BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 21, 2008 - December 27, 2008

Paper Monitor

11:37 UK time, Friday, 26 December 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's above and beyone the call of duty, but Paper Monitor - armed with turkey sandwiches - has come in to work. Well, what else do you do on Boxing Day but digest your round-up of the papers, along with all the food you ate yesterday.

Today is a very quick masterclass in how to get your picture in the Boxing Day papers. The sure-fire ways are:

1: Wear a silly hat to church if you're a royal. Step up Zara Phillips, who looks like she's got a big Quality Street on her head - the yummy purple caramel and nut one. That gets you on the front page on the Daily Mail and Express and in most other papers.

2: Wear a santa-style bikini - red with white fake-fur trim - and go swimming in the sea in this country on Christmas Day. You may freeze to death you'll get on page three of the Express.

3: Just wear a bikini if you're young, pretty, a celebrity and on holiday. That got Jennifer Ellison on the front page of the Sun and a full-page spread on page three.

4: Just wear a bikini for the hell of it if you're famous for your body. Step up Jordan, who chose to wear a black bikini top, pink tutu and pink wings to celebrate Christmas with her family. That outfit will got her on page 31 of the Sun.

Anyone would think it was a quiet time for newspapers.

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:11 UK time, Friday, 26 December 2008

"Calm down dear, it's only a recession" - The slogan on Michael Winner's T-shirt while on holiday in Barbados. It was a play on his "Calm down, dear, it's only a commercial" ads for Esure insurance.

Your Letters

15:01 UK time, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Re Simon's sprouts (Letters, Tuesday). I don't think so Simon. Mine have been on at a rolling simmer since Derby Day, but then I like them al dente. You must have teeth like a bear trap.
Vicky, East London

Thanks for the reminder, Simon, and is it today we roll a couple of tangerines under the sofa and leave a mince pie on top of the bookshelf?
**Dear MM. Just about sobered up now, apologies again. Cringe..**
Stig, London, UK

I was amazed.... I bought something off the internet for a Christmas present on the 23rd of December ( I was a little slow this year on getting things sorted out) and didn't think it would arrive until sometime next week. It arrived today in the morning post. Amazing. Well done, Royal Mail!
Tash, Sussex

Why is it that three parcels out of seven didn't get delivered to my house in December? Could this be because that although the Royal Mail state they don't take on temporary workers at Christmas they were advertising for them in my local Post Office? I have no missing parcels all year until December. Strange coincidence isn't it?
Julia Kapherr, Leeds

Re the Daily Mini-Quiz and Woolies' store safe going for £300... does it have £299.00 in cash inside once you've bought it?
Maisy, Milton Keynes

The Italian priest who "ruined kids' Christmas" in fact got it wrong. He could at least have told them the legend of King Wenceslas to explain Father Christmas. There's even a legend on Wikipedia to explain the Befana, if he had wanted to go that far.
Geoffrey, Rome, Italy

A brilliant RR, Kerry Rose. It is for similar reasons that I declined, some years ago, to renew subscription to that well-known friends' website. This site was the epitome of the world-wide RR. Those who had joined in the early days had all, it seemed, emigrated to sunnier, exotic climes and were sooo pleased to tell everyone this exciting news. So successful was this approach, it set the pattern for others joining in the fun. My "still in the UK" comment soon brought about an end to the gushing requests for contact with a view to renewing friendships and nothing was heard since. I have an idea there resides more expats in the UK than was first thought.
Brianonthecam, Cambridge UK

Round Robin? Er, no. The "One Size Fits All" annual letter you describe as a Round Robin is no such thing. A Round Robin letter is an accusatory note signed by a few individuals writing their names in a circle so that no one person can be identified as the instigator
Keith, Lismore, Ireland

Dan's game (Letters, Tuesday) is indeed fun. I got "Gene clues double thief", "Brazil experts help hen retreat", "Iraqi Bank: Iran hazardous", "City investor survives private high", and "Attenborough bail helps Hilton sheep".
Robert, Melbourne, Australia

We would like to inform all our friends that we will not be sending out Christmas cards by post this year. Instead we will be posting a cheery and seasonal greeting within the pages of the BBC Magazine Monitor. Merry Christmas everybody.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

May I be the first to wish everyone a very happy Easter?
Bod, Cambridge

Results: Design a cover for the Magazine's 2008 Annual

13:19 UK time, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Behold, white smoke.

