Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dark Side Of The Meringue

We're down to the final four on MasterChef, dear blog reader, you might have noticed. 'Flaky, Filo, Shortcrust and Puff,' according to the BBC continuity announcer. At least, I think she was talking about the chefs. As India Fisher wobbled on about the coming tasks being, you know, rock-hard, Jackie was heard to say 'I've never been this good at something before.' And, you know what? I can actually believe that, dear blog reader. Anyway, Michel Roux's lovely old dad, 'the undisputed Godfather of pastry,' was in charge of the first round. Anybody expecting him to come on like Marlon Brando and say 'you show me no respect,' was to be disappointed as, instead, he gave the four survivors a damned good lesson in creating croquembouche, a pièce montée often served at French weddings. It's, basically, a cone of profiteroles (choux filled with pastry cream), bound with caramel, and decorated with threads of caramel and sugared almonds. 'Up till now, these four cooks haven't shown a real flair for pastry,' said India. Crazy Tim was, he said, 'going by the book' on this one. Jackie celebrated the fact that the lack of knives meant she was in little danger of slicing her hand off this time around. Tom said that he didn't want to get shouted at (by lovely old Michel Roux Sr? Surely some mistake?!) And Riviera Sara claimed that since Italians aren't big of deserts, learning how to make some good ones would make her 'a whole person.' Seems like a bit of bold claim but, whatever. Tim started talking about works of art and I thought, for a second he was going to go into that John Cleese speech from the Doctor Who episode City of Death when he claimed that 'the art lies in the fact that it's there.' It all went surprisingly well for all four contestants. Well, maybe not so much Sara whose cone came out a bit wonky. With brilliantly quick thinking she claimed that it has been inspired by the leaning tower of Pisa. God, I hope this lass wins, she's fantastic! The chefs walking with their wobbly cones on a small plate towards Torode, Wallace and Roux may have fatally reminded some viewers of one of It's a Knockout's more outrageous conceits. 'We know that you can do pastry,' Gregg told Sara at the end of the exercise. 'But, we're not sure you can build.' Next up the quartet were sent to Bedford to cook their own deserts at Woburn Abbey for the Duke of Earl and his missus (and some other woman). Or something. 'If you're thinking about making an apple pie, turn away now,' announced Gregg. Because, as we all know, The Nobs don't eat apple pie. That's for common people who keep coal in the bath and not for the likes of Lord Snooty and his gang. Can we have a revolution in the country some day soon please? Preferably a really nasty one like the French had? Anyway, our intrepid Fantastic Four were soon underway cooking their delights for the nobility. 'You've got ten minutes to serve the duke and duchess ... and I don't mean Gregg and me,' said Tordoe cracking his first joke of the episode. Don't give up the day job, John. Tom made a liquorice poached pear and some praline coated mint and honey ice cream. Sarah served up a trio of panna cotta, passion fruit mousse and lemon and rosemary sorbet. Tim's latest madcap idea was a deconstruction of a traditional American school lunch box, with a peanut butter and jelly cake sandwich, an apple sorbet and a chocolate milk reduction containing coconut milk, stout, coffee and vanilla. The latter of which almost made Baron Hardup and his ladies spew rich brown phlegm deep into the night. Top marks there, Timbo. Jackie, meanwhile, was terrifying everyone as she'd been let loose with a really big knife again. Her dishes included a quince filo custard and a coconut sorbet with blueberry sauce. His Lordship Muck thought her plate was messy and, for a moment, we wondered if he'd go down the 'off with her head' route. Fortunately, perhaps, he didn't. Although it would, undeniably, have been memorable telly. John and Gregg then got quite paternalistic. 'I'm proud of 'em' said Gregg, like a chap whose just seen their child take their first bike ride without stabilisers. And so, to the final challenge for the episode. It was off to RAF Northolt where an afternoon tea was to be served to sixteen World War II veterans, mostly from bomber command. Gregg gave an impassioned little speech about heroism as 'Land of Hope and Glory' played in the background. I wondered, at that point, if anybody had given any consideration to the fact that Italy was, you know, on the other side during that conflict and it was perfectly possible that Sara's grandad might have been on an ack-ack gun trying to shoot these chap down at Monte Cassino? Probably not. (Presumably if ever MasterChef Australia does something along similar lines it'll be for a bunch of Viet'nam veterans and they'll all be crouching under the table listening to Jimi Hendrix because 'Charlie's out on the wire!') Each of the final four were given the task of creating their own mini afternoon tea. When timing issues threatened to delay service, Gregg merely joshed 'good job the RAF weren't late.' Though, I think a few residents of Dresden in 1945 might've had one or two issues with that statement. Luckily, all that's a long way behind us now. Sara's dishes included mini-summer berry tarts, coffee and walnut cake and sable biscuits. Jackie who, at one point, described both herself and her food as 'a big bloody mess' went for a Northern theme, cooking Eccles cakes, Bakewell tarts, Yorkshire scones and Grasmere gingerbread creams. And managed to get through the gig without stabbing herself once. Although Gregg did note that her plate of nosh looking 'a little bit brown.' Err ... and, a plate of curry looks a little bit yellow, what's your point, mate? Tom's fancies included pink macaroons, cherry clafoutis, chocolates pies and fairy cakes. Tim, who claimed he was going to be 'not crazy at all,' still managed to produce a bunch of things that had tea as one of their ingredients. H-okay. Jasmine and orange tart, green tea oatmeal biscuits Masala chai jaffa cakes and spongecake. With no elimination this time all four could breath a sigh of relief as they got their round of applause from the veterans and prepared to head back to MasterChef HQ. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, they had, seemingly, made a second batch for John and Gregg (most of which Mr Wallace was, apparently, in the process of scoffing like there was no tomorrow!)

