Wednesday, March 03, 2021

"And I, To Make Thee Mad, Do Mock Thee Thus. Stamp, Rave & Fret, That I May Sing & Dance"

The sixth series of From The North favourite Line Of Duty will begin on 21 March, the BBC has confirmed. Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar will reprise their roles in the Jed Mercurio drama about corruption inside the police force. They will be joined by Kelly Macdonald, who will play a Detective Chief Inspector who comes under suspicion of nefarious skulduggery and that. The latest series of the popular crime drama will have seven episodes, making it the longest to date. The exploits of the fictional AC-12 unit have gripped audiences ever since the BBC drama first hit screens in 2012. More than nine million viewers tuned in to see the final episode of Line Of Duty's fifth series when it was broadcast in May 2019. This blogger thought it was great. Filming on the sixth series was temporarily halted in Northern Ireland last year due to on-going pandemic-type malarkey. Shalom Brune-Franklin, seen last year in BBC's political thriller Roadkill, will play Chloe Bishop, a new addition to the AC-12 team. Mercurio also wrote the hit drama Bodyguard and is an executive producer on Bloodlands, the Northern Ireland-set thriller starring James Nesbitt which is currently being shown on BBC1.
Left unemployed by lockdown, Poldark and Hinterland actor Richard Harrington got on his bike and took a job as a takeaway delivery rider. The forty five-year-old said that he took the work in London last year having done 'nothing between March and September at all' during the pandemic. 'I got a job with Deliveroo, going around on my bike and delivering takeaways to people,' he said. The actor, who also featured in The Crown and Gangs Of London said he was 'grateful' to ride his bike every day. 'I'm normally quite a fit person,' he said. 'But the lockdown had turned me into a lock-in, so I was thankful I was able to go on my bike every day because of the job.' Harrington and his partner, the actress Hannah Daniel, are expecting their second child together later this year and he is currently starring in a drama on Welsh language television station S4C. Fflam is about a widow, Noni and her attempts to move on from the death of her husband. It is a subject close to Harrington's heart. 'I lost my mum in 2014 so I'm a little obsessed with grief,' the actor from Merthyr Tydfil told BBC Wales' Cymru Fyw. 'She had cancer, and it was a big shock when she had the prognosis, but we had nine months to deal with it. Life is a lot easier now but it took me a long time to deal with it. Grief can creep in you when you least expect it. Having said that, you don't really deal with anything for a couple years after.' Harrington admitted he was more affected by his mother's death than he realised at the time. 'I looked back and saw that I was acting strange,' he said. About a year-and-a-half after her death, Harrington said he had 'a complete breakdown. I threw myself into work, I threw myself into running, I threw myself into the well-being of my children,' he said. 'But looking back I wasn't very kind to myself, I didn't give myself much room to think properly.'
Taylor Swift (she is a popular beat combo, yer honour) has accused a Netflix comedy of 'degrading' women after it featured a joke which she considered 'deeply sexist.' The pop star-type individual tweeted to criticise the joke, which was in the series finale of the comedy-drama Ginny & Georgia. In one scene, main characters Ginny Miller and her mother, Georgia, argued about relationships. Asked whether she had broken up with her boyfriend, Ginny said: 'What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.' The line swiftly incurred the considerable wrath of Swift's army of fans, prompting criticism of the show and its cast members on social media. Some Swift fans even called for a boycott of the series. On Monday, Swift herself addressed the controversy in a tweet, writing: 'Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back.' This blogger did briefly consider whether to editorialise this story with the observation that he, personally, does not consider that the joke is degrading to all women, merely to one - Taylor Swift her very self. But then he thought, 'nah, life's too short to go there ...'
Channel Four has said that it will not work not no more with Ant Middleton due to his 'personal conduct.' Last year, the SAS: Who Dares Wins-type person faced criticism over comments he had made about the Black Lives Matter protests and coronavirus. In a statement, the channel said: 'It has become clear that our views and values are not aligned.' Middleton has also posted, saying that he is 'really excited about the future and what's coming this year.' SAS: Who Dares Wins sees civilians put through gruelling military training exercises to test their physical and mental strength. Why, is a question perhaps best left for another day.
And, on that bombshell, dear blog reader, it's time for ...
This week has seen the arrival on incoming episodes at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House; new segments of three particular From The North US favourites, Prodigal Son, NCIS and American Gods. All of them really rather decent episodes, too. The former featured the series debut of From The North favourite Alan Cumming in a completely brilliant one-scene cameo which total stole the show. It's going to be so much fun having him and Michael Sheen battling for who can go so far over the top they're down the other side in the coming weeks.
NCIS meanwhile, featured a rather contrived, but still emotionally satisfying, exit for Jack Sloane (Mari Bello) in a story that meandered all over the place and threatened to - but never quite did - disappear up its own arse. After being on the popular crime drama for over three years, it appears as though the actress was ready to move on to other projects. According to her IMDB profile, Maria will be a producer and writer on the upcoming drama The Woman King starring Viola Davis.
And, we also had the best episode of American Gods of the current (third) series - Fire & Ice - with lots of plotlines getting a good, hard kick up the rectum and propelled forwards. As usual, the best thing about the episode was the soundtrack, especially the use of Leonard Cohen's 'You Want It Darker' over the closing scenes. Magical. Also as usual Ian McShane gets all the best lines (well, those that another From The North favourite, the wonderful Danny Trejo wasn't given, anyway). For example, Wednesday's list of reasons why Johan may have started slaughtering Odin's followers was delivered to Shadow Moon in a vintage McShane rant: 'Psychedelics, brain fever, the curse of Fu Manchu, who knows?' The episode also featured the final appearance of Johan as Marilyn Manson was recently dropped from the production after various and assorted abuse claims against women.
