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SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024

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GOSS ARCHIVE

A Biden v Trump two-horse race to the White House, eh? Not so fast. Independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr (that’s son of, nephew of) is also running. The 70-year-old has caused a stir by confirming that NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Minnesota governor (and pro wrestler) Jesse Ventura were top of his vice presidential short list. Both have welcomed his overtures, says The New York Times.

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A former colleague and occasional contributor to this whimsy fest, who is about to pass a significant birthday milestone, tells me he will receive a gift from the Department for Work and Pensions: a 25p a week ‘Age Addition’ increase in his state pension. It won’t change me, he says.

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Our favourite Hibernian has been contributing to a Facebook chat with others of Erin ethnicity about the merits of Holyhead, the Welsh ferry port that’s Gateway to Ireland. None has been complimentary.  ‘The town’s always been a shithole,’ avers our scribbler. Another critic recalls: ‘Years ago I saw a man leading a horse on to a train at Holyhead. I really did.’

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Now it’s Donald Trump, sneaker super salesman. The presidential hopeful has launched a $399 Trump-branded trainer. The so-called Never Surrender footwear, emblazoned with a capital T on the sides, sold out its limited 1,000-pair run in less than a day. Mind you, Trump, fined $354.9 million by a New York judge for lying about his wealth, needs all the readies he can get.

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Gen Z may be stubbing out fags but they are turning to pipes, cigars and cigarillos in record numbers, University College of London research reveals. Over the past decade there has been ‘a five-fold increase in non-cigarette smoking’ fuelled by the 18 to 24-year-olds.

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They’re calling it The Great Gum Slump. America’s iconic habit of chewing gum is fading. Sales rose less than 1% last year, down 32% from 2018. Internationally, it’s much the same story. Covid started a decline so precipitous that some manufacturers have gone out of business.

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Wordsmiths of the world, unite! Among the many terms on US dictionary Merriam-Webster’s list of beautifully useless words are abirritate, fleshment, barbermonger and spanghew. What do they mean? You look it up: I can’t do everything.

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Dating apps? Sooo passé. Now it’s back to speed dating, says The Washington Post. A website called Shuffle offers a modern take: people pay $25 to spend 10 minutes each with a selection of possible matches then record which dates interest them. Next day they learn ‘whether any prospects return their interest’. Who said romance was dead?

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Cruz Beckham might be the only Posh/Becks progeny to outshine his parents, says the Telegraph. The 19-year-old is about to launch his debut album. It follows mum and dad hiring a ‘crack team of hit-makers’,  including a producer who has worked with Rihanna, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran. Cruz has long been a pop wannabe: he appeared on stage with the Spice Gurls aged three and released a Christmas album at 11. And, if social media hints are to be believed, his album ‘might actually be good’.

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Here’s a sentence you might not have expected to read: the £ is outshining rival currencies, including the euro and the yen.  Eh? Sterling is the only major currency to rise against the $ this year, gaining 1.2% since January as the UK economy ‘holds up better than expected,’ says the pink ‘un.

Bank of America’s Athanasios Vamvakadis explains: ‘Suddenly, the UK looks more boring — and boring is good.’

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Caine’sCorner. The jockstrap is celebrating its 150th birthday. It was invented in 1874 to protect the Crown Jewels of Boston’s bicycle messengers riding on bumpy, cobblestone streets. NMPKT

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At least 12 fans, among dozens treated for frostbite at an NFL game in Kansas City, had to have fingers or toes amputated. The temperature for the playoff clash in January between Miami Dolphins and the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs, was -20C (windchill-33C). Coldest game in NFL history was in Wisconsin in 1967: -25C (windchill-44C)*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks. Hadrian’s Wall has just been declared a ‘gay icon’ by English Heritage. For those who don’t dabble in that milieu it may be a surprise but Paul Clements, former editor of Pink Paper, says it’s part of a long tradition: ‘We had great fun declaring that a new breakfast cereal or the game of rounders was a queer icon. But even I draw a line somewhere: a sandstone wall isn’t quite the gay day out English Heritage imagines.’

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Forgive me a ‘wily Orientals’ cliché. Oh, go on. Singapore has been accused of paying Taylor Swift not to perform in any other Southeast Asian countries. Thailand claims the city state paid $3million a show for an exclusive six-night run. The region’s many Swifties had to travel there spending an estimated $300million but denying neighbouring states revenue. The claims, not actually denied, are dismissed as ‘sour grapes’. 

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MiniDoteOfTheWeek. No. 42. Oh, Stiffy. How could you? Still, girls will be girls — Ed (The Goss MiniDote is a registered trademark)

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We Casio users think they’re rather vulgar but there’s no denying that Rolex watches rule the world. The Swiss company sold 1.24 million in 2023, generating $11.5 billion. That’s 11% up on the previous year and is more than the combined sale of the next three biggest brands.  Rolex now has 30% market share.

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A doctor, writing in reference to Joe Biden never having drunk alcohol, says that, on the balance of probabilities, it explains why he keeps falling over. Incidentally, did you see what I just did there? Balance of probabilities! 

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SportScene.  McDonald’s reportedly to be new naming sponsor of France’s Ligue 1 in $65 million deal.

Thomas Tuchel breaks toe after kicking door during Bayern Munich team talk.

Man U shares fall 33% after Jim Ratcliffe buys stake.

Business website Morning Brew asked its subscribers what US astronauts should leave on the moon instead of a flag. Tom, of Pittsburgh, suggests: A Reserved Parking Spot.

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HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short as an example to all

American Airlines orders 260 planes to meet growing demand. Leans to luxury with more first class seats.


Haiti state of emergency as armed gangs break 3,700 old lags out of jail.


France becomes first country to include right to abortion in its constitution.


A grey whale, a species extinct in Atlantic for 200 years, spotted off New England. Boffins say climate change is reason.

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Caine’sCorner. The US national debt is rising by $1trillion every 100 days. The country is $34.4 trillion in the red. NMPKT

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Forgive me for reminding you how economics sage Gordon Brown sold 395 tonnes of Britain’s gold almost 25 years ago to ‘achieve a better balance’ in the nation’s investment portfolio. The sale yielded $3.5 billion. Trouble is, at today’s record prices, it would be worth $26.6 billion. He sold at a 20-year low, a period now known by those cheeky gold traders as Brown’s Bottom.

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Just a little prick … a German has had 217 Covid jabs to prove, ahem, a point. The 62-year-old had the injections ‘for private reasons’ over 29 months and they indicated a good degree of tolerability, say boffins.

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To Gujarat and what The Cut is calling ‘the most lavish wedding of all time’. Billionaire Mukesh Ambani threw a star-studded bash for son Anani and his bride, Radhika. The 1,500 guests, including Zuckerberg, Gates, Ivanka and likkle old me, saw Rihanna perform a 40-minute set (that’s $6 million to you, sahib), a David Blaine magic show and supped on 500 dishes served up by 100 chefs. Oh, frabjous day!

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This inflation’s getting to be a real problem, isn’t it? Even the tooth fairy has succumbed. According to The Wall Street Journal the average pay-out for a lost tooth has hit ‘a record high’ (how the fuck do they know?) of $6.23. Some gummy brats receive video games, silver necklaces, Vuitton bracelets, new iPhones and, in one case, a $100 bill decorated with glitter and tiny removable rhinestones.

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The iconic see-through shirt worn by Colin Firth in the Beeb’s Pride and Prejudice went for £25,000 — more than double the expected price — at an auction of costumes. Tel’s stylish pink jockstrap had a lower reserve but still remained unsold.

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My snippetette about why George Galloway is so disliked reminds an old Iraq hand on the Drone foreign desk of when the MP made an enemy of Saddam Hussein’s interpreter by praising the dictator’s ‘indefatigability’ and prompting a hurried, frantic translation. It’s eadam alkalal, by the way.

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HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Chocolate chip ice cream falling out of favour. ‘Premium flavours’, such as salted caramel, preferred. 

Don’t know what they make of it in the Back Bar of the Flying Fuck but the two leading candidates for the White House are teetotallers, reminds The New York Times. Biden and Trump both maintain they have never touched an alcoholic drink. Typically though, you might think, several New York barmen’s recollections differ from the Donald’s.

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Europe is seriously under-achieving, skyline-wise. Who knew? (And who cared? — Ed). Of the world’s 1,000 tallest buildings only seven are in the EU, says The Economist. Warsaw’s 310 metre (can’t be arsed to do the conversion) Varso Tower is the tallest. But even with its ‘pointy’ appendage — an 80-metre ‘height enhancing steel spire’ — it’s still only the 172nd in the world. Top spot, and half a kilometre taller, goes to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa: 828 metres.

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The world’s biggest onshore wind turbine blades have been built by a Chinese renewable energy firm, reports New Scientist. At 427ft, they dwarf Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty. A turbine with three blades attached will have a diameter of 853ft.

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American lottery Powerball is being sued by a ticket-holder who was led to believe he had won $340 million when, in fact, he had won fuck all. Apparently, the lottery accidentally posted a set of test numbers on its website which matched those of John Cheeks, of Washington DC. He said he felt numb when he thought he had scooped the jackpot only to be told his ticket was worthless.

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Apple reportedly binning plans for leccie car, retailing at $100,000, after spending millions on development. Coincides with weakening demand for EVs.


Two biggest pharmacies in US soon to start filling prescriptions for abortion pills.

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A thousand year tradition in Japan is coming to an end, reports my overweight snout with a top-knot and dressed in a nappy. The Somin-sai festival involves men in loincloths and socks enduring various rituals such as running through freezing water. What killed this millennium-old practice? The young can’t be arsed.

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Although Sadiq Khan currently has a 20-point lead over his Tory mayoral rival Susan Hall, the May election contest is ‘closer than people think’ says the FT’s Stephen Bush. Indeed, some Labour chiefs privately think Khan’s heading for defeat. ‘Don’t dismiss an earthquake the capital,’ is the tantalising warning.

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 The rebirth of George Galloway raises the question: how does someone so detested persuade people to vote for him? Mind you, the new MP has also been puzzled. He once asked the late Labour Scottish Secretary and First Minister Donald Dewar why people took an instant dislike to him. ‘It saves time, George,’ came the reply.

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SportsDigest with Rockard Rambleshanks

Women account for 55% of fans of professional sport in South Korea. In US it’s less than half and 25% in UK and Oz.


Man U, keen to lure £60 million Bayern Munich star Mathias de Ligt,  could have signed him for peanuts in 2018. Rejected because scouts said his father was ‘too fat’ and he was likely to go the same way.


Cristiano Ronaldo banned for one match for making Ted Hodgson-approved single-handed gesture to jeering Saudi league fans.


Former West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca’s dismal form at new club Atalanta blamed on debilitating PlayStation addiction which leaves him running around ‘in a foreign body’ and ‘rolling into other worlds’.

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RuralRides. The bar fire is playing up at The Bustard. No draw, no roar, fitful flames. Stacy, the barmaid, posits green wood or a blocked flu as reasons. Her bellows are punctured and past it. She’s tried lying on the floor and blowing into the grate: the ‘fire’ flickers briefly and then dies. A bit like life I suppose.

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So farewell then, footie maverick Stan Bowles,  gone to the Great Locker Room in the Sky. Tales of the mayhem he caused are legendary, writes SportsGoss corr Rockard Rambleshanks. Paid £200 a game to wear Gola boots, he was offered £250 to switch to adidas. What to do? Simps. Wear one Gola boot and one adidas — and pocket both fees. Stan liked a flutter: he would often spend days wagering on games of snakes and ladders. Even when he joined Gamblers Anonymous he struck a bet with a stranger on how long he would last.

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WankerOfTheWeek. Matt Hancock who opened a talk at Eton with a joke about Jacob Rees-Mogg. Later, when he took questions, a thin, bespectacled boy called Peter informed the audience that ‘my father is a great man both in public and in private’. To great applause he added: ‘especially as he remained loyal to his wife.’

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The Palace isn’t handling the ongoing mystery of the Princess of Wales’s health at all well. But ‘twas ever thus. A.N. Wilson says in the Mail that news of George V’s death was delayed until it was too late to appear in the Standard, a paper considered too lowly to break such a story. Much better to be announced first in The Times, which it was.

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HeadsUp. Stuff subbed enviably short

Show-offs in tank tops and jorts compete in Florida Man Games. Includes wrestling while holding pitchers of beer and running from ‘police’ on Evading Arrest obstacle course.


Ride-sharing company offers ‘restroom enthusiasts’ four-hour tour of Tokyo’s public loos.


NASA seeks four volunteers to spend time in 1,700 sq ft Mars pod simulating life in space. Don’t rush: it’s for a year.

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StatsLife. The amount of wealth you need to be in a country’s richest 1% is listed by Bloomberg. In Britain, it’s $3.1 million — ahead of China ($1.1m), Japan ($2m) and Italy ($2.2m) but trailing France ($3.3m), Germany ($3.4m) and the US ($5.8m). Top spot? Monaco ($12.9m).

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Alpha males? Sooo yesterday. Now it’s soft, gooey masculinity, says Bustle. Saltburn’s Jacob Elordi may be a 6ft 5ins hunk but he likes to carry purses and paperbacks. Then there’s Paul Mescal and Swifty’s squeeze, Super Bowl star Travis Kelce. They’re the opposite of toxic masculinity: known for their fondness for emotional music, ‘little hobbies’ such as latte art and board games and willingness to talk about their feelings and … (Nuff pansy talk — Ed)

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Caine’sCorner. American boxing great George Foreman has four sons. They’re all called (you’ve guessed it) George. NMPKT

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¡Que jodida! Back in the sixties the Venezuelan bolivar was as solid as the Swiss franc; now it’s literally worth less than the paper it is printed on. If you had converted $1 million into the currency in 2013 it would be worth just three cents today. Stephen Gibbs says in The Times that people are so fed up with the financial situation they can’t be bothered to keep PIN codes secret: they shout their four digits to staff in bars etc who punch them into card readers themselves. Says Gibbs: ‘When I gave my code at a Caracas deli, the sales assistant said: “That’s the same as mine.”’

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Remember when our favourite Hibernian’s pot pourri of assorted tidbits claimed pride of place on the Mail? End column, right hand page, front of book? Now it’s to be seen languishing away on Page 34 for fuck’s sake. Anyone know what’s going on?

More on the tsunami of toxic shit being written about ‘genocide’ in Gaza. Not just now but over the last 19 years since Israel withdrew from the Strip. In 2005 the population was 1.3 million; now it’s more than two million. The Palestinian population of the West Bank has grown by a million: male life expectancy there is higher than parts of Scotland. If the Israelis are committing genocide, they’re not doing it well.

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Like most of Europe, Sweden allowed its civil defence capability to wither when the Cold War ended. The military reserve force, or home guard,  contained the middle-aged who didn’t take their duties terribly seriously, reports Politico. No now, though. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine two years ago 30,000 Swedes have joined up — a 619% increase on an average year. Potential recruits are being turned away.

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WordOfTheWeek. A new series that’s inspirational to the aspirational. Succinct: Expressing what needs to be said without unnecessary words. 

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Aren’t people spiteful and silly? The leader of the western world pauses to give an update on the prospect for a Gaza ceasefire and the gainsayers accuse him of licking a Mr Whippy. Of course not! Biden was, in fact, using the latest state-of-the-art piezoelectric mic, known as ‘a cornet condenser’ in the trade.

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Americans without degrees have ‘staggeringly shorter life spans’ than those who do, says the New York Times. In 2021 a 25-year-old who didn’t go to university could expect to live to around 75 — a decade less than someone with a degree. The gap is more than triple what it was in 1992.


HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short (eat your hearts out, so-called columnists).

China’s anticipated loan of two pandas to San Diego zoo seen as sign of better relations with US.


World’s oldest dog posthumously stripped of title after Guinness World Records could not verify it was 30 at time of death.


Two of the world’s first desktop computer, the Q1,  found during house clearance in London. It means total number of Q1s in existence soars … to three.


Alligator has emergency surgery to remove 70 coins from stomach. Omaha Zoo appeals to visitors not to throw cash into pools.

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OldJokesHome. How do New Zealanders find sheep in long grass? Irresistible.

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WankerOfTheWeek. ‘One friend, a normally sane 55-year-old man, told me he “took two days off work” to recover from One Day’, Hadley Freeman tells the Sunday Times.

