Thursday, July 04, 2019

The Poorest Service Is Repaid With Thanks

When it was revealed that yer actual Jodie Whittaker's second Doctor Who series would not be broadcast on the BBC until early 2020, fans were 'gravely disappointed' claims the Radio Times's Huw Fullerton. And, you've asked all of them, have you, Huw? Because this blogger, a Doctor Who fan since 1968 (before you were born, he'd hazard a guess) didn't get that particular memo. Just so we're clear about this; like, one could suggest, many Doctor Who fans, this blogger - who survived sixteen years with just one hundred minutes of new TV Doctor Who to get excited about - is entirely happy to receive whatever he is given by the BBC, whenever they chose to give it and to be grateful for it. Admittedly, some self-entitled individuals who talk loudly on social media may not be quite so laid back about something which is, in the great scheme of things, as vastly unimportant, as the scheduling of a popular long-running family SF drama series. But, that's their problem. Anyway, 'it now looks possible' we could be seeing the return of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama series 'sooner than we thought,' the article continues. With no supporting evidence, let it be noted. Radio Times 'understands,' it claims, that 'a plan is in the works' to broadcast 'a standalone Doctor Who special 'some time' before series twelve hits screens, possibly in a festive slot like this year's New Year's Day special or the Christmas specials which were released every year prior (from 2005 onwards).' So, in other words, this year (or, possibly, very early next year) there is likely to be a Doctor Who special of some description (Christmas or otherwise). Just as there has been every year, as the writer notes, since 2005. And, this constitutes 'news', how, exactly? 'However, it is also possible that the proposed episode will bypass the festive period altogether, airing in a less competitive slot to give the TARDIS team their best reintroduction this winter and avoiding the usual holiday themes favoured by previous Doctor Who specials,' the article adds. 'Exactly what Jodie Whittaker's Doctor and her team could be facing in this special is currently unknown - the BBC are remaining tight-lipped about all aspects of the upcoming episodes and declined to comment for this story - though we do know that the full series will include the return of classic villains The Judoon and a possible jaunt to wartime Paris among other storylines,' Huw hyperventilates. Having just written a story - for which one imagines he was paid quite a bit of wonga - that includes the words 'could', 'possibly' and 'unknown'. Does anyone remember when the Radio Times used to be written by grown-ups? No, dear blog reader, this blogger neither, he's only fifty five.
In relation to the more self-entitled end of Doctor Who fandom - and, indeed, to banal whining of self-entitled people in many aspects of modern life - this blogger is always rather reminded of a sketch on a BBC radio comedy series probably dating back to the 1970s; it may have been Week Ending or perhaps The News Huddlines although Keith Telly Topping wouldn't swear to either. Anyway, the sketch featured a - Derek Robinson-style - rabble-rousing union official addressing an assembled workforce. 'Right lads,' he began. 'After extensive negotiations with management here are the new proposals: a ten per cent pay increase, six weeks annual holiday, shortened working hours, extended comfort breaks ... and, we only have to work on Wednesdays.' There was a pause and then a lone voice came from the back of the crowd, asking: 'What, every Wednesday?'
'Doctor Who will continue battling plastic in the new series. But this enemy won’t be the shop-dummy Autons but something far deadlier,' according to a piece in the Daily Mirra. The article - by Nicola Methvan, who already has a thoroughly well-deserved reputation for writing complete and utter unsubstantiated horseshit related to Doctor Who, as readers with a relatively short memory will be aware - adds that 'Jodie Whittaker will wage war on plastic choking the world's oceans.' Chris Chibnall has, of course, previously 'covered racism, gender politics and British imperialism in the last series, leading some viewers to moan the sci-fi show, aimed at kids, had become "too PC" with it's messages,' Nicola adds. Although, 'some viewers' should read be 'a few dozen whinging malcontent bigots, racists and general worthless scum on Twitter, the readers of the BNP website and a few of Nicola's "journalist" colleagues at the Daily Scum Mail, the Sun and the Torygraph who enjoy stirring up trouble,' obviously. 'But it averaged 8.6 million viewers, making it the most popular since David Tennant's third run as Doctor in 2008,' Nicola continues. And, one supposes, we should be grateful that, this time, she's actually used accurate, consolidated ratings figures rather than overnights like her last piece of abject phlegm on the subject for the Mirra. One, alleged - though anonymous and, therefore, probably fictitious - 'show insider' allegedly revealed: 'Last season, the theme was empowerment for women, mirroring what was happening elsewhere in the world. This time there will be an effort to get behind the message that what we're doing is killing our planet. Kids are really involved in these environmental issues so it's a perfect fit for Doctor Who.' Which, admittedly, does at least sound like the sort of thing someone vaguely connected to either the production itself or the BBC in general might have said rather than the usual 'real people don't talk like that, you plank' tripe which masquerade as 'quotes' from anonymous - and, therefore, probably fictitious - 'sources' or 'insiders' and appear with monotonous regularity in tabloids. 'It has demonstrated a social conscience on other matters, too,' adds Nicola shoehorning a reference to Steve Gallagher's superb 1981 four-part Warriors' Gate in which Tom Baker's overthrew a group of galactic slave trade into the story. The Doctor, of course, also brought down The Taxman in The Sunmakers and stressed the environmental damage being caused to the planet by mining in The Green Death - just two examples of dozens from over the years in which Doctor Who has tackled issues of contemporary (and, in some cases, ahead of contemporary) public concern. The BBC has helped to campaign against single-use plastic since the issue was highlighted by Sir David Attenborough in his 2017 series, Blue Planet II. Interestingly the current government is also committed to reducing plastic wastage as are other broadcasters - most notably, Sky Sports with its Sky Ocean Rescue campaign. So, it'll be fascinating to see if some louse bigot of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail is quite so keen to go down the 'too PC' route this time around.
BBC Radio 4 Extra will broadcast a programme celebrating the centenary of Jon Pertwee's birth, presented by his son, Sean. The Jon Pertwee Files has, reportedly, 'uncovered previously unbroadcast recordings of actor,' who was born on 7 July 1919. In the programme, Sean traces his father's lengthy career in broadcasting, which started after being expelled from several schools and then being asked to leave RADA. In rediscovered interviews we hear Mister Pertwee reminisce about the time he worked at a circus riding a motorcycle on The Wall Of Death with a pet lion, before eventually securing his first contract with the BBC at the age of eighteen. Mister Pertwee devised some very memorable characters through his great vocal range and many successful years in radio comedy followed, including a lengthy stint in The Navy Lark, which secured his status as a household name. Then, with the advent of television he became a recognisable face as the star of Doctor Who in the early 1970s. Through rare recordings made behind-the-scenes at television studios and at the first Doctor Who Appreciation Society Convention in 1977, we hear previously unbroadcast stories. The documentary also features a recording of the last time Mister Pertwee performed as Worzel Gummidge alongside Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally. This recording was 'left untouched for over twenty five years and was located during the making of the programme.' There are also rediscovered recordings of Mister Pertwee undergoing the complicated make-up process during the making of the Worzel Gummidge TV series and visiting a local radio station to take phone calls from enthusiastic children. Sean Pertwee said: 'I think my father would like to be remembered not just for his cult TV programmes, but for his whole body of work. And most of all, he'd like to be remembered as an extraordinary man, which he was.' The Jon Pertwee Files will be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra on Saturday 6 July at 8:00am, with subsequent repeats at 3:00pm and at 3:00am the following day. It will also be broadcast at 4:00pm on BBC Radio Solent on Sunday (Mister Pertwee was a pupil at Sherborne School in Dorset and, later, was based at Portsmouth Naval Barracks during his service in the war). The show will also be available on BBC Sounds for thirty days after its initial transmission.
Mister Pertwee is also heavily featured in the latest issue of the Doctor Who Magazine - number five hundred and forty, fact fans - which is out this week and available from all good newsagents (and, some bad ones) for five English pounds and ninety nine pence.
