Archive for October, 2009

Gibson: Braveheart changed history

October 30, 2009

Hollywood actor Mel Gibson is convinced his hit 1995 movie Braveheart may have changed the course of Scottish history by having changed the course of Scottish history.

The academy award winning blockbuster has been criticised by many for its historical inaccuracies, though it did contain a scene in which a British political party won a general election by a landslide promising amongst many things that it would create devolved institutions in Scotland. Though this is historically inaccurate, the scene played out two years later in a curious case of life imitating art when Tony Blair’s New Labour government formed in 1997.

Gibson’s film also depicted Robert The Bruce as a folk hero who fed off Scottish voters’ feeling of detachment from Westminster, and in particular the policies implemented by the Conservative government. Although this was dismissed by many historians as “cinematic folly”, the film had actually cleverly foretold growing disillusionment among the modern day Scottish voting public with John Major’s Conservatives.

Another scene which was derided by many critics involved a referendum held by the British government which eventually allowed for the formation of a devolved Scottish parliament to handle matters such as education, environment and healthcare. Although this passage of the film had no historical basis whatsoever, it is interesting to note that in 1998 – three years after the film’s release – Tony Blair’s government held a similar referendum yielding identical results.

Gibson said yesterday: “I became really aware of what a piece of art could do to change things – especially when we filmed the scene near the end in which the newly-formed Scottish parliament became the first to ban smoking in enclosed public places. I remember how much flak I got from the reviewers for that one, but no-one said anything to me when the actual Scottish government did the same thing in March 2006. I like to think the film started the ball rolling on some stuff – it hit a chord, definitely.”

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Underground pool rejection a splash in the face for Cheryl Cole

October 29, 2009

Singer Cheryl Cole and her footballer husband Ashley have had plans for a giant underground swimming pool unanimously rejected by their local planning office due to its “ostentatious stupidity”.

A spokesperson for the couple revealed: “They’re both extremely disappointed with the decision and are seeking to re-submit their application as soon as possible. It has long been their dream to have a pool in their garden which extends underneath their entire mansion, but apparently the powers-that-be are more concerned with the fact that pool users are unable to surface when swimming under the house than with Cheryl and Ashley’s right to privacy.”

Despite their preliminary plans including a two-foot ‘blowhole’ in the middle of the living room, the council maintained that it would be unsafe to allow such a development and rejected the plans on that basis. It also highlighted the potential risk of subsidence from disturbing the foundations of the mansion.

A council spokesman said of the plans: “We’d never seen anything like them. They weren’t in scale whatsoever and they looked as though they had been drawn up on a whim. It didn’t seem to occur to them that people would be unable to hold their breath long enough to get to the blowhole, let alone be able to find the thing. Plus the idea of a glass floor was one of ostentatious stupidity. The whole thing was embarrassingly flawed throughout, so we had no choice but to reject it out of hand.”

The couple have since embarked on a new application which will involve converting their existing loft space to create a full size swimming pool with a sauna and jacuzzi. This more sensible idea will allow breathing space above the water, which the couple hope will address the main issue behind the rejection of their previous application.

They have also planned for the addition of skylights – a shrewd move which will allow much-needed daylight around the poolside, whilst at the same time ensuring their home remains “in keeping” with the surrounding area. The idea of converting the loft was a joint decision and will also solve the problem of potential subsidence which would have been a danger had the original plans been approved.

The couple were yesterday said to be “hopeful” the revised plans would receive the all-clear.

October 29, 2009

Your Money – with Peter Jones

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

I’m really excited this month as there’s a new entrepreneur show on one of the Sky channels that’s just like Dragon’s Den – the show which I’m involved in. I can’t wait!

