Thursday, December 31, 2020

Fear No More The Heat O' The Sun, Nor The Furious Winter Rages

Greetings, dearest blog readers, to the final From The North update of the veritable shitstorm that has been 2020. And, good riddance to it, frankly. To think, we all thought 2016 was a year that would never be trumped in sheer, unadulterated ghastliness. How wrong we very much were. Anyway, we begin this latest bloggerisationisms with a trio of tales from a favourite of many From The North dear blog readers, the Star Trek franchise.
From The North favourite Jeri Ryan responded to a fan on Twitter recently, revealing a new start date from production on the second series of Star Trek: Picard, 1 February. Unlike current From The North favourite Star Trek: Discovery, which began production on its fourth series in Canada in November, Picard is filmed in Southern California, which is dealing with a new surge in Covid-19 cases. Even though film and television production is exempt from lockdowns, it's little surprise that extra time is being taken to plan out proper safety protocols to enable the cast and crew not to, you know, catch the virus and possibly die. The eagerly anticipated latest addition to the franchise, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, is also widely rumoured to be entering production in February in Ontario, but this has yet to be officially confirmed.
James Doohan, Star Trek's Scotty (you knew that, right?), had one final trip into space, three years after he died in 2005. On Christmas Day, the story of a clandestine plan to bring some of the late actor's ashes to the International Space Station was finally revealed. The Times reported that in 2008 entrepreneur Richard Garriott smuggled some of Doohan's ashes to the ISS during his twelve-day mission as a private astronaut. To seek out new worlds and new civilisations. To boldly go where no private astronaut had gone before. The operation was planned along with Doohan's son Chris, with the approval of the rest of th Doohan family. The plan had Garriott hiding a laminated card with Doohan's photo and some of his ashes under cladding of the floor of the station's Columbus module. According to The Times, Doohan's ashes have 'travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than seventy thousand times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station.' Garriott's ISS smuggling operation was actually the third attempt to bring Doohan's ashes into space. In 2007, some of his ashes flew on a suborbital rocket and, in August 2008, there was a failed attempt aboard a SpaceX rocket (the company successfully launched more of Doohan's ashes into space in 2012).
And, still on the subject of the Trek franchise, this blogger is indebted his his dear fiend Professor Kathy Sullivan, for alerting him to the following titbit. Star Trek is a franchise which primarily deals in the brave new worlds of SF, but it is not unheard of for the various productions within the franchise to attempt a parody of other genres every now and then. Such was the case in the 1995 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Our Man Bashir, in which an accident in the Holosuite traps members of the DS9 crew in Doctor Bashir's spy fantasy programme. The episode of the Star Trek series which got good the quickest and stayed good the longest was, of course, a nod to the genre of 1960s spy films but apparently was not well-received by James Bond's studio MGM. Writer and exec producer Ronald Moore spoke to THR about the issue: 'MGM sent us a letter. I don't recall [Bond producers] the Broccolis being on it or having signed it, but I remember after the episode aired, the studio sent us a very stern letter. And it even got back to some of the higher-ups at Paramount. It seems [MGM was] not very flattered by our "homage," but it wasn't like we got in any serious trouble or anything.' The backlash from MGM wasn't so large that Deep Space Nine was able to do another spy-genre episode the following series - Simple Investigation. This time though, it was said that the production made a much more concerted effort to scale back any obvious nods to Bond.
From one long-running popular family SF drama franchise, dear blog reader, to another. Jodie Whittaker her very self was, she claimed, 'wailing' over her final Doctor Who scenes with That There Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole. That's wailing as in the sense of crying bucket loads when one is very sad as opposed to whaling in the sense of harpooning a whale and killing it for ones own, presumably nefarious, purposes. Possibly involving the cosmetics industry. Just so we're completely clear about that. The actress had to say goodbye to her beloved co-stars - who played Graham O'Brien and his on-screen step-grandson, Ryan, respectively - after it was announced last month that they would be leaving the BBC show. Albeit, this blog was reporting the first emergence of that particular rumour almost a year ago. Jodie was, she claimed, so 'devastated' during their final day of filming that the duo had to carry her back to the trailer. She told What's On TV: 'On a personal level, absolutely devastated! Without going into any specifics about character or what happens or anything, just purely knowing it was the last scenes with those actors, both of them had to carry me to my trailer. I've not cried like that for such a long time. Brad couldn't cope with it at all and Tosin said he really couldn't cope with me getting so upset. I was wailing.' Again, that's wailing, not whaling. Oh no, very hot water. Anyway, Jodie feels like the characters had become 'a family' after their lengthy journey together. She continued: 'When you realise it's the last moment for these four characters or your last moment with that character individually, it's so emotional. I felt incredibly bereaved about what this journey has been, because this started as us four and that's so unique. Our whole journey has been together as a family and we've clicked like a family and it feels like we'll never see each other again.' Although, there is always the convention circuit so, you know, never say never ...
Christmas, dear blog reader, is - of course - a time for many things. Feuding with ones family and drinking a lot of lager being merely two of them. Which is why a recent photograph of that Kinky duo, Ray and Dave Davies, caused this blogger such amusement. Though it's still nice to see the pair of them have remained dedicated followers of fashion. Oh yes, they are.
Which brings us, nicely, to Christmas Day luncheon at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. And, these little beauties certainly did help the day pass a bit quicker than expected.