To celebrate twenty years of Doctor Who on audio, BBC Studios and Big Finish Productions will present a twenty-hour weekend live stream marathon of Doctor Who audio dramas on YouTube. Over two days on the 20 and 21 July, the official Doctor Who YouTube page will broadcast more than twenty episodes of Big Finish audio adventures, featuring David Tennant, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and David Bradley, among many others. Plus, there will be video appearances from plenty of The Doctor's friends, past and present. Big Finish Productions was first granted a licence to create Doctor Who audio adventures on CD back in 1999. Its first production was Doctor Who: The Sirens Of Time, starring Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and The Crap One. The company has since expanded its ranges, producing and distributing over three hundred hours of audio drama each year. To date, over eight hundred titles from Doctor Who and its various spin-offs have been released - a number which grows by the day, with more Doctor Who stories confirmed from Big Finish until at least 2023. Doctor Who fans will be able to hear episodes as well as never before heard snippets, interviews and guest cameos. Anyone joining in the live stream will also be able to comment and chat with other fans about the adventures in the TARDIS, while hearing audio productions starring the likes of David Tennant, Billie Piper, Alex Kingston, John Barrowman, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, David Bradley, Sophie Aldred, Katy Manning, Nicola Walker, Sir Derek Jacobi and many more. Also premiering during the event is the first episode of Doctor Who: The Legacy Of Time - an anniversary box-set release celebrating twenty years of Doctor Who at Big Finish. This first episode stars Paul McGann, Alex Kingston as River Song and Lisa Bowerman as Professor Bernice Summerfield.
Following the sell-out success of Big Finish Productions limited edition Doctor Who stories on vinyl, the company has announced another exclusive release in conjunction with Sainsbury's. Doctor Who: Wave Of Destruction starring Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and John Leeson on Friday 19 July. It will be released as a Limited Edition run of fifteen hundred copies on 'ocean swirl' vinyl - that's blue to you and me, dear blog reader - and will only available in the UK, in Sainsbury's stores. Which had already caused some crass whinging from at least one self-entitled overseas Doctor Who fan who is, he claims, mad as Hell about this shit and he's not gonna take it any more. Or something. If it's any consolation, pal, many of us here in the UK don't shop at Sainsbury's either, on general principle. In this full-cast audio drama - previously released on CD in 2016 - The Vardans return to take on Tom Baker's Doctor. The Doctor previously encountered The Vardans on Gallifrey in the 1978 television story, The Invasion Of Time. They were - let's be honest - the cheapest and nastiest Doctor Who monsters ever being, essentially, made from tin-foil. Thankfully, they work much better when you can't actually see them. A modulated frequency wave cancellation signal isn't something that The Doctor and Romana expected to detect in 1960s London. But, then they don't expect to find Professor Lanchester, the man who invented it, lying unconscious. Or MI5 investigating. With the help of MI5 Agent Miller, Lanchester's daughter Jill and his nephew, a pirate radio DJ called Mark The Doctor, Romana and K-9 investigate these apparently dodgy shenanigans. They soon discover that there is more at risk than they imagined and an alien invasion is about to begin. Can The Doctor identify and defeat the aliens in time? Will Romana manage to find a recombinant transducer before it's too late? And how will K-9 cope with his new job? Tom Baker portrayed The Doctor from 1974 until 1981 returning to star alongside Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt as The Curator in the fiftieth anniversary TV special, The Day Of The Doctor, in 2013. You all knew that, right?
Those dear blog readers who caught The Cure's blistering Sunday night set at Glastonbury on BBC2 may have noticed part of the band's stage set was decorated with a 'Bad Wolf' graffiti. For those who didn't already know, The Cure's bassist, the very excellent Simon Gallup, is a long-time Doctor Who fan and often has a Doctor Who quotation stencilled on his bass - previously spotted examples have included: 'The angels have the phone box' and 'a good man goes to war.' The 'Bad Wolf' logo first came to wider public attention earlier this year when The Cure were inducted into the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame (about twenty years after they should have been, but that's another issue entirely).
This blogger, incidentally, thought The Cure were absolutely great at Glastonbury (as usual). One of the highlights of the entire weekend. But, wouldn't you have thought, dear blog reader, that after forty years in the business Robert Smith would've worked out exactly how to apply his lipstick properly by now? Just sayin' ...
Speaking of Glastonbury, dear blog reader, Stormzy's history-making Friday night set was a hard act to follow but The Killers proved they were worthy with a memorable Saturday set. The US indie rockers, headlining The Pyramid Stage for the second time after their debut twelve years ago, brought on The Pet Shop Boys and yer actual Johnny Marr as part of their performance. As some sneering glake of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star noted, 'a band that obviously have nothing in common musically with Stormzy, The Killers nevertheless share a problem: before they played, a shadow hung over their headline performance. One rumour circulating around the audience is that they were the third choice for the Saturday night headlining slot, drafted in after big name heritage artists declined to sign up.' Whether that was true or not - and, remember, they did headline the event's, smaller, John Peel Stage just two years ago - something about Brandon Flowers' demeanour onstage this year, at least initially, suggested a man who was not entirely sure how things were going to pan out. 'At the end of this show, I don't want anyone to say "They got away with it,"' he said. 'I want people to look up to this stage and say: "Those are the sons-of-bitches that did it."' For what it's worth, dear blog reader, this blogger has always been a bit in two minds about The Killers - some really good tunes on the whole and they seem like a bunch of quite decent blokes but they can sometimes come across as, somewhat over-earnest. A bit like U2 without Mister Bonio's - highly occasional - sense of irony. That said however, this was a great performance and was the second time in three years that this blogger has watched a Glastonbury performance by The Killers and ended it thinking, 'shit, I really should be playing my copy of Hot Fuss a lot more than I do!' Flowers' - an interesting, thoughtful chap with a unique voice - managed to build the set after some quiet moments early on that threatened to have at least some of BBC2's TV audience flicking over to BBC4 to watch The Chemical Brothers instead. The set was sprinkled with the band's trademark singalong anthems - which makes them, in many ways, a perfect band for the standard Glastonbury audience. Flowers dedicated an emotional version of 'A Dustland Fairytale' to his mother, Jean, who died of cancer in 2010. 'We wrote this next song a million miles from here,' he told the crowd. 'But you know, home isn't always a place. Home is a person. Looking back at my childhood home was my mother. And her light went out too soon. There isn't a grave deep enough, there isn't a grave dark enough to keep her light out of my life.' The main set ended with a thrilling 'All These Things That I've Done' (the audience resisting the temptation to repeat 2007's glorious 'I've got ham but I'm not a hamster' refrain). Just before the encores, the comedian Jimmy Carr appeared on stage, pretending to be a roadie, sweeping up confetti. The Pet Shop Boys joined The Killers for a cover of Elvis's 'Always On My Mind' in a medley with 'Human'. Then, Johnny Marr arrived for a version of 'This Charming Man' thirty five years after The Smiths' only Glastonbury show. The Killers were preceded on The Pyramid Stage by Liam Gallagher, who front-loaded his set with material from his solo CD, As You Were. Predictably, these didn't go down as well as the Oasis material he saved for the end of his set - with 'Columbia' and 'Wonderwall' sounding particularly moving version of 'Champagne Supernova' dedicated to The Prodigy's Keith Flint, who died earlier this year. The Chemical Brothers topped the bill on The Other Stage for a record-breaking fifth time - bathing the audience in colour with a typically-ambitious light show. There was, in this blogger's opinion, a bit too much 'newer stuff' from The Chems' broadly speaking, although they did drag out a few old rock-blockin' favourites later in the set. It was a really stunning light show, mind.
