Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: Surfing Home For Christmas

Whoever's inspired idea it was to have Tommy Watson (power to the people!) and the great Reginald Hunter paired up with Merton and Hislop this week on Have I Got News For You on Friday night deserves a medal of some kind. Or a holiday. Or, both! 'So you're just going to do nothing and wait for the Tories to mess it up?' 'Well, I'm going to do nothing because I'm not a very good politician!' 'I love that, refreshing candour!'
And the Archie Andrews joke was pretty good too!

Alexander Armstrong has revealed a smidgen about his role in the Doctor Who Christmas special. The actor and comedian will appear opposite Matt Smith in The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe. 'He's called Reg,' Armstrong told TV Choice. '[He's] husband to Madge (Claire Skinner). He's a brave airman.' Well, yeah, we get that much from the trailer, matey! Armstrong also revealed that the death of his character is 'central' to the plot of the festive special. 'I die, that's true,' he confirmed. 'But there are quite a lot of flashbacks, and the instance of his dying turns out to be very important. As will be revealed.' Comedian Bill Bailey and The Fast Show's Arabella Weir will also star in the hour-long episode, written by Who showrunner Steven Moffat.
You want a picture of Bill Bailey and the TARDIS, don't you dear blog reader? Yer actual Keith Telly Topping knows these things. H'okay ...
Doctor Who has topped this year's iTunes television download chart in the US. The sixth series of the BBC's popular family SF drama was the most downloaded television show of 2011, ahead of Modern Family. 'This is incredibly exciting news,' said Doctor Who's Steven Moffat: 'It's an honour to be on the same list as all those shows, let alone at the very top. And for a British show to have achieved this in the US is absolutely remarkable. Next, The Universe!' The British show beat US-made series including Dexter, True Blood and The Walking Dead to the top spot. The latest season of Doctor Who included the opening two-episode story The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, which were the first full episodes to be filmed in America.

Doctor Who is also getting into console gaming, with BBC Worldwide signing a deal to create a series of titles that will initially be available on Sony PlayStation devices. Apparently. The first Doctor Who game, called The Eternity Clock, will be launched early next year on the PlayStation 3, the handheld PlayStation Vita as well as on PC. The Vita, a competitor to Nintendo DS, launches in the UK on 22 February. BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm, said it was 'investigating' the possibility that the games, which will require players to 'master the complexities of time travel', could launch on other platforms in the future such as the Xbox. The three game series will be based on a new storyline, written in collaboration with the BBC Wales team responsible for the TV show, with stars Matt Smith and Alex Kingston recording voiceovers for their characters. The Doctor Who games are being developed by Supermassive Games. Robert Nashak, executive vice-president of digital entertainment at BBC Worldwide, said the games aimed to bring the 'wonder, adventure and madness' of Doctor Who to the games console market. A spokeswoman said BBC Worldwide has created one Doctor Who console game in the past – called Return to Earth for the Nintendo Wii – but that was a one-off title. She said the latest announcement represents 'a major ongoing strategy.' Or you could, you know, just watch the effing series on TV like normal people.

The new ITV drama Without You starring Anna Friel and Marc Warren drew a strong 6.34m initial audience from 9pm, helping the channel win Thursday night. Overnight figures also reveal that 3.35m tuned in for Tonight from 7.30pm and a quite risible 1.8m glakes watched Piers Morgan's Life Stories from 10.35pm. Shame on you. Shame on all of you. BBC1's DIY SOS had an audience of three million n the 8pm hour, with The Manor Reborn following from 9pm (3.02m). Question Time got 2.36m from 10.35pm to complete a disappointing night for BBC1. BBC2's live snooker saw 1.01m turn up from 7pm. MasterChef: The Professionals from 8pm (2.71m), Rev from 9pm (1.24m), Life's Too Short from 9.30pm (one million) and Frank Skinner's Opinionated from 10pm (1.28m) rounded off primetime for the channel. There really is something genuinely pleasing in the fact that even the sodding snooker got more on overnights than Gervais. Well done Britain.