This blogger is delighted to report that on Wednesday of this week, yer actual Keith Telly Topping did a down-the-phone interview with his old writing and broadcasting partner and firm fiend The Goddamn Legend That Is Sir Alfie Joey (OBE) for BBC Newcastle's Breakfast Show on New Year's Eve. On the subject of From The North's Best & Worst TV Of The Year Awards. And, all of those who sail in them. The link to these vitally important radio timings is here, so you can listen to this blogger's witterings about TV shows as diverse as Strictly Come Dancing, I May Destroy You, Little Mix: The Search, Sky Cricket Lockdown Vodcast, The Masked Singer and America's Choice 2020. And, Doctor Who - obviously (Alf brought up the subject of the latter, not this blogger just in case you were wondering). You will - should you wish to - be able to listen to the show until the end of January 2021 on BBC Sounds. This blogger rocks up from around thirty four minutes in (the piece lasts for approximately seven minutes - tightly edited down from the ten or eleven minutes we did on the phone). It is then repeated, later, at one hour forty nine minutes (it's the same recording but with a slightly different intro and outro from The Alfster). Meanwhile, here is a picture of Keith Telly Topping and The Alfster his very self from a few years ago when we were rehearsing our musical comedy Monopolise for The Edinburgh Festival. We ended the call with a definite promise that as soon this awful thing is out of the way (Covid-19, that is, not 2020) we shall meet up in Th' Toon for a coffee and a good old chinwag. Something that we used to do regularly every couple of weeks or so but which, like so much else in life, has gone down the tubes of late due to circumstances beyond everyone's control.
Let it also be noted dear blog reader that, when Alfie first contacted this blogger about recording a piece for his show, this blogger had only just arisen, unwillingly, from his stinking pit and was feeling rather headache-y and a wee-bit fragile first thing of the morning. 'Be gentle with me,' this blogger begged his old fiend, fishing - unsuccessfully - for sympathy. To which Alfie replied: 'I'm no Paxman.' You'll just have to take The Alfster's word on that score, dear blog reader. This blogger could tell you a few tales. But, perhaps, he's said too much.
From that to this, on a somewhat related theme, dear blog reader ...
Black Narcissus. It arrived just too late for inclusion in the 2020 From The North's Best & Worst TV Of The Year Awards list, dear blog reader. But you can bet your life it'll feature - prominently - in 2021's. Amanda Coe's three-part BBC adaptation of Ruth Godden's novel about nuns in Tibet (and, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1947 masterpiece movie version) was so good, even the Daily Scum Mail loved it.
The Godfather.
Mission: Impossible.
North By Northwest.
Went The Day Well.
The Perfect Murder.
The Return Of Sherlock Holmes.
The return of Qi. That said, though, sarcastic congratulations to the producers and to That Bloody Walsh Woman who - as usual - managed to ruin this episode of this blogger's favourite TV show and, as a consequence, ruin Christmas. Well done, Qi people and well done Holly. Next time you're invited onto Qi, try getting lost on the way to the studio, if you'd be every so kind.
Would I Lie To You?
Christmas Only Connect.
References to decades-old computer software are included in the new Brexit agreement, including a description of Netscape Communicator and Mozilla Mail as being 'modern' services. Experts believe that officials must have copied and pasted chunks of text from old legislation into the document. The references are on page nine hundred and twenty one of the trade deal, in a section on encryption technology. And, congratulations to whomsoever read through the previous nine hundred and twenty pages before getting to that one and still being awake. The text cites 'modern e-mail software packages including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x.' The latter two are now defunct - the last major release of Netscape Communicator was in 1997. The document also recommends using '1024-bit RSA encryption and the SHA-1 hashing algorithm,' which are both outdated and extremely vulnerable to cyber-attacks. 'It's clear that something is amiss in the drafting of this treaty and we'd go so far as to venture the opinion that a tired civil servant simply cut-and-pasted from a late-1990s security document,' news site Hackaday commented. Several people have suggested the words were copied from a 2008 EU law, which includes the same text. Professor Bill Buchanan, a cryptography expert at Edinburgh Napier University, said that there was 'little excuse' for the outdated references. 'I believe this looks like a standard copy-and-paste of old standards and with little understanding of the technical details. The text is full of acronyms and it perhaps needs more of a lay person's explanation to define the requirements.' Although SHA-1 and 1024-bit RSA 'were a good selection a decade or so ago, they are no longer up to modern security standards,' he added. As a metaphor for the entire Brexit process, dear blog reader, you simply couldn't ask for a more perfect fiasco.
And now, dear blog reader, From The North's semi-regular Headline Of The Week award. Which, this week, goes to BBC News for the exquisite Boy Scouts Of America Accuse Girl Scouts Of Starting 'War'. Because, them girl scouts, dear blog reader, they're nails and are not to be messed with in a rumble. Especially now that, seemingly, they've acquired weaponry.
Another contender, for the latest award was from the Gruniad Morning Star; Keir Starmer To Whip His MPs To Support 'Thin' Brexit Deal. Blimey, usually MPs have to pay an awful lot of money to Mistress Spanksalot down in Soho for any of that sort of thing.