The official BBC Doctor Who website has revealed the Cybermen are to return in the new series, which has been confirmed in the new Radio Times as the mid-series finale A Good Man Goes To War. The Cybermen have been a staple of the series since their first appearance in William Hartnell's last story, The Tenth Planet, in 1966. Created by Dr Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, the Cybermen were a regular in the series during the tenure of Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor appearing in some of his most highly-regarded stories like The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion. Appearances followed opposite Tom Baker in 1975, the Peter Davison in 1982 and 1983, Colin Baker in 1985 and Sylvester McCoy in 1988. A new race of Cybermen were introduced in David Tennant's 2006 series story Rise of the Cybermen, with the cyborgs making regular appearances ever since. Meanwhile, the Radio Times have confirmed the first episode of the news series of Doctor Who will be broadcast on Saturday 23 April at 6:00pm. The time slot is one of the earliest the series has received since it returned in 2005. Last year only the episode The Vampires from Venice was shown so early with most episodes starting around 6.30pm. The programme will be preceded on BBC1 by the fantastically dreadful sounding game show Don't Scare The Hare and followed by the truly dreadful talent contest So You Think You Can Dance, in which contestants strut around like somebody who's just shat in their own pants, hoping to impress the judges Nasty Nigel Lythgoe, well known faceache, horrorshow and drag Arlene Phillips, 'what does she actually do to justify her existence' Louise Redknapp and Sisco Gomez. It is the fifth episode in the current series, which last week achieved a meagre, risible audience of just 3.4 million overnight viewers in its 6.30 timeslot. ITV will be showing March of the Dinosaurs, a feature-length CGI adventure from the makers of Walking with Dinosaurs, telling the story of an epic migration undertaken by a herd of dinosaurs in the high arctic seventy million years ago, narrated by Stephen Fry. BBC2 has the 1964 Beatles film, A Hard Day's Night, fab gear, Channel Four is showing an episode of Come Dine with Me and Channel Five the 1959 film epic Ben Hur. The new edition of the Radio Times introduces the new - sixth - series of Doctor Who, which will premiere the following weekend at Easter. The preview includes an interview with Matt Smith, in which the actor talks about the interest generated by Neil Gaiman's episode The Doctor's Wife, football, and also his feelings on the series culture: 'Doctor Who is brilliant. Science Fiction invites conspiratorial thinking, which I also think is brilliant. Why not sit at home on the computer and be conspiratorial? There are worse ways of spending an evening.' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) also provides an introduction and an exclusive guide to the thrill-packed episodes coming up over the next several weeks.