The winner of the competition to design a cover for the Magazine's 2008 Annual is Paula Lewis. Her design was selected by Matt Jones, the original designer of the BBC News website, from a shortlist of four.

It will be revealed next week, with the publication of the downloadable Magazine 2008 Annual.

Paper Monitor

12:21 UK time, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Postie may have largely delivered to those generous volunteers who took part in Old Pa Monitor's Going Postal III challenge, but lil ole Paper Monitor has been left feeling something of the Tiny Tims as the paper boy seems to have gone awol.

So, at the risk of disobeying the sage advice of Martin Fry - "If you judge a book by the cover, then you'd judge the look by the lover" (eh?), Paper Monitor must fall back on the photostat-style front pages that arrive at the BBC each evening, at which Mr Paxman and Mrs Wark have first dibs.

Santa hats seem to be the order of the day - gracing pictures on the front of the Mail (as worn by a toddler who has beaten remarkable odds against sickness), the Sun (snapped on the heads of two Royal Marines in Afghanistan who found their carol service interrupted by Taleban fire), the Guardian (where two young ice skaters cling to each other as they try to maintain their balance), and the Daily Sport (modelled by a lady who, given the scarcity of the rest of her outfit, must surely be grateful for the climatic conditions that mean a white Christmas is looking like a very remote possibility).

In fact, Her Majesty, pictured on the front of the Telegraph almost stands alone for not sporting any Santa garb. At which point Paper Monitor must take its leave to partake in some festive gluttony. But before doing so, a word of advice from the Lexicon of Love to any readers with similar plans:

I hope you'll soon recover. Me I go from one extreme to another.

Crunch Creep

10:05 UK time, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Strange, tangential and often unlikely events laid at the door of the credit crunch, with an added festive flavour.

Sales of trousers with elasticated waists have risen 16 per cent because shoppers are buying more durable clothes because of the credit crunch.
More details (Sunday Telegraph)

Coronation Street stars are fed-up because money-saving bosses have scrapped the catering van on set which dishes out tea and bacon butties to cast and crew.
More details (Manchester Evening News)

Birds Eye is bringing back the Arctic Roll, that defining pudding of the 70s and 80s, because it is very affordable in these hard times.
More details (Guardian)

Cadbury has ditched mini Crunchies and Dreams from boxes of Heroes and replaced them with cheaper alternatives such as mini-Bourneville bars, Eclairs and Fudge.
More details (Express)

Membership is booming at internet dating sites as the credit crunch brings a rush to find a partner to share the pain.
More details (Independent)

A book that taught Britons how to feed themselves cheaply during World War II rationing is flying off the shelves because of the credit crunch.
More details (Express)

Clerics believe the credit crunch is responsible for a steady rise in people going to church.
More details (Independent)

The number of people owning helicopters in Ireland is falling for the first time in more than a decade due to the credit crunch.
(The Sun)

Sales of smoothies, yoghurt drinks and bottled water have all fallen because of the credit crunch.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

And with a special festive flavour...

The credit crisis is hitting the Christmas getaway, with people choosing to travel by train rather than driving or flying.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Christmas cards sent out by the rich and famous - including the Royal Family and Gordon Brown - are more downbeat this year because of the economic crisis.
More details (Guardian)

There will be more repeats on TV than ever before over the festive season and industry experts are blaming the economic crisis.
More details (Daily Mail)

Bankers have become the new pantomime villains because of the credit crunch.
More details (Guardian)

Children will get half as much in their stockings this Christmas as the credit crunch bites.
More details (The Sun)

Going Postal III

10:00 UK time, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

post_graph226x196_24.gif Those people disappointed to hear that the price of stamps is to rise 3p in the new year should draw some comfort from the sterling work of Royal Mail.

