Sunday, June 27, 2021

"All Is Confirmed ... [Though] My Flesh Be Hacked, Give Me My Armour"

A total right-shite state of affairs has descended from high a'top The Thing with an uncomfortable splat upon yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House over the last few days, dear blog reader. It's been a sight to see, so it has. As many of Keith Telly Topping's dear Facebook fiends will already know, this blogger's Facebook account (established in 2006) appears to have been well and truly hackerised like buggery and he is, currently, entirely unable to access his account due to his e-mail address and password having been changed by the naughty - alleged - hackerisation-type individual involved in the - alleged - hackerising. Yer actual has e-mailed an address which is alleged to be Facebook's Help Centre for, you know, help in his hour of need - but he has yet to hear anything back from them as of the time of this bloggerisationism update. And, anyway, this blogger is not even sure if the address he sent his plea to is a genuine one. So, if any dear blog reader out there has any practical suggestions about what Keith Telly Topping can do, a) either to contact Facebook or to b) sort out this ungodly mess (or, ideally, both), this blogger can be contacted via e-mail at keithandrewtopping at gmail dot com. However, can I ask that only anyone who actually has something practical which is likely to improve this blogger's temper contacts him. Please, don't - for the love of God - send messages of sympathy or anything along those lines. Because, frankly, his blogger is just a wee bit beyond the accepting-sympathy-in-the-spirit-it-was-intended stage now.
To be fair, this here right-shite state of affairs has had but one positive side-effect. Since this blogger - for the moment, at least - is not spending a couple of hours each day checking out Facebook postings from his - many - fiends, he's had more time than usual to devote himself to other things in his life. Like reading the recently-acquired mega-massive-tastic seventeen hundred page monster that is Mark Lewisohn's extended Be-Atles biography, Tune-In (Part 1). They were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them. He is currently up to page three hundred and seventy three if anyone is taking notes. It's June 1957 and future alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon's O-level results have just turned out to be just as bad, if not worse, than everyone (including him) expected and his auntie reckons he's not going to make a living from this guitar-playing nonsense. Meanwhile, Keith Telly Topping's wrists are really suffering from holding the damn thing whilst he's reading it. Alternatively (to give his wrists a bit of a break), he's also carrying on with his current complete Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch. He's just about up to the end of series five of the Star Trek series which got good the quickest and stayed good the longest and The Dominion and The Cardassians are about to get really heavy on Captain Sisko and co's collective ass. Or, he's been watching - and, actually, rather enjoying - the Euros (at least, until the Germans give England a right good shellacking next Tuesday, after which the novelty may well wear off somewhat). Et cetera, et cetera. Life? It can be a right bloody chore, innit? Still, the weather's been quite nice ... 
As a consequence, therefore, of all this previously discussed right-shite state of affairs, this latest From The North bloggerisationisms update will be somewhat shorter than usual. Since roughly half of what this blogger posts in an average bloggerisationisms about his own various doings are, usually, collected from stuff that he's told his fiends about on Facebook. So, you know, if you're wholly uninterested in yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self, dear blog reader, that's a double bonus, surely?
Firstly, last week saw the unveiling of The Doctor's new costume for the forthcoming series of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama. This blogger is not sure it entirely works for him, to be honest. Although, he does like the - presumably sonic - wand. A lot.
Last week, the Lack of Culture Secretary The Vile & Odious Rascal Dowden announced that 'a new frontier' had been opened for British musicians who want to play live in Europe. Thanks to 'ambitious' negotiations, he suggested, artists and their crews can now tour without visa requirements in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The deal comes after Brexit meant that performers must obtain costly permits to play in most European countries. Touring musicians called The Vile & Odious Rascal Dowden's announcement 'tragic' and 'a joke.' And those were some of thing kinder things said. 'Iceland's population is roughly the same as Wigan. Liechtenstein has a similar number of residents as Wilmslow,' said The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess. 'If it wasn't tragic it would be funny.' He added: 'The Charlatans have played all over the globe for thirty one years and we've had three number one albums. However, Oliver Dowden, we have never played in Iceland or Liechtenstein due to sheer expense/very small populations there and few venues or promoters. But thanks for your help.' One imagines that was Tim being a bit sarcastic, there. The UK government claimed that the deal with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein - which are not part of the EU, but are in the European Economic Area - was 'only one part' of an overall effort to reopen Europe to British musicians. One or two people even believed them. Of the UK's major touring artists, a grand total of none have played in Liechtenstein in the past decade. Only one act - over-rated ginger strummer Ed Sheeran - has visited Iceland since 2011 (for which, one trusts, the people of Reykjavik will accept our sincere collective apologies), but Norway does remain a regular touring stop for many bands on the European touring circuit. 
England's opening Euro 2020 (ish) match at Wembley on Sunday was watched by a record audience on BBC iPlayer. The - actually half-way decent for once - one-nil win over Croatia pulled in a peak TV audience of 11.6 million and a seventy nine per cent share of available viewers. One really has to wonder what the other twenty one per cent were watching. Contemplating the inherently ludicrous nature of existence, probably. It also set a BBC iPlayer live viewing record with the game being streamed 3.9 million times and 4.5 million times on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport online.
Astronomers claim they have solved the mystery of why one of the most familiar stars in the night sky suddenly dimmed just over a year ago. Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion that no one knows how to pronounce correctly (it's 'bet-al-gurr-z' if you were wondering), abruptly darkened in late 2019 and early 2020. The behaviour led some to speculate that it might be about to explode if a firework display that would've been quite a sight. But a team using the excellently-named Very Large Telescope in Chile says the cause was 'almost certainly' a giant dust cloud between us and the star. Even if you can't name many points in the sky, you'll almost certainly know Betelgeuse by sight. It's the orange dot in the top-left corner of Orion - or bottom-right, if you're viewing the constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. Close to Earth, relatively speaking, at a distance of about five hundred and fifty light-years, Betelgeuse is what is known as a 'semi-regular variable star.' It naturally brightens and darkens over a period of roughly four hundred days. But what happened eighteen months ago was out of the ordinary. The loss of brightness was far greater than anything previously recorded. Astronomer Miguel Montargès and colleagues investigated the event with the European Southern Observatory's VLT, one of the most powerful telescopes on Earth. It has the resolution to directly image the surface of Betelgeuse. The researchers compared pictures before, during and after the dimming and did some modelling to see what kind of behaviour might give rise to the views obtained. Two ideas were dominant. Perhaps there was a large cool spot on the surface of the star, because red supergiants like Betelgeuse are known to have large convective cells which can cause hot spots and cold spots. Or maybe there was a cloud of dust forming right in front of the star as it was viewed from Earth. The explanation turns out to be 'a bit of both' according to colleague Emily Cannon from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. 'Our overall idea is that there was a cool spot on the star which, because of the local drop in temperature, then caused gas ejected previously to condense into dust,' she told BBC News. 'So, the cool spot on the surface would initially make the star look dimmer to us. But then this condensation of dust would add to the rapid drop in brightness of the star.' Betelgeuse is about fifteen to twenty times as massive as the Sun. An object that big is likely to go supernova at some point. So, it wasn't crazy to wonder when this unusual dimming occurred that Betelgeuse might be about to go bang in a spectacular explosion. Emily Cannon said: 'I don't think this event means Betelgeuse is going to go supernova any time soon, even though that would be incredibly interesting and I was kind of wishing it myself! We know that red supergiants can display increased mass loss rates, which may indicate there's a later stage in their lives when they are more likely to go supernova. But Betelgeuse we think is a relatively young red supergiant and it probably has a lot more time left.' How much time? Tens, even hundreds, of thousands of years is the sort of period astronomers will often quote. Although, in cosmic terms, that's effective 'some time soon.' When it occurs with will be an amazing thing to see; the event would be visible in daylight. The last supernova observed in our Milky Way Galaxy was Kepler's Star, which was observed in 1604. Records from astronomers at the time indicate it was visible during the day for over three weeks after it went ker-blam. Miguel Montargès' team reports its findings in the journal Nature.
