Sunday, July 03, 2022

The Pow'r That I Have On You Is To Spare You The Malice Towards You, To Forgive You

Wouldn't you just know it, dear blog reader? For approximately ten days during Mid-to-Late June Great Britain was, quite literally, stewing in its own juices as a heatwave of, if you will, mind blowing decisions-style proportions hit this parched and arid land. God, it was hot. And, pretty much everyone got to the point where they were completely bloody sick to the back teeth of the heat and the stickiness and the itching. At which point, they whinged about what a right shite state of affairs this all was, loudly, to anyone that would listen. And, indeed, anyone that wouldn't (this blogger, let it be noted, very much included). Then, of course, the inevitable happened. The rains came and, as it stotted doon like The Flood, we all ran and hid our heads (to paraphrase the alcoholic, wife-beating Scouse junkie out of The Be-Atles, a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them). The sky ripped open and down it pissed by the bucketful. People got soaked right through to their vests. Cricket matches were abandoned due to flooding. F1 qualifying at Silverstone resembled water-skiing. Drains overflowed. Frequently. Small mammals drowned. You got wet just thinking about leaving the house. And, so people whinged again.
They whinged about the heat and then, just to prove what a bunch of contrary sods we are, they whinged about the damp and the (relative) cold. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, dear blog reader. We're really quite a sight, so we are. Is it any wonder the rest of the world hates us and loudly celebrates when our national football team(s) are eliminated from major tournaments in the first round (or, in Scotland's case, during qualification)? It's because of the whole 'things could've been a lot worse' attitude. What do you mean, 'what "things could've been a lot worse" attitude'? Allow From The North favourite, dance maestro and national treasure Bill Bailey to explain how it works. Or, to put it another way, 'our days are overcast so as a nation we're enthused with a wistful melancholy, but we remain a relentlessly chipper population, prone to mild eccentricity, binge drinking and casual violence. We have no natural predators, although, badger'll give you a nasty nip.'
That's Britain for you, dear blog reader. Although we do still have the National Health Service, much bangin' pop music, the Premier League, the BBC, David Attenborough, Doctor WhoQi, Test Match Special and the best film reviewer in the whole world, bar none.
Right, next Doctor Who, which already has a lot of changes coming to a tellybox near you, dear blog reader, what with Jodie Whittaker's upcoming regeneration and all of the reveals concerning next year's sixtieth anniversary episode. It looks like another change is on the way, seemingly to the chagrin of gammons everywhere. Which is, always, good for a laugh. It appears that a major redesign is coming to the TARDIS. A tabloid report states that the TARDIS will undergo a change which will make it wheelchair-accessible. The Sun claims that a new design for the TARDIS will remove stairs, narrow spaces and other obstacles which would make navigation for a time traveller in a wheelchair rather difficult. On top of those revisions, a lift will be installed. The reason for the change, according to the report, is to 'accommodate the show's continued steps towards inclusivity' and because of the involvement of national treasure Bernard Cribbins in the upcoming sixtieth anniversary special.
There are also rumours that Big Rusty is considering bringing back Shooty Dog Thing. Which would be popular with some and less popular with others. So, again, probably this is Big Rusty being contrary just for the sake of it. Much like everyone else in this country, in fact. 
Anyway ... this week also saw the arrival of the latest incoming preview disc at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House: And, it was a really good'un, kicking off with Strange New Worlds: All Those Who Wander. 'People are capable of doing two things at once.' Oh wow, Star Trek does Alien! And, indeed, Aliens. (Sam Kirk-as-Hudson.) They even had their own Newt substitute. Mostly. It was, in short, the best SNW episode so far, by a sodding huge distance. And, you can take it from this blogger on that score, dear blog reader, he's a very widely respected author, journalist and broadcaster. Not that it's all perfect, of course; the pre-title sequence, for example was so obviously signposted it should have had a big white arrow sticking out of its metaphorical head. The two people whom we'd never seen before but were the focus of this scene were, clearly, not doing to make it beyond the second advertising break. And, so it proved. No Red Shirt's though, thankfully (yellow and blue, as it happens). The dialogue was great, though: 'I bet you're a tempest when you're angry.' Celia Rose Gooding's Uhura was terrific throughout (as she has been all series) and this blogger really admired the Spock/Christine Chapel scene. He even thought Christina Chong was ... mostly adequate this week. 'Watch the ceilings, anything that moves, shoot it!' Reminiscent of Deep Space Nine at its most edgy and dark. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
However, from a really very fine episode of a really very fine series to one of the most extraordinary hours of television this blogger believes he's seen in a long time. The Man Who Fell To Earth: As The World Falls Down. Which was utterly, mesmerisingly, transendentally beautiful. 'You either die in a cage or you own the world. There's nothing in-between.' An intricate game about games (TMWFTE does The Prisoner, basically). 'I know everything you've ever loved.' So, that's how one survives (and enjoys) waterboarding. Good to know should the CIA ever get notions about grabbing someone with a brain the size of an Adidas Telstar. A story about family, betrayal, torture, betrayal, anticipation, betrayal, duality ('you're both the fucking same'), betrayal, suppressed memories, betrayal, murder and choices. And, betrayal. 'All we need is thirty six hours.' God, this cast is great. Especially, this week (in, indeed, every week), Chiwetel: 'Your name is a prison ... but what I know will set you free.' All of the sudden changes in character motivation in the last quarter of the episode appeared completely earned and made perfect sense to this blogger. Especially the climax. 'You're not Pressman Thorne.' 'Are you sure?' Quite, quite brilliant, dear blog readers. And remember, absolutely no horses were extremely shot in the face during the making of this episode. Well, okay, maybe one. 'Is that Question Five?'
'They murdered time!' This blogger switched on The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House widescreen TV first thing on Thursday morning after yet another sleep-deprived night of tossing. And turning. But, mostly tossing. After spending ninety minutes watching (for the second time) a really rather good early 1960s Brit-noir B-movie on Talking Pictures, Night Of The Prowler, he went looking for The Horror Channel for that day's Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House dose of '8am UFO with breakfast' malarkey. Only to be shocked - and stunned - to discover that the (long threatened) rebranding and reordering process of THC (and some other channels) had occurred overnight. It, therefore, took this blogger another five minutes to find the new channel on The Stately Telly Topping Manor Sky TV Guide, Legend (that's number one hundred and forty eight on your Sky programme list, dear blog readers. Or, if you're still only on Freeview, y'cheapskate b'stards, it's number forty one). He found it just in time for the extraordinary opening sequence of Timelash, the zenith of the drug-crazed-abandon of the second half of Gerry Anderson's much-loved live-action series. This was, of course, one of the handful of episodes which were given a restricted, late-night slot on many ITV regions back in 1970-71 due, mainly, to the scene in which Ed Bishop and Wanda Ventham, ahem, shoot-up to counteract the aliens-slowing-down-time shenanigans. Plus the episode is, generally, as weird as a very weird thing (with weird knobs on). As weird, in fact, as Weird Jack McWeird, winner of the Mister Weird competition. But, it remains worthy for many and varied reasons, particularly the multiple shots of Patrick Allen bellowing 'Big Man!' at Straker and gurning at the camera. Can't, ever, get too much of that.
It also has one of this blogger's favourite lines of dialogue in all TV. 'In The New Order, I'm going to be boss.' Something which yer actual Peter Hook spent the majority of twenty years trying to achieve. And failed.
Friday morning's UFO episode was Ordeal. Not one of the more memorable ones, perhaps, except for the use of 'Get Back' (a rockin' little tune by The Be-Atles, a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) at the yuppie party Paul Foster attends. And, it is implied, he ends the night giving a good, hard, eye-watering shag to Groovy Sylvia (Quinn O'Hara) whose party it is. One imagines obtaining the rights for that one song blew the vast majority of the episode's budget (clearly, they got the other song used during the party sequence, The Spencer Davis Group's 'Trampoline' for about sixpence). The rest of the budget most likely went on the ghastly clobber that the production team gave poor Michael Billington to wear. The 1980 this blogger knew was never like that, dear blog reader. Not with those flares.
