Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers
‘LONDON has changed greatly in recent years.
|‘Anytime you’re London way, any evening any day…’|
Doing the Lambeth Walk these days is to risk life and limb dodging trucks, 4x4s and buses.
Cockney sparrows have been replaced by filthy pigeons (flyingus ratae).
If a nightingale did sing in Berkeley Square, the residents would complain about the noise and the yellow peril would be taken to the sprawling suburbs and shot.
And the best bit is that Londoners pay through the nose for the experience.
The Times has seen the annual survey carried out by Mercer, the human resources consulting firm, and learnt that London is now the second most expensive city to live in the entire world.
Taking into account such items as food, housing, entertainment, the price of a CD and the cost of renting an unfurnished two-bed apartment, researchers found that only Tokyo is dearer than London.
But then Tokyo doesnt have Ken Livingstone as its political leader. Londoners can rest assured that with Ken at the helm for a second term in office, their city will soon be No. 1.
But it could have been different – the Independent reports that more than half a million voting forms in the recent election for London mayor were filled out wrongly.
Voters were asked to mark their first and second choice for mayor down on the slip but, what with the pollution and the lack of available oxygen necessary for rational thought, many misunderstood the directions.
The paper tells us that having been asked to place a cross in one column for first choice and another in a separate column to indicate the second, over 500,000 Londoners failed to comprehend.
The paper says that common mistakes included putting both selections in one column, not putting anything in the second column, putting a cross through two boxes instead of through one at a time…
…voting for the BNP, believing Spurs will rise again, eating kebabs from vans, not travelling everywhere by mini cab, riding the Tube without two days worth of provisions strapped to a belt, talking to anyone in the street, trying to reason with a bus driver, parking a car, standing still (see pigeons)…’
‘GOT the price of a cup of tea? pleads the decrepit old crone at Birminghams New Street station.
|‘Thirty years of hurt, never stop the dreaming…’|
But before you dismiss her, remember that 30 years ago she was like you. She too arrived on the concourse with a ticket in her hand and a plan for a train journey to work.
But things happen in life. Not everything runs on time. There are delays. The wrong type of snow. Striking station staff. Leaves!
So give her a quid, because if the Government is to be believed, in 30 years time, she could be you.
The Independent brings news to anyone reading (or wearing) its pages at one of the countrys train stations that the ten-year plan to cure the nations transport problems will now arrive some time in 2034.
And thats not just before twenty to eight this evening, but the year 2034, some 30 orbits of the sun into the dim and distant future.
Those who have not gone crazy waiting for the next service to arrive may recall that at the time of their coming to office in 1997, Tony Blairs Labour party held aloft a ten-year plan for transport.
It was bright. It was bold. And, boy, was it ever integrated.
That is now just three years away, a mere blinking of an eye in commuting terms. But it will not happen. Know that it was too ambitious and will take another thirty 30 to be made real.
Of course, as the Indy reminds us all, thats at least six general elections away, and even with Tonys Blairs Teflon coating, he surely cannot still be around then.
Although the commuters at New Street station will be. And when a mass of newsprint and hair asks you for the price of a cup of tea in 2034, unfurl your 50 euro note and give until it hurts.
It might just be your dad coming home from a very long day at the office…’
‘CLEARLY, Downing Street didn’t send in enough postal votes with a X next to Labour and an ‘I Love Tony’ message in yesterday’s elections.
|‘Lord Lucan and Shergar have both gone for Labour’|
The party was heading for what the Telegraph calls ‘one of its worst electoral performances in recent memory’ as the Tories made major gains across the country.
Indeed, a poll suggests that had yesterday been a General Election instead of a European and local government election, Labour’s majority would have been completely wiped out.
According to the YouGov survey, the Tories would have got 36% of the vote, Labour 32% and the Liberal Democrats 18%, although even then Labour would be the biggest party in Parliament and Tony Blair would continue as Prime Minister.
However, the Independent thinks Labour might not even wait that long to find out, suggesting that the results would ‘provoke another bout of speculation about Mr Blair’s future and demands for him to stand down’.
The man himself suggested that the Iraq war had ‘cast a shadow’ over the elections, although that is a pretty feeble argument as the Tories also supported the war.
‘In the end,’ the Messianic One opined, ‘you have to face decisions which you think are right and you have to see them through.’
Indeed – and we therefore expect that, if more than half the Labour party think it is the right thing to do to kick Blair out, then they will also have the guts to see it through.
If they do, it is unlikely that they will use a postal ballot to make the decision after the fiasco of the experiment in yesterday’s elections.
The Times is so fixated on this issue that it has now run exactly the same story on its front page for three days in a row.
‘Postal ballot marred by fraud’ was Wednesday’s headline; ‘Postal ballot dirty tricks exposed’ was yesterday’s lead; and today we get ‘Postal voting system need fraud check, officials say’.