And finally in this shortened From The North update, some jolly sad news. The actress and agent Jackie Lane has died at the age of seventy nine. Jackie appeared in nineteen episodes of Doctor Who in the 1966 playing Dodo Chaplet a companion of The Doctor, William Hartnell. Jackie was born in Manchester and, after training as a child actress she had small parts in soap operas like the BBC's Compact and Granada's Coronation Street as well as series such as The Villains, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Protectors (no, the other one). She also appeared in Anna Neagle's radio production of Wonderful Things in 1958, with Charlie Drake in Grandad Was A Wrestler in 1959 and as a panelist on a 1961 episode of Juke Box Jury. In 1963, aged seventeen, her agent put her forward to play the character of Susan Forman in the BBC's new science fiction seris, Doctor Who. Jackie however withdrew from consideration upon learning that she would be expected to sign a year-long contract should she gain the role. Three years later, with Doctor Who a major success, the actress was offered the role of Dodo by producer John Wiles. Arriving at the end of The Massacre, the character travelled with The Doctor and his companion Steven (Peter Purves) across four stories, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The Gunfighters and The Savages. Jackie told Doctor Who Magazine about her time on the series: 'It was very friendly, although Bill Hartnell had put up with a lot of cast changes over a short space of time. It was really beginning to get to him. We got on very well, although I wouldn't say I ever really knew him that well.' Jackie's contract expired after four months and it was not renewed by the incoming producer Innes Lloyd. The character disappeared from the series, without a goodbye, after appearing in a couple of episodes of The War Machines. 'Innes had definite plans for the series, which neither Steven nor Dodo fitted. I think I would have liked a dramatic ending. My farewell was a bit of an anti-climax. Still, I got my revenge. I now run a voice-over agency and Innes Lloyd once asked me to find him work. I reminded him that he had once sacked me from Doctor Who and said a very firm no.' Soon after Jackie left Doctor Who she effectively retired from acting. She spent some time as a diplomatic secretary working for the Australian Government and as an antique dealer before returning to the theatrical world, this time as an agent. In this role, for a time she represented both Tom Baker and Janet Fielding and managed Nicholas Courtney. A very shy lady, Jackie Lane was always reluctant to involve herself with Doctor Who fandom - and who, honestly, can blame her? She gave very few interviews about her time on the popular long-running family SF drama series but did make an appearance at the time of Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary in 2013.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

"Talk Of Peace? I Hate The Word As I Hate Hell"

HBO has announced more of the cast for The Time Traveler's [sic] Wife, the upcoming drama series based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger. Caitlin Shorey, Everleigh McDonell, Michael Park, Jaime Ray Newman, Taylor Richardson, Peter Graham, Brian Altemus, Jason David, Kate Siegel, Josh Stamberg, Chelsea Frei, Marcia DeBonis, Will Brill and Spencer House join the previously announced Rose Leslie, Theo James, Desmin Borges and Natasha Lopez in the series which is currently in production. Adapted by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE), The Time Traveler's [sic] Wife tells the 'intricate love story' of Clare (Leslie) and Henry (James) and 'a marriage with a problem.' David Nutter will direct and is an executive producer along with The Moff, his good lady Sue Vertue and Brian Minchin for Hartswood Films. The series is a co-production with Warner Bros.
Holby City, the extremely long-running BBC medical drama, is to end after twenty three years, producers have confirmed. The series, created by Tony McHale and Mal Young, was first broadcast in 1999 as a spin-off from Casualty. The BBC announced on Wednesday that the drama will broadcast its final series in March 2022. The corporation said it was 'incredibly proud' of the drama but said it 'had to make difficult decisions to make room for new opportunities.' Around two hundred and fifty people who work on the show - including actors, camera operators, engineers and hair and make-up professionals - will be affected by the decision. Holby City won a BAFTA for best continuing drama in 2008 and still regularly attracts more than three million viewers. 'We are incredibly proud of Holby City but it's with great sadness that we are announcing that after twenty three years, the show will end on screen in March of next year,' the BBC said in a statement. 'We sometimes have to make difficult decisions to make room for new opportunities and as part of the BBC's commitment to make more programmes across the UK, we have taken the difficult decision to bring the show to a close in order to reshape the BBC's drama slate to better reflect, represent and serve all parts of the country.' It added: 'We would like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing team at BBC Studios and all the cast and crew who have been involved in the show since 1999. Holby has been a stalwart with audiences, delighting millions of viewers each week and winning hundreds of awards with a compelling mix of cutting edge medical stories and explosive personal stories. We look forward to working with the team over the coming months to ensure that when it ends, Holby goes out on a high.' Both Holby City and Casualty are based in the fictional county of Wyvern. But, the bulk of the on-set filming for Holby City takes place at the BBC's Elstree Centre in Hertfordshire, as well as shots from in and around Bristol. In March, the BBC announced its plan to move some of its key departments and staff around the country in order to make the corporation 'more reflective' of the UK as a whole. 'Our mission must be to deliver for the whole of the UK and ensure every household gets value from the BBC,' said director general Tim Davie. 'These plans will get us closer to audiences, create jobs and investment and develop and nurture new talent.' Racking up more than one thousand episodes over twenty three series, Holby City has also proved to be a fertile breeding ground for some top acting talent down the years. Killing Eve's Jodie Comer received one of her first acting jobs on the drama, as did fellow BAFTA-winner and Black Panther actress Letitia Wright, Peaky Blinders actor Joe Cole and Lee Ryan from the boyband Blue. Already-established stars such as Adrian Edmondson and Patsy Kensit were also given recurring roles, while the likes of Maureen Lipman, chat show host Paul O'Grady and the alleged comedian Romesh Ranganathan have also appeared as guests. The show has held its place in the BBC schedule on a Tuesday night for many years, tackling many topical issues. One of its most memorable storylines involved the separation of the conjoined Tan twins, in 2008. The surgery was completed by the show's longest-serving character Doctor Ric Griffin, played by Hugh Quarshie. Two years earlier, it showed Professor Elliot Hope's wife, Gina, travelling to Switzerland to end her life after struggling with motor neurone disease. Some of the hospital's fictional staff have themselves also faced health issues. In 2014 junior doctor Zosia March was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, after suffering a breakdown following her mother's death. Doctor Arthur Digby was diagnosed with melanoma two years later. The hospital came under siege during a shooting spree in a 2017 episode. The following year, a special episode entitled The Anniversary Waltz helped to mark the seventieth anniversary of the National Health Service. It saw characters explaining what the NHS means to them, as they attempted to get an outbreak of norovirus under control.
Flicking about through some of the more obscure digital channels early this week, this blogger stumbled upon the pilot episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 being shown on the Pick channel (irritatingly split into two parts broadcast on consecutive nights). So, he watched it for, probably, the first time in at least a couple of decades. This blogger was, instantly, reminded exactly why he has spent much of the the last thirty years describing DS9 to anyone that will listen - and, indeed, anyone that won't - as 'the Star Trek series which got good the quickest and stayed good the longest.' It's so nice to be reminded, occasionally, that one is right about these sort of things every now and then.
And now, dear blog reader, this week's 'no, really, some plank actually thought this daft idea had legs ...' 'Mettez Votre Pantalon Sur Vous Sont En État D'Arrestation!' Or, if you prefer, 'Nous sommes Les Sweeney, mon fils, et nous n'avons pas eu notre déjeuner. Vous nous avez fait attendre.' Jacques, Georges, ou est le plume de ma tante
NASA has announced that it is sending two new missions to Venus in order to examine the planet's atmosphere and geological features. Although, since Venus is hellishly hot it is presumed that they will be sending the probes at night. Nah, lissun. The missions, which have each been awarded five hundred million dollars in funding, are due to launch between 2028 and 2030. NASA administrator Bill Nelson said the missions would offer the 'chance to investigate a planet we haven't been to in more than thirty years.' The last US probe to visit the planet was the Magellan orbiter in 1990. However, other spacecraft - from Europe and Japan - have orbited the planet since then. The missions were picked following a peer review process and were chosen based on their potential scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans. 'These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world, capable of melting lead at the surface,' Nelson said. Venus is the second planet from the sun and the hottest planet in the solar system with a surface temperature of five hundred degrees Celsius. The Davinci+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) mission will measure the planet's atmosphere to gain insight into how it formed and evolved. It will also aim to determine whether Venus ever had an ocean. Davinci+ is expected to return the first high resolution images of the planet's 'tesserae' geological features. Scientists believe these features could be comparable to continents on Earth and could suggest that Venus has plate tectonics. The second mission, Veritas (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy), will map the planet's surface to understand its geological history and investigate how it developed so differently than Earth. It will use a form of radar to chart surface elevations and discover whether volcanoes and earthquakes - or, technically, Venusquakes - are still happening. 'It is astounding how little we know about Venus, but the combined results of these missions will tell us about the planet from the clouds in the sky through the volcanoes on its surface all the way down to its very core,' said Tom Wagner from NASA's Planetary Science Division. 'It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet,' he added. Over the last few decades, Mars has dominated NASA's budget for planetary missions. In the meantime, researchers studying Venus have become philosophical about the lack of priority given to their planet. But that has been changing. New ideas, interpretations and new people have been transforming our understanding of Earth's nearest neighbour. Long thought to have been a 'dead' planet by some, there are many who now think Venus may be geologically active, perhaps with periodic volcanism. Plus, the Shanghorns, obviously. Never loan one your Perigosto Stick, dear blog reader, or you might get it back covered in shite. Venus may have harboured oceans for a billion years of its history and there is even a region of the planet's thick atmosphere where microbial life could survive, floating among the clouds. Scientists who have devoted their careers to studying this hothouse world are jubilant that the planet is finally back on NASA's radar.
