Saturday, September 17, 2016

Trifling Matterisationisms

For the latest - fourth - instalment in From The North's latest semi-regular series don't you just wish, dear blog reader, that they still made movie posters like this?, we have, this blogger is really sorry to report, a made up one (artwork by the late Sean Hartter). But, to be fair, this blogger would've certainly watched it.
Then again, he would have watched all of these as well. And they were real.
In fact, most of them, Keith Telly Topping has. Moving on swiftly ...

The number of overnight viewers watching The Great British Bake Off this week went up by more than half-a-million on Wednesday compared with the previous week's overnight figure. An average of 10.3 million viewers saw the fourth episode of the current series and the first to be broadcast following the news that the production company had allowed greed to get the better of them and flogged the show to Channel Four. That figure up from the 9.7 million overnight viewers the previous week. The episode - which focused on batter - peaked in the last five minutes, with 11.3 million overnight viewers. On Monday, Greed Productions, which makes the programme for the BBC, announced that it had signed a new deal with Channel Four. The following day, presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins - rather impressively - stated they would leave the programme after the current series. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry have not yet said if they are moving to Channel Four with the show, fuelling much press speculation about its future and who might present it. During negotiations over the future of the show, the BBC reportedly offered fifteen million smackers per year to keep Bake Off at the BBC, which would have been doubled the amount the BBC previously paid for the show and its sister programmes such as An Extra Slice and the Sport Relief specials. Greed Productions refused to entertain offers below twenty five million knicker per year.
The first episode of the new car show fronted by former Top Gear hosts yer actual Jezza Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond will be made available on 18 November. New episodes of The Grand Tour will become available on Amazon Prime Video every Friday for twelve weeks. The Grand Tour's first episode will apparently be seventy minutes long and will be partly filmed in California next month. Studio scenes are being recorded in a giant tent which is travelling around the world (not on its own, obviously, it's got people with it to do the carrying and that). The tent has already visited Johannesburg but it will be in California for the launch episode. Further locations are still to be announced. To tie in with the launch announcement, Amazon has put a thirty-second teaser on YouTube. The Sun has reported that Hollywood stars Charlize Theron and Matt Damon will be among the guests during the first season. And, since Old Clarkson works for them, they should know.
The X Factor is to stay on ITV for at least the next three years, despite declining viewing figures and the arrival of The Voice to the channel. The X Factor's most recently, thirteenth, series began in August. The broadcaster has agreed a deal with Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads for both The X Factor and Britain's Got Toilets to continue on ITV until at least 2019. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads said: 'I want to thank ITV for continuing to be fantastic partners. I'm delighted for the shows and, in particular, for all the talented people who work on them with us.' Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads may not appear as a judge on both programmes, though - under the new deal he is only committed to judging one of the two series per year. ITV is currently negotiating with Ant and/or Dec to remain as hosts of Britain's Got Toilets for the next three years. Dermot O'Dreary's current contract means he will keep presenting The X Factor until at least 2019.
This one is for Sherlock fans - and, ideally, executive producers - only. Everybody else, just carry on with what you're doing ... This blogger was idly channel-surfing on Thursday afternoon and he came across the last half-hour of the Jeremy Brett/Granada The Return Of Sherlock Holmes version of The Adventure Of The Empty House. First time this blogger had seen that in, probably, twenty years or so. And, bloody good it was too (Keith Telly Topping always particularly enjoyed Brett and Edward Hardwicke's double act). But, here's the thing. On one of the Sherlock DVD commentaries - I'm guessing it was probably The Empty Hearse - The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) mentioned that one thing he'd always seen as a bit of a minor logic flaw in The Empty House was that Holmes has spent the past three years living off the grid whilst he hunted down various members of Moriarty's gang. But, Steven noted not unreasonably, when when Sherlock decides to reappear in London, he does so directly in front of Colonel Moran who is, of course, number one in Moriarty's gang. Keith Telly Topping remembers that when he was listening to Steven saying that, he thought 'it's been a while since I've read The Empty House - or seen any of the various adaptations of it - but I'm pretty sure there was a specific reason why Sherlock did that.' And, lo and behold, there was - he's setting a trap for Moran (trapping him in the same way that Moran used to trap tigers, with a - metaphorical - sacrificial goat. A scene which Brett, incidentally, played beautifully. And dear old Patrick Allen as Moran played pretty much like he'd just wandered off an advert for Barrett's). So, this blogger, frankly, think The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) should now go back and re-record that commentary! Whaddya think Steven, too drastic?!
Of course, yer man Moffat (OBE) subsequently replied - well, I did ask the question, it was nobody's fault but Keith Telly Topping's own that he got an answer to it(!) - with all of his trademark wit (and withering sarcasm at a bloody stupid question and a bloody stupid questioner who'd, seemingly, completely misunderstood what he'd actually said in the first place): Tell 'em all about it, Steven: 'Without listening to the commentary again (wild horses et cetera) I would assume I was making the point I always do, which is quite different from what you quote. Sherlock, on return from the dead, explains [to Watson] that he allowed everyone to believe he was dead, so that he could track the remainder of Moriarty's gang in secrecy, because they all thought he was out of the picture. Then [he] goes on to explain the Moran witnessed his escape and indeed threw rocks at him, as he climbed to safety. So if Moran (the new King Of The Bad Guys) knew he was alive anyway what the point in pretending [not to be]? And, why didn't Moran expose Sherlock? He was, after all, guilty of the murder of a maths professor. The answer, as always, is this: it's a story, shut up!' Aye. Good answer. That's this blogger well and truly told. Shutting up instantly, sir!
TV comedy line of the week, this week was from Friday's Would I Lie To You? After the great Harry Shearer had told a - sadly, as it turned out, untruthful - story abut once judging a 'who sounds most like Mister Burns?' competition at a White House drinks reception between Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Bono, David Mitchell asked team-mate Nick Robinson if such a scenario sounded vaguely plausible. It totally did, suggested the BBC's former political correspondent, noting that Clinton and Obama are good friends and they both like The Simpsons. 'And, Bono's everywhere,' added David. 'He's like Mickey Mouse, there's one on every continent!'
The acclaimed BBC2 drama The Fall - featuring From The North cult favourite yer actual Gillian Anderson - will be back on your telly box at 9pm on Thursday 29 September.
The BBC have also this week released a new trailer image for the forthcoming Doctor Who spin-off series, Class, due to be broadcast via their online channel, Three, in October.
There's an excellent article by Keith Telly Topping's mate James Gent on the We Are Cult's website concerning the new Doctor Who book Whographica by Simon Guerrier, Steven O'Brien and designer Ben Morris.
From The North cult favourite Victoria Coren Mitchell has become the latest victim of one of those usually Goddamn irritating Buzzfeed list-articles. This one, admittedly, is marginally less irritating than usual. Mainly because it's, you know, about Victoria Coren Mitchell.
And now, dear blog reader ...
The BBC will be forced - at the point of bayonet, possibly - to name all employees and presenters paid more than one hundred and fifty thousand smackers a year, the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Bradley has said. The clause will be included in a draft of the BBC's next Royal Charter. Currently, the BBC only reveals the salary details of executives who earn more than one hundred and fifty thousand smackers, however the government wants it to go further. But, soon-to-be-former BBC Trust chairwoman Rona Fairhead said that the move was not 'in the long-term interests of licence fee payers.' Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, the vile and odious rascal Bradley said that publishing the salaries would bring the BBC 'in line with the civil service' on transparency. Because, of course, the civil service make terrific TV and radio programmes, don't they? Jesus, it's nice to see the new lack of culture secretary is every bit as much of a clown as her immediate four or five predecessors were. The vile and odious rascal Bradley said it would 'help ensure' the BBC 'produces value for money for the licence fee' and that 'more transparency could lead to savings' which could be 'invested in even more great programmes.' Or, you know, not. Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Whatsherface - one of those expected to be on the list - said last week that she was 'all for' BBC talents' earnings being disclosed because they are 'working for the public.' Angling for a nice slot on next years honours list, there Claud? The BBC has always said in the past that releasing salary details could - and, now, almost certainly will - affect its ability to attract and retain top talent and that it has already cut the amount it pays its broadcasters by eight million smackers. Fairhead said: 'We don't agree with the government on everything and are disappointed with the decision on the disclosure of presenters' pay. We don't believe this is in the long-term interests of licence fee payers.' Last month, a spokesman for the corporation said publishing salaries would amount to 'a poacher's charter' - giving competitors (specifically ITV and Sky) an advantage, allowing them to make better financial offers to attract talent away from the BBC. But the corporation must now publish the salary details of all of its staff, including on-air presenters, who earn more than one hundred and fifty thousand knicker - and specify which fifty grand salary band they fall in to - in next year's annual report. Director General Tony Hall said: 'Our position on talent pay has not changed and all major broadcasters have questioned the merit of the proposal. The BBC operates in a competitive market and this will not make it easier for the BBC to retain the talent the public love.' The lower threshold will increase the number of current employees whose salaries will be made public from seven to one hundred and nine. The lack of culture secretary also gave more details of the new unitary board which will oversee the corporation - replacing the external BBC Trust and the internal BBC Executive. The vile and odious rascal Bradley said that the new board would be made up of fourteen members - nine of which would be appointed by the BBC, plus five which would be public appointments. The BBC Trust currently has representatives for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on its board - something which the lack of culture secretary said would still be the case on the new unitary board. However, she said, the appointment of the representatives from Wales and Northern Ireland would now be agreed with their respective administrations, as is currently the case with Scotland. She said: 'The BBC serves all nations and regions. It needs to be more reflective of the whole of the United Kingdom.' The vile and odious rascal Bradley also thanked Fairhead, who announced earlier this week that she would step down early from her role as chairwoman of the BBC Trust, for her service to the corporation. Fairhead had originally been asked by the government, under now extremely former David Cameron, to chair the new unitary board once it was set up. But it is understood that new Prime Minister, Theresa May, wished to 'open the job up to other candidates' to make the appointment process 'more transparent.' The Tories love transparency, of course. The Royal Charter is an agreement with the government over what the BBC intends to do over the next eleven years. After which, it's unlikely that there will be much of a BBC left, seemingly. It is a general document outlining how the corporation is funded, how it is run, who holds it to account and what its broad objectives are. The White Paper, published in May, set out reforms to governance of the BBC, including abolishing the BBC Trust and the setting up of a board to run day-to-day matters, with Ofcom as the external regulator. The current Royal Charter is due to expire at the end of 2016.
