Friday, August 27, 2021

I Hope Good Luck Lives In Odd Numbers

Despite becoming one of the greats of rock and/or roll, the dapper and deadpan Charlie Watts, who died this week aged eighty, spent more than sixty years doing his second-favourite job. Charlie applied himself diligently to the task of being the rock-steady heartbeat of The Rolling Stones, but what he always yearned to do was play jazz. Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis were his musical idols and his playing was inspired by jazz drummers such as Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes and Philly Joe Jones.
Charlie's career with The Stones ran from the cramped West London clubs of Britain's early-1960s rhythm and blues boom to the international stadium tours which became the norm by the 1970s. Through it all, he seemed determined to be as self-effacing as anybody could be as a member of perhaps the world's most high-profile rock band. Nonetheless, the group fully understood his value to them. Keith Richards, in particular, often acknowledged how fundamental Charlie was to The Stones' sound, perhaps not least because he was prepared to make space for the churning rhythmic drive of the guitars of Richards, Brian Jones and, later, Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood. The crisp economy of Charlie's drumming, both swinging and muscular, was remarkable for its absence of frills or fuss, freeing the rest of the band to express themselves around it. 'Charlie Watts gives me the freedom to fly on stage,' Richards once observed.
Charlie, who trained in graphic design, also contributed a lot to The Stones' marketing and presentation, which came to the fore as they evolved into a global brand and their performances grew increasingly spectacular. He was involved in the artwork for some early Stones releases - notably 1967's Between The Buttons - and collaborated with Mick Jagger on the design of their elaborate stage sets for such tours as Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle (1989-90), Bridges To Babylon (1997-98), Licks (2002-03) and A Bigger Bang (2005-07). Any conversation with Charlie was likely to rove amiably across topics such as his love of Savile Row suits, cricket - he often attended test matches at Lord's and The Oval - and the horses he reared with his wife, Shirley, at their Halsdon Arabians farm in Devon. But he would invariably come back to his first love, jazz. 'The first person whose playing I was aware of was [baritone saxophonist] Gerry Mulligan and the track was 'Walking Shoes', with Chico Hamilton playing drums,' Charlie recalled in 2012. 'That's what made me want to play the drums. Before that I wanted to play alto sax because I loved Earl Bostic.' 
'As much as Mick's voice and Keith's guitar, Charlie Watts's snare sound is The Rolling Stones,' Bruce Springsteen once wrote. 'When Mick sings, 'It's only rock 'n' roll but I like it,' Charlie's in back showing you why!' Charlie was never the most flashy drummer. He wasn't known for the frenzied solos of The Cream's Ginger Baker, or for placing explosives in his kick drum like The Who's Keith Moon. Instead, like his good friend Ringo Starr, he was the subtle, stoic, metronomic heartbeat of his band for almost sixty years. His jazz-inflected swing gave many Stones' songs their swagger, pushing and pulling at the groove, creating room for Jagger's lascivious drawl. He was at his best on the cowbell-driven 'Honky Tonk Women', the power-groove of 'Street Fighting Man' or the locked-down quasi-funk of 'Gimme Shelter' (where he even threw in some uncharacteristically showy fills). On and off the stage, he was quiet and reserved - sticking to the shadows and letting the rest of the band suck up the limelight, the controversy and the glory. 'I've actually never been interested in all that stuff and [I'm] still not,' he told the San Diego Tribune in 1991. 'I don't know what showbiz is and I've never watched MTV. There are people who just play instruments and I'm pleased to know that I'm one of them.' In 1989, during a Stones twenty fifth anniversary TV documentary (Twenty Five By Five) Charlie was deliciously self-deprecating about his time in the band, describing it as 'five years of work and twenty years of hanging around!'
Charlie was born at University College Hospital, London, to Charles Watts, a lorry driver and his wife Lillian. The family (including Charlie's sister, Linda) lived in Wembley in post-war prefabricated housing. He became lifelong friends with his neighbour, Dave Green, who would become a fine jazz bass player. The young Watts (dubbed 'Charlie Boy' by his parents) became fixated on hard bebop and cool jazz during the 1950s. He bought himself a banjo when he was fourteen, but rather than learn how to play it he converted it into a snare drum. He was given his first drum kit as a Christmas present in 1955 and whilst other teenagers were shaking a leg to Bill Haley or Elvis Presley, he dreamed of playing drums with Miles Davis, or stepping into Art Blakey's shoes with The Jazz Messengers. His first band was the jazz outfit The Jo Jones All Stars, which he and Green joined in 1958. After Tyler's Croft secondary modern school in Kingsbury, Charlie studied at Harrow School of Art, where he drew, as part of an assignment, a thirty six-page children's book called Ode To A High Flying Bird, depicting the life of the saxophonist Charlie Parker. The book was later picked up by a London publisher and printed in 1964. After art college Watts secured a job as a designer with a London advertising agency, Charlie Daniels Studios, in 1960. Whilst working at the agency he was lured away from jazz by Alexis Korner, who recruited him for his band, Blues Incorporated in 1962. In the small pool of the nascent British 'blues boom', the future Stones Jagger and Brian Jones (then calling himself Elmo Lewis) made appearances with Korner's band, before Jones branched off to start his own group that included The Stones' unsung but faithful pianist and roadie, Ian Stewart. 
A meeting with Jagger and Keith Richards prompted the formation of The Rolling Stones, although it was a few months before the cautious Watts was induced to leave Korner's band and join them full-time, which he eventually did in January 1963. Charlie would observe The Stones' remarkable trajectory from his vantage point at the back of the stage, occasionally permitting himself a quizzical smile - particularly on the odd occasions where he got to introduce a number - but always remaining detached from the cavalcade of The Sex, The Drugs and the spectacular headlines which followed the band around the world. Renowned as the quiet, sensible one, he never strayed into the limelight if he could avoid it, though the title of Peter Whitehead's documentary film Charlie Is My Darling, shot when The Stones visited Ireland in 1965, acknowledged that Watts projected his own, quiet, mystique. While Jagger, Jones, Richards and Bill Wyman would be out on the town in the Soho clubs, havin' it large with every fashion model within touching distance, Charlie quietly married his girlfriend Shirley Shepherd in 1964 without even telling his bandmates. The couple's relationship remained solid until his death.
Only for a brief period during the mid-1980s did his natural self-reliance fail him. During recording of The Stones' worst LP, Dirty Work in 1985, Jagger and Richards were at loggerheads, the future of the band looked shaky and Charlie's daughter Seraphina (born in 1968) had been expelled from the prestigious Millfield public school after being caught smoking dope. Watts began hitting the bottle, and - shockingly for anyone who knew him - developed a brief, but heavy, heroin habit, though never quite on a scale to match that of Richards. 'Towards the end of 1986, I hit an all-time low in my personal life and in my relationship with Mick,' he admitted later. 'I was mad on drink and drugs. I became a completely different person, not a nice one. I nearly lost my wife and family and everything.' Charlie's relations with Jagger had reached a nadir. On one infamous occasion, in an Amsterdam hotel in 1984, a drunken Jagger reportedly woke Watts up by bellowing down the phone 'Where's my drummer?' Charlie responded by getting dressed, having a shave, going round to the singer's room, giving Mick a damned good fisting with a left hook and bellowing: 'Don't ever call me "your drummer" again, you're my fucking singer.' However, the ever-practical Watts quietly weaned himself off drugs even before his problem had become public knowledge and concentrated on building a family life focused around horses and breeding sheepdogs at a country estate he had purchased in Devon.