It’s okay, guys – we got the message the first time.
So obsessed is the Times with this issue that its readers might struggle to discover the actual result of the supposed gerrymandering in this morning’s paper.
For all the talk of ‘fraud, vote-stealing and intimidation’, we could be in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe…or indeed Jeb Bush’s Florida.’
‘BLOODY Pandas! You can hardly move in China these days without tripping over one of the lazy black and white furballs.
|‘Who’re you voting for – Michelle or Ahmed?’|
Far from having the sex drive of a eunuch judging a Vanessa Feltz lookalike contest, it seems that the giant panda has been mating quite happily away from prying eyes.
The Independent reckons that there has been a 40% increase in the panda population in the bamboo forests of southern China, although this can be partly explained by better counting.
‘We have been further, higher and deeper into panda habitat than ever before, finding panda populations that were not known to science,’ says Stuart Chapman, head panda honcho at WWF-UK.
‘Hearing about the findings was like all my Christmases rolled into one. We’ve got a second chance to save the panda and you don’t often get a second chance in conservation.’
Just ask the dodos – no-one gave them a second chance, did they?
Why scientists should be surprised to come across a colony of pandas hiding out in remote parts of China like ursine John Rambos we don’t know.
If the alternative was to have a ribbon round your neck and be sent off as a present to London Zoo where you were expected to perform a live sex show three times a day, wouldn’t you?’
”WHAT’S that, Skippy? Trapped down a disused mineshaft you say? C’mon, boy – you show me where…’
|‘You marvellous little ball, you!’|
We have known for a long time that kangaroos are highly intelligent animals – in Australia they pretty well form a fourth emergency service rescuing kids trapped in disused mineshafts up and down the country.
Intelligent they may be, but they’re not great conversationalists.
You wouldn’t invite a kangaroo to a dinner party, say, especially if you could get a border collie along instead – like Rico (see Tabloids).
But what about vegetables? Prince Charles has been talking to them for years – and we’re not talking about the dear departed Queen Mother.
And this morning he tells the Guardian his two favourite dinner companions – the brussel sprout and the leek.
Both are said to be very good listeners, always on hand with a bit of sage advice and boasting a wealth of amusing anecdotes with which to keep the prince entertained.
‘It’s a marvellous little ball,’ Charles exclaimed about the humble sprout – an opinion not shared, it seems, by his future subjects.
Not for the first time, in February the sprout was voted Britain’s most hated vegetable, although we prefer to think of it as misunderstood instead.’
‘TODAY is the big day. E-Day. Y’know – election day. What do you mean, what elections? No, not Big Brother, you fool. It’s the European and local council elections. Hey, come back…
|The most deserted place in Britain today|
First, the good news – today’s elections are deemed sufficiently important to be the lead story in three of the four broadsheet papers this morning.
Now, the bad news – both the Times and Telegraph lead with reports on how the election results have been cast into doubt by hundreds of cases of alleged postal vote fraud.
And the Independent leads with a story by Pamela Schlatterer, UK correspondent for German TV, entitled: ‘You British, the elections and your special brand of European hatred.’
And a depressing read it makes as a foreigner puzzles over the heady mix of ignorance, arrogance and downright apathy that characterises Britain’s relationship with continental Europe.
She meets people like 20-year-old Matt, who is going to vote UK Independence Party today on the somewhat dubious grounds that ‘they’re going to steal our currency’.
And Michael, a bus driver, who feels that he should vote for Ken Livingstone in the mayoral poll because he has done so much for bus drivers, but in the end ‘won’t bother’.
Schlatterer is no Brit-basher – far from it. She talks fondly about the ‘weird and wonderful ways’ of her adopted home, at one point going so far as to suggest that with better public services and more European influence on the food it could be ‘a paradise’.
But she shares the bafflement of her Dutch and German media colleagues with our attitudes towards the rest of Europe.
‘We shake our heads at a country that seems intent on denying it is already governed by Brussels in lots of areas,’ she says.
‘The deep-seated sentiment against being ‘not independent’ has crystallised into Euro-hatred and, even though the Prime Minister prides himself on being pro-Europe, under his leadership things have got worse.’
Sixty years ago, thousands of men gave their lives trying to turn back the tide of fascism that had engulfed Europe and bring peace and democracy to western Europe.
How do we repay this generation? By retreating into our ‘little Englander’ xenophobia or not being bothered to turn out to vote…’
‘THERE is one fortnight in the year when this country parades all its worst qualities for the rest of the world to see – it’s called Wimbledon.
|Half a cheek, half a cheek, half a cheek onwards…|
Full of stuffy old men with blazers, dandruff and red faces caused by a few hundred gin and tonics too many and middle-aged women with plastic Union Jack hats and an HRT-induced crush on Tim Henman, the All England Club manages to accommodate the worst of our past side by side with the worst of our present.