According to the Daily Scum Mail, meanwhile, John Major Blocked Robert Mugabe From Joining The MCC. 'The Prime Minister said that if the Zimbabwean despot was allowed honorary membership of the prestigious cricket club other members "won't like it,"' the paper claimed. Well, indeed. Less because he Mugabe was a murdering genocidal shithead (as many noted historians have stated), one suspects, but rather because he was black. What a pity, though, that Prime Minister Major didn't use his time and effort to try and initiate a regime change in Harare rather than indulging in crass Middle Class twaddle like this.
A non-league Association soch-her ball match was, reportedly, called off with fewer than ten minutes left after a spectator allegedly refused to control his dog. Leicester Nirvana were leading home side GNG Oadby Town two-one in their United Counties League match when the referee decided that a dog on the sidelines posed too much of a risk to the players. 'Never experienced a game not finishing due to a person and his dog both on loose,' tweeted Leicester Nirvana after the abandonment. The Alsatian was said to be 'jumping up against the pitchside barrier to bark at players.'
Another genuine classic BBC News headline this week was Covid-19: Sandringham Royal Family Fans Left 'Disappointed'. Oh, the absolute tragedy. Of course, for most 'normal' people in the UK, Covid-19 has left them frightened, often isolated, lonely and depressed, sometimes unemployed or furloughed and, in over seventy thousand tragic cases, bereaved and missing a much loved and sadly departed family member or close fiend. Still, why let annoying stuff like that interfere with the selfish 'disappointment' of half-a-dozen people whose lives are so empty and so worthless that the only joy they can get is standing out in the rain on Christmas Day awaiting for a royal car to drive past them on its way to church and splash them with mud?
The cricketer John Edrich, who has died aged eughty three after suffering from leukaemia, was one of the best - and, certainly one of the bravest - English top order batsmen of the Twentieth Century. Short and stocky, John played seventy seven times for his country between 1963 and 1976 and had an especially good record against the two best international sides of his era, Australia and West Indies. In 1970-71, his superb batting performances were one of the key reasons that England managed to win the Ashes in Australia for the first time since 1956 and with Geoffrey Boycott in the late 1960s and early 1970s he created a formidable opening partnership which provided many good platforms for England in test matches. His score of three hundred and ten not out against New Zealand, is the fifth highest for England in all tests. In county cricket, Edrich was a leading figure for Surrey, whom he captained in his later career and with whom, from 1958 to 1978, he accumulated most of his thirty nine thousand seven hundred and ninety first class career runs at an impressive average of over forty five. By the end of his career, he had also become one of the rare breed of cricketers to have scored a century of centuries (one hundred and three in all), putting him in the company of greats such as WG Grace, Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and, his frequent opening partner, Boycott. Edrich's greatest asset was his gritty concentration and discipline, allied to the unusual skill of being able to treat each ball as it came, no matter what had gone before. He was also tough, shrugging off countless nasty injuries inflicted by the world's fastest bowlers, some of which might have permanently unnerved those of lesser mental determination. While he was pugnacious rather than stylish, he could exhibit an aggressive, almost carefree intent when the fancy took him and was a ruthless dispatcher of bad deliveries, using his strong forearms to punch the ball to midwicket or through the covers. There was no better example of his capacity for extravagance than his triple century at Headingley in 1965, during which he scored more runs in boundaries - fifty two fours and five sixes - than anyone has ever managed in a test innings. Above all, Edrich loved to make runs against Australia. Seven of his twelve test hundreds came against them and he scored over two thousand six hundred runs at 48.96 in thirty two games, with an even better average (over fifty five) on Australian soil. When England regained the Ashes two-nil in Australia under Ray Illingworth in the winter of 1970-71, Edrich was a linchpin, averaging seventy two and, with Boycott, laying down a number of excellent foundations for the series victory. Boycott, right-handed and Edrich, a left-hander, admired and respected each other, partly because they shared the same hatred of losing. 'John had one of the greatest temperaments I've ever seen,' said Boycott. 'I would rather open an innings with him than anyone.' Edrich was born in Blofield, Norfolk, into a sugar beet farming family. Four of his older cousins on the Edrich side played county cricket - including the great Bill Edrich of Middlesex and England. John began at five, progressing to become captain of the Bracondale school side in Norwich and to play club cricket for South Walsham. In his late teens he appeared for Norfolk and in 1955 he was offered a place on the Surrey staff. After a successful season in the Second XI, in 1956 he was called up for national service, making his first-class debut that year for the Combined Services against Glamorgan. When he arrived back at The Oval in 1958, he made his debut in the last game of the season, aged twenty one. His second match came at the beginning of the 1959 campaign, when he scored centuries in each innings against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge and in quick order he notched up four centuries in his first seven innings. By the first week of July he had scored a further three hundreds and had been picked for The Players against The Gentlemen at Lord’s, often a precursor to England selection. Shortly afterwards, however, he had a knuckle broken by a Fred Trueman bouncer and when he came back to fitness, Frank Tyson crashed a ball into the same joint, breaking it again and putting paid to any thoughts of an England call-up in his first proper season. Nonetheless, he had got off to a remarkable start. 