An advertising company has apologised after placing a billboard for the US import zombie series The Walking Dead next door to a funeral parlour. The poster for the zombie drama, which is currently being broadcast in the UK on Channel Five, was placed on the side of The Co-operative Funeralcare in Consett, County Durham. The Daily Scum Mail reports that The Co-operative Funeralcare is unhappy that the branch was not told about the plans before the advertisement was posted. 'It is disappointing that we were not consulted as this advert could cause unnecessary distress,' a spokesperson said. 'When the billboard site was erected, we were assured that no insensitive adverts would be featured.' Clear Channel, the advertising company behind the poster, has now agreed to replace it with a different billboard. 'Clear Channel apologises for any offence caused by the unfortunate juxtaposition of this advertisement, which was certainly not intended,' a spokesperson said. 'We arranged to have it removed right away and it has since come down.' Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Channel Five said: 'No offence was intended and this particular poster has been removed from the side of the funeral parlour in Durham. We apologise for any offence caused.' Although, why the hell they are apologising for this matter is a bit beyond this blogger. Since, they didn't put the poster up in the first place. Why does everybody have to be so quick to apologise for stuff that's nothing to do with them these days? It's because, of course, everyone is terrified of the trouble that gets stirred up by knobncheese right-wing scum bullyboys like the Daily Scum Mail and their scum ilk in the tabloid press. That's why, for example, when a couple of hundred chebs complained to the BBC about the noises made by those vuvuzelas at last year's World Cup in South Africa the BBC offered a meek and humble apology instead of saying, as they should have, 'what do you want us to do? Go around snatching them out of people's hands, you stupid bastards? Grow up.' Once again, dear blog reader, the crap that some people choose to care about continues to both stagger and depress.

BBC documentary series Human Planet is leading the way at this year's British Academy Television Craft Awards with seven nominations. Dramas Any Human Heart, Downton Abbey and Eric and Ernie have five nomimnations apiece, and the BBC's Springwatch will receive the special recognition award. The annual ceremony recognises the people who work behind the scenes in television. The awards will be held at The Brewery in London on 8 May. The Human Planet series, which has explored life in the Arctic, jungles and oceans is up for best factual director, factual editing, three awards in factual photography and two in factual sound. Four nominations in total go to Sherlock, This Is England '86 and Wonders of the Solar System with Professor Brian Cox.

David Jason is to star in a brand new BBC1 comedy series for the first time in twenty years, since the last series of Only Fools And Horses. Danny Cohen, the Controller of BBC1 has commissioned The Royal Bodyguard from Hat Trick Productions, written by Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni, creators of The Worst Week Of My Life, which will go into production in July. Danny Cohen comments: 'I am absolutely delighted to welcome David Jason back to a leading comedy role on BBC1. David is a hugely talented performer and much loved by British viewers. When I read the script I knew he would be perfect for this role.' Jason plays Captain Guy Hubble, a lifelong soldier coming up towards retirement who has recently been put in charge of Royal security. An ex-guardsman who saw action in Cyprus and Northern Ireland, he sounds perfect for the job. Unfortunately, he turns out to be the worst possible appointment as he is totally out of his depth. He should never have got the job, having previously worked in the car park at Buckingham Palace, but owing to a terrible misunderstanding, he's been promoted with the Queen's blessing to this important role. Now the fate of the Royal Family is in the hands of this walking disaster as he supervises security arrangements for all their engagements. David Jason says: 'I am really looking forward to working with the very talented producer Jimmy Mulville, and working on a great comedy project with the BBC. It will be good to have a laugh again!' Jimmy Mulville added: 'When Cheryl Taylor got behind this brilliant script by Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni and Danny Cohen suggested David Jason for the starring role, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!'

