Sunday, June 07, 2020

"The Fool Doth Think He Is Wise But The Wise Man Knows Himself To Be A Fool"

In keeping with much of the rest of the planet, dear blog reader, this blogger's general mood at the moment can, roughly, be summed up thus.
Bleak. But, more on that later ...

Still, on a slightly more positive note - let it be noted, it's not very often that this blogger can actually say he is, hand-on-heart, proud of his beloved (though still tragically unsellable) football club. But this week has been something of an exception ... Good on ya, lads.
Also on the subject of this blogger's beloved - though (seemingly) unsellable - Magpies, regular From The North readers may have noticed that this blogger has said almost nothing about the ongoing saga of the - at the time of writing, still-proposed - takeover of his local football club. Except a brief note a few bloggerisationisms back. And, that was merely to observe it says much about the way in which the current owner of the club is so despised by the majority of supporters that they would, seemingly, prefer to see the club majority-owned by members of one of the most harsh and repressive political regimes in the world. Because, compared to the bloke who owns Sports Direct, Saudi Arabia's a haven of integrity and enlightenment, right? If this blogger was Mike Ashley, dear blog reader (which he most definitely isn't, just in case you were wondering), he would be laughing his non-cotton sports socks off at such thinking. Before going back to counting his vast wads of moolah and laughing some more.
    Anyway, the latest twist in the ongoing - and, seemingly, never-ending - saga is that the Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has, reportedly, said he will 'fully consider' calls for Newcastle United's proposed takeover to be blocked. Which this blogger somehow doubts ... and he's not alone in that belief, it would seem. Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has written to the league to oppose the deal. Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is financing a three hundred million knicker takeover along with some marginally more morally-acceptable partners like the businesswoman and financier Amanda Staveley and the Reuben Brothers. Western intelligence agencies have publicly stated they believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who heads the PIF, was behind Khashoggi's shocking murder in 2018 - claims which bin Salman himself denies. Though, to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies, 'well, he would, wouldn't he?'
      In a letter seen by BBC Sport, Masters told Cengiz's lawyer: 'I assure you and your client that her representations are being fully considered in our process.' Cengiz's legal team say it is the first acknowledgement by the Premier League that her views are 'being taken into account' in the takeover, which is being checked under the league's owners' and directors' test. In the letter, Masters also writes to Rodney Dixon QC to say that although he 'remains extremely sympathetic to your client's position' a requested meeting between the parties is 'not possible, particularly in light of correspondence appearing in the media.' Checks under the league's owners' and directors' test have been going on for more than six weeks and show no sign of being decided - one way or another - any time soon. In a statement to BBC Sport, Cengiz said: 'I'm cautiously optimistic the Premier League will make the right decision. I'm sure that if the Premier League follows its own rules and charter, especially the owners' and directors' test, it will block the sale of Newcastle United to Mohamed bin Salman and the Public Investment Fund he chairs. Until Bin Salman is held accountable for his role in Jamal's brutal murder, everyone must refrain from doing any business with him.' 'In addition to concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record, broadcast piracy claims have also been raised,' BBC Sports notes. Actually, that's not true in the slightest - questions have, indeed, been asked in parliament by at last two MPs on this subject but neither have even mentioned Saudi Arabia's human rights records. In May 2020, two Conservative MPs called on the government to scrutinise 'aspects of the deal,' with Karl McCartney calling for the sale to be 'blocked' and Giles Watling demanding the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport hold 'an oral evidence session' regarding media piracy in Saudi Arabia. It would be extremely hypocritical for any British politician - particularly a Tory - to go down the human rights route given that the UK is amongst the biggest trading partners with Saudi Arabia and that members of the Saudi royal family are regular visitors to both Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. Rather, the main highlighted issue - as with almost everything else in the football world - is financial. The broadcaster beoutQ has, allegedly, been illegally showing matches - mainly in Saudi Arabia - despite the Premier League rights in the region belonging to Qatar-based beIN Sports. Saudi broadcaster Arabsat has always denied that beoutQ uses its frequencies to show games illegally. One or two people even believed them. Dixon, on behalf of Cengiz, has previously written to Masters saying there should be 'no place in English football' for anyone 'involved in such abhorrent acts.' Cengiz has also written an open letter to Newcastle fans urging them to 'unite to protect' the club from the proposed takeover, for which the PIF is set to provide eighty per cent of funds. The Newcastle United Supporters' Trust has been publicly sympathetic to Cengiz's stance - and, indeed, one would have to possess a heart made of stone not to - and says that it 'understands' concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record. However, it says it has 'no influence' on who takes over the club. They say they will raise issues about Saudi Arabia's human rights record even if they support the prospective takeover. In an online forum, which involved over two thousand supporters, NUST chair Alex Hurst said: 'We exist to be a critical friend of the club, and hold them to account.' Last month, a NUST poll of three thousand plus members found ninety six per cent were in favour of the new consortium to replace current - hated - owner Mike Ashley, who has been in charge of Newcastle for thirteen inglorious years.