The former vice-chairman of the BBC Trust has expressed 'alarm' about the 'brutal' way that Theresa May effectively reversed David Cameron's decision to reappoint Rona Fairhead as chair of the corporation. Fairhead 'stepped down' on Tuesday after May indicated that she would have to reapply for the job of chair of the new BBC unitary board, four months after Cameron renewed her contract. The former Prime Minister asked Fairhead to stay on as chair of the BBC Trust during the corporation's transition to being governed by a single board. Diane Coyle, a former Treasury adviser and vice-chair to Fairhead on the Trust, said: 'I think it is an extraordinary turn of events so late in the day to change the arrangement for the transition.' Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said the timing was a 'bit strange.' She added: 'It is a very short period now before we are supposed to have the new structure in place and The White Paper has not been published yet and there is a lot of work to do after that. The process is always pretty brutal, the way politicians and the way officials doing their job go about these things never use the same kind of respectful processes that occur in the private sector.' Coyle said that she was 'concerned' about the independence of the new board, some of whose members will be appointed by the government. She said: 'What worries me now, is after all the erosion of BBC independence over the past ten years or so, with top-slicing raids on the licence fee and the raid for the over-seventy fives licences. It is really important that this new structure has a truly independent chair and truly independent set of non-executives.' May's decision to open up the appointment process to other candidates was backed by Damian Collins, the acting chair of the Commons select committee for culture, media and sport. He said: 'I don't think it was right that Rona Fairhead was offered the job in the first place in the way that she was. We felt there should be a proper process of appointment where other candidates could be considered.' Of course you did. He added: 'Being chairman of the new unitary board is effectively being chairman of the BBC, or chairman of this great global media company. Being chairman of the Trust is being chairman of the regulator. And they are different roles and I think have different skill sets.' Collins insisted that an 'open' recruitment process would 'help protect' the BBC's independence. He said: 'Many people would have said that ‘Rona Fairhead was offered the job of being chairman of the BBC behind closed doors privately by David Cameron. Was that done to just buy her agreement to the abolition of the Trust? Was that done because she was David Cameron's friend?' No, mate, if she's been David Cameron's 'friend' she'd've been included in his resignation honours list along with all his other 'friends'. 'People can't say that any more,' Collins continued. 'Whoever is the new chair of the BBC will have been appointed by a proper process.' Coyle objected to Collins's suggestion that Fairhead had not been recruited 'properly' when she was originally made chair of the Trust. She said: 'I think you are being unfair to her in saying she has never been through any public process. She has. In an ideal world you would always have a proper open process for any of these major public service roles. But it is bit of a fiction. I hope the select committee can use its authority to make sure that the process is now completely transparent and open. But the truth is that the appointment to be chair of the BBC, whatever its governing body structure, has always been a political appointment.'
ITV is reportedly planning a nightly celebrity-based entertainment show that could push the News At Ten to 10:30pm. According to Broadcast, the currently untitled show will begin in 2017 and have a regular time slot throughout the week across a two-month period. The magazine claimed the show will have 'revolving celebrity hosts' and have segments 'with the potential to be shared online.' Sounds horrific. The programme could be broadcast at 10:30pm or earlier at 10pm, which would mean News At Ten would have to be shown later. Broadcast likened the show to The Late Late Show With James Corden. Okay, now it sounds really horrific. An ITV 'source' told BBC News that it was currently 'looking at an entertainment show for the New Year' and said 'more details will be confirmed in due course, including scheduling. There are occasions when the main bulletin moves for big entertainment event programming or sport,' the spokesperson for the channel continued. 'However, we have no plans to permanently move the news from the 10pm slot.' So, either ITV are lying, or Broadcast magazine is mistaken. Place your bets now, dear blog reader. Previous attempts to launch a nightly chat show in the UK have included The Jack Docherty Show, which ran on Channel Five from 1997 and 1999.
A comedy series which was recently cancelled by Channel Four has been named best sitcom at the prestigious Rose d'Or awards ceremony. Raised By Wolves, which was written by journalist and novelist Caitlin Moran and her sister Caroline and based on their upbringing, was cancelled by Channel Four after two series. It was one of a number of UK winners at the Berlin ceremony, which drew its nominees from across Europe. BBC2's Inside Number Nine, written by and starring Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, was named best comedy. In other categories BBC1's River, the superb six-part detective series created and written by Abi Morgan, deservedly won the best drama prize. ITV's abysmal Pick Me, presented by Stephen Mulhern and narrated by Roy Walker, won the game show award. The Real Marigold Hotel, a much-admired BBC2 documentary series starring Miriam Margolyes, Wayne Sleep, Sylvester McCoy and Jan Leeming, took the reality and factual entertainment award. BBC Radio 4's The Abuse Trial was honoured in the audio stories category. Amazing Grace, a BBC 6Music documentary about Grace Jones narrated by Gemma Cairney, won best music show. John Cleese was honoured with a lifetime achievement award for his 'outstanding contribution' to the entertainment industry. In his acceptance speech, Cleese said that television executives and channel controllers should 'place more faith' in writers and performers to deliver success. He said: 'When Monty Python was commissioned, we didn't really know what we were going to do but we were trusted. The talent has a better record than the suits, so why don't they bear that in mind? 'The trouble with executives isn't that they have no idea what they are doing, but that they have no idea that they have no idea.' Non-British winners included Swedish public service broadcaster SVT, which won the entertainment prize for The Eurovision Song Contest 2016. The ceremony was hosted by BBC radio presenter Paddy O'Connell. The Rose d'Or Awards were established in 1961 and honour the best radio and TV shows (and, now, online content) from the previous year. The awards are open to submissions from around the world. The UK has won the best sitcom category each year since that particular award was first given in 2004, with previous winners including Friday Night Dinner, Peep Show, Extras, The IT Crowd and The Inbetweeners.
Outnumbered will be returning for a Christmas special with its original cast Hugh Dennis, Claire Skinner, Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez. Creator Andy Hamilton revealed the news in an interview with the Torygraph. 'The first reaction will probably be "My God, the kids are huge now,"' he said. 'The second reaction will be the one the writers have been getting since the series started in 2007: "I reckon you must have cameras in our house."' Andy also revealed that this might not be the last time we see the Brockmans, as he would like to do a TV version of Boyhood. 'Our plan is to pop in every couple of years and see how the family is getting on. You learn not to think too far ahead, but who knows? Many years down the line there'll be an episode where Karen becomes a grandmother.'
There must be something extremely illegal in those This Morning mugs because guests on the ITV show just can't seem to stop swearing. Poldark's Heida Reed was the latest guest to utter a rude and naughty word whilst discussing her role in the period drama with co-star Luke Norris. When Phillip Schofield - who comes from that neck of the woods - suggested that filming must be a struggle due to the West Country's unpredictable weather, Heida said: 'I know, the other day we were filming and it was pissing it down.' Schofield, obviously fearing the wrath of Ofcom with their whips, immediately apologised to the three half-arsed uppity viewers who probably took offence at this and intend to whige about it, before adding: 'That's twice in two days!' Yeah, well, you need a regular piss mate or you get ill.
Martin Kemp and Dannii Minogue are to join tax-avoiding Tory Gary Barlow as judges on BBC1's Take That talent search Let It Shine. Kemp, the actor and former Spandau Ballet's bassist, will be a permanent judge, as will the Australian actress and singer, the least well-known of the Minogue sisters. Amber Riley, best known for her role as Mercedes Jones in Glee, will be a judge in the first stage of the competition. Co-presented by Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc, Let It Shine will search for a band to take part in a stage show featuring the music of Take That. Barlow said that Kemp, Minogue and Riley would 'bring so much to this panel with the breadth of experience in music, acting, stage and TV.' Kemp said he was 'thrilled' to have a chance 'to pass on a little of my forty five years' worth of experience to young people just starting out on their journey. I won't just be judging, but trying to give a constructive thought that will help them towards winning that incredible final prize,' added the former EastEnders actor. Minogue said: 'I'm so excited to be returning to the UK and joining the judging panel of Let It Shine. To be a performer, you must have a burning desire to perform, then you train at all the skills you need to shine. This show gives everyone that chance.' Kemp began his career, alongside brother Gary, in Spandau Ballet before turning his hand to acting and presenting. He played Steve Owen in EastEnders from 1998 to 2002, appeared - to great acclaim - in The Krays and directed the 2014 crime thriller Top Dog. Minogue started out playing Emma Jackson in Australian soap opera Home & Away. She went on to have a reasonably successful pop career before becoming a judge on The X Factor and Australia's Got Talent. Riley appeared in more than one hundred episodes of Glee. The thirty-year-old has since been seen in The Wiz Live!, a TV version of The Wizard Of Oz-inspired musical that was broadcast on NBC in 2015. 'I am so excited to see what the UK talent has to offer and share some of my experience on the stage to help them reach their full potential,' she said in a statement. 'I'm not just looking for the biggest voices or the biggest personalities, but those who have what it takes to make it on TV and on stage.'
