BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 24, 2006 - December 30, 2006

Your letters

16:17 UK time, Friday, 29 December 2006

Re: living people appearing on stamps. After showing Sir Francis Chichester on a stamp in 1967, Roger Taylor (in the background of a Freddie Mercury stamp) in 1999 and England's World Cup winning Rugby Union team in 2003, all whilst still living, the Royal Mail abandonned the rule preventing living people (other than members of the Royal Family) from appearing on stamps in October 2005 to coincide with the commemorative Ashes winning stamps.
Iain, Cheltenham

According to US body backs sale of cloned food "cloned animals produced food products virtually indistinguishable from more traditional offerings". Virtually indistinguishable? I thought the whole point of cloned animals was that they were supposed to be totally indistinguishable?
Adam, London

Could I take this opportunity to wish all Magazine readers a happy new year from all of us gathered below the musty rafters of Shandy Hall. The hungry maw of news can go without feeding for a few days at least.
Tristram Shandy, Shandy Hall

Cheers Tristram, how's your nose?
Imogen, London

Imogen, like life, it's a rather pointed joke. Yours to 2007, as above. Exeunt omnes.
Tristram Shandy, Shandy Hall


Paper Monitor

12:13 UK time, Friday, 29 December 2006

Let’s be honest, it’s Christmas week, everyone else has their feet up, possibly glass in hand, just about lively enough to operate the remote control.

And in news terms, it’s a kind of mid-winter silly season, becalmed between the Christmas rush and the starting gun being fired for the new year.

This opens the door to all kinds of news that otherwise might have struggled to make it into the national press. A story about a bloke who made a Lego model of an aircraft carrier? Yep, that’ll make a big colour picture in the Sun.

Red kite numbers falling in Scotland? You mean great big pictures of birds? Yep, full page in the Guardian.

Shoes that can be used as mini vacuum cleaners and Norman Cook giving a lift to a couple of stranded motorists… both figure prominently in the Daily Express.

Mind you, the Express goes the extra mile with a classic trio of female faces on its front page. Diana, natch. Then Kate Middleton, as a sort of Diana noveau. Then Eva Longoria, the Desperate Housewives star. Why Ms Longoria (who appears not just once, but in three photographs)? She was opening the Harrods sale… and wasn’t the owner of that establishment somehow connected to the Diana story?

At least the Express remembers the importance of tradition at this time of year.

Daily Mini-Quiz

11:12 UK time, Friday, 29 December 2006

Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked which album isn't going to feature on the Beatles stamp set - with the correct answer, Beatles For Sale, spotted by 44% of readers. The current quiz is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

15:57 UK time, Thursday, 28 December 2006

Regarding the Beatles to be pictured on Royal Mail stamps story, I was led to believe that, with the exception of the Queen, only dead people could be pictured on British postage stamps. Clearly this is untrue. But was it ever the case? And, if so, when did the law change?
Mark Worogrow, Plymouth

Whilst reading the 100 things we didn't know last year I discovered, and I quote, "English is now the only 'traditional' (your inverted comma's) academic subject in the top 10 most popular university courses." Can I please ask what exactly is a traditional academic subject? The list given includes law so obviously law is not academic subject. That could make for interesting discourse at the bar.
Mark Gibson, Belfast

From the "100 things that we didn't know last year" list, can we infer that 3% of stories on the BBC News site involved cows?
Flick M, London

You should know that although standard allotments plots may be 10 poles, not all local councils use such antiquated measures. According to my council, my allotment is 16 rods.
Adam, London, UK

100 things we didn't know last year

12:22 UK time, Thursday, 28 December 2006

100_203.gifEach week, the Magazine chronicles interesting and sometimes downright unexpected facts from the news, through its strand 10 things we didn't know last week. Here, to round off the year, are some of the best from the past 12 months.