During a discussion on Facebook about various aspects of this weekend's Glasto experience, this blogger used what a thought was a mildly amusing - and, original (or, at least, as original as one can get in these days of everything having previously been said by someone) description of Johnny Marr's old Smiths bandmate as 'the world's first vegan gammon.' This seemed to go down quite well and was repeated by at least one of this blogger's dear Facebook fiends. Only, horror of horrors, for someone to point out that more or less exactly the same joke had been used a couple of days earlier on an episode of Radio 4's Dead Ringers. This blogger, clearly, had some public explaining to do. 'I'd love to claim, as I usually do in such circumstances, that "I nicked it and claimed it for my own"' Keith Telly Topping wrote. 'But, unfortunately, I'm not a listener of Dead Ringers and, as a consequence, I can only suggest there's "something in the air" which produced such a coincidence - although, to be honest, it is a pretty obvious joke. To such an extent that I was originally going to write 'vegetarian gammon' and then I thought, 'no, make it vegan, that's funnier!'
She has strangled people with their own ties, stabbed them in the neck with hairpins, slit them like bacon whilst being watched by street tourists and poisoned them with fake perfume. But in the third series of From The North favourite Killing Eve, Villanelle will perform what will be, perhaps, her most iconic assassination to date: murdering the drama's creator. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has revealed that she plans to insert herself into the upcoming series of the BBC America show when it returns in 2020, as a victim of the assassin played by Jodie Comer. She told the Mirra: 'I was like, I am going to write myself a part so that I can be murdered by Jodie.' And, in this particular case dear blog reader, 'I was like' appears to mean 'I said'. Quite why Phoebe couldn't have said that - it's shorter, for a start - is not, at this time, known. She has also revealed that she originally considered herself for the roles of both Villanelle and the M15 agent Eve Polastri, played by Sandra Oh, when writing the first series before deciding against it in favour of casting that introduced a larger age-gap between the leads. 'I just had a really strong instinct that there should be this age-gap because I just felt like it was something I hadn't seen,' Waller-Bridge said. 'I'm not a twenty five-year-old Jodie Comer I mean, let's be frank. And I don't know if I could have scaled a wall quite like she could have done and I'm not in my early forties either.' Waller-Bridge, who starred in her other multi-award-winning creation Fleabag, has recently spoken about how her sudden fame has come to the detriment of her close family, who have 'taken the brunt' of questions about how 'true to life' the raw and personal sitcom about a deeply dysfunctional family was. Waller-Bridge is currently working on the new James Bond script, following intervention from Daniel Craig whom, it is claimed, specifically asked for her to inject the next franchise film with her trademark wit.
Tommy Shelby is swapping Small Heath's back alleys for the hallowed halls of Parliament in the BBC's latest trailer for the forthcoming Peaky Blinders series five. The iPlayer clip features a montage of shots from previous series (including one of the series' most iconic moments: 'What is it that you do?' 'Oh, I do bad things!'), before ending with new footage of Tommy (Cillian Murphy) as the newly elected MP for Birmingham South. In the brief clip, Tommy appears to be preparing to give his maiden speech in Westminster, before a later shot seems to show a bruise under his right eye, suggesting that he hasn't completely moved on from his past life, after all. The clip also shows Big Ben and some fans have speculated online that the position of the clock hands (pointing to eleven and one) could be a clue to series five's release date.
After various media reports that a deal was close to being signed, Netflix has confirmed this week that a TV series based on Neil Gaiman's acclaimed, award-winning and previously thought to be completely unfilmable Sandman comics will be coming to the streaming service. Described as 'a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven,' The Sandman will follow 'the people and places affected by Morpheus, The Dream King, as he mends the cosmic - and human - mistakes he's made during his vast existence,' according to the company. Allan Heinberg will be the showrunner with Heinberg, Gaiman and David S Goyer serving as executive producers; the trio will write the first part of an eleven episode order. 'We're thrilled to partner with the brilliant team that is Neil Gaiman, David S Goyer and Allan Heinberg to finally bring Neil's iconic comic book series, The Sandman, to life onscreen,' said Channing Dungey of Netflix. 'From its rich characters and storylines to its intricately built-out worlds, we're excited to create an epic original series that dives deep into this multi-layered universe beloved by fans around the world.' Like Gaiman's other two recent TV adaptations, the patchy-but-fascinating American Gods and the 'highly regarded except by Christian nuttersGood Omens, The Sandman is a project which has been kicking around on the verge of being produced (as either a TV series or a movie) for at least two decades. A particular favourite of this blogger, the seventy odd issue comic series told the story of Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, one of The Endless a family of God-like entities who also included Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium (formerly Delight) and Destruction. Although, that's a woefully inadequate description - indeed, when Gaiman himself was once asked what The Sandman was 'about' he replied 'it's about two thousand pages!'
The series (1989 to 1996 with a few occasional specials released in the years since) was famous for Gaiman's use of anthropomorphic personification of various metaphysical entities, while also blending mythology and history in its setting within the DC Universe. And it was great, dear blog reader - properly thoughtful, literate, witty, clever and full of memorable storylines and characterisation (notably Morpheus's deliciously complex relationship with his older sister, Death). When this blogger shared a panel with Neil at the CON-vergence convention in Minneapolis in 2000, this blogger took a randomly-assembled dozen issues of The Sandman from his own collection for Neil to sign. Between us, we decided that one can tell a lot from the apparent randomness of which issues someone in such a position transports six thousand miles. Thus: 'first issue - elitist snob', 'The Sound Of Her Wings - likes goth girls', 'Men Of Good Fortune - closet romantic', 'Collectors - potential serial killer!', 'Dreams Of A Thousand Cats - likes cats', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream - delusions of literacy', 'The Parliament Of Rooks - bloody weirdo!' et cetera. Good bloke, Neil Gaiman, although he does have a nasty habit of drawing spectacles and moustaches and scribbling all over Dave McKean's magnificent Sandman covers. And, as a consequence, lowering rather than increasing any potential resale value of signed copies of his work! Anyway, like another 'they'll never be able to make a series out of that' comic series from roughly the same era - Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol - this blogger is thoroughly delighted that someone (in this case, Neil Gaiman himself) has had the balls to at least give it a go. If The Sandman turns out of be anywhere near as good as Doom Patrol then it'll be well worth watching, dear blog reader.
Well known non-vegan gammon, Nigel Farago has whinged about Channel Four over a 'totally sick' scene in the comedy Year Of The Rabbit that shows a right-wing campaigner named Neil Fromage (no relation) being very shot in the head. The Brexit Party leader and full-of-his-own-importance would-be dictator called the moment in the Matt Berry-fronted sitcom, in which the character of Fromage is killed while giving an anti-immigration speech, 'totally sick and frankly irresponsible.' Speaking to his good friends at the Daily Lies on Sunday, Farago went on to attack the network: 'With Channel Four, we have reached a point where they are so partisan politically in everything they do that they now consistently go beyond what's acceptable.' And, Nigel Farago certainly knows all about unacceptability. The comedy about a policeman romping around rat-ridden Victorian London was described by the Gruniad Morning Star review as 'a heady mix of period detail, gleeful anachronism and baroque profanity.' In the assassination scene, Fromage takes to a soapbox and says: 'Immigrants infest this city ... like a cancer. And if they take over, you can be sure of one thing.' 'Far better restaurants?' a character in the crowd interjects. 'Blood, blood, blood.' Farago's outrage comes weeks after his fury at the comedienne Jo Brand, who made a joke on the BBC Radio 4 show Heresy about the recent incident at which a milkshake was thrown over Farago. The BBC said Brand's jokes were 'deliberately provocative,' as the show's title suggests. A spokesperson for Channel Four said: 'Year Of The Rabbit is a purposefully outrageous and heightened comedy set in Victorian-era London featuring exaggerated and ridiculous fictional characters and in this context it is clear to viewers that the actions of these characters - be they grave robbers, murderous historical preservation enthusiasts or serial killer politicians - are preposterous and not to be taken seriously.' Instead of saying, as they really should have, 'oh, for fuck's sake, grow up, Nigel. We still live in a country where we have freedom of speech. We know you'd like to abolish that but, until such times as you're in a position to ban all comedy, you're just going to have to deal with it.' An opportunity missed, one might suggest.