Sarah-Jane Mee will become the new anchor of Sky News' breakfast programme Sunrise after Eamonn Holmes leaves in search of more sofas to eat. The broadcaster tweeted that she was 'absolutely thrilled' to have been chosen to be the show's lead presenter from 17 October. Jonathan Samuels said he was 'hugely excited' to be appointed Mee's co-host. Mee, who began her career at Sky as a runner for Sky Sports, added: 'Taking over from Eamonn is a real honour. Live news is always such a thrill.' The thirty eight-year-old has also worked for ITV as a sports reporter and presenter in the Midlands. She returned to Sky in 2008 and viewers have seen her hosting Saturday Night Football and Cricket AM on the Sky Sports channels.
Stephen Dixon will continue to host Sunrise from Friday to Sunday alongside co-host Isabel Webster. Odious horrorshow (and drag) Holmes announced that he was leaving Sunrise earlier this month after eleven years presenting the breakfast show. Badly. The fifty six-year-old horrorshow (and drag) claimed that he wanted to 'step away' in order to 'produce and present a number of documentary projects.' Which sounds a bit like those politicians who quit the front bench because they 'want to spend more time with their family.'
Sky News has hired Channel Five News editor Cristina Nicolotti Squires as its Director of Content. Ideally, to provide them with some, one imagines. Squires replaces John McAndrew, who decided to leave Sky earlier this summer after eleven years at the channel, and has since got a job overseeing Tom Bradby’s ITV current affairs programme The Agenda. Squires, who starts in the new year, will also be in charge of Sky News documentaries, special debate programmes and recently launched debate show The Pledge.

Everyone and their dog is currently throwing their shit into The Great British Bake Off debate and, not wanting to be left out, or passing up the opportunity for a few sneaky headlines, the producer of Poldark and Victoria has made his gob go on the subject. Damien Timmer of Mammoth Screen has 'hit out' (that's tabloidese for criticised only with less syllables) at Love Productions for not renewing with the BBC and signing up with Channel Four to the tune of twenty five million knicker. Speaking to the Daily Torygraph, Timmer said: 'I think Love Productions' behaviour has been disgraceful. Treating the BBC with such little respect, I think it's shameful. I'm aghast that a production company would behave like that.' Regarding his own BBC hit, Poldark, Timmer added: 'The BBC can have Poldark as long as they want.'
Gaby Roslin has told a story about the time a member of the public give her a punch up in the mush. Well, you know, who among us hasn't idly thought at some stage in their lives about somebody punching Gaby Roslin up the bracket? This blogger certainly knows he has. It's practically a national sport. The Saturday Show presenter appeared as a panellist on Channel Five's The Wright Stuff on Friday morning and revealed that she was punched in the face on Oxford Street after 'confronting' a woman about dropping litter. Probably good idea not to 'confront' people in that case, Gabs, m'love. It's not worth the hassle. The incident, which occurred in front of her two children, was mentioned during a debate on 'low level crime' on the programme. 'I did ask someone about littering,' said Gaby. 'I asked them to pick it up and they punched me in the face. In Oxford Street - two women. That's a completely true story.'
Miley Cyrus appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this week and, dropped the 'f' bomb. The singer was guesting as part of a Phone Booth sketch when she was asked to name three US states where marijuana is legal to smoke recreationally. Answering Colarado and California, Cyrus then asked whether ganja is legal now in New York. After she was told that it was not, she said: 'Fuck, I'm in trouble.' Fallon hurriedly pointed out that she had just used obscene language and Cyrus apologised: 'I mean shoot, I'm in trouble,' she said, before adding 'am I more in trouble for saying [that]?' Yep, probably.
Pete Burns has been speaking about his addiction to cosmetic surgery and how it nearly killed him. Appearing on Channel Five's Botched Up Bodies, the former Dead Or Alive singer admitted that he had 'lost count' of the number of times he'd gone under the knife, estimating the figure to be around three hundred, according to the Sun. He also claimed that 'a pint and a half of pus' had to be drained from his face after his lip fillers got infected. Sorry if you've just had your tea, dear blog reader, I just report the news.
Children's author Roald Dahl is to become the first person to be honoured posthumously with a gold Blue Peter badge. Dahl's daughter, Lucy, will accept the accolade on behalf of her father in an episode of the children's show, to be broadcast on CBBC next week. Dahl's much-loved works include Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The Twits. Had he not died in 1990, the author would have been one hundred on 13 September this year. The episode will see science presenter Greg Foot recreate Frobscottle - the favourite drink of The Big Friendly Giant. The show will also feature a performance by the cast of the West End musical version of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Only a handful of gold Blue Peter badges are given out each year, in recognition of bravery, inspiration, citizenship and outstanding achievements. Lucy Dahl said that it was 'extraordinary' and 'truly amazing' for her father to receive the accolade. 'When you read a book you create your own version of the story and you create your own pictures in your own mind,' she said. 'Dad felt that reading books was one of the most important things a child could do, because he felt that imagination was so important.' 'Roald Dahl's literary magic continues to enchant generations of children and will do for years to come,' Blue Peter editor Ewan Vinnicombe said. 'Blue Peter is honoured to be able to celebrate his remarkable imagination in this special show.' Previous recipients of the gold Blue Peter badge include US film-maker Steven Spielberg and the illustrator and children's author Chris Riddell.
A parliamentary committee has found the former Scum of the World editor Colin Myler and legal manager Tom Crone extremely in contempt of the House of Commons over 'evidence' which they gave about the phone-hacking scandal. But Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International – now known as News UK – was cleared of misleading the culture, media and sport select committee during its investigations. The finding by the select committee of privileges follows an excoriating report in 2012 from the culture select committee at the height of the scandal, which ultimately led to the closure of the disgraced and disgraceful filth of humanity the Scum of the World in shame and ignominy and very criminal proceedings against several senior journalists, including its former editor - and convicted hacker - Andy Coulson. The culture committee's one hundred and twenty one-page report on phone-hacking concluded that News International executives sought to 'buy silence' and downplay the extent of hacking at the paper when summoned to give evidence before the committee over several years. As indeed they did in public, constantly sticking to the 'one rogue reporter' defence until forced, by the overwhelming weight of evidence to the contrary, to come clean and tell the truth. The company's chairman, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, was accused of 'wilful blindness' to phone-hacking at the Sunday tabloid and was described as 'not a fit person' to run a piss-up in a brewary, let alone a multinational media corporation. His son, James Murdoch The Small, was described as 'exhibiting a lack of curiosity' and 'wilful ignorance' at the time of negotiations to settle a potential legal claim by the head of the Professional Footballers' Association, Gordon Taylor, following the hacking of his phone. Hinton was accused of 'inexcusably' misleading of parliament over a two hundred and forty three thousand knicker settlement with the former Scum of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, who had been extremely jailed in 2007 for his part in phone-hacking. Myler, the paper's last editor before it closed - in shame and ignominy - in July 2011 and Crone were accused of 'deliberately avoiding the disclosure' of 'critical information' to the committee and 'answering questions falsely.' The culture committee referred its report to the privileges and standards committee to investigate complaints that it was 'grossly unfair' to Scum of the World executives, in what has become a test case for parliament on how it responds when witnesses allegedly mislead parliamentary committees. Crone has survived a series of investigations by police and was recently cleared of six professional misconduct charges over his use of a private detective to investigate his legal opponents' private lives. The privileges committee found that Crone had misled the culture committee in 2009 by giving a 'counter-impression' of the significance of the confidentiality of the Gordon Taylor settlement, the scale of which was later concluded to relate to the fact Taylor had been hacked. Crone had misled the committee - in his badness - by 'answering questions falsely' - or, you know, lying - about his own knowledge of the involvement of the paper's employees in phone-hacking. The report, however, cleared Crone of seeking to mislead the committee about the commissioning of surveillance on 'people of interest' to the Scum of the World. The penalties available to the House in cases of contempt include the power to summon a person to the bar of the House to be 'reprimanded,' to imprison them and/or to fine them. In this case. the committee recommended 'formal admonishment.' Crone immediately criticised at the report, saying that he did not accept the findings. Pity for him. He said that it was 'regrettable' that the culture committee had chosen to 'ignore completely' the evidence he gave, which was that he had accepted 'unequivocally' at the outset of his appearance that hacking went beyond - way beyond - the activities of the paper's royal editor - the 'one rogue reporter' of infamy. The committee concluded on Wednesday that Myler, who emerged unscathed from the phone-hacking scandal, had misled the culture committee by 'answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone-hacking and other wrongdoing.' Myler, who was editor of the Scum of the World between 2007 and 2011, said he was 'extremely disappointed' with the committee's findings, which, he claimed, were made 'despite evidence in its report' which 'plainly contradicts' its conclusions. 'It is profoundly disappointing that the privileges committee has chosen to act in a manner which serves to discredit parliamentary procedures rather than enhance the very authority and respect which they profess to command,' he whinged. The committee found that the allegation made by the culture committee that Hinton had 'sought to mislead it' over the extent of a pay-off to Goodman was 'not significantly more likely than not to be true.' It said that the evidence Hinton had also misled the committee over his knowledge of Goodman and phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire's naughty and illegal activities did not meet the 'standard of proof set for a finding of contempt.' It also criticised the committee's scepticism about Hinton's memory of events. Hinton resigned in 2011 after fifty two years working with billionaire tyrant Murdoch because he felt the phone-hacking scandal was affecting the reputation of another of the tycoon's titles. In a statement, Hinton described the findings as 'too little and too late,' coming so long after he was 'vilified' by the committee. 'Parliament has a back-to-front idea of justice and fairness when it claims these standards after allowing the sham trial and free-for-all character assassination I experienced in 2012,' he whinged. In a sign that the phone-hacking scandal still has some way to run, Labour MP Paul Farrelly, who was on the culture, media and sport select committee at the time, said he would 'want to re-examine' the evidence given to the committee of well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks. He also wanted to 'revisit' the evidence of Coulson, who was extremely jailed for naughty and bad phone-hacking offences. Farrelly said that he was 'pleased' the privileges committee had agreed that Crone and Myler had misled the culture committee. But, he said, the second half of the report was 'disappointing'; that the committee had drawn 'confusing conclusions' over Hinton and that there was 'plenty of evidence that the organisation long obstructed the search for the truth, yet the privileges committee finds itself unable to draw that conclusion.'