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As Chris Buckland, LOTP,  memorably wrote in an intro: ‘The first casualty of war is room service.’ But truth comes a close second. Israel may stand accused of genocide but Douglas Murray argues in The Spectator that it demonstrably isn’t genocide and is ‘not even regionally remarkable’. Truth: Syria’s President Assad has murdered 600,000 Arab Muslims in the last 10 years. Truth: the UN estimates that 337,000 have been killed in Yemen. Why no shrill protests, marches, vigils over these victims?

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Heavy rain over six months has transformed Death Valley, California, usually one of the driest places on earth. A temporary lake has formed in Badwater Basin which is 282ft and, geologically, America’s lowest point. But wetbobs better hurry: Sumer is icumen in/Equinox approcheth/And natur ruleth once agen.

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Caine’sCorner. Britain’s most popular dog is the Goldendoodle. There are 995 wannabe buyers for every puppy. NMPKT.

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StatsLife(ParkingSpecial). A car spends 95% of its life just being parked. West Edmonton mall in Canada has 20,000 parking spots. New York City is currently owed $1 billion in unpaid parking and speeding tickets. 57% of UK drivers’ heart rates rocket as they attempt to parallel park, says Auto Trader. VW’s software company is testing a smart system that uses robots to guide cars to free parking spaces and automatically charge EVs. And a survey in Hersham … (Enough parking crap — Ed)

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LeaveMeghanAlone. A ‘body language expert’ reveals to an incredulous Mirror that Her Radiance’s habit of ostentatiously holding hands with her hunk is indicative of how loved-up the couple are. Their interlocking fingers with the palms pressed together apparently display the deeply intimate nature of their bond. See, I told you Harry was in good hands.

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RuralRides. On Saturday, May 4 there will be a coffee morning at Frame Hampton Church, which will include a sale of second hand jigsaws (proceeds to the Bring Back The Boys campaign). 

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We’ve all done it (actually I haven’t) and now Apple has issued new guidance on what to do if you drop your mobile into water. The time-honoured method of drying your device by putting it into uncooked rice is a now a no-no, don’t you know.  Rice particles could get into the handset and cause lasting damage. Using a hairdryer is also not recommended. Instead, the advice is to tap the phone against your hand with the charging port pointing down and wait 30 minutes. Best of luck with that.

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An American spacecraft has touched down on the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972. Houston firm Intuitive Machines successfully landed its Odysseus rover near the lunar south pole and zzzzzz. Sorry— dropped off there. 

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SillyLinkOfTheWeek. Huge Fire Burns Down Sir Alf Ramsey’s Favourite Hotel — Telegraph (Alf died 25 years ago).

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HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short. Thieves in Alabama steal metal radio mast to sell for scrap. Quite a heist: it was 200ft.


Mystery as female stingray becomes pregnant despite there being no males in her North Carolina aquarium.


Apple faces a $539 million fine by the EU over allegations it thwarted music streaming rivals such as Spotify on its platforms.

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Starbucks in China is offering a new drink to mark the Lunar New Year: braised pork latte. It mixes espresso, steamed milk and pork sauce garnished with a slice of pork and (Stop! — Ed)

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My note about the BBC’s eccentric editorial judgment prompts a former back bench grunt to ponder whether the highly paid ‘journalists’ who read the news ever pipe up to protest that a bulletin’s running order is crap. Or whether DG Tim Davie ever delivers a post-match bollocking. He is also editor in chief, after all.

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Following my note about record 840mph tailwinds over the Atlantic, some smart-arse with a physics
O-level texts, cryptically: ’Speed of sound? 767mph? Sound barrier? Don’t apply: the planes were still flying at standard cruising speed relative to the air surrounding them. The clue’s in the word ‘relative’, Einstein.

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Caine’sCorner. Between 2015 and 2019 the residents of Notting Hill made more in capital gains than those in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne combined. NMPKT.

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At the start of the Gaza war a defence expert warned, presciently: ‘It will get worse before it gets worse.’ He wasn’t wrong. Gaza, itself, seems irredeemable but what of Israel? The country’s GDP contracted 19.4% in the final quarter of 2023; companies lost 300,000 workers conscripted into the military; restrictions on Palestinians entering Israel hit the construction sector. Final stat: consumer spending dropped 27% in Q4; government spending surged 88%.

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WankerOfTheWeek. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons. 

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Beeb editorial conferences must be strange and baffling. The Six leads on the Clapham attack suspect’s body being found 26 hours earlier.  The heir to the throne making a highly significant statement on Gaza is way down the bulletin. As Nessa might inquire: What’s occurring? 

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Don't want to worry you but in the time it takes you to read this, AI tools, such as ChatGPT, will have completed millions of complex tasks. It’s all right as long as they’re on our side.

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Those Aussies: getting very picky these days. Professional equestrian Shane Rose’s Olympic place is in jeopardy because he wore a mankini at a showjumping event. As if there is anything wrong with a bright orange G-string, made famous by Borat. After all, he was competing in the Wallaby Hill Extravaganza.  

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Huge 265mph tailwinds at cruising altitude have been pushing west-east airliners to record speeds. Three have recently been clocked at more than 800mph. A Virgin Atlantic red-eye from Washington to LHR arrived 45 minutes early and an American Airlines flight reached 840mph travelling from Philadelphia to Qatar. 

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SportsGalore. Rockard Rambleshanks reporting

US National Collegiate Athletic Association women’s basketball icon Caitlin Clark cements status as greatest player of all time by passing previous points record of 3,527. Averages 32 points a game: JuJu Watkins (no relation) second on 27.7.

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Boys R Us rugby shirts sell out at Cotton Traders…and at pop-up shop in Too-Too Taboo nightclub, Little Frame, Wilts.


Saudis, keen to sign anyone with 50,000 Instagram followers, are ready to throw sacks full of Riyals at PSG women’s star Aminata Diallo. Eh? She’s currently awaiting trial in France accused of paying hitman to attack team mate with metal bars. Police say she Googled ‘how to break a kneecap’.

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The Mail reports that Phillip Schofield ‘whiles away his days in the West London enclave of Chiswick’. Enclave eh? Sounds tough: never know who you might bump into.

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O tempora, o mores. National Highways has spent nearly £300 million and 15 years filling out just one planning application, says Hugo Gye in the i. The Lower Thames Crossing, first proposed in 2009, is a 14-mile link between Kent and Essex. The application contains 2,383 documents with 359,866 pages. Laid end to end, they would extend for 66 miles.

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I see Snowflakes R Us have burst through the pain barrier to protest about Israel. A group of Harvard twats staged a hunger strike. It lasted all of 12 hours. As Michael Deacon says in the Telegraph it must be ‘the most pathetic student protest of all time.’

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The Slicker. Business and finance with Fred Needleshanks

Problems with the 737 Max 9 have sent Boeing’s stock freefalling 20%. Airbus, world’s largest commercial plane manufacturer, is up 5%. 


Japan falls behind Germany and is now fourth biggest economy following unexpected slip into recession.


Mexico overtakes China as top exporter to US.


Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon had 24% pay rise in 2023 boosting income to $31 million pa. Ironically, GS profits fell, symmetrically, 24%.

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Record freaks are constantly orgasming over vinyl. But cassettes? Not so much. Yet in Japan the demand for the old tech gear is blossoming. Tower Records, in Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district, has expanded its cassette selection sixfold to keep up with demand  while another shop nearby is selling 10 times as many cassette players as in 2017.

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Caine’sCorner. Sideburns were originally called Burnsides after US general and politician Ambrose Burnside. NMPKT.

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WankerOfTheWeek. Amanda Houston. Dim ITV weather presenter who often prefaces her forecasts with the fatuous greeting: ‘I hope you’re all well’. Not sure how that’s received by the 3.5 million people with some form of cancer in the UK.

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As Russia loses more heavy equipment to Ukraine attacks, how long can Putin take it? At least three years, says the International Institute for Strategic Studies, maybe even more. But the long term prospect is distinctly dodgy: the Russian stockpile is increasingly being topped up by refurbished older models rather than factory-fresh new ones.

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What will granny say? John Lewis is selling sex toys — and they’re flying off the shelves. A spike in website searches prompted the retailer to stock vibrators, massage oil and lubricants. A company spokeswoman said the ‘outdated stigma’ around sex toys had been broken. But John Lewis being John Lewis, the toys carry the stern warning: ‘Sexual wellness products can only be returned if unopened and have the original cellophane wrapping intact’.

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A new hotline for aviophobes (that’s anxious fliers to you and me) has been set up by a team of US pilots. Callers to Dial A Pilot get a 15-minute chat with a professional aviator who can answer questions such as the causes of turbulence and why jets are safe to fly even in bad weather. Cost? Sky-high $50.

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The Drone’s so-called columnists’ river of words having again burst its banks, forgive me if I have to resort to a Goss mini-dote (TM) for space’s sake. So … No. 45 (Oh yes, I like that one — Ed) 

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Society news from oe’er  the border, courtesy of the Master of Ballantrae, my resident riever with the chapped thighs and the mock-badger sporran. Swish dinner party hostesses in Glasgow’s poshest postcodes no longer welcome flowers, chocs or wine from their guests. Now it’s de rigueur to bring an upscale haggis as an homage to Scotland’s culinary heritage. Who’d have thought?

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WordOfTheWeek. Decrease. (Verb) To make smaller in size, amount.

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The lads down at the Job Centre in Weybridge, tickled by my cosy euphemisms for being fired, say the new trend on TikTok (where else?) is to film yourself getting the bullet. There have been more than 400 million views of awkward terminal conversations in some Haitch Arr dungeon. One nine-minute defenestration video went viral.  It’s just what companies are desperate to avoid when they’re ‘task-based income displacing’ an employee.

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Just when you thought that nothing — and I mean nothing— could make you exclaim: ‘Fuck a duck!’ news breaks that the latest craze in Japan is the ‘pig cafe’. Eh? Simps, really. For 12 oncers you can spend 30 minutes in a room full of adorable micro-pigs, gushes AP. The tiny trotters at Tokyo’s MiPig Cafe are clean, friendly and quiet although ‘they do snort now and then’. And if you become really attached, you can buy one. How much? £1,050 to you, tanaka-san.

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Concerns about Biden’s fitness for office prompts the usual smart arses to trawl the net for examples of his verbal gaffes. We’ll ignore his introducing his running mate as ‘the next president of the United States, Barack America’. Instead, consider this statement in 2008 on the White House response to the 1929 stock market crash: ‘Franklin Roosevelt got on the television’ and explained what was going on. Ahem. TV didn’t exist; Roosevelt wasn’t president.

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StatsLife. One per cent of the population of China — that’s 15 million people — are spies or informants to the Communist Party. 

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What’s Haitch Arr’s favourite book? Got to be a thesaurus as bosses seek synonyms for ‘You’re fired!’  Sugar’s not-so-sweet valedictory instruction is being replaced by euphemisms such as ‘involuntary career event’ and ‘rightsizing’. Citi in the States has come up with ‘simplified operating model’; UPS said 12,000 layoffs were a corporate attempt ‘to fit our organisation to our strategy’. It’s been called jargon monoxide. 

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I pass on, without comment, the Daily Star’s reaction to news that attacks in the Red Sea could lead to a tea shortage. ‘It’s spoutrageous,’ storms the Lah-di.

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RomancingTheDrone.  

🩷Following my note about a US zoo’s Valentine wheeze where, for a fee, you can name a cockroach or rat after an ex and watch it being fed to a larger animal, Romeo Rambleshanks offers other examples: British metal scrap firm paints offending name on car before crushing it; Philadelphia hotel puts ex’s photo on punchbag; Manhattan pop-up ‘heartbreak bar’ has shredder for ‘mementos from former flames’.

🩷Love-struck Lidl purveys heart-shaped pizzas, ice creams and … chicken nuggets.

🩷Stern-looking US president Warren G. Harding didn’t appear to be a love god but he, too, had his moments. He once penned the poem: I love your poise /Of perfect thighs/When they hold me/In paradise. Ooh-er, missus.

🩷As Eros and St Valentine come together, as it were, let’s recall Alan Coren’s description of the carnal act: A mere sneeze in the loins

🩷Among Country Living’s 51 Romantic Things To Do On Valentine’s Day You’ll Never Forget: Tackle a  jigsaw puzzle together; have a heartfelt conversation; send your partner on a treasure hunt littered with loving gifts; gaze into each other’s eyes and wonder: Is Country Living taking the piss?

*****

Happy birthday to Edie Ceccarelli, at 116, the oldest person in the States. Locals in Willits, California, put on a parade featuring the fire brigade, the dumpster (sic) lads and, it says here, a trio of moustachioed musicians. Edie’s secret?  ‘A couple of fingers of red wine of an evening and mind your own business.’

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks. When Paris snapper Augustin Lignier trained two rats to take selfies ‘they didn’t want to stop’, according to The New York Times. He built a box that rewarded the rodents with sugar any time they triggered the camera. Lignier phased out the rewards but even when sugar did appear the rats took no notice and ‘just kept pressing the button’.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Sarah Hurley, of Essex, to The Times.  My son was allowed to keep a badger at Eton. It was a privilege of the Captain of Oppidans so I gave him a cuddly one. 

*****

StatsLifeAtTheSuperBowl. Some 68 million people bet a record $23.1 billion on the big match. That’s 35% more gamblers than last year wagering an extra $7 billion. TV ads cost $7million for 30 seconds. An estimated 1.5 billion chicken wings were eaten during the game, four for every person in the country. And it was a no-score draw between bone-in and boneless aficionados, says my 49er with the greasy fingers shouting Rah, Rah, Rah.

*****

Workers have won the legal right to ignore messages from their employers outside official working hours. Australia, which has just passed the legislation, joins countries such as Italy, Portugal and Kenya in enacting ‘right to disconnect’ laws. Unsurprisingly, the French, masters of work-life balance, led the way with similar legislation in 2017.

*****

Weather alerts really expose the metric maze in which we’re lost.  The Beeb desperately tries to promote cms and metres but, somehow, the latter usually morph into miles. And when did anyone announce a baby’s birth weight in anything but pounds and ounces? Or pop out for a pie and an 0.568 of a litre? But there‘s laziness, too. The Independent (increasingly off the pace these days) allows the following through: ‘Up to 10 inches of snow could fall on higher ground above 300 metres.’ Bollocks, says LP Brevmin.

*****

JustFancyThat. The Guardian’s Saturday offering includes a mag called … Joints.

*****

An Aussie model, who boasts she ‘slept with’  300 men last year, says she aims to top 365 in 2024, ignoring the fact it’s leap year. Presumably, she’ll have a nice lie-down on Feb 29.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Lesley Edmunds, of Perth and Kinross, in The Times: I am  5ft 3ins but have no trouble finding clothes: I just buy off the teenage rail — no VAT and great modern choices. Today I am wearing the cast-off jeans of my 14-year-old great-grandson.  I cant wait for him to have another clear-out.

*****

Four years after Brexit, leaving the EU has made British politics more European, says The Wall Street Journal’s Dominic Green. Recalcitrant pro-EU civil servants have an ‘almost French level of contempt for voters’. And while Continental farmers block roads, our pen-pushers erect legal obstacles and simply say: No, minister. Most withering of all? Tory PMs ‘come and go with almost Italian rapidity.’ He’s right, you know.

*****

I’ve heard it all now: 80% of Americans aged between 18 and 41 are turning to social media platforms such as TikTok for finance advice, avers The Guardian. And, typically, Gen Z is adopting ‘cute viral terms’ for its new world. ‘Loud budgeting’ is openly sharing money goals and ‘money dysmorphia’ means having a distorted view of your finances. ‘Doom spending’? When the only cure for your big sads is new shoes or an extravagant candle, apparently.

*****

LeaveMeghanAlone. Presenting the Duchess of Sussex in a more favourable light: My Hollywood snout says Her Radiance is attempting to raise her profile in Tinsel Town … by doing something about her eyebrows. She’s going for a fuller, thicker (sic) look achieved through a technique known as powdering, a form of microblading. Make-up artist Yana Gushchina tells me: ‘Ombre brows with their gradual colour transition and soft powder finish offer a natural and well-defined appearance.’ Move on up, Meghan!