Tourism boards in Spain have whinged that the portrayal of the city of Málaga in Netflix's film Murder Mystery is 'riddled with cliches' and 'fifty years out of date.' The film centres on an American couple, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, travelling around Europe. When they arrive in Málaga they are greeted by a Gypsy woman wearing a flamenco dress, a man with a guitar and a guide decked out in the red and yellow of the Spanish flag. The guide awaits them beside an ancient bus bearing the sign Gonzales Tour. Aside from the fact that Spanish tour buses are usually sleekly modern and air-conditioned, the Spanish name is González, not Gonzales. Arturo Bernal, the director general of the Costa del Sol tourism department, said that he was 'surprised' at the portrayal because 'it's not like that here.' He accused the film-makers of 'a lack of research' and invited the production company, Happy Madison, to come and see for themselves what the city was really like. No scene was shot in Málaga. For millions of holidaymakers, Málaga is the place they land before setting off for resorts on the Costa but in recent years the city, the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, has worked hard to rebrand itself as a cultural destination in its own right. Not only is there a Picasso museum, there is The Cube, an extension of the Centre Pompidou in Paris as well as a collection of Russian art at the Málaga offshoot of St Petersburg's Hermitage museum. There is also a museum of contemporary art. Fátima Oliva, a spokeswoman for Costa del Sol tourism, said: 'The image in this film bears no resemblance to what the Costa del Sol is really like. We're more surprised than indignant. It's a very old fashioned idea of life here, with a Gypsy at the airport and all that. Málaga has thirty seven museums and has become an important cultural tourist destination. The image is very retrograde,' she whinged, adding that the film-makers seem stuck with an idea of Spain from fifty years ago. 'Maybe they've never been here or they simply prefer to play with cliches. That's why we've invited them to come and see for themselves in situ.' In the film, Sandler plays a New York police officer on a long-overdue European holiday with his wife, played by Aniston. Their trip takes an unscheduled turn when they become prime suspects in the murder of a billionaire on his yacht. The film, which is billed as a comedy-thriller and was directed by Kyle Newacheck, broke Netflix records on its first weekend, chalking up thirty million viewers in three days. It was shot in Montreal and various locations in Italy.
Sir Elton John has written 'an open letter' to Vladimir Putin accusing The Butcher Of Grozny of 'hypocrisy' over his claims that Russia has 'no problems' with gay people. This blogger is, completely, with Sir Elt - whom Keith Telly Topping has a lot of time for - on this issue but he does rather wish that Elton had made it a closed letter and actually stuck it in the post and sent it, recorded delivery, to The Kremlin. I mean, it's not as if Sir Elton can't afford the postage. The singer and national treasure said that he was 'deeply upset' by the Russian president's ignorant and bigoted comments in an interview in the Financial Times. Sir Elton said that the recent biopic, Rocketman, was 'edited' in Russia to remove references to Elton's husband David Furnish and their family. Russia has denied censorship. One or two people even believed them. Elton has previously criticised Putin for a 'ridiculous' attitude to gay rights. And, for looking uncannily like Dobby The House Elf from the Harry Potter movies. Oh God, did this blogger just say that out loud. Well, that's From The North's half-a-dozen regular dear blog readers in Russia about to find themselves under state surveillance. Sorry guys though, bright side, at least if the latest version of the KGB come after Keith Telly Topping, any spare novichek might come in useful for getting rid of some unwanted weeds in the Stately Telly Topping Manor gardens. In the interview, published on Friday, Putin attacked liberalism and, speaking of the LGBT community, said: 'God forbid, let them live as they wish.' But he added: 'Some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.' So, what do you think, dear blog reader, closet? In a series of posts on social media, Sir Elton said: 'I strongly disagree with your view that pursuing policies that embrace multicultural and sexual diversity are obsolete in our societies.' He accused Putin of 'duplicity' over his comments. Sir Elton said Russian distributors 'chose to heavily censor' Rocketman 'by removing all references to my finding true happiness through my twenty five-year relationship with David and the raising of my two beautiful sons. This feels like hypocrisy to me,' Sir Elt added. 'I am proud to live in a part of the world where our governments have evolved to recognise the universal human right to love whoever we want.' Russia's lack of culture ministry has previously denied censoring Rocketman - which was released earlier this year - but said that movies were 'expected to comply with laws' on 'paedophilia, ethnic and religious hatred and pornography.' The country introduced a law banning 'gay propaganda' in 2013, prompting criticism from the European Court of Human Rights that it was discriminatory and encouraged homophobia. Sir Elton told the BBC in 2015 that he wanted to meet Putin to discuss LGBT rights, criticising what he called the president's 'ridiculous' attitude. In the interview with the Financial Times, Putin said that liberalism was 'obsolete' because it had 'come into conflict' with 'the interests of the majority of the population' and with 'traditional values.' Whatever the fuck that means. Actually, we all know exactly what that means. He added: 'I am not trying to insult anyone.' And, again, one or two people even believed him. 'Because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia as it is. But we have no problems with LGBT persons.'
The Complete Matrix Tapes - the collection of live recordings by The Velvet Underground, captured at The Matrix in San Francisco in 1969 and previously released on CD in 2015 - is coming to vinyl for the first time. The limited-edition eight LP box-set includes over forty songs and will be released on 12 July via Polydor. The Complete Matrix Tapes were recorded during four sets by the band on 26 and 27 November 1969 and feature The Velvet's line-up following the departure of John Cale the previous year: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker and Cale's replacement, Doug Yule. The performances include versions of many of the legendary band's best known songs - 'I'm Waiting For The Man', 'What Goes On', 'Heroin', 'Sweet Jane', 'Pale Blue Eyes', 'Rock & Roll', 'White Light/Whit Heat' and an astonishing thirty six minute version 'Sister Ray' which has to be heard to be believed.
Chinbeard Books will be publishing, later this month, the highly-anticipated charity volume Me & The Starman a collection of essays about yer actual David Bowie written by fans of The Grand Dame; which includes one (barely-literate) effort by this blogger his very self and which is edited by Keith Telly Topping's good chums We Are Cult's James Gent and Game Of Thrones star Jon Arnold. The book includes an introduction written by Bowie biographer - and, all-round top bloke - Nick Pegg and, also, has a contribution from the legend that is Main Man Vice President Tony Zanetta. All profits from the book will go to a very good cause, Cancer Research. Me & The Starman is the latest in the You & Who range, with previous publications including the gorgeous You & Who Else - that also had a contribution from this blogger - which was eulogised about at length on this blog on its release in 2015. Me & The Starman will be available for pre-order shortly and this blogger will be providing a - one imagines, thoroughly glowing - review of it as soon as he gets his hands on a PDF! You have, dear blog reader, been well-warned in advance.
So, dear blog reader, Rafa Benitez has now left this blogger's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies for pastures new. From the North East, to the Far East. During and after his departure, Rafa conducted himself as he had done since the day he first walked into St James' Park, with dignity, with honesty and with class. Something which those who employed him have and continue to, seemingly, be unable to match. Or anything even remotely like it. Following the expiration of his contract at Newcastle on Sunday, Monday saw Rafa The (Former) Gaffer issue a public statement, acknowledging the support which that he has received from the stands and alluding to the lack of it from off the field. The Spaniard said he felt like he 'belonged' at the club and had wish to stay. But, Benitez indicated he had wanted a longer-term deal, rather than just a contract extension. 'It became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the club did not share the same vision,' he said. No shit? And, we're what, surprised by this? 'I wanted to stay, but I didn't just want to sign an extended contract, I wanted to be part of a project,' said Benitez in his letter to fans. 'I'm very sad about that, but I do not regret for one moment my decision to come to Tyneside and I'm very proud about what we achieved together.'
