BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for August 29, 2010 - September 4, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

15:31 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

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

1. Apples originated in Kazakhstan.
More details

2. Ray Winstone turned down the part of McNulty in The Wire.
More details (Guardian)

3. It is illegal to dry clothes in various parks in Whitstable, Kent.
More details

4. The UK's newest submarine will last 25 years without needing to be refuelled.
More details

5. The Queen washes up.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

6. Tony Blair was nervous meeting Des O'Connor.
More details (Times - subscription site)

7. Usain Bolt was called VJ as a child, because his mother thought he needed a nickname. It doesn't stand for anything.
More details (Guardian)

8. Guinness can be deep-fried.
More details (The Sun)

9. The biggest crisp factory in the world is in Leicester.
More details (Guardian)

10. Britons drink less alcohol than the European average.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for this week's picture of 10 acorns.

Your Letters

14:24 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

"Dr Foster, who has researched drinking at home" - that's my excuse too! Also, nominative determinism strikes again!
Ben Hill, Cardiff, UK

I wonder how many readers cannot help but point out the wonderfully deterministic nature of the name of the doctor consulted about drinking habits?
Victoria Graham, St. Albans, UK

Re: Does a 'Tony Blair' drinking habitdo you any harm? The words 'Tony Bliar' would tempt me to drink. So yes, it would do you harm.
Brendan Cowan @bbc_magazine

I would disagree with Neil Hamilton's assessment - Mr Hague doesn't look like he's on a Gay Pride march, he looks like an American middle manager on the golf course. Which is arguably a great deal worse.
Edward Green, London, UK

HMS Astute. It's the length of a football pitch, has lots of impressive technology and carries 18,000 sausages on patrol. - I wasn't aware the Royal Navy enlisted sausages to defend out shores and certainly not in this quantity
J, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

The HMS Astute doesn't need refuelling for 25 years - unlike it's 98 crew who apparently eat 183 sausages and 42 Weetabix each - could they be secretly fuelling the sub on breakfast foods?
Ben Robson, Cambridge

I thought PPE was only read by those incapable of studying a genuine subject, like media studies.
Mike Garcia, Beaminster, UK

Caption Competition

12:56 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week our photo was from the Reading Festival. Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. abbotofmelrose
How not to get your wellies muddy

5. CaptainParadiddle
That's all the water out, you can turn me over now.

4. Pigletine
Das Boot - "Up periscopes"

3. Moose
101 ways to kill time while waiting for Guns N Roses to show up: number 47

2. Mike
Spot the Aussie......

1. Gray Gable
OK, I've got a signal, can you hear me now?

Paper Monitor

10:09 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Don't say Paper Monitor doesn't spoil you.

Hours before the Magazine unveils what insiders are already describing as "one of the best '10 things' ever assembled", PM is whetting the appetite with a round-up of 10 (believable and unbelievable) things from the tabs:

1. Toddlers addicted to smoking can kick the habit.

2. Girls can't kick footballs straight.

3. Crystallised vodka looks pretty under a microscope.

4. Fat men have more stamina during sex.

5. Alton Towers theme park has introduced X-rated channels in its hotel rooms.

6. Some burgers in the US have 4,000 calories.

7. A roundabout near Southampton has 60 traffic lights.

8. Only one in eight primary schoolteachers is male.

9. English sparkling wine is the best in the world

10. Prince Charles has had the same winter coat for 23 years.

Thanks to the Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Star.

Elsewhere, the Hague saga goes on, with all the papers canvassing opinion on how well the foreign secretary has been handling the story. But some of the coverage hardly shows British journalism at its greatest.

The Telegraph uses unnecessary nudge-nudge tactics by showing an old photograph of Mr Hague grappling on a judo mat with Sebastian Coe.

And the Mirror turns to disgraced former MP Neil Hamilton, who offers sartorial advice to Mr Hague.

Referring to the widely-published photograph found here, Mr Hamilton questions why Mr Hague "appeared in public dressed as though on a Gay Pride march..."

Not sure what kind of Pride marches Mr Hamilton has been attending...

