BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for August 24, 2008 - August 30, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:50 UK time, Friday, 29 August 2008

washing_lines.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Twenty-three wedding cakes were made for the nuptials of Charles and Diana.
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2. That third brake light, the one in the rear window, is called a chimsil.

3. Aircraft oxygen systems have just about 12 minutes worth of reserves.
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4. And when deployed, the oxygen flow can be so light that passengers can be confused into thinking something is wrong, and pulling oxygen masks from the ceiling.

5. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can be even more painful.
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6. Most people have an above average number of feet.
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7. Shetland is the fattest part of the UK.
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8. There are more than 150 books with the "...before you die" premise in their titles.
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9. Life really does imitate art.
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10. Almost a third of BT payphones have been removed in the past six years.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Jonathan Conway for this week's picture of 10 rotary washing lines, seen, in Tavistock, "from the disused viaduct above the town on New Year's Day this year".

Your Letters

16:37 UK time, Friday, 29 August 2008

I'd heard that prisons were almost full, but it seems from this article that people are now being sentenced to Liverpool.
Ed, Clacton, UK

Not only does this story have buttocks in the title, but also includes the phrase "secreted in his pants" - amazing.
Jinja, Edinburgh

Re: Divorce rate lowest for 26 years. Perhaps a new slant on the credit crunch? Divorce becomes too expensive, leaving many in negative matrimony.
Phil B-C, London

Jacqui of London (Thursday letters) why is Simon Lemin a snob for wanting a distinction to be made between tradesmen or people working in the manufacturing industry and professional engineers? The two things are not the same and articles like the one referred to do not help matters. You would not call a hospital porter a doctor just because they both work in a hospital would you? The same attitude should be applied to engineers.
An engineer, Leeds

"A scientist tells us why flies are so annoyingly hard to swat." I was told once that the best way to kill a fly was to clap your hands directly above it. The fly will rise up between your hands to meet its demise. In my experience this has always been successful.
Alexander Pettigrew, Newquay Cornwall

Dr Greed wanting more of something? Who'd have thunk it?
Luke, Edinburgh

Am I the only person who could not care less about other people's misheard lyrics? They rank with people's recollection of dreams, and holiday snaps of people I don't know: completely irrelevant to anyone besides the object.
Daniel Hayes, St Albans, UK
Monitor note: No further mondegreens will be printed on this page. Discussions are permitted to continue on some social networking site or other.

Caption Competition

13:29 UK time, Friday, 29 August 2008


Winning entries in the caption competition.


This week, Conchita, a seven-month-old Mangabey monkey, cuddles her foster mother at London Zoo. But what's being said?

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. allhallowseve
Should have gone to Specsavers!

5. Kipson
"Good disguise Elvis."
"Not so bad yourself Osama."

4. youngWillz
Paddington states quite categorically he did not ask for Marmoset sandwiches.

3. W_K_Snowdon
It was at that moment Sweep realised she had been replaced in Sooty's affections.

2. Rob Falconer
Evelyn Waugh finally decided to revise the first draft of Brideshead Revisited.

1. DavidDeeMoz
Charles Darwin woke up screaming - it was THAT dream, again.

Paper Monitor

12:54 UK time, Friday, 29 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Altogether now: Da da-da da da da da DAH, da da-da da da!

Yes, it's almost twinkle-toes a-clock as the BBC unveils the line-up of unfamiliar faces stars who will take part in Strictly Come Dancing come September.

With 16 to chose from to illustrate this, the papers are true to form.

The Daily Mirror - headline "Strictly the Sexiest" - clearly hopes at least one couple will get it on off the dancefloor. "It's that time of year again, when Brendan Cole's latest girlfriend starts shaking in her slingbacks... the notorious ladies man has been paired with stunning model Lisa Snowdon."

The uninitiated may wonder "who they?" HE made headlines for his chemistry with past contestant Natasha Kaplinksy. SHE made headlines for dating George Clooney.