Let's hear it for our posties, who delivered 23 of the Magazine's 25 Christmas cards by Tuesday - a full day before Royal Mail's deadline.

The cards were posted second-class on Thursday from west London to 25 volunteers across the UK. That was the last day that second-class post could be posted to make Christmas.

Only two have yet to arrive, the ones destined for Little Neston in South Wirral and Bradford. But they may yet land on doormats in the Christmas Eve delivery.


UPDATE 1515 GMT: Still no word on the last two cards. So, to Natalie and Kerry, and all our readers, Happy Christmas from the Magazine team!

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:59 UK time, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

"What is this, the effing Beverly Hillbillies? Maybe there's diamond mines under the Lidl too" - Housing estate resident Gary Patterson on plans to dig for oil under his home

Oil firm Northern Petroleum believes it has detected a huge field of "black gold" under the Leigh Park housing estate in Havant, Hampshire.
More details (the Sun)

Your Letters

15:48 UK time, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Just a reminder that to get your sprouts just right, they should be put on to boil today.
Simon Rooke, Nottingham, UK

The quote of the day makes me wonder whether Mr Wilson listens to the instruction to switch off electronic devices during takeoff and landing, or whether this second crash is slightly less than surprising.
Ed, Clacton, UK

I, like most people I imagine, read your round-robin letter in the following order:
First few paragraphs
Next paragraph up
Next up...
and so on, until it made sense.
Liam, Chesterfield, UK

I hope Kerry Rose has room for all the kudos that must surely be winging its way to her for that brilliant round-robin letter. Well done that lady.
CS, Manchester, England

Fun Christmas game - take any vertical list of headlines on the BBC News website, and make a sentence using the first word from the first headline, the second word from the second, and so on. Add quotation marks if desired. Points for coherence or amusement. So far I have "Chambers 'knocked widow' contest criticised", "Dubai issues RBS with death", and "Mosquito actor pictures 'really gay'". Enjoy.
Dan, Oxford, UK

Re Going Postal III, I just had to say that yesterday I received a letter with the flap folded in, not glued. It was quite a large envelope and a card not yet postmarked, meant for Walthamstow, had been trapped in the fold and ended up on my desk. I put it back in the post but I don't suppose it's going to be delivered in time for Christmas now. And who do you think will get lambasted for this?
Aine, Sydenham

Am I the only person who has never heard of Adrian Chiles (daily mini-question), let alone seen him on TV this year?
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

It is my last day of work before the New Year, and I have a major business report to write and send before 3pm so naturally my thoughts turn to the Monitor. I hope that you and yours (yours, in this instance, meaning several thousand readers) have an enjoyable festive break. I would like to say Happy Christmas, but of course I also have to say Happy Holidays or Seasonal Greetings. Mind you, one of my colleagues is a Jehovah's Witness, so I suppose I ought to also say Christmas (without the Happy). There are a variety of other groups who may also feel excluded, so hello and goodwill to all of you too. Except the woman in the Peugeot 206 who nearly killed me on the M6 at the weekend. She gets no goodwill except a profound hope that in 2009 she takes some driving lessons, or has her car impounded for the good of mankind.
The Therapist, Portsmouth, UK

Paper Moniter, I am here (still) and will be until 17.00 Wednesday (although I may be going home at some point to sleep. Maybe.) So please don't give up on me yet. I need you to cheer me up at lunchtime. And if you could make sure that you have a batch of letters posted by 12.00, I might just remember to drop off that bottle of whiskey you wanted.
Robyn, Cheshire

Dear All,

13:07 UK time, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Hayrick Cottage
Oil Sump Lane
Lower Phlegmington

Amazingly, Christmas is once more almost upon us, and, as I remarked to Colin whilst he was worming Bodger, we really must make a window in our busy, busy lives to bring all our wonderful, but neglected friends up to date with our doings!