Reet slammin' thanks go to this blogger old mucker Ben Adams for alerting him to this thrilling review of The Monkees' fiftieth anniversary show at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood by Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times. There was barely a dry eye in yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor after reading the piece. Gosh, has Peter Tork got a ageing painting locked away in his attic by any chance?
On a marginally related note, Eight Days A Week - Ron Howard's new documentary about The Be-Atles' touring days in the early 1960s - has contributions from familiar faces such as yer actual Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (MBE) his very self. A lLess expected star of the show is Larry Kane, who as a young journalist accompanied the popular beat combo (you might've heard of them) on every date of their first two US tours in 1964 and 1965. There's a very good interview with Larry which you can read here.
Great Britain's Paralympics squad have surpassed their London Olympics medal tally of one hundred and twenty on day nine of the games in Rio with two days of competition still to go. The team have, at the time of writing, won one hundred and twenty six medals, including nine more golds on Friday. Gordon Reid won the wheelchair tennis final, Hannah Cockroft clinched the T34 eight hundred metres, there was swimming relay gold and Sophie Christiansen, Lee Pearson and Natasha Baker won in the dressage. Paul Blake took T36 four hundred metres gold, there was boccia success for David Smith and John Walker landed an archery gold. Sophie Wells and sixty seven-year-old Anne Dunham both won silver in the dressage and silvers also went to T1-2 road cyclist David Stone and Andrew Marren, in the S5 fifty metre backstroke. The Briton finished behind Brazilian swimming superstar Daniel Dias, who won his third gold and seventh medal of the games. The twenty eight-year-old has now amassed twenty one Paralympic medals in his career. There was British medal success in the table tennis as Will Bayley, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson won class six to eight bronze in the team event. And, discus thrower Dan Greaves maintained his record of having won a medal at every games, by winning in his fifth Paralympics. This time it was bronze for the Leicestershire-born thirty three-year-old in the F44 final. Britain have a total of fifty eight gold medals from these games and reached the fifty mark when Blake won his T36 race in a time of 54.49 seconds - nearly a second clear of Ukraine's Roman Pavlyk and New Zealander William Stedman. UK Sport set the Paralympics team a - stiff - target of one hundred and twenty one medals, which was achieved when Cockroft blitzed the field to win in the Olympic Stadium and team-mate Kare Adenegan took bronze. The team have also surpassed the one hundred and twenty two medals won at the Atlanta games in 1996.
Among the many highlights from earlier in the games for the British team were gold medals for Dame Sarah Storey, Steve Bate (with pilot Adam Duggleby), Megan Giglia, Sophie Thornhill (with pilot Helen Scott), Jody Cundy, Lora Turnham (with pilot Corinne Hall), Jon Allan-Butterworth, Louis Rolfe and Karen Darke in the velodrome, Bethany Firth, Ellie Simonds, Susie Rodgers, Sascha Kindred, Stephanie Millward, Matt Wylie and Hannah Russell among many others in the pool, track and field athletes Jonnie Peacock, Sophie Hahn, Libby Clegg (and guide Chris Clarke), Richard Whitehead, Aled Davies and Hollie Arnold, rowers Lauren Rowles, Laurence Whiteley and Rachel Morris, table tennis players Will Bayley and Rob Davies and canoeists Jeanette Chippington, Emma Wiggs, Anne Dickens. Not forgetting the truly remarkable Kadeena Cox who won golds in both cycling and athletics. Britain have also, to date, won medals in sports as diverse as wheelchair tennis, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair basketball, archery, triathlon and powerlifting.
And ...
Cyclist Dame Sarah Storey led the way as ParalympicsGB achieved their best medal haul since Seoul 1988 on the final full day of action in Rio on Saturday. Britain now have one hundred and forty seven medals - surpassing the one hundred and thirty one achieved in Sydney in 2000 - with six more golds won on day ten. However, the tragic death of Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad overshadowed all of the action on Saturday. The forty eight-year-old suffered fatal injuries during a crash in the men's C4-5 road race. The Iranian Paralympic Committee released a statement in which they paid tribute to 'an exemplary Paralympic sportsman who, with love and energy, tried his best to promote the name of Iran.' The statement added: 'The name of Bahman Golbarnezhad will be inscribed in the proud history of Iranian Paralympics.' International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven said: 'This is truly heartbreaking news and the thoughts and condolences of the whole Paralympic movement are with Bahman's family, friends and team-mates as well as the whole of the National Paralympic Committee of Iran.' Saturday's race began at Pontal and included the Grumari circuit used in the Rio Olympics road races. The Vista Chinesa circuit, which included a treacherous descent where Annemiek Van Vleuten of the Netherlands crashed and sustained concussion and come fractures during the Olympics, was not part of the Paralympic course, however. According to the IPC, Golbarnezhad was involved in a crash at around 10:35am local time on the first section of the Grumari loop, a mountainous stretch of the course, on a curved descent. He received treatment at the scene and was in the process of being taken to the athlete hospital when he suffered a cardiac arrest. The race was Golbarnezhad's second at the Rio Paralympics, after he finished fourteenth in the C4 time-trial race on Wednesday. Golbarnezhad, from the city of Shiraz in Southern Iran, also participated in the London 2012 Paralympics, having taken up the sport in 2002. He competed in events for athletes with lower limb impairments or amputations. Dame Sarah Storey, Britain's most decorated female Paralympian, won her third Rio gold with victory in the women's C4-5 road race. She was one of six Britons to win on day ten as Britain's gold medal tally moved to sixty four. Britain also matched the highest number of gold medal sports at a Paralympics - eleven, which is equal with China at Beijing 2008. Storey who finished the seventy five kilometre in two hours, fifteen minutes and forty two seconds, struck out alone to finish three and a half minutes before China's Jianping Ruan. The thirty eight-year-old from Manchester has now won fourteen Paralympic golds from both cycling and swimming. Her team-mate Crystal Lane took bronze, her first medal of the games. Kadeena Cox, who became the first Briton since 1988 to win a medal in two sports at the same Paralympics, pulled out of the race before the start with a hamstring injury. Storey now has two gold medals fewer than swimmer Mike Kenny, the most successful British Paralympian of all time, who won his sixteen medals between 1976 and 1988. 'I keep pushing myself in the knowledge my rivals are going to catch me and thankfully it's not yet,' Storey said. Steve Bate and Adam Duggleby, who both won gold in the velodrome earlier this week, took bronze in the men's B road race for the visually impaired. There was a British one-two-three in the W1 individual archery as Jess Stretton defeated Jo Frith in the final and Vicky Jenkins took bronze. Sixteen-year-old Stretton beat fifty five-year-old Frith one hundred and thirty seven to one hundred and twenty four in their final and Jenkins defeated Kim Ok-geum of Korea by one point in the bronze medal match. Stretton told BBC Radio 5Live: 'I had to try to tell myself to keep calm because I did feel under pressure and sometimes I can freak out because of that. I had to trick myself into thinking it was just another shooting session which was quite difficult - but I managed it.' Jenkins almost did not have the chance to compete - the 39-year-old told 5Live that she was in hospital on Monday, unable to move and was only released on Friday night. Frith had her starring moment later when both she and John Walker won the mixed team archery event with a one hundred and thirty nine to one hundred and twenty nine win over the South Korean pair. It was Walker's second gold of the games after claiming the W1 individual title on Friday. Britain also excelled again at the Aquatics Stadium on the final day of competition. Northern Ireland's Bethany Firth blew away the field to win the SM14 two hundred metres individual medley and secure her third gold medal of the games. Team-mate Jessica-Jane Applegate took silver. Mansfield's Ollie Hynd won his second gold by taking the SM8 two hundred metres medley title in a world record time of two minutes twenty seconds. And, Hannah Russell also won her second title with victory in the women's S12 fifty metres freestyle final. Another double gold medallist, Stephanie Millward, took silver in the women's two hundred metres individual medley with eighteen-year-old Tom Hamer powering to silver in the men's version. Fifteen year old Ellie Robinson won bronze in the S6 one hundred metres freestyle. Andrew Mullen added to his S5 fifty metres backstroke silver and two hundred metres freestyle bronze with third place in the one hundred metres freestyle. Brazil's Daniel Dias won the race - his fourth gold of the games. But, from a British perspective, it was a swimmer two years younger than Robinson who stole the show. Scot Abby Kane, who turned thirteen in August, produced a sensational performance to clinch silver in the women's S13 one hundred metres backstroke. 'I don't really know what to say,' she told Channel Four. 'I'm speechless because I'm so happy. It's been a great experience.' Great Britain's wheelchair basketball team won bronze by beating Turkey eighty two- seventy six in a thrilling finish. Terry Bywater's long-range three-pointer with a minute left gave Britain a lead they did not relinquish. Simon Munn, confirming his seventh Paralympics would be his last, said: 'It was up and down throughout the game and I can't believe that finish. Terry Bywater, what a man. Tremendous heart from the GB boys, just unbelievable.' Bywater, at his fifth Paralympics, said: 'To pick ourselves up after that Spain defeat [in the semi-final] shows what we're all about. I can't wait to see my family with that medal round my neck, I don't care what colour it is, it's a Paralympic medal.' Maria Lyle, aged sixteen, won bronze in the women's T35 two hundred metres, to match her one hundred metres run and add to her silver from the T35-38 four by one hundred metres relay. Battling in lane six, she ran a superb bend to record a season's best 29.35 seconds, but saw the two competitors outside her vie for the gold, with China's Zhou Xia pipping Isis Holt of Australia in a new world record time. In the sailing, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell won bronze in the two-person keelboat and Helena Lucas repeated the feat in the one-person keelboat 2.4mR.