Except in one area – Wimbledon has failed to accommodate an ever-growing population, with an increasing number of complaints from fans about the size of the seats on Centre Court.
‘Many visitors who had paid large sums to watch top-seeded players on Centre Court were unhappy at having to shoehorn themselves into such a restricted space,’ explains the Times.
We at Anorak would suggest that £50 and a slight bit of discomfort is a small prove to pay to be able to see Tiger Timmy in the flesh.
But the Wimbledon authorities have decided to act and will install seats which are at least 10% wider as part of a £100m redevelopment of the famous court, which will include the addition of a retractable roof.
The current seats, some of which are less than 40cm wide, were installed in 1922 when Britain still had an Empire and its population could still see its feet.
The new seats will be at least 46cm across – wider than a British Airways economy seat, for example, but not as wide as the average cinema seat.
All well and good, but are these new seats really necessary? Given the thrills and spills served up on court, we would have thought spectators only ever used the edge of them when they weren’t off them altogether…’
‘OF course, the highlight of the Wimbledon fortnight every year is the rain and the chance it gives us to hear Sir Cliff treating Centre Court to an impromptu concert.
|‘We’d better make the most of it – I hear a cold snap’s just around the corner’|
But the Guardian has bad news for those of us who tune in for that sole reason the recent spell of good weather is set to last…for the next 15,000 years.
It is good news, however, for any of you who were planning on having a barbecue in the year 17004, although we advise you to bring it forward a couple of decades just to be on the safe side.
The paper quotes European scientists (in other words, a shifty untrustworthy bunch) who say that the next ice age is still a long way off.
If people say to you: the greenhouse effect is a good thing because we would go into another ice age otherwise, our data says no, we werent about to go into another ice age, says Eric Woolf, of the British Antarctic Survey.
We have another 15,000 years before that was coming.
Time enough to put some straw down round the begonias…’
‘IF you missed Venus’s transit across the sun yesterday, tough luck – you’ll have to hang around for another 243 years if you want to catch the repeat.
|Ford Transit Gloria Mundi|
Alternatively, you can pick up one of today’s papers and inspect what looks to all intents and purposes like an orange circle with a black dot on it.
Were it not for the fact that the astronomical phenomenon is reproduced on the front page of three of the four broadsheets, we might suspect that it was a particularly cunning fraud perpetrated by a six-year-old girl with a set of felt tip pens.
‘It’s gorgeous, it’s gorgeous,’ shouted out Dr Allan Chapman, professor of the history of science at Oxford University and clearly a man who should get out a bit more.
So what did the transit – to give the phenomenon its proper title – look like.
The Guardian’s Simon Hoggart was standing next to Dr Chapman and 91 of the world’s leading astronomers on top of a hill in Lancashire and describes what he saw.
At first, it was ‘a tiny black crescent, as if a mouse had begun nibbling on a Gouda cheese’.
‘Looking directly through the bigger telescopes, their lenses covered with glass so dark you couldn’t see anything except the sun, we could look at an even finer sight,’ he said, ‘as if a black bug was crawling very slowly across a lemon yellow Frisbee.’
Which of course provides a third option if you can’t be bothered to buy one of today’s paper and aren’t confident that you’ll still be around in 2247.
And where better to watch a black bug walk over your brand new lemon yellow Frisbee than on the beach enjoying this spell of sunshine.
The transit may happen only once a lifetime, but for the Telegraph a sunny day in June is even more rare – and it gives pride of pictorial place to a girl sheltering under an umbrella on the beach at Hastings.
(Incidentally, isn’t it remarkable that no men ever seem to go to the beach in Britain – indeed, in Fleet Street the sand is populated exclusively by bikini-clad stunnas.)
But the unidentified girl on Hastings beach is a role model for all of us – staying in the shade is part of the Department of Health’s expert advice on keeping cool.
It also includes staying indoors, wearing loose clothing and taking cool baths or showers.
For those who do wish to lie out in the sun, the advice is clear – wear a hat, cover all exposed parts of your body with sun cream and try to avoid being trampled by groups of overexcited astronomers.’
‘NEW York used to be the city that never sleeps – these days it is fast becoming the city that sleeps because there’s bugger all better to do.
|Fine $175: Politicians making idiotic pronouncements|
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mission to turn one of the most vibrant and exciting cities on earth into a place that even people who live in Vermont would find a bit tame continues unabated.
This morning, according to the Times, he is attempting to turn the volume down on the famous buzz of street life in the Big Apple.
Residents face a series of fines of up to $25,000 if they disturb their neighbours.
For instance, dog owners will have to pay $175 if their dog barks for longer than five minutes after dark or 10 minutes during the day.