The BBC shelved Friday night's scheduled edition of BBC2 panel show Qi featuring an appearance by Jeremy Clarkson, according to the Communist hippie lice at the Gruniad Morning Star 'because of fears it would prompt another backlash from viewers.' If that's true - and I've no reason to disbelieve them - then it again demonstrates that the corporation has the collective backbone of a jellyfish when it comes to standing up to bullies and thugs with a sick and sinister agenda. The Top Gear presenter prompted more than thirty thousand complaints following his controversial appearance on BBC1's The ONE Show last week - most of them, it appears, from people who hadn't actually seen the show in question, merely read about it in the newspapers afterwards. And given that the Gruniad themselves ran eight - eight - stories concerning Clarkson over the course of the next three days, that's probably not all that surprising. Clarkson was due to appear on the Stephen Fry series on Friday alongside Ross Noble, Dara O'Briain and regular panellist Alan Davies in a show recorded several months ago during the summer. But BBC executives reportedly 'pulled the show' fearing that his return to the airwaves would have come too soon after The ONE Show controversy, around which they believe there remains huge public sensitivity. 'It's not to do with anything specific that Clarkson said on Qi,' one alleged 'industry source' allegedly told the Gruniad. 'It is more a case of the BBC not wanting to look as though it didn't care about the storm and putting Clarkson back on screen as if nothing had happened.' Given that there's a Top Gear Christmas special due in about a fortnight's time, one had to wonder whether this is the last such incident. And, of course, the lice at the Gruniad Morning Star - and particularly the odious big-mouthed slime who write comments on their website - which has done more than anyone else to keep the story going long after it would, normally, have been yesterday's fish and chip paper, reported this like some kind of victory. Oh, they could hardly contain their glee. Creaming it, so they were.
Meanwhile, Clarkson's neighbour and bestest chum in all the land David Cameron - you remember him? - met Rupert Murdoch or his UK executives five times between April and June this year, according to documents released by Downing Street late on Friday evening when, they hoped, everybody would be too busy watching Have I Got News For You to notice. The documents show that the prime minister met executives of News Corporation or its UK subsidiaries, including News International and News Group Newspapers, more times than all other media groups in the period. James Harding, editor of The Times, met the prime minister twice for 'general discussion' in April and June 2011. Dominic Mohan, the Sun editor, met Cameron in May, for the same stated reason. The prime minister also attended the News International summer party and the separate Times CEO summit in June 2011. During this period Murdoch's News Corporation was in the final stages of bidding for BSkyB. That bid had been poised to go through, but collapsed in July at the last minute in the wake of intense period of the Scum of the World phone-hacking malarkey. Which was funny. All three political parties said they wanted the bid to be dropped. Eventually. Cameron also met Torygraph Media Group chief executive Murdoch MacLennan and Torygraph editor Tony Gallagher in April. He also met Richard Desmond and the Daily Scum Express editor Hugh Whittow in the same month. No 10 also disclosed that Cameron met Rupert Murdoch in July 2010, in an addendum to previously released documents on his hospitality at this time. It is understood that this was during a series of meetings at the British consulate-general in New York. A Downing Street spokesman claimed that the meeting was not previously declared due to 'an administrative error.' One or two people even believed him. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, met Harding in April 2011 for 'general discussion,' the only News International meeting he had in the period. Clegg dined with MacLennan and Gallagher on 4 April 2011 and ate with Evegeny Lebedev, the owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard, on 6 June 2011. He had lunch with Tom Bradby, ITV's political editor, on 15 June 2011. He also met John Mulholland, the Observer editor, for 'general discussion' in April 2011, Lionel Barber, the FT editor, in May 2011 and John Mullin, who edits the Independent on Sunday, in April 2011. Information released by the Home Office revealed that Theresa May met Rebekah Brooks, who was then chief executive of News International, in June 2011, to discuss 'women in senior positions.' The irony, of course, being that Brooks resigned a month later after the Gruniad revealed that the Scum of the World had targeted murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone at a time when Brooks was editor of the newspaper. May also attended the News International summer party in June and the Sun's Police Bravery Awards in July, the same month the News of the World was closed. The home secretary also met representatives from 'other media organisations' during the same period.