...but Mr Hague's sweatshirt, rolled-up sleeves, sunglasses and baseball cap hardly scream the kind of flamboyance that makes Gay Pride marches like this one so popular.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:36 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

"Elaine [my wife] caught me once doing the Hoovering, and took a picture" - Ray Winstone admits to being rather old-fashioned in his domestic life

In an interview with the Guardian, the star of Scum and Sexy Beast talks about how he shunned the chance of a Hollywood lifestyle, and all its temptations, for a happy life in Essex. All in all, he says, he "'ad a result".

More details (Guardian)

Your Letters

13:21 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

Re: PPE. We should all be be deeply worried when political power is dominated by any narrow influence. I have no doubt that the Oxford PPE represents an excellent education but like all degrees it will foster common ways of thought and approach. Government and politics in general is best served by men and women from all educational backgrounds both in terms of discipline and alma mater.
Stephen Morris, Southapton

Count your national blessings, PPE-wise. Many political leaders here in the US seem to have confined their studies to PE (Physical Education), which teaches you how to climb a ceiling-suspended rope, golf - and not much else.
Curt Carpenter, Dallas, Texas USA

The only thing that concerns me about the William Hague story is that he still owns a baseball cap.
Michael Hall, Croydon, UK

Cavers set to connect Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. Surely if they are removing the rock then they are disconnecting the Counties??!!
MCK, Stevenage

Classic. Prince Charles' reaction to John Prescott's strange tea balancing act. Typical Prezza. Does Charles know Prescott's nickname as a peer of the realm is "The Erminator"? Someone explain it to HRH. On no account mention the repetoire and the jokes about "more tea vicar" as Charles would probably be confused about that also. Brilliant quote.
Tim Mcmahon, Pennar/wales

Call me a pedant, but what a great example of a bad conclusion and headline this is. The science simply shows why the ball moved in the way it did. That it was possible was never in doubt, since it happened. Whether it was a fluke or not remains a mystery and depends on Carlos's intent, not on the actual trajectory of the ball. Still too warm for a coat.
Moose, Belgium

I knew community service could be unpleasant - but to hear that it recreates the atmosphere of a holiday camp is frightening. Surely a cruel and unusual punishment?
Edward Green, London, UK

I wonder if the man who bought John Lennon's loo might rise to the challenge set by this mans achievement?
Martin Comer, London, UK

Paper Monitor

11:34 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Don't be fooled by yesterday's relatively earnest assessment of the Blair memoirs, Paper Monitor is the sort of biography browser who heads straight for the glossy pictures section in the middle of such books, then furiously scanning the index for juicy subjects.... before finally replacing the tome on the bookshop shelf and picking up a packet of mints instead.

Thankfully, the papers are of a similar mindset so there's plenty of coverage of titillating titbits in today's editions.

The Sun tells us Mr Blair consulted none other than Sir Alex Ferguson about how best to deal with a "really difficult but brilliant player" in his cabinet squad.

Ever uncompromising, Fergie replied: "Get rid of them."

Had Mr Blair followed the advice and given his then chancellor the "Paul Ince treatment", perhaps the British public would have been spared the on-going soap opera between New Labour's Big Time Charlies?

Shuddering past a story describing the ex-PM as an "animal in the bedroom", detailing a failed teenage fumble and comments on affairs despite no suggestion he ever had one, Paper Monitor's eyes meet the headline: "He's potty over toilets".

A toilet

A toilet... yesterday

Ah, the great British obsession. You have to hand it to both Mr Blair and the Sun, they know where the electorate's interests really lie.

In a reversal of convention, it turns out it was wife Cherie who was on her knees when Mr Blair proposed. She had just finished cleaning the loo.

The Daily Mirror helpfully provides a generic image of a toilet, lest we forget what one looks like, and regurgitates the ex-PM's passion for the smallest room in the house:

I like to have time and comfort in the loo. The bathroom is important and I couldn't live in a culture that doesn't respect it.

Did Mr Blair never share digs when a long-haired, guitar-strumming student, Paper Monitor wonders?

A Journey's real nuggets deal with celebrity, however.

Describing Bono, Mr Blair writes that the U2 frontman "could have been a president or prime minister standing on his head".

He might have had a "natural gift for politicking" but the Independent's High Street Ken diarist notes that Bono's "national and tax arrangements" would preclude him from leading a UK party.

A shame, ponders Paper Monitor, for he might have livened up Labour's leadership contest.

Full marks to the hacks at the Times who have dug out Mr Blair's opinions on all manner of rich and famous folk.