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

McDonald’s sales in Middle East hit by boycott over perceived pro-Israel bias 

Americans waste $397 million in unused gym memberships a year, says survey.

Make Room For The Boys lobbyists besiege Daily Drone HQ in Walton-on-Thames.

*****

Bit nippy around the nether regions? The UK has got nothing on Russia which is experiencing an unusually cold winter, says Business Insider. And the trouble with -56C in Siberia, say, is that the old Soviet era infrastructure can’t cope. Heating systems are breaking down, pipes are bursting and there have been power cuts. What to do? Well, because of the Ukraine war, public utilities made up just 2.2% of total spending last year compared with 21% for the military. So, don’t hold your (foggy) breath.

*****

StrangePeopleTheYanks. Nebraska is ditching its controversial, but brutally accurate, slogan after five years. Officials feel that Nebraska, Honestly It’s Not For Everyone actually wasn’t for anyone at all really.

*****

Drone literary wannabes will be excited to learn that Iceland has one of the largest per capita publishing industries in the world. Ten per cent of Icelanders publish a book in their lifetime. In the US, it’s one in 5,000. The average Icelander reads at least two books a month and a blockbuster can sell 14,000 copies equivalent to 4% of the 375,000 population. Apparently, it’s all because of an ancient storytelling tradition and what else is there to do on those 21-hour winter nights? (Stop sniggering at the back!)

*****

Climate boffins are gearing up to reclassify hurricanes, says Iris our weather girl (Girl? — Ed). A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists argues that hurricanes are growing so powerful that the top limit Category 5 wind scale is out of date. Instead, a new Category 6, where sustained winds are of at least 192 mph, is proposed. Five storms have already exceeded the hypothetical Cat 6. Ominously, all in the past 10 years.

*****

So the self-proclaimed ‘world’s coolest dictator’ has won a landslide election to sweep back to power. El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, 42, isn’t cool on crime though. He has conducted a brutal and draconian crackdown on violent gangs. At least 70,000 people (about 1% of the population) have been locked up under a state of emergency that doesn’t bother with trivia such as due process. Result: homicides dropped almost 70% last year. The economy ain’t doing so well but, hey, who’s counting?

*****

Caine’sCorner. An obit of Ian Lavender, aka Private ‘Stupid Boy’ Pike, who has just died, reveals that Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) had a clause in his contract that he wouldn’t be asked to remove his trousers during filming. NMPKT.

*****

To Condé Nast headquarters in Mayfair where Vogue and GQ were holding the ultimate leaving ‘do’: they were literally vacating the building. A Claridge’s trolley turned up laden with burgers and champagne and on the second floor an ‘old school’ bash took place: tables were danced upon, bums were photo copied. One reveller’s review: ‘Like a Bridget Jones party. But cooler.’

*****

Dai Watkins, JPR, Barry: rugby (not just Welsh rugby) has lost three genuine legends in less than six months. Time to reflect. Well done, then, to former front row grunt Boris Johnson for championing the sport in his Mail column and warning against the dewy-eyed effetes’ cringeworthy crusade to reduce body contact and to water down the genuinely ‘beautiful game’.

*****

A dried-out lemon thought to be 285 years old has been sold at auction for £1,400. It was found at the back of a drawer in a 19th century Chinese chest and bore an inscription saying it was ‘given by Mr P. Lu Franchini Nov 4 1739 to Miss E. Baxter’. And how did the Chinese chest fare in the Shropshire sale? To you, guv: 32 nicker.

*****
The tallest building in America (fifth in the world) is being planned for, of all places, Oklahoma City, says Drone architecture expert Rotunda Rambleshanks. The tower will be 1,907ft (a nod to the year Oklahoma was admitted to the Union). It will have 1,776 residential units, two hotels plus a restaurant and bar. Sales clincher, as the realtors say, is that it will be just 15 minutes from America’s only skeleton museum.

*****

A reader writes: Isn’t it irritating when some telly babe prefaces breaking news with the deathless phrase ‘in the past few minutes’? Especially when they’re telling you something you read on your mobile half an hour before. Granted, it’s their equivalent of our ‘late last night’ but I wish they’d stop it. In the next few minutes. 

*****

LeaveMeghanAlone (A new thread) The Goss, alone among the world’s media, does not dump all over the Duchess of Sussex. She’s a beautiful, talented and accomplished wife and mother who’s just made a bad marriage, that’s all.  Perspective: the most watched telly show in the US last year (57.7 billion total minutes viewed) was law drama Suits starring Meghan. All those people can’t be wrong.

*****

TheSlickerExtra with Fred Needleshanks. That little ‘ol website Mark Zuckerberg started at uni is 20 years old. And what a birthday present: Meta stock has just soared 20% to a record $474.99, adding $197 billion to the company’s valuation. That’s now $1.22 trillion, by the way. It’s the most market value any US company has ever gained in a single day, according to Bloomberg. For Zuckerberg it added $28.1 billion to his net worth.

*****

SportSpot. Rockard Rambleshanks, our man on the ball

BBC’s Dan Roan describes Jurgen Klopps’s decision to leave Liverpool as ‘seismic’. Typical of Beeb to underplay good story.


Nearly half of players featured in new Netflix series, Six Nations, missed first round because of injury or retirement.


Amateur golfer, 77, hits two holes-in-one in single round in Arizona. Odds of doing so: 67 million to one.


Make Room For The Boys adopted as new anthem by England rugby supporters, replacing Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

*****

WaDiddums then. Italy’s star winger Ange Capuozzo had to miss the defeat against England because he had ‘a poorly tummy’, says ITV Six Nations rugby commentator Nick Mullins. Wonder what the Viet Gwent would have made of that.

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks. A pigeon detained by Indian police on suspicion of being a Chinese spy has been freed. The bird was captured in Mumbai in May carrying a message in Chinese. It transpires, though, that it was just a racing pigeon from Taiwan.

*****

Never say we don’t keep you in the know. Syphilis rates in the US are up almost 80% since 2018, continuing a long-running trend across every age group. Cases of congenital syphilis, when mothers pass an infection to the foetus, have soared an astonishing 937% in the past decade. Decrease in condom use and fewer clinics are blamed. Now for the better news: gonorrhoea cases fell 9% in 2022.

*****

Warnings of the imminence of spring ‘migratory crossings’, when common toads recklessly risk busy thoroughfares to return to ancestral breeding grounds, prompts Drone Chief Sub LP Brevmin to wake up and reminisce. He recalls Les Diver, LOTP, handing out a short containing this info to new subs as a sort of test. They were definitely marked down if they didn’t put up the line: Major Toad Ahead. (I think Denis Edensor claimed the credit for that — Ed)

*****

Our old pals (Eh? — Ed) at Reach have a huge picture archive which all titles can access. Snaps are tagged with appropriate keywords. According to Popbitch, among the millions of images there’s one of Fred West bollock naked lying on a sun lounger, todger prominent. Keywords for this photo: Criminal? Murderer? Serial killer? No. Try Relaxing, Sun lounger, Smiling. 

*****

As two geriatrics prepare to fight the presidential election, it’s worth noting that Bill Clinton, inaugurated 31 years ago, is, at 77, still more youthful than Trump (a slightly older 77) and Biden (81)..

*****

Caine’sCorner. Laid end to end, Britain’s hedges would go around the world 10 times, the BBC reckons. NMPKT.

*****

The Slicker. Business&Finance. Fred Needleshanks reports: Hong Kong court orders liquidation of Evergrande, once China’s largest real estate firms,  because it accumulated $300 billion debt.


Meta spent $6.6 million on personal flights for Mark Zuckerberg and former COO Sheryl Sandberg in ‘22 - up 55% from before epidemic.


Spurs’ billionaire owner Joe Lewis used to reverse charges when he phoned brokers to place a trade.


Paramount for sale latest: media mogul Byron Allen makes $14 billion bid.


DroneMart shares hit as Country Boys ‘lebensraum’ controversy grows.

******

StrangePeopleTheYanks. Every year in Minnesota people vote on what to call the state’s snowploughs. Winners this year, says AP, include Beyonsleigh, Taylor Drift, Dolly Plowton and Fast and Flurrious. Previous victors? Blizzard of Oz, Scoop Dogg, Hans Snolo and F. Salt Fitzgerald. As I said, Strange People etc.

*****

Shell companies? Fantastical dodgy outfits, don’t you think, cautions Fred Needleshanks, Drone finance guru.  There are 22,000 corporate entities with a registered address at the Pyramids. Thousands have directors aged under five and 2,200 who are over 123. One listed director is said to be 942. And there’s one Chinese manufacturer which reported $2 billion in revenue despite having only one employee. See what we mean?


*****

Say it ain’t so, Joe. Biden’s said to be languishing on a low approval rating of just 37%. Dead in the water, eh? Hang on, though. The leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Japan all have ratings below 30%. Just one developed country, Italy, has a premier who has gained popularity in the 2020s (and she’s a rather tasty blonde, confides our ever so sexist political corr). Contrast with the developing world: leaders in the 10 largest countries enjoy ratings of 50% plus.

*****

InTheCourts. A sperm donor who worked as a police-themed stripper called Sergeant Eros has been convicted at Aberdeen Sheriff Court of committing various sexual offences during his show. Stuart Kennedy, 40, had previously been accused of  fitting a flashing light to his car.

******

Caine’sCorner. The first luxury item selected  by actress Sally Ann Howes on Desert Island Discs in 1951 was garlic. NPKT.

*****

Why is South Africa, of all places, so active in pursuing its genocide case against Israel, asks Drone Galactic International Global Editor Rover Rambleshanks. Could it be that Iran has been bunging the country’s ruling ANC large wedges of spondoolicks? Certainly SA’s financial probs seem to have eased since ministers went arse licking (Surely, you mean ‘fostering diplomatic relations’ — Ed) to the Islamic Republic.

*****

OffStone. Media matters that matter (subbed short, natch)

Country stars Eric Church and Morgan Wallen buy Field and Stream in States. Plan to relaunch print version of 129-year-old mag taken online in 2021.


NCTJ asking hacks  to complete 25-minute Journalists at Work survey on its website. 


More than 400 Conde Nast staff stage walkout to protest against media giant’s plan to cut 5% of workforce.

*****

Newspapers report surge in readers’ letters demanding Drone columnists give space for recall of Country Boys.Stunned drinkers have been barred from a bar to make way for a Mafia-style family booze-up. The Royal George in Hersham,  Surrey, is closing on February 1 for the birthday bash. An insider said: ‘It’s all a bit hush hush. All we know is that an extended clan or family has hired the pub. We don’t know if it’s pikeys or Mafiosi types. They’re pushing the boat out, though. They’ve ordered Mediterranean tarts, extra dirty fries and halloumi sticks plus unlimited rich and fruity Marcel Hubert.’ A pub regular said: ‘Fuck it. We’ll go to the Bricklayers instead.’ (Flood the bar! — Ed)

*****

Ian Park, who has just died at 88, was a legend in regional newspapers. When he was hired to transform Northcliffe he wasn’t averse to spending Rothermere’s cash. A local editor, nervous about laying out a few thousand on a survey to back a campaign about the noisy surface of a new road (some of it was eventually relaid) sought counsel. ‘Don’t worry, old boy,’ said Park, ‘it’s little more than the cost of a good lunch in London.’

*****

The new year has hardly started and it looks like we already have ‘2024’s biggest game’, the Guardian announces breathlessly. Palworld, called ‘Pokemon with guns’, sold five million copies in its first three days. Players must survive by farming, cooking, building shelters and fighting various enemy factions. Groan.

*****

Curious revelation by The Traitors champ Harry Clark. The Army engineer was excited to fly in a helicopter during the ‘final mission’. He said that despite servicing choppers in the forces, he’d never actually been up in one.

*****

Ukraine, Gaza, Yemen: it all feels a bit pre-war, say those who remember. Sabres are being rattled, armchair warriors are on manoeuvres. Boris in his Mail column discusses the call by General Sir Peter Sanders, Chief of the Defence Staff, for a Citizen Army and ponders whether Gen Z would volunteer for the colours. Squad, S-l-o-w march! Perhaps take a cautious warning from  Einstein: ‘I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.’

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

Woman arrested in Pattaya, Thailand, for taking pet lion for a ride through resort’s busy streets in open-top Bentley.

Ukraine-born Caroline Shiino crowned Miss Japan, sparking debate over what it means to be Japanese.

Inaugural Bring Back The Boys action group meeting held in Frame Hampton Village Hall, Wilts.

*****

Goss groupies query why we refer to the Leader of the Opposition as Sir Sir Keir Starmer. Simple really. It emphasises the enoblement we suspect he rather regrets accepting the year before he became an MP.  Doesn’t really fit the horny-handed, class warrior image he affects, you see. Thanks to the Mail’s Quentin Letts for mentioning that not only does the Speaker, a Labour MP remember, refrain from acknowledging the KCB but it has been excised from Hansard as well. Aren’t they a bunch? 

*****

It’s not April 1 (I checked, plus this is in The Times) but a team of engineers is said to be combating shrinking sea ice by trying to refreeze the Arctic. By pouring water over the existing ice. To make it ‘thicker and long-lasting’. This Fantasy Island scenario is being enacted in Cambridge Bay in far north Canada. The boffins will also test other protection techniques including sprinkling ice with glass powder to reflect the sun. (Bollocks! Could you pop in when the edition’s gone? — Ed)

*****

Trust fucking TikTok. Apparently, the latest fashion trend on the social media platform is Mob Wife Aesthetic, says Cosmo. Twenty-five years after The Sopranos first aired, fur coats, red lippy, ‘gold’ jewellery and gigantic sunglasses are back. As are designer bags and bible black clothes (leather preferred). Still not sure? If you look as if you’re going to a funeral, you’ve got it right.

*****

All this talk about a (probably reluctant) Citizen Army prompts The Goss’s resident Stupid Boy to contrast the current mood with 1940. Within 24 hours of War Secretary Anthony Eden calling for recruits in May of that year, 250,000 men had enlisted. Two months later that had soared to 1,400,000. Eat your heart out, Shapps.*****
So, farewell, Ron DeSantis. The Goss has always been sceptical about his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination. Potential voters soon realised that he is a ‘black hole of charisma’, says my tame psephologist on Capitol Hill. Main reason for his spectacular plunge? Electile dysfunction, says my man.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Saudi Arabia, which banned booze in 1952, opens first liquor store. Only non-Muslim diplomats over 21 may shop there. 


St Bride’s, Fleet Street, celebrates 1,500 anniversary of patron saint, St Brigid of Kildare with a service on February 4. Choir, orchestra, Haydn’s Great Organ Mass, fizz and nibbles promised.


AI and journalism, re-setting police and media relations and engaging new audiences in politics are key subjects to be discussed at Society of Editors’ 25th conference in London on April 30.

*****

My note about Nathaniel Fiennes being one of the first to enter Belsen, prompts a reminiscence which has a vivid, poignant resonance today. When Brinnlitz labour camp, in what was then Czechoslovakia, was liberated German guards had fled. Bizarrely, a lone Russian officer rode through the gates on a horse. ‘It’s over,’ he announced. ‘You’re free! You can go now.’ The leader of the prisoners, mostly Jewish, turned to him and said: ‘Go? Where do we go?’ 

*****

The Goss is very partial to clairvoyants (qf Bernard Shrimsley and the lady astrologer) so much excitement over a story about newspapers’ predictions in 1924 of what the world would be like 100 years later. Amazingly, many of the prognostications were uncannily accurate. One, sadly, was not: ‘In 2024 the most important single thing which the cinema will have helped to accomplish will be eliminating from the face of the civilised world all armed conflict.’

*****

PseudOfTheWeek. Stephen Dunk, of Dorchester, in a letter to the Telegraph: I disagree that Cinzano is the best Rosso vermouth. I drink a small negroni each night and it’s the vermouth that makes the difference. My every day vermouth is Martini Rosso but at weekends I upgrade to either Cocchi or, for special occasions, Punt e Mes, which is just too delicious — hence being limited to weekends.

*****

Ah, brave new world. A Chinese company has invented an airbag which can be worn by humans (especially elderly ones). The garment, which looks a bit like a bulletproof vest, has sensors to predict whether a sudden movement is going to end in a fall. The airbags are deplored before you hit the deck. 

