Archive for August, 2009

Noel Gallagher sounds pipes of doom for Oasis

August 29, 2009

The lead singer of 90s rock group Oasis, Noel Gallagher, has sensationally abandoned their latest project due to his brother’s insistence on using Uilleann pipes on several tracks for the new album.

Liam Gallagher, the group’s tambourine player, is fiercely proud of his Irish heritage and wanted to include the pipes as a tribute to his family’s country of origin. Sources close to the band, which had a number one hit in 1995 with Wonderwall, say that the break-up of the Liverpudlian rockers was inevitable.

Tim Minns, a former music journalist, said yesterday: “Knowing them both as I do, I saw this coming years before everyone else. I think they just wanted different things from the band and I think the pressure of living up to the first album really began to tell. Liam wanted to try new things all the time, but Noel just wanted to write simple pop melodies. Noel found Liam’s presence in the studio annoying and distracting, as he often shouldered most of the musical workload. Liam would be buzzing around like a hyperactive child with all these crazy ideas, and he always meant well, but Noel just wanted to get things done. Things got difficult back in 2000 when Liam wanted to use Gregorian chanting in the background to one of the album tracks. Noel almost walked out back then, but decided against it as he’d just bought a new house.”

Noel Gallagher yesterday released a statement explaining his departure from the band: “It is with some sadness that I have today decided to part company from Oasis. I have always given 100% commitment and enthusiasm to furthering the group’s success but have recently become disillusioned with the imbalance of the workload and with certain decisions taken with regard to the band’s overall musical direction. I still retain a great passion for music and I have no wish to cast aspersions on any particular band member, past or present, suffice to say that the quality of our association has deteriorated to the point where it has now become both frustrating and intolerable. I feel I have no option but to leave Oasis and I wish the remaining band members well in all future projects, both individually and collectively.”

Liam Gallagher, speaking today from his Hertfordshire home, revealed that the band would carry on, despite the setback of losing its’ chief songwriter and best musician: “I’m honestly quite sad that it has come to this. The band has always prided itself on its’ good communication and strong work ethic and I am extremely proud of its’ achievements. I still feel we have yet to achieve our full potential, so for that reason I have decided it best to keep the band intact and to continue with the recording of our upcoming album. We may decide to augment our sound with the addition of a session musician, certainly for our upcoming live shows, but in the studio I believe we have a good enough calibre of personnel to complete the recording without any need for additional staff at this moment in time. I regret that the situation with Noel has forced him to make this decision and I’m not alone in saying that there will always be a place for him in Oasis, should he wish to change his mind at any point in the future.”

August 28, 2009

Graham Thorpe

England’s nuggety middle order batsman shares his unbridled expertise in cricketing clichés

England showed great attitude in their superb Ashes victory, no doubt about it. They played as a unit and everyone came to the party. I can’t fault this side at the moment as it’s gelling so well, no question whatsoever.

The lads have no time to bask in the glory, as they face an arduous one day and Twenty20 series against the aussies before embarking on a tour of the number one country in test cricket – South Africa. South Africa is one of the toughest tours in test cricket, absolutely, without question. The team will need to maintain its’ focus and stick to the basics if they are to have any success on the hard pitches over there in my opinion. I believe they will need to adjust the bowling line-up to compete on South African surfaces, for sure. Onions and Anderson would have a tough time over there, as they only achieve success when the ball is swinging in overcast conditions. I would drop both of them and bring in Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett. Finnsy and Tremmy are both tall bowlers with good pace that unsettles the best batsmen – and in South Africa you need plenty of it, for real. For my money, there’s no substitute for pace in the modern game and I’d pick those two lads for sure. With Harmy and Broady in the mix that’s got to add up to a mean proposition for any batsman, that’s for sure.

