being watched.' The defendant's increasingly unpredictable behaviour culminated in April, with what the judge described as 'a bizarre' attempt to fake her own kidnapping. An e-mail purporting to be from a criminal group was sent to Nordquist's family, friends and colleagues - containing pictures of her naked, bound and gagged - claiming she had been kidnapped. Officers from the Metropolitan Police then visited her flat in Whitechapel, where they found 'a disturbed scene' and a kidnap note pinned to the front door. Two days later, police traced Nordquist, safe and well, to a bed and breakfast in Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands, where she gave officers a false name and discarded two mobile phones in a toilet bin when she was taken to a doctor to ensure she was fit to be detained. Exactly what she had been hoping to achieve by carrying out the plot is still unknown, Met Police investigators said in a statement released after sentencing. Nordquist was jailed for two years and six months for the stalking charges and a further two years over the kidnapping incident, while a two-year sentence for malicious communications will run concurrently. She will serve at least half of her sentence behind bars.
A massive brawl involving around two hundred people kicked-off, big-style at a Virginia roller skating rink on Sunday, WDBJ reported. Witnesses told WFXR that a song 'ignited local gang tensions' which led to the fight involving 'both teens and adults' at the Star City Skate Centre in Roanoke. It is not clear what song was playing at the time. Although, if it wasn't Carl Douglas's 'Kung-Fu Fighting' it really should have been. Nicholas Gilliam Junior and Marques Davis both said that they were attending a birthday party at the rink when an 'exchange' of gang signs 'got heated.' Police initially received reports of a shooting at the rink but did not find any proof of that, according to the Roanoke Times. Gilliam told WFXR that he saw a man running with a gun. After the brawl in the rink, smaller fights also broke out in the parking lot. Davis said that the only thing on his mind during the commotion was that he 'didn’t want to die.' Authorities did not make any arrests and turned over the minors to their parents or guardians to be dealt with. They were 'not able to confirm' whether the fight was gang-related and the case remains under investigation, WFXR reported.
The From The North award for The Most Utterly Stupid Headline Of The Week goes to the BBC News website for Why cheese is no longer my friend!
A woman has reportedly filed a police complaint alleging that she was assaulted by a hairstylist after her hair was 'cut too short.' The DPA news agency reported that the thirty four-year-old woman went to a hair salon in Wittenberge in Brandenburg State and showed the stylist a picture of her desired cut. According to the customer, her hair was cut much shorter than she had requested and she came out of the salon looking like Telly Savales. The hairdresser then tried to correct the mistake with hair extensions. After the procedure, the customer complained of a headache and filed a police complaint. The case is being investigated, a police spokesperson said.
Canadian police say that a seven-year-old boy called nine-one-one to report his 'dissatisfaction' with receiving snow pants as a Christmas gift from his parents. Sergeant Kerry Schmidt said that the boy made the call at about 8am on Christmas Day to whinge about the gift. He says officers ensured there wasn't an actual emergency at the boy's home. Schmidt says he believes the boy was 'spoken to' about the dangers of calling nine-one-one for non-emergencies and told that if he did it again, the snow pants would be the least of his troubles. Schmidt says that non-urgent incidents or fake emergency calls take up time and resources from first-responders that should be used for 'real' emergencies.
Two women were caught allegedly stealing nineteen hundred dollars worth of electronics from a Target in Michigan on the same day that the store was packed with police for a 'Shop with a Cop' event. Keiana Wilson and Dana Johnson, were charged with retail fraud and being as dumb as they come after police say they tried to steal electronics from the Target store on 19 December. About fifteen police officers were in the story at the time helping twenty two disadvantaged children to pick out Christmas presents for their families. An officer said that store security officers watched on cameras as the women loaded a cart with two Apple watches, two iPads and a Nintendo gaming system. They then walked past the registers without paying but never made it to the parking lot. The spokesperson did not reveal how many of the fifteen officers to took to bring their pair down.
The Angel of the North had a festive addition just in time for Chrimbo, a rather gear - Santa hat. The red and white titfer was noticed atop Gatesheed's famous sixty five foot steel structure by motorists driving along the nearby A1 on Christmas Eve. Several people on social media couldn't post photographs and videos clips of the Angel with its festive adornment quickly enough. 'A group of pranksters later admitted responsibility,' according to the BBC, claiming that they had planned the stunt 'for years.' No-one in the group wished to be named, working on the assumption that some cheerless nob in authority might send the scuffers after them, but they told the Press Association that they had 'wanted to do something people might find uniformly enjoyable, something that might bring people together.' And, it worked. So, well done them. The group said that the ten-person operation began early on Christmas Eve and involved ropes and ninety knickers-worth of fabric sewn into a hat. One of the group said: 'Ten of us, five different vans, everyone had a bit of something in the back of their vehicle. We all filed out like paratroopers, everybody knew what their role was. We have gone to significant efforts to make sure it doesn't fly off.' The Sir Antony Gormley-designed sculpture, which weighs about two hundred tonnes, celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2018. Despite some initial - and pompously loud - opposition ahead of its installation (from numbskulls), the Angel has come to be regarded a much-loved symbol of the North East of England. In 1998 it was adorned with a custom-made shirt bearing the name and number of the then current Newcastle United captain Alan Shearer shortly before this blogger's beloved (though even then unsellable) Magpies' appearance in that year's FA Cup Final. Which they lost. However, that was a stunt which the artist later credited with 'creating a cultural shift' towards the Angel in the region. However, not all modifications to Gormley's vision have been quite so welcomed. Supermarket chain Morrisons grovellingly apologised in May 2014 after projecting an image of a giant baguette across the sculpture's wings. Though, to be honest, this blogger thought that was quite funny. And, the baguette itself looked geet tasty.