This blogger highly recommends Luke McGee's admirably balanced piece on the CNN website Boris Johnson's Vaccine Strategy Gets Another Boost, While Europe Confronts Fresh Problems. Which makes a really refreshing change from the polarised rhetoric coming from the two extremes of the British media over the current vaccine rollout (either blind, sycophantic ringiece-licking from the Daily Scum Express and the Daily Scum Mail or sneering 'oh God, I could do better than that' nonsense from some Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star and the Independent). 'Boris Johnson didn't have a very good start to the pandemic,' notes McGee, entirely accurately. 'The United Kingdom still has one of the world's worst coronavirus mortality rates, and is near the top of the table in total infections and deaths - truly the Covid capital of Europe. Critics have blamed this on several errors made early on, from going into lockdown too late and making a mess of testing to poor government communications. However, of late, Johnson's fortunes appear to have turned. On Monday, the Prime Minister was able to reveal a roadmap that would take England out of lockdown before the end of June. Johnson would not have been able to deliver this good news had the UK's vaccine rollout not gone so remarkably well to date. As things stand, the UK has administered more than 18.5 million doses, or twenty seven per one hundred people. Compare this to other European giants like France and Germany, who have each managed only six per hundred.' Not everything in the piece is something you may necessarily agree with, dear blog reader, but it's useful to see an outsiders perspective on an issue which has become such a red hot potato in British political circles.
And, speaking of vaccinations, dear blog reader, as mentioned in the last From The North bloggerisationisms update, this blogger was up for his own appointment with The Needle last week: 'Just a small prick,' the nurse said. 'Not the first time I've had that said to me,' this blogger replied, wearily. Oh, yes. It's also worth noting, of course, that Keith Telly Topping was given not a dose of AstraZeneca vaccine but, rather, an armful of AstraZenica (at least, according to his vaccine card he did). This, presumably, being a bit like when you buy a knock-off Guccci®™ down the market.
Of course, if the government promised everybody one of these, for free, after moments of significant prickage the vaccine take-up would be one hundred and one per cent (if not higher). This blogger really should suggest such a course of action to Bashing Boris, he might even get an OBE out of it. Which, incidentally, he would really deserve.
The morning after the prickage before; this blogger was suffering from a bit of a sore arm (which was to be expected as it did have a sharp piece of metal jabbed, savagely, into it). But, otherwise, there were no headaches, no fatigue, no obvious other symptoms of vaccine-reaction. Which suggested that the medicinal King Prawn curry with boiled rice yer actual Keith Telly Topping had immediately after getting well-pricked did its job. Correlation is not causation, of course dear blog reader but, one has to ask, have the government actually looked into this? And, if not, why not? Of course, inevitably, this blogger spoke a fraction too soon - by late afternoon, the arm pain has increased significantly and this blogger soon developed aches, pains, shivers and a stotting headache. Nowt serious (indeed, cautiously welcome since feeling temporarily grotty is usually a good sign because it means the anti-bodies are kicking-in and the vaccine is starting to do its job) but, enough that it was noticeable. So, this blogger went to bed early with a couple of painkillers. And that, mercifully, got it sorted by Friday morning. It was, nevertheless, atypical of the vaccine to wait until this blogger had been bragging to all and sundry about how unaffected he'd been before, ahem, affecting him.
Indeed, by the following day, this blogger was feeling well enough to ask his dear Facebook fiends: 'Is it just me or does anyone else fancy a cream slice right about now?' Stupid question, of course, since the answer was bound to be in the affirmative.
This year's Download Festival has been extremely cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, organisers have confirmed. The hairy hard rock and heavy metal event had been due to take place from 4 to 6 June, headlined by Kiss, Iron Maiden, Biffy Clyro and System Of A Down. So, it seems that every cloud does, indeed, have a silver lining. Who knew?
Two of Lady Gaga's French bulldogs were reportedly stolen last Wednesday, after a gunman shot her dog-walker in Hollywood. A male suspect fired a semi-automatic handgun at the dog-walker, named in US media reports as Ryan Fischer, before making off with the dogs. The victim was transported to hospital. Lady Gaga (she is, also, a popular beat combo, yer honour) offered a half-a-million dollar reward for the return of her dogs, Koji and Gustav. Whether she was particularly bothered about the fate of the guy who got shot was not, immediately, clear. A third bulldog, named Miss Asia, ran away and was later recovered by police. Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, is currently in Rome working on a new Ridley Scott film, Gucci. Subsequently it was confirmed that the two missing dogs had also been recovered, after a woman brought the dogs - unharmed - to a Los Angeles police station. Authorities said that the woman allegedly 'found' the dogs and was uninvolved in the shooting incident. Police have yet to identify any suspects. It is not known if Lady Gaga will hand the woman the half-a-million bucks reward she initially offered for the safe return of the dogs. Though, it'd be nice if she did. It'd also be nice if she showed a bit of concern about Fischer who remains wounded in hospital.