Britain’s recession continues to bite and many working families will struggle in the run-up to Christmas. It can be a miserable time of year for many people, especially in this current climate, so what better way to blow away the cobwebs than with a nice relaxing holiday? I’ve just been to Barbados for the half term break and I’m feeling great! I thoroughly recommend it, and skyscanner.net is a good site to check out if you’re looking to knock a couple of quid off flights. Otherwise, moneysupermarket.com – the other price comparison site I have an affiliation to – is as good a place as any to find cheaper deals.

If you’re looking to dine out on-the-cheap I’ve got just the ticket – simply cut out the coupon at the bottom of this page and you could save up to £1 on a specific family meal deal at Pizza Hut. You will need to hurry, though, as the offer runs out tomorrow at midday. You may find that certain branches have no knowledge of this offer whatsoever. If this is the case, just mention my name and you should be OK.

I’m looking forward to Children In Need this year. I’ll be doing my bit by joining in with the general revelry, plus I will be donating half my fee for this column (which works out at around £2500) direct to Children In Need. I recommend you do the same – it’s thoroughly rewarding! Philanthropy is a fantastic way to alleviate the underlying guilt caused by enormous personal wealth, plus it helps needy kids, which is great! So come on, don’t feel guilty – give half your money to charity today. You won’t regret it!

Looking for a sure-fire way to save money? Then you’ve come to the right column. You could save £100s by not buying any of the following items:

Solar Briefcase – £79.99

Tefal Quick Cup Kettle – £59.99

Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup Women’s Watch – £90.00

Set Of Children’s Kitchen Utensils – £29.00

Everlasting Love Diamond Ring – £204.00

My ghost writer has particularly recommended not buying the last item, as this can save you over £200, meaning more £££s in your pocket for Christmas.

Most of you will probably be making arrangements for your office Christmas party around this time of year. You might not think it, but you can actually save money without ruining your overall enjoyment of your works’ do by not drinking any alcohol. Alcohol is expensive and can be dangerous in excessive amounts, so play safe this year and save money by drinking tap water instead. You can take a glass into the toilets and fill up from the sink every now and again to ensure you’re never left standing empty-handed. You might worry about your colleagues thinking you’re a bit of a killjoy, but I never drink at my company parties and I’m always the most popular person there! You may also worry that people will give you funny looks when refilling your glass, but you’d be surprised – none of my employees have so much as raised an eyebrow whenever I’ve done it. In fact, at last year’s office party I had cause to wash my entire upper body over the sink and none of my staff even batted an eyelid – result!

Right, I’m just about done for this month. Enjoy bonfire night and remember – you can save money by looking at your neighbours’ firework displays instead of paying for your own.

Happy Guy Fawkes!

Peter x

Lufthansa to ‘fly low’ after loss of 32 million euros

October 28, 2009

The German airline Lufthansa has today unveiled plans to counter its recent 9-month loss of 32 million euros by flying its aircraft at much lower altitudes in order to save on fuel costs.

A spokesman for the company said yesterday: “Recent losses have forced us to face making tough financial decisions going forward. One idea that was discussed extensively was the possibility of flying our aircraft at heights of around 100 feet, rather than the standard 30,000 feet. This would potentially save hundreds of euros in fuel on one journey alone and would also mean that most flights would complete about 20% more quickly overall. The other good thing about this idea is that the problem of air traffic would be eradicated overnight. We wouldn’t need to request clearance from ATC because everyone else would be several thousand feet above us for the vast majority of each flight. This would also help keep delays to a minimum as well.”

The company has also vowed to use motorways “wherever possible” to further save on fuel costs, and has embarked on a training programme designed to help cabin crew adjust to lower altitudes during longer-haul flights.

Peter Ian, a flight attendant, is excited by the idea: “I often find I have problems adjusting to high altitude and I constantly fear what would happen to my body at the point of death, were we to fall from over 35,000 feet. I’m relieved that Lufthansa are taking this issue seriously and, as well as saving money, are also potentially saving thousands of lives too. I think this idea is fabulous and it’s only going to be a matter of time before other airlines follow suit.”

The first 100-foot flight is due to take place from Heathrow early next year.