On the same day, Rafa gave his first post-United interview - a similarly classy, dignified and revealing piece - with The Times, telling George Caulkin that he had left Newcastle United to manage in China because the club's owner, Mike Ashley's desire to keep him had 'waned' and that 'I lost trust at Newcastle. If those in charge had my ambition, I would still be there.' Interestingly, this occurred on the same day that those mendacious cowards responsible for Rafa's departure were - crassly and shamefully - making a late piss-poor attempt to shift the blame onto someone else.
Great Britain will have a women's football team at the 2020 Olympics after England finished in the top three European teams at the World Cup. The four home nations agreed in October to allow a GB women's team to try to reach Tokyo, but qualification depended on England's progress in France. England manager Phil Neville says the 'plan' is for him to manage the team. 'It will be England led by me and my coaching staff and we have a fantastic pool of players to pick from,' he said. 'Not just the ones I manage here, but Wales, Scotland and [Northern] Ireland.' England beat Norway to reach the last four, while the USA beat France two-one on Friday to ensure there are only three European teams in the semis. There will be twelve teams at Tokyo 2020. There was no agreement for a British men's team in Japan - although they would have failed to qualify anyway. At London 2012, a women's team made their debut, with the men returning after forty years away - with the home nations agreeing to that as a one-off for the home Olympics. Both sides went out in the quarter-finals. No combined British team featured at Rio 2016, with the associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales opposed to the idea. Last June, Neville said that fielding a Team GB team in Japan was 'absolutely fundamental' for the growth of the women's game. The Scottish FA, atypically, said that they will not 'actively support or promote' the side but will not prevent players being involved, while their Welsh counterparts said they will 'not align themselves politically' with the team. Unlike the men's event - which is an under-twenty three tournament - the Olympics is one of women's football's biggest events, with no age restrictions. The teams guaranteed a place are Great Britain, fellow semi-finalists the Netherlands and Sweden, hosts Japan, Copa America winners Brazil and Oceania champions New Zealand. The other spots will be filled by two qualifiers from each of Asia and the North, Central American and Caribbean group, as well as one from Africa and the winner of a play-off between Chile and an African team. Defending champions Germany won't be at the Olympics after they lost their World Cup quarter-final to Sweden.
Meanwhile, England ladygirls' World Cup semi-final defeat by the United States attracted the highest peak television audience of the year so far to BBC1 with 11.7 million overnight punters setting a new record for women's football in the UK. That was a fifty one per cent share of the available audience and smashed the previous best for a women's socherball game - 7.6 million for England's quarter-final win over Norway. England play will Sweden or the Netherlands in Saturday's third-place play-off. The USA take on the winner of that semi-final in Sunday's final after their two-one victory over England when Steph Houghton's arse fell out and she missed a late penalty. Afterwards, Big Steph said she thought she had 'let the team down.' Not just the team, Steph but, in fact, the whole country. But, don't worry about it, you're not the first and you won't be the last. And, besides, we're English, we crave disappointment as a matter of principle. And, as a bonus, you will have immeasurably brightened the lives of everyone North of the border after their own team's earlier, highly amusing, exit from the competition. The 11.7 million figure is the year's top audience based on a five-minute peak, as the semi-final attracted an average audience of 10.3 million. Episode one of BBC1's Line Of Duty remains the most watched programme overall of 2019 so far with a consolidated audience of 13.2 million punters based on twenty eight-day viewing data.
England surged into their first cricket World Cup semi-final since 1992 with a comprehensive one hundred and nineteen-run defeat of New Zealand at Chester-le-Street. The hosts are set to finish third in the group stage and will meet either India or Australia at Edgbaston next Thursday for a place in the final. Needing to defeat The Black Caps to be sure of progressing, England were led by Jonny Bairstow's dominant hundred, his second century in the space of four days. Though they were checked as the New Zealand bowling improved, the England total of three hundred and five for eight seemed an imposing one on a pitch which gradually got harder to bat on as the day progressed. And, they were boosted by the run outs of both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor - Williamson unluckily undone when backing-up - which left New Zealand sixty nine for four. From there, The Black Caps sucked the life from the spectacle with a limp attempt to defend their net run-rate, eventually being bowled out for one hundred and eighty six with Mark Wood taking three for thirty four on his home ground. Williamson's men have now suffered three successive defeats and have slipped to fourth in the table. They could be caught if Pakistan beat Bangladesh on Friday, though it would need an almost impossible swing in run-rate to deny New Zealand a place in the semis. Back-to-back defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia had left England on the brink of an unthinkable exit, but they have responded with seriously impressive wins over India and New Zealand. Whereas Sunday's victory at Edgbaston was played in front of a crowd ferocious in its support of the Indians, here they were willed on by a loyal following in the Durham sunshine. Eoin Morgan once again had the benefit of winning an important toss. Not only did batting seem easier early in the day - though that could have been due to the excellence of Bairstow and his opening partner Jason Roy - but their three losses in the tournament have all come when chasing. With a score on the board, England, again fielding four frontline pace bowlers, were a constant threat with the ball and were superb in the field. Jos Buttler took a wonderful diving catch to remove Martin Guptill and Adil Rashid's bullet throw accounted for Taylor. England began the World Cup as the top-ranked side and clear favourites. Now they are playing well enough to justify both tags again and they will be feared in the semis, especially if they bat first. It is no coincidence England have got back to winning ways since Roy returned from a hamstring injury to resume his dependable opening partnership with Bairstow. Indeed, there was a sense of inevitability about the result from as early as the first over, when Roy hit left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner through the covers for four. On Sunday, they added one hundred and sixty for the first wicket, here it was one hundred and twenty three and, just as at Edgbaston, it was Bairstow who went on to make the more telling contribution. So often, Bairstow favours the leg side, but here he crunched the ball through the covers, played delicate late cuts and launched a mighty straight six down the ground. The Yorkshireman has now made two centuries since attracting controversy for claiming - quite wrongly in this blogger's opinion - that 'people' were 'waiting for England to fail,' comments that he has since rowed back from. England's batting slowed after he dragged onto his own stumps off Matt Henry - they made one hundred and eleven runs for seven wickets over the course of the last twenty overs as the pace in the wicket seemed to die - but Bairstow had already done enough to lift them to a winning score. New Zealand won five of their first six games, only to find themselves stumbling into their semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday which will be against whichever team tops the group. Disadvantaged by the toss and an injury to pace bowler Lockie Ferguson, they started poorly with the ball, especially Santner and the returning Tim Southee, who was repeatedly punished by Bairstow. As England ran hard, New Zealand's fielding was sloppy, but The Black Caps gradually adjusted to the conditions and their improvement was led by the variations of medium-pacer Jimmy Neesham. New Zealand's real problem at the moment is their reliance on the batting of their captain, Williamson - before today he had scored more than thirty per cent of their runs in the tournament. For that reason, the freakish way that he was dismissed was a huge stoke of fortune for England and dealt a mortal blow to The Kiwis. As Taylor drove straight, bowler Wood got a finger-end to the ball before it crashed into the non-striker's stumps, with Williamson agonisingly short of his ground. In the next over, Taylor foolishly chanced Rashid's arm attempting a second and the contest was as good as over.