   This blogger's own view on this complicated malarkey? If this were purely a human rights issue then it's difficult not to be hugely conflicted by the whole deal - despite the obvious potential win-win situation of saying goodbye forever to the loathsome Ashley. But, of course, it isn't. Despite occasional evidence to the contrary, not everything in life is black and white, dear blog reader.
To the other great love of this blogger's life; there is a very good piece by the Gruniad Morning Star's Martin Belam, 'I've Made A Studio Outside My Bathroom': How Doctor Who Lovers Took On Lockdown in which Martin notes that: 'Covid-Nineteen hasn’t stopped the writers, stars and fans of the show coming together to watch along, raise funds and even release a moving tribute.' It's well-worth a few moments of your time, dear blog reader.
And now, some terribly sad news. Steve Priest, the bassist and co-founder of glam rock band The Sweet, has died at the age of seventy two. Steve was known for his playful sense of humour and outrageous costumes when The Sweet played hits like 'Block Buster!', 'Teenage Rampage' and 'Wig Wam Bam' on Top Of The Pops in the 1970s. Priest also sang the memorable lines 'there's a girl in the corner that no-one ignores/cos she thinks she's the passionate one' in 'Ballroom Blitz' and 'We just haven't got a clue what to do' in 'Block Buster!' His death was confirmed by the band, who shared a statement from his family on social media.
Bandmate Andy Scott paid tribute, describing Priest as the best bassist he had ever played with. 'From that moment in the summer of 1970 when we set off on our musical odyssey the world opened up and the roller coaster ride started. I am in pieces right now,' added the guitarist, who is now the sole surviving member of The Sweet's classic line-up following the deaths of singer Brian Connolly in 1997 and drummer Mick Tucker in 2002. 'His wife Maureen and I have kept in contact and though his health was failing I never envisaged this moment. My thoughts are with his family.
Steve Priest was born in Hayes in 1948, and became a musician after building his own bass guitar in his teens. After playing in local bands like The Countdowns and The Army, he formed The Sweet (then known as Sweetshop) in January 1968 with Brian Connolly, Tucker and their original guitarist Frank Torpey. Following a few line-up changes and a false start with Parlophone Records, the band signed to RCA in 1971 and teamed up with the songwriting/production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, whose bubblegum melodies and power-pop riffs propelled them into the charts. Their initial success was with somewhat lightweight material like 'Co-Co', 'Poppa Joe' and 'Little Willy' (their biggest hit in the US). Subsequently, influenced by the glam rock of T-Rex and David Bowie, they released a sting of brilliant campy rock and/or roll singles. In total, they scored thirteen Top Twenty hits in the UK, with songs like 'Teenage Rampage', 'Hell Raiser', 'Wig-Wam Bam', 'The Six Teens' and their sole number one, 1973's 'Block Buster!' As the band became a regular fixture on Top Of The Pops, Priest turned into the epitome of glam rock androgyny, known for his flamboyant outfits and heavy mascara. 'The make-up thing, I can't remember what started that,' he told the Phoenix New Times in 2018. 'Marc Bolan, maybe? Top Of The Pops was a stupid show in some ways but it was like, you had to outdo everyone else. I was the first one to wear hot pants on Top Of The Pops,' he added. 'A year later, Bowie did it and everyone went, "Wow, David Bowie wore hot pants on Top Of The Pops" and totally forgot the fact that I did it the year before!'
But the bassist landed himself in hot water when he appeared in a German military uniform and sporting a Hitler moustache on the 1973 Christmas Day episode of Top Of The Pops. 'It's amazing how everyone still talks about the Nazi uniform,' he said in 2010. 'Good old BBC wardrobe department. People always want to know if I was serious. I mean, a gay Hitler. Hello?!'