Now My Heart Is Full (of chlorine)

October 26, 2009

The singer Morrissey has just been discharged from hospital after collapsing in a leisure centre with breathing difficulties, it has emerged today.

The 50-year-old former Smiths singer was performing a gig in the reception area of the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon on Saturday and appeared to collapse to his knees with his hand over his mouth.

Eyewitness Peter Ian reveals: “He was initially uncomfortable with the door to the swimming pool being left open and he kept asking if they could close it because the air ‘hung heavy like a dulling wine’, plus the splashing and shouting from that area would be a constant distraction. He was also unhappy with the squeaking of trainers and thudding noises coming from the adjacent squash courts. The other problem was that we all had to keep to one side of the reception area, because the leisure centre was still open to the public throughout the gig. When he passed out there were more than a few murmurs that he had feigned illness to get out of doing the show – I wouldn’t blame him if he had.”

A spokesman for the singer insisted that the booking had been made in good faith and that Oasis Leisure Centre had originally cleared a 2-hour slot for the singer on the 5-a-side court: “We phoned them up and made the booking at least two weeks in advance. I don’t know what happened at their end, but there must have been some kind of mix-up, because when we arrived to do the soundcheck it hadn’t been written in the book at all. Instead, it appeared that a local software company were booked in to use the court for the timeslot we had booked, and that the best they could offer us was half of the reception area. It was disappointing for all of us, and although Morrissey initially tried to make the best of the situation, it became less and less tolerable as the gig went on.”

Another fan, Tony Mick, said: “It was really cramped and hot in there and Morrissey barely had any room to perform his trademark ‘microphone whip’. Most of us were constantly getting jostled around by passing members of the public and at one point I saw another fan take a blow to the side of the face from a tennis bag as someone rushed towards the exit. Morrissey even broke off halfway through ‘The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get’ to remonstrate with a centre user who he believed hadn’t paid for a ticket. He pointed straight at the man and thundered ‘You! Go now! You are not welcome here!’. This prompted several staff to quickly assemble a freestanding partition down the middle of the area in order to stop uninvited parties watching the show for free. Morrissey kept going for a while, but I think in the end he was overcome with the smell of chlorine emanating from the swimming pool. I saw him drop to his knees during ‘The Edges Are No Longer Parallel’ and the next thing I knew the receptionist was calling an ambulance and the show had to be called off just three songs in.”

A spokeswoman for the Great Western Ambulance Service said: “Just after 9pm we got a call to a 50-year-old man who was reported to be suffering from respiratory problems and was unconscious. We sent a paramedic in a doubled-crewed ambulance. When they arrived they found a conscious patient who was feeling ‘quite fed up, actually’. They made an initial assessment and took him to the Great Western Hospital for further assessment, whereupon he was later discharged with a clean bill of health.”

Geldof – “nothing like mother”

October 23, 2009

Wild child Peaches Geldof says she is fed up with being compared to her mum, despite the fact that nobody has ever made any such comparison.

Geldof insists she is completely different from Paula Yates, who died from an accidental drug overdose at the age of 41. “I’m totally fed up with literally everyone saying I’m just like her. I mean, for goodness sake. I couldn’t be any more different from her. She was an amazing presenter, very provocative and flirty, and a really funny writer,” said the celebrity sibling yesterday.

“In fact I can’t think of one way in which we are alike. She was hard-working, clever and determined and her acidic wit was more than a match for anyone who came up against her. I don’t believe I’m like her at all – I like to think I’m going in totally my own direction, that I’m my own person. My mum was classy, feisty and a joy to be around. People gravitated to her wherever she went and I find it insulting that anyone would want to tarnish her legacy by making lazy comparisons between us, just because we’re blood-related. Plus her surname’s not even the same as mine. I mean, duhhh…” she added.