The BBC is 'putting a stake in the ground' by broadcasting a promo for new BBC2 dramas under the banner Original British Drama. The trailer shows highlights from forthcoming BBC2 dramas including the The Shadow Line, starring Christopher Eccleston, and an adaptation of Sarah Waters' The Night Watch. BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson says: 'This line goes to the heart of what we believe in here. It's an opportunity to put our stake in the ground and exemplify our attitude.' Why does the British Broadcasting Corporation feel the need to emphasise the Britishness of its dramas right now, is a decent question? After all, it has been making original British TV drama for about sixty years. Could it be that BSkyB banging on about all the 'high-end' drama on its new channel Sky Atlantic – mostly from HBO and other US broadcasters – has got up the noses of BBC executives? Sky also says it has increased its original drama investment by four hundred per cent between 2009-10 and 2011-12 – without giving any indication of what this means in millions of pounds. Last autumn Stephenson had a right go at BSkyB's commitment to homegrown drama and labelled as a 'myth' the common refrain that US TV is better at making drama than its UK counterparts. Stephenson says: 'The fact is we invest more than anyone else and we don't have to appeal to a specific demographic. We're the best place to do the best work without commercial pressures, we don't have to be looking constantly to appeal to a specific audience or US audiences.' BBC4 has had success this year – in digital ratings terms – through airing Scandinavian drama The Killing and Stephenson admits 'much can be learned' from abroad, but says: 'It's about having the best of British talent. We're always trying to be original and proud to be British. These things sometimes get lost in the argument. But at the end of the day, we should be incredibly proud of our talent, who are making world-class drama.'

EastEnders acrtess Margaret Tyzack has withdrawn from filming for personal reasons, forcing show bosses to recast the character of Lydia Simmonds, according to the Digital Spy website. Earlier this year, it was announced that the veteran stage actress had been cast in the role of Lydia, who is Janine Malloy's estranged grandmother. Viewers saw her on screen for the first time last week as Janine (Charlie Brooks) visited her in hospital after hearing that she was unwell. However, following Tyzack's unexpected departure from the soap, programme chiefs have recruited actress Heather Chasen to take over the part. Chasen has appeared in a number of TV roles since the 1960s, including appearances in Z Cars, Young Sherlock, The Bill, Casualty and Doctors. EastEnders producers took the unusual step of recasting the role with immediate effect as the ongoing storyline between Lydia and Janine will be an important one for the programme in the months ahead. Speaking of the decision, a show spokesperson told Digital Spy: 'Unfortunately, due to a personal matter, Margaret Tyzack has had to finish filming earlier than planned. In order to continue the current storyline we've taken the decision for Heather Chasen to take over the role of Lydia.' Chasen will begin filming at EastEnders on Friday.

New photographs from the Coronation Street set appear to confirm that the character of John Stape will kill himself at the dramatic conclusion of his current storyline. In recent weeks, it has been claimed that John, played by Graeme Hawley, will be driven to desperate measures after fearing that the body of Colin Fishwick will be discovered underneath the Underworld factory. Photographs obtained by the Daily Scum Mail appear to confirm the rumours, with John and wife Fiz Stape (Jennie McAlpine) pictured on top of a roof with baby daughter Hope. It is thought that John will conceal himself in the attic of their Weatherfield home, before being caught by Fiz (shortly before being caught by the fuzz), resulting in a chase which sees Fiz knocked down and admitted to hospital. In the new images, Fiz is seen to be wearing a dressing gown with a bandage on her head, while John is sporting a white doctor's coat. As Fiz coaxes her troubled husband into handing over their daughter, shortly before John either jumps or falls from the roof of the hospital. Chesney and a number of police officers run to hold a distressed Fiz back from the edge as she clings onto her daughter. The dramatic climax marks the end of a shocking year for John after he stole the identity of co-worker Colin, disposed of his body in the Underworld factory when Colin died during an argument, killed Charlotte Hoyle with a hammer when she threatened to expose his secret, and accidentally kill Colin's mother Joy Fishwick as he tried to apologise for her son's death. So, shall the trail of dead shall ye know him.