'It was as if I bashed the door down and marched in, still with Norfolk mud clinging to my boots,' he recalled. Despite that breathless entry on to the county scene, Edrich had to wait another four years to play for England - partly, it seemed, because the selectors had unfounded reservations about his rather unorthodox batting technique. He made his test debut aged twenty five against the West Indies at Old Trafford in 1963, opening with his Surrey partner Micky Stewart against Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith at their hostile peak and scoring twenty and thirty eight. He was dropped after the next match, but made it back into the side for the last test of the summer and was picked for the 1963-64 tour of India, where illness meant he could play in only two tests. Out of the England side when Australia toured in 1964, he was brought in to open with Ted Dexter in the second test at Lord’s and hit one hundred and twenty on his Ashes debut. After poor scores in later matches, however, he was back on the sidelines and missed the winter tour to South Africa. It had been a faltering start to his test career, coinciding with the break-up in 1964 of his short marriage to the American tennis player Pat Stewart. But the following year he met Judith Cowan, an Australian nurse, who became his second wife and convinced him that he had a future in the game. With renewed vigour, Edrich celebrated his selection for the third home test against New Zealand in 1965 with his three hundred and ten not out - but in the following match against South Africa at Lord's was knocked out and hospitalised by opening bowler, Peter Pollock, keeping him away from the rest of the series. It was a typical stroke of bad luck for a man who was renowned for picking up injuries. Forever in the firing line, Edrich broke his fingers so often that he had to have a piece of leg bone grafted into his hand. He made his comeback on England’s 1965-66 tour to Australia and New Zealand, scoring two successive test centuries at number three in Australia before an appendix operation curtailed his participation in New Zealand. In 1966 he was named one of the Wisden cricketers of the year and in 1968 he was voted best player in the drawn home Ashes series, in which he averaged 61.55 and scored fifties in five consecutive innings. He made two centuries against West Indies at home and a further pair against New Zealand in the summer of 1969 and during the 1970-71 tour of Australia played in the first ever one-day international, at Melbourne, taking the man of the match award with a silky eighty two. Edrich remained a mainstay of the England side for the next five years and skippered the team for one match on the disastrous 1974-75 tour of Australia. England lost that game, but he played a courageous knock in the second innings after two of his ribs were broken by the first ball he faced from Dennis Lillee. Ferried off to hospital, he eventually returned to score thirty three not out. Similar bravery was required in his final test, at the age of thirty nine in 1976, when he opened the innings with Brian Close against the West Indies at Old Trafford. The veteran pair withstood a horribly intimidating barrage of fast bowling from Andy Roberts, Mikey Holding andWayne Daniel to put on fifty four for the first wicket out of England's eventual second innings total of one hundred and fifty two. He ended his Test career with five thousand one hundred and thirty eight runs at an average of 43.54. In county cricket Edrich had five seasons of captaincy with Surrey from 1973 to 1977, which included a win in the 1974 Benson & Hedges Cup final. But he was too self-contained and undemonstrative to be a leader and his years at the helm were unsettled and generally undistinguished. In 1977, the year he was appointed MBE, Edrich scored his one hundredth hundred, at The Oval and after one more season he left the game to become the marketing director of a bank in Jersey. He served for a year as an England selector in 1981, after which he moved to Cape Town. The death of his son in a car crash there in 1992 prompted a return to Britain, where he and Judith lived latterly in Ballater, Aberdeenshire. In 2005 Edrich was close to death with a rare, incurable form of leukaemia, but after experimental injections of mistletoe he staged a remarkable recovery, allowing him to resume normal activities. In 2006-07 he was president of Surrey, where the Edrich gates at The Oval are named after him. Judith died earlier this year and John is survived by their daughter.
John Edrich's former England and Surrey teammate, the bowler Robin Jackman, died the following day at the age of seventy five. Jackman played in four tests and fifteen one-day internationals for his country, while he took fourteen hundred and two wickets in a three hundred and ninety nine-game first-class career between 1966 and 1982. A more than useful lower order bastman, he managed seventeen first class fifties with a highest score on ninety two. Jackman was given the occasional outing by England in one-day internationals from 1974, but Geoff Arnold, Bob Willis, Chris Old and others kept him out of the test side. At last, in 1980, it seemed likely that he might get a test call-up as he finished the season with one hundredand twenty one first-class wickets (twenty more than any other bowler), aided by the much improved pitches at The Oval and having a very ferocious new ball partner in Sylvester Clarke. He was duly picked for England's winter tour to the West Indies. Following his retirement he became a successful commentator in South Africa, where he lived with his wife Yvonne. Jackman, who was born in India in 1945, made his one-day debut for England against India in 1974 but had to wait until 1981 for his test bow, which came during a tour of the West Indies where his presence caused controversy. The Guyanese government revoked his visa due to his regular winters spent playing cricket in apartheid South Africa and the incident led to the second test being cancelled. But, he was eventually given the go-ahead to play in the next test in Bridgetown, where he took five wickets in an England loss. He made three further England test appearances, the last coming in a three-wicket win against Pakistan at Headingley in 1982. His last one day international was the following year against new Zealand. Jackman played a part in Surrey's 1971 County Championship victory, although he did not play in the deciding match, while he was key to the club's NatWest Trophy success in 1982 - taking two wickets in the final having earlier taken six for twenty two in a Quarter-Final win over Hampshire. His broadcast career made his voice a familiar one around the world, especially in South Africa where he did most of his work for the South Africa-based pay-television channel SuperSport. His England captain, Ian Botham, wrote: 'He was a captain's dream because he would run in all day and hardly bowl a bad ball. He had terrific ability too, which is reflected in his superb career figures. He was unlucky not to have played in more test matches but there were a lot of good quick bowlers around at the time.' His autobiography, Jackers, was published in 2012. He is survived by his wife of fifty one years, Yvonne and their two daughters.