The daughter of the famous couple is keen to set the record straight and is adamant she is in no way similar to her father, Sir Bob Geldof, either: “Don’t be ridiculous! I’m nothing like him. He’s shrewd, pro-active and extremely kind-hearted. People keep telling me in my head that we’re the same, but they’re so totally off the mark.”

Sir Bob’s eldest daughter’s comments are part of an interview with Fearne Cotton for an ITV2 special to be shown later this week.

Dangerous traffic jams set to multiply, experts warn

October 23, 2009

Road traffic experts have warned motorists today that “dangerous” traffic congestion on many roads is set to multiply over the weekend.

It is thought that hazardous tailbacks will be caused on many of Britain’s roads due to drivers flocking towards the UK’s major airports in order to enjoy some much-needed sunshine abroad over the half term week.

The AA have issued an official warning to all road users to be extra vigilant when stuck in traffic, as they have proven unexpectedly dangerous on numerous occasions. Peter Ian, an expert in traffic shapes, said yesterday: “Slow-moving or stationary traffic is more hazardous than many people expect, as it requires a lot more focus and concentration to drive at a constantly slow speed. A driver in slow traffic has to adopt a more forward-leaning position with their head resting upon their folded arms just above the steering wheel. This is to aid them in judging the gap between their car and the car in front so that they do not waste unnecessary road space.

“Another difficulty is that drivers are forced to maintain the ‘bite’ for long periods of time, which can cause serious cramps in their lower legs. The handbrake is useful for alleviating the tension now and again, but the problem is the driver has to be extra-vigilant in these circumstances. No-one wants to lose vital seconds and be left standing as other cars slowly surge ahead, leaving visible road in front that person’s car. It can be extremely distressing for a driver – particularly if they have family in their car – if other members of the jam appear to be ‘getting away’, so for that reason we would only recommend using the handbrake if you’re definite that the jam won’t be moving for some time.”

No-one knows exactly what causes traffic jams, as they do not appear on paper to be logically possible. With enough co-operation and common sense between road users, congestion should statistically never occur. Some experts lay the blame at old drivers, saying that they drive at much slower speeds than normal road users and can often experience confusion when changing lanes, overcoming roundabouts or making turns into other roads.

Others believe that temporary traffic lights employed by overzealous road workers are the cause of high traffic volumes because many aren’t capable of operating the complicated switch correctly, leaving frustrated motorists fuming. Some roadworkers attempt to overcome this by using the outdated STOP/GO double-sided circular signs, but this can provide more annoyance among drivers as the designated operators are often unable to determine this system’s logic and end up mirroring one another’s signs. The other problem is that roadworkers tend to abandon projects when they become too complicated, leaving vast stretches of publicly-owned roadways completely unusable. Third party contractors then have to be employed at further cost to patch up the holes left in the tarmac before clearing the traffic cones and warning signs left behind so that motorists are able to continue their journeys unhindered.

Police, meanwhile, are urging motorists not to use the roads over the weekend “unless absolutely imperative”.

OFT beer ruling makes CAMRA sick

October 22, 2009

Britain’s pub industry has been given the all-clear by the Office of Fair Trading despite a “super” complaint lodged by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Camra filed its first ever complaint to the OFT after an all-day drinking session in July, and outlined what it believed to be a sensible and balanced argument which it hoped would compel the OFT to change its current ruling, which allows pub companies to fix high beer prices and rents on landlords, forcing many out of business. Camra added that this ruling also stifled competition, meaning that consumers were also out-of-pocket. The OFT appeared to listen, but ultimately refused to change its position on the matter because it had to protect the business interests of the pub companies, who were also struggling.

The OFT said that it wasn’t trying to be funny or anything, but there was no evidence that “tied” prices forced on landlords by pub companies were harming competition for consumers – and that’s all they had to say on the matter, simple as that. It then began jabbing Camra in the chest with its index finger as it declared that it was TELLING them, yeah, that they had found that there was a generally effective level of competition between pubs, so they wouldn’t be taking any further action and that Camra could stick that in their pipe and smoke it.