Investigators reportedly raided thirteen properties in Germany and Liechtenstein linked to a member of German parliament over allegations of corruption, prosecutors in München confirmed on Thursday. Georg Nüßlein, from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative alliance, is facing accusations of bribery from a coronavirus medical masks supplier. The Bundestag, the lower house of Germany's parliament, voted unanimously to lift his immunity earlier that day. 'In the Nüßlein case, the judiciary must now do its job,' a member of the Bundestag's immunity committee, Marco Buschmann, said on Twitter. Nüßlein allegedly lobbied the government to contract a medical masks supplier last year. Media reports suggest that he received six hundred and sixty thousand Euros in return. The funds were transferred to a company that Nüßlein manages, which did not declare taxes on the revenues, according to the German broadcaster RTL. 'If there is even the suspicion that a member of the German Bundestag personally benefited from the coronavirus crisis, then this is a very serious, grave accusation that must be comprehensively clarified,' Social Democrat Katja Mast. Lawmakers piled with criticism on Nüßlein, a member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister-party to Merkel's Christian Democrats. Nüßlein has been a member of parliament since 2002 and has served as the deputy head of the conservatives parliamentary group since 2014. Germany's Social Democrats called for 'stricter measures' to 'maintain transparency and prevent corruption' by lawmakers. The SPD demanded mandatory disclosure of MPs investments, annual income and lobby registers for the Bundestag and the federal government. The parliamentary manager of the Left Party, Jan Korte, also called for prohibiting MPs from becoming paid lobbyists. Last year, another MP from Merkel's party came under fire for lobbying for a US start-up, as the topic became increasingly controversial in the Bundestag.
Speaking of politicians currently in a bit of bother with The Law, French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced to three years in The Slammer, two of them suspended, for corruption. He was extremely convicted of trying to bribe a judge in 2014 - after he had left office - by suggesting that he could secure a prestigious job for the judge in return for information about a separate case. Sarkozy is the first former French president to get a custodial sentence. His lawyer says that he will appeal. Sarkozy will remain free during that process which could take years. In the ruling, Judge Christine Mée said the conservative politician was a very naughty man and 'knew what [he] was doing was wrong,' adding that his actions and those of his lawyer had given the public 'a very bad image of justice.' The crimes were specified as influence-peddling and violation of professional secrecy. It is a legal landmark for post-war France. The only precedent was the trial of Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac, who got a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for having arranged bogus jobs at Paris City Hall for allies when he was Paris mayor. If Sarkozy's appeal is unsuccessful, he could serve a year at home with an electronic tag, rather than go to The Joint. His wife, the supermodel and singer Carla Bruni, reacted by describing the case as 'senseless persecution,' adding that 'the fight continued, and truth would come out.'
Meanwhile, the round-up of conspiring insurgents in the US continues if not apace then, at least, with the slow, methodical, yet dogged determination with FBI usually demonstrates when, for instance, taking down John Dillinger. Or aliens in the case of Mulder and Scully. Among the latest recidivists to get pinched by The Fuzz is, according to reports, one Suzanne Kaye, who calls herself 'The Angry Patriot Hippie' on social media. After agents phoned Kaye in late January to ask what she thought she'd been laying at u in Washington earlier in the month, she posted a video to her Facebook, Instagram and TikTok accounts. 'Just got a call from the FBI,' Kaye said, after taking a swig from a fifth of cinnamon-flavoured Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire whiskey bottle. 'You think I’m going to ... let you come talk to me?' she said. 'I'm an American. I know my rights. My First Amendment right to free speech, my Second Amendment right to carry a gun to shoot your fucking ass if you come to my house.' Actually, that's not a second Amendment right, Suze m'love, that's called 'assault with a deadly weapon.' And, you get banged up in The Slammer for that shit. The FBI took her comments seriously and charged Kaye with 'making a communication in interstate commerce that threatened to kill agents from the FBI.' Which is, probably, not the sort of thing one wants to be doing if one wishes to retain the liberty which those who quote their rights under the constitution tend to take so seriously. Two other individuals up their collective necks in it are Lori Ann Vinson, a nurse and her husband Thomas Ray Vinson who were arrested by federal agents in Owensboro. Their charges include knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct which impedes the conduct of government business, disruptive conduct in the Capitol buildings and parading, demonstrating or picketing the Capitol buildings. Lori Vinson previously made headlines shortly after the insurrection when she spoke to multiple media outlets about entering the Capitol and said that she had been fired for it by her employers. Vinson nevertheless added she 'would do it again tomorrow.' Not that she'll have the chance to, of course, if she's banged up in The Joint for her assorted crimes. A Republican district leader from Queens was arrested and charged with various offences related to storming the US Capitol building. FBI