Ditto the Daily Express, headline "Strictly saucy" and "Hot to trot". It plasters Lisa and Brendan in a clinch on the front page, and a triumvirate of attractive young things - Jodie Kidd, Rachel Stevens and Christine Bleakley (sans Adrian Chiles) - on page three.

The Daily Mail opts for long-shot John Sergeant, one-time "portly newsman" turned TV personality. He's 64, bless him, and the women of Middle England who buy the Mail will no doubt hold him up as an example to their own husband.

So too does the Daily Telegraph. Although perhaps because captains of industry may wish to hold the rather awkward-looking Sergeant up as an example to their wives as why they shouldn't be dragged along to mambo classes. ("Besides, dear, do you really want me to be pressed against an all-but-naked Christina Aguilera look-alike? I thought not.")

Neither the Sun nor the Independent are strictly Strictly papers - for completely different reasons - and so make no mention of the show.

And the Guardian is more interested in its poster boy Barack Obama (note to Boris Johnson - his jacket is buttoned up).

Finally, a thank you to those who suggested columnist-based names for the mice who have taken up residence in Monitor Towers. "Bob" has a certain ring about it.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:35 UK time, Friday, 29 August 2008

See the Quote of the Day every morning on the Magazine index.

"The fly somehow 'knows' whether it needs to make large or small postural changes to reach the correct pre-flight posture" - A scientist tells us why flies are so annoyingly hard to swat.

In a glorious statement of the already known, scientists have identified that it's rather hard to swat flies. In a further statement of the apparent, they suggest the fly spots the swat coming. They've filmed them making subtle movements and planning an escape route as the swat approaches. The key apparently is to aim the swat in front of where they are to catch them in the air.
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Your Letters

18:20 UK time, Thursday, 28 August 2008

It appears your reporter in this story hasn't read "Putting percentages in context", because in her article "Are towns designed for the benefit of men?", she reports: "Women are also more dependent on public transport, making 75% of bus journeys and only 30% have access to a car in the daytime.", yet she doesn't make a comparison to men's journeys by public transport and car, so as reader, I've no idea how much higher the percentage of women on public transport is compared to men.
AS, Oxford, England

Re "Spider forces family out of home". The last line of the report states "They identified the spider using the internet". Was is looking up flights to Afghanistan?
Rich, Bristol, UK

Was I the only one expecting to see Kate Moss?
Jade, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

John Airey of Peterborough - not true. Decompression of an air cabin is (fortunately) not instantaneous, if it were everyone would have boiled to death from the outside (see Boyle's Law). It's more likely that had an announcement been made, it would have been quieter due to the lower density of the air.
Duncan, Hove

Simon Lemin (Wednesday's letters), you dreadful snob. Most engineers do work in factories, even though they have studied and gained relevant qualifications. It doesn't make them any different. Isn't yours exactly the type of attitude that causes a problem for the engineering and manufacturing industries? And by the way, spelling engineer with a capital letter does not make it any more important than the other jobs you mentioned.
Jacqui, London

Oh, goody, we've started Christmaswatch already (Wednesday's letters)! Well, my local supermarket has got stacks of those Cadbury choc covered nuts in jars which you only buy at Christmas time. Have to admit I'm tempted by the Old Gold covered almonds. I'll hum Ding Dong Merrily on High as I get my coat.
Susan, Brisbane, Australia

Re Christmas cards, I strongly advise you to steer clear of the basement in Selfridges then. Their Christmas Department was in full swing last weekend.
Adam T, London

My word! The time to start moaning about how Christmas gets earlier every year gets earlier every year!
Samuel, Leeds

The best Mondegreen ((Wednesday's letters and letters passim) I've heard is "Sorry Mrs Jackson" being misheard as "Soft British accent". And there was more than one person in the group that thought it was that!
B Brown, Ottawa

I was at a party when someone put on a tape of children's songs for a bit of retro fun. We were listening to "One Man Went To Mow a Meadow" when someone in their early 20s announced that they'd suddenly realised that the man in the story had gone to mow an actual meadow, as opposed to going to a place called "Mow-a-Meadow". Not so much misheard lyrics as misunderstood.
PS, Newcastle, England