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen passed Charles Leclerc with two laps remaining to win a thrilling Austrian Grand Prix last Sunday. The win was only confirmed three hours after the race had finished following an investigation into whether Verstappen unfairly ran Leclerc off the track. Ferrari's Leclerc seemed in control of the race after Verstappen made a bad start to drop from second to seventh. But, Red Bull pitted Verstappen ten laps later than Leclerc and Verstappen fought up from fourth place to take the win. It was a sensational drive from Verstappen, making superb use of fresher tyres than the cars in front of him, but the move with which he took the lead was controversial - if, ultimately, fair. Leclerc had already fought off one pass by Verstappen on the previous lap, when the Red Bull got inside the Ferrari at turn three but Leclerc held on around the outside and out-accelerated him up to turn four. But on the next lap, Verstappen again dived up the inside and this time he ran Leclerc off the road on the exit. On the incident with Leclerc, he said: 'It's hard racing or we have to stay home. If those things are not allowed in racing then we have to stay home.' Leclerc said: 'The race was good. At the end I had a bit more [tyre] degradation than I thought so Max came back. On the incident, I will let the stewards decide. I was on the outside, like the lap before - which was perfectly fine, he left a car space - but he didn't on that lap and he pushed me wide so I didn't have the chance to fight back. It's a shame.' After both drivers were called before the stewards, the FIA, after lengthy deliberation, confirmed the result would stand. A statement read: 'In the totality of the circumstances, we did not consider that either driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident. We consider that this is a racing incident.' It brings to an end Mercedes' run of eight consecutive wins this season - a run that actually stretches back two races further, to last year's Brazilian Grand Prix. The incident comes just two races after Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel lost victory in the Canadian Grand Prix after being found extremely guilty of dangerous driving against Lewis Hamilton. The two incidents, however, were not the same - Vettel was rejoining after going off the track, while Verstappen was simply passing for the lead. What Verstappen viewed as 'hard racing,' others may judge as forcing a rival off the track. But, they're wrong. Immediately after the incident, Verstappen had gone on to the radio to say: 'He turned into me.' He was told by his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase: 'There was nothing wrong with that, mate.' Leclerc said to his team: 'What the Hell was that?' It was you geting your ass beaten, mate. Verstappen's was a superb drive, one that delivered engine manufacturer Honda its first grand prix win since Jenson Button's victory in Hungary in 2006. His race looked lost when he dropped back at the start because his anti-stall kicked in for reasons Red Bull said they could not explain but he wasted no time in making up lost ground. By lap nine, he had passed McLaren's Lando Norris and Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen to move into fifth place, behind Leclerc, the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton and Vettel. Vettel and Bottas stopped first, on lap twenty, followed by Leclerc the following lap, leaving Hamilton and Verstappen out on medium tyres intending to run long to give themselves a tyre advantage in the later stages. But, Hamilton wrecked his chances by damaging his front wing, requiring it to be changed when he stopped on lap thirty and, when Verstappen stopped a lap later, he rejoined three-and-a-half seconds behind Vettel, who lost time at a slow stop when the Ferrari pit-crew did not have his tyres ready. Bottas was five seconds further up the road and Leclerc four seconds ahead of him. Verstappen drove carefully to protect his tyres early then started to pile on the pressure, first catching Vettel before passing him on lap fifty, then dispatching Bottas on lap fifty six before chasing after Leclerc. Mercedes were also battling overheating issues in the high temperatures, which forced them to temper their pace to protect the engine. The question that will be addressed to Ferrari was why they stopped Leclerc as early as they did. Although he started the race on soft tyres, which were always going to run out of grip before the mediums on the Mercedes and Verstappen's Red Bull, he appeared to have good pace when he made his pit stop. Team boss Mattia Binotto claimed that they 'had to react' to Bottas' stop - that would have been the case whichever tyres Leclerc had been on - and he still believed the softs were the right call. Bottas drove a steady race to take third but may face criticism for ceding the lead to Verstappen too easily. While Vettel made a second stop after being passed by Verstappen and caught and passed Hamilton before the end to take fourth. Lando Norris drove superbly in the McLaren to be best of the rest in sixth, holding off the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly. Carlos Sainz made it a good day for McLaren with an excellent drive from the back of the grid as a result of engine penalties to take eighth, ahead of the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi. About one hundred and forty thousand fans are expected to descend on Silverstone for next week's British Grand Prix and what could be the last race there, given the current state of contract negotiations. Mercedes will start as favourites but Ferrari's engine power could bring them into play.
Two rare Roman gemstones that had fallen down a toilet and a two thousand year-old gaming board have been unearthed at a Northumberland fort. The treasures found at Vindolanda in Hexham, near Hadrian's Wall, were dug up by a team of four hundred volunteers and have been sent for analysis. As well as the eighteen hundred-year-old gems, a soldier's size eleven sandal was also found. A trust spokesman said that the items were 'precious' but the glue used to fix them in rings was 'not strong enough.' Doctor Andrew Birtley, chief executive officer at the Vindolanda Trust, said: 'The rather beautiful gem stones often depicted a god or goddess who were special to the owner. Although carefully made by skilled artisans and prized by their owners, the glue that secured them in rings had a nasty habit of failing. These stones were recovered from the Third Century bath house toilet drain - their owners either did not initially notice that their gemstones had fallen out of the rings and into the loo or they could not face climbing down into the toilet to try to recover them.' Doctor Birtley said another 'great' find was a cracked, gaming board that was used in the bath house at Vindolanda, one of fourteen forts along or near to Hadrian's Wall. 'The Romans played a very tactical game which looked a little like draughts and was called little soldiers or Ludus latrunculorum,' he said. 'Gaming boards and counters are particularly prevalent on Roman military sites and shows that it was not all work in Roman times. Like today, gaming was an important part of life for many people two thousand years ago.'
A Tyneside coach driver reportedly picked up a bus load of stranded passengers only to discover they were the famous Lady Boys of Bangkok. The twenty two-member act sat stranded by the side of the A19 after their coach broke down. But Craig Miller raced to their rescue after answering their SOS and drove them two hundred miles to Dundee to make their show. 'I've had a lot of funny jobs over the years, but this was memorable,' Craig, who runs Miller's of Seaton Sluice told the Evening Chronicle. The Thai troupe broke down just North of Middlesbrough. But, with the help of their tour manager Jamie, Craig got them to Scotland on time for opening night. And, he was full of praise for the group -although he admits: 'I was driving them for sixty miles before I realised who I was driving. I was just told at first it was a theatre group, and to me, they were just poor buggers stuck on the road. But it was a bit confusing, as even with their jeans on they looked glamorous. But they were fantastic, they even cleaned the bus up after them and when they left you never would have known they had been on. They didn't speak a word of English, but Jamie just sorts everything out - he's a proper little businessman.' The broken down bus blocked the A19 during rush hour due to a faulty clutch. A lane was closed until the bus was towed away but it left the famous act stuck.
An allegedly 'disruptive' mother was reportedly told to leave an Easy Jet flight after the crew said her clothing - a sheer blouse and no bra that showed off her boobies - was 'provocative.' The mother, identified by the Sun as thirty one-year-old Harriet Osborne of Southwold in Suffolk reportedly wore a see-through black top with pasties underneath in lieu of a bra on a recent Easy Jet flight bound for Spain. However, the crew allegedly felt that her clothing was 'inappropriate for underage passengers.' 'The crew were horrible and made me feel cheap,' Osborne whinged to the Sun. 'This air hostess confronted me in front of the whole plane and said I wasn't allowed on in that top. She said to me, "Oh no, move to the side" and tried to cover me up with my hands.' Osborne told the tabloid, 'She said, "You're not coming on my plane like that - you need to put a top on." Then she ordered me off the plane, so of course I put a top on. When I tried to get back on she turned to the ground crew and said, "She's not coming on my plane." I was escorted away from the aircraft. I was in shock. It was so sexist.' Quite how a woman telling another woman to cover up her boobies can be 'sexist' - or anything even remotely like it - neither Osborne nor the Sun bother to explain. It may - without hearing the other side of the story - be many things, dear blog reader (prudish, authoritarian, even silly, perhaps) but 'sexist' isn't one of them. Osborne claims that she 'burst into tears' and spoke to airport police. 'They were baffled when I told them why we'd been kicked off,' she reportedly claimed. An Easy Jet spokesperson told Yahoo Lifestyle that Osborne's naughty nipples were 'entirely visible.' Other passengers were said to be shocked - and stunned - so the crew, allegedly, asked Osborne to cover up her near nakedness and 'wear an additional top'- which she did - however, they claim, she then 'became disruptive,' behaviour that the representative would not further describe. The spokesperson said: 'We can confirm that a passenger travelling from Malaga to Stansted on 23 June was unable to travel due to behaving disruptively. Following concerns about her clothing, crew politely requested that the customer wear an additional top for the flight which the customer agreed to. However, she then proceeded to act disruptively towards a member of our crew. Our cabin and ground crew are trained to assess all situations and to act quickly and appropriately. We do not tolerate abusive or threatening behaviour towards our staff.' Osborne's next destination was a friend's house and she reportedly paid almost two hundred smackers for another flight. 'I never show my body off at home but I felt spontaneous as I was on holiday,' Osborne told the Sun. 'It made me feel so self-conscious.'