He also distracted himself from the squabbles and struggles of The Stones by putting together The Charlie Watts Big Band, which featured many top British jazz players. They toured the US and recorded an LP, Live At Fulham Town Hall, released in 1986. In 1991 he formed The Charlie Watts Quintet, which recorded a string of CDs including From One Charlie, a tribute to Charlie Parker and, in 2000, he teamed up with fellow drum legend Jim Keltner for The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, a tribute to the pair's favourite jazz drummers. In 2004 came Watts At Scott's, a live recording of The Charlie Watts Tentet at Ronnie Scott's club The disc appeared as news emerged that Watts had been undergoing radiotherapy for throat cancer. The treatment proved successful and the cancer went into remission. 
While touring and studio work with The Stones continued as ever, in 2009 he began playing with The ABC&D Of Boogie Woogie - the name came from the first-name initials of its members, the pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters and Charlie's old mate Dave Green. They recorded The Magic Of Boogie Woogie (2010) and Live In Paris (2012). 
Charlie was, of course, extremely inducted into the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame with The Stones in 1989 and was voted into Modern Drummer magazine's Hall of Fame in 2006. Also in 2006, Vanity Fair voted the impeccably tailored Charlie into an International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame. Shortly before his death it was reported that he had undergone surgery and that Steve Jordan would be taking his place on the Stones' No Filter tour of the US. He is survived by Shirley, Seraphina and a granddaughter, Charlotte.
Ted Dexter, who has also died this week at the age of eighty six, was the beau ideal, the supreme all-rounder of English cricket for a decade. Dexter could turn his hand to anything sporting and he did so with panache, style, vigour and a hint of the arrogance, whilst ticking every establishment box. Dexter was born in Milan where his father, Ralph, was a prosperous underwriter. Ted along with his family moved to England when he was aged three just before the start of World War II. Dexter was educated at Norfolk House, Beaconsfield and Radley College, where he played in the first XI from 1950 to 1953, initially as a wicket-keeper and as captain in 1953 and was nicknamed 'Lord Ted' by his coach Ivor Gilliat for his aloof self-confidence. While Dexter was head boy at Radley, Peter Cook, the satirist, was - he claimed - among those younger boys upon whom 'a big and strong' Dexter inflicted corporal punishment. (Dexter also made an enemy of Geoffrey Boycott who used two pages of his 1979 autobiography Put To The Test to criticise Dexter for using comments Boycott made off-air during an appearance on Parkinson in public. 'That article was a disgrace,' wrote Boycott, angrily. 'If that's what a public school a university education does for Ted Dexter, I'm glad I went to Hemsworth Grammer School.') Dexter did his national service as a second lieutenant in the Eleventh Hussars during the Malayan Emergency (1953-55) and was awarded the Malaya Campaign Medal. On his discharge, Dexter entered Jesus College, Cambridge in October 1955, where he played golf and rugby in addition to winning his cricket Blue. Dexter was all the more exciting against the contemporary background of English cricket. It was, frankly, a boring period. The late 1950s was the epoch of Trevor Bailey blocking all day, of Peter May captaining cautiously, of Colin Cowdrey reining in his prodigious talents. Dexter went out and stroked the ball all around the ground, like almost everyone these days but few others then. His signature shot was the front-foot drive, through the covers or over long-off and as dashing as Wally Hammond's had been.
Dexter had flexed his wrists by playing golf from an early age - and he continued to play it, occasionally with professional friends like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, such was the company he kept. While his team-mates pushed and poked, Dexter strode out at number three for Sussex or England, lowered his cap and charged the bowling. One of the most celebrated of all test innings for England was the seventy he scored against the West Indies at Lord's in 1963, when Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith were dishing out some of the fastest bowling England had seen to that point, backed by Gary Sobers, the one adversary Dexter found more gifted than himself. Dexter could bowl pretty fast too, well enough to be England's regular third seamer. It is unimaginable now but in those amateur days England's number three would peel off his sweater and bowl as quickly as the opening bowlers. Having been selected too soon for England on their 1958-9 tour of Australia and New Zealand, Dexter had come to the fore the following winter on their tour of the Caribbean. Never let it be assumed that Dexter was just a dashing amateur: he had a cricket brain that was ingenious and he worked out that playing the bouncers which Hall and Griffith fired down, as never before, were best dealt with by playing back and chest-on - not in the orthodox style of side-on. Although junior to Cowdrey, Dexter became England's captain when May retired, as the MCC, who then made such appointments, hoped he would lead his team to play less defensive cricket: around the world test cricket was congealing into a morass of blocking and draws. Dexter tried to lead by example when scoring four hundred and eighty one runs in the 1962-3 series in Australia, the most in a series there by any England captain to this day, but even then the series was another draw. It was in one-day cricket that Dexter found the scope for his ingenuity. As captain of Sussex, he won the first two Gillette Cups, in 1963 and 1964. In this knockout tournament English cricket roused itself from the post-war stupor of the late 1950s. Dexter bowled Sussex's pace bowlers, no spinners and spread the field, then cashed in with the bat when his opponents played conventionally. Dexter needed the tactics of one-day cricket as something to think about on the field (he came out of retirement to play for Sussex when the Sunday League was launched in 1971). Dexter declared himself unavailable for the 1964–65 tour of South Africa as he contested Jim Callaghan's Cardiff South East seat for the Conservative Party in the 1964 General Election. Finding himself free to tour after his parliamentary defeat he was made vice-captain to Mike Smith, who won the series and continued as captain. Dexter's cricket career was virtually ended by a serious motor accident in 1965. His Jaguar ran out of petrol in West London and he was pushing it to safety when it pinned him to a warehouse door, breaking his leg. He left Sussex and played occasional Sunday games with the International Cavaliers whilst beginning a long career in journalism. He returned tocricket, briefly, in 1968, making two hundred and three not out in his comeback match against Kent and appearing twice for England in the 1968 Ashes series under Colin Cowdrey. Like many talented and versatile people, Dexter easily became bored. On a slow test or championship day he could be seen practising his golf swing while he was supposed to be concentrating in the field - not something he would have approved of when he became England's chairman of selectors in 1989. If Dexter had any direct successor as an England test captain, it was David Gower who took an afternoon off to fly a Tiger Moth on a tour of Australia. In 1970 Dexter had piloted his own plane from England to Australia to cover that winter's Ashes tour. He was accompanied by his wife, the glamorous model Susan Longfield, with whom he had had fallen in love at Cambridge, but the living conditions for almost a month with a baby were arduous. Planes, fast cars, motorbikes, cricket journalism, a co-written novel (Testkill - with Clifford Makins, a particular favourite of this blogger) in which an Australian bowler is murdered during a test match at Lord's: all these exploits kept Dexter amused for a while. In another piece of ingenuity he helped to devise the Deloittes Ratings, which were to become the official ICC player rankings. He was much quoted for the odd gaffe when England chairman of selectors, notably when he mistakenly referred to Devon Malcolm as 'Malcolm Devon' but he became bored by saying and doing conventional things because they came so easily, and it is not what he should be remembered for. Dexter illuminated English cricket when darkness was threatening to overcome. Dexter was appointed CBE in 2001. In 2007 his long Sussex attachment came full circle when he was elected club president. In 1959 Dexter married Susan, the daughter of the former county cricketer Tom Longfield. She and their son, Tom and daughter, Genevieve, survive him.