I was disappointed to find out that U2 were not singing "Hello, Hello. I'm at a place called Birmingham" but were in fact waffling about Vertigo. Makes more sense than that actual lyrics thought doesn't it?
Marc, Johnstone

Surely the ultimate misheard lyric is Jimi Hendrix singing 'Scuse me while I kiss this guy'.
Mark Williams, Oxford

My childhood mandarin gave me an early introduction into the concept of cross dressing - 'Davy's on the road again, wearing women's clothes again.'
Mike , Newcastle upon Tyne

It is not just song lyrics that can be misheard. Along with most of my Sunday school, I always said "Thanks Peter God" at the end of a reading. And the "Love of God and fellowship of the Holy Spirit..." seemed to be "...with our saw"; a small red bow saw which would have been quite ordinary had it not been deified by a vicar mumbling through a thick beard.
Phil B-C, London

Paper Monitor

11:29 UK time, Thursday, 28 August 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Flied mushrooms. Come again? Catching sight of these words while reading Metro over the shoulder of a fellow commuter, a faint bell rang in Paper Monitor's head.

A dated joke poking fun at the muddling of an "l" and an "r". Familiar. But unlike the Daily Mail's "Blitish Airways" cartoon of 2006, there isn't even an Asian connection.

Mail cartoonist Mac's excuse was that the Japanese were eyeing a stake in BA. But the Metro sub who came up with "How flied mushrooms forced a plane down" was writing a headline about a Ryanair flight between Budapest and Dublin on which a passenger suffered an allergic reaction to mushroom juice seeping from an overhead locker.

Just as Mac's cartoon never made it onto the Daily Mail website, Metro's online headline is "A bag of mushrooms grounds Ryanair flight".

Meanwhile, a question for any budding Journalism 101 students out there. You will know that "Dog bites man" is not news but "Man bites dog" is news. (Incidentally, Paper Monitor dreams about a parlour game called Unsupported Headlines in which one makes up a great headline and then devises a story to fit. A favourite example is about how a man's holiday is ruined by persistent insects, the headline being "Bites dog man".) But given all that, what does that make "dog bites dog to save man"? Or, more accurately, man sticks Rottweiler on to Pit Bull to stop it mauling a toddler.

Strangely, it is not a tale that appears to have made the UK papers - not even the Mail, renowned for its coverage of tales of the unexpected from the animal world.

Talking of which, there are mice in Monitor Towers, and no, not of the kind invented by Douglas Englebart. Suitable columnist-based names for our new friends, please, via the Comments button below.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:45 UK time, Thursday, 28 August 2008

"So I tried 'Barclays is better' and that didn't go down too well either" - Steve Jetley, whose phone banking password 'Lloyds is pants' was rejected.

What superficially looks like another story about humour-starved automaton jobsworths has a slight twist. When a Lloyd's staff member decided to overrule Steve Jetley's original password, s/he used their initiative and did so by changing it to "No it's not". Even Jetley endorsed the response but was then intriguingly told the staff member responsible no longer worked for Lloyds.
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Your Letters

17:19 UK time, Wednesday, 27 August 2008

When will the BBC stop portraying engineers as people who work in factories. Most Engineers are qualified professionals often having to study and work longer than a doctor would to become chartered. There needs to be a distinction between technicians, mechanics, plumbers, handymen and Engineers.
Simon Lemin, Bristol

I was amazed to read today that schools will now be required to teach the slave trade as part of the History curriculum. Thanks DFES for this 'new' initiative. Or maybe you just haven't read your own national curriculum recently which states that KS3 pupils must be taught about "the development of trade, colonisation, industrialisation and technology, the British Empire and its impact on different people in Britain and overseas, pre-colonial civilisations, the nature and effects of the slave trade, and resistance and decolonisation." Yes, that's right, we're already doing it. Maybe your time would be better spent actually doing something about our schools rather than just appearing to be doing something.