Kevin Spacey is a "really fun guy", Steven Spielberg "actually rather modest" and David Beckham "a complete pro".

But perhaps the most delightful image is that of the Queen, who Mr Blair describes clearing up his dinner plate to take off to the sink after a barbecue at Balmoral.

Paper Monitor wonders which brand of washing up liquid gets the Royal approval.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:40 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

"There was nowhere [else] to put the cup and saucer" - John Prescott on his unusual tea-drinking etiquette, as noticed by Prince Charles

One of the strangest moments in Tony Blair's autobiography, A Journey, is when he records Prince Charles's reaction to John Prescott's habit of balancing a teacup and saucer on his tummy. The prince wondered aloud to Mr Blair whether it was "a sort of gesture or sign of hostility or class enmity or something?"

Mr Prescott went on the radio on Wednesday to defend the habit.
More details (the Guardian)

Your Letters

17:25 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Am I the only reader who thought that this article was going to be about health and safety, only to be disappointed? In my world, PPE = Personal Protective Equipment (gloves, safety shoes, safety glasses and the like).
Ralph, Cumbria

Monitor: Er, no...

Such disappointment. I felt sure that "Why does PPE rule Britain?" was going to tell me the hi-vis jacket I have to wear at all times was about to become the height of fashion. Ah well, there's always next season!
Lizzie, Poole

Am I the only one who expected this story to be about hard hats, high-vis coats, steel toe caps etc? Talk about being in with the wrong crowd.
Mystified, Leeds

Was I the only one expecting this storyto contain some information about how hi-vis vests and safety goggles were ruining our lives?
Neil Wilkie, Perth, Scotland

I thought this was going to be a feature on the UK being taken over by safety glasses, hard hats and hi-vis jackets.
Which is a belief held true by those who comment on the Daily Mail website.
Mark Williamson, Loughton, Essex

Has anyone seriously considered that Anne Robinson could be the Stig? It was Mark's letter that made me think of this, but they do share an odd inability to communicate in a normal way, and a peculiar walk...
Swindon, UK

I love the quote from the spectator at the A380 landing: This "once in a lifetime... world first" will be happening daily in Manchester, 2 years after flying into London Heathrow.
Tommy Hill, Stoke-on-Trent

Claims of covert cheating in cricket abound at the moment, but isn't "Big rocket booster in second test", a tad blatant ?
Graham, Purmerend

Paper Monitor

11:34 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

For most of Fleet Street, there is only one story that matters today. Tony Blair's time at the summit of British public life may be long gone, but his Banquo-like presence continues to haunt the commentariat from beyond the political grave.

With the publication of the former prime minister's memoirs, A Journey, the papers delve once again into his controversial legacy - Iraq, New Labour and the psychodrama that characterised his relationship with Gordon Brown.

Daily Telegraph

Ooh look, picture captions in Paper Monitor

Of course, those who view the ex-MP for Sedgefield as either a crusading reformer or a vainglorious war-monger are likely to have their views reinforced by the book. Both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail carry cartoons depicting readers requiring travel sickness pills for the "Journey".

The latter's leader column begins with the headline: "A journey into Mr Blair's fantasy world." It concludes: "He ended this 'journey' a discredited liar, who split his party and led this country into a war which will stain our national conscience for many years to come."

Clear, then, that Paul Dacre's take on the Blair phenomenon has softened little with the passage of time.

The Times, by contrast, remains sympathetic to Blair, arguing that the memoir is a "fascinating reminder of why voters were not wrong to award him three election victories".

The Guardian's coverage strikes a mid-way point, helped by the fact that it carries an interview with the autobiographer himself.

"My voice has been silent for three years deliberately," he tells the paper.

But interviewer Martin Kettle notes:

It may seem as if Tony Blair has never really been away in the three years since he stepped down as prime minister in June 2007 after 10 years in Downing Street. A flood of books, continuing controversies and above all, the unquiet legacy of the 2003 Iraq war, mean that he is never far away from the headlines.

Nonetheless, one paper has its eye on the future rather than the past.

The Daily Mirror - the only national title to back Labour at the last general election - backs David Miliband as the party's leader in a front-page splash and a double-page Voice of the Mirror.