The former Brookside actor and Soccer AM presenter, Brian Regan, has appeared in court charged with the murder of a nightclub doorman who was shot dead outside a Liverpool pub. Regan, fifty three, of St Mary's Road, Garston, who played Terry Sullivan in the soap, is accused of killing Bahman Faraji in Aigburth on 24 February. Lee Dodson of Logfield Drive, Garston, was also charged with murder. Liverpool magistrates remanded both men in custody, until an appearance at the city's crown court on 18 April. A third accused, Edward Heffey, of Beloe Street, Dingle, was charged with murder earlier this month and will also appear at the crown court that day. Regan also faces a charge of perverting the court of justice.

The chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale, has called for a public inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World. Which will, of course, make him hugely popular with his Tory colleagues who have their tongues rammed so far up Uncle Rupert's smear that there's no room for anyone else to get in there for a good lick. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, Whittingdale said there should be 'some kind of commission or inquiry' into why a series of investigations by Scotland Yard failed to link any News International employees to phone hacking other than the News of the World's former royal editor, Clive Goodman. Murdoch's news group last week issued a public apology to eight victims of phone hacking, and admitted for the first time that the practice was more widespread than merely the actions of one lone 'rouge' reporter at the paper. News International has also written to a further nine alleged victims of News of the World phone hacking saying it was prepared to pay compensation if they obtained evidence from Scotland Yard to support their claims. 'There are some very big questions. What I find [most] worrying is the apparent unwillingness of the police, who had the evidence and chose to do nothing with it. That's something that needs to be looked into,' Whittingdale said on Wednesday. 'It also raises some quite serious questions for the security of government. It seems pretty extraordinary that newspapers are able to listen in to the private conversations of Downing Street, royal staff and others. I'm wanting to know through the Home Office why those responsible for safeguarding security weren't able to do anything about it.' Whittingdale said that the culture select committee was also 'concerned' about previous assurances given to it by both News International executives and Scotland Yard that an investigation had been carried out and that there was no new information. 'It wasn't just News International who told us that, it was also the police,' he added. 'In light of what's now apparent that's a most extraordinary statement.' The MP said that there was 'no reason' why a fresh inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World could not be done by the newspaper industry itself, but added that the sector's self-regulatory body, the Press Complaints Commission, was not up to the job. 'I think the newspaper industry should be very worried,' Whittingdale added. 'The PCC has not got a particularly strong reputation as a result of this. I don't think they've covered themselves in glory.' Any fresh inquiry should be carried out by 'someone who is independent, experienced and powerful who is not in thrall to the press,' he added. 'It's a case for the industry recognising that if it is to retain its credibility it needs a stronger, more independent PCC which has real sanctions. If the [newspaper industry] shrug their shoulders, I think cries for [a tougher system of regulation] will grow. Newspapers would be very foolish to believe [the phone-hacking scandal] doesn't have implications for the whole way the press operates in this country.'