The comedian Sean Lock has died from cancer at the age of fifty eight. A comedy panel show favourite, Lock was a team captain on the series Eight Out Of Ten Cats, hosted by Jimmy Carr. He also appeared regularly on Qi, The Last Leg, Have I Got News For You and The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year (where he had to suffer co-hosting with That Odious Corden Individual). Paying tribute, Bill Bailey said: 'It's heartbreaking to lose my dearest friend Sean Lock, he was a true original, a wonderful comic.' Lee Mack, fellow comedian and another close friend of Lock's, described the news of his death as 'heartbreaking', adding: 'A true original both in comedy and life. I will miss him so much.' Born in Chertsey, Surrey, Sean left school in the early 1980s and began working on building sites but developed skin cancer, which he blamed on over-exposure to the sun. He recovered and decided to focus on a career in comedy. Early in his TV career, Lock appeared on the 1993 series Newman & Baddiel In Pieces. Lock co-wrote the screenplay for the 2001 feature film This Filthy Earth alongside director Andrew Kötting, which was adapted from the novel La Terre by Émile Zola. Lock was named best live comic at the British Comedy Award in 2000 and had also previously been nominated for the prestigious Perrier Comedy Award at Edinburgh. In 2006, he presented and produced the Channel Four series TV Heaven, Telly Hell, in which guests would discuss their likes and dislikes in television. Lock also appeared at Channel Four's Comedy Gala. He wrote and starred in the BBC sitcom Fifteen Storeys High. But Lock was probably best known as a team captain on Eight Out Of Ten Cats. The show saw panellists answer questions based on statistics and opinion polls. He appeared on the first eighteen series, opposite team captains including Jason Manford and Jon Richardson. Lock left the show in 2016. He and Richardson also appeared on the spin-off series Eight Out Of Ten Cats does Countdown which included one of his finest ever routines, The Tiger Who Came For A Pint. 'I wish I had the words to describe the exceptional man that was Sean Lock. But today I don't, and I think he might have liked it that way,' tweeted his co-star Susie Dent.
Don Everly, the surviving member of the rock and/or roll duo The Everly Brothers, has died in Nashville at the age of eighty four. A family spokesperson confirmed Everly's death to the Los Angeles Times. Everly and his brother, Phil, had hits worldwide in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including 'Bye Bye Love' and 'All I Have To Do Is Dream'. They were known for their close harmonies and influenced the likes of The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. The pair had an onstage break-up in 1973 which led to a decade-long estrangement, but Phil later told Time magazine that the brothers' relationship had survived this. 'Don lived by what he felt in his heart. Don expressed his appreciation for the ability to live his dreams with his soulmate and wife, Adela, and sharing the music that made him an Everly Brother,' a statement said. The Everly brothers were the children of country and western singers and performed on the family radio show while growing up. In their heyday, between 1957 and 1962, they had fifteen US top ten hits, including 'Bye Bye Love' and 'Cathy's Clown'. The duo called it quits during a performance in California in 1973, in which Phil smashed his guitar and walked off stage. During their time apart, both pursued solo careers with limited success. They reunited a decade later with a concert in London, followed by a comeback LP. In a 1986 interview with the Associated Press news agency, Don Everly said the two were successful because 'we never followed trends. We did what we liked and followed our instincts. Rock 'n' roll did survive and we were right about that. Country did survive and we were right about that. You can mix the two but people said we couldn't,' he said. The Everly Brothers were elected to the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986 and they were given a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 1997. Rolling Stain magazine has described them as 'the most important vocal duo in rock.' Phil Everly died of pulmonary disease in 2014, aged seventy four. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

"So Shaken As We Are, So Wan With Care"

Tinkerty-tonk, dearest bloggerisationisms readers and welcome you are, old fruits. to the latest From The North update in the area, like. It's going to be a right proper good'un, so it is. Hopefully.
A statue which featured in a groundbreaking TV performance by The Be-Atles is going under the hammer. The five foot fibreglass figure of Aphrodite was seen by up to seven hundred million viewers worldwide as The Be-Atles took part in the first live satellite TV broadcast in 1967. The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) represented the UK as alcoholic, wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon wrote 'All You Need Is Love' just days before to reflect the event's Summer of Love and flower-power themes. The Greek goddess of love statue will be auctioned in Liverpool on 28 August. The statue, which is coated with a cement-like finish to simulate a stone appearance, is estimated to fetch between fifteen and twenty grand and will, probably, be sold to either an American or Japanese Be-Atles fan with far more money than sense. Artists representing nineteen countries took part in the Our World show, on 25 June 1967 and was screened in twenty five countries. Or, twenty six if you count Wales. The Beatles performance at Abbet Road - some parts were pre-recorded but the vocals and George Martin's superb orchestration were live - was broadcast by the BBC. The set was dressed with balloons, flowers and streamers draped around various bits of décor as Lennon (MBE), Sir Paul McCartney (MBE), George Harrison (MBE) and Sir Ringo Starr (MBE) perched on stools. The Aphrodite statue, believed to have been bought from a prop shop, was on the set directly behind Lennon. Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Marianne Faithfull and Graham Nash were in the audience as were Mike McCartney, Derek Taylor, Be-Atles biographer Hunter Davies and loads of other friends, acquaintances, general hangers-on and assorted riff-raff.
Sound engineer the late Geoff Emerick, who won two GRAMMY awards for his work with The Be-Atles, took the statue home after the recording and it took pride of place in his - somewhat overgrown - garden in Hornsey for the next forty five years. It was put into storage when Emerick moved to the United States where he later died in 2018, aged seventy two.
He had particularly close links with Sir Paul as he was appointed to oversee the building of Apple Studios in Savile Row in 1969 and then won another GRAMMY for his work on the Wings LP, Band on the Run. Other prized personal items released by Emerick's estate, including original plan documents for the conversion of Apple Studios, will feature in the sale along with Beatles memorabilia. News of which, needless to say, saw most long-term fans of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) getting their considerable knickers in a considerable twist (as illustrated below).
The climax of the recent Olympics was covered in the previous From The North bloggerisationism update - and very nice it was too - but a couple additions deserve highlighting. BBC Sports editor Dan Roan's excellent think-piece Tokyo Olympics: Sporting Drama Amid A State Of Emergency But How Will Games Be Remembered? covers most of the main talking-points, positive and negative whilst another BBC Sports article, Tokyo Olympics: A Look At How Team GB Fared Sport-By-Sport Compared To Their Funding broadly comes to the same conclusions as this blog last time around. That most of those representing Great Britain did a marvellous job. Except for the rowing squad - as previously noted, they were a fekking disgrace.