Ice cream vans will attract a fine of $350 if they dare turn on their electronic chime; motorists will be hit if car alarms go off for three minutes; homeowners if their house alarms exceed 15 minutes.
New Yorkers will be forbidden from mowing their lawns before eight o’clock in the morning and after seven at night on weekdays, and before nine o’clock and after six at weekends.
Mayor Bloomberg’s pettifogging has already resulted not only in smoking being banned in bars and restaurants, but in it being illegal to have an ashtray in your office.
It’s also illegal to put a bag on the seat next to you on the subway even if the whole carriage is empty, to sit on an upturned milk crate on the sidewalk or to ride a bicycle without at all times keeping your feet on the pedals.
Big Apple? It all sounds like it’s gone pear-shaped…’
‘TODAY New York, tomorrow London and the rest of the United Kingdom – but not if Health Secretary John Reid gets his way.
|The happiest days of our lives|
The Scot yesterday blew a big cloud of smoke in the eyes of the British Mayor Bloombergs by suggesting that cigarettes were often the only enjoyment for people living on sink estates.
The Indy hears Reid suggest that controls of smoking were an obsession of the middle classes and there were far worse problems affecting the country’s poorest neighbourhoods.
‘What enjoyment does a 21-year-old single mother-of-three living on a council sink estate get?’ he asked. ‘The only enjoyment they sometimes have is to have a cigarette.’
Of course, encouraging the poor to smoke serves the Government’s purposes – it gets to take their money without having to look after them in old age.
But Reid insisted that empowerment was better than instruction and that any controls on smoking would be introduced ‘in the British way’.
In other words, inconsistently, inefficiently, incoherently…’
‘STANDING on a somewhat contradictory platform of ‘Free sunbeds for all’ and ‘No more darkies’, Robert Kilroy Silk is marching inexorably towards Downing Street.
|And lo! A strange orange apparition appeared…|
The former TV presenter’s UK Independence Party – a ragbag of eurosceptics, xenophobes and outright racists – is expected to double its vote in Thursday’s European elections.
According to a Times poll, UKIP is heading for 13% of what promises to be a low vote, just behind the Liberal Democrats on 17%, the Tories on 24% and Labour on 26%.
It may not be enough to sweep the Arab-loving Kilroy Silk into power, but the orangey-brown tide is running very much in his favour.
The Times says the main losers in the election look like being Michael Howard and the Tory party, who have been haemorrhaging support to Kilroy and his melanin-enhanced friends.
The Tories’ in-house paper, the Telegraph, reads the same runes as the Times, and can see disaster lurking ahead.
It says UKIP’s strong performance has put the Tory truce on Europe under increasing strain with pro-European MPs demanding that Howard put out a positive message about the benefits of Brussels.
Meanwhile, the party’s legion of Eurosceptics are saying precisely the opposite, accusing their leader of being too tolerant to federalists in Brussels.
Indeed, the paper paints an even worse picture than the Times, suggesting that UKIP’s support is as high as 21% of likely voters.
The good news, however, is that many of these voters will not get the chance to put a cross – or smudge of fake tan – next to Kilroy Silk’s name.
The Times says the controversial all-postal ballot experiment in four regions of England is descending into the predictable fiasco with tens of thousands of ballot papers apparently lost in the post.
All of which begs the question of why we need Europe when we can make a mess of our country perfectly well on our own…’
‘TO make a mess of its own country is the prerogative of any government; to make a mess of other people’s country takes a special kind of skill.
|‘Oh shit! It says ‘Made In Britain’ on it’|
And we are glad to report that, even with Iraq teetering on the brink of anarchy, the British Government is still looking to sow seeds of discord elsewhere.
According to the Guardian, Britain exported almost £1bn of arms last year, large quantities of which went to countries whose policies the Government said it disapproves.
For instance, Saudi Arabia was by far the biggest recipient with imports worth £189.33m, while Indonesia, Colombia and Nepal were all on the list.
Human rights groups accused the Government of ignoring its own guidelines (part of its laughable ‘ethical foreign policy’) by approving these arms sales.
But the Foreign Office insisted that the arms industry is now so globalised that it is impossible to scrutinise where all British arms exports end up.
Curiously, a spokesman for the Smith Group, which makes parts for the US Apache attack helicopters used by Israel to attack Palestinians, uses exactly the same excuse.
It does of course have the benefit of convenience, although it is not much comfort to those (including British soldiers) who find themselves staring the wrong way down the barrel of a British-made gun.
On the other hand, if it’s anything like the ones we provide to our own troops, it’s likely to prove as lethal as a spud gun during the great Irish potato famine.’
‘YESTERDAY, we told you how Oscar-winning actors and actresses lived for an average of four years longer than peers without a golden statuette on their mantelpiece.
|Off to the geriatric ward|
That’s all well and good, but for women in Hollywood that is likely to equate to four more years of unemployment.