The American space agency's Juno probe has returned some close-in views of Ganymede - one of Jupiter's four Galilean moons and the largest natural satellite in the Solar System. The imagery was acquired from a distance of about one thousand kilometres. It is the nearest any spacecraft has been to Ganymede in more than twenty years. Juno's was an opportunity pass; its everyday duties are to study Jupiter. But the European Space Agency will soon send a dedicated mission. The Jupiter Icy moon Explorer will make a series of fly-bys around two other Galilean moons, Callisto and Europa, before then putting itself in a settled orbit around Ganymede, expected to occur in 2032. Juno's pictures show the impacted and cracked surface of the big moon in remarkable detail. They'll be compared with the pictures acquired by NASA's Galileo (1995-2003) and Voyager (1979) probes to see if there have been any changes through time. 'This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation,' said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 'We are going to take our time before we draw any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder.'
It was celestial showtime on Thursday, dear blog reader, as much of the Northern Hemisphere got to witness a solar eclipse. This particular event was an annular eclipse. It saw the Moon move across the face of our star but not completely block out the light coming from it. Instead, there was a thin sliver of brilliance left to shine around the Sun's disc, the so-called 'Ring Of Fire' or corona. The best of the action occurred if you happened to be situated in the Arctic. But, for all those of us who weren't (and, let's face it, that's pretty much everyone) a good portion of the rest of the globe were treated to a partial eclipse where the Moon appeared to take a big bite out of the Sun. And, jolly pretty it was too.
A section of major road turned bright red after a lorry crash caused a spillage of tomato puree and olive oil. The crash happened not at Spaghetti Junction but, rather, on the A14 near Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, on Tuesday evening. The driver of one of the two trucks was taken to hospital but was subsequently discharged. Social media users could not resist weighing in with puns, with one calling it 'a disaster, puree simple.' Though, tragically, no one advised road users that the red road has not jammed but, rather, tomatoed. Come on! One Radio 2 listener asked if it 'was suitable for traffic to passata safe distance.' Oh, suit yerselves. Another tweet read: 'Some of our drivers had to go pasta this earlier today. They are starting to ketchup after the delay though.' Nah, the previous one was funnier,frankly. A twenty three-mile stretch of the road was closed but has since reopened. Albeit, somewhat stickily.
The six Premier League clubs involved in the disgraced and disgraceful European Super League have agreed to make a combined 'goodwill' payment of twenty two million smackers. The Arse, Moscow Chelski FC, The Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws, Sheikh Yer Man City, The Scum and Stottingtot Hotshots all got their greed right on and wanted to form a breakaway league. Which would, effectively, have pissed all over the other fourteen Premier League Clubs and everyone else in the English football pyramid without, seemingly, the six clubs having a single thought in their collective head other than how much disgusting wonga the greedy fekkers were going to rake in for themselves. Should they attempt any similar malarkey again, new rules mean that the clubs will be fined twenty five million knicker each and will have thirty points deducted. So, that makes any such repeat extremely unlikely. Although, it would be pure dead funny if they tried it. Meanwhile, UEFA has temporarily paused disciplinary proceedings against Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are the only three clubs - with their greed right on - from the twelve that signed up who are yet to accept any punishment or renounce the ESL and all its Devilish works. European football's governing body had opened disciplinary proceedings against the trio in May. In a joint statement, the Football Association and Premier League said that the English clubs had 'collectively agreed' to make a payment of twenty two million notes as 'a gesture of goodwill.' The money 'will go towards the good of the game,' it has been claimed, which includes 'new investment in support for fans' and will 'help fund grassroots and community projects.' One or two people even believed that was, actually, where the money would end up. 'The six clubs involved in proposals to form a European Super League have acknowledged once again that their actions were a mistake and have reconfirmed their commitment to the Premier League and the future of the English game,' the two bodies said in a statement. 'They have wholeheartedly apologised to their fans, fellow clubs, the Premier League and the FA.' Albeit, apologised nowhere near grovellingly enough to satisfy the impotent rage felt against these greedy louse-scum by the majority of the game's supporters, including - to be fair - many of their own. 'The Premier League and the FA have worked closely together throughout this process and this agreement brings both investigations into the matter to a conclusion,' the statement continued. The BBC Sport website claims that The Scum's owners the Glazer family, Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws owners Fenway Sports Group, The Arse's majority shareholders Kroenke Sports Enterprises and Stottingtot Hotshot's owners will pay the fine rather than their clubs. Whether the billionaire owners of Sheikh Yer Man City and Moscow Chelski FC will do likewise is not, at this time, known. Or, indeed, much cared about frankly. Former The Scum and England defender Gary Neville, who has been a vocal critic of football's governance and the ESL, tweeted the punishment was 'an absolute embarrassment.' And, for once he's absolutely correct. An average of about three-and-a-bit million quid each is roughly what these bunch of jokers spend on vol au vants for the boardroom each season. Nine of the ESL clubs - the six Premier League sides, plus AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid - were fined a similar amount by European governing body UEFA last month. They agreed to pay fifteen million Euros between them and have five per cent of their UEFA competition revenues held for one season, starting in 2023-24. In May, UEFA said the other three clubs involved - Real, Barca and Juve - would face 'appropriate action' having failed to distance themselves from the ESL. Media outlets were told the clubs were risking being removed from the Champions League if the case went against them, but - sadly - that now looks unlikely. The three clubs believe an order issued by a Madrid court in April that prevents UEFA taking action against them is valid in Switzerland, where the governing body is based. This has now been passed to the European Court of Justice for a ruling, which has led to the initial case being stopped. UEFA said it was 'confident' in its case and would 'continue to defend its position in all the relevant jurisdictions.' The negative reaction to the ESL has sparked a huge debate about how football is run. The government has already announced a 'fan-led review' into football governance and the prospect of an independent regulator in English football is set for a parliamentary debate after a petition, launched by a number of ex-footballers, gained more than one hundred thousand signatures.
In town and doing a bit of shopping on Tuesday, for the first time in months, this blogger was able (and, indeed, was delighted) to have an actual proper sit-down lunch in an actual proper sit-down restaurant. And, it was in one which, according to allegedly 'reliable sources' on the Interweb was, now, permanently closed for business. Except, it seemingly wasn't. Photographic evidence was taken as a result but, rest assured, this blogger really deserved that particular piece of good fortune.
The gaff does, admittedly, appear to be under new management since the blogger last ventured there sometime in the autumn of last year (in so much as it now has a different name). But, importantly, it was just lovely to be back in the joint. 'Are you open?' this blogger asked. 'Why yes sir, we most definitely are as the sign on the door clearly indicates (and, despite what you may have read elsewhere),' they replied. 'Please, do come in and buy food as you look both Hank Marvin and particularly windswept and interesting this fine day.'
This blogger replied: 'Okay then, I will. And, I see from the menu that you clearly knew I was coming.'
And, lo, dear blog reader it was all geet lush in this blogger's sight, so it was. (Not cheap, mind, considering that it was lunchtime. But, still lush.)
As this blogger mentioned during a recent From The North bloggerisationisms update during a recent period of enforced bed-rest this blogger re-read a particular favourite tome of this parish, Tune In, the first part of Mark Lewisohn's acclaimed biography of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them). It was, inevitably, suggested to this blogger by his most excellent Facebook fiend - and fellow Fabbite - Jan, that this blogger really ought to get himself the 'extended, special' seventeen hundred page, two-volume monster edition of the book. One which, remember, still only goes up to the end of 1962. This blogger noted that, sadly, he'd never picked up a copy of the big version - mostly, because he simply couldn't afford it and, during a period last year when he could've afforded it, he had other priorities to look at. Still, this blogger noted, one never knows what the future may hold - never expecting for a single second that the future held anything in regard to this particular issue. A few weeks on and, would you Adam-and-Eve it, dear blog reader, this blogger had a bit of a windfall in terms of some Amazon vouchers (a result of a daily online survey which yer actual Keith Telly Topping has done for years and never gotten much from previously). Therefore, look what only went and rocked up at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House, then? It's an ill-wind that blows the righteous some good, they reckon ... Of course, now in all likelihood it's going to take this blogger almost as long to read the damned thing as it's taken for him to actually acquire it. Christ, dear blog reader it's heavy (in more senses than merely its weight).