1. Pele has always hated his nickname, which he says sounds like "baby-talk in Portuguese".
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2. There are 200 million blogs which are no longer being updated, say technology analysts.
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3. Urban birds have developed a short, fast "rap style" of singing, different from their rural counterparts.
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4. Bristol is the least anti-social place in England, says the National Audit Office.
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5. Standard-sized condoms are too big for most Indian men.
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6. The late Alan "Fluff" Freeman, famous as a DJ, had trained as an opera singer.
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7. The lion costume in the film Wizard of Oz was made from real lions.
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8. There are 6.5 million sets of fingerprints on file in the UK.
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9. Fathers tend to determine the height of their child, mothers their weight.
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10. Panspermia is the idea that life on Earth originated on another planet.
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11. An infestation of head lice is called pediculosis.
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12. The Pope's been known to wear red Prada shoes.
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13. The fastest supercomputer in the UK can make 15.4 trillion calculations per second.
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14. Online shoppers will only wait an average of four seconds for an internet page to load before giving up.
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15. Donald Rumsfeld was both the youngest and the oldest defence secretary in US history.
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16. Spending on Halloween has risen 10-fold - from £12m to £120m in the UK, in five years.
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17. Coco Chanel started the trend for sun tans in 1923 when she got accidentally burnt on a cruise.
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18. Up to 25% of hospital keyboards carry the MRSA infection.
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19. The UK population grew at a rate of 500 per day last year as immigration out-stripped emigration.
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20. Sex workers in Roman times charged the equivalent price of eight glasses of red wine.
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21. English is now the only "traditional" academic subject in the top 10 most popular university courses.
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22. The number of people committing suicide in the UK has fallen to its lowest recorded level.
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23. More than one in eight people in the United States show signs of addiction to the internet, says a study.
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24. One third of all the cod fished in the world is consumed in the UK.
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25. In Kingston upon Thames, men on average live to be 78. In Kingston-upon-Hull it is 73.
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26. Each person sends an average of 55 greetings cards per year.
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27. Just one cow gives off enough harmful methane gas in a single day to fill around 400 litre bottles.
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28. More than 90% of plane crashes have survivors.
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29. Tony Blair’s favourite meal to cook is spaghetti bolognaise.
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30. The brain is soft and gelatinous - its consistency is something between jelly and cooked pasta.
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31. The Mona Lisa used to hang on the wall of Napoleon’s bedroom.
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32. Barbie's full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts.
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33. Eating a packet of crisps a day is equivalent to drinking five litres of cooking oil a year.
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34. Plant seeds that have been stored for more than 200 years can be coaxed into new life.
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35. There were no numbers in the very first UK phone directory, only names and addresses. Operators would connect callers.
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36. The InterCity 125 train was designed by the same man who came up with the angle-poise lamp and Kenwood Chef mixer.
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37. Pavements are tested using an 80 square metre artificial pavement at a research centre called Pamela (the Pedestrian Accessibility and Movement Environment Laboratory).
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38. A common American poplar has twice as many genes as a human being.
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39. The world's fastest supercomputer will have its speed measured in "petaflops", which represent 1,000 trillion calculations per second. More details