Without question, the batters need shaking up a bit, without doubt. Straussy’s safe in my book, because he’s captain and he has a big impact on the game. The modern game is about players who can make an impact and change the course of a game. Good test matches are often won or lost in a session and that’s down to a player putting their hand up and getting in amongst the opposition, whether it’s with vital runs, a five-for or some lightning-quick fielding. My money’s on Straussy to have a good series over there, I’d put money on it for sure. Cooky’s had a bad run recently and needs to work on his technique. South Africa’s bowlers will exploit his technical weaknesses, no question about it. I’d bring in Joe Denly, as he’s got a good temperament and batted well against Ireland recently. Plus the left-hand-right-hand opening combo will frustrate the opening bowlers as they will have to keep re-adjusting their lines. Belly’s in last chance saloon these days and I’d drop him when Pietersen’s fit again. The best way to fight South African bowling is with South African batting, so with Strauss, Trott and Pietersen in the top order England will have this in bucketloads, no question about it. Collingwood’s days at the top are over, simple as that. Sure, he’s got character and aggression, but test cricket is about technique and ability – and his have been exposed by the aussie bowlers, no question of a doubt about it, for sure. In my opinion Keysy would make a good substitute for him – he’s got fire in his belly and he’s been one of the leading batters on the circuit – that’s what I’m talking about. Colly’s been a great servant to the game, no doubt about it, but it’s time to move on and look forward. Keysy deserves his chance, no question.

With Freddie retired the rest of the lads are going to need to work harder and up their games if they are to succeed going forward. I think they’ve got the fight to compete, that’s for certain. I back them to do well in South Africa, as long as they stick to the basics and work hard.

Thorpe’s England XI for South Africa: Strauss, Denly, Pietersen, Trott, Key, Prior, Broad, Swann, Tremlett, Harmison, Finn.

Fans “may be surprised” by article containing no facts on new Lemar album

August 27, 2009

The singer Lemar, who shot to fame on BBC1’s now-defunct Fame Academy, has hinted to fans that his next album “may contain a few surprises”.

The as yet untitled album, due for release later this year, is thought to mark a surprising departure from the typical Lemar sound, though sources insist it shouldn’t alienate his existing fanbase. The RnB star was cryptic about exactly how his musical direction had changed, but insisted fans “keep the[ir] eyes peeled” for the “surprising” new release.

It is thought that the producer on the new record may be the same as on his previous album, though sources close to the singer suggest it may be someone different: “He’ll probably change producer on the new album, as many artists do this in order to keep the sound fresh. Then again he may decide to change the musical direction but retain the same production team as before, thereby keeping a feeling of continuity whilst exploring a new musical soundscape.” said one source.

With regard to potential collaborators, the source added: “Lemar’s a great vocalist so he’ll be keen to put his stamp on the songs that have been written, but then again he may decide to collaborate with other artists in order to expand his existing fanbase. It’s a good way of achieving a crossover between musical styles and often proves successful for both artists involved.”

It has also been suggested the singer may decide to record some of the tracks from his new album in LA in order to create a different feel to the overall record: “He’s probably toying with such an idea, as different locations often aid the recording process because they add another dimension to the finished sound. He probably won’t discard the other option, of course, which is to record the entire album in the same location in order to keep a more cohesive feel to the overall project.”, said another source.

Whatever happens, Lemar’s popularity continues to grow and his eagerly-awaited new album is tipped to do extremely well. The album is due to be finished sometime later this summer and should be available later this year or sometime in early 2010.

August 26, 2009

Your Money – with Peter Jones

TV’s famous Dragon whores out his name to badly-written Sky Magazine column every month

We’ve had a fabulous holiday in the Maldives, but it’s always great to get back home again. I’ve had a great week playing tennis on our courts at home with my friends and family. It’s been an amazing summer and now I’m energized and raring to go! Holidays are fantastic, especially when you have plenty of money to spend, like I do.

Recycling and saving money are two concepts I fully endorse in this column regularly and I’ve recently got my ghost writer to find an incredible website where you can get rid of unwanted jewellery and make money. Check out cash4gold.com – it’s a fast, simple and convenient new service that converts your old jewellery items into cash. All you have to do is fill in the online form and wait for their pre-paid envelope to arrive in the post, then send off your surplus valuables and you’ll receive the cash value of those items in the post the next working day. It’s fantastic, and the best thing is you don’t pay any other costs because the factory is on site, thereby cutting out the middleman and leaving more £££s for your pocket.

You are all probably aware of the digital switchover happening across the country. A great way to combat this is to get Sky Multiroom – it’s great viewing for all the family and fantastic value for money, so upgrade your package now.