Camra responded by insisting that this was typical of the bloody OFT, always siding with the big guy. It then asked how the OFT would like it if they had to work over 12 hours a day just to make ends meet before slamming its empty glass down on the table in order to emphasise its point.

The OFT suggested that maybe Camra had had a few too many and that it ought to think about going home before things got a bit nasty. Camra insisted that it was fine and that the OFT was in no position to judge, seeing as it was the one making a fool of itself as was plain for all to see. The OFT became aggravated at this point, insisting that their ruling was final and that Camra was just throwing its toys out of the pram like a big baby.

Camra insisted that the OFT took back its last comment, but the OFT merely laughed in its face and asked what Camra proposed it was going to do about it. Camra raised its voice and offered to resolve the issue in the car park like men. Unfortunately, as Camra stood up it realised just how drunk it was and as it tried to walk towards the door its legs gave way, causing it to collapse on to the floor. Its stomach began churning as it attempted to focus on the pattern of the carpet before being carried outside by other drinkers to vomit into a bush, which it then did several times.

The OFT then appeared from over Camra’s shoulder and offered to help carry it home. Camra said it didn’t need any help, thank you very much, and that it was only sick due to having eaten some dodgy steak earlier that afternoon. It then staggered down the lane into the night before falling over its garden wall and passing out on the front lawn.

October 21, 2009

Tim Minns – columnist of the year

The award-winning columnist who knows things better than anyone

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Greater Manchester Police have blundered once again in letting an armed gang of criminals escape the scene of a crime and further threaten the public at large. How many times do we see this happen? Time and again these lawless scumbags are allowed to ride roughshod over law-abiding members of society completely unchallenged, most likely because police officers are too busy filling in forms as opposed to upholding the safety of the British public. This is yet another example of the police force being stifled by unnecessary levels of bureaucracy, something which I myself know better than anyone, having previously worked in an advisory capacity with the police.

I don’t know the full facts of this particular case, but in my understanding it appears that a video has been released showing 3 men armed with crowbars attempting to rob a security van before running over a police officer as they fled the scene in a black BMW. The officer in question fortunately only sustained a suspected broken leg and ankle, though the case is now being treated as attempted murder.

How the police managed to let this situation escalate to the point where a simple robbery has now become an unsolved attempted murder is completely beyond me. Where was the backup? Why was this policeman only flanked by two CSOs and not by proper trained officers? Why didn’t they block the path of the BMW with the patrol car instead of trying to apprehend these armed suspects on foot? These are all basic flaws which I know better than anyone having observed alongside the police on numerous occasions.

I know better than anyone about the spiralling rate of crime in this country. The statistics on violent crime are a damning indictment on the state of modern Britain and show a staggering rise in cases year-on-year. Just how many officers do we have on our streets nowadays? I suspect it’s a lot less than before the New Labour administration – it’s obvious when you look at all the crime statistics, really.

Det. Supt Geoff Wessell of Greater Manchester Police was apparently reported as saying about the need “…to catch these men as clearly they have no problem in using violence to get what they want.”

I disagree. Of course they need to catch these lowlife scumbags – that’s just stating the obvious. What they should have done was not to allow them to escape in the first place. Now I wasn’t at the scene, but I know better than anyone about the need for greater police presence at the scene of a violent crime and I would have made sure there was adequate backup in place to prevent this from happening. I haven’t seen the video yet, but it seems clear to me that certain protocols weren’t followed correctly at the scene of the crime. How else would these thugs have escaped otherwise?

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Having watched Whitney Houston’s performance on X-Factor last Sunday, I think it’s pretty clear she must have been on something, as she just didn’t look right to me. I don’t know the facts surrounding her rehabilitation from the dangerous world of hard drugs, but I do know better than anyone about the high levels of drug use in showbusiness, having been witness to much of it myself. I know how difficult it can be for showbiz performers to tear themselves away from the seedy underworld of class A drugs, which are always so readily available to them in plentiful supply.