Those who watched The Last Leg Live From Rio presenter Alex Brooker talking about his heartfelt admiration for paracylist Alex Zanardi would - if they've anything resembling a heart beating in their chest - have been very moved by what they heard. Italian Zanardi - a talented former racing driver who competed for Williams in F1 - lost portions of both his legs in a cart championship accident in 2001 and eventually took up hand-cycling. Having previously won two gold medals in London 2012, the forty nine-year-old secured his third Paralympics title on Thursday and then helped Italy to win the mixed team relay on Friday. Brooker told the popular Channel Four programme on Thursday: 'The great thing about Alex is not that he's a world-class hand-cyclist, but his attitude to disability is unlike anything I've ever heard before. I've been disabled all my life and I've complained about it when I wanted. I come on here celebrating my disability and I'm confident, but I'll never fully be completely okay with it. Able-bodied people at home will watch the Paralympic Games and be inspired by it - but as a disabled man, he inspires me.'
An author in New Orleans rushed into his burning home to save a laptop, which contained his two unpublished novels. 'Anybody that's ever created art, there's no replacing that,' Gideon Hodge told the New Orleans Advocate. He safely made it into and out of the building with the computer and no other injuries were reported. 'It [the laptop] has got pretty much my life's work,' said Hodge who describes himself as a playwright, novelist and actor. 'This fire could have been much worse,' said Superintendent Timothy McConnell, from the New Orleans Fire Department. 'Taking into account the size of the fire on arrival, the job done by our firefighters was incredible.' Another resident, Edderin Williams had enough time to grab his wallet and keys before rushing out of his apartment, one of four in the building, but was not able to save anything more. He does not have insurance. 'I just don't know how I feel right now. I'm just going to have to pick up the pieces and move on,' he said.
Astronomers have discovered signs of a 'baby planet' developing around another star. The team used an array of radio telescopes in Chile to close in on a nascent planetary system lying one hundred and seventy six light-years from Earth - relatively nearby in astronomical terms. Because, as Douglas Adams once noted, 'space is big. Really big.' The forming planet is thought to be an ice giant, similar to Uranus or Neptune in our own Solar System. The findings are to be published in the latest issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. In the two decades since the first exoplanets were found, astronomers have discovered that planetary systems do not necessarily follow the familiar template set by the eight planets which orbit our Sun. There is a great diversity in the configuration of planetary systems and in the characteristics of exoplanets themselves. There is much debate over how this diversity emerges, including over the formation of Neptune-like icy giants. Takashi Tsukagoshi at Ibaraki University in Japan and colleagues used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Northern Chile to take a close look at the planet formation site. TW Hydrae is estimated to be about ten million years old - a mere infant in cosmic terms - and is one of the closest young stars to Earth. Thanks to its proximity and the fact that its axis of rotation points in Earth's direction, astronomers were able to get a face-on view of the developing planetary system. The star is surrounded by a disc made of tiny dust particles. Variations in the signal received by ALMA allowed researchers to estimate the size of these dust grains. Smaller, micrometre-sized dust particles dominate the most prominent gap in the disc, which has a radius of twenty two astronomical units. Gravitational interactions and friction between gas and dust has probably pushed the larger dust out of the gap, say the researchers. The team calculated the mass of the unseen planet based on the width and depth of the twenty two AU gap and found that the planet is 'probably' slightly more massive than Neptune. 'Combined with the orbit size and the brightness of TW Hydrae, the planet would be an icy giant planet like Neptune,' said Doctor Tsukagoshi. ALMA consists of sixty six high precision antennas located on the Llano de Chajnantor, a plateau in the Atacama Desert with an altitude of five thousand metres. The antennas capture and concentrate radio waves from astronomical sources, allowing astronomers to see through the dust that obscures parts of the sky from visible light telescopes.
The most precise map of the night sky ever assembled is taking shape. Astronomers working on the Gaia space telescope have released a first tranche of data recording the position and brightness of over a billion stars. And, for some two million of these objects, their distance and sideways motion across the heavens has also been accurately plotted. Gaia's mapping effort is already unprecedented in scale, but it still has several years to run. Remarkably, scientists say that the store of information even now is too big for them to sift and they are appealing for the public's help in making discoveries. To give one example of the scope of Gaia: Of the over one billion light sources in Wednesday's data release, something like four hundred million of these objects have never been recorded in any previous catalogue. 'You're imaging the whole sky in basically [Hubble] space telescope quality and, because you can now resolve all the stars that previously, maybe looked as though they were merged as one star at low resolution - now we can see them,' explained Anthony Brown from Leiden University in the Netherlands. Gerry Gilmore from Cambridge University was one of the mission's proposers. 'Gaia is going to be a revolution,' he said. 'It's as if we as astronomers have been bluffing up until now. We're now going to see the truth.' A web portal has been opened where anyone can play with Gaia data and look for novel phenomena. When a group of schoolchildren showed the BBC how to do it last week, they stumbled across a previously undocumented supernova. The European Space Agency launched its Gaia mission in 2013. Its goal was to update and extend the work of a previous satellite from the 1980s called Hipparcos. This observatory made the go-to Milky Way catalogue for its time - an astonishing chart of our cosmic neighbourhood. It mapped the precise position, brightness, distance and proper motion (that sideways movement on the sky) of one hundred thousand stars. Gaia, with its first release of data, has just increased that haul twenty-fold. As the Earth goes around the Sun, relatively nearby stars appear to move against the 'fixed' stars which are even further away. Because we know the Sun-Earth distance, we can use the parallax angle to work out the distance to any specific target star. But, such angles are very small - less than one arcsecond for the nearest stars, or 0.05 per cent of the Moon's diameter. Gaia will make repeat observations to reduce measurement errors down to seven micro-arcseconds for the very brightest stars. Parallaxes are used to anchor other, more indirect techniques on the 'ladder' deployed to measure the most far-flung distances. It is a function of the leap in technology. The new mission actually carries two telescopes, which it scans across the Milky Way from a location about 1.5 million km from Earth. The telescopes' mirrors throw their captured light on to a huge, one-billion-pixel camera detector connected to a trio of instruments. It is this ultra-stable and super-sensitive optical equipment that Gaia uses to pick out its sample of stars with extraordinary confidence. The called-for specification was to get to know the brightest objects' coordinates down to an error of just seven micro-arcseconds. This angle is equivalent to the size of a Euro coin on the Moon as seen from Earth. In addition to their position and proper motion, the stars are having their physical properties analysed by Gaia. Its instruments are acquiring details such temperature and composition. These are markers needed to help determine the stars' ages. Not all of this information can be gleaned at once. It will take repeat viewing, but by the end of five years of operations the one hundred thousand stars fully profiled by Hipparcos should become at least a billion in the Gaia catalogue. That is a conservative estimate, however. If one thing is clear from the new data it is that Gaia is seeing many fainter stars than anyone had anticipated. Once the project is complete it could have plotted two to three billion light sources. Astronomers around the world will have dived into the data the moment it went live on servers on Wednesday - and for all manner of reasons. Some of the 1.1 billion light sources will not actually be stars; they will be the very bright centres of very distant galaxies - what are known as quasars. The nature of their light can be used to calculate the mass of all the stuff between them and us - a means, in effect, to weigh the Universe. A good number of other data-users will be planet-hunters. By studying the way Gaia's stars appear to wobble on the sky, it should be possible to infer the gravitational presence of orbiting worlds. 'Gaia is going to be extremely useful for exoplanets and, especially, systems that have the Jupiter kind of planets,' said ESA's Gaia project scientist, Timo Prusti. 'The numbers are going to be impressive; we expect twenty thousand. The thing is, you need patience because the exoplanets are something where you have to collect five years of data to see the deviation in the movements.' By way of comparison, in the past twenty years of planet-hunting, astronomers have confirmed three thousand worlds beyond our Solar System. One eagerly anticipated measurement is the radial velocity of stars. This describes the movement they make towards or away from Gaia as they turn around the galaxy. If this measurement is combined with the stars' proper motion, it will lay bare the dynamics of the Milky Way. It should be possible, for example, to make a kind of time-lapse movie - to run forwards to see how the galaxy might evolve into the future, or to run backwards to see how our cosmic neighbourhood came to be the shape it is today. At the outset of the mission, scientists had hoped to get radial velocity data on about one hundred and fifty million stars. But this was thrown into doubt when it was realised soon after Gaia's launch that unexpected stray light was getting into the telescope. This made the observation of the faintest stars and their colours far more challenging. Engineers think they understand the problem: in part it is caused by the way sunlight bends past the ten metre-diameter shade that Gaia uses to keep its telescopes in shadow. And the good news according to the scientists is that they think they can 'work around' the difficulties. The longer the mission runs, they believe, the closer Gaia will get to its target of one hundred and fifty million radial velocity measurements - and that movie.
A petition calling for Australia to put the late conservationist Steve Irwin on its currency has gathered almost twenty thousand signatures. Irwin, known as The Crocodile Hunter after his wildlife television show, died in 2006 when a stingray's tail stabbed him in the heart. The petition calls on citizens to 'pay their respects' to the 'all-time greatest Australian bloke.' It remains unclear whether the petition will have any impact - if it does it'll be virtually unique in that regard. The petition calls for fans to 'go one step further' in 'recognising Steve Irwin's efforts.' 'We started this petition because the newer generation barely knows who is representing our currency,' Kyle Ryan, one of the founders of the petition told the BBC. 'We believed that having a childhood icon and conservationist like Steve would be a great idea for his tenth anniversary.' Steve Irwin's face has already appeared on Australian currency once, in a 2009 series of dollar coins commemorating 'Inspirational Australians.' The chief executive of the Royal Australian Mint said the petition 'highlighted the passion throughout a sub-section of the Australian community to recognise Mr Irwin' and invited people to send in a formal proposal.