Another thing you will need to do is buy a digital television, as you don’t want to be left looking at static after the switchover! We have HD sets all over our house and the picture quality is amazing. One thing I would advise when buying a new television is to shop around. An office junior has compiled this list of leading LCD TVs which should save you £££s:

LG 47LH5000 – Kelkoo – prices start from £961.00

Sony KDL-32E5520 – Kelkoo – prices from £945.00

Samsung LE-40A856 – Kelkoo – prices from £950.00

Sony KDF-E50A11E – Kelkoo – prices from £969.00

Panasonic TX-37LZD85 – Kelkoo – prices from £932.00

The above units are fantastic value for money and I think you’ll struggle to find prices as good as these elsewhere. They all come with the manufacturer’s guarantee and a full 3 year warranty.

The recession, combined with the digital switchover is understandably likely to raise financial concerns in many households across Britain. It’s a struggle for many families to find the spare money to buy essential items, especially in times like these. Luckily there are companies out there that are willing to help people in difficult situations with their finances. I recommend Picture Loans or Ocean Finance – both are reputable companies who have been in business for a long time. Their repayment rates are good (from their point of view) and you can apply for money even if you have a bad credit rating or CCJs. If you are a homeowner you could borrow up to £25,000 over the phone straight away, and the best thing is that both of these organisations allow you to consolidate existing debts into one affordable monthly repayment, leaving you free to concentrate on the important things in life like watching high definition television with the whole family. It’s definitely worth a try.

Well, that’s me done for this month! Phew! It’s time for me to get back to cracking the whip at the numerous businesses in my portfolio. I love business, as it’s exhilarating and a constant day-to-day challenge. I thoroughly recommend it!

Until next month…

Peter.

August 25, 2009

Tim Minns – columnist of the year

The award-winning columnist who knows things better than anyone

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The Home Office has now finally got around to addressing the problem of so-called “legal highs” and is proposing a ban on unclassified drugs such as GBL and BZP by the end of this year. And thank goodness they have, as it’s long overdue in my opinion. This issue has been around for many years but the governing parties in this country have always buried their heads in the sand over it. I know better than anyone the dangers of real (and fake) drugs as one of my first jobs in the media was writing for Melody Maker back in 1988 during the so-called “Second Summer Of Love”. I was actually among the first group of journalists to try the dance drug ecstasy (which had just been invented at the time) several months before it was released to the public. People in the club scene were buzzing about this crazy new drug that could make you dance all night, but in my view it was overrated. As a young music writer I went to several house parties around that time and, whilst there was a lot of ecstasy about, it wasn’t the only thing available by any means. GBL and BZP were probably the most popular drugs in the underground scene and those of us in the know preferred them over ecstasy because they were more exclusive and not so commercially available. The problem with ecstasy was that it became old hat the moment anyone other than music journalists took it, so whilst it became popular in the provinces very quickly it died here in London by the autumn of 1988 as the underground scene was already moving on by that point.

Whilst GBL and BZP were better drugs than ecstasy the downfall occurred just over 18 months later after a young person on the underground scene (another music journalist who was also a good friend of mine) died as a result of mixing them with ecstasy. I knew better than anyone on the scene at the time that drug cocktails would become more and more dangerous as scenesters searched for more subversive chemical highs over the years, and despite the constant warnings I gave him he pushed the boundaries too far and died in January 1990, aged just 22. I decided to write an article detailing his life and death in the underground dance scene and it ended up being published in the Observer magazine. It was my first major article for a mainstream publication and I was pleased that it maintained an edgy, underground feel throughout. I felt that, although I had lost a good friend, I was lucky to be in a position whereby I could communicate with the people of my generation about this issue without being preachy or condescending. Who knows how many lives I potentially saved by writing that article…

If only the government at the time had read it…

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On the subject of drugs, you may remember in one of my columns last month how I mentioned that the death of Michael Jackson was more than likely down to the pharmaceutical drug propofol. At the time there was a lot of speculation surrounding the exact cause of the singer’s death but I knew better than anyone due to my friendship with his doctor Conrad Murray. Conrad was always very concerned about prescribing sedatives to someone in such a weak physical state and I shared his concerns. I remember a long trans-atlantic phone call we shared a few weeks ago in which he told me how he’d lost confidence and was considering quitting medicine. I said to him “You’re as good a doctor now as you have ever been. Don’t let media pressure affect your decision-making.” He was all over the place and was close to tears. He asked me what I would do in his situation and I told him that I would administer propofol, but only in small regular amounts so as not to place too much strain on his heart. I know better than anyone about propofol, as it was popular in the underground scene in the late 1980s for getting over the come-down from BZP. It was a drug that we always used in moderation and you had to respect its’ potency.