Football fan culture in the UK is changing, with a more diverse make-up of fans following the beautiful game, according to a new report commissioned by Sky Sports at the start of the 2021-22 domestic football season. Which started last weekend, you might've noticed (as usual, this blogger's beloved though unsellable Magpies lost. Don't worry, he's well used to such malarkey by now, he's had fifty seven years of this sort of thing). Traditional one-club supporters made up almost a third of those surveyed - the fact that they didn't makes up all of them being the biggest crime identified by this nonsense - but research suggests the treasured die-hards are now joined by a host of different types of fans 'enjoying the game in new ways,' including some who have drawn to the sport through players' powerful voices off the pitch. Yes, dear blog reader, some people actually got paid to produce this shit. Nice work if you can get it. The Football Fandom In 2021 report finds an overwhelming seventy per cent of people feel footballers have 'helped the nation' get talking about discrimination, while sixty three per cent believe they have 'a better understanding of social and economic issues' because of their love of football. And not, seemingly, because they have eyes and a brain in their head. Possibly because, in the case of the latter, they are lacking in that particular department. The findings 'also reveal a number of football fans are now more dedicated to the game itself rather than to a particular team.' Yes, there have always been a few of those around - they're called twats. One in five of those who consider themselves 'football fans' but do not follow a specific team, will still watch football at least once a week and/or never miss a big game. Five 'distinct subcultures' of modern football fandom have emerged, according to the report. Considered the 'traditional' football fan, Lifers are often one-club lifelong fans who have had a football-orientated upbringing. Or, 'normal people' as they're also known. Ever crunching the numbers, the Stattos are more likely than the other subcultures to focus on the pre-match build-up. They will also infuriate their friends by dominating in Fantasy Football. They're mostly harmless but should be avoided if possible since they'll likely bore your tits off with a ream of stats about most passes completed or how many social media followers Richarlison of Everton has which they picked up off Sky Sports News. (Because, it's a little-known fact that Everton, by law, cannot be relegated from the Premier League even if they finish in the bottom three because of Richarlison's forty eight gazillion follower on Instagram. True story.) Modern football culture has seeped into fashion, music and how we connect with each other. Allegedly. Expressionists thrive off this merging of football and lifestyle. It might have been their favourite replica away shirt, or even David Beckham's hair. It was the style, the panache, the culture around football that drew them in, wanting to one-up their mates with the latest boots. These people are dangerous and, frankly, need a ruddy good punch up the bracket to show them of the considerable error of their ways and get them to settle down and behave themselves. Or, stick a bat up their nightdress, whichever is more applicable. Trust this blogger, it's for their own good in the long run. Socialisers focus on the way football brings people together. This subculture connects more with family and friends during the season and they are the first to make plans for big games. Socialisers are mostly into football for the way it makes the country tick - enjoying how big wins bring local community together. They likely follow footballers in the news and on socials simply to be part of the conversation. Again, like Stattos they're fairly harmless and, if you ignore them, hopefully they'll just go away. Finally, driven by the social impact of the football for the greater good, Game Changers are likely to have seen or experienced first hand the power the game has to change mindsets. The Game Changer may have fallen in love with football because of common causes. Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Hector Bellerin have used their voice to shine a light on important issues at home and abroad, winning them legions of new followers. Game Changers, in other words, are likely to be Middle Class quiche-eating, Gruniad Morning Star-reading hippy Communists who never liked football until it became fashionable amongst their Middle Class quiche-eating, Gruniad Morning Star-reading hippy Communist fiends. But who now think they know everything about everything. Death's too good for the lot of 'em. So, dear blog reader, to sum up them ... some tosser actually got paid to come up with this rank horseshit. As any fule kno. And, I'm not even lying.
The stars of Line Of Duty will go head-to-head for one of the main prizes at this year's National Television Awards. Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar and Martin Compston are among the five nominees for the best drama performance trophy. They will face competition from Olly Alexander and David Tennant, who delivered acclaimed performances in It's A Sin and Des respectively.
South Asian food bloggers have, reportedly, criticised the overuse of the word 'curry' over claims it is 'rooted in British colonialism.' Earlier this year, Chaheti Bansal (no, me neither) posted an Instagram video calling on people to 'cancel the word curry.' This blogger will admit he does somewhat overuse the word curry since he eats little else. Next ...
TV and radio services for more than a million people will remain off-air indefinitely after a transmitter fire. The blaze at the Bilsdale mast on Tuesday of last week disrupted Freeview, DAB and FM radio signals across North Yorkshire, Teesside and parts of County Durham. But not, thankfully, as far North as the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House otherwise there would have been a bit of bother. Operator Arqiva said that it would bring in temporary equipment but could not say when services would be restored. Witness Ron Needham reported seeing 'a huge black cloud of smoke come from the buildings at the bottom.' That'd be the fire, then, Ron. He had been hiking on the North York Moors with his wife, Sue, when they stopped for lunch at the base of the mast. They noticed 'nothing untoward' but after continuing for about a mile-and-a-half noticed smoke coming from the top 'like a chimney,' Needham claimed. One or two people even believed him. Despite the loss of transmission from the tower, BBC television remains available on iPlayer. Although, if you live in the area and haven't got a computer them, basically, you're screwed. Radio stations can still be listened to on BBC Sounds. Ditto. Firefighters were sent to the site after a call from an engineer working on the transmitter near Helmsley. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said there were 'concerns about the structural integrity of the mast' and a three hundred metre exclusion zone was in place around the mast. It also said the cause of the blaze was 'being investigated' but did not believe it was as a result of 'a criminal act.' Unless, of course, Ron and Sue know different. Arqiva confirmed that no-one was injured in the fire and thanked emergency services 'for their swift action. We have started the process to gradually restore services using a combination of temporary structures and existing infrastructure elsewhere in the region, and will be moving through this process as quickly and safely as possible,' a spokesperson said. A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said Airwave, the radio service used by all the emergency services, had 'not been affected' by the mast fire. The tower was built in 1969 and provides coverage for half-a-million homes across Northern England, from Tadcaster to Seaham. Arqiva said about two hundred thousand of those use Freeview as their main TV platform. Needless to say, people were soon contacting the BBC about how the loss of transmission has affected them, with one viewer saying they were 'stuck at home with severe disabilities.' Which, presumably, had been the situation before the fire so, really, there's not a whole heap anyone can do about that particular situation. The services affected include: Channels on the PSB1, 2, 3, COM4, 5, 6, 7 and LTV television multiplexes; BBC Radio Tees, BBC Radios 1-4 and BBC DAB; Commercial radio stations SDL, North Yorkshire DAB, BAUER Teesside, Digital 1, TFM, Capital, Heart and Classic FM. Sky, Freesat and cable services are not affected. Coverage of BBC Radio Tees on DAB is reduced but some reception should continue for most listeners and there is no need to retune. BBC Tees's coverage of Middlesbrough's match against Blackpool was affected, however - an utter tragedy for all Smoggies who couldn't get to Lancashire and watch their side receive a three-nil hiding. Although, if the The Football Fandom in 2021 report is correct, then the majority of Middlesbrough supporters are either Stattos or Expressionists anyway and, thus, were more concerned about how much possession they'd had, or how their hair was looking at the time.
Sky News Australia has removed dozens of videos from its websites, after YouTube suspended the channel for spreading Covid misinformation. The archly right-wing TV network, owned by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, has been criticised for promoting conspiracies and questioning public health orders in its broadcasts. In recent days it has taken down about thirty videos without explanation or making corrections. Sky News Australia has declined to comment. And, to paraphrase the late and much-lamented Mandy Rice-Davies, 'well, they would, wouldn't they?' But its parent company, News Corp Australia, told local media that the network had taken an 'editorial decision' to remove the videos. One or two people even believed them. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was among the first to accuse the channel last week of 'quietly scrubbing incriminating Covid-19 misinformation videos' from its platforms. The videos had showed network hosts - including Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Rowan Dean - expressing views that have been rejected by global medical authorities. One video showed Jones questioning the legitimacy of the pandemic, erroneously claiming it wasn't worse than the 'common cold.' Which, you know, it probably is. Given that it had now killed over four million people worldwide during the past eighteen months. By and large, the cold doesn't tend to do that. So it would, therefore, appear that this Jones individual is, how can we put this, taking crap. Another video since removed promoted an interview with a pathologist spreading misinformation that Covid was a hoax. According to Gruniad Morning Star Australia (some relation), most of the removed videos 'talked up the drugs ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.' Both drugs have gained attention after being promoted by figures including former US president - and hairdo - Rump. But medical authorities, including the WHO, say the evidence for their effectiveness against Covid remains unproven and, you know, who you gonna believe, scientists or orange-faced former reality TV has-beens and currently full-time arsehole? Tough choice? No, not really. Rudd and other critics have described Sky News Australia's broadcasts as 'dangerous and irresponsible.' It comes as millions of Australians remain in lockdown to prevent the spread of Delta outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne. Fewer than a quarter of Australians have got themselves vaccinated. Frustration over restrictions has also led to several large anti-lockdown protests. Mostly from the kind of beer-swilling Neanderthals who used to populate The Hill at the SCG and shout 'pooftah' at any hapless England cricketer who suffered the misfortune of being posted down to long leg. Sky News Australia executives are due to face a parliamentary inquiry on Friday, after YouTube on 1 August penalised the channel's Covid coverage. The network accused the tech giant of 'censorship', but lawmakers said the platform's decision 'reflected wider concerns.'
