Wednesday, December 23, 2020

"The Art Itself Is Nature"

So, dear blog reader, it's that time of the year again. But, this year is - by necessity - just a bit different from the normal. You might have noticed. Everyone is coming to terms with the unique and horrific level of the truly terrible that the UK is currently faced with. We are no longer limited to but one misery-inducing crisis, with issues surrounding both a potential No Deal Brexit and soaring Covid-19 cases multiplying rapidly across this land. Still, mustn't grumble. You wouldn't think it would be easy to communicate all of this information succinctly, but BBC Outside Source presenter Ros Atkins managed to merge all of the grimness we're currently facing into less than a minute. It would appear that many people are thankful that someone is able to reduce a terribly complicated and painful situation for so many down to something more manageable if Twitter is anything to go by. The clip has, not unexpectedly, gone extremely viral. The segment begins as you would expect any BBC News broadcast to, before Ros goes all in, discussing travel bans, blocked Eurotunnels and the new Covid-19 variant faster than the new Covid-19 variant took to put the fear of Bejesus into everyone in the South of England. 'The new variant of Covid-19 is out of control. Because of this over forty countries have banned incoming flights into the UK. In addition, France has shut its border, hundreds of lorries are stuck and there are warnings some fresh food supplies may be impacted within days. For now, this is a Christmas week wrapped in worry and uncertainty.' Yeah, that more or less sums it all up. We are currently sinking into the quicksand and it has already reached our naughty bits. That said, on the bright side, From The North favourite, the Goddamn legend that is yer actual Bill Bailey only went and won Strictly, didn't he? Which was jolly good news for fiftysomething dads with two left feet everywhere. Good on ya, Bill, you've saved 2020. 
This wasn't the first time that yer man Ros had opened one of his broadcast in this way. A few days ago a similar clip went viral across the US when he summarised all of the problems featured in the latest US erection fall out. 'It's another day for America's democracy, the President is making baseless accusations of electoral fraud and attempts to steal the election. His son, Eric, is pushing misinformation about ballot-burning when there's no evidence that is happening, his campaign is launching multiple lawsuits to stop vote-counting ... and international election observers are accusing the President of a gross abuse of office.' Yeah. But, hey, as Sir Noddy Big-Hat (OBE) once so wisely noted, 'Ma, ma, we're all crazeee now.' Which, this blogger believes, say a lot. About, you know, something.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, some arsewipe at the BBC News website has published a - supposedly - 'helpful' article entitled Seven Ways To Get Through (And Enjoy) Christmas On Your Own. Tragically, said arsewipe - one John Harrison, apparently - did not couple this with another article aimed at the millions of people in the UK who live on their own anyway and, for whom, Christmas Day alone is just a normal day. Which could, perhaps, have been called How To Make Those Who Live Alone And Are, Seemingly, Excluded From The Current Wave Of Overly Sentimental Self-Indulgent Crap Floating About Feel Like They're, Somehow, Abnormal. Go on, John mate, give it a go - this blogger is sure it'll be a winner with All The Lonely People (where do they all come from?)  
On Tuesday, in anticipation of his being Lonely This Christmas - and with a mere three shoplifting days to go to The Big (Cancelled) Event - it was time for this blogger to indulge in the final Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House shopping trip whilst under Tier 3. Before Bashing Boris does a Ken Dodd and, you'll like this dear blog reader, adds further tears. Oh, suit yourselves. Anyway, said shopping trip included yer actual Keith Telly Topping buying himself an early Chrimbo present, the first halfway decent watch he has owned in several years. If, for no other reason that it'll enable him to watch time passing slowly as he awaits the inevitable extinction of humanity. Or, does it just feel that way? This blogger, needless to say, got back to the Stately Telly Topping Plague House pure dead Jacob's Cream Cracker'd and needed a nice lie down for an hour.
On the same day, the Daily Mirra was being harsh-but-probably-fair on its front page. 
Let it be noted, it's jolly rare that newspapers of different political persuasions all, broadly, agree with each other. But, it happened this week. Take the Torygraph for instance (this blogger's enormous thanks to his good mate Billy Hall for pointing this out).
Nevertheless, there is - undeniably - some bad shit going on in the world at the moment. For instance, did a little piece of any dear blog reader keel over and die - as a little piece of this blogger did - when From The North favourite Gillian Anderson started doing sexy-voiced food-porn adverts for Marks & Spencer? This blogger used to respect you, Gill.
And, just when you think things couldn't, possibly, get any worse, on Sunday we had Annie Lennox singing 'The Holy & The Ivy' on The Andrew Marr Show. Where did this blogger leave that large bottle of pain-killers, he wishes to end it all right now?