Netting that has trapped and killed gulls landing on buildings on the Newcastle Quayside is to be replaced. The council, businesses and animal welfare charities have been 'considering other forms of deterrent' following reports that some birds had suffered 'horrible deaths' entangled in nets. They have now decided to remove the netting on the council-owned Guildhall. An electrical system that delivers a small, allegedly 'harmless' shock to landing birds will be installed instead. It is not expected to displace the kittiwakes to new nesting locations as it is replacing an existing deterrent rather than removing an established site. The fifty grand project - due to be completed before the birds return from migration in February - will also involve the removal, repair, and replacement of netting on the Tyne Bridge, the Local Democracy Service reports. The council said that it had 'encouraged' other building owners to 'conduct an urgent review of their own deterrents,' but it had 'no further authority' to enforce them to add or remove measures they choose to use. A council spokesman said: 'We are fortunate to have this colony of rare kittiwakes on the Quayside, given the threat to the species globally, and their presence needs careful and sympathetic management as a result.' Although, anyone who's ever been walking along the Quayside on a Friday night and had their packet of chips ripped from their grasp by an attacking gull might take issue with such sentiments. 'It is pleasing to see so many different organisations come together to make sure these birds can nest safely at the Quayside while minimising their impact on listed buildings, residents and businesses in the area.'
And now, the bit you've all been waiting for ...
So, dearest blog readers, since From The North updates have been in somewhat non-existent supply since ... last year basically - yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought it was probably high time for a nice illustrated round-up of what, exactly, has been going on at Stately Telly Topping Manor over the holiday period. Firstly, our Maureen Telly Topping is currently very much top of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Christmas Card list (for next year, clearly) for providing this blogger with these little warm and fuzzy beauties. There shall be no chilblains at Stately Telly Topping Manor this winter, dear blog reader! And, the heating bills shall be lower than anticipated. Hopefully.
Now, please let it be noted, this blogger is not normally of the 'bah-humbug' persuasion nor anything even remotely like it; he really doesn't mind Christmas and all of the associated malarkey which goes with it. But, that said, on Sunday 23 December 2018, finding anything on the Stately Telly Topping Manor tellybox which was not - at least slightly - Christmassy was a bit like looking for a very, very small needle in a jolly ginormous haystack. Thank goodness, therefore, for 5USA's standard Sunday afternoon Columbo triple-bill, A guaranteed Santa-free zone!
And, similarly, on Christmas Eve, an all-day Wheeler Dealers marathon on Quest was just about the only thing which could keep Rudolph and his mates from the door.
Then, there was the - somewhat later than usual - 'getting the Stately Telly Topping Manor tree sorted and erected' malarkey. Which was accomplished in surprisingly short shrift.
Lots of time was spent by this blogger making silly visual puns on the very Interweb itself. Like, this one, for example ... Come on, that took all of twenty seconds to construct.
Well, let's face it dear blog reader, it was either that or expect this blogger to lie back in the Stately Telly Topping Manor reclining chair and contemplate the inherently ludicrous nature of existence. And, who wants to do that at Chrimbo? No, actually, don't answer that ...
Still, you know, there's always an up-side to everything ...
Also on Christmas Eve, of course - there being but one shopping day left before Christmas - this blogger was up at the very crack of dawn and off down to the local Aldi to get the perishables in. Not only that, but he was back in the gaff by 8.45am having done the necessary. Bonus.
Christmas Eve lunch and tea was quite easily sorted - due in no small part to there being quite a bit of meat in the Stately Telly Topping Manor frigidaire that needed using up urgently. Thus, it ended up being a beef, lamb and chicken tikka masala with basmati rice, shitake mushrooms, garlic, lemon, honey and mixed spices. Plus a couple of parathas and a nice glass of Baileys with ice. Not especially Christmassy per se this blogger is sure you'll agree dear blog reader (unless you're in Mumbai ... and even then, the Baileys might be considered a bit, you know, left-field) but at least that got all of the stuff which was at or beyond its sell-by date out of the way. Jolly tasty it was too and it did three meals in the event with a little bit even spilling over to Christmas Day breakfast.