Engineers are, reportedly, trying to work out what went wrong when the US space agency's Perseverance rover tried to gather its first rock core on Mars. The robot's mechanisms seemed to work perfectly but when a metal tube expected to hold the sample was examined, it was found to be empty. The mission team think the particular properties of the target rock may have been to blame. Either that or, you know, The Ice Warriors snuck up and pinched it. One or the other. 'The initial thinking is that the empty tube is more likely a result of the rock target not reacting the way we expected during coring and less likely a hardware issue with the sampling and caching system,' said Jennifer Trosper, project manager for Perseverance at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. When asked about the possibility of Ice Warrior interference, Jen claimed a prior appointment and left. 'Over the next few days, the team will be spending more time analysing the data we have, and also acquiring some additional diagnostic data to support understanding the root cause for the empty tube,' she added as she hurried through the door and headed for the nearest NASA bunker. Perseverance has a drilling and coring system on the end of its 2m-long robotic arm. This is capable of cutting and retrieving finger-sized samples of rock. These are then passed to a processing unit inside the rover's belly that packages and seals them in titanium cylinders. But before sealing, a camera and probe are used to assess the amount of material recovered and when this was done for Friday's coring attempt it became obvious the sample was missing. This would not be the first time the Red Planet's surface has played hard-to-get with robots' analytical tools. NASA's 2007 Phoenix lander found the local soils in Mars' 'Arctic' region to have a sticky consistency that made it difficult to get a sample into the robot's onboard laboratory. And the agency's 2018 InSight lander struggled - and ultimately failed - to drive a temperature instrument into the ground. The sub-surface was unexpectedly resistant. Take it from this blogger, those Ice Warriors can get like Somerset farmers when it comes to trespassing.
Deliveroo has said demand for its services has strengthened despite Covid restrictions easing. Which only goes to prove how lazy some people have got during lockdown. This blogger included - although, to be fair, he tends to use Just Eat instead. The food delivery firm saw orders double to over on hundred and forty eight million in the first half of this year, while the value of its transactions also doubled. At the same time, it narrowed its pre-tax losses to one hundred and four million knicker, as against one hundred and twenty eight million smackers a year earlier. It was the first set of results from the company since it floated on the stock market in March. Deliveroo initially listed on the London stock exchange at three hundred and ninety pence a share, but the price fell sharply on the opening day of trading, 31 March. On Monday, its shares rallied on the news that German rival Delivery Hero had bought a five per cent stake in the company. Cooped-up consumers flocked to order from Deliveroo during the earlier stages of the pandemic, when restaurants were closed and people switched to home deliveries. The firm said it expected customer behaviour to 'moderate' later in the year, but it remained 'excited about the opportunity ahead.' It added that its outlook for the remainder of the year continued to be 'optimistic but prudent, combining confidence in continued year-on-year growth in orders with an expectation that average order values revert towards pre-pandemic levels.'
Eurovision type individual James Newman has won a High Court case against an ex-Voice contestant who claimed he had, previously, copied one of her songs. Before representing the UK at the annual song contest, where he came extremely last with but nul points, Newman co-wrote Rudimental & Ella Eyre's 2013 number one hit 'Waiting All Night'. It won best British single at The Brit Awards the following year. Kelly-Marie Smith claimed the song was copied from a song which she allegedly wrote in 2006. But a judge has dismissed her claim and told her to stop being so silly. One half of The Voice duo Nu-Tarna, who appeared on the lack of talent show in 2013, Smith sued Newman along with co-writer, Jonny Harris and three members of Rudimental - Kesi Dryden, Piers Aggett and Amir Izadkhah. But by the end of the High Court trial, judge Mr Justice Zacaroli said 'the allegation of copying was pursued against Mister Newman alone.' He concluded, with the help of musicologists, that while there were 'some limited similarities' between the choruses of 'Waiting All Night' and Smith's 'Can You Tell Me?', there were also 'important differences.' Any similarities in the lyrics, he said, could be down to the fact they contained 'commonplace expressions.' The suggestion that Smith's little-known and commercially unreleased song had 'filtered through' to Newman was based on 'tenuous connections', he added. Smith's legal team argued there were 'too many similarities' between the songs to be explained away by 'mounting coincidence.' But Newman's barrister, Tom Weisselberg QC, said her case was a 'concocted claim that should never have been brought.' He said Newman had conceived his song in 2012 when he was working night shifts in a restaurant whilst trying to make it as a songwriter. Something which is still a work-in-progress, apparently.
Bright and bubbly, Una Stubbs, who died over the weekend aged eighty four, was a revue regular and a Palladium pantomime principal boy who parlayed her natural song-and-dance talent into a later, highly diverse career on the classical stage.
In earlier years she was best known for her roles alongside Cliff Richard in two well-remembered pop musical movies - Summer Holiday (1963) and Wonderful Life (1964) - and as Alf Garnett's spirited daughter, Rita Rawlins, married to a socialist layabout (Anthony Booth), in Johnny Speight's classic social document sitcom Till Death Us Do Part (1965 to 1975) and in episodes of its 1980s sequel, In Sickness & In Health. Both of these incarnations are unimaginable today: a docile, amenable dolly bird hanging around with Cliff and The Shadows and a tolerant but incipiently trendy daughter of a loud-mouthed racist bigot - the late Warren Mitchell's brilliant and relentless performance.
Una transcended, or at least sidestepped, these cultural contrasts by the simple expedient of always being herself, honest and translucent in all she did. She had the ability to shine in revues (at the Mermaid Theatre) based on the works of Noël Coward and Cole Porter, as well as in Shakespeare and Schiller directed by Michael Grandage - her latterday mentor - in Sheffield and the West End, or even Ibsen at the National Theatre. Wherever she went, she sparkled and the longevity of her career was remarkable. She started out as a sixteen-year-old dancer in a Folies Bergère-style musical revue, Pardon My French, with Frankie Howerd and the pianist Winifred Atwell at The Prince Of Wales in 1953 and finished as a touchingly endearing Mrs Hudson in the BBC's Sherlock, starring alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. She was geared to be fast and funny. She was The Dairy Box Girl in an early TV advert in 1955, her breathy, adenoidal voice instantly memorable and she was soon starring in the West End revue On the Brighter Side (1959) at The Phoenix – with talents including Stanley Baxter, Betty Marsden and Ronnie Barker.