*****

To PMQs. Another sycophantic nodfest on the Opposition front bench. After Pixie’s bravura performance last week, Rachel Reeves returned from Davos to reclaim her crown. I can’t pretend to have caught every gesture of assent but I reckon the doe-eyed Shadow Chancellor topped 70 nods during Sir Sir Keir’s questions. What a sense of humour, too: she laughed gaily at practically everything her leader said. (But don’t we all? — Ed)

*****

Nice work etc: Jose Mourinho, just relieved of his post as gaffer of Roma, leaves with a £3 million payoff. Chickenfeed by his standards. But it does bring to £80 million the total amount he has received for being sacked in his ‘career’.

*****

A single 24 cent stamp has just sold for more than $2 million, my New York Times tells me. The ‘Inverted Jenny’, which depicts a biplane called the CurtissJN, was issued by the US Post Office in 1918. A hawk-eyed clerk spotted that one batch was accidentally printed with the picture upside down and bought the only 100 released publicly for $24. He later sold them for $15,000. Since then single stamps have been attracting crazy prices.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Patricia Banton, of Staffs, to the Telegraph. When a much-loved auntie passed away, my cousins asked what I would like from her estate. I requested something personal to remind me of her. They sent me two sets of false teeth. 

*****

The latest blurb for one of the Drone’s so-called columnists promises ‘another long rant’. Surely not, protest those who still bemoan the axing of Country Boys to make room for this incontinence.

*****

Like many who had an ‘interesting war’, Nathaniel Fiennes aka Lord Saye and Sele, who has just died at 103, was reluctant to talk about his experiences. Except one incident right at the end of the conflict when, as an infantry captain, he was one of the first to enter Bergen-Belsen: ‘All I have to say is that if anyone denies the Holocaust, I’m very glad to stand up and tell them that I saw Belsen.’

*****

It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. Salute the Government Wine Committee tasked with maintaining Britain’s ‘strategic wine reserves’, superior plonk served to high-profile guests. The 32,310-bottle cellar beneath Lancaster House was enhanced in the war when the German Embassy stock was ‘requisitioned’ but now current buyers, a retired diplomat and four masters of wine, have helped build up a stock worth £3.66 million from a spend of just £804,312. It includes a 1964 Krug Vintage Brut at £9,038 and a ‘61 Chateau Latour at £2,947.

*****

StatsLife. The Army has shrunk by 40% since 2010. The 70,000 soldiers left could all get into Old Trafford with room to spare.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek. The pink-trousered H&M ad genius who thought it would be a good idea to portray two little girls in pinafore dresses accompanied by the line: ‘Make those heads turn’.

*****

TellyTalk. Rapscallion Rambleshanks tunes in. Grateful to the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley for updating me on the new Love Island. A lady contestant explained how she had ‘evolved’ since the last show and was wiser and more confident. ‘I was a completely different person then,’ she said, ‘and now I’ve even got new tits.’

*****

Attempts to control the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may be misguided, says New Scientist. What? Never heard of it (the patch not the mag)? It’s a 79,000-tonne clump of plastic twice the size of Texas floating in the North Pacific. But moves to clean it up have been poo-pooed because only an estimated 1% of plastic rubbish dumped in the sea ends in patches and the GPGP is actually teeming with aquatic life so is best left alone. By the way, another name for this phenomenon is the Pacific Trash Vortex (takes you back eh, Dick).

*****

Not for the faint-hearted, the 87th annual Hahnenkamm ski fest in Austria is about  captivate and cripple. It includes the most dangerous downhill course in the world: in 2016 the event had to be cancelled after 30 competitors crashed there. Then there’s a section with an 85% gradient (75mph!) and a jump which sends skiers 260ft through the air. Some 45,000 will gather to watch the final stretch, a jump at 90mph. Yikes!

*****

Don’t want to worry you but mental health problems have rocketed in many rich countries, particularly during the pandemic, says The Economist. Britain? The numbers are ‘startling’. No European country has seen a larger rise in antidepressant use over the last decade. The number of Britons using mental health services in 2021-22 was 4.5 million, an increase of almost a million in five years. People out of work because of mental health issues rose by a third between 2019 and 2023.

*****

Henry Kissinger’s death created ‘the world’s most exclusive job vacancy’, says Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg. Who shall replace him as global wise man and all-purpose political consultant? Not Clinton or Obama, he says. Merkel? No way. OK, what about the man who said: ‘There’s no one like Henry Kissinger’? Maybe there is. Step forward, Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. (Surely, you’re having a giraffe — Ed).

*****

Forget dry January, Brits’ reputation for enjoying the odd noggin is being soberly reappraised. Back in 1770 at the height of the gin craze immortalised  by Hogarth’s illustrations, the English each averaged 20 bottles of gin…a year, says The Spectator’s Henry Jeffrys. Now we seem to be losing our taste for alcohol. A third of pub visits are now booze-free and a quarter of 16 to 24-year-olds are teetotal.

*****

Electric vehicles? Mmm. Not going all that well is it? Ford is cutting production of its F-150 Lightning truck while Hertz is selling 20,000 of its 50,000 EVs … and will use some of the cash to buy old fashioned fuel-powered cars. The rental company says demand for electric vehicles has declined and that they are more costly to fettle. In addition, recent polar temps in the US have revealed that actually charging them in cold weather can be difficult.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. David Nelson, of West Sussex, to the Telegraph: A recent edition of Radio 4’s Clare in the Community used the Macarena as a tried and tested song to sing while attempting CPR. I’m told the best song is Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust.

*****

SportsDay. Rockard Rambleshanks, our man with the pregnancy testing kit.

Following my report that Miami Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill had fathered three children by different mothers, that’s child’s play. Teammate Xavier Howard currently has four women pregnant.


It’s not a race, lads! SportsDay’s São Paulo corr writes: Brazil legend Roberto Carlos has 11 children by seven mums.


Troy Deeney, sacked after 29 chaotic days as manager of Forest Green Rovers, spectacularly ‘lost the dressing room’. After one defeat he told his players he’d rather watch Antiques Roadshow.

*****

OffStone. Press stuff subbed short

Telegraph Ed Chris Evans is new head of press watchdog’s Editor’s Code Committee. Succeeds Neil Benson, former Trinity Mirror boss.


Deputy Ed sought for Harrogate digital news platform The Stray Ferret


Reach journo Hannah Hiles quits regional daily, The Sentinel at Stoke-on-Trent, for PR because she’s fed up with WFH. Misses ‘sheer fun’ of newsroom.

*****

Dry January zealots have been spluttering on their low alcohol tinctures. And who shall blame them? For heartless supermarkets have been cashing in on their post Christmas sacrifice. The Grocer mag says the average cost of nine popular alcohol free brands, including Birra Moretti Zero and Guinness 0.0, is up 22.3% since the start of December. There’s a surprise.

*****

Whatever happens in Gaza, you get the feeling that it won’t have been helped by Netanyahu. Biden is becoming ‘increasingly frustrated’ by him, says Axios. The two consulted regularly after the October 7 outrage but haven’t spoken since a tense phone call on December 23. POTUS is irritated by Israel’s refusal to release Palestinian tax revenues it holds and its ‘unwillingness to seriously discuss plans for the day after the war.’ A West Winger sighs: ‘The situation sucks: the president’s patience is running out.’

*****

More news from the mad world of telly: Props used in Succession have raised $627,00 at auction. The 236 lots included a dog costume worn by ‘Cousin Greg’ ($7,812), Shiv’s Burberry bag, mocked as ‘ludicrously capacious’ by Tom Wambsgans ($18,750) and four pink cue cards Roman Roy used for his ill-fated eulogy at his dad’s funeral ($25,000).

*****

Caine’sCorner. Britain’s gas network relies on aircraft engines stripped from Cold War fighter jets, reveals the Telegraph. The switch to North Sea gas in the 60s and 70s coincided with decommissioning of the RAF Lightning fleet. Engineers repurposed their Rolls Royce engines to pump gas. NMPKT

*****

Nigel Farage refers in his GBN show to the King’s ‘prostrate’. Are we expected to take this lying down?

*****

The list of ‘Asia’s most eligible bachelors’ has just got shorter after Brunei’s dishy Prince Abdul Mateen married Yang Mulia Anisha Rosnah, 29, in a ceremony which lasted 10 days, says BBC News. The Prince, 32, is the 10th child of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, whose $30 billion net worth makes him one of the world’s richest monarchs. The nuptials have not garnered universal acclaim. Many of Abdul’s 2.5 million Instagram followers are a bit down, to be honest. As one wrote: ‘2024 starts with heartbreak.’

*****

Justice delayed, justice denied? If you think we’ve a problem here, spare a thought for India. The country's ‘staggeringly overburdened’ judiciary has 50 million criminal and civil cases pending, says The New York Times. ‘At the current rate, it will take 300 years to clear the backlog.’

*****

As the world reels at the ‘diagnosis’ that Strictly’s Amanda Abbington has PTSD caused by rehearsing with a taskmaster pro dancer, former bomber pilot Flight Lt Rusty Waughman, DFC, AFC, dies. To his last days memories of his wartime raids still haunted him: ‘It does affect me a little bit,’ he admitted. ‘When I go to bed and turn the lights off I can still see the flak bursting.’ Rusty was 100.

*****

Do you want the good news or the bad news? OK. If the world’s tycoons continue to grow richer the world will see its first trillionaire in the next 10 years, says Oxfam. Meanwhile, five billion people will become poorer over the same period.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. From Allan Green, of Gerrards Cross, to The Times. To many, JPR Williams was a great rugby player but to me he was a life saver. I saw him at St Mary’s Hospital in 1986 when I’d been written off by other doctors. I had been given eight months to live when he found bone cancer in my foot. I had an amputation and am still here to tell the tale. Thanks, JPR. Rest in peace.

*****

The Slicker. Finance&Business with Fred Needleshanks 

Greenland start-up is shipping Arctic ice to the United Arab Emirates to go in high-price cocktails in exclusive bars.

Bet365 boss Denise Coates, who earned £300 million last year, now one of world’s best-paid execs. She, father Peter and brother John coughed up £460 million in tax.

Half way through the first month of the year and 46 US tech companies have already laid off 7,500 workers.


JP Morgan Chase had its most profitable year ever in 2023. Its $49.6 billion was a 32% jump on 2022 which topped its previous record in ‘21

*****

Last year’s fashion whizz was ‘grandmacore’ (nope, etc) which highlighted ‘cardigan-and-tweed-centric’ clobber, my Times informs me. Now, inevitably, there is to be an homage to older men featuring braces, ancient-looking brogues and cardigans. Apparently, the secret is to ‘eschew anything that looks to be watermarked post 1953’. It’s all bollocks, isn’t it?

*****

WFH chancers are starting to feel a backlash, my Haitch Arr snout informs me. Bosses are rewarding staff who turn up for work and penalising those who demur. One analysis reveals that fully remote workers were promoted 31% less frequently than their ‘in person’ peers. A survey by KPMG of 400 CEOs said they’d be more likely to give the latter salary increases, promotions or better assignments.

*****

The furore over US defence Secretary Lloyd Austin being stuck in hospital for a week without telling Joe Biden highlights the close links which should exist between presidential underlings and the boss, says Tevi Troy in The Wall Street Journal. LBJ, for instance, ‘did not believe in the concept of personal time.’  When an aide, Billy Lee Brammer, published a novel, Johnson furiously demanded: ‘When did you write it?’ ‘At nights, Mr President.’ ‘You should have  been answering my mail.’ The two never spoke again.

*****

The Current Bun has backed the winner of every UK election in half a century. So why does it appear so negative about Sir Sir Keir and Co? Is it just partisan allegiance to the Tories? No, says Stephen Daisley in The Spectator. But, considering the Conservatives haven’t led a poll in two years, the Sun’s ‘relentless hostility’ to Labour makes no sense. Unless Murdoch, who has an undeniable feel for the public’s true mood, doesn’t believe Sir Sir Keir is a winner.

*****

Caine’sCorner. Dorothy Parker’s big break on Vanity Fair came when she stood in for someone called P.G. Wodehouse who was on hols. NMPKT.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Reprobate robs store in Lincoln, Nebraska, dressed only in a shower curtain. Police say he needs to pull himself together.


Lost cities, buried for thousands of years, discovered in Amazon. Evidence of complicated urban societies, network of roads and canals.


Boffins at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens discovered 74 new plants and 15 new fungi throughout the world last year.

*****

Last year’s fashion whizz was ‘grandmacore’ (nope, etc) which highlighted ‘cardigan-and-tweed-centric’ clobber, my Times informs me. Now, inevitably, there is to be an homage to older men featuring braces, ancient-looking brogues and cardigans. Apparently, the secret is to ‘eschew anything that looks to be watermarked post 1953’. It’s all bollocks, isn’t it?

*****

WFH chancers are starting to feel a backlash, my Haitch Arr snout informs me. Bosses are rewarding staff who turn up for work and penalising those who demur. One analysis reveals that fully remote workers were promoted 31% less frequently than their ‘in person’ peers. A survey by KPMG of 400 CEOs said they’d be more likely to give the latter salary increases, promotions or better assignments.

*****

The furore over US defence Secretary Lloyd Austin being stuck in hospital for a week without telling Joe Biden highlights the close links which should exist between presidential underlings and the boss, says Tevi Troy in The Wall Street Journal. LBJ, for instance, ‘did not believe in the concept of personal time.’  When an aide, Billy Lee Brammer, published a novel, Johnson furiously demanded: ‘When did you write it?’ ‘At nights, Mr President.’ ‘You should have  been answering my mail.’ The two never spoke again.

*****

The Current Bun has backed the winner of every UK election in half a century. So why does it appear so negative about Sir Sir Keir and Co? Is it just partisan allegiance to the Tories? No, says Stephen Daisley in The Spectator. But, considering the Conservatives haven’t led a poll in two years, the Sun’s ‘relentless hostility’ to Labour makes no sense. Unless Murdoch, who has an undeniable feel for the public’s true mood, doesn’t believe Sir Sir Keir is a winner.

*****

Caine’sCorner. Dorothy Parker’s big break on Vanity Fair came when she stood in for someone called P.G. Wodehouse who was on hols. NMPKT.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Reprobate robs store in Lincoln, Nebraska, dressed only in a shower curtain. Police say he needs to pull himself together.


Lost cities, buried for thousands of years, discovered in Amazon. Evidence of complicated urban societies, network of roads and canals.


Boffins at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens discovered 74 new plants and 15 new fungi throughout the world last year.

*****

Tracey, 58, a clairvoyant, is surprised when she is ‘murdered’ on BBC 1’s The Traitors. Why does that remind me of a distinguished journalist, LOTP, and a short-sighted lady astrologer? 

*****

Far be it from me to cast nasturtiums in the direction of the matriarch of the Democratic Party. But isn’t it amazing that Nancy Pelosi’s investment portfolio gained 65% last year? That’s more than double Standard and Poor’s 500 rise of 24% and better than most hedge funds. Could she, perhaps, have knowledge that other investors don’t? As the New York Post comments, efforts to limit congressional trading have been repeatedly voted down by the very lawmakers who stand to gain.

*****

Post Office enforcer (sorry, Security Manager) Stephen Bradshaw gives evidence at the Horizon inquiry, clad in a black shirt (sic). Of course, he denies ‘Mafia gangster-style threats’ and hounding hapless sub postmasters and mistresses. Isn’t it reassuring that he was giving evidence under oath?

*****

SportToday with Rockard (ahem) Rambleshanks

Well-hung goalkeeper Pegguy Arphexad (crazy name, crazy guy etc), who won six medals for Liverpool over three seasons as an unused sub, denies he’s now a porn star. 


Tiger Woods ends 27-year partnership with Nike which has earned him a total of $500 million. 


American sport expensive? You betcha. Average price for college National Championship game: $2,845; cheapest seat: $1,302.

*****

Big breakthrough for electric vehicles: they could soon be charged on the move. Detroit is opening America’s first electrified road, a quarter-mile section that can transfer power through a magnetic field while remaining safe for people to walk on. Tests are also slated for several cities in Europe, China and Israel.