Liverpool councillors have unanimously backed a - frankly, long overdue - motion calling on retailers in the city to stop selling the Sun newspaper completely. A widespread boycott of the newspaper has been in place across Merseyside for more than twenty five years in protest at the paper's disgraceful - and now, thankfully, discredited - coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, which left ninety six people dead. At a council meeting in Liverpool town hall on Wednesday night, councillors backed a motion calling on shops in the city to stop selling the sorry excuse for a paper, condemning it for publishing 'blatant lies.' Quite why this wasn't done in 1989 is another matter entirely but, you know, better late than never. 'Due to crowd control mismanagement those fans, whose ages ranged from ten to sixty seven years old, had the life crushed out of them,' the motion said. 'Contrary to the facts, the Sun published a front page story with the banner headline The Truth which contained blatant lies.' The paper's initial coverage claimed - entirely untruthfully - that Liverpool fans were drunk and had attacked those trying to help the victims of the disaster. The report also claimed that some fans had pickpocketed the dead and urinated on police. 'For this reason we call on all retailers and vendors of newspapers in Liverpool to stop selling the Sun,' said the motion, which applauded the work by campaign group Total Eclipse of the Sun for working to 'rid Liverpool of the paper.' A spokesman for the Sun said that they would not be commenting on the vote. After an inquest verdict in April, which found that the ninety six victims had been 'unlawfully killed,' the Sun again apologised for its coverage of the disaster, but drew strong criticism for being one of the few national newspapers not to put the verdict on its front page. The paper's leader column following the inquest ruling said: 'The supporters were not to blame. But the police smeared them with a pack of lies which in 1989 the Sun and others in the media swallowed whole. We apologised prominently twelve years ago, again four years ago on the front page and do so unreservedly again now. Further, we pay tribute to the admirable tenacity of the friends and relatives over so many years on behalf of the ninety six who died.' Speaking ahead of the vote, Hillsborough survivor Ralph Hadley, from the Total Eclipse of the Sun campaign, said that around two hundred and twenty shops in the city had already agreed to stop selling the paper. The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said the newspaper would 'never, ever' be forgiven for its coverage of the disaster - and, rightly so. 'If I had my way and we could legally do it, I would ban it from shops across the city region,' he added. The MP Steve Rotheram, Labour's candidate to be mayor of the Liverpool city region, welcomed the councillors' move. 'I commend the work the Total Eclipse of the Sun group is carrying out to promote and celebrate establishments across our area that do not sell the Sun,' he said in a statement. 'I know individuals will agree with me that the lies and smears they peddled in coverage about the Hillsborough disaster were abhorrent. The campaign has garnered impressive momentum and it’' pleasing to see organisations like Merseytravel, as well as businesses within the Liverpool city region, take a principled stance and reject the sale of the newspaper.'
Four women were reportedly thrown off their Manchester-to-Ibiza flight after allegedly threatening other passengers and using racist language. Sadly, they were thrown off the plane whilst it was still on the ground rather than in mid-air which might have been more fitting. They were scheduled to fly to the Balearic island on Tuesday on Monarch Airlines flight ZB504. But, after police were called to Manchester Airport all four were removed from the aircraft. The airline said that they were 'offloaded due to disruptive behaviour.' One witness, Amber Ferguson, described the women as 'disgusting human beings.' Photographs of the incident posted by her on social media have drawn thousands of critical comments about the four women. Ferguson, a teaching assistant from Manchester, said that the women 'used racist language' and 'threatened other passengers.' She wrote: 'If you know them or are related to them you should be ashamed to know such disgusting human beings!'
On a related note, the number of so-called 'air rage' incidents on UK airlines has quadrupled over a three-year period, according to figures released this week. Civil Aviation Authority data shows there were three hundred and eighty six 'dangerous' incidents in 2015 - compared with just eighty five in 2013. The head of a leading budget airline has suggested people who cause trouble could be banned by all operators. Authorities have called on all air passengers to act their age not their shoe size and, cut it out and don't be daft planks if you want to get to where you're going without handcuffs. It is an offence to be drunk on a plane or to refuse to obey instructions given by the captain. Even if it's a stupid one. Examples of incidents quoted by the CAA include disruptive passengers fighting each other and one passenger who had to be restrained during the flight after 'progressively disruptive behaviour' before attempting to open the plane door. It took four policemen to remove one passenger, who was described as 'uncontrollable and verbally abusive,' in another incident. Growing levels of verbal or physical violence from passengers have been witnessed first-hand by cabin crew member Dan Air - the pseudonym used by the writer of the excellent Confessions Of A Trolley Dolly blog. 'Dan' has worked for UK-based airlines for eleven years. 'Certainly the last two or three years it's got a lot worse - alcohol-fuelled, drug-fuelled,' he said.
A coastal path flasher from Westward Ho! allegedly fled back to his car after a woman hiker told him 'that's a poor excuse for a willy.' According to media reports, Andreas Murgelas exposed himself to two different women in the space of three weeks at footpaths on woodland near Bideford in Devon. The first woman brushed him off with a sarky put-down but noted part of the number plate of his BMW as he left. The second told him to 'grow up' (which, come to think of it is, essentially, what the first one told him as well!) and to get back in his car. Which he did. Murgelas claims that he was a victim of mistaken identity in the first incident and was 'relieving himself' and 'trying to cope with a fungal infection' on the second. He was identified because a lady who was with the first alleged victim recognised the white BMW parked outside his house and noted the full number plate. Edward Hetherington, for the prosecution, said that the first incident took place on a path in Westward Ho! on 20 January 2015 and the second at Northam on 9 February 2015. Both dates, let it be noted, which are in the middle of winter when it's quite cold. I mean, there's bravery and then there's stupidity. Hetherington said that the first incident occurred as two friends returned to Westward Ho! from a two hour walk on the coastal path at around 12.30pm. The two women had just split up. One woman was walking through a path when she encountered Murgelas. Hetherington said: 'She realised he had opened the fly zip of his trousers and was exposing himself to her. She saw his genitals and is clear about what she saw. She said "that's a poor excuse for a willy." He said something like "would you like some of this?"' The woman turned round and rejoined her friend and took a note of the partial number plate. The friend then noted the full number after spotting the car in a nearby street. Hetherington said another woman was walking her dog near Northam when she saw a white BMW parked up and a man on the path. He said: 'He grabbed her wrist as if to pull her round. She pulled her arm away and saw he was holding down the front of his trousers and she could clearly see his genitals. She made a comment urging him to grow up and get back in his car. He drove off and she called the police.' Murgelas initially denied being at either scene but later changed his story and told police there 'must have been another man' in a white BMW at the first. He claimed that he had gone into woodland to relieve himself while on the way home from a medical appointment to treat a fungal infection in his groin which caused him severe itching. Murgelas said that he had been 'interrupted' by the woman and brushed her hand away as she pointed at him. The first woman told the jury she had made a positive identification of Murgelas at a police video identity parade and was sure he was the man she saw on the path wearing a black jacket and black chinos. She said: 'When I saw him he exposed himself and said "do you want some of this?" I said "For goodness sake, I know it is a cold day, but that is just a poor excuse for a willy!" Once I said that, he did not say anything else. I started to walk away. He turned and walked back towards the car.' Murgelas was found extremely guilty of flashing it about a bit. Recorder Andrew Maitland adjourned sentencing to a later date and ordered Murgelas to surrender his passport, not to go to Westward Ho! or Northam and to live with his mother in London, as a condition of bail.
Residents in a sleepy English village have reportedly become embroiled in a bizarre row - over a pair of knickers. The scanty underwear was hung out to dry on a washing line by grandmother Rozamund Perrin, who lives opposite a primary school. But, the offending pair were promptly whipped off the line by the un-named resident - a knicker nicker, if you will - who posted them back through Rozamund's letterbox with an angry, handwritten note. The knicker nicker, from Stokeinteignhead, Devon, wrote: 'It is totally inappropiate [sic] for this type of garment to be displayed opposite the village primary school. There are members of this community that would welcome a halting of this.' An image of the offending knickers - and the accompanying, badly spelled, letter - were posted by Roz's daughter, Charlotte Wilkinson, on Facebook. It has prompted a flurry of responses, poems and even some other women posting their own smalls to Roz as 'a gesture of solidarity.' At least, that's their excuse. When this blogger posted his underwear to someone off I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want), he got a visit from CID. But, perhaps I've said too much. Anyway, in the Facebook post a shocked Charlotte labelled the as-yet unnamed villager 'a prude.' Stokeinteignhead has a population of just seven hundred and its amenities include a primary school, a community shop and a pub, The Church House Inn. Since the news of the knicker nicker broke on social media, Roz has been flooded with messages of support from members of the community. Some, as noted, have sent her their own knickers in the post while others have suggested clubbing together to buy enough knickers to make some bunting to hang across the road.
Officials have confirmed that a woman was charged at the Washington County Jail for having drugs in her underwear and socks. Well, we all need a hobby. Authorities said on Monday 12 September that the Washington County Sheriff's Office had very arrested thirty five-year-old Tanya Lee of Watervliet. Lee was reportedly charged with Promoting Prison Contraband in the first degree, a class D felony, Criminal Possession of Controlled Substance, also a class D felony and Promoting Prison Contraband in the second degree, a class A misdemeanour. Police say that Lee was 'being taken into custody on a separate matter' when she was caught with the drugs 'during the booking process.' Unlucky. Correctional staff searched her and found prescription pills and cocaine in her socks and underwear.