Una was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, where her mother, Angela, worked in the cutting room of Denham film studios nearby and her father, Clarence Stubbs, was a factory worker with Shredded Wheat. Her great-grandfather was Ebenezer Howard, the founder of Welwyn Garden City. The middle of three children - a sister, Claire, was two years older; a brother, Paul, two years younger - Una struggled to assert herself as they all grew up in Hinckley, Leicestershire. She trained at the La Roche dancing school in Slough ('There's posh,' she recalled) and made a debut at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, as the fairy Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In 1955 she was dancing at the London Palladium and in 1956 appeared in both ITV's Cool For Cats, one of the first teen pop music shows, with The Dougie Squires Dancers and as 'a starlet' at the Venice film festival in Grab Me A Gondola, a somewhat unjustly forgotten British musical in which Joan Heal gave a celebrated performance as a wannabe film star. Una met her first husband, the actor Peter Gilmore (the star in the BBC's The Onedin Line in the 1970s), whom she married in 1958, on these gigs. The marriage ended in divorce in 1969. After the Cliff Richard films and during Till Death Us Do Part, there was a step-change when she joined The Young Vic and met Nicky Henson, whom she married in 1969. She appeared there in the Rita Tushingham role in The Knack and as the Princess in The Soldier's Tale (starring opposite her new husband). In 1975 Stubbs played the lead role in Irma La Douce, directed by Dougie Squires, at the Watford Palace, in which she exploded like a firecracker in the big set-piece number 'Dis Donc'.
Her place in popular television culture was sealed in the next few years as she appeared in Fawlty Towers, as the ferocious Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge with Mister Pertwee and as team captain, opposite her great friend Lionel Blair, in the television game show Give Us A Clue.
Her second great phase as a stage actor began at The Royal Exchange in Manchester in the 1990s – Mrs Hardcastle in She Stoops To Conquer, Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband - culminating in a devastating and wholly unexpected performance as Terence Rattigan's confused and desperate heroine Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea, in a production at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester in 1997 directed by Grandage. She began the new millennium as a hilarious sidekick to Penelope Keith in a touring (and West End) stage adaptation of the Noël Coward short story Star Quality and as the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet at Chichester in 2002 (with Emily Blunt was Juliet). In 2005 she joined the National Theatre, playing Mrs Holt in Ibsen's Pillars Of The Community, with Damian Lewis and Lesley Manville; two years later, her legit status increasing, she joined Peter Hall's summer season at The Theatre Royal, Bath, to play a delightful Mrs Pearce in Pygmalion, a revival that, with Tim Pigott-Smith as Higgins and Michelle Dockery as Eliza, later transferred to The Old Vic. When Grandage took over at The Sheffield Crucible, then succeeded Sam Mendes at The Donmar Warehouse, Una was a regular part of his team and a revelation, as a pert and fiery Maria in Twelfth Night, a starchy lady-in-waiting in Schiller's Don Carlos, with Derek Jacobi and a choric mainstay of a revival of TS Eliot's The Family Reunion, with Samuel West and Penelope Wilton, in 2008.
In the same year, she registered a beautiful comic cameo in the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of La Cage Aux Folles starring Douglas Hodge. She returned to The National in 2012 to feature strongly in Marianne Elliott's staging of The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Night-Time as the neighbour who spills the beans about mother 'doing sex' with Mr Shears. Her television career remained eclectic, as she popped up in EastEnders as Caroline Bishop in 2006 and in various episodes of Benidorm, Midsomer Murders and The Durrells. Her screen CV also included appearances in Murder On The Blackpool Express, Call The Midwife, Starlings, The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff, The Catherine Tate Show, The Worst Witch, Tricky Business, Happy Families, I'm Bob, He's Dickie, Life With Johnny, Boy Meets Girl, Hudd, The Dick Emery Show, The Strange World Of Gurney Slade and Rush Hour.
From 2010 onwards she was busy as Mrs Hudson in Sherlock, but managed one last movie outing in John Miller's Ealing Comedy-style pensioners' criminal caper Golden Years (2016). This blogger had the great good-fortune to meet Una in 2012 at a Sherlock publicity event in London. She was, as one would have wished for, every bit as charming, witty and pleasant as her onscreen persona, recalling aspects of her career with clarity and speaking with great fondness of former co-stars like Warren Mitchell ('he really was like another dad to me'), Tony Booth and Cliff.
She enjoyed embroidery and painting, writing two books on the former - Una Stubbs In Stitches (1984) and A Stitch In Time (1985), which expanded into a self-help volume on single motherhood - and indulging her well-trained eye for the latter in co-hosting (with Richard Bacon) the first series, in 2015, of BBC's The Big Painting Challenge. Her marriage to Henson ended in divorce in 1975. She is survived by their sons, Christian and Joe and by Jason, the son of her first marriage.
Fußball-Club Bayern München and West Germany legend Gerd Müller has died at the age of seventy five. One of the best strikers in history, Müller scored sixty eight goals in sixty two appearances for West Germany, including the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final against The Netherlands. He also scored five hundred and forty seven goals in fine hundred and ninety four competitive games during fifteen years at Bundesliga giants Bayern, one of the finest goals-to-games ratio of any player in the modern socherball era. 'Today is a sad, black day for FC Bayern and all of its fans,' Bayern president Herbert Hainer said. 'Gerd Müller was the greatest striker there has ever been - and a fine person, a personality in world football. We are united in deep sorrow with his wife Uschi and his family. Without Gerd Müller, FC Bayern would not be the club we all love today. His name and the memory of him will live on forever.' Müller, a two times German footballer of the year, won the Golden Boot for netting ten goals at the 1970 World Cup - including the one that knocked England out in the Quarter Finals - and also won the Ballon d'Or that year. He helped West Germany win the European Championship two years later, scoring twice in a three-nil win against the Soviet Union in the final after, again, putting out in the Quarters. 'The news of Gerd Müller's death deeply saddens us all,' Bayern chief executive Mary Shelley's Oliver Kahn said. 'He's one of the greatest legends in the history of FC Bayern, his achievements are unrivalled to this day and will forever be a part of the great history of FC Bayern and all of German football. As a player and a person, Gerd Müller stands for FC Bayern and its development into one of the biggest clubs in the world like no other. Gerd will forever be in our hearts.' During his fifteen years at Fußball-Club Bayern München, Müller was the Bundesliga's top scorer seven times. He also held the record for the most goals in a calendar year after scoring eighty five in 1972 until Lionel Messi surpassed his total in 2012. His record of forty goals in a Bundesliga season - scored during 1971-72 - stood for forty nine years before it was broken by Robert Lewandowski in May. In total, Müller helped Bayern win four Bundesliga and DFB Cup titles, three European Cups, a European Cup Winners' Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. In 2015, the club announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Born in November 1945, Muller joined Bayern in 1964. With his short stature and stocky build he was nicknamed 'short, fat Müller' by his first coach at the club, Zlatko Cajkovski. However, Müller quickly developed a reputation for being a clinical striker and his goals helped Bayern win the league title four times between 1969 and 1974. His prowess in the penalty box quickly made him one of the most feared forwards at club and international level, with another Bayern great - Karl-Heinz Rummenigge - describing Muller in 2015 as 'the best of all time, the Muhammad Ali of the penalty box.' To football fans worldwide he was Der Bomber. Müller retired from international football shortly after helping West Germany win the World Cup in 1974, aged just twenty eight, but continued to enjoy success at Bayern before leaving in 1979 to join Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He played three seasons in the United States before announcing his retirement in 1982.