On the subject of how they managed to use 'Get Back', the episode in question - the ninth of the first UFO production block - was filmed at Elstree between 8 and 20 August 1969. This was five months after Dick James and his partners had sold their entire stake in Northern Songs to Sir Lew Grade's Associated Television without informing Lennon and McCartney that he was doing so. John, Paul and Ron DeKlein then spent some time attempting to gain a controlling interest in the company but their bid, part of a long and acrimonious fight, ultimately failed. Mainly due to Lew's financial muscle and the fact that The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) were knee-deep in the lengthy process of breaking-up.
By the time Ordeal was in production, Grade (whose ITC Entertainment co-produced UFO with Gerry Anderson's Century 21 Television) had effectively gained more-or-less complete control of Northern Songs. And, presumably, it was he that was behind the licencing of 'Get Back' to be used in this particular episode. It's nice when one has influential fiends in high places, is it not, dear blog reader?
And, speaking of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them), this blogger really enjoyed a piece of 'you're not gonna believe this, right?' reportage on the BBC News website several hours before That There Sir Paul McCartney (MBE)'s triumphant headlining of The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury on Saturday night. It was all about some seriously mental Macca fanatics staking their claim to front row spots from early morning. 'Festival-goers,' the BBC noted, 'gathered at the barriers ... with sandwiches and snacks to keep them going [from the several hours] before McCartney [appeared] on stage. "I've been training for it like a marathon," said Kate Appleby. In order to avoid giving up her spot, the twenty nine-year-old has been practicing ways to avoid toilet breaks. "Lots of pelvic floor exercises, lots of clenching ... It'll be worth it."' Debateable if you end up with a ruptured colon, Kate. One trusts, therefore, that Kate didn't piss in her own keks (or worse) the second that Macca and his band stormed into their opening song, 'Can't Buy Me Love' as was usually the case at the height of Be-Atlemania. Or, that if a puddle of wee did emerge, it was only when they got to the third song in the set, 'Letting Go', a tune perfectly suited to pissing yourself. Mind you, dear blog reader, Paul also subsequently played 'She Came In Through The Bathroom Window' so that was, possibly, the eighty year old former bassist with The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) and Wings (a popular beat combo of the 1970s, you might've heard of them) signalling to Kate and others like her that he shared their - agonising bladder - pain. There's probably a 'Carry That Weight' joke in there somewhere, if anyone cares to reach for it.
Or course, you just knew when stories emerged of fans waiting for up to ten hours to get a view of the nation's favourite Octogenarian rock and/or roll star that someone, somewhere was going to be jolly unlucky. So it was for Lisa Morris, from Bath, who reportedly collapsed after waiting for her hero behind the front barriers until gravity took over. When she realised that she had missed the vast majority of Paul's thirty eight-song two-and-three-quarter hour set, she claimed that she 'absolutely sobbed.' Again, a positive throw-back, that, to the sopping-cheeks, damp-knickers and sore-throats-from-all-that-bloody-screaming days of 1964. Don't worry, chuck, you can watch it on iPlayer for the next few weeks. 'Probably five, six songs in, that was it, game over,' she added. Bright side, at least you got to see him play 'Junior's Farm' for the first time in about five tours. And a splendid time was guaranteed for all. 'cept Lisa, obviously.
The biggest mystery of Glastonbury weekend, though, was why Primal Scream's set didn't include 'Kill All Hippies'? ... Okay, on reflection, maybe there was a reason.
Keith Telly Topping would like to thanks the four - yes, four - dear blog readers who contacted him after the last From The North bloggerisationisms update, to share their appreciation of this blogger's extended Department S appreciation piece. Which was jolly nice of you all (thank you Dave, Mark, Judith and Holly). At least two of whom suggested that this blogger should do a similar retrospective rewatch-and-assessment on other vintage TV shows; a few titles were even suggested, although one of them was for a series of which approximately ninety six episodes no longer exist in the archives and, if this blogger started a complete rewatch today, even going at a story-a-day, it'd still take him the best part of ten months to get to the end. And, it'd mean him watching The Creature From The Pit again and he's definitely doing that. However, the suggestions of The Prisoner (at seventeen episodes), Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) (twenty six) and The Champions (thirty) could be done in a weekend and all sound quite tempting, actually. Especially if it keeps raining. You might want to stay tuned for the next 'Keith Telly Topping relives his misspent youth' installment.
'Just wondering, meanwhile, if we'll be getting the old Telly Topping ruminations on Sherwood', this blogger's fine Facebook fiend David asked a few days ago. 'It's good,' this blogger replied. 'Do you want more?' David said that he did. 'Okay, it's very, very, very good,' was this blogger's considered opinion. David still wasn't satisfied. 'I expect two column inches in the next bloggerisations [sic]' was his response. Crumbs. Sherwood, in case you weren't aware, drew to a close on Tuesday, with one critic describing it as 'the best BBC drama of the year.' This blogger currently has it second, behind the final series of Peaky Blinders and, provisionally, hovering somewhere around the top ten of likely inclusions in 2022's From The North Best Of list along with the likes of The Man Who Fell To Earth, Pistol, The Ipcress File, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Essex Serpent. Though it's still only halfway through the year and we've still got the much-anticipated Inside Man to come, for instance. Anyway, back to Sherwood. The drama, starring Lesley Manville, David Morrissey, Robert Glenister, Clare Holman, Claire Rushbrook, Philip Jackson, Joanne Froggatt, Alun Armstrong, Lindsay Duncan and Stephen Tompkinson amongst literally dozens of From The North favourites, centres around the hunt for a killer tormenting a fractured Nottinghamshire community. It has had glowing reviews (albeit, with most of the reviewers vying with each other to see who could come up with the most groan-inducing Robin Hood puns) and the BBC announced on Wednesday that a second series has already been commissioned. The Torygraph's review of the finale suggested that the drama was 'authentic, devastating and perfectly cast.' Significantly, it wasn't written by That Awful Singh Woman. In fact, the paper's critic, Alex Diggins, wrote: '2022 has been a purple patch for grown-up, serious drama on the BBC. The Tourist, The Responder and This Is Going To Hurt were all excellent. But in the clarity of its storytelling and the authenticity of its atmosphere, Sherwood split the bullseye: the best BBC drama of the year so far and I'd hazard some time to come. No wonder it's just been recommissioned for a second series.' One cannot imagine That Awful, Sour-Faced Singh Woman being so enthused. Or articulate. Two grizzly murders and the toxic legacy of an industrial dispute that drove families apart lie at the heart of the drama, which was inspired by real-life events in writer James Graham's home town. It follows two police officers in a village still scarred by the divisions laid down during the miners' strike decades earlier. Diggins added that Nottinghamshire-born Graham's 'story of murder, scabs and old wounds has proved to be so much more than a simple crime drama.' The show, he said, contains 'ringing echoes' of the mythology of Robin Hood and, moreover, 'believable people, in a believable world, broken on the rack of history and their own mistakes.'