With this year's Frozen Planet, David Attenborough went from being a mere national treasure status to, I think it's fair to say, a national icon. If those seven majestic hours of telly weren't enough, a snappier treat is the following two-minute clip, which finds Attenborough talking through Louis Armstrong's 'What A Wonderful World' to a gorgeous backdrop of nature.
Stick that in yer cornet and smoke it, Nigel Lawson, y'grumpy auld Climate Change-Denying tinker.

Simon Cowell will make a cameo appearance on this weekend's X Factor final, it has been revealed. Just one more reason not to watch it, then.

And, speaking of The X Factor, it is, of course, regarded as the biggest TV talent show in Europe. It is hugely popular and hugely profitable, both for its makers and its broadcaster, ITV. Yet there are claimed to be unpaid interns working for the show, according to research by Graduate Fog, a careers advice website for university graduates. It followed up a Daily Scum Mail article on Monday by Liz Jones, Inside the X Factory, in which she wrote about head stylist Laury Smith having help from four unpaid interns. Jones wrote: 'These young people work seven days a week, from 8am until gone 10pm. No wonder the interns are exhausted and in tears.' Graduate Fog contacted Our Assembly, the outfit which handles PR for The X Factor style team. It confirmed that four 'regular' interns work for the team and, occasionally, more were used on show days. They are not paid, but receive travel expenses and free meals. They are generally hired for three-month stints. Graduate Fog lists the substantial money generated by the programme before asking why X Factor can't stump up the minimum wage – just over six quid an hour – for these hard-working interns? It then decided to discover whether Simon Cowell was aware of unpaid interns working on his show and sent his office a letter. Graduate Fog says it is 'seriously unimpressed' with the use of unpaid interns. It adds: 'Claiming that the use of unpaid interns is the industry standard is no excuse – nor is emphasising what valuable experience internships can offer young people. We believe that unpaid internships exploit those who do them and exclude those who can't afford to do them. They are getting longer and longer, with less chance of a job at the end of them. Increasingly, it is a myth that unpaid internships lead to paid jobs – now they are replacing paid jobs. Unpaid work is not a solution to youth unemployment – it is a big part of the problem.' However, Graduate Fog subsequently reported that Talkback Thames, the producers of The X Factor, had confirmed that it does not engage unpaid interns itself. It describes the style team's intern use as an 'isolated incident.'

Meanwhile, work and pensions secretaries Iain and Duncan Smith have claimed that Britain's celebrity culture 'fuelled' the summer riots. Iain and Duncan Smith, who are the joint hairs of the Social Justice Cabinet Committee, told the Gruniad Morning Star that modern society's 'get rich quick' attitude was 'partly to blame' for the unrest experienced in UK cities in August. This, dear blog reader, from a Tory - or two - who didn't need to 'get rich quick' because they were already rich. Very rich. As only the son (or sons) of a double-barrelled Scottish Tory RAF captain and a ballerina can be. 'If you look at the footballers, you look at our celebrity culture, we seem to be saying, "This is the way you want to be."' And, haven't we always? Didn't you two want to be a footballer when you were growing up, Iain and Duncan or were you always a boring twat who wanted to be an economist? 'We seem to be a society that celebrates all the wrong people,' they said. Sadly, they neglected to say whom they believed were 'the right people' in such a scenario. Tory politicians, probably. 'Kids are meant to believe that their stepping stone to massive money is The X Factor. Luck is great, but most of life is hard work. We do not celebrate people who have made success out of serious hard work.' Iain and Duncan Smith - one or whom is seen right, getting jiggy wid it an' down wit da kidz, and shit - added that various 'short-term factors' were also to blame, including the police appearing to lose control, the influence of gangs and a 'crowd mentality.' He also explained that bankers receiving huge bonuses and then being bailed out by the government had created public feeling that there is 'a rule for one, and not for the other.' Indeed. The manifest injustice of politicians fiddling their expenses with impunity and getting away with it and brown-tonguing themselves on the ringpiece of odious media barons of phone-hacking newspapers probably didn't help either, I'd wager. Iain and Duncan Smith claimed that they want 'a more balanced society.' Which, for a Tory (or two), one presumes, means a few less rich people and a damn sight more poor ones. 'Balance is if you try hard, you work hard then the rewards are in balance with what you put in and what is available. We have a moral obligation - I hate to use the word moral - to reform the whole culture of how people in different communities access money and for what purpose.'