Becky, Rochdale

I would be grateful if you could reinstate the welsh local online newspapers, on the Wales section. It is my only chance to keep up with what is happening in the deeper areas of Wales. Thanking you in anticipation. No need to publish this short note.
Joana da Silva, Telford

Re your story about the cancelled beauty pageant for nuns, Far be it from me to say that the Catholic Church is sexist, but there are pin-up calendars of priests on display in most souvenir shops in Rome - I didn't buy one. A photo of one can be viewed here.
Ann Cooper, Orpington, England

Even if airline staff could make an announcement as to what was happening in an emergency the lack of air in the cabin would prevent their voices from being heard anyway.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

I see from your article on the Mattel v MGA case that Barbie and Ken are back together. Typical negativity of the BBC, you told us that they'd split up the day before Valetine's Day but never told us that they had got back together!
Darren Johnston, Manchester, United Kingdom

I saw Christmas Cards for sale today, in a well known card shop. Does that mean it is now the official time for me to start moaning about how Christmas comes earlier every year?
Michelle B, London

In reply to the letter from John (Wednesday's letters), the cow alignment article does state "Their study ruled out the possibility that the Sun position or wind direction were major influences on the orientation of the cattle" I would say "sorry for being a pedant" but this isn't really predantic, it's just reading the article in full!
Nich Hill, Portsmouth UK

Nominative determinism alive and well in the US - Shawn Robert Adolf a racist.
Luke, Edinburgh

Dear Stephen (Wednesday's letters), since when did Huddersfield and Tottenham have two syllables? And did no-one else notice this? Call yourselves pedants?
Matt, London, UK

I'm so glad all these misheard song lyrics are coming out of the woodwork (Wednesday's letters). It makes me feel better about hearing Soup Stick Shoes rather than Substitute by The Who.
Claire, London

Re Mondegreens, has anyone mentioned Neil Diamond's song about the trendy vicar Reverend Blue-Jeans? It was many years before I realised that Diamond was singing "Forever in blue jeans"!
Martin, Oxford

I suspect I've missed the boat on this, but it reminds me of a time at university when a (slightly annoying) male flatmate of mine spent a night dancing very enthusiastically to 'It's Raining Men'. The next morning he told us how much he liked the song 'It's Raining in Memphis'. We enjoyed putting him straight.
Emma Daw, Rockville, MD, USA

Talking about misheard lyrics, the classic "you got the love" by the source and candi stanton the line "I call up Master make me new" sounds quite vulgar. About doing something nude.
Adrian Salamon, whitehaven

Following the discussion about misheard lyrics, surely I'm not the only one to think that Police has a hit about Sue Lawley?
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

Paper Monitor

12:15 UK time, Wednesday, 27 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The emergency descent of the Ryanair flight from Bristol to Barcelona has all the hallmarks of a good inside pages story:

- no one died
- there was "celebrity" on board
- hey, it's Ryanair!

Such events always result in an avalanche of punditry as reporters clamour to bag the various expert views... even though readers' imagination would doubtless do the job just as well. Cue the Daily Express, quoting seasoned aviation commentator David Learmount: "He revealed that it can be frightening to travel in an aircraft that suddenly loses compression." It's the sort of revelation you could only find in the "World's Greatest Newspaper".

The views of aforementioned "celebrity" - Polar explorer Pen Hadow - are universally reported. But what's this? The Sun has gone one better, and signed Hadow up for a short bylined piece of his own.

Closer reading, however, reveals that Hadow hardly says any more in this than in the quotes attributed to him elsewhere. Sometimes the two are indistinguishable. For example, here's Hadow, quoted in the Daily Mail: "'Mine wasn't filling up with oxygen and neither was my son's,' he said. 'He was hyperventilating.'"

And here's a paragraph from his self-penned piece in the Sun: "Mine wasn't filling up with oxygen and neither was my son's. He was hyperventilating."