A former journalist who was secretly recorded by Hugh Grant has claimed that a 'much-loved TV actress' in her sixties was once cautioned for being a prostitute. Ex-News of the World reporter Paul McMullan allegedly told the actor that reporters 'work a lot with policemen' to get their stories about celebrities. 'One of the early stories was [the actress] used to be a streetwalker - whether or not she was, but that's the tip,' McMullan said, according to Grant's transcript of the secretly recorded conversation. Which you can read for yourselves at the New Statesman website under the amusing title, The Bugger Bugged. Grant replied: 'I can't believe it. Oh no!' McMullan reportedly continued: 'So I asked a copper to get his hands on the phone files, but because it's only a caution it's not there any more. So that's the tip. It's a policeman ringing up a tabloid reporter and asking him for ten grand because this girl had been cautioned right at the start of his career. And then I ask another policemen to go and check the records.' He added that this type of contact between reporters and police is 'happening regularly' and suggested that this is why 'the police don't particularly want to investigate' the ongoing phone hacking scandal.

Self important berk Jamie Oliver has revealed that he thinks good food is 'not expensive.' Apart, of course, from Sainsbury's Jamie Oliver's Pretentious Lunches range. Which really is.

Elisha Cuthbert has admitted that she is enjoying her new comedic role in Happy Endings. The actress, who plays Alex in the ABC sitcom, previously starred in FOX drama 24 as Jack Bauer's terminally endangered daughter, Kim, and also appeared in short-lived series The Forgotten. She told the Futon Critic: 'I just felt like I was at this sort of place where I had spent a lot of time doing one-hour drama and just wanted something different. When you go into TV there's always that possibility you could spend the next six years of your life doing this one project [so] it's got to be something that you're excited about and you want to come to work every day to do.' Cuthbert added that striking up a chemistry with her Happy Endings co-stars was her 'biggest concern' when she signed up for the show last year. 'The show is based on the friendship and relationship between these six characters [so] I made sure to get everyone together,' she explained. 'We made sure we did things to connect on a level outside of set and read-throughs and the chaos of putting the pilot together.'

The BBC has this week completed the phased relaunch of the CBBC website, introducing a refreshed visual design and improved functionality. Phil Buckley, BBC Children's portfolio and product manager at BBC Future Media, said that relaunching the children's website has proved 'a surprisingly perilous business.' The first iteration of the CBBC website was launched in 1995 by presenter Toby Anstis, but the site was redesigned in 2007, leading to a negative reaction from some users. On a BBC comments forum, one person wrote after the relaunch: 'I have a distraught four-year-old managing to say through the tears, "I want the old website."' Oh for God's sake, just buy her an ice cream, she'll be fine. As noted above, the shite some people choose to care about. Writing in a BBC blog posting published on Tuesday, Buckley said that it was with 'some trepidation' that his team completed the latest relaunch of the CBBC site, although there have been largely 'positive reactions' so far. And no childish tamtrums. Not even from the Daily Scum Mail.

The BBC's World Service is too valuable in promoting the UK overseas for its two hundred and thirty seven million pounds-a-year funding to be cut, a government watchdog has said. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the planned sixteen per cent budget cuts should be reversed and were 'a false economy.' In January the BBC said it would close five of its language services because of the Foreign Office funding cuts. It said it welcomed the 'support' of the report, and was committed to the long-term future of the World Service. Committee chairman Richard Ottaway said: 'The value of the World Service in promoting the UK across the globe, by providing a widely-respected and trusted news service, far outweighs its relatively small cost. The recent dramatic events in North Africa and the Middle East have shown the "soft power" wielded through the World Service could bring even more benefits to the UK in the future than it has in the past.' Foreign Secretary William Hague said the World Service performed 'an invaluable' role. Just, not so invauable that the government actually wants to, you know, pay for it. 'However, in line with all other publicly-funded bodies, it must play its part in reducing the deficit,' he said. 'The BBC has been clear that the transfer of funds from the licence fee in 2014-15 will not make the World Service's funding less secure.' The committee's report said the decision to hand over funding for World Service to an already cash-strapped BBC was 'essentially financial' and 'taken at very short notice, albeit with the full agreement of BBC top management.' The report suggests using part of the Department for International Development's budget to make up the shortfall. It also questions whether World Service funding will be secure when the BBC funds it outright, citing 'risk of a gradual diversion of resources to fund other BBC activities.' In a statement, the BBC, instead of saying 'yes, you're probably right, we love the World Service and want to fund it properly but we haven't got a pot to piss in at the moment, you might have noticed,' merely mumbled: 'The cuts being made to the World Service are a consequence of last autumn's spending review and the BBC regrets the scale and pace of cuts that have been necessary. If, in the light of the report, the government is prepared to re-open aspects of the spending review settlement, the BBC will be pleased to engage with them constructively. The BBC is committed to the long-term future of the World Service and hopes to reinvest when responsibility for funding transfers to the licence fee in 2014.' The BBC World Service is currently funded by the UK government through parliamentary grant-in-aid, administered by the Foreign Office. In January, the World Service also announced that programmes in another seven languages would be reduced. 'We clearly needed to make choices,' Peter Horrocks, director of the World Service, told the Foreign Affairs Committee last month.