January saw the year start with some good news for a change - Colin's long-awaited promotion at Prestwick's from under-assistant executive central heating operative to assistant executive central heating operative - and all within four years of joining!! His boss, Mr Cordwaining was extremely complimentary, and predicts another rise up the corporate ladder within five to seven years. It's not everyone who can achieve so much in such a short space of time, but Colin has always been ambitious.

Gordon from next door stood us a slap up meal at the Hollywood Diner at Witherington Parva in honour of St Valentine's Day in February. He and Yvette really are super friends. His excessive love of leather, her facial piercings and perhaps an over-attachment to french kissing notwithstanding, we are both looking forward no end to making the acquaintance of lots of new chums at their forthcoming Leather Liggers ball. As Colin remarked whilst he was unstopping the sink on Tuesday, it's about time we had some new blood in the area.

March came and went without too much gadding about to worry us - the twins were once again on form at the Pancake Tossers' shingdig, very kindly held in the Rectory. The Rev Vivian Knobbs-Varley has made a big impression on the community since his arrival, and although his disciplinary methods may be unorthodox, the choir has never been so well behaved, nor in such fine voice, and a light tap now and again on the cassock can hardly be considered corporal punishment.

In April, Hilary was engaged once again as an adjudicator at the Grand Easter Bonnet Parade, which wends its way through the town and on to Honstanton-in-the-Wold. Mother, of course, was present and her much-admired comedy breasts enjoyed yet another outing. How we laughed!

At Prestwick's annual beano to Snotterton in May, Colin drew gasps of amazement and, dare we say it, envy, when he produced his hand-knitted beach ensemble. It's unravelling in the sea was totally unexpected, and the police should never have been involved. Our thanks to Stella Shuddock for her speedy arrival with the sewing box.

Page 2.

June saw the County Fayre with a return of the much-loved pig-fanciers' Royal Cup. No surprises at all when Wallie Pratt received the coveted trophy for Porker of the Year, and no doubt Janet will soon be giving it the first of many a rub-down over the coming 12 months.

July, and the end of the school year brought fair to middling results from the twins. Personally, I thought their form mistress, Miss Vole, still held a grudge, and as I told her at the parents' evening, if the twins can forget about the inflatable doll episode, I'd have thought she could too. Happily, neither was expecting to need formal qualifications for their chosen careers - Weston applied like mad to every secretarial college in the area and we all felt that Elvis would walk into the Army - so we weren't over-bothered about exam results.

August saw the family depart for our annual holiday abroad at Pontins, Llandudno. The twins once again surpassed previous years' efforts and entered the fancy dress parade on the final evening as Norman and Mrs Bates from Psycho. Gasps of admiration followed their entrance into the main hall, but sadly, they were pipped at the post in the main category by Eric and Beverley Lubbock's rather showy effort of an Eastenders tableau, but picked up a prize for weirdness in the Novelty section.

September arrived and with it the Harvest Festival, where we seemed to have surprisingly more than the usual amount of recipients for a Parish Hamper. I never thought I'd see the day when Major Tersington-Sozzelle needed a free can of custard, but there you go - what with the abolition of the Lords and the end to fox-hunting, it just goes to show, "you never can tell". The poor Major hasn't been the same since his wife left him for another woman, and as I said to Colin, if a dessert sauce can put a smile back on the Major's face, who are we to judge?

October was a month of even more surprises. You could have knocked me down with a feather when Elvis got a rejection from HM Forces. He was devastated by the nit-picking attitude of the Board of Assessors, who apparently took exception to his, perhaps, rather right-wing views. You'd have thought they'd have been grateful! Luckily, they were hiring at Fjooke's herring factory in Skeet, so Elvis (that boy does lead a charmed life!) has once again fallen on his feet. He does, however, have rather a ferocious appearance at present. Having rather hastily anticipated a place at boot-camp, he got his mates to shave his head, and needless to say, they took him a tad too literally. Never mind, it'll soon grow back, and the skin is healing over nicely now.