And, speaking of Merseyside musical icons, unreleased material by Billy Fury is finally seeing the light of day as part of a new compilation of his late-1960s performances for the BBC. After signing with EMI in December 1966, Fury recorded eleven singles for Parlophone up until late 1970. During this period, the singer also performed live sessions for BBC television and radio. In keeping with BBC policy of the time, most of the recordings were destroyed. Eight performances from 1967-1970 have made it to release, but nothing from 1968-1969 was thought to have survived - until now. Released with the blessing of the Billy Fury Estate via the Top Sounds label, Three Saturdays With Billy offers seven previously unreleased live recordings made for the Radio 1 programme Saturday Club, as well as audio of a performance taken from an appearance on Simon Dee's Dee Time TV show. The Saturday Club performances include unique covers of David Bowie's 'Silly Boy Blue' and The Bee Gees' 'One Minute Woman', as well as Billy's own 'Bye Bye' and Chuck Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen'. Fury's studio version of 'I Love You' was never released in his lifetime although an alternate version was issued as a bonus on The Missing Years CD compilation. Two interviews with Billy also survive from those broadcasts and feature on the new release, as well as Fury's most left-field single, 'Phone Box (The Monkey's In The Jam Jar)'. Three Saturdays With Billy is available on vinyl and CD and comes with a twenty four-page illustrated booklet including previously unpublished photographs. The CD also features a radio broadcast of Fury's 'Lady' single introduced by the singer.
From The North's semi-regular Headline Of The Week award goes, this week, to the Independent for their, seemingly serious, 'exclusive' Fact Checkers Declare Trump Was Not Wearing Pants Backwards But It's All Anyone Can Talk About From Return Speech. Now extremely former President Mister Rump's tailoring had, apparently, 'created a social media firestorm' when 'observers' pointed out that a video clip 'seemed' to suggest that his pants did not have a zip showing. And, once again, dear blog reader, let us simply stand up and salute the utter shite that some Middle Class hippy Communists chose to care about.
A woman has been extremely fined for exposing herself during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. Marissa Scott carried out the offence while shouting 'save the environment' in front of crowds who had gathered near Windsor Castle on 17 April. The fifty five-year-old pleaded very guilty to 'causing harassment, alarm or distress' under the Public Order Act. Deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram described her behaviour as 'disgraceful.' Slough Magistrates' Court heard tourists, families and members of the media had gathered in High Street when Scott exposed herself. Tina Flannery, prosecuting, said Scott removed a tabard she was wearing and 'exposed her breasts' following the national minute's silence to mark the duke's passing. Whether the fact that she waited until the minute's silence has concluded before whipping her baps out was taken into account is not, currently, known. The moment was 'captured' by members of the press. Whom, one imagines, could hardly believe their luck. During a subsequent police interview, it was claimed that Scott said she 'wanted to show solidarity with the World Wildlife Foundation and save the planet' (because, nothing 'shows solidarity with the WWF' like getting yer knockers out in public, clearly). She further claimed that 'she didn't think it would cause any distress.' Scott was fined one hundred and fifty knicker and made to pay eighty five sobs in prosecution costs and a thirty four quid victim surcharge.
People are increasingly likely to use 'strong swearing' in their everyday life, suggests research from the British Board of Film Classification. Which sounds just about twatting correct. The body, which gives age ratings to films, says that 'about a third' of people in the UK are more likely to use 'strong swear words' than five years ago. They do not reveal what this category of 'strong swear words' include but one imagines that 'wee-wee' is probably amongst them. But, the research also found parents did not want age restrictions weakened for swearing in movies and DVDs. Fekking-well right, an'aal. Parents wanted to protect children 'for as long as possible' from swearing. The BBFC also said it would treat acronyms such as 'WTF' as though the full swear words had been spelled out, because the meaning was so widely recognised. As 'what the flip?', obviously. The report on 'swearing habits', based on research with one thousand people, found 'about six in ten people' saw 'strong swearing', such as the F-word, the C-word and the S-word ('semprini') as 'part of every day life.' A third were 'more likely' to swear than five years ago, but there was a significant 'generational divide', with eighteen to thirty four year olds most likely to let rip with a good, hard, ear-shattering 'fuck' and to be 'desensitised' to its impact. Among older people, strong swear words still remained 'a taboo' - with seventy five per cent of those over sixty five saying they would not use strong swearing in public, according to research which included focus groups and in-depth interviews. Parents were also keen to keep strong swearing away from their children - with about two thirds of parents saying while they 'might' swear among their own friends they would avoid it if they thought their children, up to the age of sixteen, could hear. There was also 'anxiety' among parents about how much swearing could be 'normalised' in the online video content available to young people. The context also made a difference, with parents more worried if swearing was used in an aggressive or violent way, with a particular concern if it was used in terms of sexual violence. The BBFC said the research suggested that while swearing might be increasingly used and tolerated, that parents did not want a dilution of the limits on how it appeared on-screen - such as not having very strong language in a 12A-rated film. The strongest swear words should be 'infrequent' for a 15 rating and if accompanied with violence they might need an 18 rating, said the BBFC. 'Children are watching more content on multiple screens and their parents want to protect them from strong and very strong language wherever they can and for as long as possible. Parents told us they are keen for media industries to share the responsibility,' said David Austin, the BBFC's chief executive.
Harrison Ford has been spotted on Tyneside for a second day running whilst taking a break from filming the latest Indiana Jones movie. The actor was photographed by Terry Blackburn on Newcastle's Quayside on Thursday, having previously been spotted cycling nearby. He was also seen having a meal at The Ship's Cat in North Shields on Tuesday. Ford is currently shooting the fifth film in the adventure series at Northumberland's Bamburgh Castle. The popular tourist destination is closed until 14 June due to filming and props including World War Two military vehicles have been spotted being delivered to the coastal location. While in North Shields, the seventy eight-year-old was seen having a meal with colleagues by Alex Liddell, who was on her work hen do at the Fish Quay nearby. She said: 'It was really bizarre. You do not expect to see a Hollywood star at the Fish Quay in North Shields. It was really quite exciting. He looked like he was enjoying himself, but I don't think he wanted any attention.' The Ship's Cat posted on Instagram that it was 'an honour' to have the actor as a customer and he was 'welcome back any time.' And, one is certain that should Harrison ever be out with his mates on the lash on Shields High Street again in the future, he's sure to pop into The Ship's Cat for a return visit. The Disney-produced film also stars Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Thomas Kretschmann, with parts also being shot in the village of Grosmont in North Yorkshire. From The North favourite Mikkelsen, known for his villainous roles in Casino Royale and Hannibal (and all those adverts for Carlsberg), was also pictured in Newcastle. Film buff Iain Makepeace told the BBC he was 'shocked' - and stunned - to discover the actor was in the city. As was this blogger given that Mads was only about three or four miles from yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House and yet never took the opportunity to pop in for a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake. Same with Harrison who was, seemingly, even closer to the gaff. I dunno, dear blog reader, these Hollywood types, they never write, they never call ...
Police in Sunderland (the actual Mackem Filth, if you will) are reportedly looking for a person who has been stealing new-born lambs and leaving them in suburban gardens. Why anyone would wished to do so, one hesitates to speculate, they're a weird lot down in Mackemland. Residents have emerged from their homes three times in the last fortnight to find a lamb abandoned on their lawn after being taken from its mother in the night. The RSPCA has collected each of the frightened animals and taken them to be looked after, but they have not been able to reunite them with their mothers because police have not managed to trace the farm which they came from. Amy Scollen, who lives in Ryhope, discovered a lamb in her garden on 13 May, which she described as a 'very weird morning.' Not least, fro the lamb. She said: 'I don't know how it got in my garden and I could hear it but couldn't see it until I opened the door to grab the milk and it was staring me in the face.' She called her mother who, in turn, called Northumbria police. The force arrived, all tooled up with truncheons and mint sauce and said the lamb was 'distressed and was headbutting the fence, trying to get out of the garden' when officers arrived. Which, to be fair, is not that unusual behaviour. For Wearside. This was, reportedly, followed by two almost identical incidents over the next couple of weeks. Heather Wade, an RSPCA rescue officer, attended one of the calls to find the lamb, which was too young to have been separated from its mother, cold and shivering. 'These little ones were only days old so were very vulnerable and would have been frightened to be away from their mum,' she said. 'I know the lambs could not have wandered into the gardens as they were enclosed so it suggests someone has deliberately done this and I have no idea why. Maybe they think it is some kind of joke. We are not sure where they have come from as there are no nearby farms, so we could not reunite them with their mum and they are now being hand-reared by a specialist.' She is appealing for information to find the person or persons responsible and urges anyone with information to call the RSPCA. 'If anyone sees an animal in distress or is concerned for a baby animal then we would urge them to call our cruelty line for advice,' she said.