40. The medical name for the part of the brain associated with teenage sulking is "superior temporal sulcus".
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41. Some Royal Mail stamps, which of course carry the Queen's image, are printed in Holland.
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42. Helen Mirren was born Ilyena Lydia Mironov, the daughter of a Russian-born violinist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
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43. There is only one cheddar cheese maker in Cheddar, even though cheddar is the most popular hard cheese in the English-speaking world.
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44. For every 10 successful attempts to climb Mount Everest there is one fatality.
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45. Cows can have regional accents, says a professor of phonetics, after studying cattle in Somerset
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46. Involuntary bad language, a symptom affecting about one in 10 people with Tourette's syndrome, is called "coprolalia".
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47. Watching television can act as a natural painkiller for children, say researchers from the University of Siena.
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48. Allotment plots come in the standard measure of 10 poles - a pole is the length of the back of the plough to the nose of the ox.
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49. When filming summer scenes in winter, actors suck on ice cubes just before the camera rolls - it cools their mouths so their breath doesn't condense in the cold air.
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50. There are 60 Acacia Avenues in the UK.
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51. Gritters come out in hot weather too - to spread rock dust, which stops roads melting.
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52. Forty-eight percent of the population is ex-directory.
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53. Red Buttons - real name Aaron Chwatt - took his surname from the nickname for hotel porters, a job he did in his teens.
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54. The CND symbol incorporates the semaphore letters for N and D for nuclear and disarmament.
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55. While 53% of households have access to a garage, only 24% use them for parking cars.
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56. Mortgage borrowing now accounts for 42% of take-home salary.
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57. The word "time" is the most common noun in the English language, according to the latest Oxford dictionary.
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58. Forty-one percent of English women have punched or kicked their partners, according to a study.
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59. Dogs with harelips can end up with two noses.
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60. The clitoris derives its name from the ancient Greek word kleitoris, meaning "little hill".
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61. A domestic cat can frighten a black bear to climb a tree.
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62. Thirty-four percent of the UK has a surname that is ranked as "posher" than the Royal Family's given name, Windsor.
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63. The Downing St garden is actually a Royal Park.
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64. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobiacs is the term for people who fear the number 666.
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65. The more panels a football has - and therefore the more seams - the easier it is to control in the air.
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66. One in four smokers use roll-ups.
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67. Music can help reduce chronic pain by more than 20% and can alleviate depression by up to 25%.
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68. The egg came first.
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69. Humans were first infected with the HIV virus in the 1930s.
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70. Sir Paul McCartney is only the second richest music millionaire in the UK - Clive Calder, is top.
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71. Publishers have coined the term "Brownsploitation" for the rash of books that have sprung up in the wake of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code blockbuster.
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72. Modern teenagers are better behaved than their counterparts of 20 years ago, showing "less problematic behaviour" involving sex, drugs and drink.
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73. George Bush's personal highlight of his presidency is catching a 7.5lb (3.4kg) perch.
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74. Britain is still paying off debts that predate the Napoleonic wars because it's cheaper to do so than buy back the bonds on which they are based.
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75. Five billion apples are eaten a year in the UK.
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76. In Bhutan government policy is based on Gross National Happiness; thus most street advertising is banned, as are tobacco and plastic bags.
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77. Metal detector enthusiasts are referred to as "detectorists"; there are about 30,000 in the UK.
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78. The Labour Party spent £299.63 on Star Trek outfits for the last election, while the Tories shelled out £1,269 to import groundhog costumes.
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79. The best-value consumer purchase in terms of the price and usage is an electric kettle.
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80. Camel's milk, which is widely drunk in Arab countries, has 10 times more iron than cow's milk.
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81. Iceland has the highest concentration of broadband users in the world.
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82. There are 2.5 million rodent-owning households in Britain, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association.
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83. Rainfall on the roof and gutters of a three-bed detached house can amount to 120,000 litres each year.
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84. Thinking about your muscles can make you stronger.
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85. The age limit for marriage in France was, until recently, 15 for girls, but 18 for boys. The age for girls was raised to 18 in 2006.
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86. Six million people use TV subtitles, despite having no hearing impairment.
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87. Goths, those pasty-faced teenagers who revel in black clothing, are likely to become doctors, lawyers and architects.
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88. Nelson Mandela used to steal pigs as a child.
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89. There are an average of 4.4 sparrows in each British garden. In 1979, there were 10 per garden.
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90. The Himalayas cover one-tenth of the Earth's surface.
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91. Lord Levy, recruited by Tony Blair to raise money for the Labour party, made his own fortune managing Alvin Stardust, among others.
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92. In a fight between a polar bear and a lion, the polar bear would win.
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93. If left alone, 70% of birthmarks gradually fade away.
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94. There are two million cars and trucks in Brazil which run on alcohol.
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95. US Secret Service sniffer dogs are put up in five-star hotels during overseas presidential visits.
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96. Flushing a toilet costs, on average, 1.5p.
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97. Tufty the road safety squirrel had a surname. It was Fluffytail.
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98. A "lost world" exists in the Indonesian jungle that is home to dozens of hitherto unknown animal and plant species.
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99. The term "misfeasance" means to carry out a legal act illegally.
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100. In the 1960s, the CIA used to watch Mission Impossible to get ideas about spying.
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Phew. If, after all that, you're still craving news-y facts, click here for an archive of 10 things.

Paper Monitor

11:27 UK time, Thursday, 28 December 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The drama and details of Tony Blair's Christmas holiday plans make it hard to know what the top line of the story might be. On the one hand, the prime minister had a close shave after the Jumbo carrying him and his family to Florida overshot the runway at Miami airport. On the other, the Blairs are again availing themselves of a celebrity pad – in this case, Bee Gee's singer Robin Gibb's 10-bedroom gaff in Florida.

The Sun ties both strands together with the neat headline "Stayin' Alive", while the Daily Mail spies an empty soapbox, and duly occupies it. "Shameless" runs its front page splash, accusing the Blairs of holidaying for free, at the Gibbs' expense.

And, not for the first time (remember the French villa where they stayed which had once allegedly been the venue for a porn film?), sex and sleaze cloud their choice of destination. The Mail summons the memory of a recent party staged by the Gibbs at the mansion, held in aid of an Aids charity.