A 'glamorous New York couple' will appear in court this week charged with allegedly forcing another woman in 'rough sex' which left her battered and bruised after the Sundance Film Festival in January. The New York Daily News reports that Anne Hardcastle and Michael Taylor met the woman while they were in town for the film festival. She claims that Taylor bought three rounds of tequila as the couple chatted with the woman and then invited her to an afterparty. The pair said that they needed to 'detour' to their hotel room first where they gave the woman more alcohol and Ecstasy and then suggested a threesome. The victim said that she texted two friends saying she might 'need a ride home' soon but before she could escape 'everything went black,' she told prosecutors. She woke up next to Hardcastle with scratch marks all over her upper body, suction marks on her neck, bruises and bite marks on her arm, a bitten lower lip and acute vaginal pain. The victim presented to the hospital at which time she found an Instagram friend request from Hardcastle. Classy. Detectives advised her to 'find out all she could' about that night through Hardcastle, who admitted that she molested the woman, performed oral sex on her and 'licked her breasts,' prosecutors said. She also claimed that Taylor fondled the victim's breasts and, also, touched her. Where, they did not say. 'You said you liked it rough and so I gave you what you wanted,' Hardcastle told the victim in an incriminating online message, prosecutors claim. However Hardcastle's father, Ed Hardcastle, said that he didn't believe the allegations. 'The last thing she would do is engage in this sort of activity. She's not that sort of person at all. She wouldn't hurt anyone,' he claimed. The Maryland man said tat his daughter and Taylor had been dating 'for a couple years.' He described Taylor as 'a principal at a financial firm' and a former professional hockey player. The couple were arrested last Friday and are being held without bail as the await extradition to Utah.
At least eight people were wounded in a stabbing attack at a shopping mall in the US state of Minnesota, before the suspected attacker was shot extremely dead by police, officials say. The attack happened in St Cloud, seventy miles North-West of Minneapolis. The suspected attacker reportedly 'made references to Allah' before he was killed. None of the injuries were life-threatening, local police said. An off-duty police officer from another jurisdiction shot and killed the suspect, said St Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson. The suspect, who has not yet been identified, was said to have been wearing the uniform of a private security firm when the attack occurred. The attacker asked at least one person if they were Muslim, Anderson said, adding that police 'will be diligent and get to the bottom of this.' He said police have 'no evidence' to believe more than one person was involved in the attack.
An eighteen-year-old Florida woman was injured this week when she was reportedly shot by her friend's oven. Aalaya Walker was visiting a friend in St Petersburg on Monday when they decided they wanted some late-night waffles, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Walker began preheating the oven - unaware that her friend, JJ Sandy, was storing a magazine from his forty five-calibre Glock in the oven. As you do. Well, as he did, anyway. The magazine exploded some time later, spraying casing fragments around the kitchen at high speed and striking Walker. She managed to pick some of the red hot bullet fragments out of her leg and chest and then - displaying a hardness which is scarcely credible - took a bus downtown to the hospital, where she was treated and later released. Sandy told the police that he'd stored the gun in a drawer but had put the magazine in the oven. Why, for the love of God, why? Four rounds were in the thirteen-capacity magazine, he said. Gun and ammunition references indicate that the bullets commonly used in Glocks can explode at temperatures as low as two hundred and eighty degrees - or even lower if they've been exposed to heat for a long time, which degrades the structure. Sandy 'stated that he does not have a temperature gauge on the oven so he estimates the temperature based on how far the knob is turned,' according to the police report, which was obtained by the Times. 'I observed that the inside of the oven was damaged.' In a 2007 episode of the popular science TV show Mythbusters, the presenters found in several experiments that bullets can indeed explode 'once the oven was hot enough. Without a gun barrel to contain and direct the propellant gases, the bullets did not develop enough speed to pierce the glass or steel portions of the oven. The shell casings actually caused more damage than the bullets,' it found - essentially reproducing exactly what police said happened on Monday. Sandy wasn't charged because he had a concealed weapons permit, the Tampa Tribune reported. Only in America, dear blog reader.
The mother of a ten-year-old New Mexico girl who was found dead and dismembered reportedly told police that she looked for men online and at work to sexually assault her daughter, according to search warrants in the case. The documents showed that Michelle Martens told police she had set up 'encounters' with at least three men before the girl was drugged, raped and killed last month. Jesus. I mean, you think you've heard stories which represent the very worst of human depravity and sickness and then something like this comes along. The single mother told investigators that she didn't set up the sexual assaults for the money but did it because she 'enjoyed watching,' according to the warrants. It is currently unclear how long she had been arranging meetings before Victoria Martens' death or, if police have identified any of those men allegedly involved. Police found the girl's dismembered body inside the apartment she shared with her mother on the day she was expected to celebrate her tenth birthday. 'The slaying ignited outcry and vigils,' according to media reports. No shit? Laura Bobbs, a local minister and spokeswoman for the family, cried when she learned about the details outlined in the search warrants. 'Jesus Christ. My poor baby,' she reportedly exclaimed, referring to Victoria. 'She never told us this was going on. I would ask her all the time, "Are you okay?" She would tell me yes.' Bobbs reiterated on Wednesday that there were 'no indications' from Michelle Martens or from the girl that anything was wrong. 'I would see this woman every day. There were no signs. How did she hide this from us?,' she said. 'This thing gets worse and worse and worse.' Michelle Martens, Fabian Gonzales and Jessica Kelley - a cousin of Gonzales' - have all been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sex penetration of child under thirteen. Victoria was reportedly stabbed and strangled. Martens told investigators that one of the men she solicited was a co-worker. Two others, she claimed to have met online, including Gonzales. Martens told police that she used the dating website Plenty Of Fish to look for men to sexually assault Victoria. Her statement to police is included in nearly a dozen warrants to search Martens' apartment, her car and various electronic devices discovered during the investigation, including a camcorder which police believed may have been used 'for sexual exploitation of children.'

And, speaking of the scum of humanity, two daycare teachers have extremely admitted to running a 'fight club' in which children as young as four were forced to spar off against each other in brawls inspired by the 1999 movie of the same name. Erica Kenny, twenty three and Chanese White, twenty nine, were caught after, if you will, breaking the first rule of Fight Club – 'you do not talk about Fight Club' – when they shared videos of the bouts with their followers on social media. The stupid bastards. I mean, seriously, with a lack of brains like that, they deserve everything they're going to get. Prosecutors say that the two New Jersey women used children aged four to six in the fight club at the Lightbridge Academy in Cranford in August 2015. One fight saw about a dozen boys and girls shoving one another to the ground and trying to beat each other up. Investigators said that none of the children were seriously injured in the fighting. Kenny was also said to have recorded videos of the fights and uploaded them to Snapchat. In one clip she is heard quoting lines from the David Fincher film, where Brad Pitt and Edward Norton found an underground group for men to vent their rage by beating each other. The pair - Kenny and Whit this is, not Pitt and Norton - who were fired from the daycare centre days after the incident occurred, entered very guilty pleas last month as part of an agreement with prosecutors. Both admitted one count of fourth-degree child abuse, the New York Daily News reported. They are due to be sentenced on 14 October.

A Bentonville woman is a suspected cat burglar. Literally. She's been charged with stealing a kitten. Brittany Dunn, twenty seven, is charged with 'commercial burglary,' a Class C felony and theft of property, a Class A misdemeanour. Dunn was allegedly playing with some kittens on 5 August at Rose Animal Clinic in Bentonville when she allegedly took one of the kittens and left the premises, according to a 'probable cause affidavit.' A clinic employee followed Dunn and was able to retrieve the kitten 'after a struggle with Dunn,' according to court documents. Police then apprehended Dunn near the clinic, and threw he sorry ass in the slammer. A person commits so-called 'commercial burglary' if he or she enters or remains unlawfully in a commercial occupiable structure of another with the purpose of committing any crime punishable by imprisonment, according to Arkansas law. Dunn was only in court for a short time on Monday afternoon before Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren ordered her to be removed. The hearing was then conducted via video. Karren asked Dunn more than once to stop speaking whilst he was talking. Dunn then gave the judge the 'middle finger' while in the courtroom and Karren - who is obviously a bit narked since he's forced to go through life with a girl's name - ordered her to be removed. Jonathan Faught, Dunn's attorney, entered the not guilty plea on her behalf. Faught also requested a mental evaluation for Dunn. The evaluation will determine whether Dunn is mentally fit to stand trial and if she is criminally responsible for her actions. Karren suspended the proceedings pending the outcome of the mental evaluation. Karren also found Dunn in contempt of court and ordered her to serve thirty days in the county jail for her naughty gesturing. He suspended the sentence until she has her mental evaluation. Dunn faces from three to ten years in The Big House if convicted of the felony and up to a year in jail if convicted of the misdemeanour theft charge.

Ever wondered, dear blog reader, why there are so many pictures on the Interweb of women laughing at their salad? Seemingly, it's not just me, other people have noticed as well.