agents arrested Philip Grillo, a former candidate in the special erection for Queens Council at his girlfriend's home in Glen Oaks after identifying him by a Knights of Columbus jacket he was wearing inside the Capitol, federal prosecutors said. Grillo is charged with obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing and other offences for his alleged role in the Capitol insurrection. Grillo goes by 'The Republican Messiah' on Facebook. Though whether he actually is The Messiah or, merely, a very naughty boy is another matter entirely. Nearing two months after the siege, the FBI continues to make arrests throughout the country. Since the violent riot, a number of tri-state residents have reportedly been arrested and charged with crimes in connection to the deadly event, including a New York City sanitation worker, the brother of a retired NYPD officer, an MTA worker and an Upper West Side community leader. A spokesperson for the New York FBI office said that one Thomas Webster surrendered on Monday at the FBI's Hudson Valley office on charges filed in federal court in Washington. A former Florida police officer has also been arrested after he entered the US Capitol and posted a live video to Facebook from inside the building. The Miami Herald reports that former North Miami Beach police officer Nicholes Lentz was arrested on Friday. He has been charged with entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct, the same charges that have been levied against the majority of those arrested for their involvement in the Capitol breach. Lentz, a former Marine, left the North Miami Beach police department in August of 2020, the Herald reports. There's also the curious case of the close ally of Georgia Republican Congresswoman That Awful Greene Woman who took part in the 6 January mob at the Capitol and claimed that he was among those who eventually made their way into the building. That Awful Greene Woman, a freshman congresswoman with a history of promoting dangerous and violent conspiracies, encouraged The Big Lie that the Presidential erection was stolen from now extremely former President Mister Rump by voting to object to the erection certification and fanned the flames of the insidious insurrection by telling her supporters to 'fight' for Rump. In tweets after the Capitol insurrection, That Awful Greene Woman falsely suggested that those who had broken into the Capitol were not Republicans at all and, instead, falsely implied 'Antifa' - dressed as Rump supporters - were to blame for all the kerfuffle. In fact, Anthony Aguero, a conservative livestreamer, activist and - according to CNN - close associate of Greene, said on video following the January assault on the Capitol that he had been among those who entered and attacked those who falsely claimed it was done by Antifa. 'We were all there. It was not Antifa and it was not BLM. It was Trump supporters that did that yesterday. I'm the first to admit it, being one myself,' claimed Aguero in a video posted on 7 January. 'I walked amongst all those people,' he added. The FBI declined to comment on whether it was investigating Aguero. So, that'd be a 'yes', then. 
The number of US homegrown terror cases has risen sharply, the FBI boss has said, as he warned that the deadly January Capitol insurrection may serve as 'inspiration' for extremists. Some two thousand FBI domestic terror probes are open, up from fourteen hundred at the end of 2020, Director Christopher Wray said. Arrests of 'racially motivated violent extremists,' including white supremacists, have tripled since 2017. For the first time, Wray called the Capitol insurrection 'domestic terrorism.' The attack could be 'inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists,' he told a Senate hearing on Tuesday. He noted extremists and 'bad actors' were mobilising online, using encrypted messaging platforms to evade authorities. Wray also firmly denied a revisionist conspiracy theory floated by some supporters of now extremely former President Mister Rump (including at least one senator and several congresspersons) that the Capitol attack was, in fact, carried out by left-wing agitators in disguise. FBI investigations to date revealed 'quite a number' of the extremists participating in the riot belonged to far-right anti-government militias, he said. 'Foreign adversaries' were also taking advantage of the 6 January malarkey to 'amplify their own narratives,' he added.
A cockerel that had been fitted with a knife for an illegal cockfight has reportedly killed its owner in Southern India. Clearly, the chap had never watched Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid or, if he had, hadn't taken the advise to 'never bring a knife to a cockfight.' Probably. The bird's owner was 'impaled in the groin by the knife as the animal tried to escape.' It's hard to work out who is the biggest cock between them, frankly. The man died on the way to hospital from a loss of blood. Police are now searching for fifteen more people involved in the event, which took place in the village of Lothunur in Telangana state earlier this week. The animal was held at a police station before being transferred to a farm. A nice farm where it can run around a lot and eat its fill of ... whatever it is that cockerels eat. Police said the animal was being readied to take part in a fight when it tried to escape. Its owner attempted to catch it but was struck by the seven centimetre-long knife on the bird's leg during the struggle. Those involved in the event face charges of manslaughter, illegal betting and hosting a cockfight, the AFP news agency reports. Local police officer B Jeevan said the animal would be taken to court as evidence at a later date, according to the New Indian Express. A spokesperson for the cockerel said 'it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.'