The production designer Peter Lamont, who has died aged ninety one, worked on every James Bond film between Goldfinger (1963), the third in the series and Casino Royale (2006), the twenty first He was absent during that time only from Tomorrow Never Dies, which clashed with James Cameron's Titanic (also 1997). It was Lamont's work on the latter which brought him an Oscar, following nominations for Fiddler On The Roof (1971), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Cameron's Aliens (1986). As he moved up the ladder from draughtsman to set decorator and art director before finally being appointed production designer on For Your Eyes Only (1981), Lamont became a prized member of the Bond family. 'I so admire Peter and his colleagues,' said Roger Moore in his 2008 autobiography My Word Is My Bond. 'They make the impossible possible and the unbelievable believable.' Michael G Wilson, who with Barbara Broccoli took over the producing reins from Broccoli's father, Albert, said: 'The first thing we do when we start working on the script and we're thinking about locations and whether we can do this or that, is we call up Peter Lamont.' His responsibilities on the series were wide-ranging and unpredictable. On Goldfinger, he was recruited by the production designer Ken Adam to help design Fort Knox. For the sea-bound Thunderball (1965), he took a crash-course in scuba-diving after Adam told him: 'You'd better learn to swim underwater.' The film, shot partly in the Bahamas, also required Lamont to spend time at RAF Waddington studying a Vulcan bomber in preparation for building a fourteen-ton replica which then had to be shown sinking at sea. One of his most challenging assignments came as one of the art directors on The Man With The Golden Gun (1974). The night before he left for the Thai island Khao Phing Kan, the production designer Peter Murton told him to be prepared to stay for some time. 'I came home seven months later,' he told Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury for their Bond encyclopaedia Some Kind Of Hero (2015). 'It was a place that was undeveloped at the time. Believe me, the Bonds have always been first in these places. I was the one who ran everything. Telephones didn't work. Telexes took three days and a letter - God knows where it went.' He also taught Christopher Lee to assemble the titular golden gun brandished by his character, the villainous Scaramanga and comprised of everyday objects such as cuff-links, a lighter and a fountain pen. Lamont commissioned the prop from the London jeweller J Rose when the one supplied by Colibri, the credited jeweller, proved unusable. After the soaring costs of Moonraker (1979 the series went back to basics with For Your Eyes Only, for which Lamont stepped into Adam's shoes. John Glen, the film's director, said: 'He was reaching a stage in his career where we were either going to promote him to production designer or he was going to leave the fold and do his own films for someone else because he was that good you couldn't ignore him anymore.' Lamont produced impressive sets resourcefully; the ceremonial barge in Octopussy (1983), for instance, was constructed from a pair of abandoned boats which he found on the banks of Lake Pichola in Udaipur city in India. He also came to the rescue in 1984 when the 007 stage at Pinewood burned down following an accident on the set of Ridley Scott's fantasy adventure Legend. Within twelve weeks, Lamont had overseen the reconstruction of what was now renamed the Albert R Broccoli 007 Stage and had parcelled out sections of the latest Bond production, A View To A Kill (1985), to other stages. To avoid the bureaucratic complications of filming a tank chase in St Petersburg for GoldenEye (1995), he proposed building sections of the city at Leavesden studios. Judi Dench, cast in that film for the first time as M, singled out for praise 'the flat Peter Lamont designed ... this gorgeous apartment in Canary Wharf.' On Casino Royale, he designed over forty sets, from the casino's salon privé to the building site where the film's spectacular parkour pursuit was staged. Lamont was born in London, the son of Mabel and Cyril Lamont. His father was a signwriter who sometimes worked at Denham film studios, in Buckinghamshire, where Lamont visited him regularly and later got a job as a runner. After two years in the RAF, he returned to Denham and worked as a junior draughtsman for more than a decade. He progressed to set dresser on films such as The Bulldog Breed (1960) and Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life (1964) and was assistant art director on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Other art-directing credits include Sleuth (1972), starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine and the Nazi-hunting thriller The Boys From Brazil (1978), also with Olivier and Gregory Peck. As production designer, he worked on the wartime spoof Top Secret! (1984) as well as continuing his collaboration with Cameron on the action movie True Lies (1994). It was Bond, though, which dominated his life, as reflected in the title he chose for his 2016 autobiography, The Man With The Golden Eye: Designing The James Bond Films. In it, he revealed that he had not intended Casino Royale to be his swansong and had met with the director Marc Forster in the hope of designing the next film in the series, Quantum Of Solace (2008). 'I sensed that he was wary of working with someone forty years his senior,' Lamont said. 'Perhaps more seriously, I think he suspected I would be more sympathetic to the producers than to him.' In 1952 he married Ann Aldridge; she predeceased him. Lamont is survived by their daughter, Madeline and son, Neil, an art director and production designer who worked with his father on several films including GoldenEye and Titanic.
