Archive for the News Category

Before & After: Alex “Hurricane” Higgins

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2010 by Robin Gosnall



Snooker legend Alex Higgins looked a shadow of his former self as he attended a charity fund-raiser in his honour. The 61-year-old, who won snooker’s world title in 1972 and 1982, is said to have been living on baby food after losing his teeth from radiotherapy while battling throat cancer.

Stars from the sport including Jimmy White, 47, John Virgo, 63, and Tony Knowles, 54, joined the “Hurricane” at Yang Sing Chinese restaurant in Manchester to raise £20,000 to pay for crucial surgery.

Tracey Emin and Dame Vivienne Westwood at Malcolm McLaren’s funeral in Camden

Posted in Music, News with tags , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Tracey Emin

Vivienne Westwood

Malcolm McLaren’s send-off: They came in leather and studs to say goodbye

Anarchy rules as Malcolm McLaren funeral draws punk glitterati

Traces of cocaine found on 99% of British bank notes

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2010 by Robin Gosnall


Cocaine is cheaper than a cup of coffee in a London restaurant, authors of the parliamentary report made to estimate the government’s struggle against the import of heavy drugs in the country said. The price of one gram of cocaine has lost 50% of its value during the recent decade.

Deputies of the British government believe that the measures, which the government takes to struggle against the import of heavy drugs, are dismally inadequate. The drug is still available in the streets, and the cost of cocaine dropped during the recent ten years from £80 to £40 per gram.

For comparison, a cup of coffee may cost from £2 to £8 in London. A glass of the cheapest wine or beer costs at least £3.50 pounds. The price of cocaine could drop against the background of its worsening quality, experts say. The drug may often be mixed with other substances, such as painkillers.

The cocaine, which the British police confiscated in 2009, was 27% made of the natural product. In other arrested batches, there was only %5 of pure cocaine.

There are other reasons that may have led to dropping prices on the narcotic substance. Prices on illegal substances depend on the risk connected with its delivery, storage and sale. A lower threat of punishment triggers the growth of competition on the market, which eventually results in lower prices.

Today, Britain is one of the prime receivers of cocaine in the Old World. British MPs believe that cocaine has gained popularity with the help of celebrities and successful businessmen. Many celebrities use cocaine and do not receive any punishment for it. Moreover, successful entrepreneurs may often look absolutely normal and take high positions in the society despite their addiction to cocaine.

British supermodels Kate Moss and Jodie Kidd would often make headlines because of their fondness for cocaine. Singers Katherine Jenkins and Amy Winehouse publicly stated that they used cocaine.

A cocaine scandal occurred in the British armed forces in 2004, when it was said that the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Royal Scots took cocaine.

Great Britain comes second on the use of cocaine in modern-day Europe. The country can proudly take the first place at this point: traces of cocaine were found on 99% of the nation’s bank notes.

3% of Britain’s adult population tried cocaine in 2008-2009, which marked a five-fold increase in comparison with 1996. Britain is also one of the leaders when it comes to the use of such drugs as ecstasy and amphetamines.

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Brown Bread: Ted Kennedy

Posted in News, Obituaries with tags , , on August 28, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


R.I.P. Edward Kennedy 1932-2009


Kiri Te Kanawa Retires

Posted in Music, News with tags , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


I learn that Kiri Te Kanawa is to retire from the operatic stage, something I thought she had done some years ago, actually. I didn’t think she had ever got started! Good voice but no idea about musicianship. She’s known as the “can opener” in New Zealand … don’t ask me why, a friend of mine started it.

Oh dear. I suppose there’s a convention that if one doesn’t have anything nice to say, one keeps quiet, but (and I saw her on numerous occasions in the 1980s in both the theatre and in the concert hall) she was not really an opera singer at all.

She had an undeniably beautiful voice (although she was really more of a jacked-up mezzo than a soprano, as her early recordings demonstrate) but I can think of few singers who were less dramatic or engaged, or who came on stage showing less evidence that they actually knew their part (I remember a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in which she unwisely decided to sing Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder from memory, came unstuck, and André Previn as conductor desperately trying to help her out while shooting her the sort of looks that he normally reserved for Eric Morecambe).