The Sweet parted ways with Chinn and Chapman in 1974, determined to write their own material. Influenced by their heroes The Who, their new sound was harder and more experimental and yielded further hits like their masterpiece 'Fox On The Run', 'Action' and 'Love Is Like Oxygen'. And at least two genuinely great LPs, Desolation Boulevard (which included their covers of 'My Generation' and 'The Man With The Golden Arm') and Sweet Fanny Adams. After Connolly departed the group in 1978, Priest took over vocal duties and The Sweet continued as a trio until 1981.
In recent years, there had been two competing versions of The Sweet: Priest had the right to use the band's name in the US, where he lived, while Scott toured the UK with an alternate line-up. Their biggest songs continued to get radio play - while 'Ballroom Blitz', a song inspired by a Scottish gig where the band were bottled offstage, gained a new lease of life in the 1990s after featuring in the movie Wayne's World. Several of the band's songs were also used to great effect in the BBC time-travel series Life On Mars. Tributes to Priest have poured in since his death was announced, with many sharing their memories on social media. 'When Sweet were on [TV] you sat there in awe thinking, "sod the school careers adviser that's the job for me,"' wrote The Damned's Captain Sensible. 'And they wound your parents up something rotten too, which was a bonus.' David Ellefson of Megadeth said that Priest was 'without parallel.' He added that The Sweet 'gave me one of my earliest memories of great hard rock on the radio as a kid and Desolation Boulevard still holds up as one of rock's greatest albums from that period.' Priest is survived by his wife, Maureen, whom he married in 1981, their three daughters. Lisa, Danielle and Maggie and three grandchildren, Jordan, Jade and Hazel.'
Tony Scannell, who died last week aged seventy four, will be best remembered as the fiery Ted Roach in The Bill, debuting in its second episode in 1984. During his time, the programme metamorphosed from a one-hour post-watershed series to a twice and then thrice-weekly year-round fixture of ITVs primetime schedule, regularly pulling in more than ten million viewers. The Bill was a deliberately unglamorous depiction of British policing, portraying its officers as ordinary, flawed individuals. Roach was a hard-nut cop of the old school - a dogged investigator unafraid to bend the rules. Scannell's performance was highly watchable, making the detective a dyspeptic, spiky but likeable man, delivering his dialogue with a splenetic energy and jabbing finger, his sharp copper's instinct often battling the effects of the previous night's whisky. Roach's testy relationship with the top brass matched Scannell's own with the programme's producers and he left the series in 1993. His final episode provided an apposite departure involving fisticuffs, a clandestine romantic assignation, drinking on duty and the culmination of his long-running feud with the by-the-book Inspector Monroe (played by Colin Tarrant). Ordered to apologise for thumping his nemesis, Ted refused and quit, storming out of Sun Hill station with a snarling lament about the changing face of the force. Scannell's authentic, committed turn made Roach a very popular character with viewers and he reprised the role for two episodes in 2000 before being killed off in 2004, setting in motion a storyline for three of his ex-colleagues. Born in Kinsale, County Cork, Tony was the eldest of the five children of Tommy Scannell, a professional footballer who was capped for Ireland and his wife, Peggy. When Tony was five his father signed for Southend United and the family moved to England. However, Tony stayed behind in Cork to live with his grandmother so that he could be educated at the local Presentation Brothers college. After school he served briefly as an apprentice toolmaker before moving to England at the age of fifteen to rejoin the rest of his family, who were by then living in Folkestone. There, he worked as a TV salesman, a singing bingo caller and a deckchair attendant before a five-year stint with the RAF, serving as a reconnaissance photographer in Cyprus. He became a radio disc jockey for the British Forces Broadcasting Service there and helped out backstage at the camp's theatre group in order, he claimed, 'to avoid guard duty.' When he left the forces that experience, along with the encouragement of future Bill co-star Larry Dann, secured Scannell employment as an assistant stage manager at the Cambridge Arts Theatre in 1968. He trained at the East Fifteen Acting School in Loughton and, immediately upon graduating, played Elyot in Jack Watling's showcase production of Private Lives (Frinton, 1974). He then joined Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, appearing at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, in, among other productions, Dracula (1974) and Bloody Mary (1975). He toured in Happy As A Sandbag (as Max Miller and Winston Churchill, 1977) and Hull Truck's The New Garbo (1978) and performed in Four Weeks In The City for the National Theatre (Cottesloe, 1978). He made his TV debut in 1976 and played small