A Welsh primary school has banned parents from all future sports days after what it described as 'bad behaviour.' In a letter to parents, the head teacher at Pentrebane school in Cardiff said that 'angry' parents could be 'threatening and intimidating.' Sheena Duggan added that 'some' staff had been 'sworn at in front of children.' The letter was sent the day after the school's annual sports day last week, saying that the behaviour had 'worsened' over the last few years. A father who attended the sports day - and asked not to be named - reportedly said: 'I've honestly no idea what happened to spark this off. It was a really nice day, all the children were involved, everyone was cheered on and got a round of applause. Some parents were competitive, as you might expect, but none were aggressive or threatening towards staff that I could see.' In her letter, Duggan wrote: 'As you know the safety, happiness and well-being of our pupils, your children, is paramount and so with that in mind I have made the difficult decision that future sports days will not be open to parents. It is very sad but I feel strongly that my staff and pupils do not come to school to be exposed to the bad behaviour of a small minority of adults.' The parent added that Duggan was 'well respected' and 'takes no nonsense' and 'something particularly bad must have happened' for this decision to be made. 'But no-one I know has any idea what it is,' he added. 'There's lots of unhappiness from parents who don't think they should be punished for the bad behaviour of others.'
Glyn Houston, one of the last of that great generation of Welsh characters actors who rose to fame in the 1950s has died at the age of ninety three. In a career of almost seventy years, he appeared in more than eighty movies alongside a significant amount of radio and theatre work before becoming a television regular from the 1960s to the 1990s. Rhondda-born Glyn was the first on-screen lover of Joan Collins in her cinema debut, Turn The Key Softly (1953) and he worked alongside the likes of Clark Gable, Alan Ladd and Lana Turner. Glyn was the younger brother of matinee idol Donald Houston and became a contemporary and close friend of fellow Richard Burton and Stanley Baker. Although Glyn admitted that his star did not, perhaps, shine as bright as those of his friends, it certainly shone for longer. His career continued until he retired from acting at the age of eighty eight after playing Danny Abse on a BBC Radio 4 documentary. Dean Powell, who co-wrote Glyn's 2009 autobiography, A Black & White Actor, said that Glyn's death saw 'the end of a generation. Glyn was a true gentleman. He was kind, generous and an incredibly funny man who was a pleasure to know for over twenty years,' Powell said. 'He enjoyed his career and was proud of his achievements and although I think he genuinely wanted to be a comic more than an actor, his vast quantity of work will remain a great legacy to the man and his natural talent. Glyn enjoyed life, his family and his hobbies and didn't let work get in the way of that. He always had time to speak to you, showed a genuine interest in other people's lives. Although he left the South Wales valleys seven decades ago, he had all of the great qualities of a working-class Welshman at heart.'
Glyndwr Desmond Houston was born in October 1925 in Tonypandy, the second of three children. His great-grandfather had settled in mid-Rhondda with the coming of the coal industry. When his daughter, Gwenllian, was widowed with a large family he gave her a loan that saw her establish a milk-round in Tonypandy which lasted for several decades and was affectionately known as 'Jones The Milk.' Gwenllian's daughter, Elsie, Glyn's mother married a Scottish professional footballer, Alex Houston who came to South Wales after a career with Dundee United and Portsmouth to play for Mid-Rhondda Athletic. Their first child, Donald, was born in 1924, followed by Glyn and, later, a daughter, Jean. With mass unemployment and economic depression causing widespread poverty in the valleys, the Houstons decided to move to London where Alex found work. But unable to afford to take all of their children, Glyn was left in the care of his grandmother. He wouldn't see his parents or siblings again for three years. Tragically their return to the Rhondda took place as Elsie was close to death due to a congenital heart problem. She died aged twenty nine when Glyn was seven. Alex subsequently had little connection with his children and moved to Manchester where he later remarried. However, surrounded by a large extended family, the three Houston children flourished despite the absence of their parents. Glyn attended Llwynypia Elementary School but, he claimed to have effectively educated himself by studying subjects including philosophy and history at the Tonypandy Central Library. Despite a burst appendix and subsequent peritonitis at the age of eleven, Glyn was an athletic boy, becoming captain of the school rugby team. His love for sport included spending evenings with his brother playing snooker and watching boxing matches in Llwynypia Boys Club. While Donald left the colliery to embark on an acting career with The Pilgrim Players which eventually led to a flourishing film career as a handsome leading man, Glyn continued to work for his grandmother's milk business. He briefly left the Rhondda to work in the Bristol Aeroplane Company, before volunteering for the Fleet Air Arm as an air-gunner in the latter part of World War II. He was called up to the Military Police working on the busy docklands of Birkenhead, Glasgow and Leith and was then sent to Singapore where he transferred to the Royal Signals Regiment and his Commanding Officer recognised Glyn as a confident and ambitious solider who would often entertain his fellow troops. Glyn was given the task of building a bandstand and organising a show to celebrate the arrival of the comedy legend Tommy Trinder on a visit to Singapore. The event changed Glyn's life as he followed the well-worn path of the starting point of many young British performers by joining the Entertainments National Service Association. Within a week he was promoted to Acting Sergeant and produced a show which toured India called Flags Are Flying. It featured the aspiring sitcom-writer Jimmy Perry who later based It Ain't Half Hot Mum in part on his memories of Glyn's troupe. In 1980, the whole thing came full circle when Glyn appeared in an episode of the popular sitcom, playing a Brigadier.