Robin "sits alone by the fire, staring into the flames… lost in thought and [showing] little interest in his bisexual Druid priestess wife and her lesbian coterie".

Just to recap: that's bisexual, Druid, priestess and lesbian.

And that's before you get to the "leather wearing", "ample bosom" and "three drag queens". So outraged is the Mail, it fails to even mention Gibb's criminal mullet hairstyle, capped-sleeved T-shirt combo in an archive picture printed by the paper.

But wait, there's more sex still - the Gibbs' home was apparently where John F Kennedy bedded Marilyn Monroe and other paramours.

A final point of mild, and largely irrelevant, interest is that Mrs Gibb used to run a beanbag factory in Plumstead.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:51 UK time, Thursday, 28 December 2006

Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked which bit of kit do British soldiers sometimes take on raids in Iraq? The correct answer is colouring books and crayons – which scored 42% of responses. They are for any children in the property being searched. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine page.

Your letters

14:24 UK time, Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Re Sense and scent ability - my mother has never been able to smell apart from petrol and Yardley's Bond Street Perfume. As a child I was forever being asked to smell this or that to see if it was still fresh (I still cringe when I have to smell milk) but it's made me aware of how often people take smell for granted. A smell isn't just a smell, it paints a picture and stirs emotions, awakens memories and even spurs ideas. Smell is incredibly important to me and without realising it I've passed this onto my children - my mother is disgusted that we smell everything before eating and that the children are obsessed with smelling the pages of a book, their hands when they've just washed them, and new shoes. Mum, it's because they smell good.
Sarah, Yorkshire

I realised I had lost my sense of smell about three months after I had noticed that breaking wind (strangely) no longer had any unpleasantness attached to it. Imagine my embarrassment when I realised what the real problem was. A course of steroid drops temporarily reminded me of what I'd been missing (but what everyone else had been suffering).
Tony C, Lancaster, UK

In Blair flight in runway confusion, there was no injury, no damage, and if Mr Blair was not on the plane, it would not have been news. Move along, nothing to see here.
Ernest Winston, Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK

Re Best of the caption competition. I was greatly amused by the Dubya bowling pic - and caption. But Mr Bush so lends himself to the cap comp that it must have been nigh on impossible to pick just that one. How best to pick one's favourite? Mine has to be the one of him holding the drill... no, the crying baby... no, the cricket one. Shesh! Anyone out there more decisive than me?
Howard, Bakewell

Paper Monitor

12:41 UK time, Wednesday, 27 December 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily papers.

It's no longer officially a holiday, but the mood prevails. Thus the few events of the day do make it into print, but squeezed in between bulletins from the front lines of that festive feeling.

The Guardian's front page is dominated by a foolhardy bunch of midwinter swimmers splashing into the briny waves near Swansea, their attire consisting of little more than a pair of briefs and a determined stare. And there are, unsurprisingly, reports on the expected feeding frenzy at the sales.

Inside, G2 is given over to all manner of puzzles (for much of the readership will be still curled up in front of the fire, rousing only to nod acceptance of another gin and Fairtrade tonic).

In the Daily Telegraph, a swarm of red-coated riders raise a toast before setting out on their tradtional Boxing Day hunt, the gathering filmed by a police crew in case things "got out of hand". Fittingly, the paper has seen fit to turn in one of its traditional page threes, today dedicated to those glorious gels who have been frontispieces in Country Life, a magazine that is right up the paper's street. All the Telegraph boxes are ticked thanks to an assortment of fine fillies with posho names like Eugenie, Chloe and Clarissa. My, don't they look fetching.

Perhaps predictably, the paper's Boxing Day sales correspondent reports from Selfridge's, where it's elbows at dawn. Equally predictably, the Daily Express hits Bluewater and Gateshead's MetroCentre. But no sign of you-know-who yet, and Paper Monitor is 15 pages into its edition of the Express.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:52 UK time, Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Welcome back, the Monitor has resurfaced after scoffing just a few too many of those mince pies. Oh, and sherry, even though it was Father Christmas it was left out for. Yesterday we asked what's the current record for people squeezing into a phone box, now that the one made famous by the film Local Hero is aiming to break that record. Fourteen is the number to beat, which 59% of you go right. Another 28% said 19, and 13% said nine. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

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