The Gruniad Morning Star seemed to agree, also offering as glowing review by That Awful Mangan Woman. Who, seemingly, got most of her bile out of her system with that ludicrously sneering (and punchable) review of The Midwich Cuckoos a few weeks ago, already ripped into tiny pieces, spat upon and given the metaphorical slapping it so richly deserved by this blog. That Awful Mangan Woman wrote that Sherwood's 'gloriously directed, superbly written ending was quietly devastating.' She said: 'The entire cast has been rightly and unanimously lauded. Sherwood has been stuffed with the unquestionable best of a generation of British acting talent in Manville, Morrissey, Lorraine Ashbourne (who gets all the work she deserves but not always the glory - despite never failing to convince absolutely every moment she's on screen) and those filling every other main role. They all had a fine script to work with and glorious direction that made it even more than the sum of its parts. Every arrow found its mark.' Reviewing the penultimate episode of the drama the previous evening, however, some waste-of-space louse at the Daily Scum Mail was less impressed. 'Sherwood has been a disappointment, with storylines as flat as the beer,' claimed that odious, hateful Christopher Stephens, quite wrongly. But then, this is the Daily Scum Mail we're talking about. If they told this blogger black was a darker shade than white, he'd still want a second opinion. 'The cast is outstanding, crammed with more top actors than a Harry Potter movie. But even the talents of Lorraine Ashbourne, Mark Addy, Pip Torrens, Adeel Akhtar, David Morrissey and Robert Glenister can't cover up the yawning illogicalities in the plot.' The loathsome Stevens's colleague, Sarah Vine, had previously described the show as 'utterly compelling.' Proving that, like a broken clock, even the Daily Scum Mail can be right twice a day. But, it usually isn't. As the BBC announced that filming for series two would commence next year, Graham said that he wrote the show as 'a warning' that 'when communities are divided, the pain endures. Our history shows how the forces of polarisation have been weaponised to achieve political ends,' he wrote in the Gruniad Morning Star. 'It was this, rather than any desire to create a traditional crime show, that drove me to write Sherwood.' Morrissey - giving probably his best performance since State Of Play (Jackson Lake notwithstanding) said it had been 'a wonderful ride.' And this blogger's view, since David wants to know? He thought it was very, very, very good. Satisfied, David?
Advertising breaks on UK television channels could get longer and more frequent as part of a review of broadcasting rules by the regulator Ofcom. A politically-appointed quango, elected by no one. The frequency and length of advertising will be 'reassessed' in light of 'evolving viewing habits' and the rise of streaming services, Ofcom claimed. One or two people believed them. The regulator pledged to 'listen to different views and examine what TV viewers say' before any changes. No one believed that. It previously said the frequency of adverts 'could' be 'seen as disruptive' to viewing. No shit? That's a bit like saying that if you step in a pile of dogshit, your shoes 'could' stink. The regulator's current rules state that, for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, the 'total amount of advertising in any one day must not exceed an average of seven minutes per hour of broadcasting.' The channels can run advertising breaks of up to eight minutes per hour during prime-time periods. Other commercial channels are allowed up to nine minutes of advertising per hour of broadcasting, plus an extra three minutes for teleshopping. Discussing the review, an Ofcom spokesman claimed the regulator needed 'to strike the right balance between protecting viewers' interests and sustaining our traditional broadcasters.' The review on advertising frequency and length was mentioned in an Ofcom report to the lack of culture secretary That Awful Dorries Woman on the PSB licences of the three terrestrial commercial channels. The report said: 'We are also looking at the rules that set the frequency and length of advertising on broadcast TV. These rules are complex, with limits in place for public service broadcasters that are stricter than the rules set for commercial broadcasters. We have had initial discussions with stakeholders and we expect to be able to outline our next steps later this summer.' ITV and Channel 5 are privately owned and funded entirely through advertising. Their public service broadcasting licences are due to expire in 2024 - but Ofcom advised That Awful Dorries Woman it believed there was a 'good case' to renew both licences. Subscription streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, which do not carry advertising for most subscribers, are set to be regulated by Ofcom for the first time in a move that had long been requested by traditional broadcasters. Previous Ofcom research found that many older audiences 'often prefer to record content as a series so that they can skip the ads' - while younger viewers also voiced 'frustrations' with the amount of adverts. In a statement, an Ofcom spokesman said: 'We're scoping a range of options, but before we form any plans we'll listen to different views and examine what TV viewers say. We need to strike the right balance between protecting viewers' interests and sustaining our traditional broadcasters, which includes helping them compete with American streaming platforms.'
The latest edition of Talking Pictures' The Cellar Club on Friday night included a very rare - but, equally welcome - TV showing of Pete Walker's astonishing, censor-baiting House Of Whipcord (1974) a movie which looms large in this blogger's legend. As Keith Telly Topping wrote in A Vault Of Horror (still available from those gorgeous, luscious, pouting folk at Telos Books for a very reasonable price): 'Often alleged to be one of the grottiest, nastiest films ever made, House Of Whipcord is, actually, a very intelligent, ambitious movie with some interesting things to say about corporal and capital punishment and with a very cynical view of right-wing moral outrage at The Permissive Society ... [It] features little nudity, hardly any blood and the film's reputation, as The Godfather of S&M movies, is vastly undeserved. What it is, despite all this, is a terrifyingly intense film that exposes the morally bankrupt nature of those for whom no punishment is ever considered to be harsh enough.' Personally, this blogger think it's Walker's masterpiece although Keith Telly Topping also has a real soft spot for both Die Screaming, Marianne and House Of Mortal Sin.
Kevin Lyons of the BFI website's article Ten Great Overlooked British Horror Films Of The 1970s - Because There's A World Beyond The Wicker Man doesn't include House Of Whipcord (although it is mentioned in the brief review of one of Walker's other highly confrontational movies, Frightmare. But, the article itself is well worth a read, dear blog readers; anyone who rates From The North favourites such as Death Line, The Creeping Flesh, From Beyond The Grave and José Larraz's Vampyres highly is okay in this blogger's book.
This blogger has to observe, dear blog reader, that there is starting to be something genuinely annoying about his constantly waking up geet early on a Monday morning due to chronic insomnia, getting the bus down to ALDI and then struggling back to The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House with a week's worth of necessary supplies. Just so that, a medical appointment the following day notwithstanding, he didn't have to go out again during the week. Especially as, half-way through the shopping, this blogger suddenly realised that he was absolutely bustin' for a Jimmy Riddle. That made the trip back on the bus just that bit quicker than it might have been under different circumstances. Though, despite enormous temptation, it didn't lead to several choruses of 'Stop the bus, I want a wee-wee.' Which was a blessing for all concerned, frankly. Plus there was the weather. That day was Muggy. Followed, somewhat inevitably, by Tuggy, then Weggy ... Come on, dear blog readers, Keith Telly Topping is working with limited material, here.
We come, then, with an appalling inevitability to the inexcusably regular part of From The North dedicated to this blogger's on-going medical-related doings. For those dear blog readers who haven't been following this on-going saga which seems to have been on-going longer than Status Quo's entire career, it goes something like this: This blogger spent weeks feeling wretched; had five days in hospital; was discharged; received B12 injections; then more injections; recovered his appetite; got a diagnosis; had a consultants meeting; continued to suffer from fatigue and insomnia; endured a second endoscopy; had another consultation; got toothache; had an extraction; which took ages to heal; had yet another consultation; spent a whole week where nothing remotely health-related occurred; was given further - really painful - injections; did another hospital visit for an echocardiogram and paid one further visit to the medical centre for yet another bit of blood extraction. As yer actual Keith Telly Topping's medical team continue to search, seemingly in vain, for the reasons behind this blogger's current incapacity.
This week, this blogger's bi-monthly meeting with his consultant, Doctor Sarah took place on Tuesday. The bad news is there's still absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what has been causing the fatigue and insomnia, the ankle oedema, the breathlessness and occasional dizziness, the malabsorption, the frequently feeling cold and all of the other lingering symptoms that this blogger has been suffering from - other than that they're all, directly or indirectly, related to the anaemia and/or, the B-12/Vitamin D/Folic Acid deficiencies(s). The good news, however, is that the recent echocardiogram was ace ('you're as strong as a horse' Doctor Sarah said in obvious surprise. 'Christ only knows how' an equally shocked - and stunned - Keith Telly Topping replied). Also, latest blood tests were all normal (except for the, already known about, Vitamin D deficiency and also a Zinc deficiency which was a new one on both of us but which Doctor Sarah said that she wasn't too worried about. This blogger then had a series of blood pressure tests with Nurse John; lying, standing, sitting and then standing again to see if any of those were the cause of the lightheadedness which this blogger sometimes gets first thing in the morning when slithering, reluctantly, out of his pit. Seemingly not - they were all well within acceptable levels (although Nurse John did note that this blogger's heart-rate was much lower when lying down than sitting or standing, although none of the levels were in any way out of the ordinary). Finally, they requested a wee-wee-in-a-bottle for testing. This blogger didn't particularly need to go but he managed to do his duty (using the time-honoured method of turning on the tap in the lavatory and thinking about rivers and lakes). The next appointment should be in about two months. Doctor Sarah said that she was, quote, 'delighted' with this blogger's progress thus far and that he should not get too stressed about the on-going fatigue - that can take months to clear up. She is, still, slightly concerned about the insomnia which is, obviously, at least in part connected to the fatigue and advised afternoon naps (which this blogger is doing anyway) and some light exercise if Keith Telly Topping feels up to it (to the shops and back once every couple of days was one of the suggestions). 