Meanwhile in November Weston landed a position with the Reverend Knobbs-Varley at the Rectory as his "aide de camp". Not only does he get all his meals, but such is his worth to the Rev, that he's been asked "over" on occasion to help out at the increasing number of dinner parties being held. Gordon and Yvette have been to one and they said it was "exceptional".

Page 3.

So friends, we're sure you can understand why Hilary and Colin have been unable to write to you since Colin's enforced holiday in October 1997 (charges were finally dropped). So many friends, such busy and productive lives - it's a wonder we can fit in writing the Christmas cards!! We hope you all keep in good health, and to save postage, the twins have drawn stamps of their own design on the envelopes - enjoy!

Ahoy Hoy!

Colin and Hilary Smout
plus twins, Weston and Elvis, now 18 - watch out girls!


Colin has just informed me that he is becoming increasingly interested in cross-dressing. No doubt this startling piece of information will impact greatly - and hopefully, beneficially! - on our social lives. More anon...

(With thanks to Magazine reader Kerry Rose, of Kent, who sent this in response to Why are round-robin letters so annoying?)

Paper Monitor

12:38 UK time, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is anybody still out there? The first sign that just a handful of workers remain at their desks came this morning when Paper Monitor picked up an unusually light copy of the Times at the newsagents.

And it was the same with most of the other papers. If only one had a set of bathroom scales to hand...

... but instead special mention will go to the Guardian for channelling Brass Eye in its front page headlines:
"Government buildings emit more CO2 than all of Kenya"
"High flyers: bees on cocaine 'behave like humans'"

Like humans? Like humans in general, or humans on the happy-chatty powder?

The answer lies within the article, although Paper Monitor has yet to work out why one might give a bee coke. But here's what happened - the insects "threw themselves into unusually energetic dance routines, felt compelled to 'talk' to their nest mates - and even went 'cold turkey'..."

While on the topic of drugs, yesterday Paper Monitor - inspired by the Financial Times end of year quiz - asked which cast member of The Wire was once in Absolutely Fabulous. No-one guessed, but it was Stringer Bell, played by Hackney's own Idris Elba - whose first television role was as a gigolo named Hilton, pawed by Patsy in an episode titled Sex from series three. The scene in question is on a popular video sharing website, should you care to take a look.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:23 UK time, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

denverplanecrash_getty.jpg"This was crash 2 for me. Maybe I should start taking the bus" - Software engineer Mike Wilson, tweeting after his plane skidded off a runway at Denver international airport.

After scrambling free of the wreakage of Continental Flight 1404, the software engineer posted updates to his Twitter micro-blogging account, letting friends and family know that he was OK - apart from lost glasses and a need for a vodka tonic.
More details (The Times)

Your Letters

16:37 UK time, Monday, 22 December 2008

3.jpgPlay fair, Magazine! I did really well in part III of the big quiz and am bright and bushy-tailed, but am really stumped by the bonus question picture. Mostly because I can't see it. Can you make it a bit bigger please?
Vicky, East London
Monitor note: Here you go.

Are you accepting our hopes and dreams for the New Year yet? If so, I hope someone can invent a smoke alarm that tells me when my house is burning down, but not when I am cooking a bacon sandwich.
MCK, Stevenage

Just a small (but some would say, important) point. The Daily Mini Quiz states that "Brian Clough Way is in Derby". To be a little more accurate (and pertinent, considering he successfully managed football clubs in both cities), it runs between Nottingham and Derby, a section of the A52 that is the major route between the cities.
Charlie Grant, Nottingham, UK

As a dedicated emergency planner I feel Christmas should now be added to the National Risk Register (Families warned of gravy dangers).
Pip, Corby

Re Centi-mental: We seemed to be able to make the jump from Roman to Arabic numerals without a problem. A spin-off advantage of the imperial 12-based measures like inches or pence is that we Brits (at least, those of my generation) have learned our multiplication tables up to 12, while our Continental cousins learn them only up to 10. By the way, in some parts of Italy you still buy eggs by the pair (no rude replies, please)...
Geoffrey, Rome, Italy

I see that according the today's QI Quote of the Day, Arthur C Clarke is no longer dead. I am somewhat surprised that this has come so shortly after I removed him from my Christmas card list.
Andrew Blake, Bristol, UK

Did you know? In 1867 a Parisian mime artist became stuck in his imaginary box and consequently died of hunger.
Edward Hall-Smith, St Andrews

Going Postal III

16:07 UK time, Monday, 22 December 2008

post_graph226x196.gifNow the Magazine's Christmas cards are landing on doormats at quite a rate.