The former Newcastle United, West Hamsters United, Watford and Norwich City manager Glenn Roeder has died aged sixty five after a long illness, the League Managers Association hve announced. Glenn, who was a classy central defender who won seven England B caps during his playing days, began his managerial career with a spell at Gillingham. He was also a coach in the England set-up when Glenn Hoddle was manager. The LMA said it was 'very deeply saddened' at Roeder's death 'after a long battle with a brain tumour.' Glenn began his playing career in Arsenal's youth team and then at Leyton Orient (reaching the FA Cup Semi-Final in 1978) before going on to represent Queens Park Rangers for five years. He captained QPR in the 1982 FA Cup Final, which his side lost to Tottenham Hotshots in a replay and to the Second Division title in 1983. Glenn arrived on Tyneside later that year during this blogger's beloved Newcastle's successful 1983-84 promotion season, the final piece in the jigsaw of Arthur Cox's free-scoring squad. Roeder was one of the first players famed for using the step-over - 'The Roeder shuffle' - a technique which Roeder claimed his father taught him as a child. Back in the First Division, Glenn became United's club captain, making two hundred and nineteen appearances for The Magpies before leaving for Watford in 1989. He ended his career with Gillingham in 1993. Later embarking on a coaching and managerial career, Roeder returned to The Magpies as Academy Director during June 2005. By the following February however, he was caretaker boss at St James' Park following the departure of Graeme Souness. Persuaded to take the post permanently despite not holding the required UEFA Pro Licence, Roeder steered the club to a seventh place finish in the Premier League in his first season, an Intertoto Cup win in 2006 (the last trophy the club won to date) and then into the UEFA Cup, giving youngsters like Andy Carroll and Tim Krul their senior debuts. 'A cultured defender as a player, he managed with a studious style and was always generous with his time and ideas,' said LMA chairman Howard Wilkinson. 'Glenn was such an unassuming, kind gentleman who demonstrated lifelong dedication to the game. Not one to court headlines, his commitment and application to his work at all levels warrants special mention. Football has lost a great servant today and our sincere condolences go to Glenn's family and friends.' Roeder led The Hamsters to a seventh-place finish in the Premiership in 2002 before he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2003. He had to have surgery and a period of recovery before returning to the dugout in July the same year. The club said: 'We are both deeply saddened by the passing of Glenn, who was hugely respected and liked by everyone in the game. As a player, Glenn enjoyed success with QPR and Newcastle, among others, before establishing himself as one of the country's top coaches, with a well-earned reputation for developing young players, including the likes of Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe during his time with West Ham United. Off the pitch, he was a loving family man and our sincere condolences go to Glenn's loved ones.' Roeder's last role in the game was as a managerial advisor at Stevenage in 2016. Former England international Chris Waddle, who played with Roeder at Newcastle, said 'Glenn was a top lad who loved football and was very much a family man.' Waddle told BBC 5Live: 'You can see by the reaction, what everybody thought about him. He was very professional but he had a good sense of humour. All the jobs he's been involved in, football was his life, as was his family. He was one of the first footballing centre-halves. Now we talk about Rio Ferdinand, players who are comfortable on the ball. But he didn't just stand in defence heading it away and kicking it away, he wanted to play. He had this stepover. Everyone knew he was going to do the stepover, but you still couldn't stop him. If he was around today he would definitely be playing at a top club.' Glenn is survived by his wife, Faith and their children Holly, Joe and Will.
The former Liverpool and Scotland centre forward Ian St John has also died at the age of eighty two after a long illness. St John joined Liverpool from his hometown club, Motherwell, in 1961 for a club record thirty seven grand and played four hundred and twenty five games for the Anfield side, scoring one hundred and eighteen goals, during a decade of service. He won two top-flight titles and scored the decisive goal as Liverpool lifted their first FA Cup in 1965. St John also earned twenty one Scotland caps and managed Motherwell and Portsmouth. He latterly enjoyed a successful career as a TV pundit, teaming up with former England striker Jimmy Greaves to front the bafflingly popular Saint & Greavsie which ran until 1992. St John's finishing prowess was evident from his early days at Motherwell, the club he had watched as a supporter lifting the Scottish Cup for the first time in 1952 before joining five years later. His prolific scoring record at Fir Park earned him international recognition and a move to Liverpool under fellow Scot Bill Shankly where he soon became a fans' favourite. It has gone down in Liverpool mythology that when the board were reluctant to spend a record fee on the player, Shankly's reply was: 'We can't afford not to buy him.' There's also the much told joke of the time Shankley was approached by a Christian preacher in the street and asked 'what would you do if Jesus came to Liverpool?' 'Move St John to inside-right' was Shanks's reported reply. Shankly described St John's signing, along with the arrival of fellow Scot Ron Yeats from Dundee United in the same year, as 'the turning point' as Liverpool came out of the Second Division to emerge as a dominant force in British football. St John quickly began to prove his worth, scoring a hat-trick on his debut, a four-three defeat to Everton in the Liverpool Senior Cup. Within twelve months his twenty two league goals had helped Liverpool secure the Second Division title. He matched that total in season 1963-64 as the Anfield side won their first top-flight crown in seventeen years, with a second title following two years later. St John formed a formidable partnership with England World Cup winner Roger Hunt, served by two outstanding wingers in Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson while the likes of Yeats and 'Anfield Iron' Tommy Smith provided Shankly's steel core. Perhaps his most iconic moment in the red shirt came at Wembley in 1965 when his headed winner in extra time overcame Leeds United two-one to give Liverpool their first FA Cup. St John and Liverpool suffered disappointments, losing the 1966 European Cup Winners' Cup final to Borussia Dortmund at Hampden Park - but arguably bigger heartbreak came in the European Cup. Shankly was convinced Liverpool were, at that time, the best team in Europe. They were on course to prove it in 1965 but lost in controversial fashion to eventual winners Inter Milan. St John scored the crucial final goal in Liverpool's three-one first-leg win at Anfield just days after their FA Cup final triumph. It made them favourites in Italy but they were on the end of a series of questionable decisions as they lost three-nil in the San Siro, Shankly going to his grave harbouring suspicions about how the game unfolded. Liverpool were often at or near the top of the table in the years after their 1966 title but it was a barren period when measured in trophies and after a humiliating FA Cup quarter-final loss to Second Division strugglers Watford in February 1970 St John was one of several great players, including the likes of Yeats and goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence, who were moving towards the exit. The performance persuaded Shankly it was time to dismantle one great side and build another, with younger stars such as Ray Clemence being promoted to the first team and new signings like Larry Lloyd, Steve Heighway, John Toshack and Kevin Keegan coming in. After leaving Liverpool St John had shorts spells with South African sides Hellenic and Cape Town City either side of a season with Coventry City, before ending his playing days at Tranmere Rovers. He returned to Motherwell as manager in 1973, then moved on to Portsmouth before embarking on a career in broadcasting. St John always had broadcasting aspiration and ability, narrowly losing a competition to become a BBC commentator at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The biggest fame and acclaim came later at ITV when he was not only a shrewd analyst and co-commentator but established the partnership on Saint & Greavsie that became an essential part of Saturday lunchtime viewing for many football fans. Though, this blogger must be honest and confess he always found it rather self-congratulatory and a bit naff and always preferred Football Focus on the other side.