The Independent reports that Alex Kingston, the British actress who plays Dr Corday on the hit medical drama ER, has been told that she won’t have her £2.3m contract renewed after the current series.
And she has no doubt that it is her age – 41 – that is the motivating factor behind the decision.
‘I suddenly felt very old surrounded by these young twentysomethings,’ she said. ‘Does it mean that I’m the geriatric that’s being pushed out because she’s too old?
‘Apparently I, according to the producers and the writers, am part of the old fogeys who are no longer interesting.’
Other actresses have made similar complaints, including Kim Cattrall and Helen Mirren.
Rosanna Arquette has even made a documentary about the problem, entitled Searching For Debra Winger (after the actress who opted out of Hollywood at the age of 40).
The film, to be released in the UK this year, is a sustained attack on the male-dominated industry which has few female directors and even fewer female studio executives.
‘It is offensive,’ 44-year-old Arquette says, ‘that in Hollywood a 68-year-old movie star is paired with a 30-year-old or someone even younger.’
We agree, but take comfort from the fact that, although Madonna’s acting career may be brought to a premature end, Ben Affleck will be hamming it up for many years to come…’
‘MAYBE we should ask the Portuguese in a couple of weeks’ time what cultural symbols they associate with England. A smashed window? A thrown chair? A broken bottle?
|Mrs Jones shows her neighbours round her living room|
Maybe we should ask the police after a busy Saturday night trying to keep order in the centre of towns up and down the country what cultural symbols they associate with England.
A pool of vomit? A vandalised bus shelter? Blood pouring from a gashed head?
Maybe we should ask the ambulance service what cultural symbols they associate with England after they have ferried its latest victims to Casualty.
A stomach pump? A discarded syringe? A smashed skull?
Or maybe we should ask the Government, which has launched a £1m project to identify the country’s most important cultural symbols and define what makes our culture great.
And, according to the Independent, there will be no place for a beaten-up pensioner on the list or a group of lager-swilling boneheads on a Club 18-30 pub crawl.
Instead, it will be a genteel affair, with pride of place going to that great British institution – the cup of tea.
‘It will take us from the Rosetta Stone to the Routemaster bus,’ a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport explained.
‘It’s a debate about what culture is and what it means to be English. The cup of tea is itself an icon. It has a lot of cultural associations.’
It is of course ironic that the Routemaster bus should be included at a time when it is being phased out of service.
Likewise, that endangered species, the red telephone box, is likely to be included on the website called Icons, along with the obsolete Morris Traveller and the recently retired police helmet.
While we are celebrating all that was once good about Britain, we will also celebrate our rapacious history, with the Elgin Marbles (which the Greek government insists was stolen from the Parthenon) being considered for inclusion alongside the Rosetta Stone (which was removed to the British Museum from what is now Egypt).
The aim of the £1m project is, says the Indy, to make culture more accessible to the public through new technology like the internet.
Anyone who is not online can also take part – just collect 120 of the bricks thrown through your window of a weekend and recreate Carl Andre’s ground-breaking Pile Of Bricks installation in your living room.’
‘AS we at Anorak Towers cough and splutter our way to an early grave, we do so in the knowledge that at least old Mr Anorak himself will live on after us.
|‘He shall not grow old as we that have not won as Oscar grow old…’|
And it is not just because he does not have to work in this airless dungeon for 12 hours a day, only ever seeing natural light once a year during the company trip to Margate.
According to the Times, it is because having more money than those around you and the social kudos of outperforming your peers can improve your chances of a long and happy life.
Research over three decades by one of Britain’s leading medical scientists has discovered that even small moves up the hierarchy, such as a promotion at work or moving into a bigger house, can lead to improvements in health.
‘How much money you have is not as important as how much you have relative to others in society,’ concludes Sir Michael Marmot.
It is the burden of feeling inferior that makes people ill rather than material conditions such as poverty and malnutrition per se.
‘Envy of those who earn more and climb higher up the social ladder,’ says the Times, ‘can be a factor in conditions as diverse as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and mental illness.’
By way of example, the paper says that Oscar-winning actors and actresses live on average four years longer than equally famous and wealthy performers who haven’t been recognised by the Academy.
Which happily means that the world at large can continue to enjoy yet more stellar performances from Ben Affleck – even if we in Anorak Towers have long since shuffled off this mortal coil.’
‘RONALD Reagan never won as Oscar, despite his unforgettable performances in such classics as Hellcats Of The Navy, Bedtime For Bonzo and Hell’s Kitchen.
|‘What does it mean when both hands are pointing to the 12?’|
But he still lived to the grand old age of 93 before the curtain was brought down once and for all on his career at the weekend.
Of course, this may have had something to do with the fact that for eight years of his life he played so convincingly the role of President of the United States.