Nevertheless, for the rest of Tuesday and, indeed, all of the following day this blogger found himself absolutely exhausted; it appears that getting to and from the hospital took more out of this blogger than he had realised at the time. Mind you, the insomnia-interrupted night he previously spent didn't help.
That said, some things in this blogger's life are - and remain - really deserved.
Jos Buttler has been named as England cricket team's new white-ball captain. The superstar batsman-wicketkeeper replaces World Cup-winning former captain Eoin Morgan, who retired from international cricket this week after injury. Buttler was Morgan's vice-captain and has led England in nine one-day internationals and five Twenty20s when Morgan was unavailable. 'It is the greatest honour to captain your country - I can't wait to take this team forward,' he said. Buttler's first assignment as captain will come against India, with three T20s and three ODIs from 7 July. Series against South Africa, Pakistan and Australia follow before the T20 World Cup in Australia from October. Buttler will work alongside newly-appointed Australian head coach Matthew Mott, with the pair looking to build a side also capable of defending the fifty-over World Cup in India in October 2023. He added: 'It is a great honour to take over from Eoin and the place he has left English white-ball cricket in is exciting. I'm inspired for the challenges ahead. He has been an inspirational leader, and it has been fantastic to play under him. There are lots of things that I have learnt from him that I'll take into this role.' Big Rob Key, managing director of England men's cricket, said: 'Jos Buttler was the perfect choice to succeed Eoin Morgan as our white-ball captain and I had no hesitation in offering him the role. Jos has been part of our white-ball set-up for over a decade and was integral in the transformation of the way the team has played its attacking brand of cricket over the past seven years. I believe the extra responsibility will take his game to a new level and inspire those around him.' As stand-in captain, Buttler won six ODIs and three T20s. The right-hander is one of three England players, alongside Heather Knight and Dawid Malan, to have scored centuries in all three formats and has also hit England's three fastest ODI hundreds. He has played in one hundred and fifty one ODIs and scored four thousand one hundred and twenty runs, with ten centuries, while he has made over two thousand runs in eighty eight T20s. All-rounder Moeen Ali, who is a regular part of England's white-ball team, told Test Match Special: 'Jos is definitely the right guy. He will have this own way and style. I don't know what else he could bring but I do think he'll bring his own way in terms of innovation and he'll try take it to the next level, whatever that is.' Test captain Ben Stokes told BBC Sport that Buttler was the 'obvious choice', adding: 'He's got the same ethos and he'll carry on Morgs' legacy no doubt. I don't think you'll see any change in the way that we go out there and play.' Stokes also confirmed that he wants to play white-ball cricket this summer, saying he has 'missed playing' one-day cricket for England.
It doesn't seem nowt but a couple of weeks ago that the last socher-ball season ended. Nevertheless, some players are already back in pre-season training, including most of those from this blogger's beloved (and now, thankfully, sold) Magpies. It has, in fact, been but thirty nine days since the players last reported for duty - ending the 2021-22 season on a high by beating extremely relegated Burnley at Turf Moor. Wor Geet Canny Eddie Howe, quite remarkably in the end, helped to steer the club away from what - until around Christmas time - seemed a certain relegation as United finished the campaign eleventh in the Premiership on forty nine points. That was their highest top-flight total in eight years. Friday saw the majority of Newcastle's first team squad begin their pre-season preparations at Darsley Park. Dan Burn, Martin Dubravka, Paul Dummett, Federico Fernandez, Ryan Fraser, Mark Gillespie, Joelinton, Jamaal Lascelles, Sean Longstaff, Jacob Murphy, Matt Ritchie, Allan Saint-Maximin, Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Targett, Joe Willock and Callum Wilson were all spotted. Matty Longstaff and Kell Watts were also present, having ended last season on-loan in the Football League. Completing the line-up on day one were Jamal Lewis, Lucas De Bolle and a sprinkling of Under Twenty One squad members. Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimarães Rodriguez Moura, Miguel Almiron, Chris Wood and summer signings Nick Pope and Sven Botman were absent as they have been given some extra-time off after being on international duty last month. Steady Eddie's side host National League North champions Gatesheed in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the club's training centre next Saturday before jetting off to Austria for a week-long training camp. In Austria, Newcastle will face 1860 Munich and Mainz. Others confirmed friendlies for Th' Toon include Benfica, Atalanta and Athletic Bilbao - the latter two at St James' Park on 29 and 30 July. The Premier League season kicks off on 6 August with United at home to recently-promoted Nottingham Forest. 
Five British citizens were unlawfully killed when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in Eastern Ukraine, a coroner has concluded. A joint inquest into the deaths of five of the two hundred and ninety eight on board has been held in Leicester, where their bodies were repatriated to. The court heard evidence that a Buk missile was fired from Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists. It exploded in front of the cockpit of the aircraft, the inquest heard. Fragments of the missile then killed crew members in the cockpit and caused significant damage to the aircraft, causing it to break-up. The aircraft was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on 17 July 2014 when it was shot down. The inquest heard evidence from Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy, from the Counter Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan Police. He said that a criminal investigation taking place in The Hague had identified four individuals as possibly being responsible for the missile and they were being tried in their absence. 'MH17 departed from Amsterdam and it had been flying for about three hours when it lost contact with air traffic control,' he said, summarising an investigation by the Dutch Safety Board. Fragments of metal were found in the bodies of crew members when their remains were recovered, he added. He said that the missile system appeared to have been smuggled over the border to Ukraine from Russia on 16 and 17 July. As this blogger mentioning in From The North's reporting of this sickening outrage at the time, this blogger actually knew (albeit, only slightly) one of the victims, John Alder. Speaking at the inquest, Senior Coroner Professor Catherine Mason said: 'I am satisfied that MH17 was shot down by a Buk missile fired by pro-Russian separatists. Taking all of the evidence into account, an appropriate conclusion in relation to the deaths of Liam Sweeney, Richard Mayne, Glenn Thomas, John Alder and Ben Pocock is that they were unlawfully killed. I am truly sorry that we meet today as a result of such a tragic and shocking incident.'
And finally, dear blog reader the latest winner of the From The North Headline Of The Week award goes to the Yorkshire Live website for Huddersfield Cul-De-Sac Residents Furious As Maggot-Infested Overflowing Bins 'Not Emptied For Two Weeks'. Personally, this blogger blames whomsoever it was that put all the maggots in there in the first place.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

"What We Changed Was Innocence For Innocence. We Knew Not The Doctrine Of Ill-Doing, Nor Dreamed That Any Did"

Whilst most of the country has been spending a past few days, to paraphrase Oasis, out in the sun-she-ayn (something which, almost inevitably, some Middle Class hippy Communist lice at the Gruniad Morning Star found an angle to have a right good, hard whinge about). Or, gurning into their breakfast muesli about the rail strike (this blogger's view: Up The Workers), this blogger has barely left the safety, tranquillity and, steaming Turkish bath-atmosphere of The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Except for medical appointments and the purchase of some necessary supplies, of course. Both of which, as usual, left him utterly exhausted. Fatigued. Dog-tired. Pure-dead shagged-out. Knackered. Ready for a kip in his pit. Et cetera.
The facts are these, dear blog reader. Simply speaking, it's too damned hot in Britain at the moment. We're all stewing in our own juices. And, as usual in these sort of situations, the drums never cease.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, it is reported that numerous 'hippie types' have been spotted in the vicinity of the West Country (despite the rail strike).