Ronald Pickup, the highly respected stage and screen actor best known for his roles in The Crown and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, has died at the age of eighty. His agent said that he 'passed away peacefully after a long illness surrounded by his wife and family.' Pickup played the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 2016 series of The Crown and Neville Chamberlain in 2017 film Darkest Hour. But he became internationally recognised after playing an ageing lothario in 2011's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its 2015 sequel. The actor had performed extensively on stage, TV and radio before his big-screen success. After graduating from RADA, Pickup worked at The National Theatre, then run by Laurence Olivier, with acclaimed roles in Three Sisters and Long Day's Journey into Night. He was also Rosalind in The Old Vic's 1967 production of As You Like It, which also featured Anthony Hopkins. In 2009, he was Lucky in Sean Mathias's production of Waiting For Godot, opposite Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Pickup was born in Chester in June 1940. His father, Eric, worked as a lecturer. He attended The King's School, Chester and went on to study English at Leeds University, graduating in 1962. He then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, receiving the annual Bancroft Medal on graduation in 1964. It was at RADA that he met his wife, Lans Traverse. His TV break came in 1964 with a role as a physician in the Doctor Who story The Reign Of Terror. Pickup played a formidable roll-call of real life geniuses on the small screen, including Verdi, Nietzsche and Einstein, as well as voicing Aslan in the BBC adaptations of The Chronicles Of Narnia. He went on to star in the The Dragon's Opponent in 1973, playing Charles Howard, the Earl of Suffolk, a World War II bomb disposal expert. In 1976, he appeared on the mini-series Jennie playing Winston Churchill's father, Randolph, opposite Lee Remick. Pickup appeared alongside Penelope Keith in Moving and also played George Orwell in Crystal Spirit: Orwell On Jura; he later revealed in an interview in 2012 that this was his favourite role. He went on to play Prince Yakimov, a hapless, down-at-heel Russo-British aristocrat, opposite Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh in Fortunes Of War (1987), based on the novel cycle by Olivia Manning. Pickup starred in the short lived sitcom Not With A Bang in 1990 and appeared opposite Michael Caine in Jekyll & Hyde the same year. In 1992 he appeared with Dervla Kirwan in the adaptation of Melvyn Bragg's book A Time To Dance, considered to be one of his best performances. Other TV work included Hornblower, Young Dracula, The Riff Raff Element, Behaving Badly, Play For Today, The Fight Against Slavery (as William Pitt), Tropic, Bergerac, The Silver Chair, Black Hearts In Battersea, Hustle, Foyle's War, New Tricks, Lovejoy, Waking The Dead, The Bill, Silent Witness, Lewis, Cambridge Spies, Lark Rise To Candleford, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Martin, Inspector Morse, Rector's Wife, Holby City, Vera, Summer Of Spies, the 1991 adaptation of John Le Carré's A Murder Of Quality and the BBC's 2004 children's drama, Feather Boy. He also appeared in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries series, playing Chief Inspector Moore in A Case Of Coincidence. Pickup was a regular in the sitcom The Worst Week Of My Life. In November 2014 he appeared in Coronation Street as an OAP arranging a birthday party with Michelle Connor in The Rovers. Pickup was also a staple of Radio 4 drama, beginning his audio work with a BBC recording of Franco Zeffirelli's production of Much Ado About Nothing. His film work included appearances in Never Say Never Again (1983), The Mission (1986) and The Adventures Of Greyfriars Bobby (2005). He played a forger in The Day Of The Jackal (1973), the following year he was in Ken Russell's Mahler and also appeared in Joseph Andrews (1977). Pickup played one of the Prussian agents conspiring to blow up the Houses of Parliament in The Thirty Nine Steps (1978), was Harford in Zulu Dawn (1979), Igor Stravinsky in Nijinsky (1980) and Prince John in Ivanhoe (1982). Last year, Pickup starred in the horror film End Of Term, alongside Peter Davison. He is survived by his wife, Lans and their two children Rachel Pickup and Simon Pickup. Ronald and Rachel appeared together in two productions: the Midsomer Murders episode The Magician's Nephew (2008) and the movie Schadenfreude (2020).