And besides, just how far did the plane plunge anyway? 26,000ft say the Mirror, Mail, Express and others. While the Sun and Guardian make unlikely bedfellows in agreeing on 22,000ft.


Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:24 UK time, Wednesday, 27 August 2008

"Its main attraction is considered to be the timetable at the railway station where trains leave for other, less rainy, cities" - Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic on Manchester

It's a time-honoured formula. Foreign footballer comes to club in Britain. Foreign footballer plays well. Foreign footballer then offers colourful observation on why non-footballing aspects of Britain are rubbish. For classic example see Macedonian star Georgi Hristov and his comment that "all the women in Barnsley are dogs".
More details (The Guardian)

Your Letters

15:12 UK time, Tuesday, 26 August 2008

If cows can detect north and south does this mean they're using Pat-Nav?
Alex, Oxford

This concerns the article "Cattle Shown To Align North-South". I have alternative thinking on this. A north-south aligned animal (such as cattle, deer, etc) will expose more body surface area to the sun. Less body area is exposed to the colder north and south winds. Cattle tend to graze parallel to waters, most of which (in North America) flow north to south, giving the stock a longer feed with fewer barriers. Lastly, the lay-down of the grasses tends to be north-south. It may be easier for grazers to get a bite on such grasses. A nodding motion rather than side-to-side.
John D Rockhill, Tempe, Arizona, USA

In "Cattle shown to align north-south", we are told that animals graze in the same direction, something which has allegedly remained unnoticed for "thousands of years". Although not of farming stock, I can think of at least one instance where this phenomenon was discussed as common knowledge: in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. The eponymous hero has to prove his rural credentials by answering (inter alia) the following question.

"If fifteen cows is browsing on a hillside, how many of them eats with their heads pointed the same direction?"

"The whole fifteen, mum."

"Well, I reckon you HAVE lived in the country..."
David, Dublin

Sorry, but smiling pictures of Team GB's return from Beijing just make me grumpy. I also flew into Heathrow yesterday afternoon, but not until my plane had circled a few times waiting for a landing slot, while presumably the Team GB plane flew straight in. Given that most of them seem to enjoy going pointlessly round in circles, I'm sure it would have been better to make their flight circle over Heathrow instead.
Adam, London, UK

Those cooling towers blown up in Sheffield. Blown up because they were structurally unstable. Despite having 3,000 holes drilled in it which were filled with explosives, a third of the north tower remained standing after the explosion. That's not my definition of unstable.
Dave Moore, Par, Cornwall

Can I ask why so many of your stories seem to have sprung mysterious "quotations" all of a sudden? This epidemic seems to "afflict most sections of your site", but is seemingly "most prevalent" on the Health pages, where I counted 13 out of 17 headlines had "Inverted Comma Syndrome". Could someone tell me "what they mean" and "why they're used"? Are they denoting "quotations", "paraphrasing", "irony" or simply "rapidly becoming more irritating than the overuse of the word 'row'"?
Alex Knibb, Bristol, UK

Francesca (Monday's letters) - I too always thought Meatloaf alleged to be a Cilla Black fan on ice, until my husband appraised me of the fact he actually hits the highway "on a silver black Phantom bike". But I'm still convinced Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard.
Kate, York

Paper Monitor

12:22 UK time, Tuesday, 26 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

All those returning to the daily grind after happy holidays spent in the sunshine would be advised not to read today's Times.

Any fresh memories of blissful relaxation are likely to be quickly replaced by a desire to scratch and twitch around. The cause for this uncomfortable reading comes from a report on the rise in the number of bedbugs on trains, buses, planes and coaches. With an enlarged menacing image of the creature itself, it's enough to make any commuter give up their seat and stand, however long the journey.

And if the thought of bedbugs sharing your seat on the train isn't enough to bring you back to real life with a bump, there's more. In a complementary commentary piece, readers are warned of the arrival in the UK of mosquitoes and hornets. Not only that, but there's been an increase in the number of wasps, rats and "monstrous" slugs.