But, anyway, Thursday saw the arrival of incoming preview discs at The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Which was nice. Thus, it's review time. Starting with Strange New Worlds: The Elysian Kingdom. 'What the Hell ...?' Pike uses the phrase 'a nice change of pace' in an early scene and that's, actually, a pretty accurate(ish) summation of this strange new episode. Overtly sentimental and extremely silly in places (not that either are, necessarily, a problem - Star Trek has often encompassed both, often simultaneously), replacing the standard technobabble with a fairy tale told by a child was, in fact, curiously effective. Plus, 'The Swamp Of Instant Death'! ('That's not a good swamp!'), mythical journeys and a sprinkling of heroic adventure. And, it's Christina Chong's finest forty minutes so far, by a country mile (her being out-acted by a small yappy-type dog notwithstanding).
The Man Who Fell To Earth: The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell. 'Our choices are, now, time sensitive.' This blogger is aware that he says this pretty much every week, dear blog reader, but once again TMWFTE was achingly, outrageously beautiful. All the way from its explosive opening (quite literally) to the final, torturously sad flickers of an episode touch by magnificence. An allegory, told in metaphysical terms, with Biblical allusions and much pondering on the - subjective - nature of consciousness. Plus the best dialogue on TV at the moment ('it's going to get a bit weird so, everybody, keep your shit together!') Action, beauty, horror and, most importantly, nuns with guns. Knock-out.
It's been over a month since Doctor Who fandom was, collectively, shocked - and stunned - by the revelation that national heartthrob David Tennant and Catherine Tate would be returning to their roles as The Doctor and Donna Noble for the BBC's popular, long-running family SF drama's sixtieth anniversary episode.
Ever since, fans with more time on their hands than is, truly, good for them have been trying to work out just how the pair might come back. Now returning showrunner Russell Davies has given them some new theories to mull over. Writing in this month's issue of Doctor Who Magazine, Big Rusty put forward a few potential explainers for how this happenstance could be possible. He said: 'A mysteriously forgotten excursion for the TARDIS in between Planet Of The Ood and The Sontaran Stratagem? Or maybe a multiverse thing, they're all the rage these days. Maybe this is The Doctor and Donna from Universe Five Five Seven, all set to collide with our own. 'Then again, maybe ... this return is so impossible that it's actually an intricate illusion created by an old enemy of The Doctor's. Or maybe an old enemy of Donna's. Nerys! Of course, I wouldn't give that away in the pages of DWM, would I? But then again. This magazine is the first place I ever revealed the name of Billie Piper's Rose (in issue 340). So read carefully. There are truths in here.'
Meanwhile, somewhere on location ...
A new report by Screen Scotland shows the TV and film industry contributed almost five hundred and sixty eight million knicker to Scotland's economy in 2019 and the Scottish government hopes it can double to one billion quid by the end of the decade. Almost as much as sales of Irn Bru and Porridge Oats contribute in other words. One imagines First Minister Wee Jimmy Krankie will be delighted. At the FirstStage Studios in Leith Docks the vast main space is now empty but until a week ago it was humming with activity as Anansi Boys, one of two major drama adaptations being made for Amazon Prime, was about to wrap. Douglas Mackinnon, who hails from Skye, is a director and showrunner for both Anansi Boys and Good Omens, both of which were made in Scotland. He said: 'We were ready to do the second season of Good Omens and a first season of Anansi Boys, both based on books by Neil Gaiman and then the pandemic happened. Everything shut down and then at the tail end of 2020, Amazon said we'd like you to do both. I told them the only way was if they were done alongside each other and suggested we do that in Scotland. There were lots of discussions, and of course it all came down to money and practicalities but the bottom line was we could make it in Scotland, and at the top level.' A report - published by Screen Scotland - focuses on 2019, before the pandemic and long before the FirstStage studio was in action, or indeed any of the recent productions. It found that five hundred and sixty eight million notes was spent in the industry that year thanks to various productions including Outlander series five, No Time To Die and series four of The Crown. It also included Our Ladies, directed by Michael Caton Jones, The Cry and Netflix's Eurovision film with Will Ferrell. Scottish lack of culture secretary Angus Robertson says the report shows the value of the industry is now three times larger than was previously thought to be the case. 'If the growth trend continues, it will grow from half-a-billion ... by the year 2030,' he said. 'This is tremendous news for the Scottish economy in general.' Mackinnon added: 'It certainly feels like it's booming and I'm pleased if the two productions I've been working with have helped that boom to happen. But it's a slightly annoying word because we know what happens after a boom is a bust. So I'm hoping it's not a boom but something we can keep going and that our productions contribute to that, but others come along behind them.'
Speaking of Neil Gaiman TV adaptations, dear blog reader, the release date of Netflix's version of From The North favourite The Sandman has been announced as 5 August. And, whilst Neil's legion of fans worldwide eagerly await to see whether the makers have managed to capture the spirit and beauty of the original comics or have screwed it up big style we, at least, have a trailer. To give us an early idea that this might, actually, be ... quite good.
The last From The North bloggerisationisms update, which included a brief mentionette of Rosemary Nicols in the 'ladies whom this blogger thought were pure-dead-fantastic when he was eight' section led, over the following few days, to yer actual Keith Telly Topping having his first almost-complete Department S rewatch marathon in 'kin years. Several 'kin years, in fact. And, astonishingly, the series actually stands up really well in 2022. Far better, in fact, than several of its - supposedly, 'better' - contemporary or near-contemporary ITC series. This blogger had quite forgotten what a properly fantastic (and, frequently, surprising) little show it was.
It had a sharp (and very-Modish) premise. The titular Department S was a, Paris-based, branch of Interpol concerned with the investigation of unsolved mysteries - a sort of provisional wing of Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World, if you like. As veteran scriptwriter and co-creator Dennis Spooner envisaged them, they were the people who would have investigated The Marie Celeste if she were found abandoned in the Thames in the 1960s. Each episode would start with a date and place caption, an indicator to the general level of realism that the show attempted to maintain and a set up for the cases that Sir Curtis Seretse (the marvellously dignified Gambian actor Dennis Alaba Peters) would assign to the team. This was the heyday of ITC, Lew Grade's production company. They had already chalked-up big hits (ih the Uk and elsewhere) with The Saint, Danger Man, The Baron, The Champions and Man In A Suitcase as well as most of the Gerry Anderson supermarionation series (all of which, to a greater or lesser degree, this blogger was/is a huge fan of). They had become experts at producing qUASI-international settings on a back-lot at Borehamwood. Department S was filmed between April 1968 and June 1969, back-to-back with another of ITC's most fondly-remembered series, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), also created by Spooner. There was a kind of repertory company of actors, directors and writers who featured in most of these series AND that gave an ITC flavour to whatever was being produced. (Contrary to common belief, The Avengers wasn't an ITC series, it was made to ABC Television, although it was filmed at the same studios and shared many of the same writers, directors and actors with the ITC dramas.) Forever trying to crack the American market, there was usually a transatlantic air to most of these works. On two grounds, then, Department S was a different kettle of fish to the majority of its contemporaries. It certainly wasn't bland, the style of the mysteries being deliberately outrageous. Secondly, it might have 'officially' starred a straightforward American character, Stewart Sullivan (played by Joel Fabiani), but he (and, indeed, everyone else) was continually upstaged by someone very British. Jason King (played by the late, great Peter Wyngarde) was very much a product of the times; a slightly too-old Carnaby Street playboy who was - in the style of the day - 'a man of independent financial means' and was, basically, part of the Department because he enjoyed it and the opportunities that it gave him to meet lots of beautiful women and solve complex puzzles. In the episode A Fish Out Of Water, it was revealed that Jason is a widower whose wife, Marion (a film actress), had been killed in a plane crash. He wore incredible facial hair ('Get your 'air cut!' a workman shouts after him in The Trojan Tanker) and some of the most outrageous shirts on television. He was a crime writer, whose successful Mark Caine novels gave him a continual champagne fund and the ability to look at any presented mystery with an author's eye. No wonder the Department S writers gave him all the best lines. Jason once kept a bottle of champagne from Stewart, saying: 'I would offer you a glass, but it's bad for you in small doses!'