The BBC have released a new set of promotional photos of the cast of Hustle, which returns to BBC1 early next month for a final series. Series eight begins at 9pm on Friday 6 January 2012, starring Robert Vaughn, Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister, Matt Di Angelo, Kelly Adams and Rob Jarvis. Episode one will see Mickey Bricks and his team of highly skilled conmen take on gold dealer Dexter Gold (guest star Paterson Joseph).
The great Ed Asner has signed up to appear in Hawaii Five-0. The actor guest starred in the original series in 1975 as a smuggler called August March. He will now reprise that role in CBS's reboot, the network has announced. After spending thirty years in prison for murder, August is now a changed man and agrees to help the Five-0 team on a smuggling case. Footage from Asner's 1975 episode is expected to be used in the new instalment. Hawaii Five-0's executive producer Peter Lenkov said: 'It is thrilling to, for the first time, merge the original Hawaii Five-0 and our new show by having the classic, versatile and award-winning actor Ed Asner reprise his role of August March, a character Mr Asner first played thirty six years ago. There is no better way to form a bridge between our reboot and the original series.'

Former Sun editor and odious, vile human being Kelvin MacKenzie has apologised for blaming reporters in Liverpool for the newspaper's Hillsborough coverage. The paper wrongly claimed that Liverpool fans 'picked the pockets' of some of the ninety six victims of the 1989 tragedy and urinated on medics among a series of other, hurtful and insensitive allegations. On Thursday, MacKenzie said that Liverpool reporters had supplied the story to the Sun. But on Friday, he told the BBC that he had got it wrong. Again. He said: 'Having just checked with the Sun's news editor at the time, it is clear that the story didn't come from the Liverpool agencies. I apologise for getting it wrong but it was twenty one years ago.' Speaking on BBC2's Daily Politics on Thursday about the Sun's coverage, MacKenzie said: 'That story came from a Liverpool news agency and Liverpool journalists.' Chris Johnson, editor of Mercury Press in Liverpool, later demanded an apology and said that he was consulting his lawyers. He said: 'I feel slighted and absolutely insulted, not only for my agency, but for every journalist in Liverpool, and certainly for every freelance journalist in Liverpool.' He said his agency 'absolutely categorically one hundred per cent' had nothing to do with the story and described MacKenzie's comments as 'vile allegations.' When asked to respond to Johnson's comments on Friday morning, MacKenzie initially that said he stood by the remarks and that Johnson should check back through his files. But he later contacted BBC News to say that his original remarks had been wrong. Johnson said: 'I remain shocked and disgusted that Kelvin MacKenzie was prepared to trot out a complete lie that defamed my agency and rubbed more salt into the wound in Liverpool - on top of damage he had already caused in 1989.' He said that he wanted a direct apology for both the agency and the people of Liverpool. 'As for the matter of damages, I will leave that to the lawyers,' he said. He said the agency had received abusive phone calls and e-mails, following MacKenzie's comments.