He was thankful for my help and actually offered to introduce me to his brother Jermaine next time I went to visit. When I did go to see Conrad he was indeed true to his word and I met Jermaine several times during the trip and we became good friends, although tragedy struck when Michael died before I got the chance to meet him. I was touched when Jermaine invited me to Michael’s memorial concert which was a moving and poignant tribute to such a wonderful and influential artist.

I only wish I could have got to know him myself.

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Finally I’d like to offer my congratulations to England’s cricketers who this week won the Ashes 2-1 against the old enemy. You may remember that was my prediction in this column on the eve of the first test match. I don’t like to brag or anything…..

Recession now over: official

August 24, 2009

The recession that has blighted the country’s economy for nearly nine months is now officially over according to results of a recent poll.

The poll, carried out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) shows the confidence level rising dramatically from -28.2 units to +4.8. The confidence graph shows a healthy upward trend which means the UK’s economy should move out of recession by the end of this month.

“The group’s third quarter survey suggests that the UK recession is at an end,” says ICAEW spokesman Peter Ian. “When you look at the chart it shows a massive rise and that can only mean good times ahead. The line went down towards the end of last year but it flattened out by around April and has now gone back up again. The measure of confidence amongst the 20 members of the public surveyed using our questionnaire is markedly higher now than that of the 17 people questioned last November. Everyone here at the ICAEW is buzzing.”

Officially, the country remains in recession after government data showed its economy shrank by 0.8 percent in the second quarter — marking the fifth quarterly contraction in a row. The graph of hope, however, disputes this and shows a rise of 34 according to the ICAEW survey. “The trend is definitely up.”, maintains Mr. Ian “You can tell by the gradient of the line on the graph. It even shows higher on the bar chart too. Put it this way, when you have an overwhelming amount of data showing such results they can’t not be true.”

The second official estimate of gross domestic product in the second quarter is due out on Friday.

Cash machine to use Cockney slang

August 24, 2009

An ATM operator has introduced David Hockney (Cockney) rhyming bing and bang (slang) to a number of its Barry Sheenes (cash machines) in east London, in an effort to make instructions easier to understand for Cockney people.

The Cockney population has long been confounded by cash machines and often find the use of numbers confusing when it comes to units of currency. “An average Cockney person knows exactly what a ‘pony’ is, for example, but if you were to ask them for £50 they’d look at you blankly.” says culture pundit Peter Ian. “They’re comfortable with the rhyming slang because it makes it much easier for them to communicate efficiently with one another. I’m sure that they’ll welcome the Danny La Rue (new) Barry Sheenes outside their local Tommy Tanks (banks) in the not too distant surgeon’s suture (future).”

David Hockney church and steeple (people) using the Barry Sheene ATMs will soon be able to have their prompts and options given to them in their native language thanks to a special chip due to be integrated into debit cards across London’s East End. The chip is designed to automatically inform the ATM that the user is a Cockney person and to therefore adjust its’ language accordingly.

The user will then be prompted to enter their Huckleberry Finn (pin) before withdrawing their sausage and mash (cash). The screen will then display all amounts available to withdraw: A Terry Jenner (tenner), a score (£20), don’t get all shirty (thirty), James Naughtie (forty), a pony (£50) and a ton (£100). Should a user require a different amount of money from those on display they will need to enter a piece of rhyming slang letter-by-letter using the onscreen keyboard. The system will recognise the slang and dispense the correct sum of money, although if a user makes an error a message will appear informing them that they have made a piece of steak (mistake) and will need to baby’s placenta (re-enter) the text in order to continue.

Ron Delnevo, managing director of Bank Machine, said: “We believe it is essential for Cockneys to be able to use ATMs as they often deal exclusively in cash and therefore access to ‘notes’ is important. We hope that most Cockneys will be genuinely pleased as this is the first time a financial services provider will have recognised the Cockney language in such a rusty spanner (manner).”