The third member of the team was Annabelle Hurst (the talented, previously-mentioned Rosemary Nicols - an actress, singer and author), who formed the other half of a rather Avengers-ish double act with Jason, both quipping in their frilled shirts while Sullivan slugged it out with that week's guest villains in his mohair suit. 'Annabelle, there are times when I ... quite like you!' Jason tells her, not in the least bit patronisingly, in A Small War Of Nerves, an episode featuring a marvellously twitchy guest performance by Anthony Hopkins.
The series ran for twenty eight episodes; some of them really very good indeed (The Man Who Got A New Face with its terrifying pre-title sequence, The Shift That Never Was, The Bones Of Byrom Blain, One Of Our Aircraft Is Empty, A Ticket To Nowhere, The Man From X, The Ghost Of Mary Burnham among others). There's even an episode, Spencer Bodily Is Sixty Years Old, in which Jason and Stewart as so disgusted by the implications of the creation of a drug that stops the aging process that they, effectively, defy Sir Curtis and walk off the case. Wyngarde's performance as King was described at the time as being 'in the manner of a cat walking on tiptoe, with an air of self-satisfaction.' By 1971 it was reported that 'more babies [had been] christened Jason during the last twelve months than ever before' and, after the series finished, the character was spun-off into his own series - Jason King - by the same production team (also very good and with Wyngarde in spectacularly fine form).
Department S had pretty much everything you'd expect from an ITC series like cool cars (notably Jason's stylish red Bentley Continental and Annabelle driving both a tasty E-Type Jag and a Lotus Elan). It also had much amusing dialogue ('Stealing? It's a sure sign of frustration in a woman!' Or, when Jason tells Annabelle he's spent all day trying to escape from the room he's been locked in: 'How did you manage it?' 'If you're prepared to wait, read the book!'), interesting guest stars and pan-continental settings (even if almost all of it was filmed within a ten mile radius of Elstree). If you've never caught it previously, dear blog reader (or, you have, but have only vague and distant memories of it), the complete series DVD is well-worth a visit.
Mentioning this blogger's Department S marathon malarkey on Facebook on Monday, somewhat inevitably, led to several references by dear Facebook fiends to the 1980s band of the same name. Although, given that they only released about three singles during their heyday (the magnificent 'Is Vic There?', the, if anything even better 'Going Left Right' and ... the other one) this blogger doesn't reckon that a 'the late Vaughn Toulouse-and-His-Chums marathon' would've lasted half-an-hour, let alone an entire weekend. This blogger always liked Department S, let it be noted. He saw them supporting The Jam twice on The Gift Tour and they were a very tight unit indeed. Though, they could've done with at least one member featuring Peter Wyngrade-style facial hair. That would've gone down well on Top Of The Pops in 1981.
Now, moving on swiftly to a question for which this blogger, sadly, has no answer, dear blog readers. How on Earth did yer actual Keith Telly Topping manage to tear his very self away from the previously mentioned all-weekend Department S marathon and Monday morning's UFO episode on The Horror Channel (The Square Triangle, a tasty, morally ambiguous murder mystery with good old Patrick Mower acting his little cotton socks off)?
Furthermore, his having done so, a further question rears its ugly head. How, did he then manage to make it down to ALDI and then struggle all the way back to The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House (on the bus) lumping this lot whilst feeling aal grotty and discombobulated? It's something that, perhaps, only minds with a far greater tolerance for the absurd and the illogical can determine. Where are you, Mister Einstein, when Keith Telly Topping needs you the mostest, baby?
And then, to top it all, Keith Telly Topping arrived home, laden with his - necessary - supplies, only to discover that he'd left the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House TV on whilst he was out and was confronted with the horrific sight of possibly the worst Space: 1999 episode of the lot, Full Circle (the one with the cavemen). After that, he really needed a lie down to recover.
Speaking of watching UFO episodes, dear blog reader, Wednesday's episode of The Horror Channel's welcome breakfast-time re-run was the splendidly bonkers The Psychobombs with lovely Vladek Sheybal going so far over the top he was down the other side. This blogger's thanks, incidentally, go to his old mucka Nick - who specialises in exactly this sort of research - for digging out Vladek's Naturalisation Certificate from The National Archives. Proving that, when he played Doctor so-called 'Jackson' in UFO, he'd already been a naturalised British citizen for four years. Though, this blogger was somewhat surprised to discover a Pole with a German middle name (Rudolf). No wonder he wanted to leave.
Immediately after that had finished, in urgent need of getting to the bank to pay in some money, this blogger was forced once again to leave The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House and go out into the muggy, quasi-tropical heat. He caught the bus into Th' Toon, did what was necessary and took this rather lovely photo of Gallowgate's The Chinese Gate (with The Cathedral Of Dreams behind) as this blogger was about to be homeward bound.
The downside of all this was, on the way back, this blogger was subject to one of the worst curses of modern life, finding his very self stuck next to The Nutter On The Bus. Or, in this particular case, The Woman With A Really Loud And Shrill Voice Who, Seemingly, Believed That If She Shut Her Gob For One Second, Her Brain Would Stop Working And Wanted To Share Her Life Story With Everyone Else. God, it was annoying.
Thankfully, it was only a short journey. Any more than ten minutes of that and this blogger would've been gnawing his own foot off to stay sane (or, as close as Keith Telly Topping can get to sanity these days). Still, there was one, minor and really deserved compensation ...
Friday's UFO episode, incidentally, was the reliably shit-weird Mindbender. Just, frankly, what any viewer needs at 8am on a sticky, red-hot and humid morning, an episode about hallucinatory alien malarkey and very bad trips. And Mexicans.
Plus, of course, The Big White Hand. One has to love The Big White Hand, dear blog reader. It's The Law.
For Us Dinner at The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House on Tuesday evening, it was only bleedin' pork and prawn garlic curry with mushrooms, spring onions and black pepper, wasn't it? And basmati rice, obviously. Plus, yet another outing for Walter The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House wok. And, lo, there was much rejoicing in The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House as this was, also, really deserved.
We come, now, to the inexcusably regular part of From The North dedicated to this blogger's on-going medical shenanigans. For those dear blog readers who haven't been following this on-going saga (where've you been?) which seems to have been on-going longer than The Hundred Years War: This blogger spent some weeks feeling wretched; had five days in hospital; was discharged; received B12 injections; then more injections; recovered his appetite; got a diagnosis; had a consultants meeting; continued to suffer from fatigue and insomnia; endured a second endoscopy; had another consultation; got toothache; had an extraction; which took ages to heal; had yet another consultation; spent a whole week where nothing remotely health-related occurred; was given further - really painful - injections and did another hospital visit for an echocardiogram. Tragically, the latter didn't sound like this. Which is, trust me dear blog reader, as much of a disappointment to this blogger as it, no doubt, is to you.
This time around, there's been one further visit to the local medical centre for yet another bit of blood extraction as yer actual Keith Telly Topping's medical team continue to search, seemingly in vain, for the reasons behind this blogger's current incapacity. This blogger is clearly, dear blog reader, a case unique to medical science.
Thursday saw two by-erections taking place and two effin' 'uge defeats for the government. You might've heard about them; there was Labout taking back Wakefield which they had lost at the last erection and the Lib Dems achieving a stunning victory Tiverton & Honiton a, traditionally, safe-as-the-Bank-of-England Tory seat. Both of which leaves Bashing Boris - already, effectively a dead man walking - clinging onto his position of power by his fingernails as many Tory MPs speculate on whether Bashing Boris is an erection liability or not. All of which, of course, was extremely funny to behold.
When asked, by the BBC, about his limp erection performance, Bashing Boris was quoted as saying that the two by-erection results were 'not brilliant.' Jesus, what a once-in-a-generation mind that clown has, dear blog reader. Mind you, he is correct in so much as, on a scale of one-to-ten, with one being 'totally brilliant' and ten being 'not even slightly brilliant or anything even remotely like it,' this was, what a twenty? More like a fifty. Bashing Boris also claimed that 'I will not undergo psychological transformation after poll defeat.' Which, to be fair, is probably a blessing for all concerned. God only knows what he'd transform into next.