And finaly, dear bloggerisationisms reader, this blogger's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies ended 2020 with an unexpected - but thoroughly deserved - point against the Premier League leaders the Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws at St James' Park on Wednesday evening. On the night that Martin Dubravka was on the bench for the first time this season after recovering from injury, Magpies keeper Karl Darlow was in sparkling form. And, when Darlow was found wanting, his defence were on hand to clear the danger - most notably the outstanding Fabian Schär, whose hooked clearance off the line in the eighty first minute from Sadio Mané's apparently goalbound effort, brought back memories of similar interventions by Alan Neilson and Barry Venison during United's 'Entertainers' era of the 1990s. The collective efforts of those in black and white secured their first home Premier League clean sheet of the season and made them the first team in twenty two league games to prevent the reigning champions from scoring. And, bonus, it put a geet big scowl of the Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws boss Herr Klopp's mush at his side's inability to steamroller Th' Toon like they were insects facing giants. So, that was a right good laugh - one can never have too much of that. Chances at the other end were at a premium, but Newcastle retained their discipline and stayed in the game long enough to fashion one genuine scoring opportunity in the seventy ninth minute. That came when Ciaran Clark's header brought a fine save from Alisson (his aim is true) following a rare set piece completion, Callum Wilson lurking to feed on any scraps. Steve Brucie (nasty to see him, to see him nasty) claimed to have seen evidence of his side's alleged 'renewed commitment' in the Boxing Day defeat at Sheikh Yer Man City - though, few others did - but at least on Wednesday that desire was much more evident. The presence of Matty Longstaff gave United more bite in central midfield, allowing them to play slightly further up the pitch than of late, while the team were less passive overall and, at least, tried to defend from the front. A similar test awaits Newcastle at home to Leicester City on Sunday, with at least one change required due to the suspension of Isaac Hayden who picked up his fifth booking against Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws. The night, however, belonged to Darlow, who quite literally saved his manager's shit - denying Mo Salah before half-time, Firminio after the break and then both of them in rapid succession after an eighty seventh minute corner.
From The North will return in 2021, dear blog reader. If, of course, there is still a civilisation hereabouts to read it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

"The Art Itself Is Nature"

So, dear blog reader, it's that time of the year again. But, this year is - by necessity - just a bit different from the normal. You might have noticed. Everyone is coming to terms with the unique and horrific level of the truly terrible that the UK is currently faced with. We are no longer limited to but one misery-inducing crisis, with issues surrounding both a potential No Deal Brexit and soaring Covid-19 cases multiplying rapidly across this land. Still, mustn't grumble. You wouldn't think it would be easy to communicate all of this information succinctly, but BBC Outside Source presenter Ros Atkins managed to merge all of the grimness we're currently facing into less than a minute. It would appear that many people are thankful that someone is able to reduce a terribly complicated and painful situation for so many down to something more manageable if Twitter is anything to go by. The clip has, not unexpectedly, gone extremely viral. The segment begins as you would expect any BBC News broadcast to, before Ros goes all in, discussing travel bans, blocked Eurotunnels and the new Covid-19 variant faster than the new Covid-19 variant took to put the fear of Bejesus into everyone in the South of England. 'The new variant of Covid-19 is out of control. Because of this over forty countries have banned incoming flights into the UK. In addition, France has shut its border, hundreds of lorries are stuck and there are warnings some fresh food supplies may be impacted within days. For now, this is a Christmas week wrapped in worry and uncertainty.' Yeah, that more or less sums it all up. We are currently sinking into the quicksand and it has already reached our naughty bits. That said, on the bright side, From The North favourite, the Goddamn legend that is yer actual Bill Bailey only went and won Strictly, didn't he? Which was jolly good news for fiftysomething dads with two left feet everywhere. Good on ya, Bill, you've saved 2020. 
This wasn't the first time that yer man Ros had opened one of his broadcast in this way. A few days ago a similar clip went viral across the US when he summarised all of the problems featured in the latest US erection fall out. 'It's another day for America's democracy, the President is making baseless accusations of electoral fraud and attempts to steal the election. His son, Eric, is pushing misinformation about ballot-burning when there's no evidence that is happening, his campaign is launching multiple lawsuits to stop vote-counting ... and international election observers are accusing the President of a gross abuse of office.' Yeah. But, hey, as Sir Noddy Big-Hat (OBE) once so wisely noted, 'Ma, ma, we're all crazeee now.' Which, this blogger believes, say a lot. About, you know, something.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, some arsewipe at the BBC News website has published a - supposedly - 'helpful' article entitled Seven Ways To Get Through (And Enjoy) Christmas On Your Own. Tragically, said arsewipe - one John Harrison, apparently - did not couple this with another article aimed at the millions of people in the UK who live on their own anyway and, for whom, Christmas Day alone is just a normal day. Which could, perhaps, have been called How To Make Those Who Live Alone And Are, Seemingly, Excluded From The Current Wave Of Overly Sentimental Self-Indulgent Crap Floating About Feel Like They're, Somehow, Abnormal. Go on, John mate, give it a go - this blogger is sure it'll be a winner with All The Lonely People (where do they all come from?)  