And the reason for this invasion of the insects? It's that notorious scoundrel, whose behaviour has caused such mayhem, screaming headlines and kept conversations around the water cooler alive over the last few months - the wet summer.

But before considering packing the bags for sunnier climes away from nibbling insects and grey days, be aware it's not all bad news. Smiling pictures of Team GB's return from Beijing, medals-a-clinking, are enough to cheer even the most miserable, for one day at least.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:25 UK time, Tuesday, 26 August 2008

"My mentality has a touch of the professional killer - I'm like a mercenary hired to kill" - Designer Karl Lagerfeld strikes fear into fashionista hearts.

The Chanel guru clearly doesn't watch too many Chuck Norris films or he'd see he has a problem with his frame of reference. Having said that, Lagerfeld does have a ponytail, like Steven Seagal, and wears sunglasses indoors.
More details (the Times)

Your Letters

15:09 UK time, Monday, 25 August 2008

Re: Lifesaver boob job. Interesting choice of materials for augmentation, and handy on boats. The horseshoe shape would also be an interesting conversation starter at parties.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Once again in this article the media perpetuates the myth that architects are responsible for making buildings stand up. I'd imagine that the engineers responsible for designing the Sheffield cooling towers might feel a tad miffed to discover that it was an architect who designed in the stability of the towers.
Steve Buckley, Cambridge, UK

What's this? An article about demolishing chimneys and not a single mention of Fred Dibnah. For shame magazine!
Robert Phillips, Cardiff, UK

Ah, the joys of being a Monitorite; spotting nominative determinism everywhere. The Wall Street Journal quoted Jennifer Thevenot on museum security in an article on art theft.
Jennifer, Connecticut, USA

Re the Banana Splits song - Bob Marley MUST have heard this via football chants. He was a big football fan. It is still a staple diet song for football fans - especially ones supporting teams with two syllables - Hud-ders-field La La La; Tot-en-ham La-La etc. Also used in combination with the word superstar eg "Al-an Ball Super Star"' also with the tra-la-la s replaced with other words.
Stephen, Leighton Buzzard

Re misheard song lyrics, it was only recently that I realised that Michael Jackson sang about a Liberian Girl and not Librarian Girl. I couldn't understand why her world was so different to his... quieter admittedly but not so different.
Clare, Lancashire

My husband also swears that Meatloaf sings "I'm gonna hit the highway like a battering ram, like a Cilla Black fan on ice". Since I don't know what the hell Mr Loaf actually sings, can anyone enlighten me? If not, has anyone any pictures of a Cilla Black fan, on ice?
Francesca, Lincolnshire, England.

Paper Monitor

10:49 UK time, Monday, 25 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Amanda Platell is not a happy bunny in the Daily Mail.

The target of her ire is Carol Thatcher. La Platell is "saddened" by the "opportunistic book" that Thatcher Jr has churned out, which details her mother's battle against dementia. This treatment of a former prime minister feels "like a terrible invasion of an old woman's privacy".

And where was the serialisation of the "opportunistic book" to be found? In the, er, Mail on Sunday. And just in case you missed yesterday's invasion of privacy, today's Mail gives a precis on the page opposite Platell's diatribe.

Of course the less kind media-watcher might suggest Ms Platell had herself once been guilty of a bit of opportunism, when, in the aftermath of the 2001 election, her video diary of the campaign - in which she acted as spin doctor for William Hague - was broadcast on Channel 4.

Over in the Sun, you've got to love their "WHY I LOVE MY 30p Sun" box. In it delighted reader Victoria Clarke says: "There's always a story in it you won't find in any other paper."

This is positioned exactly over a story with the headline "Lifesaver boob job".

Paper Monitor wonders whether this was deliberate.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:29 UK time, Monday, 25 August 2008

"Ballroom dancing is the most marvellous business to be in because all the girls are beautiful and all the blokes are gay" - Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman

Goodman has made the journey from small-town dancer to television personality. Here he evinces a sentiment that may not be statistically accurate but will have been shared by many who watched the old Come Dancing.
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