Demobbed, Glyn settled in London and had a brief unsuccessful career as a waiter in The Officers Mess in Eton Square. Desperate to become a stand-up comic he failed an audition for the domineering Mister Van Dam at The Windmill Theatre. By 1949 his brother was earning widespread acclaim for his performances in A Run For Your Money and The Blue Lagoon and Donald was in a position to assist Glyn with his career, helping to get his younger brother appointed Assistant Stage Manager with The Guildford Repertory Theatre. Learning his craft in plays performed the length and breadth of the UK, Glyn enjoyed a six-month stint on Ivor Novello's The Dancing Years. A self-proclaimed 'eclectic Buddhist,' Glyn's positive thinking came to fruition when a chance encounter at Ealing Studios saw the director of the Dirk Bogarde thriller The Blue Lamp, Basil Dearden, create a character for Glyn on the spot. His - uncredited - performance was the first of his eighty plus film appearances; throughout the 1950s he turned up in dozens of movies, often in cameos and smallish roles. He remembered: 'Being a sort of boy-next-door, working class type I found myself playing small parts in army and naval films and the boyfriend of a few J Arthur Rank "starlets" including Joan Collins and Lana Morris.' By now he was part of a group of young Welsh actors living and working in London which included Richard Burton, Stanley Baker and, Glyn's brother, Donald. Some of Glyn's early films included Waterfront with Burton, Trio, Home To Danger with Baker and as a railway shunter in High Treason with Kenneth Griffith. It was followed by I Believe In You with Celia Johnson and Gift Horse with Trevor Howard. By the end of 1953 Glyn was playing the part of Philips in the classic naval drama The Cruel Sea. In the same year he appeared alongside his brother and Petula Clark in The Happiness Of Three Women, followed by The Sea Shall Not Have Them. Glyn also enjoyed a brush with Hollywood, appearing in Hell Below Zero with Alan Ladd and Betrayed with Clark Gable and Lana Turner. An encounter in Los Angeles with Victor Mature reportedly led to Glyn disliking the actor for the rest of his life. Further box-office successes came with Private's Progress and the detective drama The Long Arm. Glyn played Controller Leuchars in High Flight, followed by the prisoner of war movie The One That Got Away and had a small, but crucial, role in A Night To Remember. Glyn was back in policeman's uniform in A Cry From The Streets and in the John and Hayley Mills film, Tiger Bay, set in the docklands of Cardiff. He appeared opposite Peter Sellers in The Battle Of The Sexes, along with roles in Follow That Star, Jet Storm, Sink The Bismarck! and Circus Of Horrors. Glyn's career on television also flourished starting with a role in the soap opera The Grove Family. He took the lead opposite a young Oliver Reed in The Brigand Of Kandahar and won critical acclaim in The Rescuers, the Newcastle-set crime drama Payroll, The Wind Of Change and two boxing films, Panic and Micky Duff. His aspirations of playing his own childhood boxing hero Tommy Farr in a biopic, however, failed to materialise. With the advent of commercial television, Glyn featured in dozens of early ITV programmes including Douglas Fairbanks Junior Presents, Lilli Palmer Theatre, The Flying Doctor, Stryker Of The Yard, English Family Robinson and Colonel March Of Scotland Yard. His love for stand-up comedy never wavered, particularly when friendships developed with Tommy Cooper and Norman Wisdom during Glyn's appearances as the straight man in four of Wisdom's popular films, beginning with A Stitch In Time in 1962. Glyn's old friend Stanley Baker reportedly offered him a role in Zulu which Glyn - much to his later regret - turned down owing to his busy television career. He played Davy Morgan opposite Rachel Thomas in the 1960 BBC production of How Green Was My Valley which led to a break with ATV where he played the leading role of news editor Mike Grieves in the popular newspaper drama Deadline Midnight (1961). Glyn met his future wife, Shirley Lawrence in 1954 when she worked as stage manager of The Whitehall Theatre. An aspiring actress who appeared in Pure Hell At St Trinians and as Dennis Waterman's sister on television's William, Shirley later enjoyed a long career as a model. She and Glyn were married in 1956 and they had two daughters, Karen and Leigh. Living in Weybridge, Glyn and Shirley enjoyed a happy marriage of more than sixty years before her death. Glyn went on to star in a number of B-movies including Emergency in 1962, Mix Me A Person with Adam Faith and as the lead, Detective Sparrow in Solo For Sparrow which saw him kill the then relatively unknown Michael Caine in the movie's final scene. Further roles came in the comedy One Way Pendulum with Eric Sykes and as Berry in The Secret Of Blood Island” followed by the role of a Police Sergeant in Alan Bridges' Invasion a 1965 British SF movie which has, rightly, developed a cult following over the years.
Glyn's television roles were frequent, ranging from the Sid James sitcom Taxi and the long-running crime drama Gideon's Way to playing opposite Patrick McGoohan in Danger Man and Roger Moore in The Saint. He appeared frequently in the role of Detector Inspector James in No Hiding Place and his CV also included roles in Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars and the recurring role of Superintendent Jones in the latter's spin-off, Softly Softly. Glyn made twelve episodes of thriller The Long Chase followed by comedy roles alongside Leslie Crowther in ATV's My Good Woman. One of his most memorable roles came as Bunter, the valet and assistant to Ian Carmichael's Lord Peter Wimsey in a series of handsome adaptations of the Dorothy L Sayers novels for the BBC in the early 1970s. His television CV was prolific, including Crown Court, Shoestring, Robin's Nest, Bless This House, A Horseman Riding By, Doomwatch, Minder, Inspector Morse, The Bill, Troublemakers, After Henry, We Are Seven, Freud, Breakaway, Target, The XYY Man, Beasts, Whodunnit?, Love Thy Neighbour, Reg Varney, Harriet's Back In Town, Justice, Clouds Of Witness, Owen MD, Armchair Theatre, Brett, Paul Temple, The Wednesday Play (including Dennis Potter's Where The Buffalo Roam), Thirty Minute Theatre, The Expert, Life With Cooper, Girl In A Black Bikini, Sanctuary, Public Eye, The Worker, The Troubleshooters, The Hidden Truth, Suspense, The Edgar Wallace Mysteries, The Cheaters and the Thames sitcom Keep It In The Family in which he played the literary agent Duncan Thomas. He appeared twice in Doctor Who - as Professor Watson opposite Tom Baker in 1976's forgettable The Hand Of Fear and as Colonel Wolsey in Eric Pringle's 1984 two-parter The Awakening with Peter Davison (the latter, a particular favourite of this blogger). He also played the unlikely Mexican bandit in the feature film of Are You Being Served? in 1977. He appeared once more alongside his brother and a star-studded cast of Gregory Peck, David Niven and long-time friend Roger Moore as the aged commandos in The Sea Wolves. Glyn went on to play Anthony Hopkins' father in Heartlands before enjoying the lead role in Conspiracy and playing Bernard Ingham in Thatcher: The Final Days. He also appeared in the Welsh rugby comedy Old Scores and in Mike Bogdanov's A Light In The Valley. His role of the aged miner in HTV's Better Days won him the Best Actor Award in the Monte Carlo Film Festival in 1991 and he was also received the Wales TV Critics Award for Personality of the Year. Sadly during the same year he lost his brother Donald who died in Portugal from a stroke. Glyn also enjoyed a varied career in the theatre, playing Joe in Arthur Miller's All My Sons and in plays by Chekov, Shaw and Shakespeare. He appeared in several productions of Alan Ayckborn plays in Cardiff's Sherman Theatre before working with Harry Secombe and Sian Phillips in Anthony Hopkins' stage production of Under Milk Wood. Glyn also enjoyed a two-month run in Little Lies with John Mills in Toronto. Glyn also enjoyed success in the musical Pickwick with Secombe, Ruth Madoc and Roy Castle whilst also appearing in pantomimes at the Grand Theatre, Swansea. He enjoyed plenty of voice work for commercials including British Airways and had considerable success reading the part of Ellis Peter's Benedictine monk on the Cadfael audio book series. Glyn remained faithful to his homeland, appearing in the star-studded concert to welcome the National Assembly for Wales, opening pedestrian shopping areas in his home town and unveiling a Mining Memorial in the nearby Rhondda Heritage Park in 2000. He was too unwell to appear at the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to his brother in Tonypandy in 2012, but did give the eulogy at his sister's funeral in Pontypridd shortly afterwards. In his spare time Glyn enjoyed golf - becoming a member of the charity fundraising Golf Stage Golfing Society in 1952 - and bridge as his favourite pastimes. Glyn was the recipient of the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award from BAFTA Cymru in 2009, along with a Fellowship of the Welsh College of Music and Drama. Glyn was far too modest with his reply when asked how he would like to be remembered? 'Could have done better,' he said. He is survived by his two daughters and two grandchildren.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping happened to be in the local Chip Oil the other day, dear blog reader. It's not somewhere that he frequents with any great regularity, he's more of a Chinese chappie in the - regular - event of a takeaway being urgently required at Stately Telly Topping Manor. Nevertheless, what can he say, he fancied some chips 'n gravy on that particular lunchtime. Anyway, Keith Telly Topping was shocked - shocked and stunned - to discover that here we are, nearly two decades into the Twenty First Century and Spam Fritters are still a thing! I mean, that is just wrong on so many levels.
Also this week, dear blog reader, this blogger has, after a long and arduous process, got all of the music files on the Stately Telly Topping laptop's Drive D into something vaguely approaching 'order.' There's still some work to be done in shifting the thirty or forty CDs worth of stuff in the 'New' file over into more suitable locations, admittedly. Plus some abjectly Asperger's-like reordering, obviously.
And finally, dear blog reader, this week's most singular important question ...