On Tuesday, in anticipation of his being Lonely This Christmas - and with a mere three shoplifting days to go to The Big (Cancelled) Event - it was time for this blogger to indulge in the final Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House shopping trip whilst under Tier 3. Before Bashing Boris does a Ken Dodd and, you'll like this dear blog reader, adds further tears. Oh, suit yourselves. Anyway, said shopping trip included yer actual Keith Telly Topping buying himself an early Chrimbo present, the first halfway decent watch he has owned in several years. If, for no other reason that it'll enable him to watch time passing slowly as he awaits the inevitable extinction of humanity. Or, does it just feel that way? This blogger, needless to say, got back to the Stately Telly Topping Plague House pure dead Jacob's Cream Cracker'd and needed a nice lie down for an hour.
On the same day, the Daily Mirra was being harsh-but-probably-fair on its front page. 
Let it be noted, it's jolly rare that newspapers of different political persuasions all, broadly, agree with each other. But, it happened this week. Take the Torygraph for instance (this blogger's enormous thanks to his good mate Billy Hall for pointing this out).
Nevertheless, there is - undeniably - some bad shit going on in the world at the moment. For instance, did a little piece of any dear blog reader keel over and die - as a little piece of this blogger did - when From The North favourite Gillian Anderson started doing sexy-voiced food-porn adverts for Marks & Spencer? This blogger used to respect you, Gill.
And, just when you think things couldn't, possibly, get any worse, on Sunday we had Annie Lennox singing 'The Holy & The Ivy' on The Andrew Marr Show. Where did this blogger leave that large bottle of pain-killers, he wishes to end it all right now?
So anyway, this week also saw the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House Christmas decorations sorted out for another year ...
Admittedly, there have been one or two occurrences which haven't been completely bloody dreadful and a right shite state of affairs. Example: A wet and windy Saturday night, a - really deserved - King Prawn curry with boiled rice and freshly baked rustic bread rolls and a choice of viewing at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Crisis? What crisis? Oh, that crisis. 
The last couple of Toyah & Robert's Sunday Lunch videos have also - as they usually do - raised a smile here at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Featuring versions of 'Anarchy In The UK' and 'Schools Out'. As one YouTube commentator wisely noted in relation to the former: 'Punk didn't kill Prog. They just got married instead.'
Then, of course, there was Diamonds Are Forever on ITV on Sunday. Now it feels like Christmas, dear blog reader ...
And, best of all, From The North favourite Spiral is returning to BBC Four for its eighth - and, sadly, final - series on 2 January. Maybe 2021 won't be every single bit as bad as 2020 after all. Though, this blogger wouldn't put money on it. 
Speaking of 2021, the BBC is to screen Doctor Who's New Year's Day special in 4K resolution and high dynamic range colour via iPlayer. When the programme is broadcast, viewers will be prompted to switch to the higher quality streamed version by pressing the red button. US video platforms including Disney+, Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video commonly offer content in this format. But it is more rare on the BBC and Sky. To take advantage of the facility, households will need a compatible TV and a relatively fast Interweb connection. The BBC recommends a minimum twenty four megabits per second connection with froty eight gerzillion snots of memory. Or thereabouts.
After Bill Bailey's - much deserved - victory on Saturday, the other big winner over the weekend was Lewis Hamilton winning the Sports Personality Of The Year award. Which, considering Lew hasn't got much of a personality - certainly not a very likable one - was a considerable achievement in this blogger's opinion.
Plus, there was also the greatest single moment in the history of television ... since, the last time a newsreader yawned live on-air. Don't worry, Ben Brown, we've all been there.
And then, there is the never-ending source of amusement that is soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump. With his wacky ways. And his doings. And his silly shenanigans. And his rather odd friends. And his former lackeys who've suddenly decided it's time someone had a go at being The Adult In The Room. All of them. Even the really strange ones. And his pardoning of (alleged) war criminals. A source of almost ceaseless thigh-slapping titterisation is soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump. This blogger is gonna miss you so much when you're gone, Donny. Let's all hope that the District Attorney of New York doesn't miss you, though. Because that would be very sad.
The Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by a woman who spent sixteen million knicker in Harrods to overturn the UK's first Unexplained Wealth Order. Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of a jailed banker, may now lose her twelve million quid London home - and, a separate golf course - if she can't 'explain her riches.' The court said that her challenge to the UWO raised 'no arguable point of law.' Mrs Hajieyva's husband is currently in The Slammer in Azerbaijan for embezzling millions of pounds from a state bank. Offshore companies connected to the family own Mrs Hajiyeva's home on an exclusive street in Knightsbridge, as well as the Mill Ride golf course in Berkshire. One of the few golf courses in Britain which isn't owned by soon-to-be-former President Mister Rump. Together they were worth more than twenty two million smackers when the legal battle began in February 2018. Over the course of a decade, Mrs Hajiyeva spent sixteen million notes in Harrods - spending that formed part of the NCA's investigation into the sources of her wealth. Under a UWO, if a person cannot explain how, exactly, they became legitimately rich, the courts can fast-track the seizure of their property, without investigators having even proven a crime. Mrs Hajiyeva has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with an offence in the UK. Yet. Last year a court blocked her potential extradition to Azerbaijan, saying she would not get a fair trial. Her lawyers had petitioned the Supreme Court to consider her case, saying she had not been lawfully targeted by the NCA. That application has now been rejected without the court hearing the case at all - meaning that all her rights of appeal are now exhausted. Graeme Biggar, head of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA, said: 'This is a significant result which is important in establishing Unexplained Wealth Orders as a powerful tool for financial investigations. There are no further routes for Mrs Hajiyeva to appeal against the order. She will now be required to provide the NCA with the information we are seeking in connection with these assets.' The NCA would have set a strict timetable for Mrs Hajiyeva to comply with that demand - but the Christmas period and the pandemic mean she may have until the end of the winter to provide full answers. Unexplained Wealth Orders, created in 2017, were trumpeted by the government as a major new tool in the fight against corrupt cash in the UK. One of the targets - a man believed to be money laundering for a major drugs gang - gave up fighting the NCA and handed over his property empire. Another family, part of Kazakhstan's ruling elite, won their case against the NCA.