Whitney gave a reasonable vocal performance despite a “wardrobe malfunction” midway through, but I think anyone could see from her confusing interview with host Dermot O’Leary that her troubles are far from over. To me, it looked like she was on cocaine because she was fidgety and unable to focus her eyes. These are tell-tale signs of cocaine use, which I myself know better than anyone having seen numerous media professionals use this substance over the years. Her heart must have been racing throughout, as this is another known side-effect of cocaine use – this would also explain why her dress-strap broke loose during the performance.

Now I’ve never met Whitney before, but having witnessed several newspaper articles detailing her struggles over the last few years it looked as though she’d go the way of countless celebrities who have died through their seedy and debauched lifestyles. You only have to open a newspaper and you will see the likes of Robbie, Britney and Amy live out their constant struggles in the public eye. It’s only then that it really hits home just how close to death these people really are. If Whitney continues down this perilous path, which I suspect she has, it won’t be long before her untimely death – and the world will once again be robbed of another shining beacon of talent gone to waste…

Hirst paintings smudged by British critics

October 16, 2009

Damien Hirst, once the enfant terrible of the British art world, has had his recent exhibition of paintings sensationally smudged by critics, with the fiercest comments reserved for the centrepiece – a picture of a “typical” house.

One of London’s most traditional art galleries, best known for housing works by the likes of Velazquez and Titian, will show “No Effort Made” – a collection of 25 paintings created by the artist, the centrepiece of which being “My Best Ever House” – Hirst’s “typical” English dwelling and garden, replete with flowers on the lawn and a tree in the corner.

The sun shines brightly on Hirst’s country house, though unfortunately several critics have put something of a dampener on the artist’s efforts, branding them “paltry”, “pathetic” and “something that a 3-year-old could easily muster”.

“The paintings are dreadful, odious and amateurish,” wrote a commentator in the Times newspaper. “The best of the bunch – if you can really describe it as that – shows a picture of a ‘typical’ house – at least, according to Hirst. In Hirst’s world, houses apparently have four windows on the front and a door in the bottom-middle with a windy path leading up to it. That’s all well and good until you notice that the “pansies” on the lawn are taller than the front door. And what the hell are flowers doing in the middle of the grass anyway? Surely they should be out of the way, perhaps to the side of the garden in a flower bed or in large terracotta pots by the door. One can only hope this is a post-ironic joke of some kind.”

In the Guardian, a critic concluded: “At its worst, Hirst’s drawing just looks amateurish and adolescent. His brushwork lacks that oomph and panache that makes you believe in the painter’s lies. Honestly, does he really expect us to believe that the sky just suddenly ends like that? What is supposed to occupy that huge gap between the ‘sky’ and the ground? Is it some kind of anti-matter, perhaps? The contents of Hirst’s mind? Hirst’s sheer chutzpah presumably heralds the dawn of some kind of post-post-contemporary artistic movement of which we were previously unaware – patheticism, perhaps?”

Sarah Crompton in the Daily Telegraph said the paintings initially look “dazzling” until they are seen close-up: “The problems with the exhibition begin when you study the paintings themselves. If you squint they can appear vaguely acceptable from a distance, but under scrutiny his compositions fall apart, particularly his centrepiece, the so-called “My Best Ever House”. One feels compelled to ask on just which planet does the sun have four long yellow spikes emanating from both sides? One also has to question the mind of someone who believes that a tree is a straight brown stick of uniform thickness with a sort of crude green candyfloss atop. With his typical post-arrogance, Hirst depicts himself in this schmaltzy scene as being taller than the entire bottom-level of his ‘house’ – worse still, his head is the same size as his body. One can only assume that Keith Allen was allowed some involvement in the conception of this sorry display.”

Hirst yesterday refused to comment on press reaction to his latest exhibition, apart from to say that he found watercolours “difficult to use”.