roles in Enemy At The Door (1978), The Professionals (1979) and the movie Flash Gordon (1980) before getting better parts in Armchair Thriller (The Circe Complex, 1980), Strangers (1981) and The Gentle Touch (1981). When the call came to audition for The Bill he was working as a salvage diver. In later years he was a regular in the Channel Five soap Family Affairs (as the conman Eddie Harris), played Tony Booth – opposite Sue Johnston's Pat Phoenix – in the TV movie The Things You Do For Love: Against The Odds (1998), displayed fine comic timing in Charlie Brooker's Unnovations (2001), guested in a fine two-part Waking The Dead (2007's Wren Boys) and starred in the film The Haunting Of Harry Payne (also known as Evil Never Dies, 2014). His CV also included appearances in Cribb, Up The Elephant & Round The Castle, Rock Power Telly, Noah's Ark and Monkey Trousers. He made his West End debut in Wait Until Dark (Garrick Theatre, 2003) and became a regular in pantomime (his Abanazer was a particular speciality). No stranger to tabloid intrusion - and despite being declared bankrupt in 2002, he had few regrets – he said thathe enjoyed the celebrity life to the full even if he had not always known how to handle it. He met the actor Agnes Lillis during a 1993 production of An Evening With Gary Lineker at the Jersey Opera House - she introduced him to Buddhism and he became a member of the Buddhist movement SGI-UK. This and settling with Agnes to enjoy a quiet family life in Suffolk in 1995, gave him a contentment which had eluded him in his more hedonistic days. They formed a theatre company - Eastbound - which performed short tours of local theatres and taught adult acting evening classes at the Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft. He is survived by Agnes and their children, Tom and Sophie, a daughter, Julya, from a relationship with Penny Ansell and a son, Sean, from his 1971 marriage to Melanie Self, which ended in divorce.
Leigh Francis has apologised for playing black people in his Channel Four comedy, Bo' Selecta (a particular favourite of this blogger). Using masks, the actor created exaggerated versions of the likes of Michael Jackson, Craig David and Mel B. Leigh says that when the show started, in 2002 he 'didn't think anything about it.' Leigh's apology was prompted, he says, by 'a weird few days.' Sadly, Francis did not also use the opportunity to apologise for inflicting his wretchedly unfunny Keith Lemon character on the unsuspecting pubic. An opportunity missed, one might suggest.
From The North's Headline of The Week award goes to BBC News for Porn Star Nacho Vidal Held In Spain After Man Dies In Toad-Venom Ritual.
Although, Berwick & Whitley Bay Dolphin Harassments Prompt Police Warning also probably deserves a mention.
Shortly after this blogger posted the previous From The North bloggerisationisms update - like the big clumsy clot that he, frequently, is - this blogger only went and managed to trip over his own feet whilst going downstairs to take the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House rubbish out to the bins. Fortunately, he managed to stop himself from going flying arse-over-tip - and, quite possibly, killing himself on the uncarpeted stone steps. Unfortunately, in doing so, he jarred his back really badly causing much pain, much discomfort and, indeed, much swearing. The following morning, once he'd rang into work to tell them what a bleeding clown he'd been, this blogger was on the phone to the very lovely Doctor Patricia (Doctor Chris is currently on holiday), who distance-diagnosed at least one, possibly several torn lumber muscles. She then prescribed rest, plenty of heat and massage and some heavy duty painkillers (to be sent out, obviously; they took two days to arrive during which time this blogger suffered i silence. No, to silence, what's the opposite of silence?) This blogger was also promised a two week sick note (also to be sent in the post, because email is not a secure medium, apparently). So, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith telly Topping appears to be the only person on the sodding planet who can manage to do himself a mischief whilst completely self-isolated. Mind you, on reflection, let it be noted 'rest, heat, massage and industrial strength drugs ...' A lot of people pay a fortune for that sort of thing, you know, recreationally ...
For those who are wondering, the answers are both of the next two questions are 'yes.' Yes, this blogger is still in sodding agony with his back (and, probably, will be for a while to come). And, yes, he did really deserve these chilli, garlic and paprika prawns on brown toast with black pepper. This blogger would love to tell you all that he had a nice glass of red wine with them, dear blog reader. But, since he is on diazepam at the moment, alcohol's rather off the menu and he had some blackcurrant pop instead.
And, the same also applies to this chilli and garlic crispy beef. You know how much this blogger deserved that withoutr him having to tell you, surely?
And, this chicken and king prawns in hoisin sauce, with spring onions and egg fried rice. Much needed. And, really deserved. Obviously.