Some people they do say to this blogger, 'for why, Keith Telly Topping? Why is there that oversized office fan in the front room of yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House? What's that all about? You live in that there England, where it rains all the bloody time, you must only get to use this implement about four days a year?' This is, indeed, broadly speaking accurate. However, those four days per year usually include at least one like Thursday of this week where the Tynside humidity was steaming like the virry tropics. And, the bongo drums never ceased. So, that's why if you were wondering, dear blog reader. Cos on days like that it is, if you will, fan-ruddy-tastic. (This is also, of course, if there was ever any doubt in the matter, proof positive that yer actual Keith Telly Topping does have fans. Nah, lissun ...)
This week also occasioned the first - overdue - strimmage of the manicured Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House lawns of the summer.
And, the first washing of the Telly Topping smalls of the week, to boot.
And finally, dear blog reader, some jolly sad news. The actress Damaris Hayman, famous to Doctor Who fans for playing Olive Hawthorne, the gloriously batty white witch of Devil's End in the well-remembered 1971 five part story The Daemons, has died at the age of ninety one. Damaris had a long career in British Film and Television, playing mostly well-to-do, slightly eccentric, ladies. She made her TV debut in 1953 as Eliza in The Story Of The Treasure Seekers. Her film debut came a year later in The Belles Of St Trinian's in an uncredited role as a sixth former, the first in the comedy series set in a private girls school. It was a world Hayman knew well having been educated at the exclusive Cheltenham Ladies' College before moving into acting and being mentored by Dame Margaret Rutherford. Later movies included The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The Missionary, Confessions Of A Driving Instructor, Mutiny On The Buses, Bunny Lake Is Missing and Bitter Harvest. Many supporting roles on TV included appearances in productions such as The Citadel, Citizen James, The Somerset Maugham Hour, Crossroads, Steptoe & Son, Z Cars, The Dickie Henderson Show, Love Thy Neighbour, Sez Les, Clarence, The Liver Birds, Beggar My Neighbour, Armchair Theatre, Ours Is A Nice House, The Onedin Line, The Morecambe & Wise Show, The Witches' Brew, The Small World Of Samuel Tweet, The Dick Emery Show, The Basil Brush Show, If You See God Tell Him, The House Of Eliott, Filthy, Rich & Catflap, Mind Your Language, Robin's Nest, Wodehouse Playhouse, The Sweeney, The Tommy Cooper Hour, Albert!, Here Come The Double Deckers, Vile Bodies, From A Bird's Eye View, Not In Front Of The Children, The World Of Beachcomber, How We Used To Live, Point Counter Point, The Bed-Sit Girl, Badger's Bend and One Foot In The Grave. In, probably, her second-most-famous TV appearance, she played the old lady who asks Neil if he 'digs graves' in the Nasty episode of The Young Ones (1984). To which the obvious answer is, 'yeah, they're all right!' After appearing in a sketch in Tony Hancock's last British TV series in 1967 (Hancock's), she became a close friend of the comedian during the remaining year of his life according to Hancock's biographer, John Fisher. It was in 1971 Damaris took on the role that endeared her to several generations of Doctor Who fans when she played Miss Hawthorne in The Daemons. It was a perfectly-pitched comedic performance and one that she was very proud of. Her chemistry with Jon Pertwee and the rest of the cast helped ensure the story's long-term popularity. In 2017 she returned to the character to appear in The White Witch Of Devil's End, a spin-off story based on the character released on DVD by Koch Media. Retiring from acting in the 1990s, Damaris lived for many years in Cirencester.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Our Doctors Say This Is No Time To Bleed

It has been a positive age-and-a-half since yer actual From The North was last updated (well, it's been just over three weeks if we're being completely accurate about it). This blogger could give all dear blog readers a whole ream of crass excuses for this, frankly, right shite state of affairs - one or two of them may even be true. But, at the end of the day, life is not built that way and even the most foresightful amongst us cannot always predict those moments when life bowls a tricky googly which goes the opposite way to what you'd expected. Cricket mtaphor for the uninformed. 
Firstly, in this latest bloggerisationisms update, therefore, we have some cautiously good news. This blogger now is in possession of that there full prickage. Keith Telly Topping is, as a consequence, able to reply to any enquiring tobacconists: 'I am no longer infected.' Which is, obviously, nice for all concerned. The side effects this time around were pretty much the same as with the opening shot; a bit of a headache and some arm pain for a day afterwards but, thereafter, no alarms and no surprises.
Before that malarkey, however, this blogger had a full weekend-and-a-bit of feeling geet grotty-as-shat (it was just a heavy cold, nothing more serious than that, thankfully). It was serious enough, however, to necessitate this blogger spending much of four consecutive days in his stinkin' pit being aal snotty and discombobulated. During which time he managed to re-read (for the third time) all nine hundred and fifty odd pages of Mark Lewisohn's acclaimed Be-Atles biography Tune In between bouts of severe coughing and eating bowls of chicken soup. After that, this blogger subsequently needed a rest to get over his enforced rest.
The Be-Atles incidentally, just in case you're wondering, were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them.
During this period of enforced rest and much coughing, this blogger spoke on the phone with his brother, an unusual enough occurrence in and of itself. It was a conversation which began concerning a small gift that Our Colin Telly Topping was, very graciously, giving to this blogger in lieu of ... nothing in particular. What can I say, dear blog reader? Some people are just nice. We went on to talk about our collective forthcoming prickage(s), this blogger's prior health issues and other general ephemera. And then, for some bizarre reason which loses a lot in translation, ended up in a lengthy discussion about whatever happened to 'H' from Steps. True story. The Telly Topping family, ladies and gentlemen - mad as toast.
An allegedly 'new' trailer, allegedly, for the 'forthcoming series' of Doctor Who has, allegedly, confirmed at least one - not entirely unexpected - return of an old favourite according to an over-excited piece posted on the Independent website on 21 May. Except that this allegedly 'new' trailer was, in fact, an old trailer - for the 2019 New Year's Day episode Resolution Of The Daleks to be precise. So, pretty much an example of atypical arse reportage which we've come to expect from the Middle Class hippy Communists at the Indi, then? Congratulations, as embarrassing mistakes go, that's a really good one.
On a somewhat-related theme, we should also probably be congratulating some plank of no importance at the Metro for the (one assumes) 'exclusive' revelation that the producers of licensed Doctor Who audio products have undergone something of a piscine regeneration. A product of whales, one imagines. 
There has been something a right old stroppy kerfuffle going down in parts of Doctor Who fandom over the BBC's allegedly 'heavy-handed' stance on copyright (of, let us remember, a creation of their own to which they and they alone are entitled to financially exploit) related to certain fan productions. However, it appears that not everything is as black-and-white as it may appear. Allow the Radio Times to explain further. At great length. 
Meanwhile, old Barrowman his very self continues to lose gainful employment left, right and centre due to his - alleged - past groinal activities and self-confessed 'tomfoolery.' As detailed here and here. If you were ever wondering just how quickly a career can get itself derailed, John me auld china, have a word with Kevin Spacey, one is sure he'll be able to fill you in on the unexpurgated details. It appears that Barrowman's replacement in the latter production - the 'interactive experience' Tim Fracture - will be the very excellent Jo Martin. Who, as far as this blogger is aware, has never been accused to waving her penis about in an untoward manner. And, a jolly good thing too, this blogger reckons.
Further additions to the cast of the forthcoming - and much anticipated - adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman have been announced. Although Stephen Fry has already given the game away about his involvement in the Netflix series, as previously mentioned on this blog. Earlier cast announcements were made in February. This blogger hopes - and, indeed, believes - it's going to be great.
Perhaps inevitably, since this is the world we now live in, some self-entitled pricks 'took to social media' to whinge like whinging whingers about some of these recently announced casting decision. As though that has anything to do with them in the first place. From The North favourite Gaiman was, delightfully, having none of that crap and told them where to get off and what to do with the horse they rode in on. Which was, not unexpectedly, extremely funny. Still, one imagines 'being publicly slapped down into the gutter along with all the other turds by Neil Gaiman' is something of a cause for bragging rights in parts of Sandman fandom. Perhaps we'll never care. 