Former attorney Michael W Fine pleaded very guilty to charges that he used his 'hypnotic skills' to 'control' six women for 'his own sexual gratification' as part of a deal with prosecutors which will send him to The Big House for twelve years. Fine entered pleas to five counts of kidnapping and one count of attempted kidnapping during a hearing on Monday, a week before his trial was due to begin. Each of those charges carries a 'sexual motivation specification.' Prosecutors dropped numerous other charges as part of the plea-bargain agreement reached during private pretrial negotiations. Prosecutors and defence attorney, John Pyle, declined to comment after the hearing, citing a gag order imposed on those involved in the case by Judge Patricia Cosgrove. Fine is due back in court 7 November for a sentencing hearing and also will be informed of requirements that he register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Fine fell under scrutiny after one of his legal clients became suspicious of 'lost time' she was experiencing and because 'she was wet in her vaginal area [and] her bra was dishevelled' after she left Fine's office or had conversations with him. The woman took her concerns to Sheffield, Ohio police, who initially suggested that she 'find another lawyer.' But, the woman instead recorded her interactions with Fine, including when he placed her into a trance, according by documents filed by the Lorain County Bar Association in November 2014 seeking 'an emergency suspension' of Fine's law license. Fine was accused of putting the woman into a trance and giving her 'sexual commands,' including telling her to 'have a orgasm' and that she was 'being made love to by the world's greatest lover,' according to the Bar Association filing. The woman took the recordings to law enforcement and she agreed to wear audio and video recording devices into another meeting with Fine at his Sheffield law offices. Once Fine put the woman into a trance, law enforcement raided the office and searched it for evidence, according to court documents. After the allegations against Fine, who permanently relinquished his law licence last year, became public, Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will's office fielded calls from numerous women claiming to have been victimised by Fine and his naughty hypnotising ways. Several women also filed lawsuits against Fine and his former law firm. He was ultimately charged last August with 'taking advantage' of six women. Prior to Cosgrove issuing a gag order in the case, defence attorney Robert Housel said that his client was 'seeking treatment.' Fine's case is at the centre of a dispute between county Domestic Relations Judge Lisa Swenski, who has said that she suspects she was also one of Fine's victims and Lorain attorney, Michael Tony. Swenski removed herself from hearing Tony's cases nearly two years ago. Although she didn't say so at the time, she wrote in court documents filed this summer that she suspected Tony might be 'in league' with Fine. Tony has never been charged with a crime and is not facing disciplinary action from the Ohio Supreme Court's ethics arm.
Canadian author WP Kinsella, whose novel Shoeless Joe became the hit movie Field Of Dreams, has died aged eighty one. His agent said that Kinsella's death on Friday was doctor-assisted, legal practice in Canada from earlier this year. No other details about his health were given. Kinsella published more than thirty works spanning poetry, fiction and non-fiction and won the Order of Canada, one of the country's highest honours. But it is the baseball-themed fantasy novel Shoeless Joe for which he was best known. In it, a farmer hears a voice urging him to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop. When he does the spirits of great players from the past come to play. The novel was adapted into 1989 film Field Of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner. After suffering a head injury in car crash, CBC reported, Kinsella said that he 'lost interest' in writing fiction and instead spent his time playing Scrabble online. However he did resume writing and his final work, Russian Dolls, is due to be released next year.

The playwright Edward Albee, the author of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, has died aged eighty eight. Albee's assistant said that he died on Friday at his home on Long Island. No cause of death was given. A three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Albee was arguably America's greatest living playwright after the deaths of Arthur Miller and August Wilson in 2005. Albee was awarded Pulitzers for A Delicate Balance, Seascape and Three Tall Women. Often bleakly humorous, his plays explored the darker sides of marriage, religion, raising children, and American life. His best-known work, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a portrait of a decaying marriage set over one evening, was denied the 1963 Pulitzer Prize after debuting on Broadway the previous year. The prize's advisory board ruled that the work was 'not sufficiently uplifting' because of its profanity and sexual themes. The work did win a TONY Award for best play and was later adapted into a critically acclaimed film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. In 1996 Albee described the effect of the play's success: 'I find Virginia Woolf hung about my neck like a shining medal of some sort - really nice, but a trifle onerous.' The same year he was awarded a National Medal of the Arts by then-president Bill Clinton. Albee continued to write into his seventies and 2008 saw the premiere of a new play, Me, Myself & I, about identical twins. A few years ago, before undergoing major surgery, Albee penned a short statement to be published at the time of his death: 'To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love,' he wrote. Albee's longtime partner, sculptor Jonathan Thomas, died in 2005.
Flash flooding caused travel chaos in parts of England this week as thunderstorms dumped almost half-a-month's rainfall in some areas overnight to bring the heatwave Britain has been sweltering under for a last couple of months to a juddering halt. A train from Milton Keynes to Euston derailed near Watford Junction, injuring two people. The worst-hit areas were across the East, South and South-East of England which all had amber warnings in place, according to the Met Office. Roads, homes and a hospital were flooded with lightning damaging some buildings. Three times - three times - overnight this blogger his very self was awoken from his slumber by the rolling thunder.
Jeez, it was terrifying, dear blog reader. The third one in particular was so loud this blogger half expected the sky to crack open and the Heavenly Host to put in an appearance.
Actually, it would've been pure dead cool if, say, The Holy Ghost has showed up. Then, yer actual Keith Telly Topping could've done his Eddie Izzard-style James Mason impersonation and said 'Holy Ghost! This is not an episode of Scooby Doo!'
On Thursday evening, dear blog reader, this blogger made a nice pear trifle at Stately Telly Topping Manor for us tea. Sorry if that's hardly Earth-shattering news of the sort that you're used to on From The North, but Keith Telly Topping his very self was quite proud of his efforts. Next time, he'll remember to take a photograph of it for posterity as well. It went cake, meringue, pears, jelly and custard in that order if you're taking notes or want to try it for your very self. Our Maureen Telly Topping suggested that this blogger should have put sherry in it also but, as Keith Telly Topping is, you know, 'on pills for stuff' medically that might not have been a very good idea. This is not, incidentally - and, Keith Telly Topping has been specifically asked if this is the case - part of a cunning culinary masterplan to become the next Mel and/or Sue. Just in case anyone was about to rush off to William Hills and put a bet on.
Now, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping may have mentioned back when he was first diagnosed as being, you know, COMPLETELY BLOODY MENTAL(!) back in May, that he had been referred for talk counselling. This blogger was assured, quite early on, that one of the best coping mechanisms with various mental health issues is trying to maintain a sense of humour. That, at least, still seems to be functioning. But, Keith Telly Topping was also told that counselling can sometimes help. Doctor Chris said that it isn't something which works for everyone and that it certainly wasn't compulsory but, it might be worth checking out, although the waiting list for seeing someone is lengthy. So, four months went by and finally, over last weekend, the invitation letter turned up. Keith Telly Topping debated with himself whether to go or not - it was quite a heated conversation, in the end - but, ultimately, he decided that it was probably worth an hour of his time on a 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' basis. So, on Wednesday, he went along to see them. Couple of nice ladies, Amy and Deb; they invited Keith Telly Topping in and we had a chat and cup of tea. It was interesting, not entirely what this blogger had expected (although, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure what I did expect). Keith Telly Topping said up-front that he wasn't sure whether he'd really benefit from talking about his depression and they both said that was a valid point-of-view and that Doctor Chris was entirely right in what he said, such a route doesn't work with everyone - in fact, in some cases, it can have a broadly negative affect as some people get rather stressed out by the seeming need to 'unload' as it were. A friend of this blogger who went through a period of depression a few years back said more or less the same thing. He went along to counselling and felt that he was being expected to ... I dunno, 'perform,' I guess. He probably wasn't but that was how it seemed to him at the time. Keith Telly Topping still felt odd, talking to strangers about mental health issues. But, it wasn't at all unpleasant. And, the tea certainly helped (no biscuits, though. That was a blow). Keith Telly Topping mentioned that, although he appears to have little problem talking about his depression virtually - via Facebook and this blog, for example - in practice on the few occasions that he's started talking to, you know, 'normal ' people one-to-one about it (apart from with Doctor Chris, obviously) this blogger has sometimes found himself inarticulate and rambling and a bit defensive. They nodded. This blogger talked about how he'd first noticed the symptoms after a couple of months of feeling anxious and discombobulated but not knowing what was causing it. And, how genuinely frightening that had been to begin with. They nodded. Keith Telly Topping mentioned how strange and disconcerting he found the idea of being 'a stranger in my own head' and how, although he believes that he is learning to cope a bit better with it as time goes on, he still has odd days where he feels like he's clinging to his sanity by the fingertips. They nodded. Keith Telly Topping had a slurp of tea and said that there are days where he feels sort of okay, but then there will be a sudden flick-of-the-switch moment (without any obvious trigger) and it's like big a black cloud has just hovered overheard and dumped an unwelcome shipment of gloom all over him. They nodded. Then, Keith Telly Topping realised that he'd been talking virtually non-stop about all this for over half-an-hour. They had said next to nothing, just occasionally dropping in a question if there seemed to be a slight lull in the conversation. One of the things they did say, which was pretty much exactly what Doctor Chris had told this blogger right back at the first diagnosis, is that every single depression is different and there are no obvious cures. Sometimes medication helps, sometimes it doesn't (the jury's still out on that score with this blogger - at the moment, he feels a bit fogged up by Fluxtozine, particularly after the dosage was increased recently; though, it's not an entirely unpleasant feeling). Sometimes you just have to work through it yourself at your own pace and in your own way. Sometimes, talking about it helps. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes exercise helps (particularly in the release of endorphins) but, that's not always a cure-all either. What this blogger is finding more and more in talking to people who have had one form of depression or another is there is no set plan, you just have to play with the cards you've been dealt. Which, to be honest, thus blogger can handle. Keith Telly Topping doesn't mind the fact that it's random in fact, in a way that's strangely comforting. It's nowt personal, mate, we're just messing with your head. At the end when one of them - Amy I think it was - said, 'listen, use us, don't use us, we're here if you think you need us, if not, no worries.' So, Keith Telly Topping thought, that's a positive. I liked them. And the tea was very nice (though, again, no biscuits, which was an issue). This blogger doesn't know whether it's 'helped' or not, per se, but he didn't feel awkward or embarrassed by it as he thought he might. Anyway, Keith Telly Topping going back in a couple of weeks on a casual 'use us as much or as little as you like' basis. He may take along his own biscuits next time just to be on the safe side. Because, obviously, a drink's to wet without one.