*****

More on John Mortimer whose most famous character, Rumpole of the Bailey, was sometimes reduced to drinking a dubious red called Chateau Fleet Street. Mortimer was once subject to one of those tedious inquisitions designed to finding out how much you drink —and stopping it. He famously replied: ‘I can’t think what I would want to give up which would enable me to spend an extra six months in a wipedown chair in a care home.’

*****

The US is experiencing something of a ‘peace wave’. Last year saw one of the lowest rates of violent crime in 50 years. The murder rate fell at an ‘astonishing rate’, says The Atlantic: plummeting  by 13% across 175 cities. That follows a 6% drop in 2022. In fact, all crime is down — except car thefts. And that’s due to some TikTok smart arses showing how easy it is to break into Kias and Hyundais.

*****

Caine’sCorner. Ian Fleming originally intended to call James Bond James Secretan, says The Times Literary Supplement. NMPKT.

*****

Mention of the irascible lawyer and Express opera critic David Fingleton reminds a correspondent that he shared chambers with John Mortimer, QC, barrister/writer/father of luscious actress. Fingleton was notorious for smoking noxious cheroots and became, in part at least, the inspiration for Mortimer’s finest creation, Rumpole of the Bailey.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

Pope demands global halt to ‘despicable’ gestational surrogacy.

‘Loose glitter’ will be outlawed in EU under European Zero Pollution action plan drive against shiny microplastics.

Centuries-old dog meat trade to be ended in South Korea. Boshintang, or dog stew, once considered delicacy, now off menu.

*****
To PMQs. Another pathetic performance by class warrior, fearless prosecutor, man who rose without trace Sir Sir Keir Starmer. There really is less to him than meets the eye you know.  It’s toe-curling to watch him vainly attempt to appear a nimble, light-on-the feet statesman as he basks in the simpering adoration of his shadow chancellor. Perhaps he should try to emulate the SNP’s Stephen Flynn, already a more incisive and impressive figure.

*****

We’ve heard a lot about computer fuck-ups just lately and every site seems to be ‘fixing bugs’ round the clock. But why bugs? Apparently, it goes back to Harvard University in 1947. Programming pioneer Grace Hopper and her team found an actual moth inside the Harvard Mark II computer which was causing havoc. It was removed and stuck in a logbook labelled ‘first actual case of bug being found’.

*****

I keep reading that Germany’s in the scheisse and that Emmanuel Macron is the coming boy in Europe. May I demur? For the first time, the majority of French people don’t think Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally party is a danger to democracy. In 2002 70% thought it was. More believe it’s capable of governing (43%) than don’t (39%) and 51% see it as the main opposition to Macron. That’s Trouble with a capital T for him.

*****

Caine’sCorner. Amazingly, 15% of daily searches on Google have never been googled before, says The Atlantic. NMPKT.

*****

Amusing anecdotes in The Times about people falling asleep during theatricals prompts my Secret Snout (She Who Must Not Be Named) to recall Express opera critic David Fingleton napping through a performance at the Colly. His rival scribes were outraged and the theatre management even complained to the paper. Barrister Fingleton’s defence, that snores were actually a valid critical response, got him off the hook.

*****

To the Golden Globes (sorry for tardy report but if you’d been there you’d understand).

Winners and presenters once again received ridiculous goody bags worth up to $500,000 (yes, $500,000!). The gifts included a five-day luxury yacht charter in Indonesia, emerald earrings worth $69,000 and six bottles of Liber Pater Bordeaux, the most expensive wine in the world at $193,500. Luvvies? Don’t you just love ‘em?

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Vivian Kelly of Llantwit Major,  Glamorgan, to The Times: A few years ago Mr Bates vs the Post Office would have been on the BBC.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek. Strictly snowflake Amanda Abbington, said to have been diagnosed with PTSD because of the stress of dancing with Giovanni Pernice. In other news: more children die in Gaza.

*****

As Japan’s birth rate declines for the seventh successive year, it is revealed that a record 34.1% of adults between 20 and 49 have never been in a romantic relationship and 25% never intend to marry. Now the government, fearing chronic labour shortages, is trying to incentivise childbirth and rearing through grants and subsidies.

*****

Must confess I’m a little surprised to learn that the UK is one of the least racist countries in the world. Research in 24 countries by King’s College, London, revealed that just 2% of Brits feel uncomfortable living next door to someone of a different race. Only Brazil and Sweden were lower.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Woman’s entire drive stolen in bizarre Florida scam. Pavement artists sought.


Germany had lowest emissions in 70 years in 2023 after reducing reliance on coal.


Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, installs suicide net for first time in 87-year history

*****

Hibernian quiz question: What’s ryanair spelled backwards? 

*****

Drones are becoming increasingly vital to the future of the civilised world (and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). Unmanned aerial vehicles are ‘finally going mainstream’, says Axios. The US has removed the need for them to be monitored by humans so retailers, medical centres and logistics companies can increase deliveries: Amazon aims for 500 million a year across America and Europe by the end of the decade. Zipline already delivers medical supplies in Rwanda and Ghana.

*****

When Queen Margarethe of Denmark steps down in favour of her son, Frederick, there won’t be a reigning queen in the world. 

*****

The Slicker. Business&Finance with Fred Needleshanks

Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco posts $161 billion profit for 2023, highest ever by publicly listed company. That’s $5,000 a second.

The value of X (né Twitter) has plunged 71.5% since Elon Musk bought it, says Fidelity. Purchase price: $44 billion; today’s estimate: $12.5 billion.

Chinese conglomerate BYD usurps Tesla as world’s biggest seller of EVs. Q4 sales: BYD: 526,000; Tesla: 484,500.

*****

These pesky Atlantic storms are bad enough but where do they get their obscure titles? The Met Office has been naming storms since 2015 but Dutch weather agency KNMI started weighing in four years later. Babet and Henk were called after people who popped into the Utrecht HQ and put their names forward. Gerrit was named after a veteran Dutch forecaster who has just retired.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. From Sarah Smyth, of Market Harborough, to The Times: When challenged about taking money from questionable sources, Williams Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, replied: ‘The trouble with tainted money is t’aint enough of it.’

*****

New year, new fashion bollocks. The trend in 2024 will be a ‘severely underdressed lower half — ideally nothing but your knickers,’ Drone style guru Reynard Rambleshanks, reports breathlessly, quoting The Guardian. Sheer tights are OK but undies must be worn on top.  The debut of bejewelled briefs at the 2023 Paris Fashion Week led to designers twinning knickers with comfy knits. Emma Corrin matched panties with a woolly cardigan and brogues at the Venice film festival. Think librarian up top, Freudian bad dream down below. But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

*****

WebsiteOfTheWeek. Roger.com Bingo. Check it out: hours and hours of fun.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek. Self-regarding upholsterer tells telly news interviewer that refurbishing a delapidated white sofa featured on the cover of the George Michael album Patience was ‘an emotional rollercoaster’. In other news: more children die in Gaza.

*****

Veganuary? That’s sooo last year. It’s a waning, melancholic fad, says Josh Barrie in the i. The move to adopt a vegan diet for the first month of the year was greeted eagerly by the usual suspects in 2015 but the number of online searches has declined in the past four years. Last year a million fewer households bought meat-free products compared with 2022.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

China now has the most branded coffee shops of any country, bumping the US into second place.

The Pope calls for global treaty to regulate AI. It’s a risk to our survival, he says.

More than 1,300 tons of fish washed ashore in Japan. No one knows why.

*****

StrangePeopleTheYanks: The famously insular Americans have started the new year by looking around and exclaiming: ‘Wow! There’s a whole world out there.’ In 1990 only 5% of them had passports; now it’s 48% (although probably only 5% know where they’ve put it). That means there are more than 160 million US passports in circulation, almost double the number in 2007. And guess what? The more Americans travel, the more they feel in touch with the rest of the world.

*****

With elections seemingly taking place everywhere in 2024 the political process will come under scrutiny as never before. Perhaps the ancient Persians had it right. According to my Christmas book on Herodotus, they would form policy while they were drunk and then reconsider the following day. Only if they came to the same conclusion would the decision stand.

*****

Everyone’s moaning about the decline of the Great British Pub and the fact that many are closing. It’s true that 6,600 — around 14% of the total — have shut down in the last decade but many have re-opened after replacing their sticky carpets etc. And those still trading are doing OK with revenues 5.5% higher than before the pandem

*****

SportSpecial with Rockard Rambleshanks, our biggest handicap in the long grass 

Tiger Woods and son, Charlie,14, shoot 8-under 64 in PNC team event for champions and family. Daughter Sam is caddie.


WFH boosts mid-week golf: the number of players on Wednesdays rise 150% between 2019 and 2022. Demand for 4pm tee-off on that day soars 275%.


NFL star Tyreek Hill (allegedly) fathers three children with different women in four months.

*****

Much comment lately about poor audience behaviour at live performances: dancing and singing along at musicals, talking and texting, the seemingly obligatory standing ovation at the end. A Telegraph reader tells of an aunt who booked front row seats in the centre of the stalls for a musical. The conductor had hardly raised his baton when she tapped him on the shoulder and demanded: ‘Will you sit down, please? You’re blocking my view.’

*****

Most pathetic clickbait headline of the year (so far) from the Sun online: Clever 90p Hack To Remove Tree Sap And How To Get Rid Of Glitter —Car Experts Reveal Six Post-Christmas Cleaning Tips


LetterOfTheWeek. Julian Lloyd, of Chester, to the Sunday Times: An advertisement for a jeweller’s in last week’s paper showed a pair of decorative ear rings said to be an ‘Hommage a Vincent Van Gogh’. My wife said: ’Surely there should be only one ear ring.’

*****

Prince William (and the lovely Kate) enter the new year in pretty good form, no? In the States the Prince of Wales had a favourability rating of +37% in a Gallup poll, easily eclipsing his father on +9%. Mind you, Putin notched -85%. What have people got against the man?

*****

Now it’s time to name The Goss Woman of 2023. Not one of our longest-serving Home Secretaries, who confounded all dire predictions from knee-jerk seers and soothsayers, but 103-year-old Virginia Oliver, aka the Lobster Lady. Three mornings a week during peak season she rises at 3.30am, slaps on some red lippy and chugs out to sea off the Maine coast with her 80-year-old son, Max, to haul lobster traps. It’s a job she’s been doing for 95 years since she started catching the crustaceans with her dad and older brother.

*****

Caine’sCorner. One of the first things our routine-fixated king does each morning is a headstand in his boxers to help his spine. This follows a cuppa in bed and precedes a light breakfast of fruit and yoghurt. NMPKT

*****

GOSS ARCHIVEAs 2023 grinds to an end, The Goss acknowledges its debt to many sources including The Knowledge, several sites in the States and, especially, our super secret snout, She Who Must Not Be Named.

*****

The phenomenon that is Taylor Swift conquered the world last year. Apart from all her other attributes she’s a sharp cookie when it comes to due diligence. Negotiating a $100 million sponsorship deal with the now-collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX she pinned down its bosses. ‘Can you assure me that these are not unregistered securities,’ she demanded. Unhappy with the reply, she shrugged … and walked.

*****

Nostradamus, a sort of role model for GR Petulengro-Frame, is history’s most famous astrologer. He predicted, among others, the Great Fire of London and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So what of his thoughts for 2024?  Drought, floods, famine, possible war with China, royal shenanigans and a new Pope, apparently. By the way, have I ever told you the one about Bernard Shrimsley and the lady astrologer? (Yes, repeatedly — Ed)

*****

The army is considering whether to allow soldiers to grow beards. They  used to be fashionable in and out of uniform, of course. Indeed, the first photos, which featured squaddies allowed to have facial hair in the Crimean War (because it was a but nippy out there), made it de rigeur in civvy life, too. Until 1916 soldiers were required to have moustaches. Some regiments kept a stockpile of artificial ones for the Bumfluff Battalion unable to grow their own.

*****

StatsLife. No surprises for guessing which film topped the English language box office this year. Barbie grossed $1.44 billion worldwide. Surprisingly, something called The Super Mario Bros Movie ran it close with $1.36 billion and Oppenheimer ($954 million) was third. The rest of the top 10 comprised the usual superhero crap.

*****

Following a shrill, insistent clamour (Come off it: I only asked if you could fill a hole — Ed), more from Tom Whitwell’s list of things he learned in 2023: Washing board sales soared 57% during the pandemic amid ‘fears of societal collapse and limited laundry service’. Scotland’s forest cover has nearly returned to what it was 1,000 years ago. England’s has risen to 1350 levels. Corrupt traffic cops in Mexico use card terminals to make collecting fines (aka bribes) easier.

*****

Overheard in Waitrose. Cashier: Ooh, you’ve bought Gruyère: are you making croque monsieur? Customer: No, frittata.

*****

QuizAnswer: We asked: How many times has the snappers’ dream, Kate, featured on the front of Hello! (not necessarily as the bull pic) since January, 2021?  Believe it or not, it’s 110! 

*****

Risqué Ruskies have been going slightly over the top at Christmas. Celebs have issued grovelling apologies after photos, leaked from a Moscow party where the dress code was Almost Naked, caused outrage. One rapper, who wore only a carefully positioned sock, has even been jailed for 15 days.

*****

GossQuiz. Poor old Rosalie! At the fag end of the year we often send trainees to the archives to dream up a snippetette to pad out enhance The Goss or, in this case, to set a seasonal quiz question:  For instance, how many times has the snappers’ dream, Kate, featured on the cover of Hello! (not necessarily as the bull pic) since January, 2021? Answer tomorrow.

*****

Splendid piece in The Economist about Churchill launching his political career on the back of some amazing military derring-do in South Africa. Main interest to journos, though, is the pay he negotiated to cover the second Boer War for the Morning Post: the modern equivalent of £26,500…a month.

*****

Sorry but it’s the time of the year for endless lists. Popular Science weighs in with 50 Greatest Innovations of 2023. They include the first effective treatment for early stages of Alzheimer’s, a new kind of shock-absorbing hammer, carbon-negative cement, super-light body armour, America’s latest stealth bomber, which can evade radar and drop nukes, and a new AI program called Fitztightly which can reduce the length of contributions to online newspapers (Yes please — Ed).

*****

An old friend of The Goss surfaces to report: ‘I realise I spent most of Christmas Day sitting in a corner with a cloth turkey on my head. Am I now just a figure of fun?’ (Ridicule bordering on pity, I guess - Ed)

*****

An attempt will be made next year to recover treasure from the so-called ‘holy grail of shipwrecks’. The galleon San Jose was sunk off Columbia by British ships in 1708. It contains coins and jewels worth an estimated £16billion.

*****

The Slicker. Even at Christmas greed never sleeps, says Fred Needleshanks

AI start-ups attracted 26% of venture capital in 2023, compared with 11% in ‘22.

Moderna stock soars after it reveals its experimental skin cancer vaccine helps cut risk of death in half.

Spotify sheds 17,000 jobs, about 17% of staff; online marketplace Etsy lays off 11%. 

Costco sold $100 million worth of one ounce gold bars to customers last quarter. Current price: $2,069.99 each.

*****

WankersOfTheWeek. The three busybodies in Weymouth who complained about the ‘smell of bacon’ and the noise of spoons and teacups from a cafe. Guess what? The cafe, employing eight people, was forced to close.

*****

Driverless cars. How’s that going? Surprisingly well really. Indeed, they already seem safer than those handled by humans. Analysis by Waymo of its fleet of automated vehicles in Phoenix, LA and San Francisco found they were 6.7 times less likely to have a crash causing injury and 2.3 times less likely to be in an accident reported to police. The cars were involved in only three minor injury accidents over seven million miles of motoring.

*****

We’ve always suspected that chimps are brighter than they look. Now research has found they recognise photos of apes they used to live with. Says New Scientist: ‘A bonobo called Louise seemed to recognise her sister Loretta and nephew Erin after more than 26 years of separation.’

*****

Nice Christmas card from my niece and the kids who live on the South coast. Pleasant girl but a bit jumped up if you know what I mean. I remember when she moved remarking on her living in Brighton. Hove, actually, she replied, huffily.

*****

It’s still not too late to record that Telegraph readers have shared novel ideas for Christmas wreaths. One used ‘the previous year’s wine corks’. Another, more sinisterly, spent shotgun cartridges.