Playwright Alan Bennett has said that budding working-class writers are being blocked from following in his footsteps by university tuition fees. Bennett, a butcher's son from Leeds, went to Oxford University. But he said that he would not have been able to pay tuition fees, meaning his career would have taken a different path. Young writers in a similar position have fewer opportunities than he did, he argued on a visit to his old school - Lawnswood, formerly Leeds Modern. 'One dreads to think where one would have ended up,' the author and scriptwriter said at the school, where he opened a library named in his honour. He told pupils that he was 'really passionate' about free education. He 'absolutely undoubtedly' would not have been able to go to university if tuition fees had been in place when he was studying, he said. Asked whether his career could have followed a similar course if he had not been to university, the History Boys and Talking Heads author replied: 'I can't see it would have done.' He added: 'I didn't realise then how fortunate I was but soon after I left university I realised I'd been very, very lucky.' Bennett said he feared that tuition fees would widen social divides in the coming years. 'The top league of universities, not just at Oxford and Cambridge, they're almost wholly middle-class, their intakes now, and that's wrong,' he said. The funding situation also made it more difficult for working-class actors to make it to drama school than in previous years, he added. 'You would never get people like Albert Finney going to drama school now, people from a poor background, because they wouldn't be able to afford it.' University tuition fees in England will be increased to up to nine grand per year from 2012. UK university applications were thirteen per cent down at the end of November compared with the same time last year. But the government has said students do not have to pay tuition charges up front, with more financial support available for those from poorer families and lower monthly loan repayments than under the current system, which are payable only once graduates are in well-paid work. Oxford University has said it will offer reduced fee levels for students from families earning less than twenty five thousand smackers per year. Lawnswood School dedicated its library to the writer after he emerged as a vocal campaigner against public library cuts. He attended the school in the 1940s, when it was known as Leeds Modern. The playwright and author said he 'loosely' based The History Boys on his experiences at the school and his admission to Oxford. Plans to shut local libraries were 'wrong and very short-sighted,' Bennett said, adding: 'We're impoverishing young people.' Alongside Stephen Fry and Julian Barnes, he has signed up to contribute to a book to support library campaigners. The Library Book will be published for National Libraries Day on 4 February.

Fresh details of the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone by the Scum of the World have been obtained by the police, the Gruniad claims to 'have learned.' Or, in other words, some copper has nark'd it to them. But not for money. Oh, no the Gruniad doesn't do that. Not even for the latest of it's eight Jeremy Clarkson stories. We hope. According to 'sources familiar with the case,' the claim that officers from Operation Weeting have 'unearthed logs' detailing the hacked messages from 'tearful' members of the murdered girl's family. Quite how the Gruniad knows these messages were 'tearful', without having listened to them, they fail to explain. 'It is understood,' they continue, that whilst Scum of the World reporters 'probably were responsible for deleting 'some' of the missing girl's messages, police have concluded that 'they were not responsible for the particular deletion which caused her family to have false hope that she was alive.' Detectives told Milly's parents in April that the paper's journalists had intercepted and deleted messages on the murdered teenager's phone. Evidence has now revealed, the Gruniad claim, that Milly's phone 'would automatically delete messages seventy two hours after being listened to.' This means the paper's journalists would have inadvertently caused some voicemails to be deleted after they began listening to them, but police found that some messages had also been deleted before the Scum of the World began hacking into her voicemail. The disgraced and disgraceful paper's activities 'hampered' Surrey police inquiries at the time, promoting a wild goose chase, the Gruniad notes. David Cameron described the way journalists listened to Milly's friends and family pleading with her to get in touch as 'disgusting.' Rupert Murdoch called it 'abhorrent.' He closed down the paper, apologised to the Dowlers and paid three million smackers to the family and a number of charities. Operation Weeting's latest findings confirm the Gruniad's previous report that Surrey police knew about the tabloid's phone-hacking at the time and took no action. And, also that the Scum of the World hired a second private investigator, Steve Whittamore, to 'blag' information about the Dowler family from confidential telephone records. Testifying to the Leveson inquiry, Sally Dowler described how one day after Milly went missing she found that her daughter's voice mailbox had apparently been emptied. 'I just jumped and said "She's picked up her voicemails, she's alive,"' Mrs Dowler told the inquiry. Evidence retrieved from Surrey police logs shows that this 'false hope' moment occurred on the evening of Sunday 24 March 2002. It is not clear what caused this deletion. Phone company logs show that Milly last accessed her voicemail on Wednesday 20 March, so the deletion on Sunday cannot have been the knock-on effect of Milly listening to her messages. Furthermore, the deletion removed every single message from her phone. But police believe it cannot have been caused by the Scum of the World, which had not yet instructed private detective Glenn Mulcaire to hack into Milly's phone. 'Police are continuing to try to solve the mystery,' the Gruniad states. The Dowlers' lawyer, Mark Lewis, said that although Mulcaire had not been instructed by e-mail at the time of Sally Dowler's 'false hope' moment, it remained possible that the voicemails had been deleted by a Scum of the World journalist, or that Mulcaire had been instructed earlier that previous thought by phone. The original police theory was that journalists had deliberately deleted some messages because Milly's voicemail box had filled up, and they wanted to be able to listen to more. In August, the Wall Street Journal disclosed that on 11 April 2002, three weeks after Milly's disappearance, the Scum of the World sent at least eight reporters and photographers to stake out a Midlands factory because they believed Milly was still alive and was trying to get work there. They found nothing and ran a short story in that week's paper. In early editions it included direct quotations from three of Milly's voicemails. It was at about this time that the Scum of the World formally approached Surrey police to tell them what it had heard on the missing girl's voicemail. Two representatives of the paper are believed to have met detectives in the incident room at Staines police station. The police, however, took no action against them despite the fact that they were admitting to having carried out - or having ordered someone on their behalf to carry out - an illegal act. Scotland Yard has arrested a total of eighteen people and has suggested that there may possibly be as many as six thousand victims of voicemail interception by the paper. They are also investigating allegations of e-mail hacking and the payment of bribes to corrupt police officers. Lewis said: 'The Metropolitan police earlier this year told Bob and Sally Dowler that in 2002 the News of the World had listened to their missing daughter's voicemail and deleted some of the messages. Mrs Dowler linked this to an incident when Milly's voicemail had suddenly ceased to be full and which had given her "false hope." There is no doubt that there had been deletions by someone other than Milly, and the deletions had not been triggered by Milly's own actions.' He added: 'It remains unchallenged that the News of the World listened to Milly Dowler's voicemail and eavesdropped on deeply personal messages which were being left for her by her distraught friends and family.'