An eight-foot high portrait of a naked model handcuffed to a rock has been shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery's annual art prize. Louis Smith's artwork is in the final running along with Ian Cumberland, Wim Heldens and Sertan Saltan for the twenty five thouand smackers BP Portrait Award. More than fifty portraits have been selected for the annual exhibition at the London gallery. The prize winner will be announced on 14 June. In addition to the prize money, the winner will receive a commission worth four thousand quid. A further five thousand pound awarded to a young entrant aged between eighteen and thirty, which both Cumberland and Saltan are eligible for. Smith, who said his artwork Holly was inspired by the Greek myth of Prometheus, called it 'a message of composure in the face of adversity.' Turkish-born Saltan's piece was of a young woman with her hair in rollers and carrying a large knife during Thanksgiving preparations. 'The contrast of knife, gloves and rollers brought both humour and horror to mind,' he said. Distracted, by Heldens, is of a portrait of his friend Jeroen, a twenty five-year-old philosophy student who has sat for him for more than twenty times. Cumberland said the title, Just To Feel Normal, refers to his sitter's response when asked 'why he continues along his chosen path.' Gallery director Sandy Nairne said: 'The diversity of styles in the shortlisted portraits and the skill of the works selected from this record entry to the BP Portrait Award show how contemporary portraiture remains an energetic and telling force.' Last year the award was won by former teacher Daphne Todd for a painting of her one hundred-year-old mother's corpse.

And speaking of 'I don't know much about art, but I know what I like,' a collection of two hundred and fifty artworks by the comedian Vic Reeves is opening ahead of an auction he hopes will make some space at his Kent home. Vic is best known for TV shows Vic Reeves Big Night Out and Shooting Stars, but has said that he considers himself an artist before anything else. 'I think everything I do is art. I don't really differentiate between painting, acting or comedy,' he said. The exhibition, at The Grand on the Leas in Folkestone, runs until Sunday. Reeves studied art at Sir John Cass College in Whitechapel, east London, and his work includes unusual self-portraits, quirky celebrity paintings, landscapes and distorted animal pictures. 'I think putting your imagination on canvas or a television screen is the same thing,' he said. 'If you've got an idea you have got to have an outlet for it. So if it's painting, poetry, singing or acting it all comes out somewhere.' Vic lives in Charing, near Ashford, with his wife Nancy Sorrell and their family. He said selling the paintings would be like losing close friends. 'But if you have two hundred and fifty friends you have to weed a few out, don't you?' he said. The exhibition was organised with auctioneer and valuer Michael Hogben, from BBC TV show Bargain Hunt, who met Reeves when he was setting up a performance art piece in a local pub.

Katie Price has revealed that she will not be running the London Marathon this year because she has damaged her knee. Which, one is sure, is a tragedy for jelly-on-a-plate lovers everywhere.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, it's about time we asked a very serious, important querstion. Which one's Pink again? Ah, Syd. Wonderful, crazy, Syd, What the Hell were you leaving us all with?