Fans eagerly awaiting the final episode of Kate Winslet's acclaimed drama Mare Of Easttown were made to wait for even longer when streaming service HBO Max crashed just as it was due to start. Winslet plays a detective in the murder mystery, which has been one of the most talked-about TV shows of recent months. For what it's worth, this blogger thought it was great. But many US viewers trying to watch on HBO Max had to wait several hours. And, gosh but were they unhappy about such malarkey? The finale was praised by critics, though, with the Daily Torygraph hailing it as 'an absolute masterpiece. The whodunit has always been only one element of Mare Of Easttown,' wrote the paper's reviewer That Awful Singh Woman. 'What unfolded was a compendium of all that made the show great.' Soon after episode seven was due to be made available on Sunday, HBO Max tweeted that it was 'aware some customers may be experiencing issues streaming.'
With its second and final series now concluded, Prodigal Son co-creators Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver have reflected on the blood-splattered carnage of the finale featuring Tom Payne's Malcolm Bright and Michael Sheen's Martin Whitley. Not entirely unexpectedly FOX cancelled the series - From The North's 2020 'curiosity of the year' - after two spasmodically interesting but, often, frustratingly uneven series. A report on the Bleeding Cool website suggests that the production company, Warner Brothers, have not yet given up hope of finding Prodigal Son a new home. This blogger's advice, however, is don't hold your breath.
One man in his time really does play many parts, it seems, according to an Argentine newsreader who mixed up the author William Shakespeare with the first man to receive a Pfizer inoculation. Canal Twenty Six presenter Noelia Novillo announced that 'one of the most important writers in the English language, for me The Master' had, sadly, died. In fact it was his namesake, Bill Shakespeare who died in a hospital earlier this week aged eighty one. Shakespeare (no, the other one) died in 1616. However, that was seemingly news to Novillo who told her audience on Thursday: 'We've got news that has stunned all of us given the greatness of this man. We're talking about William Shakespeare and his death. We'll let you know how and why it happened.' With social media proving that all the world is now a stage, commentators feasted on the presenter's silly gaffe. 'The Montagues and the Capulets went to the wake,' one wag wrote on Twitter. 'The UK took more than four centuries to warn of the virus. On top of that, they blame China,' wrote another. Bill Shakespeare, a former Rolls Royce worker and parish councillor, received his first jab in December becoming the first man - and the second person - to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in a blaze of publicity. He died on Thursday from an unrelated illness, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said.
The Premier League has agreed to roll over its existing television deal with broadcasters for a further three years. The new deal with Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video and BBC Sport will run from 2022 to 2025. The current 4.7 billion knicker deal, agreed in 2018, represented a ten per cent drop in value. Which, one imagines, comes as a considerable blow to the more greedy of football's current hierarchy. They - and you - know exactly who they are. So, good news there, then. The Government has approved the deal 'in principle' with an 'exclusion order' under the competition act, which allows the league to renew without its normal tender process. 'In light of the damaging impact of the Covid-19 pandemic throughout the English football pyramid, the Premier League was able to demonstrate to Government exceptional and compelling reasons for the Exclusion Order,' the league said. As part of the new deal, BT Sport say that to help with the fixture congestion, they will change their Saturday lunchtime game to an evening slot when teams involved have played in Europe on the previous Wednesday. Clubs had been concerned that there could be another fall in value if the usual open-market auction started as planned next month. The value of rights for domestic leagues in Europe also appears to have peaked. The Premier League say that the renewals will provide financial certainty to professional clubs and also enables an additional one hundred million smackers of funding to be provided to clubs throughout the football pyramid over the next four years. The extra funding will be available to more than a thousand clubs in the National League system, women's and girls' football, EFL League One and League Two clubs and the Football Foundation. It will also support a number of football-wide projects, including the Premier League's work looking at head injuries in football, anti-discrimination and fan groups. The EFL said it 'welcomes' the increased funding but warned: 'It is important to acknowledge that the current media rights deal will preserve the status quo of an unbalanced, unsustainable and unfair financial distribution model across English football. While we recognise the attempts by the government to increase the level of solidarity provided to League One and Two clubs through this process, what is more urgently required is a fundamental reset of the game's financial model - both in terms of fairer distribution of monies at all levels and sensible, realistic cost control measures to ensure clubs will live within their means.' This blogger is decidedly unsure about this entire 'preserving The Status Quo' malarkey, however. Forty years of imaginative use of demin and ponytails is, surely, enough? 'Covid-19 has had a significant impact on football, and renewals with our UK broadcast partners will reduce uncertainty, generate stability and promote confidence within the football pyramid,' said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters. 'We know that, once concluded, this will have a positive impact on the wider industry, jobs and tax revenues.' The Football Association has welcomed the extra one hundred million knicker of funding which chief executive Mark Bullingham says will 'help the pyramid get back on its feet.' David Kogan, the former Premier League rights executive, said the government's involvement in the deal was a 'really marked difference in the way football's been run in the past.' He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'This will buy the Premier League three years of some peace.' Sky Sports and BT both claimed the deal was 'good news' for its viewers. And, for their pockets, obviously.
The football season has now, pretty much concluded and socherball fans are looking forward with considerable 'oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about that' to the - much-delayed - '2020' European Championships coming up next month. But, in the meantime, now is probably an opportune moment for a round-up of how the 2020-21 season unfolded. The one hundred and forty first season in English football concluded with Sheikh Yer Man City winning the Premier League. In a season played almost entirely behind closed doors, City overcame a shaky (no pun intended) start to the campaign and secured their third Premiership title in four years; having been in eighth place in mid-December, the team went on a thirteen-match winning run that sent them rocketing up the table and, despite a couple of unexpected losses in the closing stages of the season, secured the title on top of a fourth consecutive League Cup victory and reaching their first ever Champions League final. But, they lost that one. City's local rivals, The Scum, finished second in the Premiership, despite not really being in the title race for much of the season, a consequence of a poor start which included three home losses in their opening six games; however, The Red Devils at least ensured Champions League football once again, thanks in part to a remarkable run of form which saw them go unbeaten away from home all season. But, they ended the season on a downer, losing the final of the Europa League on penalties to Villareal. The battle for the other two Champions League spots went to the final day of the season, with Moscow Chelski FC, Leicester City and The Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws all in it to win it. Taking third spot were Liverpool, whose first title defence since 1990 was, mostly, one of struggle; whilst they stood top of the league at the end of 2020, a collapse in form in the new year saw both the team's hopes of retaining the title as well as their sixty eight-game unbeaten run at Anfield implode under the weight of a lack of fans and an injury crisis, including a season-ending injury to Virgil van Dijk just five games into the campaign. However, a strong late run (including that outrageous victory over West Brom in which goalkeeper, Alisson, scored the winner in the final minute of injury time), coupled with the teams above them dropping points, helped The Reds squeeze into the top four. Moscow Chelski FC finished fourth, a strong second half of the season under new manager Thomas Tuchel pushing The Blues from as low as ninth near the end of January to both securing a Champions League spot again and winning their first Champions League final since 2012, a successful end to a mixed season (which included a second consecutive FA Cup final defeat). Having spent most of the season in the top four, another stuttering end to the league saw Leicester City finish fifth and miss out, again, on the Champions League, with inferior home form costing them badly. However, The Foxes at least finished the season with a trophy, winning their first ever FA Cup and giving Brendan Rodgers his first piece of silverware with the club. Finishing sixth were West Hamsters United, who surprised many in going further than their seventh-place finish in 2016. The Arse and Stottingtot Hotshots enjoyed differing form across their respective campaigns, The Gunners even hovering just above the drop zone in November, but ended up battling it out for seventh place and the last European spot - which ultimately went to Spurs, at least ensuring European football for the club next season. Dirty Leeds's first top-flight season since 2004 proved to be highly successful, both the team and manager Marcelo Bielsa attracting plenty of praise for their attacking brand of football and providing some spectacular results even in defeat. Despite achieving a few superb results, including taking four points off city rivals Liverpool, Everton's hopes of European football were done-for by a poor run of form at Goodison, securing just six wins compared to eleven on the road. They ended their season in a disappointing tenth position. In what proved to be Nuno Espirito Santo's last season as coach, Wolverhampton Wanderings endured a less successful campaign than their previous two, the loss of striker Raúl Jiménez to a freak accident in a win at The Arse contributed to Wolves sliding down the table after a decent start and only avoiding a relegation scrap because of the poor form of the teams below them. In what also ended up as Roy Hodgson's final season as manager, Crystal Palace also comfortably avoided the drop, extending their record run of top-flight seasons to nine in a row for the next campaign. This blogger's beloved though (still, sadly) unsellable Magpies finished a creditable twelfth thanks to a fine late run of form which, effectively (and, much to many fans severe disappointment) saved the job of Mister Bruice (nasty to see him, to see him nasty). At the bottom of the table, all three relegated teams had their demotion confirmed with at least three games to play and, for the first time since the introduction of three points for a win, none of the relegated sides broke the thirty-point barrier. Just one season after breaking into the top ten and strutting around like they owned the place, Sheffield United endured one of the worst seasons in their history, breaking many unwanted records and equalling the record for the most losses in a Premier League season and the lowest goals scored in a thirty eight-game season. Ultimately, The Blades simply weren't sharp enough. West Bromwich Albinos finished above them, the controversial decision to sack manager Slaven Bilic in December in favour of that odious lard-bucket Sam Allardyce going against The Baggies, the former England manager suffering his second relegation in his managerial history (his first since 1997). Also returning to the second tier after one season was Fulham; despite enjoying a much better campaign defensively, the London club's hopes were ultimately let down by a lack of goals (including a mere nine scored at Craven Cottage), making it the fourth season in a row where they moved between the Premier League and the Championship. Burnley and Brighton & Hove Albinos comfortably avoided the drop as a consequence of the bottom three's significant inadequacies. 