The ATMs displaying prompts in Cockney are all free to use, although the majority of the group’s Barry Sheenes typically charge a Terry Jenner plus a piece of saliva (fiver) divided by ten (£1.50) dirty knee (fee).

Black Eyed Peas break worst-record record

August 20, 2009

Black Eyed Peas have made history by scoring the worst, longest running number one single of all time on the US Billboard chart, beating Bryan Adams’ record set almost twenty years ago.

The last artist to threaten Bryan Adams’ stronghold was Whitney Houston, whose 1992 cover of Dolly Parton’s track ‘I Will Always Love You’ narrowly missed the record by a mere 2 weeks. Houston yesterday said: “It’s good to see that there are new acts out there who are still able to etch a composition into the national psyche, to make a song that inexplicably draws people in, yet all the time has them asking exactly why. To have the ability to make a track that holds a mirror up to the questionable tastes of the record buying public is something that requires a lot of skill and patience.

“I think Peas had got to a point where they became quite exasperated with the public. Their main question was ‘What exactly do the people actually want?’, and what they did in order to answer that question was just to load a song with as many different sounds, rhythms and vocals, regardless of whether or not the overall composition would make any sense. In the end, as we know, it had absolutely no hooks or cohesion whatsoever – but the public bought it, so the idea worked.”

The band’s leader, Will.i.am, is pleased, though albeit slightly confused with the performance of “Boom Boom Pow”, which rose to the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 three months ago: “I can’t seem to get my head around it at all. We dropped that track over 20 weeks ago, and at the time we rushed it out in a panic because we were nearing the deadline for completion, yet the song had no overall direction whatsoever. We didn’t get anywhere near enough time to finish it properly, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter. It’s ironic because we put a lot of work into the follow-up track ‘I Gotta Feeling’, but we had to hold back its release due to the success of ‘Boom’.

“At the end of the day it’s a great feeling to shift a lot of units and to maximise total sales revenue through a product-focused marketing campaign. It’s what all Americans dream of when going into the music industry and for us to have maintained high levels of profit over such a long period of time is a magnificent achievement and a testament to all the tireless hard work and dedication of the production team and the vision of the marketing department – without whom none of this would have been possible.”

August 19, 2009

Tim Minns – columnist of the year

The award-winning columnist who knows things better than anyone

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You may have read recently about Corby Council denying responsibility for birth defects linked to the removal of waste from the former steelworks twenty years ago. This behaviour is typical of all councils across the country, who are faceless and unaccountable in all cases of negligence for which they are wholly responsible. I know better than anyone about this particular cover-up as I actually worked at the Corby Council offices in the late 1980s. We were all well aware of the dangers of this waste removal process and it was only a matter of time until these dangers began to reveal themselves in some alarming ways. There was a lot of public anger at the time due to the plant having been closed and many people being left out of work, and this anger increased as the council appeared to distance itself from the waste removal process after some babies in the area were born with birth defects.

I remember being told to destroy certain documents in the office shredder and not to mention anything to anyone about it. I felt uncomfortable doing this and I eventually resigned my post in disgust at these dodgy practices. I knew full well by this point, better than anyone in my office, that I was becoming embroiled in a full-scale cover-up. It was shortly after this time that I moved to London in order to pursue a career in journalism – a decision at least in part attributable to Corby Council. I’m just glad at least one positive came from this unsavoury point in time and that I finally bit the bullet and took up a career in the media. Who knows what I’d be doing now had I not made a stand and resigned…

I just hope the truth that I already know is revealed and that Corby Council is brought to account for its’ horrendous negligence.

I only wish I’d kept those documents.

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Everyone is now fully aware of the problems experienced by both Peter Andre and Katie Price in the fallout of their very public marriage break-up. It is always highly distressing for both parties during a split – especially when there are children involved. That distress is magnified when you’re in the public eye, which I myself know better than anyone, as my first marriage broke up ten years ago when I worked in regional news. Everyone in my town knew what was happening and for the most part they were always highly supportive, though it was massively uncomfortable having my dirty laundry washed in public. My ex-wife and I managed to work things out and are good friends now, but it wasn’t always plain sailing. A lot of water has gone under the bridge but we’ve come out of it amicably with two wonderful children. I know Peter Andre reads this column and I hope he takes heart from my experience. Don’t give up hope, Pete, it does get better – just hold on to the good things in life and focus on the future and things you can change.