*****

There are many moving stories about Christmas truces along the Western Front in 1914: there were even impromptu footie games. ‘Peace’ didn’t last long, though. Top brass on both sides, far behind the lines, disapproved and by Boxing Day it was hell as usual. At 8.30am Captain JC Dunn, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, fired three shots in the air and waved a flag with Merry Christmas on it at the enemy trenches. He recalled: ‘The German captain put up own sign saying Thank You. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our trenches. He fired two shots in the air: the war was on again.’

*****

ChristmasQuizAnswer: Entries have been pouring in for our festive competition (you do know there’s no prize?). The question was: What have the Daily Drone and the wartime Windmill Theatre in common? The most popular answer was: They’re both full of tits. This is incorrect. Instead, anyone who said: We Never Clothed (sorry I mean Closed) is a winner. The quiz celebrates the Drone’s dedication to its readers by publishing 365 days a year.

*****

Our girl Rosalie (still a trainee; still on national minimum wage) is crowing about the super new Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses she found in her stocking. They look like normal Ray-Bans but have small cameras which take snaps, can record conversations and respond to voice commands. Maybe she should have waited: the specs will soon use AI which can translate languages in real time, help pick out clothes and write funny photo captions (that’s one for you, boss!).

*****

It’sACracker! The Drone’s resident English language pedant’s Christmas message: Santa’s little helpers are really just subordinate Clauses.

*****

AQuestionOfChristmas: What have the Daily Drone and the wartime Windmill Theatre in common? Answer tomorrow.

*****

LetterOfChristmas. Dawn Phillips, of Bucks, to The Times: I always understood that opening a champagne bottle should be carried out in a controlled way such as to evoke the sound of a dowager duchess breaking wind.

*****

Oliver, late of the Country Boys, drops an 

e-card (that’s very Ollie). He continues to live with Mummy opposite the Masonic Hall in Corby, missing Teddy. Here on The Goss (awards pending) we’re still spitting that their column was axed to accommodate the endless, turgid tide of words from other so-called columnists. Nevertheless, a merry Christmas to them and to all our readers.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

World’s largest wind farm to be built in sea off Norfolk by 2027: 231 turbines will power three million homes.


Cult hangout Soho House is so over-subscribed that it won’t accept new members in London, New York and LA.


A $820 ring thought stolen in the Ritz Hotel, Paris, is found in a vacuum cleaner bag.


EU launches formal investigation into whether X (né Twitter) is breaking laws on disinformation and hate speech.

*****

There are many moving stories about Christmas truces along the Western Front in 1914: there were even impromptu footie games. ‘Peace’ didn’t last long, though. Top brass on both sides, far behind the lines, disapproved and by Boxing Day it was hell as usual. At 8.30am Captain JC Dunn, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, fired three shots in the air and waved a flag with Merry Christmas on it at the enemy trenches. He recalled: ‘The German captain put up own sign saying Thank You. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our trenches. He fired two shots in the air: the war was on again.’

*****

The Ed has chided me for having Sir Sir Keir Starmer as my latest Wanker of the Week. It’s like naming Owen Jones or Alastair Campbell, he says: shooting ducks in a barrel.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek: Sir Sir Keir Starmer, of whom there is less than meets the eye, for forgetting he was Leader of the Opposition and dressing up as a soldier on a visit to the military in Germany. And for his other, previously derided, many contributions to wankerdom.

*****

Christmas bling ain’t what it used to be: sales of real diamonds in London have plummeted as customers switch to lab-created alternatives. They account for 18.4% of the market, compared with 0.3% in 2015, and, because they need a fraction of the energy to extract, are considerably cheaper. One carat natural at £4,400 v lab equivalent, £1,360.

*****

HealthWatch. Oddball Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest fad: Rectal Ozone Therapy, alleges Popbitch.  That’s getting 03, a pale blue gas with a distinctive smell, blown up your, er, arse. 

*****

We’ll all have to beware of guests who outstay their welcome this Christmas. Pity we can’t follow London’s Stratford Club in 1824. When the unclubbable antics of Maj Gen Thomas Charretie became too much, the committee dissolved the club and formed a new one, the Portland, with the same membership … except one. 

*****

It gives a warm glow that among the Guardian’s top 25 Christmas films are Carol, ‘a critically acclaimed drama about divorce, intolerance and how hard it was to be a lesbian in the 1950s’ and Tangerine ‘an obscure, low-budget film about a meth-smoking transgender prostitute’ shot on three iPhones. 

*****

LettersOfTheWeek. From John Corbett, of Kent, to The Times: As someone born and bred in Bristol, I was interested to read about the rhotic R and the stolen L (in Bristolians’ speech). I recall a Bristol band leader announcing a Latin ‘Americal’ set saying the first dance would be a sambal, followed by a rumble and a tangle. And from Andrew Pearson, of Oxfordshire: My work at Bristol Wireless record shop was greatly improved by being asked for a recording of ‘Handel’s Missile’.

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks. A video of a man riding a stack of six inflatable rafts down river rapids has had nearly 800,000 views on X. One user described it as: ‘When you want to go white water rafting but don’t want to get wet.’

*****

A correspondent texts: Your piece about Rhodri, King of the Kitmen, reminds me of his acclaimed memoir, From Valley to Veldt, which always had pride of place on my grancher’s bookshelf in Llanvihangel-Ystern-Llewern. One anecdote: Wales were trouncing England 50-0 at the Arms Park when the team decided to go for a pint of Brains, leaving just Gareth Edwards and Barry John to finish the match. Full time 70-3, it was. John Dawes said to Gareth: ‘What’s with the three points, butty?’ ‘Sorry, skip. I got sent off with 10 minutes to go and Barry couldn’t cope.’

*****

Breaking up is hard to do especially if, like software giant Adobe, you have to cough up to do so, muses The Slicker, Fred Needleshanks. The company’s planned $20 billion acquisition of design tool Figma has officially fallen apart following mounting pressure from competition regulators. The two companies may have mutually agreed to cancel their deal but it’s still going to cost Adobe a whopping $1billion cash termination fee.

*****

The world sometimes dangerously underestimates the growing power and might of the US: its supremacy has never been greater. In 1990, per capita income was 17% higher than Japan and 24% higher than Western Europe; today it’s 54% and 32%. In 2008, the economy was roughly the same as the Eurozone; today it’s nearly twice the size. The US is by far biggest producer of oil and gas and hosts nine of the world’s 10 most valuable companies.

*****

Caine’sCorner. In the popular carol Ding Dong Merrily On High, the G-L-O in Gloria in the chorus is 32 syllables and should be sung in one breath by trebles/sopranos. NMPKT.

*****

My reminiscence about the man who sold the Eiffel Tower prompts a reader, who really should get out more, to add that Victor Lustig returned to Paris the following year to try to repeat the con. This time he was rumbled and fled to the States where later he, inevitably, was sent to Alcatraz. The king of the conmen then made 1,192 medical requests in a bid to escape. One time when he said he was feeling a bit Tom and Dick no one believed him: he died of pneumonia.

*****

TikTok is fucking up weekly carol sessions in Columbia Road, east London. The popular event had to be cancelled because of overcrowding after viral videos of previous singalongs prompted 7,000 to turn up. Emily Bootle, of the i newspaper, says: ‘It’s a fitting visualisation of what happens when an unwieldy online culture comes up against the limits of the real world.’

*****

It’sACracker. A new restaurant called Karma is opening in Covent Garden. There’s no menu. You get what you deserve.

*****

Ghost of Christmas Past: A company in California hired a psychic for its piss-up. She told every other worker that tarot cards recommended they look for a new job. In the new year Haitch Arr doled out redundo notices to them. 

*****

The death of Irish rugby legend Syd Millar, aged 89,  recalls when, as British Lions manager, he sanctioned the controversial ‘99 call’ to combat genuinely brutal play by South Africa during the touring team’s 3-0 series win in 1974. When the Boks were being particularly spiteful, skipper Fergus Slattery would shout ‘99’, instructing each Lion to hit his nearest opponent. This included JPR Williams running half the pitch to fulfil his duty.

*****

Psst! Vouloir achete le tour Eiffel?  A conman called Victor Lustig was so convincing that, in the 1920s, he sold the 984ft landmark for scrap. Posing as a corrupt official, he told Paris scrap metal merchants the government wished to dismantle it because it was too expensive to maintain. One dealer, Andre Poisson, didn’t see anything fishy (d’you see what I just did there?) and agreed to pay 70,000 francs (about £287,000 today). Lustig promptly legged it with the cash.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short. 

Fontainbleau Las Vegas, at 67 storeys the tallest building in Nevada, finally opens on The Strip.


Former Meta diversity, equity and inclusion chief admits stealing $4 million from company.


Doritos-flavoured booze, tasting like nacho cheese tortilla chips, launches in Copenhagen

*****

Myanmar (né Burma) has overtaken Afghanistan to become the world’s largest opium producer. The country has increased its yield by almost 40%, partly because civil war has boosted the illegal economy. The change is because Afghanistan has made good on its vow to end drug production: opium output has dropped by 95% to 330 tonnes.

*****

Grand Theft Auto? No, me neither. But news of a sixth part to the iconic video game series has got the gaming world in a tizz. A 90-second trailer had 85 million views in 24 hours. The new instalment, released next year, is the most expensive ever, produced with a budget of more than $1 billion. But, hey, it’s money well spent: the franchise, originally created in Dundee, is the most popular entertainment product of all time, beating every other game, film, album or book.

*****

SportScene. Rockard Rambleshank reporting.

Italian footie star turned manager Andrea Pirlo let players smoke at half time when boss of Fatih Karagumruk in Turkey.


Barcelona players forced to shower at home after training and matches because of Catalonia drought emergency.


Celtic defender Gustav Lagerbielke is a baron and 254th in line to Swedish throne.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short. 

Fontainbleau Las Vegas, at 67 storeys the tallest building in Nevada, finally opens on The Strip.


Former Meta diversity, equity and inclusion chief admits stealing $4 million from company.


Doritos-flavoured booze, tasting like nacho cheese tortilla chips, launches in Copenhagen

*****
To the Palladium and this year’s panto, Peter Pan. Enormous fun and all praise to the star who’s cool about the announcement made before curtain up: ‘The management regret to inform you that Nigel Havers will be taking part in tonight’s performance.’

*****

The Beatles’ iconic 42-minute final gig on the roof of the Apple Studio in Savile Row was so impromptu that the audience was only a relatively few office workers and roadies. But one star was there on January 30, 1969: Joan Collins, then married to Apple Corps exec Ron Kass. Mind you, she didn’t stay long. She had to leave the roof to escape the dope fumes — and to pick up her kids from school.

******

O tempora, o mores: When publication of Jilly Cooper’s racy new novel, Tackle!, was held up, many thought it was to assuage the fears of sensitive readers. Not at all. Jilly confirms it was because of her editors’ demands for more sex in the book.

*****

It’sACracker. Hangman, soaked in rainstorm as he takes condemned man to gallows in middle of field, remonstrates with him: ‘It’s all right for you. I’ve got to walk back in this.’

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Hannah Betts, of West Sussex, to the Telegraph: For Christmas one year my husband bought me a potato peeler and a balloon whisk, which I found mildly disappointing until a friend told me that she had been given a bicycle repair kit — and she didn’t have a bike.

*****

At last, as a turbulent year heads to its end, sanity breaks out: the latest TikTok trend is crawling. Not laudatory articles bigging up the editor of the Daily Drone but actually perambulating on all fours. Videos shared by a Polish account show groups of people in hooded puffers crawling through clothing stores and fast food eateries. Nie, ja tez nie.

*****

There’s a notable absentee from the cast of ITV’s New Year blockbuster Mr Bates vs The Post Office which depicts the scandal in which an IT snafu caused hundreds of employees to be wrongly accused of theft and fraud. No one plays Adam Crozier, CEO of Royal Mail. He had a significant role in the saga, considered to be one of the worst miscarriages of justice in UK history. Until he left to join ITV, that is.

*****

Pity the French (Eh? — Ed). Not only are they besieged by anglicisms, Emily in Paris and Ridley Scott’s take on Napoleon but le fast food is putting their famous haute cuisine under threat. Just consider: 400 Parisians queue for the opening of the first French Krispy Kreme, France has more McDonald’s than any other European country, the fried chicken chain, Popeyes, aims to open 300 outlets by 2030 and, most tellingly, obesity has doubled since 1997.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

A staggering 110 million Americans are aged over 50.


The Calm app offers bedtime story in AI-generated voice of James Stewart who died in 1997.


Police capture escaped pig called Albert Einswine in New Jersey


Now possible to order a single McNugget at McDonald’s, Switzerland.

*****

HeadlineOfTheWeek. Dolphin With Thumbs Spotted Off Greece - Mail Online

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A major search was launched after London was reported missing. An Ordnance Survey spokesman confirmed that sightings of the capital were claimed near Frame Cockup, Devon. But he added: ‘It was soon established that these were the uncoordinated ramblings of a confused tourist.’ London was last night said to be safely at 51.5072 N, 0.1276 W. 

*****

How delicious to see Enemy of the Press Shit Grant described as a ‘former heartthrob’. To me, the floppy-haired mummer’s greatest role was being caught by cops receiving a blow job from an LA hooker — when he was dating Liz Hurley. But he has made movies, too. His latest is Wonka (sic). Asked why he took the role of an Oompa Loompa, he replied: ‘I slightly hate making films but I have lots of children and need money.’

*****

Indian princelings who ruled the sub-continent’s 562 states liked to chuck their rupees about; sexually profligate as well. One hosted 50,000 guests for his dog’s wedding; another had a collection of 600 dildos; yet another paid out the equivalent of £8 million in hush money after dallying with a blonde in Paris. How the mighty fell after independence, though. The seventh Nizam of Hydrabad, 200 wives and concubines, was the richest man in the world. The ninth was a cameraman on the set of Basic Instinct.

*****

Ruthless rejection: it’s what all budding authors face (just ask the Drone’s ‘columnists’). Louisa May Alcott was told: ‘Stick to teaching. You can’t write.’ Proust had to self-publish In Search of Lost Time. Heller’s Catch 22? You’ve guessed it. One publisher passed up The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, telling a rival: ‘You’re welcome to Le Carré: he hasn’t got a future.’ Still hope then, lads!

*****

This Sporting Life. Rockard Rambleshanks reporting

Japanese baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani to be paid $700 million over 10 years by LA Dodgers. Probably the largest contract in history of sport worldwide.


Paroled Brazilian jailbird Rhamon Da Silva becomes first ref to officiate wearing ankle tag.


Lionel Messi named Time mag’s Athlete of the Year.


Four of top 10 most-read English articles on Wikipedia in 2023 were about cricket.

*****

To Paddington (such a dump!) and the Covid inquiry. What a nest of vipers: serried ranks of lawyers from Hindsight & Hindsight staring at computer screens (are we paying them to watch Escape to the Country?), self-regarding, oleaginous KCs relishing their starring roles — and fat fees — in this theatre of the absurd presided over by a Miss Marple manqué. How up their bums they all are. 

*****

R. Slicker-Shanks, Drone Haitch Arr dept, writes: Are we to assume that Jon Zackon, who ever he is, got the job, whatever it was?

(Whatever are you on about? — Ed)

*****

Just askin’. If actress Tuppence Middleton goes for a wee should she then be known as Penny Middleton? And what implications does spending a penny have for Leigh Halfpenny and, for that matter, Donald Farthing?

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks. A persistent learner driver from Redditch, Worcestershire, has finally passed the theory test at the 60th attempt, racking up £1,380 in exam fees.

*****

The Mail carries a spread on Jeffrey Archer’s final champagne and shepherd’s pie soirée in his Thames side eerie after 40 years. What a showboater he is. Archer, 83, who once boasted his tax bill paid the salaries of the whole Cabinet, recalled seeing a bank advert which asked: ‘Is your income over £20,000?’ The cheeky chappy pondered for a while then said: ‘Some days it is, some days it isn’t.’

*****

Following my revelation that Coleen Rooney’s autobiography, My Account, has left out some juicy bits, another example of her forgetfulness: When she discovered Wayne had had a liaisonette with a slapper called Charlotte, she stormed out of the house to the nearby National Trust Squirrel Walk, as one does. Her pursuing hubby was too late to prevent her snatching off her £25,000 platinum and diamond engagement ring and hurling it into the undergrowth. It was never found.