(Many people still insist that Reagan’s masterful performance in pretending he knew nothing about the Iran Contra affair should have received proper recognition.)
The papers all pay tribute to man who for the past decade has suffered from Alzheimer’s and in recent years has not even known his wife Nancy.
And the Telegraph even suggests that the man it thinks the greatest post-war American president ‘deserves a stone-carved niche in that Olympus of commanders-in-chief atop Mount Rushmore’.
It is, after all, no mean feat for one man to see the national debt triple during his presidency.
However, if Reagan is to secure a place on the side of the fabled mountain, then stone masons should get cracking.
Otherwise, it is surely only a matter of time before the final place is taken up by another great post-war president, commander-in-chief, voodoo economist and pretzel swallower, George Dubya Bush himself.’
‘IT’S pretty clear that not all researchers are on an equal footing.
|‘Hadaway and shite, mon’|
While some seek to unlock the secrets of the human psyche, other researchers busy themselves in less lofty pursuits.
And so it is with researchers at Middlesex University who have been investigating the different sounds made by ducks.
Thanks to Dr Victoria de Rijke, a lecturer in English, we now know that cockney ducks make a rough ‘shouting’ quack at their mates, what we at Anorak might term a ‘Cor, luvva duck’.
‘The cockney ducks at the city farm were much louder…than the ducks on Trerieve Farm, in Downderry, Cornwall,’ Dr De Rijke tells the Guardian.
This is no less than fascinating stuff, worthy of the paper’s attention. And it’s stuff we might have missed had the good doctor not used her ears so effectively.
‘The cockney quack’, continues Dr Rijke,’ is like a shout and a laugh, whereas the Cornish ducks sound more like they are giggling.’
Laughing, giggling ducks! Wonder what they find so amusing? That’s something Dr Rijke and her team might like to investigate next.
But now to the researcher’s point, namely that ducks are like humans. No, really they are.
‘So it is like humans,’ says De Rijke, ‘cockneys have short and open vowels, whereas the Cornish have longer vowels and speak fairly slowly.’
Dr Rijke now hopes to study the quacking sounds of other ducks from the regions and will be interviewing geordie, scouse and Irish ducks.
She may even take her study overseas. There she’ll learn that Peking ducks are a brittle bunch who sound best when they are being ripped apart by two forks in a Soho restaurant.
And Bombay ducks sound like fish…’
”HELLO,’ says the familiar voice on the end of the phone. ‘It’s me.’
|Six years later, Tony got to the front of the queue|
‘Oh, how wonderful! Hello, dear. Well, isn’t that amazing! You only left home this morning and you’re there already.’
‘I only had to take a train and…’
‘A train! Well, I never! Who’d have thought it, a train to Zambia? It’s amazing what they can do these days. And you sound so clear, like you’re only up the road.’
‘That’s because I am; I’m still at Heathrow!’
And so it was and, most likely, still it is for thousands of passengers, as the Times reports on the ‘travel chaos’ that has engulfed British airports.
Gap year students, like our friend on the phone to his mum, found that they needn’t travel all that far to experience destitution, inhumane living conditions and hopelessness as the National Air Traffic Service went off-line.
And travellers stuck at the country’s airports may be there for a while longer yet, as the paper says that the technical glitches that snarled up the flow of planes to and from Blighty yesterday will not be properly fixed until 2011.
After seven years away from home, our adventurous friend would have expected to have seen a lot more of the world than the inside of Terminal 4.
But at least he can busy himself talking to the Telegraph, which can’t have had too much trouble in finding people ready to say how ‘cheesed off’ they are – although one Russian, perhaps more used to queues than is decent, thought it was no big deal.
Our traveller might also like to flick through one of the myriad copies of the Times strewn over sleeping bodies and therein learn that the makeshift camp for migrants he now calls home is due for expansion later this month.
The paper says that baggage handlers and check-in staff are threatening to strike over something called ‘air-traffic issues’.
And Philip Butterworth-Hayes, an expert is such matters for the Jane’s Information Group, says he’s not surprised.
‘A lot of the causes for delays in Europe has to do with the way the British air traffic control is planned,’ says he.
So here’s your chance to get involved and not waste your time in transit. Grab a piece of paper and write down ways in which you think travel could be improved upon.
And to get things off to a flying start, we’ll open up with our suggestions: more palms trees, a swimming pool and a hotel nowhere near a flight path – somewhere close to Gatwick should do it.’
‘THANKS to the World Health Organisation (WHO), we know one vital fact about Malta.
The Guardian reports that a WHO study of 11 to 15-years-olds in 35 countries has found that just 12% of boys in Malta clean their teeth every day.
Clearly this is less than a perfect number, but it’s hard to gauge how terrible it really is because the paper forgets to tell us the state of dental play in the mouths of British youth.