Actor Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street for thirty years, has died aged eighty five. His family said he died peacefully after 'a long illness' and asked for privacy to 'remember the wonderful times we had.' Briggs was made an MBE in the New Year's Honours in 2007, the year after his character left the ITV soap. Born in September 1935 in Battersea, Briggs was evacuated to the country during World War II before embarking on an acting career back in London at the age of twelve when he landed a place at the prestigious Italia Conti Stage Academy, among classmates that included Nanette Newman, Jill Gascoigne and Anthony Newley. After a break for two years of National Service in Germany with the Royal Tank Regiment starting in 1953, he resumed his acting career with roles in several Carry On films and the ITV police drama No Hiding Place. It was not until 1976 that he landed his defining role as Mike Baldwin. As the uncompromising Cockney businessman in the Manchester soap he constantly feuded with Ken Barlow and was caught up in a love triangle with with his wife, Deirdre, played by Anne Kirkbride. Later, Baldwin would die in his rival's arms after suffering a heart attack, finally killing off the character after three decades. Briggs won the British Soap Award for lifetime achievement in 2006. In 1995 Briggs had a UK chart hit, alongside Coronation Street co-star Amanda Barrie, with a - properly appalling - karaoke-style version of 'Something Stupid'. He also appeared on stage and in films alongside the likes of Norman Wisdom, Dirk Bogarde and Tommy Steele. He appeared in the 1948 movie Quartet, with George Cole and Joan Collins, making his TV debut in The Younger Generation, a series of plays which also starred John Thaw. He also had roles in The Odd Man, The Plane Makers, First Night, Thirty Minutes Theatre, The Troubleshooters, Department S, Wreckers At Dead Eye, MenaceCrossroads, The Saint, The Persuaders!, Softly Softly Task Force, Bright's Boffins, The Brothers, No Honestly, Z Cars, Yus My Dear, So It Goes and Thick As Thieves. Despite suggesting he was to retire after leaving Coronation Street, Briggs subsequently made appearances in both Agatha Christie's Marple and Holby City in 2007, as well as the short-lived ITV soap opera Echo Beach in 2008. In 2009, Briggs appeared in long running daytime soap Doctors. His movies included an uncredited role in The Lavender Hill Mob, Cosh Boy, The Diplomatic Corpse, Sink The Bismarck!, The Bulldog Breed, Doctor In Distress, The Leather Boys, The Devil-Ship Pirates, 633 Squadron, The Intelligence Men, HMS Defiant, Carry On Up The Khyber, Some Girls Do, Au Pair Girls, Go For A Take, Secrets Of A Door-to-Door Salesman, Bedtime With Rosie and two of this blogger's favourite movies, Perfect Friday (1970) and Quest For Love (1971). He married Caroline Sinclair in 1961 and had two children, Mark and Karen before the couple divorced in 1975. The same year he married Christine Allsop, a marriage which produced four children, Jennifer, Michael, Stephanie, and Anthony.
One of reggae's most important voices, Bunny Wailer, has died at the age of seventy three. The musician, from Kingston, Jamaica, was a founding member of The Wailers alongside his childhood friends, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Together, they achieved international fame with reggae classics like 'Simmer Down' and 'Stir It Up', before Wailer left to go solo in 1974. He went on to win three Grammys and was given Jamaica's Order Of Merit in 2017. His death was confirmed by manager Maxine Stowe, and Jamaica's Culture Minister, Olivia Grange. He had been in hospital since having a stroke in July 2020. Bunny, whose real name was Neville O'Riley Livingston, had been the last surviving member of The Wailers, following Marley's death from cancer in 1981 and Tosh's murder during a robbery in 1987. Born in April 1947, Livingston spent his earliest years in the village of Nine Miles, where he was raised by his father, Thaddeus, who ran a grocery store. That was where he first met Marley and the boys soon became friends, making their first music together at Stepney Primary and Junior High School. Following the death of Marley's father in 1955, his mother, Cedella, moved in with Livingstone's father. The boys were essentially raised as step-brothers, especially after Cedella and Thaddeus had a daughter, Pearl, together. After moving to Trenchtown in Kingston, they met Peter Tosh and formed a vocal group initially called The Wailing Wailers - because, Marley said: 'We started out crying.' The area was poor and afflicted by violence. Livingstone later remembered building his first guitar from 'a bamboo staff, the fine wires from an electric cable and a large sardine can.' But singer Joe Higgs lived nearby and took the boys under his wing. Under his tutelage, they refined their sound, adding another vocalist Junior Braithwaite and backing singers Beverly Kelso and Cherry Green before shortening their name to The Wailers. In December 1963, the group entered Coxsone Dodd's famous Studio One to record 'Simmer Down', a song Marley had written calling for peace in the ghettos of Kingston. Faster and harder than the music The Wailers later became known for, the song was an immediate hit in Jamaica, reaching number one. They followed it up with the original version of 'Duppy Conqueror', before releasing their debut LP The Wailing Wailers, in 1965. Soon after, the band went on hiatus as Marley got married and moved to the USA and Livingstone served a year in jail for marijuana possession. But they still managed to release twenty eight singles between 1966 and 1970, before releasing their second LP, Soul Rebels. Their international breakthrough came two years later with Catch A Fire - the first record they made for Chris Blackwell's Island Records. The collaboration came about almost by accident. The Wailers had been touring the UK with Johnny Nash - who'd had a hit with a cover of 'Stir It Up' - but found themselves unable to pay for their trip home. Blackwell offered to sign the band to Island, paying them an advance to cover their air fares and the cost of recording an LP in Jamaica. Much to Bunny's initial displeasure, some of the songs were subsequently overdubbed to make them more palatable to an international audience, most notably Wayne Perkins' guitar work on 'Concrete Jungle'. 'I felt the way to break the Wailers was as a black rock act; I wanted some rock elements in there,' Blackwell later told Rolling Stone. 'Bunny and Peter didn't want to leave Jamaica, so Bob came to England when we did the overdubs.' Tensions began to arise within the band, exacerbated by Island marketing their LP under the name Bob Marley & The Wailers and a touring schedule that kept Livingstone away from his family. Livingstone left in late 1973 after the recording for the follow up to Catch A Fire, Burnin' and The Wailers' memorable UK TV debut, saying that the touring lifestyle clashed with his Rastafarian beliefs - citing the pressure to eat processed foods and play 'freak clubs.' Free from the band, he began to work on his solo LP Blackheart Man, which included classic songs like 'Dreamland' and 'Burning Down Sentence', which was inspired by his stint in prison. He went on to release several acclaimed LPs, including 1981's Rock 'n' Groove and 1980s's Bunny Wailer Sings The Wailers, which saw him revisit some of the band's classic material. In the 1990s, he won the Grammy award for best reggae LP three times - with each of those records extending and preserving the legacy of Marley and The Wailers: 1991's Time Will Tell: A Tribute To Bob Marley, 1995's Crucial! Roots Classics and the 1997's all-star Hall Of Fame: A Tribute To Bob Marley's Fiftieth Anniversary. 'I'm satisfied with knowing that I'm serving the purpose of getting reggae music to be where it's at,' he told the Washington Post in 2006. 'I'm proud to be part of that.'