The BBC has ordered a new drama series about four wives of prisoners who are struggling to cope with their men in prison. The drama will star State of Play's Polly Walker, Pippa Haywood, Natalie Gavin and Emma Rigby. Tiger Aspect Productions’ new BBC1 drama series Prisoners' Wives tells the story of four very different women, each struggling to cope with a significant man in her life serving time in prison. Gemma, Francesca, Lou and Harriet are played by a strong and distinguished cast of female leads whose characters will clash and connect over the six episodes. Written by Julie Gearey, this relationship-based ensemble drama is set and filmed in Sheffield and stars Emma Rigby, Polly Walker, Pippa Haywood and Natalie Gavin, supported by actors including Jonas Armstrong and Iain Glen.

Skywatchers have begun enjoying the last total lunar eclipse until 2014. The spectacle, which occurs when the earth casts its shadow over the moon, will be visible from Australia, Asia and North America. But indirect sunlight can still illuminate the Moon, turning it a dramatic shade of red. The shadow started to fall at 11:33 GMT; the spectacle ends after 17:30 GMT.
The total eclipse will last fifty one minutes and eight seconds. The action began unfolding on Saturday night in Australia and Asia, where views are set to be the best. Viewers in the western half of the US will have the best views on Saturday before dawn (Pacific and Mountain Standard Time). The further west they are, the better. This is the second total lunar eclipse this year. The first occurred in June. Stargazers will have to settle for partial eclipses of the Moon until 2014, say astronomers.