But the survey does suggest that you’d be every bit as likely to find decay in the mouth of a young Brit as you would in his Maltese equivalent.
The Times shows, by means of a graph, that between a third and a half of all British teens down at least one can of fizzy drink a day.
What’s more, Scottish 11-year-olds are behind only the Netherlands and those foul-mouthed Maltese in terms of daily sweet consumption.
Not that sweets are all Britain’s future leaders and baggage handlers enjoy putting in their mouths.
We are No.1 when it comes to teenage alcohol drinking, with a third of English 13-year-olds drinking alcohol once a week, narrowly pipping the Welsh to the top spot.
And we are only Greenland’s No.2 when it comes to teenage sex.
The Guardian shows that while 79% of all 15-year-old girls in Greenland have had sex, the figure for both England and Wales is 40%, dropping to 35% in a relatively chaste Scotland.
The WHO’s report, entitled Young People’s Health In Context, also shows that while 67% of all 15-year-old girls living in Greenland are regular smokers, only 16% of their British peers share the habit.
This last statistic may have something to do with the purge on smoking, and the associated decline in the popularity of the post-coital fag.
But it may just mean that the British teens responding to the survey misinterpreted the questions.
After all, how do you get a sensible answer from a pissed teenager with a mouth full of rotten teeth and piercings?’
‘IT looks like the Government has hit upon a cunning plan to halt the meteoric rise of house prices, control pollution and fully integrate transport policy in a masterstroke of joined-up politicking.
|‘Now push, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…and work it…’|
If the Telegraph is correct and Britain does have the most expensive petrol in the world (84p a litre), our cars will soon be more expensive to run than our homes.
So expensive will fuel be if the Chancellor is as good as his word and sticks a 1.9p-a-litre duty increase on petrol and diesel in September that no-one will be able to afford to drive.
We will all begin to live in our cars, which we will push from one destination to another (thereby checking obesity) in keeping with the speed of our trains.
But not everyone sees the light, and the Telegraph hears from Tory leader Michael Howard, who asks Gordon Brown to reconsider his policy.
Indeed, the Independent hears Howard say that he thinks that, if others want to voice their anger and engage in protest in a peaceful way, they should do so.
Howard says that the rise in fuel duty (which already provides £23bn to the Treasury each year) would cause great hardship to many people and I would entirely understand should they wish to protest.
And that sends the Guardian out to locate David Handley, leader of the Farmers Action Group (FAG), which brought Britain to a virtual standstill four years ago with its campaign against rising fuel prices.
Handley and his group may like to direct their ire towards Beirut, where the oil ministers from the countries that make up the Opec cartel are meeting to decide what do to next.
And its their fault we are paying more at the pumps, according to the Government.
In the Telegraph, Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, accuses Howard of complete opportunism and says prices at the pumps are being driven up by the high international oil price.
But since motoring to Beirut to voice dissatisfaction would cost as much as a moderately sized mansion in Surrey, the protestors are staying at home.
And the Guardian reports that the little-known Peoples Fuel Lobby, a composite bland of hauliers and farmers, plans to blockade Newcastle upon Tyne city centre next Wednesday with trucks and lorries or detached houses and mobile gyms, as they will soon be known…’
‘SUCH is the cost of petrol that like William Shakespeares king we are now looking for a horse.
|Willie Carson was later banned for use of the whip|
And the signs are encouraging that we will soon find one, since weve just spotted a huge, festering Richard The Third sat in the middle of the Kempton Park racetrack.
But we wont bother picking it up to spread on our rose bush because it was laid not by a horse but by a dog, and not just any dog, either, but Simply Fabulous, a pedigree greyhound.
To find out why a racing dog came to be on horseracing track we turn to the Guardian and read news of yesterdays race between the aforementioned pooch and a racehorse called Tiny Tim.
In a bid to find out which is the faster greyhound or horse William Hill bookmakers staged an event.
At the off, Simply Fabulous (not raced competitively since November 2002) was at 6-5, while Tiny Tim (six-year-old bay gelding and runner-up in its last two starts) was the punters favourite at 8-13.
But which would win the contest, held over two furlongs on good to firm ground, with a prevailing wind from the east and not a stuffed hare in sight?
It was the big question – and it has now been answered.
Simply Fabulous lived up its name, upset the odds and romped past the winning post in 22.39 seconds, a full seven lengths (horse or dog unspecified) ahead of Tiny Tim.
Fergus Sweeney, Tiny Tims jockey, says he was a little disappointed to have lost.
It was a good race and I think I would probably have caught the dog if there had been another furlong, he opined.
Pah! Not in a million years, said Simply Fabulous jockey…’
‘AN update from the esoteric world of art now, as we turn to the Times and its story of how Young British Artists are striving to plug the gap caused by the recent fire.
|‘Quick! Get the sock!’|
However good it is (and it is very good), our own Vomit In Sock would never be enough on its own, not even if we used a pair of socks.