Blair is relegated to a teaser on the front and a precis of the book on page eight and nine. What this says about Labour loyalists' attitude to their most successful leader ever - at least in electoral terms - is above Paper Monitor's pay grade.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

11:22 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

"We just find things to bicker about" - Presenter Adrian Chiles on the secret of his successful on-air partnership with co-host Christine Bleakley.

The pair are due to launch ITV1's new breakfast programme Daybreak after leaving the BBC's The One Show. Chiles says he depends on his colleague, adding: "Christine as a presenter is technically better than me, she just knows the craft of the television studio."

More details (The Sun)

Your Letters

14:28 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Does anyone else think that a double dip recession actually sounds quite nice? Sure, it's a recession, but at least we get extra chocolate sprinkles.
Ian, Redditch

Luisa (Letters, Monday), je suis un veille homme. J'ai pas un GCSE Francais, mais un GCE 0 level. Google Translate, qu'est-ce que c'est ? (I had to look that last bit up... I'm really on the edge here).
Graham, Purmerend, NL

Re: Cycle Helmets: Dr Walker "also decided to don a long, flowing wig to disguise himself as a female and found that drivers left him more space when passing". I'm not surprised. I'd give him a wide berth too. I've seen Psycho.
Jared, Tenby

I can't decide if Cannabis may relieve chronic pain is a naive choice of words or a knowing joke. Anyone care to weed out the truth? I reckon they made a hash of it.
Jinja, Edinburgh

Methinks that Mark Taylor (Letters, Monday), needs a new telly if he can't tell the difference between the old Stig - who sadly perished when he was fired off an aircraft carrier wearing his trademark black catsuit - and the current Stig in his white catsuit.
Alan Addison, Glasgow, UK

Probably, James O, Oxford (Letters, Monday).
Stig (long outed, consequently retired, and thus bored witless), London, UK

Paper Monitor

09:54 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Despite looking out at a clear blue sky, Paper Monitor is nevertheless shrouded in a strange kind of gloom.

The day after the August bank holiday carries the same sort of baggage as mid-January.

But rather than post-festive blues, it is the feeling that another summer has passed by without ever truly fulfilling the potential of those early weeks of sunshine, when the vast majority of us were still at work.

Thank goodness, then, for Britain's tabloids. They soak up every last beam of sunshine from the fun-filled public holiday and reflect it back to help everyone get through the working day.

There are pictures of smiling children clutching ice creams, the inevitable bikini-clad young women and people taking part in all manner of seaside sport.

"Brits are beaming at Bank Hol sun," reports the newspaper of the same name, helpfully forgetting that most Brits will by now be reading those words on the daily commute, behind a desk or during a tea break on the construction site.

The Daily Star goes one better by announcing: "September is set to be a sizzler."

Its stablemate, the Daily Express agrees. It quotes Jonathan Powell from the suspiciously optimistic-sounding Positive Weather Solutions as suggesting England will be "hotter than Barcelona" at the start of September.

"The weather here will probably be equivalent to the South of France and the warm temperatures should hold up well into the second part of September," he says.

The broadsheets, however, adopt an altogether less cheerful tone.

For example, the Daily Telegraph notes with bitter irony that after August being characterised by umbrellas and wellies: "Only now is the sun returning, just as the school holidays draw to a close and millions of Britons head back to their desks after a damp staycation."

Paper Monitor's mood darkens further on reading the word "staycation", which is meaningless to the millions of people who usually holiday in Britain anyway. (Although perhaps not that many of them make up the Telegraph's readership.)

Even hopes of an Indian summer are dampened by the paper, which suggests forecasters expect showers by the weekend.

However, the Times takes the prize for the gloomiest outlook, revelling in misery by starting a new series with the stark title "Back to work".

Its political writer Ben Macintyre casts aside the summer along with David Cameron's Cornish holiday snaps, and predicts "gnarly seas ahead" for the coalition government.

Underneath a huge photograph of Chancellor George Osborne wearing an even-grimmer-than-usual expression, Mr Macintyre writes:

"Looming over the entire political season is the fear of a double dip recession, the monster wave that could roll in and swamp the beast-laid political calculations."

So, it was with a sigh of relief that Paper Monitor turned to the Independent to find its bank holiday coverage limited to a simple report of London's Notting Hill Carnival.

It lists some wonderful statistics. Notably, that revellers ate an estimated five tonnes of chicken and listened to 16,000 records played via 41 sound systems.