And, speaking of - alleged - bad-uns, FIFA has lodged a criminal complaint against former president Sepp Blatter over the finances of a museum in Zurich. The complaint relates to the involvement of Blatter and other former officials in the FIFA museum project. It is the latest allegation of financial impropriety against Blatter, who extremely resigned from his post as president in 2015 amid a corruption scandal. The eighty four-year-old has always denied any wrongdoing. One or two people even believed him. FIFA, association football's world governing body, say that Blatter's previous administration cost them five hundred million Swiss francs to renovate 'a building that the organisation doesn't own', while also 'locking itself into a long-term rental agreement on unfavourable terms.' 'Given the massive costs associated with this museum, as well as the general way of working of the previous FIFA management, a forensic audit was conducted in order to find out what really happened here,' said Alasdair Bell, FIFA's deputy secretary general in charge of administration. 'That audit revealed a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature and need to be properly investigated by the relevant authorities. We came to the conclusion that we had no choice other than to report the case to state prosecutors, not least because the current management of FIFA also has fiduciary responsibilities to the organisation and we intend to live up to them, even if those before us dismally failed to.' The complaint has been sent to the Zurich prosecutor and FIFA says that it will 'continue to cooperate with the authorities in Switzerland and elsewhere so that those people who damaged football are held accountable for their actions.' The museum project began in 2013, two years before Blatter, who was FIFA president for seventeen long years, announced his resignation. In response, Blatter's lawyer Lorenz Erni, claims FIFA's accusations are 'baseless and vehemently repudiated.' Blatter is currently serving a six-year ban from all forms of football. Even watching blokes having a kick about in the park.
Now, dear blog reader, it's time ...
Good question. This week, this blogger has (mostly) been watching - The Night Manager. The 2016 winner of the prestigious From The North award for the best TV show of the year. And, still a magic bit of dramatic storytelling.
Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads ...? 'Santa Claus is dead!'
Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie. 'Should we powder our noses?'
Where Eagles Dare. Because, nothing says 'Christmas' like Dick and Clint moving down half the German army with machine guns, obviously.
The Eagle Has Landed. Because, nothing also says 'Christmas' like Michael Caine shooting Winston Churchill.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing. 'You don't 'alf talk some bollocks, Bob!' Marvellously touching and really funny Christmas entertainment although this blogger was shocked (and stunned) to note how special guest Bob's old mate Chris Rea these days resembles the missing third Chuckle Brother.
Waking The Dead: Final Cut.
Monty Python's Flying Circus: The Complete DVD Box-Set.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
The World At War.
Life On Mars.
The supermarket chain Tesco has, reportedly, introduced purchasing limits on some products. Including eggs, rice and toilet rolls. So, if you happen to be a Tesco customer and were planning on having either a nice tasty bowl of kedgeree or, a decent, satisfying, bowel-emptying plop anytime soon, you might want to either put the former on hold or, in the case of the latter, simply stick a cork in it.
New - extremely severe, Tier 4 - Covid restrictions have been announced for large parts of the South of England including all of Hampshire. Except for The New Forest. So, that's terrific news for all Rutting Stags out there.
Also, we've had news of another - even more contagious - third Covid variant which appears to have originated in South Africa. How does it spread, dear blog reader? National treasure and absolute From The North favourite Bob Mortimer provides one possible - albeit, highly unlikely - suggestion.
North Tyneside golfers have, it is claimed, been joined by a wallaby on their local course. No news yet on what his or her handicap is. Only having very small arms, possibly. The sighting comes a few weeks after a wallaby was spotted on the streets of Evenwood near Bishop Auckland. Bloody Australians. Why can't it just get a job in a bar like the rest of them?
The latest From The North award for the stupidest headline of the week goes to the Times of India for their world-shattering exclusive Kerry Katona Quits Smoking. And this shit constitutes 'news', apparently. Next from the Times of India, dear blog reader, Emma Bunton Has A Dump Once Per Day. Sometimes Twice.
Another contender for the same award was the BBC News website's Alibaba Being Investigated By China Over Monopoly Tactics. Presumably, they always manage to acquired Mayfair and Park Lane, put loads of hotels on them and keep breaking the bank. Authorities state that, if found guilty of such disgraceful naughtiness, they will be sent to jail. Directly to jail. And they will definitely not pass 'Go' and not collect two hundred knicker. Quite right too.
♫ Aaa-ham dreamin' hof a ... sort of greyish-slushy-off-white Chrisd-massss/Juzz like the whans I yoused t'know ...♫ This blogger is extremely grateful that he went to ALDI first thing on Christmas Eve morning to get in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House milk, eggs, bread and other perishables and was home before all arrived.
And finally, there are some moments in yer actual Association Socher-ball which may require subtitles for our American cousins. Then, there are others which really don't ...