*****

Relaxing on his Daily Drone Anxiety Relieving Pet Bed, a correspondent writes: I like to reward myself with a well-deserved glass of wine at the end of a hard week. Thank God it’s Tuesday.

*****

This week London will see its earliest sunsets of the year (15.51) and, thereafter, the days will slowly get longer. But why is this happening before the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight, the winter solstice on December 22?  Our resident nutty prof, Albie Einshanks, explains: ‘While our clocks are programmed to think a day is exactly 24 hours long, the length of a day, measured by the sun, is … not. Er, that’s it.’

*****

The Slicker. Business and finance with Fred Needleshanks

Slowing sales put Starbucks shares on worst losing run since coffee chain went public in ’92: $12 billion shaved off company’s value.


Virgin Galactic stock plunges as Richard Branson reveals he won’t put more money into space tourism company.


McDonald’s plans massive expansion in next four years: 10, 000 new locations worldwide. 

*****

Caine’sCorner. As thousands turn out for the exuberant Dublin funeral of Irish icon and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, it’s interesting to reflect that he was, in fact, born near Royal Tunbridge Wells. NMPKT.

*****

Coleen Rooney’s new autobiog, My Account, is more notable for its omissions than its revelations, cautions The Upshot. For instance, no mention of her 18th birthday as described in a local newspaper: ‘Shocked teammates looked on as Rooney’s rolling drunk mother engaged in slanging match with Miss McCloughlin’s mother while the two fathers brawled on the floor. Wayne’s uncle and a family friend were drenched in blood.’ How unlike the home life of our dear departed Queen.

*****

Why are Jews being attacked…for being attacked? Jewish people in Germany are living in fear, says Katja Hoyer in Engelsberg Ideas. The number of antisemitic incidents has risen yearly since 2015 but, following October 7, it’s been ‘on a different scale’: more than 3,000 chargeable offences. Chillingly, Ben Zion Synagogue in Berlin has been attacked with Molotov cocktails, 85 years after it was destroyed on Kristallnacht when Nazi thugs were joined by ordinary Germans in a nationwide assault on Jewish people.

*****

Drive-thrus, a particularly American phenomenon,  haven’t really caught on here. But in the States you can drive through anything from weddings to funerals. Now Louisiana has introduced daiquiri drive-thrus, serving ready-to-drink cocktails. To comply with drink-drive laws, they tape up the hole where the straw goes. 

*****

A correspondent writes: ‘I’ve been given an Eton advent calendar: all the doors are opened by contacts of my pater.’

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Dr Chris Taylor, of Fernhurst, Surrey, to The Times: As a GP, my advice to my patients on how to lose weight always seemed to fall on deaf ears. I suggested to my partners that I reduce the size of the door into my surgery. Patients would then have to lose weight to see me again. This also fell on deaf ears but sometimes you have to think outside the box.

****

StatsLife: The heaviest animal in the history of the world has been identified by boffins after fossilised bones were discovered in Peru. Perucerus Colossus, which lived 39 million years ago, was 20 metres long and weighed 340 tons —three times as much as a blue whale and 25% more than an Airbus A380.

*****

YouDontSay. Time magazine names Taylor Swift as its Person of the Year for 2023. She follows, among others, Hitler, Gandhi and the late Queen.

*****

AI Dismore’s reference to Bill Beaumont in his latest outpouring reminds our Rockard of the day buxom Erika Roe streaked at HQ during an England rugger international. Prop Colin Smart turned to his skipper and said: ‘Don’t look now, Bill, but a bird’s just come on with your arse on her chest.’

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Bad weather and crop disease hits cocoa harvest. Pushes chocolate price to new high.


Pickles, halloumi, camel milk: 2024’s must-eats, say food experts.


Wanna know a secret? US government has 7.5 billion pages of restricted material.

*****

The increasing demand for the Italian cake, panettone, is apparently threatening the status of the traditional Christmas pud. But a correspondent in The Times, manifestly an appassionato, complains that supermarkets are ‘mucking about’ with the Italian recipe.  He thunders: ‘To interfere with this perfect product is as foolish as adding cola to fine wine.’ But that would never happen in polite, sophisticated society, would it?

*****

A bottle of 97-year-old Macallan whisky is expected to fetch £1.2 million at auction. It was bottled in 1986 after ageing in a sherry cask for six decades. Another of the 40 bottles in the same batch reached £1.5 million in 2019. What’s it like? No one’s ever tasted it.

*****

Rich toffs are increasingly signing up professionals at the top of their game to work exclusively for them. Thus, chefs, accountants, personal shoppers and even vets are being hired to be available full time at the whim of their masters.  Mind you, I’ve heard of a top chef, working semi-exclusively for Richard Branson, who’s stuck making shepherd’s pie.

*****

It’sACracker! Doctor, doctor I keep thinking I’m a bell. Take an aspirin, lie down and if it doesn’t clear up, give me a ring.

*****

The price of gold — traditional safe haven in times of financial strife — has hit a record $2,111 an ounce, well above the previous high of $2,075 during the pandemic. It’s traditional at times like these to recall the Labour Chancellor who, between 1999 and 2002, thought it a good wheeze to sell half of Britain’s reserves — 395 tonnes — at an average $275 an ounce. Step forward that acme of financial probity, the Rt Hon Gordon Aloysius Shagnasty Montmorency Gaylord Brown, HonFRSE.

*****

The world’s most expensive safari has just been unveiled by travel firm Go2Africa: 24 days, six countries by private jet taking in Victoria Falls, volcanoes and the white sands of the Seychelles. Highlights: hot air balloon rides, gorilla trekking and a dedicated film crew to document the ‘journey of a lifetime’. Cost? To you, bwana, $172,545 a person.

*****

My snippetette about one of Eric Price’s famous bollockings prompts an aged retainer to wake up to recall when the WDP editor chastised a hapless sub for heading the Page 1 weather forecast Sunny Day. ‘Well, it wouldn’t be Sunny fucking Night would it,‘ he bawled. ‘Just put Sunny.’

*****

StatsLife: The US, the world’s largest oil producer, turns out a record 13.2 million barrels of crude oil a day. That’s double the volume of a decade ago and 21% of global output. A long way behind on 13% is Saudi Arabia.

*****

O tempora, o mores: sharks are proving it’s possible to be high as well as being in the depths. It’s all due to the amount of cocaine smugglers are ditching in the sea off Florida. Sharks have been observed showing ‘erratic and peculiar behaviour’, says the Discovery Channel. One was seen aggressively harassing divers while another was ‘mournfully rotating around an imaginary object’.

*****

Those of us with luxuriant flaxen locks often fail to empathise with billiard ball baldies. So forgive me if I’m late updating you on the toupee market just now: it’s booming, apparently. According to Vice, there has been a ‘surge in interest’. One of the reasons is that dodgy syrups are not so dodgy any more. The quality has improved, you can treat them like normal hair: washing and styling them and even swimming with your own furry friend on top. Thought you’d want to know.

*****

Papers and the telly have carried the story of an ‘unexploded bomb’ planted in a garden in Wales for 100 years. The owners thought it was a dummy. Those with keen hearing might just detect the sound of Eric Price spinning in his grave. Trust me, I’ve been there: ‘Of course it’s fucking unexploded,‘ the legendary Western Daily Press editor would rage. ‘If it had exploded, it wouldn’t be there. Make it “live bomb,” you twat.’

*****
Sleeves are in this winter, confides Lauren Cochrane in The Guardian. They’ve reached hand-swallowing lengths with labels such as Acne Studios, Balenciaga and Givenchy featuring models wearing outsize versions. Upside: they’re warm and cosy; downside: they tend to trail into food. ‘Soup may be off the menu at stylish tables this party season,’ cautions La Cochrane.

*****

Incredibly, the small, plump Henry Kissinger, who has just died at 100, was a bit of a ladies’ man, known as the ‘Playboy of the Western Wing’. Once he had to cancel a date with Zsa Zsa Gabor because, as he said: ‘We’re invading Cambodia tomorrow. It’s a big secret:  you’re the first outside the White House to know.’

*****

The Slicker. Finance&Business with Fred Needleshanks


Taylor Swift, economic phenomenon: the first 53 nights of the popette’s Eras tour boosted US GDP by $4.3 billion.


TikTok’s parent company, Byte Dance, lays off hundreds in video game unit after failing to produce hit game.


Bond market has just had best month since 1985, says FT. Investor optimism created surge in prices and plunge in yields.

*****

So good to see former Express subs sucking up to the editor of the Daily Drone in some low life hostelry in Sarf London. Even better to clock The Goss’s leading purveyor of snippets among the merry throng. (Er, you weren’t there Dumpster — Ed)

*****

The Goss always approved of Alistair Darling, who has just died. Impressive operator who didn’t take himself too seriously. Once he heard on the radio that the Chancellor was making a major speech later that day. Wonder what Gordon is going to announce, he mused. Then the penny (sic) dropped: he was the newly appointed Chancellor. It was his speech.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Keith Van Sickle, of California, to the Economist: Although David Kirke (See Goss Archive) is famous as the inventor of bungee jumping, I take issue with the description of him as the pioneer of cluster ballooning. Several people before Kirke accomplished this, most notably Larry Walters. With 42 weather balloons attached to his garden chair, he rose to a height of 16,000 feet and was spotted by two airliners. He drifted across part of Los Angeles before bursting several balloons with a pellet gun slowly to return to earth.

*****

Bopeas rule, OK yah? The upper crust Chelsea crowd is now full of so-called Bohemian Peasants, pants my informant (dim bulb but awfully nice gel) at The Times. So passé:  dancing on tables, bread that isn’t sourdough, doing anything in the Kings Road. So happening: rewilding, keeping chickens, cold-water swimming. So plus ca change: everyone’s still frightfully rich.

*****

Things are only getting better, apparently, for our former PM and his Tony Blair Institute. This non-profit was set up to promote ‘global change’ and to advise governments (for a fee!). Turnover leaped an astonishing 49% last year to $121 million; staff headcount soared 53% to 514. And although Our Tone doesn’t take a salary, four other directors trousered a total of $1.1 million.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

London black cabs soon available via Uber as company continues to bring traditional taxis into its fold.


Remains of temple, built 1,400 years ago by King Raedwald (nope, me neither), found in Suffolk. 


Compilation album phenomenon Now That’s What I Call Music celebrates 40th birthday.


As more than 1,000 billionaires die in the next 30 years, UBS predicts their heirs will inherit $5.2 trillion.


Meta soon to launch its X competitor, Threads, in Europe.

*****

Who’d have predicted it? Suella Braverman, back at Westminster as an ordinary MP, has been given a tiny office which used to be used for photocopying.

*****

Taylor Swift has had 26.1 billion streams on Spotify this year, says Popbitch. With an average song length of 3.57 minutes, played end-to-end, that’s about 196,147 years of music.

*****

Some solid advice to the aspirant wordsmiths and columnists, who besiege the Drone’s subs, from Mark Twain whose 188th birthday has just passed: ‘Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.’

*****

Excitable Mail Online carries the breathless headline: Sadiq Khan declares severe weather emergency ahead of -3C chill. Calm down, snowflakes, calm down! In 1963 the temp dropped to -22.2C.

*****

So exit stage left then, Benidorm icon Sticky Vicky, who for 35 years entertained millions with exotic dances and adult magic shows including nether region tricks involving ping pong balls, flowers and, er, sausages. Victoria Maria Aragues Gadea, who has died at 80, performed six shows a night, six days a week. And made millions.

*****

Rishi is generally agreed to have had his worst PMQs since taking office. So how would the Mail’s acid-penned sketchwriter Quentin Letts record the debacle? In one par.  At the end of a report from the Home Affairs Committee. Shame that Letts, who rarely fails gleefully to record the routine skewering of Sir Sir Keir Starmer, missed out on this reversal of fortunes.

*****
The first transatlantic flight by a large passenger plane powered only by ‘sustainable aviation fuel’ has completed the journey from LHR to JFK. The Virgin 787 used a combination of waste fats and corn production leftovers.

*****
SportsFocus with Rockard Rambleshanks, our rheumy-eyed roué making a spectacle of himself


Harvard prof fastest woman to run from San Francisco to New York. Jenny Hoffman, 45, covered 3,037 miles in 47 days breaking record by a week.  


New Zealand basketball team is called (wait for it!) the Tall Blacks.


Golden boy Erling Haaland so unimpressed by Man City canteen grub that he flies in fish from top Oslo eaterie.

*****

Three years of drought and heat has sent the price of ‘green gold’ — olives — soaring. There has been a spate of robberies across the Mediterranean, particularly in Spain, the world’s largest producer. Some farmers in Andalusia, where there have been hundreds of thefts, are hanging their trees with GPS devices so they can track branches chopped off by chainsaw gangs.

*****

Prisoner 7907 has just died. Wanda Poltawska survived four years’ torture, vile experiments and being left for dead at Ravensbruck. The Polish resistance fighter went on to defeat intestinal cancer, become a psychiatrist, mother of four and a friend and adviser to Pope John Paul II. That she lived to be 101 is a tribute to her sheer guts, fortitude and indomitability. Yet the title of her autobiography tells you all you need to know: And I Am Afraid Of My Dreams.

*****

StrangePeopleTheYanks:  Hospitality workers have just competed in the Housekeeping Olympics in Las Vegas. Entrants fought for medals in mop racing, vacuuming, buffer pad tossing and a slalom course for ride-on floor polishers. Final discipline in the event, now in its 33rd year, was speed bed-making. Winner Febe Rodriguez gasps: ‘This isn’t for money. It’s for victory.’

*****

Isn’t local telly news coverage generally formulaic, diary-led and lazy? Not everyone succumbs to the cliché. An example from a BBC station.  Breathless anchor: ‘Coming up — an expert’s guide to wrapping Christmas gifts but first, the weather’. Jaded meteorologist: ‘And tomorrow  we’ll be watching paint dry’. Top man!

*****

Surprising that the Doyen of Dollis Hill couldn’t find space in the Drone book he’s just written on Derek Jameson for the eloquent epitaph on his memorial in St Bride’s: ‘Scatter my ashes in Fleet Street, let the breeze carry my mortal remains to an unseen crevice, a forgotten ledge where my spirit can hear again the laughing voices in the night.’

*****

StatsLife: The forecast that El Niño will bring warmer weather this winter is being welcomed in the snow belt states of the northern US. With good reason: just one snow day is estimated to cost $2.6 billion in lost wages and $870 million in retail sales.

*****

Oysters, now a luxury — Cooley gold rocks £40 a dozen at Randall & Aubin — used to be as cheap as chips, especially in the States and fed rich and poor alike. In 1857 one observer remarked: ‘The only class difference is between people who drink champagne with their oysters and those who wash them down with beer.’

*****

Gaza may only be a quarter of the space of London but the war there has produced a global outpouring of hate on social media totally out of proportion to its size. There have been 46,000 posts with the hashtag #HitlerWasRight and 10,000 with #DeathToMuslims. Antisemitism abuse is up 919%; Islamophobic abuse, 422%.

*****

We like to lift our eyes to the sunlit uplands of the future on the Drone (Eh? — Ed) but I wonder what kids we’re producing. Eloise Hendy tells in Vice of a toddler who saw a butterfly alight on a window pane. The two-year-old reached out to the glass and made a pincer movement with thumb and forefinger as it tried to enlarge the image as if it were on an iPad. I find that rather spooky.

*****

Bristol airport’s new ‘multi-faith area’ is a hut next to a roundabout a mile from the terminal. A spokesman defended the pod, which has been likened to a 1970s bus shelter, and Daniel Sugarman, from the Board of Deputies of British Jews says: ‘It has brought people of all faiths together to note how very strange this is.’

*****

Just when you thought the mid-East crisis couldn’t get any worse, Anne Boyer,  up-your-bum poetry editor of The New York Times Magazine, has resigned over the paper’s coverage of ‘the Israeli state’s US-backed war against the people of Gaza’. If this ‘leaves a hole in the news the size of poetry,’ she says, ‘then that is the true shape of the present.’ As the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon remarks, it’s not yet clear what effect this will have on the conflict.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

FBI seizes $1 billion in fake Marc Jacobs and Louise Vuitton handbags, wallets and sunglasses.