Having been relegated with a whimper the previous year, Norwich City responded in emphatic style, securing both an immediate return to the Premier League and their second Championship title in three campaigns. Finishing second were Watford, who overcame yet another mid-season managerial change (their sixth in just over a year) to join The Canaries in returning to the top-flight after one season. Taking the final promotion spot through the play-offs by beating Swansea City - and ending a barren run of nine play-off campaigns - were Brentford. Who made amends for their narrow play-off loss the previous year and secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time, their win also sending The Bees back into the top-flight for the first time in seventy four years. Despite ultimately losing out in the play-off semi-finals, Barnsley were the surprise package of the campaign; having looked likely to battle relegation again at the end of October and then seeing their head coach depart for America, the appointment of virtually unknown French manager Valérien Ismaël saw The Tykes rocket up the table and comfortably secure fifth place just ahead of Bournemouth. After having battled against relegation since losing in the play-off final in 2017, Reading also enjoyed a much improved season under Veljko Paunović, only missing out on promotion owing to several bouts of indifferent form. Despite hovering above the relegation zone for much of the season, Coventry City managed to get their shit together in their first season in the second tier since 2012, a good run of results in the closing months pushing them into mid-table whilst The Sky Blues also received some good news off-the-pitch, managing to secure a contract to return to The Ricoh Arena after two seasons away. For the second reason running, the battle to avoid relegation saw all three places open going into the last round of games. Taking bottom place in the closing minutes of the season were Sheffield Wednesday, who fought valiantly to avoid the drop, only for the points deduction (twelve later reduced to six on appeal) for breaching financial rules imposed prior to the start of the season result in survival falling out of their reachand sending the Yorkshire club back into the third tier after a nine-year absence. Rotherham United finished second-bottom and were relegated back to League One, making this the fifth successive season in which they swapped between the two divisions; despite ending up as statistically the worst team in the division, they managed to keep themselves in contention for survival - mostly because of having a multitude of games in hand as a result of two COVID-19 outbreaks - and would, actually, have survived had they not conceded an eighty eighth-minute equaliser in their final match. Despite having what proved to be a spirited first season in the Championship, Wycombe Wanderers endured immediate relegation back to League One, their chances ultimately being undone by a dreadful start which saw them lose their first seven games. Derby County, who struggled all season following the appointment of Wayne Rooney as manager in November, would also have been relegated if not for Wednesday's points deduction; they did secure survival on the final day by holding Wednesday to a draw, albeit the result would have relegated them both without Rotherham conceding that late equaliser at Cardiff.
Playing in the third tier for the first time since 2005, Hull City made amends for their dramatic collapse in form and consequent relegation the previous season, this time being in the top two for almost the entire campaign and ultimately emerging as League One champions. Peterborough United finished as runners-up, making this the third time that manager Darren Ferguson had taken The Posh into the Championship and his fourth promotion with the club overall; Peterborough successfully achieved promotion in a three-three draw with Lincoln City. Qualifying for the play-off final were Blackpool and Lincoln with The Seasiders winning the final, two-one at Wembley to secured their return to the Championship for the first time since 2015. Whilst missing out on promotion yet again, The Mackem Filth did at least secure some success, winning the EFL Trophy whilst also gaining new ownership, in the form of businessman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus. Nevertheless, their defeat to Lincoln in the play-offs will be a bitter blow to Sunderland's long-suffering support who now face a fourth season in the third tier. So that's, like, really sad, obviously. A poor start to the campaign for Burton Albion saw The Brewers pulled into a relegation battle, which was won with games to spare following the return of influential manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselhoff for a second spell as manager. Wigan Not Very Athletic endured what proved to be yet another turbulent season both on and off the pitch, battling both a potential second successive relegation (and a potential fourth in seven seasons) and an uncertain future; however, a good run of form late in the season which coincided with The Latics finding new ownership saved the club from the drop. Bristol Rovers finished rock bottom and returned to League Two for the first time in five years, with three different managers - the most recent being Joey Barton - all trying and failing to improve the club's fortunes. Swindon Town's season rapidly fell apart after promotion-winning manager Richie Wellens moved to Salford City early in the campaign, finishing the season with both the most defeats and the worst defence in the division as they suffered relegation back to League Two; fellow newly-promoted side Northampton Town joined them in immediate relegation, The Cobblers being undone by a terrible run during the winter. Rochdale occupied the fourth relegation spot, bringing an end to their longest spell to date in the third tier and finally enduring the relegation they had battled against in previous seasons. Elsewhere, Ipswich Town finished ninth, Accrington Stanley in eleventh and Fleetwood Town in fifteenth. 
In a campaign marked with constant changes among the top three, Cheltenham Town secured promotion back to League One for the first time since 2009, having stayed in the promotion race for nearly the entire season before edging back into the top three in late February. The battle for both the remaining automatic promotion places and the play-off spots ended up going to the final day, with eight different clubs involved. Taking second and third place were Cambridge United and Notlob Wanderers; despite a poor run of form in December, promotion had never looked unlikely for Cambridge, The U's securing promotion to the third tier for the first time since 2002, giving manager Mark Bonner the first promotion of his managerial career. Having spent the majority of the season looking likely to battle a third successive relegation, a surge in form in 2021 saw Notlob head up the table and edge into third place, securing an immediate return to League One. Qualifying for the play-off final were Morecambe (without Wise), a remarkable achievement considering their consistent battles against relegation in the previous seasons and Newport County, who successfully saw off Forest Green Rovers in a tightly fought semi-final second leg. Morecambe (sans Wise) ultimately gained promotion thanks to a controversial penalty in extra-time. In their first ever Football League season, Harrogate Town defied all expectations and achieved safety with a number of games to spare - whilst inconsistent form prevented the Yorkshire side from challenging for promotion, they were never in any serious danger of an immediate return to non-league football. Barrow's first Football League season for forty eight years saw the club ultimately secure survival against all odds - whilst first hit by the loss of manager Ian Evatt to Notlob and then sacking two different replacements before the end of February with results and form looking bleak, the club managed to pull themselves over the line thanks in part to caretaker manager Rob Kelly, who oversaw ten of The Bluebirds' thirteen wins in both his caretaker spells. Scunthorpe United endured the worst season in their one hundred and twenty two year history, finishing third bottom of the league though results elsewhere meant their defeat to Stevenage on the final day of the season did not send them out of the league. Grimsby Town had a season full of struggle and woe on and off the pitch which culminated in relegation - with even the return of manager Paul Hurst, who had overseen their return to the Football League in 2016, failing to help the club escape another drop into the National League. Finishing just above them were Southend United, who suffered their second consecutive relegation and fell out of the Football League for the first time in their history, a run of just one win in their opening fifteen games on top of an inability to score (their twenty nine goals being the lowest scored by anyone in a twenty four-team division since 1982) ended up setting the tone for the club's hopes. And, in similar circumstances to Grimsby, the return of former manager Phil Brown late in the season proved unable to save The Shrimpers from losing their one hundred and one-year Football League status. In a season marked with different teams taking top spot in the National League across the season, as well as postponement, delays and expunged results off the field, Sutton United finished top in their penultimate game and secured promotion to the Football League for the first time in their one hundred and twenty three-year history. The battle to qualify for the play-offs saw the last two spots open going into the final round of games. Torquay United and Stockport County finished second and third, with the play-off quarter-final places being taken by Hartlepool United, Notts County, Chesterfield and Bromley. Mounting financial problems finally took its toll on Macclesfield Town, who were expelled from the National League and then finally wound up in the High Court before the campaign even began - the only positive coming late in the season, with the creation of Macclesfield FC and the new club being given the go-ahead to enter the tenth tier for next season. Dover Athletic also encountered financial problems, which resulted in the team refusing to play due to a lack of promised funding and their results expunged for the season. As a result of the National League electing to declare the sixth tier null and void, no teams were relegated or promoted between the fifth and sixth tiers; a combination of all these factors proved beneficial for King's Lynn Town and Barnet, who were at threat of being cut adrift at the bottom of the table with the most losses and the worst defences in the division, ensuring fifth tier status for both clubs for next season.