So anyway, this week also saw the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House Christmas decorations sorted out for another year ...
Admittedly, there have been one or two occurrences which haven't been completely bloody dreadful and a right shite state of affairs. Example: A wet and windy Saturday night, a - really deserved - King Prawn curry with boiled rice and freshly baked rustic bread rolls and a choice of viewing at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Crisis? What crisis? Oh, that crisis. 
The last couple of Toyah & Robert's Sunday Lunch videos have also - as they usually do - raised a smile here at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Featuring versions of 'Anarchy In The UK' and 'Schools Out'. As one YouTube commentator wisely noted in relation to the former: 'Punk didn't kill Prog. They just got married instead.'
Then, of course, there was Diamonds Are Forever on ITV on Sunday. Now it feels like Christmas, dear blog reader ...
And, best of all, From The North favourite Spiral is returning to BBC Four for its eighth - and, sadly, final - series on 2 January. Maybe 2021 won't be every single bit as bad as 2020 after all. Though, this blogger wouldn't put money on it. 
Speaking of 2021, the BBC is to screen Doctor Who's New Year's Day special in 4K resolution and high dynamic range colour via iPlayer. When the programme is broadcast, viewers will be prompted to switch to the higher quality streamed version by pressing the red button. US video platforms including Disney+, Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video commonly offer content in this format. But it is more rare on the BBC and Sky. To take advantage of the facility, households will need a compatible TV and a relatively fast Interweb connection. The BBC recommends a minimum twenty four megabits per second connection with froty eight gerzillion snots of memory. Or thereabouts.
After Bill Bailey's - much deserved - victory on Saturday, the other big winner over the weekend was Lewis Hamilton winning the Sports Personality Of The Year award. Which, considering Lew hasn't got much of a personality - certainly not a very likable one - was a considerable achievement in this blogger's opinion.
Plus, there was also the greatest single moment in the history of television ... since, the last time a newsreader yawned live on-air. Don't worry, Ben Brown, we've all been there.
And then, there is the never-ending source of amusement that is soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump. With his wacky ways. And his doings. And his silly shenanigans. And his rather odd friends. And his former lackeys who've suddenly decided it's time someone had a go at being The Adult In The Room. All of them. Even the really strange ones. And his pardoning of (alleged) war criminals. A source of almost ceaseless thigh-slapping titterisation is soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump. This blogger is gonna miss you so much when you're gone, Donny. Let's all hope that the District Attorney of New York doesn't miss you, though. Because that would be very sad.
The Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by a woman who spent sixteen million knicker in Harrods to overturn the UK's first Unexplained Wealth Order. Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of a jailed banker, may now lose her twelve million quid London home - and, a separate golf course - if she can't 'explain her riches.' The court said that her challenge to the UWO raised 'no arguable point of law.' Mrs Hajieyva's husband is currently in The Slammer in Azerbaijan for embezzling millions of pounds from a state bank. Offshore companies connected to the family own Mrs Hajiyeva's home on an exclusive street in Knightsbridge, as well as the Mill Ride golf course in Berkshire. One of the few golf courses in Britain which isn't owned by soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump. Together they were worth more than twenty two million smackers when the legal battle began in February 2018. Over the course of a decade, Mrs Hajiyeva spent sixteen million notes in Harrods - spending that formed part of the NCA's investigation into the sources of her wealth. Under a UWO, if a person cannot explain how, exactly, they became legitimately rich, the courts can fast-track the seizure of their property, without investigators having even proven a crime. Mrs Hajiyeva has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with an offence in the UK. Yet. Last year a court blocked her potential extradition to Azerbaijan, saying she would not get a fair trial. Her lawyers had petitioned the Supreme Court to consider her case, saying she had not been lawfully targeted by the NCA. That application has now been rejected without the court hearing the case at all - meaning that all her rights of appeal are now exhausted. Graeme Biggar, head of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA, said: 'This is a significant result which is important in establishing Unexplained Wealth Orders as a powerful tool for financial investigations. There are no further routes for Mrs Hajiyeva to appeal against the order. She will now be required to provide the NCA with the information we are seeking in connection with these assets.' The NCA would have set a strict timetable for Mrs Hajiyeva to comply with that demand - but the Christmas period and the pandemic mean she may have until the end of the winter to provide full answers. Unexplained Wealth Orders, created in 2017, were trumpeted by the government as a major new tool in the fight against corrupt cash in the UK. One of the targets - a man believed to be money laundering for a major drugs gang - gave up fighting the NCA and handed over his property empire. Another family, part of Kazakhstan's ruling elite, won their case against the NCA.