Boris Johnson says it is 'the right time' for the UK and Republic of Ireland to launch a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup. The UK government will reportedly pledge 2.8 million knicker to kick-start the process in Wednesday's Budget. The Football Associations of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland say they are 'delighted' with the government's commitment. 'We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030,' Johnson said. In an interview with the Sun, he added: 'I do think it's the right place. It's the home of football. It will be an absolutely wonderful thing for the country. We want to see a bonanza of football in the years ahead.' A feasibility study will continue before the formal World Cup bidding process begins in 2022. A joint-statement from the Football Associations of England, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland read: 'The Football Associations and government partners of the UK and Ireland are delighted that the UK government has committed to support a prospective five-association bid for the 2030 World Cup. The FAs will continue to undertake feasibility work to assess the viability of a bid before FIFA formally opens the process in 2022. Staging a World Cup would provide an incredible opportunity to deliver tangible benefits for our nations. If a decision is made to bid for the event, we look forward to presenting our hosting proposals to FIFA and the wider global football community.' Johnson also told the newspaper the UK was prepared to host additional Euro 2020 games, after the government last week unveiled plans to end all restrictions on social contact in England by 21 June. The Euros were postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic and are now set to take place across twelve host cities this summer. It is understood that UEFA still intends the tournament to go ahead in this way. Wembley will host seven games - including the final and semi-finals - of Euro 2020, while Glasgow and Dublin will also host games. England is also hosting the postponed Women's European Championship in 2022. The last major men's football tournament played in the UK was the 1996 European Championship, which England hosted thirty years after staging its only World Cup. England spectacularly failed with a bid - fronted by David Beckham, Prince William and then Prime Minister Oily David Cameron - to host the 2018 World Cup, which went to Russia amid much alleged dodgy back-stage doings at FIFA. World Cups from 2026 onwards will be contested by forty eight teams, beginning when the US, Canada and Mexico host the tournament. A joint bid from Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay is expected for the 2030 competition, while Spain, Morocco and Portugal are also considering a joint bid. Government support for the idea of a UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup is nothing new. Another former Prime Minister That Useless May Woman said in 2018 that she would back an effort to stage the tournament. The following year, on the eve of the general erection, her successor Boris Johnson said he would put his 'heart and soul' behind such a bid. Ministers are known to be keen to host as many major sports events as possible to help promote Britain in the post-Brexit era and with London, Glasgow and Dublin set to stage Euros matches this summer, a World Cup bid will enjoy support. But others will wonder if it is wise use of public money after England's last bid for the 2018 World Cup ended in such humiliation, securing just two votes, despite spending twenty one million notes. In the wake of its great corruption scandal, FIFA has reformed the way in which it decides hosts, with more transparency and each national association given a vote, not just its executive committee. But even if this appears to boost UK/Irish chances, there are other hurdles to overcome. Backing from UEFA is deemed essential. But its president, Aleksander Ceferin, has said he favours just one bid from Europe, and a joint effort from Spain and Portugal is already being prepared. The FA has been on a charm offensive in recent years in an attempt to tackle perceptions of English arrogance and Johnson's latest reference to football 'coming home' may not have helped build bridges. But regardless of which bid UEFA supports, it would face stiff competition from an expected joint South American effort. With 2030 marking the centenary of the first World Cup held in Uruguay, many believe it would be an appropriate choice, although there are concerns over infrastructure and stadia. China would also provide formidable opposition if FIFA changed its host rotation policy and allowed another Asian World Cup so soon after Qatar stages next year's tournament.
NASA's Perseverance rover landed on Mars on 18 February after almost seven months travelling from Earth. Since then, it has sent back some amazing images from around its landing site, Jezero Crater, a thirty mile wide impact depression just North of the Red Planet's equator.
And finally, dear blog reader, Molly-Mae Hague (no, me neither) has reportedly fallen foul of the UK's advertising watchdog for a second time. The Love Island-type individual has been reprimanded for running an eight thousand smackers online prize draw which failed to follow the rules for such competitions. The watchdog said that Hague had been 'unable to provide evidence the winners had been randomly and fairly picked.' One lawyer said this suggests the authority is now 'pursuing a wider range of cases against influencers.' Until recently, its focus has been on those who simply failed to flag paid-for posts as being averts. Hague previously had a complaint upheld against her for failing to make clear one of her posts was an advert for an online clothing retailer. The twenty one-year-old appeared on ITV2's risible dating reality show Love Island in 2019, when she was one of the runners-up. She has more than five million followers on Instagram and close to one-and-a-half million on YouTube. No one has a decent explanation as to why.