England have named Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara in their sixteen-man squad for the three-Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. Panesar was included as the second spinner to Graeme Swann, ahead of Samit Patel, with Bopara the back-up batsman and Steven Davies the reserve wicketkeeper. Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan have all returned to the squad after injuries. Chris Tremlett and Steve Finn are also included in a five-man pool of seamers. A cult figure among a generation of England cricket fans, left-arm spinner Panesar has not played Test cricket since his dramatic last wicket stand with Jimmy Anderson at Cardiff in the opening Test of the 2009 Ashes series but has been included on the strength of a successful domestic season with Sussex in which he took sixty nine County Championship wickets at an average of 27.24. Nottinghamshire's Patel was left out despite some promising all-round displays in the October one-day series in India, with Durham leg-spinner Scott Borthwick also overlooked. 'Monty had a super season with Sussex and could play a very big part in the series,' said national selector Geoff Miller. 'But we will wait and see what the wickets are like and, if we need two spinners, they are there.' The inclusion of Bopara in place of Paul Collingwood, who retired from Test cricket in January, is the only change from England's squad for the triumphant 2010-11 Ashes series in Australia. The Essex batsman, who replaced the injured Jonathan Trott for the last two Tests of the summer, got the nod ahead of emerging players like Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow. 'Ravi Bopara has another opportunity to show his growth as a Test player, and we believe he will continue to add depth to our batting stocks for what promises to be a highly competitive series,' said Miller. The Pakistan series will be England's first since they rose to number one in the world Test rankings in August after a four-nil series victory over India and the first between the teams since the spot-fixing scandal which overshadowed Pakistan's 2010 series in England. The tour, taking place in the UAE because of security concerns in Pakistan, will also include four one-day internationals and three Twenty20 games. 'Pakistan are used to playing in the UAE and are playing very good cricket at the moment,' said Miller. 'To be best in the world is all about beating opposition not only at home but away as well. But we are quietly confident that we have players who can perform in all conditions with bat or ball.' Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced on Friday that the Decision Review System will be used in both the Tests and one-day internationals.

A burglar with a conscience returned a TV he stole from a house in Newcastle - then handed over fifty quid as compensation. Thieves struck at the house in Rothbury Terrace, in the Heaton area of the city, and made off with a thirty two inch Samsung television from the living room. But two days later the victim got a call from a man claiming to be the thief, who later returned the TV and gave the homeowner fifty notes compensation. Northumbria police have urged the man to give himself up. Which he's obviously not going to do but, still, good on him for at least realising what a complete bastard he'd been in his robbing ways. The theft occurred on 20 November, when at least two men are thought to have climbed in through an open window in the house. They made off in a blue Peugeot car. A police spokesman said: 'Two days later the victim received a call at the address from a man who said he had burgled the house and apologised to the homeowner. He gave the victim cash as a deposit and said he would return the television the next day. The following day he attended and returned the stolen television to the victim, retrieving the deposit he had left. He also gave the victim fifty pounds.' Officers are studying CCTV footage from the area which shows him at the address, but have urged him to come forward. The spokesman added: 'We've got several lines of inquiry to trace this man, which includes CCTV images and forensics and we are confident we will find out who he is so we can speak to him about the burglary. This situation is very unusual and he obviously knows what he's done is unacceptable by the way he's contacted the victim and returned the property.' I wonder if the scallywags who broken into Stately Telly Topping Manor stole yer actual Keith Telly Topping's telly on Boxing Day 1991 happen to be reading this?

An Islamic cleric in Europe has, reportedly, banned women from handling cucumbers. The unnamed cleric has, allegedly, warned that cucumbers, bananas and other similarly shaped produce causes 'sexual thoughts' in women. According to FOX News. The directive, published in el-Senousa, a religious magazine, purportedly says that a third party - preferably a male relative - should cut the items into small pieces if a woman wishes to eat them. I repeat, according to FOX News. The 'news' has caused anger among liberal Muslims, who responded in a rush of protest and mockery online, while questions have arisen surrounding the truth of the reports and the validity of the statement. Because it was reported on FOX News. 'Many of the commentators are Muslims themselves, who have expressed their anger against the cleric for making Islamic religious practices appear unreasonable,' said the International Business Times. Danish/Lebanese journalist Helen Hajjij said on Twitter: 'So if Muslim women should stay away from cucumbers and bananas, should men stay away from melons?' Ba-doom. Carrots and courgettes were also identified as 'perilous vegetables.' According to FOX News.

And so to the Twenty Two Days Of Christmas, dear blog reader. Which remains, comfortingly, a Greg Lake-free zone. Here's a version of 'Sleigh Ride' that you won't find on the Phil Spector Christmas Album. Surf's up, dudes (and, you know, dudettes)!