And finally, dear blog reader, The International Cricket Council is bidding to have the sport included in the Olympic Games. The ICC says its 'primary target' is being added to the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. It would end a one hundred and twenty eight-year wait for the sport to be included, following its only previous appearance in the 1900 Games in Paris. The sport will feature as a women's event in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. ICC chair Greg Barclay says the 'sport is united behind this bid' and that the Olympics are part of cricket's 'long-term future. We have more than a billion fans globally and almost ninety per cent of them want to see cricket at the Olympics,' said Barclay. Why the other ten per cent don't, he didn't elaborate. 'Clearly cricket has a strong and passionate fanbase, particularly in South Asia where ninety two er cent of our fans come from, whilst there are also thirty million cricket fans in the USA.' Where, exactly, that thirty million figure was derived from he, also, didn't say. 'The opportunity for those fans to see their heroes competing for an Olympic medal is tantalising.' Although, given the woeful current form of the England test team - if not the white ball variety side - one could argue it's unlikely to boost Britain's projected medal total too much.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Nine Million Rainy Days In A Lonely Place

Welcome you are, dearest bloggerisationisms reader, to the latest From The North bloggerisationisms update. Which comes to you, as usual, from the virry heart of The North itself, the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House (near Waalsend). Where it is currently raining.
Let us, therefore, kick-off our latest bloggerisationisms missive with a - somewhat - significant moment in the history of this virry blog. One which, as it happens, came and went so fast this blogger missed it and didn't spot it until a few moments after it occurred.
So, The Olympics, dear blog reader. It's been going on for the last fortnight - you might, just have noticed. As mentioned in the previous From The North bloggerisationisms update this blogger has been really enjoying it. Anyway, now it is over and the final result was that Great Britain's team matched their medal total from London 2012 on the final day of the Tokyo games. Track cyclist Jason Kenny's historic gold medal moved Great Britain up to sixty four medals on Sunday, hours before boxer Lauren Price won another gold in the Middleweight final. That put Britain on a total of sixty five medals - equalling their performance as hosts nine years ago and making Tokyo their second-most successful overseas Olympics after Rio 2016. It all, they claimed twenty two golds, twenty one silvers and twenty two bronze medals in Japan.
Britain won sixty seven medals at the Rio Games - finishing second in the overall medal table - and UK Sport had set a medal target range of between forty five and seventy medals for these much-delayed Olympics. Simon Gleave, the head of sports analysis at Nielsen Gracenote (whoever they are), said: 'At Rio 2016, Great Britain became the first country to improve on its medal tally in the Olympics after being the host - and Team GB have now become the first to equal or win more medals at each of the next two games.' Although, as noted on this blog five years ago, after the same Simon Gleave made a complete and utter fool of himself and Nielsen Gravenote when declaring, boldly and to every national newspaper thatwould quote him that the British team was 'underperforming' during the early days of the Rio games, Simon's actual title at the company should, perhaps, be 'head of guessing ... and taking shite'.
The British team's overall performance in Tokyo has exceeded pre-games predictions of fifty two medals and fourteen golds - despite some high-profile setbacks including a shock first-round taekwondo defeat for Jade Jones, injury issues for Dina Asher-Smith, Adam Gemili and Katarina Johnson-Thompson and the withdrawal of potential gold medal shooter Amber Hill with Covid before the games started. Plus the abject failure of the entire British rowing squad to justify the massive amounts of lottery-based funding spent on them. For which they should all be thoroughly ashamed and someone, somewhere in a position of authority should probably be getting the tin-tack right about now. Britain's medal aspirations were revised down by the governing body to take account of the 'extraordinary circumstances' presented to athletes and staff in the build-up to these particular games. UK Sport claimed that success would also be measured in 'a broader and more holistic way' than just medals. But, you can guarantee that they'll now be bigging-up matching their London total and getting within two of the numbers in Rio. And, you can't really blame them for that, to be fair. The British team's chef de mission, Mark England, hailed the medal haul in Tokyo as 'the greatest achievement in British Olympic history.' Which it isnt, quite, but it's not far off. He said: 'Not only has the team made history but it has probably made history on the back of the most complex and most challenging and difficult environment that we will face certainly in my lifetime. It has been against all the odds. It has been the miracle of Tokyo.' England believes the team is 'in great shape' before the 2024 Games in Paris. 'The Bryony Pages of this team, winning another bronze after her silver medal in Rio and the women's artistic gymnastics team winning a bronze with two sixten-year-old twins - these kept the scoreboard ticking over and gave everybody the confidence that the team is in great shape,' he said. 'We've had sixteen fourth places. This is a very, very young team and a very talented team and a team I'm absolutely confident that will go to Paris in less than three years and do exceptionally well.' Six-time Olympic cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy - Chris on a Bike - told BBC Sport that the British team 'should be incredibly proud' of their achievements in Tokyo. He added: 'Expectations were mixed going into it. Certain sports didn't perform as expected, others overachieved. You get payment in kind for a gold. We have a limited pot of money and you have to use that as best you can. It's about intelligent use of money, thinking outside the box and being inventive. They have done us all proud - a great performance.' Britain won medals in twenty five sports in Tokyo - more than any other country.
A German coach was extremely thrown out of the Olympics for appearing to punch a horse who was refusing to jump or trot during the modern pentathlon competition. Kim Raisner, herself a former Olympian, was heard on German TV urging the tearful pentathlete, Annika Schleu, to 'really hit' the horse with her whip whenSchleu struggled to control the horse, Saint Boy, during the showjumping round of Friday's women's event. Schleu had been leading the competition before the equestrian stage, where athletes are given just twenty minutes to bond with a horse they have never ridden previously. Most of them manage the best they can. Schleu never even came close. Modern pentathlon's governing body, the UIPM, said that it had reviewed video footage which appeared to show Raisner - who competed at the 2004 Olympics in the modern pentathlon - striking the horse with her fist. Really hard. 'Her actions were deemed to be in violation of the UIPM competition rules, which are applied to all recognised modern pentathlon competitions including the Olympic Games,' the governing body said in a statement. 'The UIPM Executive Board has given a black card to the Germany team coach Kim Raisner, disqualifying her from the remainder of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. The EB decision was made today at the Tokyo Stadium before the resumption of the men's modern pentathlon competition.' The horse cleared just four fences before crashing into the fifth and then repeatedly refused to jump, eliminating Schleu with zero points as it had done earlier to another competitor, Gulnaz Gubaydullina. The German Modern Pentathlon Union claimed that Saint Boy had been 'traumatised by the previous rider' even before Schleu's round, during which he bucked and refused to trot around the course level Schleu in floods of snivelling tears and, apparently, feeling very sorry for herself. Which was, frankly, the single funniest moment of the entire Olympic fortnight. If you missed it, dear blog reader, trust this blogger it was a sight to see. The horse's refusal to cooperate cost Schlau dearly. After scoring zero points she fell from first position in the competition to thirty first out of thirty six competitors. Britain's Kim French subsequently claimed a dramatic gold with a superb and thrilling performance in the final run-and-shoot. As to what became of Saint Boy - surely the most misnamed horse in equine history - he was nowhere to be seen during Saturday's men's competition. Rumours that his next gig was in a can of Pedigree Chum®™™ cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied.