Though I’ve not met Peter myself I am actually good friends with Katie Price, after being introduced by her PR manager Claire, who I’ve known for over fifteen years. I know better than anyone about her ordeal and I’ve been privileged to get to know the real Katie and under the tough public facade is a very honest, loving wife and mother who currently feels extremely vulnerable. After their break-up became public her house was surrounded by paparazzi and journalists camping outside. She needed to get away from the media circus in order to come to terms with things so I offered to put her up at my place until things quietened down. Claire drove her over during the evening and slept on the couch, whilst Katie took the spare room. Most of the doors inside the house were open as it was hot at the time and I could hear her sobbing from my bedroom as she tried to get some rest. The crying seemed to subside and I assumed she had managed to get some sleep. After a while I started to doze for a few minutes and I became aware of some soft footsteps outside my room. I just thought she was going to the kitchen to get herself a drink, but the taps on the floor came right up to the side of my bed. I felt the covers lift as Katie climbed in and I asked her if she as OK. She just said “Hold me”, so I held her in my arms as we both fell gently asleep.

I know what some people reading this may be thinking, but I didn’t for one moment consider trying to make a move. It would have been a callous thing to do given the state she was in at the time and I value our friendship too much to ever let such a thought pass through my mind. She stayed for over a month and we often shared a bed, but it was always in a platonic and mutually respectful manner. I would never compromise our friendship as it means so much to me.

I just hope that both Katie and Peter can work through this and find peace. They both have so much to live for. I just hope that the press will back off and give them space to do so.

‘Any idiot could take A-levels’ claim teachers

August 17, 2009

Teachers have universally slammed the standard of A-level papers today as overall pass rates are expected to top 100% for the first time since last year.

A survey conducted by Civitas, the social policy think tank, found that most students are already aware of the type of questions likely to feature in their exam paper several months before taking the exam, and in some cases even have answers prepared in advance.

“Any idiot can learn the answers to questions in advance,” says Peter Ian, a director of A-levels based in the North West, “But how many students today could go into an exam hall after two years of having not revised and still score an E or a D grade? Twenty years ago the pass rate was around 75% – and that was with minimal revision. Basically, if anyone fails an A-level in today’s environment they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

“Study levels today are more prolific than ever before, with most students choosing to turn up to the majority of lessons, making copious notes and revising up to a year in advance of their final exam. These techniques weren’t available in the past. Students only really studied for the two weeks before the final paper in the past, and no-one was ever told what to expect in the exam at the end. Often teachers would try and throw them off the scent by covering areas they knew wouldn’t feature in the paper and it wasn’t uncommon to see a lot of shocked faces opening those papers when we were invigilating on the exams. Nowadays that’s all changed as the tutors are confined to teaching solely the subjects that will definitely feature in the exams each year.”

Another head of sixth-form from the East Midlands says the reason for such high pass rates is down to knowing what to study: “The standard nowadays is pathetic. Who could fail an exam they’re 100% prepared for? We need to get back to the days where the paper at the end of the course is so unrelated to the syllabus that the student thinks they’ve gone to the wrong exam. The problem is that no-one is scared anymore – students of today know that they can pass an A-level by studying what they’ve been taught over two years, whereas fifteen years ago they’d have to learn several additional subject areas in anticipation of a few curve balls thrown in on the final paper. The fear back then among everyone taking A-levels was that no-one had any idea quite which subject areas to crib up on and the ensuing panic would be enough to hamper most students’ exam performance.”

The timing of the survey has been widely criticised, but with an expected pass rate of 105% few students are expected to be worried. In fact nowadays, many students know they’ve passed the moment they walk into the exam room. The aim for most people studying A-levels today appears to be achieving straight A grades, as 92% of students did last year.

An overall pass rate of 105% may not sound possible, but with many of today’s students completing their papers earlier than ever before, many of them are now industriously using the remaining time to form their own questions and then answer them. The marks for these questions are then added on to the overall percentage afterwards, thereby making it possible to score more than 100%.

Results are due to be announced at the end of this week.