And, speaking of - alleged - bad-uns, FIFA has lodged a criminal complaint against former president Sepp Blatter over the finances of a museum in Zurich. The complaint relates to the involvement of Blatter and other former officials in the FIFA museum project. It is the latest allegation of financial impropriety against Blatter, who extremely resigned from his post as president in 2015 amid a corruption scandal. The eighty four-year-old has always denied any wrongdoing. One or two people even believed him. FIFA, association football's world governing body, say that Blatter's previous administration cost them five hundred million Swiss francs to renovate 'a building that the organisation doesn't own', while also 'locking itself into a long-term rental agreement on unfavourable terms.' 'Given the massive costs associated with this museum, as well as the general way of working of the previous FIFA management, a forensic audit was conducted in order to find out what really happened here,' said Alasdair Bell, FIFA's deputy secretary general in charge of administration. 'That audit revealed a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature and need to be properly investigated by the relevant authorities. We came to the conclusion that we had no choice other than to report the case to state prosecutors, not least because the current management of FIFA also has fiduciary responsibilities to the organisation and we intend to live up to them, even if those before us dismally failed to.' The complaint has been sent to the Zurich prosecutor and FIFA says that it will 'continue to cooperate with the authorities in Switzerland and elsewhere so that those people who damaged football are held accountable for their actions.' The museum project began in 2013, two years before Blatter, who was FIFA president for seventeen long years, announced his resignation. In response, Blatter's lawyer Lorenz Erni, claims FIFA's accusations are 'baseless and vehemently repudiated.' Blatter is currently serving a six-year ban from all forms of football. Even watching blokes having a kick about in the park.
Now, dear blog reader, it's time ...
Good question. This week, this blogger has (mostly) been watching - The Night Manager. The 2016 winner of the prestigious From The North award for the best TV show of the year. And, still a magic bit of dramatic storytelling.
Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads ...? 'Santa Claus is dead!'
Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie. 'Should we powder our noses?'
Where Eagles Dare. Because, nothing says 'Christmas' like Dick and Clint moving down half the German army with machine guns, obviously.
The Eagle Has Landed. Because, nothing also says 'Christmas' like Michael Caine shooting Winston Churchill.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing. 'You don't 'alf talk some bollocks, Bob!' Marvellously touching and really funny Christmas entertainment although this blogger was shocked (and stunned) to note how special guest Bob's old mate Chris Rea these days resembles the missing third Chuckle Brother.
Waking The Dead: Final Cut.
Monty Python's Flying Circus: The Complete DVD Box-Set.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
The World At War.
Life On Mars.
The supermarket chain Tesco has, reportedly, introduced purchasing limits on some products. Including eggs, rice and toilet rolls. So, if you happen to be a Tesco customer and were planning on having either a nice tasty bowl of kedgeree or, a decent, satisfying, bowel-emptying plop anytime soon, you might want to either put the former on hold or, in the case of the latter, simply stick a cork in it.
New - extremely severe, Tier 4 - Covid restrictions have been announced for large parts of the South of England including all of Hampshire. Except for The New Forest. So, that's terrific news for all Rutting Stags out there.
Also, we've had news of another - even more contagious - third Covid variant which appears to have originated in South Africa. How does it spread, dear blog reader? National treasure and absolute From The North favourite Bob Mortimer provides one possible - albeit, highly unlikely - suggestion.
North Tyneside golfers have, it is claimed, been joined by a wallaby on their local course. No news yet on what his or her handicap is. Only having very small arms, possibly. The sighting comes a few weeks after a wallaby was spotted on the streets of Evenwood near Bishop Auckland. Bloody Australians. Why can't it just get a job in a bar like the rest of them?
The latest From The North award for the stupidest headline of the week goes to the Times of India for their world-shattering exclusive Kerry Katona Quits Smoking. And this shit constitutes 'news', apparently. Next from the Times of India, dear blog reader, Emma Bunton Has A Dump Once Per Day. Sometimes Twice.
Another contender for the same award was the BBC News website's Alibaba Being Investigated By China Over Monopoly Tactics. Presumably, they always manage to acquired Mayfair and Park Lane, put loads of hotels on them and keep breaking the bank. Authorities state that, if found guilty of such disgraceful naughtiness, they will be sent to jail. Directly to jail. And they will definitely not pass 'Go' and not collect two hundred knicker. Quite right too.
♫ Aaa-ham dreamin' hof a ... sort of greyish-slushy-off-white Chrisd-massss/Juzz like the whans I yoused t'know ...♫ This blogger is extremely grateful that he went to ALDI first thing on Christmas Eve morning to get in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House milk, eggs, bread and other perishables and was home before all arrived.
And finally, there are some moments in yer actual Association Socher-ball which may require subtitles for our American cousins. Then, there are others which really don't ...