Miserable auld scrote Sir Van Morrison has reportedly dropped a legal challenge against the 'blanket ban' on live music in licensed venues in Northern Ireland. Which, presumably, cost him loads in legal fees. It follows the Stormont Executive's decision to allow live music to resume as it eased Covid-19 restrictions. The singer and well-known misanthrope 'welcomed' that decision but said he was 'disappointed' he had to cancel concerts in the Ulster Hall in Belfast from 29 July. Mozza has been vocal in his criticism of Covid restrictions. At the end of 2020 he released three lockdown protest songs. In September, the musician - who was last vaguely interesting sometime in the early 1990s - performed at the London Palladium at a time when restrictions were in place in Northern Ireland. He whinged: 'For some reason, completely unknown to me, [the ban] remained in force in Northern Ireland with catastrophic consequences for many artists, venues and the economy as a whole. As we look to the future, we need to understand the plan and strategy to support the arts and live music sector going forward as ultimately this helps support society as a whole. It's concerning that such considerations appear to have been forgotten.' His solicitor, Joe Rice, claimed his client had 'sought to engage constructively with government' on the issue. One or two people even believed him. No, hang on ... run that one by this blogger again. Van Morrison? 'Engage constructively'? In the same sentence ...? 'Surely some mistake? 'I know that Mister Morrison was disappointed by the failure on the part of the NI Executive to engage with him and that he was ultimately compelled to bring legal proceedings in order to achieve the lifting of the ban on live music for the benefit of fellow musicians, performers the live music sector as a whole,' continued Rice. 'He also believes that had the NI Executive engaged meaningfully with both Mister Morrison and the industry from the outset, more pre-planned events, such as his Europa Hotel and Ulster Hall concerts, could have proceeded as planned.' When legal proceedings were launched in January, a spokesman for the Department of Health said in response: 'It is an accepted scientific fact that Covid-19 can spread when people are brought together in enclosed indoor locations. Stopping the spread of the virus is a priority for governments across the world - to save lives and stop health services being overwhelmed.' When Mozza - seen below during his long and memorable 'Mister Happy-Fun-Guy' period - released his anti-lockdown songs in September, Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann wrote a scathing opinion piece for Rolling Stain magazine in response. Swann said the songs were 'dangerous', challenging Mozza to 'present his own scientific facts.' The ban on live music was lifted in Northern Ireland as of 5 July. However there were limits placed on sound levels for indoor venues. Mozza said he was 'made aware' of the decision to reopen venues without sound limits from 27 July when it was 'too late' and the Ulster Hall concerts had been cancelled.
And now, dear blog reader, the semi-regular From The North Headline of The Week award. Which goes to the BBC News website for the utterly awesome Drug Dealers Jailed After Getting Car Stuck In Trolley Bay.
A recent episode of ITV's wretched horrorshow Love Island prompted four thousand three hundred and thirty whinges to the regulator Ofcom (a politically appointed quango, elected by no one), a record for the current series. Most of those viewers said a postcard sent to female contestants during Casa Amor week, which appeared to show partners cheating, was misleading and 'caused unnecessary distress.' The week places male and female contestants in separate villas with the chance to be unfaithful. Ofcom said it was assessing whether to launch an investigation. The whinges were about the episode on 28 July. A staple of the ITV2 show, the card twist promises 'high drama' as islanders 'receive evidence of supposed transgressions' involving new recruits from the other villa. But the images frequently lack context and, received days before their original island partners return, can prompt contestants to 'act rashly under false pretences' by cheating in response. The 28 July episode attracted four times the previous highest number of complaints about a single episode this series, which started in late June. The following day, there were one hundred and three further complaints, including fifty six about the 'ongoing fallout' from the Casa Amor fiasco. This included Faye Winter (no, me neither) being 'duped' into believing her partner, Teddy Soares (likewise), had been persistently unfaithful, leading her to hook up with new Casa Amor entrant Sam Jackson in retaliation. As you do. There were six hundred and ninety nine further complaints about the 30 July episode, of which six hundred and eighty two cited the 'manipulation' of the couple, who have since got back together. Presumably, the other seventeen were from people who felt that their intelligence had been insulted by having this horseshit beamed into their living rooms. There were one hundred and seventeen complaints about the 1 August episode, of which ninety five related to the treatment of Millie Court after her split from Liam Reardon. The postcard also led Kaz Kamwi to separate from Tyler Cruickshank. Apparently. The impact of fame on the mental health of Love Island contestants and the aftercare offered to them has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. ITV introduced 'revised duty of care protocols' this year, including training islanders on how to handle the 'potential negativity' of social media. And, of the withering scorn of 'normal' people.
The Rolling Stones drummer, the Godlike genius that is Charlie Watts, is expected to miss the band's forthcoming US tour dates as he recovers from an unspecified medical procedure. 'For once my timing has been a little off,' the eighty-year-old said in a statement, revealing he had been told it would 'take a while' for him to 'get fully fit.' Sir Mick Jagger said the band looked forward to welcoming Watts back 'as soon as he is fully recovered.' Steve Jordan will fill in when The Stones resume their No Filter Tour in September. The musician has worked with Stones guitarist Saint Keith Richards on his side project X-Pensive Winos and is also a member of The John Mayer Trio. Watts' spokesman said that while his procedure had been 'completely successful', the drummer had been told by doctors he needs 'proper rest and recuperation.' He said it was 'very disappointing' that Watts was unlikely to be able to go back on the road at present, adding that 'no-one saw this coming.' Watts said: 'I am working hard to get fully fit but I have today accepted on the advice of the experts that this will take a while. After all the fans' suffering caused by Covid I really do not want the many [Rolling Stones] fans who have been holding tickets for this tour to be disappointed by another postponement or cancellation.' The Stones' first concert will be in St Louis on 26 September. They will be the legendary band's first performances since the virtual rendition of 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' during the One World: Together At Home concert in April 2020. Jordan said it was an 'absolute honour and privilege' to be Watts' understudy. 'No-one will be happier than me to give up my seat on the drum-riser as soon as Charlie tells me he is good to go,' the sixty four-year-old added. Watts was previously treated for throat cancer in 2004. He has been a member of the Stones since January 1963, when he joined Jagger, Richards and Brian Jones in their fledgling group.
UK adults spent nearly a third of their waking hours watching TV and online video content in 2020, according to a report from regulator Ofcom. A politically appointed quango, elected by no-one. Screen time, spurred on by pandemic lockdowns, was a daily average of five hours and forty minutes, up forty seven minutes on the previous year. Which, if true, means this blogger is doing at least two people's jobs, daily. Possibly three. For the first time, more households had a Netflix subscription than a paid TV account such as cable or satellite. And nearly eighty per cent of households now have their TVs connected to the Internet. The Media Nations Report, which Ofcom compiles annually, found that Covid-19 restrictions were the main drivers for the increase in screen time, especially for on-demand content. It helped the UK's public service broadcasters secure some of their highest TV viewing figures for five years. But the highest growth was seen in video-on-demand, with time spent on services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video almost doubling in 2020 to an estimated one hour and five minutes per person per day. Such services were used by sixty per cent of all UK households by the third quarter of 2020, up from forty nine per cent a year earlier. YouTube remained the most popular user-generated online video service, with people spending an estimated forty one minutes per day watching videos on its channels. But Chinese-owned video app TikTok is also gaining in popularity and was being used by thirty one per cent of adult Internet users by March 2021. Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom's group director of research, said: 'TV and online video have proved an important antidote to lockdown life, with people spending a third of their waking hours last year glued to screens for news and entertainment. The pandemic undoubtedly turbo-charged viewing to streaming services, with three-in-five UK homes now signed up.' Some twenty nine of the thirty most watched titles on subscription services were on Netflix, including Bridgerton, The Dig, Behind Her Eyes and Fate: The Winx Saga. And, during the UK's winter lockdowns, people sought to cheer themselves up by spending almost an hour a day watching comedy programmes. The average time spent watching traditional broadcast TV each day was just over three hours, but this was mostly driven by people aged forty five and over. Younger age groups spent far less time on linear TV, with those aged sixteen to twenty four only spending just over an hour watching broadcast content, slightly down from the figures in 2019.