Opera is not just, or even principally, about beautiful voices; it’s about guts, drama, commitment. During her time at Covent Garden you could slum it in St Martin’s Lane and see singing actors of the calibre of Janice Cairns and Josephine Barstow, who may not have had Kiri Te Kanawa’s vocal gifts but knew about performing on the operatic stage.

I’m afraid whatever else Kiri Te Kanawa may have been, in the performances I saw she was never the real thing on stage.

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Posted in BBC Radio 3, Music, News with tags , , on July 8, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


It’s the second half of 2009. Next week, the BBC Proms get going and the Prommers come out of retirement for the best part of two months. How will the weather fare? Will we have “the hottest day since records began”? Or will it be another damp squib like last year? All concerts are broadcast live, of course, on BBC Radio 3.

Apparently, the hottest day since records began was August 10 2003, when the mercury hit 38.5°C in Faversham, Kent.

Hot weather is very bad for my health and well-being, and, quite apart from that, I cannot listen to music so well with the windows open. Fortunately it rarely lasts long.

I do think it is irresponsible of TV newsreaders and weatherpersons to talk as if everyone loves hot weather, especially when there is official concern about its effects on many people’s health.

The last two summers were much more to my taste, though I commiserate with those who experienced the flooding.

BBC Expenses

Posted in BBC Radio 3, News with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


The BBC published on its website five years’ worth of line-by-line expenses for its executive board members after a series of freedom of information requests. The data offers an extraordinarily detailed snapshot of the inner workings of the BBC.

Expenses claims made by Mark Thompson, BBC Director General and 12 other former and present members of the BBC executive board over the past five years, totalling £363,963.83, were released as the corporation responded to calls for it to be more open and accountable.

By far the biggest claimer of overnight accommodation was BBC Radio 3 Controller Roger Wright, at £6,152.24, and he’s No. 2 overall with £16,489.38. Maybe he enjoys expensive food and staying overnight.

Did anyone hear Mark Thompson on BBC Radio 4’s Today? It struck me as an extremely poor piece of self-congratulatory double-speak on the part of the BBC. The gist of it was the interviewer challenging Thompson on his claiming for congestion charges.

Thompson explained that he claimed only for the official car that drove him to meetings and official functions (this including 23p for parking). When he drove his own family in his own car, he paid the congestion charge himself.

The interviewer continued to badger Thompson on the point, causing Thompson to justify himself by comparisons with standard (private sector) industry practice.

To me Thompson’s claims seemed entirely reasonable, supportable, and well within what any right-thinking person would expect him to claim. There was no controversy, and no need to badger him on the point, or even raise the point to begin with. Businessman claims expenses for costs incurred in business travel! Shock! Horror! Call the BBC to investigate!

Now maybe I’m just being cynical, but the interview smacked of the BBC being ostentatiously “fair” by grilling the boss over something that was actually completely unnecessary to investigate. And more than that, it was deliberately designed to allow him to highlight to listeners how fair and reasonable he is.

The BBC expenses issue is a mere sideshow compared to the more pressing questions such as why the BBC needs such a vast management structure – in the 1970s I’m sure there were relatively few “executives” and there was much more emphasis on producers and programme-makers. There certainly weren’t nonsensical departments such as BBC Vision. Linked to that are other questions such as why those “executives” and managers need to be paid such enormous salaries. Why should public sector salaries be compared with those in the commercial market and not, for instance, with other public sector salaries such as the salary of a Government minister which is many times less than that of the Director General of the BBC?

There is also the question of why the licence fee is so inequitable, why someone on jobseeker’s allowance pays more than Mark Thompson himself for the same TV licence. Needless to say, you will not get any sensible response to any of these questions from a BBC spokesman, or the BBC Trust who are supposed to safeguard the interests of licence fee payers.


Posted in Music, News with tags , , on March 20, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


Here’s a letter to The Herald regarding an interview with Prince William (our future King) on Channel 4, in which he said “Heaven forbid that I should listen to classical music.”

I think we should all be relieved he wasn’t around in Handel’s time.

I do not understand why this sort of pronouncement from a nincompoop should create surprise. Although I am sorry for the Royal family, who do not often get a straight deal from the press, few if any of them have ever given the impression that they have the necessary intellectual attributes to enjoy any artistic pursuits.

I just want to ask what else he could do with it, given that playing it might be a bit beyond him, though I seem to remember his dad had a go at the ’cello.

I will not go into a rant but it’s not good is it?

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