This blogger's beloved and now, thankfully, sold Newcastle United have signed England goalkeeper Nick Pope from extremely relegated Burnley for an undisclosed fee. The thirty-year-old moves to St James' Park on a four-year contract after spending six seasons at Turf Moor. Magpies boss Wor Geet Canny Eddie Howe called Pope 'an exceptional Premier League and international-level goalkeeper. I'm very pleased to be adding strong competition to a very important position,' Steady Eddie added. Pope joined Burnley in 2016 when the club was newly promoted to the top flight and made one hundred and fifty five appearances, including playing thirty six times last season. He played an integral part in helping the club qualify for the Europa League during the 2017-18 campaign when The Clarets finished seventh. Pope's England debut came in 2018 as a substitute against Costa Rica in a friendly. Then in March 2021 he became the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in his first six appearances for England following a two-nil win over Albania. On his move to Newcastle, Pope said: 'Now I'm here, I can't wait to get started. The deal has taken a couple of weeks to come to fruition, but it got over the line really quickly and I'm delighted to be here and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into it.' Pope is Howe's second summer deal after The Magpies completed the signing of Aston Villains left-back Matt Targett for fifteen million smackers on a four-year contract after he'd spent the second-half of last season on loan at United. Newcastle open their Premier League campaign against newly promoted Nottingham Forest on 6 August.
The Magpies have also reportedly agreed a deal with Lille for the Netherlands Under-Twenty One defender Sven Botman. Wor Geet Canny Eddie Howe's side tried to sign the twenty two-year-old in January and faced stiff competition from AC Milan. Landing the centre-back for a fee believed to in the region of thirty million knicker means that Howe has recruited right across his defence since taking charge of United last November. Botman is expected on Tyneside next week for his medical, with agreement on personal terms said to be 'close to being finalised' according to media reports.
Five major planets in the solar system are currently, as Shriekback once said, all lined up in a row for a rare planetary conjunction visible with and, to quote another popular beat combo, The Whom, looking fine to the naked eye. In a clear sky, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can all be seen shining before dawn. It is a special opportunity to see Mercury, which is usually obscured from view by The Sun's bright light. The conjunction was brightest on Friday morning but will remain visible until Monday from most parts of the world. The last time this conjunction occurred was 2004 and it won't be seen again until 2040. The planets appear 'like a string of pearls spread out from close to the horizon,' explained space scientist, chief stargazer at the Society for Popular Astronomy and regular contributor to The Sky At Night Professor Lucie Green. It is also a special event because the planets appear in the order they are positioned from The Sun. That isn't always the case for planetary conjunctions because of our perspective on Earth looking into the solar system, Professor Green says. On Friday a crescent Moon also joined the line-up, appearing between Venus and Mars. Both of whom are, according to some Octogenarian who's headlining Glastonbury this weekend, 'all right, tonight.' Which is nice to know. The Northern hemisphere, where this blogger lives (you might've noticed), can get the best views between forty five and ninety minutes before sunrise. Looking Eastwards and very close to the horizon, ideally from a high spot like a hill. Large buildings or trees will obscure the view. As will, as another popular beat combo, The Pink Floyd once noted, clouds.
You, dear blog reader, will need to be oot of yer stinkin' pits early however, because as soon as The Sun comes up (the opposite of what Level 42 talked about. But, they didn't want to go to war, do you follow them? Which was, obviously, to their credit) it will wash out the sky, obscuring the planets. But they can be seen with the naked eye - Professor Green advises sky-gazers not to use equipment like binoculars or telescopes because of the risk of looking directly into The Sun. Can being, you know, blinded. Start by looking for the planet furthest away, which will be Saturn. Then count back through the planets until you find Venus, which is usually very bright. The final planet in the line-up should then be Mercury. Professor Green says it took her 'many years' to see Mercury because it's a hard planet to spot. 'It is very satisfying if you can see this faint twinkling planet,' she says. Observers in the tropics and the Southern hemisphere should get better views because the planets will rise higher in the pre-dawn sky, but an early start will still be needed.
For many, after-work drinks are a common way of relaxing after a busy week. But one worker in Japan could be nursing a protracted hangover after he lost a USB memory stick following a night out with colleagues. It contained the personal details of nearly half-a-million people. One imagines the chap involved felt a right pillock when he discovered he'd lost it and, indeed, needed a swift change of underwear. The unnamed man placed the memory stick in his bag before an evening's drinking in the city of Amagasaki, North of Osaka. He spent several hours out of the lash in a local restaurant before eventually passing out on the the street, local media reported. When he eventually came around, he realised that his bag - and the memory stick - were missing. The Japanese broadcaster NHK reports that the man, said to be in his forties and therefore, in theory, old enough to know better, works for a company tasked with providing benefits to tax-exempt households. He had transferred the personal information of the entire city's residents onto the drive on Tuesday evening before meeting colleagues for a night on the town. City officials said that the memory stick included the names, birth dates and addresses of all the city's residents. It also included more sensitive information, including tax details, bank account numbers and information on families receiving social security. Luckily for the man, city officials said the data contained on the drive is encrypted and locked with a password. Although if it's 'password' as many passwords are, then it might not be quite as safe as they seem to believe it is. They added that there has been 'no sign' that anyone has attempted to access the information. 'So far.' Because, to be honest, that sounds like a challenge. But the embarrassing incident prompted an apology from officials, with the city's mayor and other leaders bowing in shame and ignominy to residents. 'We deeply regret that we have profoundly harmed the public's trust in the administration of the city,' an Amagasaki city official told a press conference.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised after research showed the Church of England's investment fund has links to the slave trade. Which was big of him. The investigation, initiated by The Church Commissioners, a charity managing the Church's investment portfolio (and not, as their chosen title may suggest, the latest version of The Spanish Inquisition), revealed that for more than one hundred years the fund invested large sums of money in a company responsible for transporting slaves. This, no doubt, shocked - and stunned - the CoE because, as we all know, 'no one expects The Church Commissioners' (their chief weapon is, after all, surprise).
The fund, known in the Eighteenth Century as Queen Anne's Bounty, has now developed into a ten billion knicker investment trust. The Most Reverend Justin Welby claimed that he was 'deeply sorry for the links.' One or two people even believed him. However, he did go on to suggests that, basically, the devil made them do it.
Queen Anne's Bounty was formed in 1704 to 'help support poor clergy.' By getting involved in slavery. Which, just as a side bar, the Bible has absolutely no problem with - see, for example, Leviticus 25:44-46. Or with sexual and conjugal slavery - see, for example, Genesis 25:1, 30:4 and 31:17. Apologists for this outrage claim that slavery 'was a common practice in antiquity' and that, anyway, since the Bible is alleged to be 'God's word' and God is, according to Christian theology, infallible, then q.e.d what's the problem, pal? An examination of Queen Anne's Bounty accounts from 1739 showed two hundred and four thousand smackers (estimated to be worth over four hundred and forty million notes today) had been invested in the South Sea Company who had an exclusive contract to transport slaves from Africa to Spanish colonies in South America for more than thirty years from the 1710s. It shipped tens of thousands of slaves, with the research suggesting that an estimated fifteen per cent of them died en route.
Church investments in the South Sea Company continued well into the Nineteenth Century. Because, of course, if there was one thing the pious and repressed Victorians revered more than abasing themselves in The Sight Of The Lord, it was profit. And then Tories wonder why anyone with a conscience hates them and everything they stand for. The Bish said: 'This abominable trade took men, women and children created in God's image and stripped them of their dignity and freedom. The fact that some within the Church actively supported and profited from it is a source of shame. It is only by facing this painful reality that we can take steps towards genuine healing and reconciliation - the path that Jesus Christ calls us to walk.' When asked if he agreed with these sentiments, Christ said: 'Nowt to do with me, mate, I was in Heaven at the time.'