Which meant that this blogger, for the first time in about three or four years at least, actually had himself a 'proper', honest t'God Christmas Day lunch. Well, as close as yer actual Keith Telly Topping will ever get to a proper honest t'God Christmas Day lunch, anyway. At least it has Yorkshire puds and gravy. And Malibu.
Christmas Day afternoon post-lunch, obviously, involved - as he imagines it probably did for many dear blog readers - some sleep. And watching Where Eagles Dare on ITV4. Because, nothing says 'Christmas' like watching Clint and Dick moving down half the Nazi forces in Europe with machine guns.
Sky, meanwhile, made a really big deal of premiering The Greatest Showman on Sky One as their big Christmas Day early evening 'event'. This blogger watched the first quarter of an hour of the movie but, probably very unwisely, decided that he just couldn't get into it so he turned over to watch Apollo 13 for the twenty millionth time on ITV3 instead. Because, nothing says 'Christmas' like near total catastrophe.
But, 'what about Boxing Day Keith Telly Topping?' this blogger hears you all ask? Not a clue ... Sorry. Although this blogger thinks it may have involved more alcohol than he normally gets through in a month. And, much general overindulgence. Not only that, but 27 December at Stately Telly Topping Manor was, similarly, all a bit of a blur.
... Though, this blogger is fairly certain that at least one of those days did involve a four episode The World At War marathon on Yesterday.
Nevertheless, whilst all that eating, drinking, snoozing and binge-watching was going on - and, despite the fact that this blog hasn't has an actual update since 22 December - traffic at From The North resembled Northumberland Street at 5pm on Christmas Eve. An average of around five thousand one hundred page-views for four days running instead of the more usual between 'three and four thousand.' It is, somewhat, comforting to know that plenty of people were seemingly so bored shitless by the prospect of having to talk to their relatives that they'd sooner spend a few minutes checking out this blog for a touch of light relief. You're all very welcome, by the way.
Still, by 29 December, this blogger had shaken himself from his curious languor and decided to get his very self a belated Chrimbo present in the shape a rather tasty Seagate Expansion Plus®™ one Terabyte portable hard drive. Mainly due, let it be noted, to this blogger having a bunch of Argos gift tokens that were burning a hole in his pocket. It's a little beauty, though, is it not?
Mentioning this purchase on Facebook got this blogger into a lengthy conversation about the respective negative correlation between the cost of various media storage devices over the last decade or so and their data storage capacity.
For us dinner at Stately Telly Topping Manor on that particular Saturday, yer actual Keith Telly Topping whipped up dead tasty Cantonese-style King Prawn and Garlic Chicken with lemon, babycorn, sliced mushrooms, shallots, red peppers and chillis. It was very nice, dear blog reader. And, again, it ended up doing about three meals in total!
Just to prove to this blogger that he can, actually, multi-task - something which he has often doubted in the past - he managed to spend three hours on Sunday simultaneously getting the dinner cooked (prawn risotto) and then eaten, doing the weekly washing, completing a full back-up to the newly purchased external hard-drive of everything on the Stately Telly Topping Manor laptop and watching Brannigan on ITV4 (a fantastically under-rated comedy movie ... although this blogger is not entirely sure it was supposed to be). After all that, Keith Telly Topping needed a nice cup of tea and sit down.
On Sunday evening, the major telly 'event' of the day was ITV's terrestrial debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But, atypically (although, he did watch - and very much enjoy - that), this blogger's attention was drawn more towards a couple of pieces of, frankly, bizarre scheduling. Like ITV4's showing of The Silence Of The Lambs. Because, again, nothing says 'Christmas' like serial murder, serial kidnapping and cannibalism with a nice Chianti, does it? Also, there was someone's idea of 'a joke' over at The Comedy Channel, in a broadcast of Pulp Fiction! I mean, don't this blogger wrong, it's a superb, ground-breaking movie and, one that is not without a certain wry wit amid the several buckets of blood and couple of packets of giblets that Tarantino used during the making of it. But worthy of being shown on The Comedy Channel?! Perhaps those who acquired it considered the sequence in which Marsellus Wallace gets arse-raped by Zed to be wee-in-yer-own-pants funny?
New Year's Eve, dear blog reader, when you just want something to nibble on until dinner time.
This blogger, after all, needed something to eat whilst watching Alibi's Sherlock marathon. And, man cannot live by honey roasted peanuts and toffees alone. It's The Law.
So, anyway dearest blog reader, all that waffle was a small flavour of what yer actual Keith Telly Topping has got himself up to when he wasn't bloggerising over the last fortnight. All of us here at From The North wish to extend to our dear blog readers the very best and most sincere good wishes for a peaceful, happy, prosperous and healthy 2019. Although, given that Brexit is a-coming in March, Rump is in the White House and there's no new series of Doctor Who until early next year, one wouldn't hold ones breath in anticipation of any of those things.