More is needed, and the Times says that the old livestock-pickler Damien Hirst has heard our rallying cry and is busy at work on a new creation.
But, as usual, not everyone is happy. Ingrates are among us and neighbours living close to Hirsts studio in the Cotswolds have been complaining.
Clive Eagles, his wife Tracy and their four children claim to have spent last weekend with their windows shut because of the stink caused by Hirsts work.
On Sunday the stench was so bad, says Mr Eagles, we couldnt open any of the windows.
So he decided to do something about it. Leaving his home, Mr Eagles walked up to Hirsts place and noticed a box lying outside the artists front door.
As I walked towards the box the smell got stronger and there were loads of flies. When I opened up the lid it was revolting, says he, adopting the role of art critic.
There was a big lump of something that looked like a cow. It was vile.
Vile? Surely he means to say, challenging.
But whatever was meant, Hirsts neighbours are now demanding an apology from the creator.
However, what with their knowledge of art, we say that its them that should be doing the apologising…’
‘THE confused state of popular opinion on Iraq means that the Guardian can even allow George Galloway a column to put forward his views.
|‘I come here to praise Saddam not to bury him’|
Many of you will remember Galloway as the crawling cove standing before a tyrannical Saddam Hussein and telling him how great he was.
The then Labour MP (hes now Respect MP for Glasgow Kelvin) even sported a moustache for the occasion, albeit a weasely one.
Now Galloway tells Guardian readers that he wants to hear mea cupla from politicians. He wants heads to roll. He says that Blairs defenestration would surely be the last straw for Bushs fading election hopes.
Having already called upon Arabs to rise up and fight British troops, we should not be too shocked if Galloway now wants us to shove our elected leader from a window.
Nor should we be surprised (and this comes in the same week as the 60th anniversary of D Day, a truly momentous assault on a terrible regime) that Galloway can say with no hint of embarrassment that the Greens have a better war record than the Liberal Democrats and, one supposes, the Government but not him.
For Galloway, its not a question of what you did in the war, but what you did to stop it, and so keep the despotic Hussein in power.
Although what most of us have done is just to watch the war on TV.
And yesterday, as the Times reports, Galloway and the rest of us got to know via our TVs which man replaces Saddam as the first Iraqi President since his ousting.
His names Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer. And the first thing to note about him is that hes not Adnan Pachachi, the man the Americans favoured for the job.
Having already turned down the offer to lead his country, the Guardian says that the Americans still had to formerly offer Pachachi – a man the Telegraph says is steadfastly loyal to the Bush administration – the job in order to save face.
So the Americans offered. Pachachi duly declined. And this allowed the sheikh a clear run at the top job, even if it is largely a ceremonial one.
But whatever his role, the Iraqi people at least have a face at the top table they can recognise and call their own.
And Tony Bair tells the Telegraph how that marks a truly historic day for Iraq.
And Bush says how the appointment has bought things one step closer to realising the dream of millions of Iraqis, a fully sovereign state with a representative government that protects their rights and serves their needs.
And if it doesnt, then Bush will get them another one that does. And who knows, there might even be a job for George Galloway…’
‘ANOTHER day and another triumph for the postal service, as we hear from Tony Blair that he wants us to have a great Christmas and a happy New Year. And to think, its only June!
|‘It’s another vote for that nice Mr Churchill’|
Thats how good the post is it can actually make things arrive six months early. Hats off to the Royal Mail.
But even a perfect system is only as good as the people that work in it, and we learn in the Independent that the Governments postal voting experiment for the upcoming local and European elections has hit a glitch.
Lord Falconer of Thornton, the Lord Chancellor, is heard by the paper insisting that the vast, vast, vast bulk of ballot papers would be in the postal system by midnight tonight, the deadline.
And dont doubt that what the paper estimates to be 430,000 voting papers that may yet miss this deadline is anything but something of a success.
Lord Falconer says it is a triumph, so it must be.
So the postal voting pilot scheme, covering 14.2 million voters in the North-east, the Midlands, Humberside and Yorkshire, is a logistical winner, and the Opposition should not carp on the edges.
Worry not that Charles Kennedy, leader of the Lib Dems, calls the trial a democratic disgrace in the Guardian or that the Election Commission tells the same paper that 300,000 ballot papers may miss their targets completely.
Indeed, the Guardian reports on how such is the level of confidence in the scheme and the Royal Mail that Gateshead council is using 18 libraries as collection points, so bypassing the postie.
And in Oldham, the Indy says that 120 council staff have been delivering papers to local homes after it took charge of distribution.
But the councils should not worry, not with the Royal Mail on the case.
Happy voting, as they say in Newcastle. Oh, and happy Christmas one and all…’