Seventeen of the 25 cards we posted second-class on Thursday have already arrived, two days ahead of their deadline. Well done, posties!

Ten arrived on Monday, following seven on Saturday. Two have reached Glasgow but there's still no sign of any in Northern Ireland.


Paper Monitor

12:59 UK time, Monday, 22 December 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Last week (as noted by yours truly) it felt a bit, shall we say, previous to have reviews of the year in the weekend papers. This week felt much more satisfying, not least because the biggest and the best year's news quiz is currently running. (Personally Paper Monitor thinks the link between the three photos so far revealed MUST be something to do with The Wire. But Paper Monitor, currently on series four and wanting no advice about future plot from anyone thank you, can't think about much else anyway.)

There wasn't very much to get excited about in this morning's papers (though if you did spot something, please do the decent thing via the COMMENT form below). Lots of dancing, voting, and bailing.

But Paper Monitor's not too bothered. Still recuperating, it spent a very pleasant weekend with the Financial Times, having been lured in by the Wealth supplement mentioned on Friday. You've got to admire a paper whose end of year quiz has questions like: " Three action heroes are pictured above. Which presidential candidate did the actors playing them support in the US election, either by attending fundraising events or by making a public endorsement?" Big respect, FT.

And lo! Question 7 reads: "The final series of The Wire, a gritty crime series about drug dealing and policing in inner-city Baltimore more frequently described as the greatest TV drama ever, was broadcast this year. How many Old Etonians are in the cast?"

Now THAT's a question. (Though the answer is a trifle disappointing - it's just one - and a better question might have been which member of the cast was once in Absolutely Fabulous.)

The domestic juggling that we all face at this time of year is as nothing compared to the trials of the FT's star columnist (and type-setter's quiz item in his own right) Tyler Brûlé. The only man whose surname includes two ampersands, two semi-colons, and looks like you've fallen asleep on your keyboard (HTML joke). He reports: "A week after writing about the role a club sandwich plays in the overall performance of a hotel, it's only fitting that I'm spending my Saturday in the property that I (and many colleagues) feel comes top of the global sandwich index - the Park Hyatt Milan.... I had thought briefly about going to Palm Beach, Australia, this year, and there were even fleeting discussions about renting something in Brazil. However, this was a record year for travel for me so I can't wait to park myself on the sofa and catch up on TV series that I 've heard of but can never really comment on."

At last, something in common.

Going Postal III

10:53 UK time, Monday, 22 December 2008

Amid an industrious weekend of present-wrapping and tree-decorating, seven Magazine readers had a nice surprise in the post.

More than a quarter of the 25 Christmas cards the Magazine sent second-class on Thursday, as part of our postal experiment, arrived on Saturday.

But so far there are no recipients beyond England. The furthest reached Burnley, Leeds and Liskeard in Cornwall.


Expect another update when the Monday post arrives, hopefully replete - for some - with generous helpings of Magazine greetings.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:50 UK time, Monday, 22 December 2008

"Marlon was serious about QVC. He... committed to appearing on screen, disguised in women's clothes and a grey wig" - Marlon Brando's PA Alice Marchak spills the shopping channel beans

According to aforementioned trusty PA, the former glittering star and all-round Adonis was so skint in 2003 he agreed to appear on the shopping channel. She explains: "He wanted to sell a product on the shopping channel QVC, possibly earthquakeproof houses or imported silk." Fascinating.
More details (Mail online)

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