Campaigners are calling for a Grade-II listed estate, owned by the BBC, to be opened to the public. Reading's Caversham Park was home to BBC Monitoring before it moved to London when the site was put on the market in 2017. Local residents have now launched a campaign to reinstate footpaths they claim existed in the grounds and to have a say in its future. A BBC spokesman said the corporation was 'still seeking offers' for the site. Don't Fence Me In founder James Denny, who chaired an online public meeting on the issue last month, said residents in Caversham 'felt strongly' about the lack of recreational space. He said the group would first look at opening the estate's footpaths to the public and would then look at working with any potential developer in a bid to use some of the space 'in almost cohabitation - so a museum, an art space, a day centre, or opening up the old swimming pool.' Deputy leader of Reading Borough Council, Tony Page, said: 'In the meeting a number of former employees of the BBC said they thought previous footpaths, they remember using across the site, had disappeared. Whether they are registered rights of way is unclear but I have invited anyone who used to work there, or local residents, to submit evidence of paths that went across the site so we can do further validation on the status of those footpaths.' The BBC spokesman declined to comment on footpaths but said: 'As we've said previously, we are currently seeking offers for the Caversham Park site and we will provide an update once a sale has been completed.' Reading East MP Matt Rodda said he was working with the local community and the council 'to protect the historic building and open it and the grounds, up to the public.' He added: 'I would like to see the house open to the public with a museum celebrating its links to the BBC and earlier history incorporated into any redevelopment.' The Victorian stately home and ninety three-acre estate was bought by the BBC in 1941. Two years later it served as headquarters of BBC Monitoring, which summarises news from one hundred and fifty countries in one hundred different languages for the BBC and is now based at Broadcasting House in London. The service played a key role in analysing communications from Nazi Germany during World War Two - while at Caversham Park and in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Ed Sheeran (he's a - bafflingly - popular beat combo, yer honour) has admitted that his eight-month-old daughter 'just cries' when he sings his new songs to her. So, it's nice to know that at least one member of the Sheeran family has normal faculties shared with the rest of the human race.
On one of the days where this blogger was feeling less that wholly chipper a couple of weeks back - but, after he'd finished the massive Be-Atles book re-read - he spent four and a half hours watching Rosseter's Twin Peaks ACTUALLY EXPLAINED (No, Really) on You Tube. And then, he needed a stiff drink and a pee. Before watching the sequel.
A thread on one of this blogger's fine Facebook fiends page concerning Marine Boy reminded this blogger of one of the most traumatic moments of his, then, young life. The popular Japanese anime series, with its excellent jaunty theme tune - imported into the UK and dubbed into English - had been a regular part of many of our lives since it began its BBC run in early 1969. Then came that moment. It was 30 July 1971 at 5.20pm. The latest episode of Marine Boy ended, the last in the current series and the BBC continuity announcer stated, confidently: 'Marine Boy will be back later in the year.' And now, it's 2021 and we're all still waiting ... (Actually, the series did have a couple of repeat runs in 1976 and 1977 but, by that time, many of us had moved on to other interests. Like punk rock and girls.) This blogger hates it when TV lies to us. It destroys ones faith in humanity so it does. Or, in this particular case, it destroys ones faith in dolphinity
A cluster of decapitated bodies discovered at a burial site were 'probably' from victims of Roman military executions, archaeologists have said. Cos, they didn't mess around with community service and ASBOs in them days. The 'exceptionally high' number of Third Century decapitated bodies were found at a military supply farm settlement at Somersham, Cambridgeshire. Several were kneeling when they were struck from behind with a sword. Archaeologist Isabel Lisboa said thirty three per cent of those found had been executed, compared to six per cent in most Roman British cemeteries. Three cemeteries were excavated revealing fifty two burials, of which seventeen were decapitated. At least one of those executed - an older woman found face-down - appears to have been tortured immediately before death or mutilated afterwards. Their heads were found placed at their feet or lower legs. Doctor Lisboa, from Archaeologica, said they dated from a time of increasing instability for the Roman Empire, when legal punishments became harsher. 'The number of capital crimes doubled in the Third Century and quadrupled in the Fourth Century,' she said. 'As it was part of the Roman army, directly or indirectly, the severity of punishments and the enforcement of Roman law would have been more severe at the Somersham settlements,' she added. The settlement is believed to have supplied the Roman army, part of a wider network of nearby military farms at Camp Ground and Langdale Hale. A 'lack of genetic relationships' between the bodies suggests they were either in army service or slaves. At least two of those found were born in Scotland or Ireland and another in the Alps. Doctor Lisboa said 'Knobb's Farm has an exceptionally high proportion of decapitated bodies - thirty three per cent of those found - compared with burial grounds locally and across Roman Britain.' Cambridge University's archaeology unit excavated Knobb's Farm between 2001 and 2010, ahead of gravel extraction by Tarmac Trading. Analysis of finds has just been published.
Whilst scientists have amassed considerable knowledge of the rocky planets in our solar system much less is known about the icy water-rich planets, Neptune and Uranus. In a new study recently published in Nature Astronomy, a team of scientists recreated the temperature and pressure of the interiors of Neptune and Uranus in the lab and, in so doing, have gained a greater understanding of the chemistry of these planets' deep water layers. Their findings also provide clues to the composition of oceans on water-rich exoplanets outside our solar system. Neptune and Uranus are conventionally thought to have distinct separate layers, consisting of an atmosphere, ice or fluid, a rocky mantle and a metallic core. For this study, the research team was particularly interested in possible reaction between water and rock in the deep interiors. 'Through this study, we were seeking to extend our knowledge of the deep interior of ice giants and determine what water-rock interactions at extreme conditions might exist,' says lead author Taehyun Kim, of Yonsei University in South Korea. 'Ice giants and some exoplanets have very deep water layers, unlike terrestrial planets. We proposed the possibility of an atomic-scale mixing of two of the planet-building materials (water and rock) in the interiors of ice giants.' To mimic the conditions of the deep water layers on Neptune and Uranus in the lab, the team first immersed typical rock-forming minerals, olivine and ferropericlase, in water and compressed the sample in a diamond anvil to very high pressures. Then, to monitor the reaction between the minerals and water, they took X-ray measurements while a laser heated the sample to a high temperature. The resulting chemical reaction led to high concentrations of magnesium in the water. Based on these findings, the team concluded that oceans on water-rich planets may not have the same chemical properties as the Earth's ocean and high pressure would make those oceans rich in magnesium. 'We found that magnesium becomes much more soluble in water at high pressures. In fact, magnesium may become as soluble in the water layers of Uranus and Neptune as salt is in Earth's ocean,' says study co-author Sang-Heon Dan Shim of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration. These characteristics may also help solve the mystery of why Uranus' atmosphere is much colder than Neptune's, even though they are both water-rich planets. If much more magnesium exists in the Uranus' water layer below the atmosphere, it could block heat from escaping from the interior to the atmosphere. 'This magnesium-rich water may act like a thermal blanket for the interior of the planet,' says Shim. Beyond our solar system, these high-pressure and high-temperature experiments may also help scientists gain a greater understanding of sub-Neptune exoplanets, which are planets outside of our solar system with a smaller radius or a smaller mass than Neptune. ub-Neptune planets are the most common type of exoplanets that we know of so far and scientists studying these planets hypothesise that many of them may have a thick water-rich layer with a rocky interior. This new study suggests that the deep oceans of these exoplanets would be much different from Earth's ocean and may be magnesium-rich. 'If an early dynamic process enabled a rock–water reaction in these exoplanets, the topmost water layer may be rich in magnesium, possibly affecting the thermal history of the planet,' says Shim. For next steps, the team hopes to continue their high-pressure/high-temperature experiments under diverse conditions to learn more about the composition of planets.
The From The North 'well done, them' award this week goes to the Independent for managing to get headlines concerning both cheese and crackers onto the same page.
It's also nice to see that the Gruniad Morning Star's readership haven't lost their sense of humour in these dark and troubled times. Or, one of them, anyway. 
And finally, dear blog reader, sometimes naming and shaming is the only way some people learn.