However, with the collective consumption amounting to some 25,000 bottles of rum, Paper Monitor wonders whether anyone at all in west London managed to make it to work to feel miserable anyway.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:25 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

"If I said anything, someone would come around and physically cut my arms off" - BBC presenter Andrew Marr, who signed a confidentiality agreement before getting an advance copy of Tony Blair's memoirs ahead of an interview with the ex-prime minister.

Mr Marr was allowed 48 hours to read the autobiography, A Journey, which is released on 1 September, according to the Daily Telegraph. The paper said the book was delivered "amid much security" to the former BBC political editor's London home.

More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your letters

13:09 UK time, Monday, 30 August 2010

Lizzie (Friday's letters) I may be showing my age now, but I immediately thought more along the lines of ET.
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

I'm not impressed by the addition of #9. Whilst it may not be illegal, the highlight of it's legality could induce some of lesser intelligence to follow in the footsteps of that woman. Whilst I may be over-reacting to this, I am voicing my two pence due to my adoration of our feline co-habitants.
Nathaniel, Southampton, Hampshire

Every Florence that I've ever known has - once she reached majority - chosen something more flattering to be called by. It's no wonder that the Sun could only find eight for its list - and, even then, had to resort to including Flo.
Lisboeta, Portugal

Having considered Google Translate a vital tool in my French GCSE, and managing to get a B grade out of it, I think we can safely assume that a French GCSE doesn't enable you to speak the language.
Luisa, Frome

Was I the only person that was disappointed that the Top Gear bashing letter (Friday Letters) wasn't from the oft-Letters correspondent Stig?
James O, Oxford

Recently I have learned that when one of the pets died on Blue Peter they replaced it with another animal of the same name. And they are still doing on Top Gear, apparently when one Stig dies they replace him with another, without telling us. This I have come to accept but I think it is taking things a bit too far if the BBC expects us to believe that this is the same Anne Robinson on each episode of the Weakest Link.
Mark Taylor, Maldon, Essex

Paper Monitor

11:20 UK time, Monday, 30 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Pity the poor reporter, trudging into work to prepare the August Bank Holiday Monday newspaper.

Yes, you know you can rely on a photo of a police officer grooving with a reveller at the Notting Hill Carnival (the Daily Mirror gets an odd-numbered page picture lead out of this perennial shot). But otherwise you are becalmed in the depths of silly season, and the task of filling column inch after column inch is a daunting one.

And so there must have been whoops of joy in newsrooms across the country on Sunday morning when the News of the World dropped. The tabloid's allegations of a cricket betting scam is followed up as the splash on every title except the ever-quixotic Daily Express (heart disease breakthrough), Independent (Labour leadership contest) and Daily Star (Big Brother).

Even with such a cast-iron Proper Story on which to lead, filling the rest of the paper is no easy task - as evidenced by the Sun, which carries a five-column photo of clouds shaped (supposedly) like the British isles. For sheer silly season-ness, it is perhaps only outdone by the Daily Mai's page seven lead - a grey squirrel looking a bit angry and trying to bite someone.

Nonetheless, there is, apparently, a Labour leadership contest taking place at the moment, and the Milibrothers each talk to one of the liberal heavies - David chats to the Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead, while an interview with Ed is the Independent's splash.

Both papers diligently pick out the sibling rivals' policy differences - on the legacy of New Labour, on the party's record in government, on whether to pursue the core vote or the middle ground. But it is the Cain and Abel aspect of this familial battle that intrigues journalists most, hence David finds himself insisting that the contest has been "fraternal" while Ed says he is "determined" their relationship will not be damaged.

All this may be good news for the Milibands' mum, fretting over her ballot paper in north London. But how unfortunate for Fleet Street's Sunday shift. The News of the World's staff really must feel they are owed a drink from their daily rivals.

Monday's Quote of the Day

11:08 UK time, Monday, 30 August 2010

"I heard that 60 is the new 40 so I am making 70 the new 50" - Sir Cliff Richard, who has posed topless for his 2011 official calendar as he prepares to become a septuagenarian.

Sir Cliff, who turns 70 in October, boasts: "My waist measures 30in, the same as 30 years ago." The indefatigable crooner, famed for serenading the crowd at Wimbledon, adds that he is determined to play tennis on his 100th birthday.

More details (Daily Mail)

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