The Church of England has, in the past, celebrated its role in helping bring about an end to slavery in Britain, citing the role played by Anglican Evangelical, William Wilberforce. On the other hand, in recent years the Church has apologised for dozens of its clergymen having been revealed to have owned slaves. It has said sorry because its missionary organisation, The Society For The Propagation Of The Gospel, owned a plantation in Barbados, branding its slaves across the chest with the word SOCIETY. Now, by its own research, it has acknowledged that for decades its investment fund poured almost all its money - aside from what it used to buy land - into a company that had a monopoly on transporting slaves to South America. With more than half of the worldwide Anglican communion now based in Africa, these admissions will be made all the more uncomfortable.
The research also found that the fund received 'numerous' contributions from individuals linked to, or who profited from, transatlantic slavery and the plantation economy. The Bish added: 'I pray for those affected by this news and hope that we may work together to discern a new way forward.'
Convicted naughty sex criminal Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers are fighting to keep several accusers from providing victim impact statements at her sentencing for sex trafficking on Tuesday. The British socialite and sex offender's legal team argued in court filings on Friday that four accusers' ages meant that they were not 'statutory crime victims' who would have the right to speak at sentencing. In making their arguments, Maxwell's legal team publicly included three impact statements, which were submitted to Judge Alison Nathan in advance of sentencing; this appears to be an unusual move, as prosecutors typically file these remarks. This, seemingly unusual, move also means that Maxwell's lawyers - not the victims and not those representing them - made the decision about when the victims' words would be public. Maxwell's team said that they were provided with statements from Annie Farmer, 'Kate', Virginia Giuffre, Maria Farmer, Sarah Ransome, Teresa Helm and Juliette Bryant. Annie Farmer and 'Kate', who both testified at trial, were victims in the indictment against Maxwell; Giuffre was a minor during her interactions with her and Jeffrey Epstein. The defence has taken issue with Maria Farmer, Ransome, Helm and Byrant providing statements, arguing that Maxwell was not charged and convicted based upon their allegations. They contend that Maria Farmer, Ransome and Helm were adults during their alleged encounters with Maxwell - and that Bryant's then age 'remains unknown' - further undermining their legal right to speak at sentencing. 'Allegations alone do not serve to automatically qualify the individuals as statutory victims under the CVRA,' Maxwell's team wrote, referring to the Crime Victims Rights Act, later arguing, 'Neither the superseding indictment nor the court's jury instructions support a position that anyone who was not a minor is a "victim" of the counts of conviction. The involvement of a minor is an essential element of the federal offense conduct,' they added. 'None of these individuals testified at trial and their credibility remains unexamined. Regarding the charges in this case, they do not qualify as victims under the CVRA.' Maxwell was extremely convicted on 29 December of sex trafficking and related charges in her Manhattan federal court case for procuring girls, some as young as fourteen, for Epstein to abuse. She faces up to fifty five years' in The Joint when Nathan hands down her punishment. Epstein, the late financier and convicted sex offender, was arrested in July 2019 for sex trafficking; he killed himself in jail about one month later. Allegedly. Maxwell was arrested a year after his arrest. The victim statements submitted to Nathan that were made public describe the harrowing emotional impact of the abuse. Annie Farmer, who testified that Maxwell gave her a nude massage at Epstein's New Mexico ranch when she was sixteen, said: 'This toxic combination of being sexually exposed and exploited, feeling confused and naïve, blaming myself all resulted in significant shame. That sickening feeling that makes you want to disappear. Once arrested, Maxwell faced another choice. She could admit her participation in this scheme, acknowledge the harm caused or even provide information that could have helped hold others accountable,' Farmer wrote. 'Instead, she again chose to lie about her behavior, causing additional harm to all of those she victimised.' 'Kate', who testified that Maxwell lured her into sexual encounters with Epstein at age seventeen, said: 'The many acts that were perpetrated on me by Epstein, including [redacted] sexual assault, were never consensual and would have never occurred, had it not been for the cunning and premeditated role Ghislaine Maxwell played. The consequences of what Ghislaine Maxwell did have been far reaching for me. I have struggled with and eventually triumphed over, substance use disorder,' she wrote. 'I have suffered panic attacks and night terrors, with which I still struggle. I have suffered low self-esteem, loss of career opportunities.' Giuffre did not testify, but trial evidence supported that she was a minor when Maxwell and Epstein's abuse occurred. 'Together, you damaged me physically, mentally, sexually, and emotionally,' said Giuffre, who as sixteen when Maxwell brought her into Epstein's orbit. 'Together, you did unthinkable things that still have a corrosive impact on me to this day. I want to be clear about one thing: without question, Jeffrey Epstein was a terrible pedophile. But I never would have met Jeffrey Epstein if not for you,' she said. 'For me and for so many others, you opened the door to Hell. And then, Ghislaine, like a wolf in sheep's clothing, you used your femininity to betray us and you led us all through it.' In their filing, Maxwell's team also included blacked-out versions of statements from those whom they allege are not victims and argued that they should remain secret. 'Their victim impact statements are unduly prejudicial, contain allegations not previously before the court which serve to inflame the emotions of the court and public. Their airing during sentencing or any consideration by the court in imposing sentence, would violate Ms Maxwell's due process rights,' they added. 'We object to the publication of the impact statement of the individuals.' Convicted sex offender Maxwell maintains her innocence. Though, to paraphrase the late Mandy Rice Davies, 'well, she would, wouldn't she?'
We have a real bumper crop of nominees for the From The North Headline Of The Week award, dear blog reader. Starting with BBC News who, seemingly, believe that the number one question about this week's by-erection(s) that Britons have is ...
One imagines, they needed every single one of their 'search specialists' to answer that and may, indeed, have needed to called in reinforcements from Sky News. Next, another gem from, the BBC's by-erection coverage.
A bit over-the-top, frankly, given what Hasbro always used to tell us about Weebles®™. Next, this twenty four carat classic from the Daily Lies Of Scotland.
And, if one of the 'stranger things' we allegedly didn't know about Kate Bush is that she reads the Daily Lies, this blogger intends to resign from the human race forthwith. Moving, quickly, onto Cheshire-Live and their staggeringly important scoop, Chester MP Warns Floating Barbecue Boats On River Dee Could Cause 'Mayhem'. Fascinating word 'could'. In politics and, indeed, in life in general.
The Hull Daily Mail, like its Fleet Street namesake the Daily Scum Mail, appears to have something of a fetish concerning crowbarring house prices into its headlines. Take, Women Fear Thirty Foot 'Smelly' Pole Will Affect Value Of Three Hundred & Twenty Five Thousand Pound Homes. I say, dear blog reader, that's a very uncharitable way to refer to a, presumably, hard-working and tax-paying Central European migrant worker.
The Irish Examiner's Cork Man, Eighty One, Chains Himself To Water Pump In Macroom In Protest Against Council leaves many, many unanswered questions.
When it comes to Headline(s) Of The Week, one can always depend on the good old, reliable, not-a-real-paper Metro. With its, admittedly, decent crossword but it's staggeringly nothing stories. Like McDonald's Burger With 'Only Ketamine' Label Delivered To Hungover Student. And then, in the article, they helpfully explain to their readers, whom they clearly believe are all as thick as pig's shite and twice as nasty, that ketamine is a 'Class A drug was spelt incorrectly without the "e"'. Listen Metro, most of your regular readers are likely on ketamine, it's the only way they can consume your daily horseshit without passing out.
The Ayr Advertiser, meanwhile, gave its readers Ayr Sheriff Court: Big Bumblebee Attacks Procurator Fiscal. Which occurred in the same week that Netflix released Man Versus Bee. What are the chances? This blogger believes it's the use of the word 'big' in this headline that makes it art. Because, as any fule know, 'small' bumblebees, well, they're as soft as shit.
And, finally, Derbyshire-Live need a spot of praise of the classy investigative journalism involved in Hermes Courier Takes Pic Of Dog 'Accepting' Parcel As Proof Of Delivery. This, dear blog reader, constitutes 'news'. Well, in Derbyshire, anyway.