Which? names Co-op’s £22.75 champers best in Christmas taste test. Aldi’s £22 offering is second


North Korea boasts successful launch of spy satellite into orbit at third attempt


Customer returns box of condoms to store in New Jersey. Claims they’re too small

*****

Nostalgia Alert: Sir Larry Lamb was well known for his appreciation of fine wine and single malts but in his younger days he was partial to beer. One contemporary in Manchester (and, Lord knows, there aren’t many of them left) recalls him seeking refuge in the pub after a particularly challenging first edition. He swiftly sank two restorative Boddies and announced: ‘Right. Now we know we like it, we’ll have some.’

*****

Ridley Scott, criticised for alleged inaccuracies in his new Napoleon film, says: ‘When I have issues with historians, I ask: “Excuse me, mate. Were you there?  No? Well, shut the fuck up then.”’

*****

So, full time then, Wayne Barnes, World Cup final rugby referee, who has just retired. Barrister Barnes, who, incidentally, attended the same school as a boater-wearing Goss groupie, became England’s youngest elite ref at 25. He had to yellow card Martin Johnson soon after the England skipper had won the World Cup. ‘That’s the only fucking decision you’ve got right so far,’ growled Johnno as he left the pitch.

*****

A Goss Groupie writes: ‘Our dentist has given my wife and me separate appointments both at 2.30. Is he extracting the piss?’

*****

The €1.9 million auction price achieved for Napoleon’s black beaver bicorne hat must have French families rooting through attics across the country: le petit caporal had 120 of them.

*****

SportsUniverse with Rockard Rambleshanks our StarshipTrooper who boldly goes etc

Amateur ref files obligatory FA Misconduct Form after booking player in Finchley and Golders Green Saturday League match: ‘He called me a speccy ginger twat when I didn’t award him a penalty.’ 


Netflix documentary showing Becks scoring from half way prompts 6.4% increase in Premier League long shots


Tahiti footie champs AS Pirae make 19,691-mile round trip to compete in French Cup


Ramsbottom CC women’s team, which won every game last season, set to join men’s Lancashire League

*****

WankerOfTheWeek: Nella Rose, toxic ‘star’ of  I’m a Celebrity. If the current PrettyLittleThing Influencer Awards’ YouTuber of the Year stays in the jungle, she’ll be WankerOfTheWeek next week as well.

*****

PMQs Question: Why does Penny Mordaunt always look as if she’s just realised she’s left a tap running?

*****

Welcome to the international stage, Javier Milei, 52, new president of Argentina and a very rum cove. The pro-Trump economist and chat show host has little experience in government. He has a penchant for threesomes, believes the poor should be free to sell their body parts and says he receives political advice, via telepathy, from his dead dog. Milei, whose biography was called, fittingly you may think, El Loco, also has little time for his countryman, the Pope. He’s a ‘fucking Communist turd,’ says El Presidente.

*****

The Slicker. Business &Finance with Fred Needleshanks

Louis Vuitton unveils new handbag, made to order from crocodile leather in five colours with solid gold chain and added diamonds. $1 million to you, mush.


Amazon to sell cars on the platform, starting with Hyundai in 2024.


Boeing secures three times as many aircraft orders as rival, Airbus,  at Dubai Airshow.

*****

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who has just died, was married for 77 years. That’s impressive enough. But President Carter knew her for all but one day of her 96-year life: he saw her the day after his mother, a nurse, helped to deliver her.

*****

Following my snippetette about Orca whales attacking boats, my yachtie, Jim lad, with the red, rough hands and a faraway look tells me that sailors are attempting to solve the problem by ‘playing full-volume east European thrash metal music’. Early days but it seems to be working.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek: The Beeb’s Richard Bilton who travelled 20,000 miles on flights to Dubai, Alaska, California and Berlin, producing an estimated 5.4 tonnes of CO2, for a Panorama prog which aimed at answering why ‘despite all the green promises, we’re using more fossil fuels than ever before.’

*****

HeadsUp: Stuff subbed short

Aussie cop convicted of threatening to shoot colleague if he revealed spoilers to Top Gun: Maverick

Rolex and Patek Philippe prices drop amid falling demand for expensive watches

Canada’s capital, Ottawa, known as ‘the city that fun forgot’ hires nightlife czar

*****

Puteketeke crowned New Zealand Bird of Century: iconic kiwi is mere also-ran

*****

My snifteroo about Sir Alex Ferguson, fine wine connoisseur, brings to mind another knight of the realm, Sir Larrold Lamb, also a bit above his station, wine-wise. He once went to New York to press the flesh  of the ginger nut in charge of that Express outpost. This hapless hack was tasked with choosing a suitable red from the extensive list as they dined in an upscale eaterie. Larry held his wine up to the light, sniffed, swirled, slurped and slurred: ‘I wouldn’t wash my car in this, Mr Parry.’

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks: Dior had created a £184 ‘scented water’ for babies to dab on their chubby little wrists. It’s part of Baby Dior’s skin care line which also flogs a £78 cleanser.

*****

Daredevil David Kirke, who has just died at 78, is rightly lauded for completing the first bungee jump: 245ft off Clifton Suspension Bridge, dressed in top hat, morning suit and clutching a  bottle of champagne on April Fools’ Day in ‘79. But the Goss’s favourite prank is when he flew over the Channel in an inflatable kangaroo, narrowly missing a jumbo jet. Mind you, encouraging fellow members of Oxford’s Dangerous Sports Club to ski down the piste on an ironing board, a rowing boat, a grand piano and even a Louise XV dining suite, complete with wine waiter, comes pretty close.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek: John Ratcliffe, of Sudbury, Suffolk, to the Sunday Times: How sad that we are losing pubs as a social hub. I met every one of my girlfriends/partners/wives in a pub. Such a loss. Andrew Leslau, of Henley-on-Thames, replies: I wonder if they feel the same way.

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks: A book club in Venice, California, has just finished James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake - after 28 years. The monthly meeting tackled only two pages a time from the notoriously impenetrable book. It was described by one member as ‘628 pages of things that look like typographical errors’. What next? The group have started again from the beginning.  

*****

Caine’sCorner. Hunter S. Thompson, chronicler of Hell’s Angels and pioneer of ‘gonzo journalism’, kept his ashtray on a crate of live dynamite. No surprises, then, that he had his remains blasted out of a cannon at his $3million funeral funded entirely by Johnny Depp. NMPKT

*****

StrangePeopleTheYanks: As Yuletide approaches, American website Cable TV: Chief of Cheer is advertising what it says is a ‘dream job’. The successful applicant will be paid $2,500 to watch 25 Christmas movies in 25 days and rank them in categories including ‘nostalgia’, ‘heartwarming storytelling’ and ‘holiday cheer’.

*****

A ‘rival’ gossip columnette reports that Tracey Emin missed the reopening  of Soho’s Colony Room Club. An aide confesses: ‘Tracey was supposed to come but she got her dates wrong: she turned up three days ago.’ Can this sort of thing really happen in polite society?

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks: Looking for someone to look after your chickens when you’re away? Just check them into a ‘hen hotel’, advises the Telegraph. ‘Hennels’ offer luxury boarding with classical music, fresh fruit and veg and room to roam. For only £3 a day pukka poultry checking in to Hen Weekend have soft bedding and unlimited access to a Wendy house.

*****

For a wee laddie from a Govan tenement, Alex Ferguson surprisingly became something of a wine snob. Woe betide any gaffer who failed to meet his standards when offering a post-match tipple. Harry Rednapp got away with Blue Nun because he was Harry and was ‘having a giraffe’. But when Jose Mourinho uncorked a bottle of plonk, Sir Alex accused him of serving ‘paint stripper’. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was horrified and a case of Tignanello, a legendary ‘Super Tuscan’ red (incidentally, Meghan Markle’s favourite), was rushed to Old Trafford.

*****

StrangePeopleTheYanks: The airport-as-mall trend is taking off in the States. It’s now possible to dine, shop and visit art installations at airports without bothering to get on a plane. The new $2.8 billion Terminal C at Orlando International has launched a visitor programme allowing access to its luxury facilities. Airports at other US cities have similar schemes while Portland and New York’s La Guardia are spending billions to catch up.

*****

Forget the Beeb, one of the reasons that Israel receives such worldwide support is biblical prophesy, says Bloomberg.  ‘Christian Zionists’ interpret an Old Testament passage as meaning ‘the return of Christ would take place once the Jewish diaspora returned to Palestine’. In the 1890s prominent Americans, such as JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller, lobbied the White House to set up a Jewish homeland. Fifty or so years later it came to pass.

*****

WankersOfTheWeek: The National Trust, which is distributing an ‘inclusivity and wellbeing’ calendar to volunteers featuring Diwali, Eid and Ramadan but not Christmas and Easter.

*****

The late Silvio Berlusconi’s taste in art was distinctly dodgy. Heirs of the former Italian PM are sorting his 25,000 paintings, many bought from late-night telesales shows. Average value? $800 each. My art ‘expert’ in the beret and paint-daubed smock says the cost of exterminating the woodworm infesting the ‘collection’ is ‘exceeding the paintings’ value’.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

San Francisco has 25 million sq ft of vacant office space.


Taylor Swift  first person to have seven songs nominated for Grammy song of the year. 


Pod of Orca whales sinks yacht in Strait of Gibraltar. Crew rescued.


World marks Transgender Awareness Week

*****

That shameless schmoozer Jeffrey Archer is reported to be about to hold his last Fizz ‘n’ Pie Christmas party. For 40 years the great, the good and the, frankly, reprehensible have turned up to be gladhanded at the Archers’ penthouse overlooking the Thames. Revellers are asked: Would you like some Krug (never mere champagne)? Guests who want a widdle are directed: Go past the Picasso and it’s the door on the left. So posh.

*****

Wading (and I use the verb advisedly) through more guff in the Drone I come across a reference to Tallulah Bankhead. What a girl! The actress, who claimed to be ‘ambisexturous’ and ‘pure as the driven slush’, was once accused of seducing boys at Eton. My favourite tale: inveigled by an admirer to meet in an hotel room, she said: ‘You go on. If I’m not there in five minutes, start without me.’

*****

StatsLife: Stand by for a growing Youthquake! And the figures are astonishing, says the New York Times. While birth rates are tumbling in richer nations, Africa’s population is expected to double over the next 25 years to 2.5 billion. In 1950 Africans made up 8% of humanity; by 2050 it will be 25%, including a third of all 15 to 24-year-olds.

*****

The first combat ever to take place in space. That’s the grim milestone to mark the escalating Gaza crisis as Israel’s Arrow defence system shot down a rocket outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. The missile, launched from Yemen by
Iran-backed Houthi rebels, flew almost 1,000 miles to the Israeli port city of Eilat (where, incidentally, Dumpster has vacationed). Who’d have thought Yemenis would be involved in this ominous ‘first’?

*****

Violence flares in a rundown area of Edinburgh. Good story for the Evening News. Wait, here’s a dramatic pic of a protester hurling a petrol bomb. Splash! Trouble is, the snap is 10 years old; it was taken, not in the deprived Niddrie district of the Scottish capital but in Kyiv, nearly 2,000 miles away, during street protests against the then Russia-backed government. Chastened newspaper execs are forced to apologise on Facebook, followed by a front page apology in the next edition. Nightmare!

*****

Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, he say: ‘If you wait by river long enough, bodies of enemies will float by.’ Drone soothsayer G.R. Petulengro-Frame, he say: ‘Suella Braverman won’t last week as Home Secretary.’ Finally, 13 months later this prediction comes true.  William Dumpster, he say: ‘If you read Goss long enough, I’ll tell story about Bernard Shrimsley and lady astrologer.’ (Oh, no you won’t — Ed).

*****

Caine’sCorner. The new biopic Napoleon (in cinemas soon) obviously highlights the emperor’s passionate relationship with Josephine, who hadn’t a tooth in her head, by the way. He was particularly obsessed with her mysterious sexual technique called zigzags. Trouble is, no one knows what it was. Ooh, er, missus. NMPKT

*****

Will Lewis’s elevation to CEO of The Washington Post prompts my cub reporter in the queue at Starbucks on K Street to text a reminder that other Brits fly high in the American media. Former BBC boss Mark Thompson has just switched from The New York Times to CNN and in February Emma Tucker moved from the Sunday Times to become first female editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal. Incidentally, Tucker is distinctly underwhelmed by the WSJ’s work ethic. ‘What do they do all day?’she’s been heard to ask plaintively.

*****

SportSession with Rockard Rambleshanks, our water polo whizz who has hidden depths

Czech footie ref books 16 players after whole team and five subs take off shirts in co-ordinated goal celebration.


Chelsea owner Todd Boehly is prone to storming into dressing room to berate players after a poor result. Contrast with previous boss Roman Abramovich who preferred to send the gaffer a slightly sinister one-character text: ?


Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are backing a new sports league that’s reinventing golf as a high-energy, made-for-TV entertainment.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

Electric plane flies from Vermont to Florida … in 16 days. The CX300 had to make 24 stops to recharge batteries. 


This year ‘virtually certain’ to be hottest in history, says EU climate agency.


Demand for lithium, used in batteries for mobiles etc, expected to soar 20 times by 2040. Yikes: current supply can’t even meet demand now.

*****

Democracy is alive and well! Yes, really. More people will vote in elections in 2024 than in any year since records began in the 1960s. National ballots take place in more than 30 countries, including the US, UK, India and South Africa plus parliamentary elections in the EU. Two billion are eligible to vote, around two thirds of the democratic world.

*****

Sad to see the death of Crawford McAfee, at 80. Good operator, good man, good neighbour. A fellow hack who lived a few doors from him in Heald Green, Cheshire, in the seventies recalls a whimsical tale involving Crawfie’s wife, Pam. She was reading a book in which the heroine’s breasts were described as looking like poached eggs. ‘Are my breasts like poached eggs?’ she asked McAfee. ‘No, hen,‘ he replied, ‘yours are more like scrambled eggs.’

*****

TheSlicker: Money&Business with Fred Needleshanks

Danish shipping firm Maersk cutting 10,000 jobs after 92% profits drop. Seen as worrying indicator for global trade in 2024.


Amazon’s Jeff Bezos leaves longtime Seattle home for $79 million Miami mansion to be nearer his space company. Joins 740,000 who moved to Florida in 2021-22.


Energy drink-maker Celsius is one of the world’s  fastest-growing businesses. From a $280 million valuation in 2018 it’s exploded to $13.4 billion today.

*****

How true our recent Quote of the Day, ‘Antisemitism is a light sleeper’. Apart from huge demos here, police in France, which has the third largest Jewish community in the world, have recorded more than 1,000 attacks on Jews. Teenagers have been filmed singing: ‘We’re Nazis and proud of it.’ Germany, too. Not surprising after Angela Merkel’s ‘open door’ to mainly Muslim migrants, you might think. But, chillingly, Ozlem Topcu writes in Der Spiegel: ‘The greatest danger to Jews in Germany still comes from German neo-Nazis.’

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Martin Boreham, of Oxfordshire, to The Times: In your article on reopening a Cornish tin mine, you state that eight million cubic metres of water need to be pumped out. In future could your reporter please use the correct unit of measurement and tell us how many Olympic swimming pools that is.

*****

WankersOfTheWeek: All those Middle East ‘experts’ and useful idiots who parrot that a ‘two state solution’ is the answer to the Gaza/Israel crisis. There’s a flaw: the Palestinians only want a one state solution. 

*****

PleaseSayIt’sBollocks: The United  Nations holds a two-day human rights ‘social forum’ in Geneva under the chairmanship of Ali Bahreini, the ambassador from Iran. Yes, Iran. That’s the evil regime which suppresses, kidnaps and tortures opponents. As Maurin Picard says in Le Figaro, it’s like appointing an arsonist as fire chief.

*****

My snippet about self-deprecating Roger Moore inspires a fan to recall the following chat show exchange. Host: ‘Did you go to RADA?’ Moore: ‘No. But my right eyebrow did.’
*****

Two questions about Jeremy Bowen, the Beeb’s grandly-named International Editor: has he a stock of those dark polo shirts he’s been wearing since the start of the Gaza conflict? And should an impartial observer, such as he, question aloud, mid broadcast, whether Israel’s response to the Hamas attack was ‘justifiable’. 

*****

London’s most expensive hotel suite is finally open — after six years’ construction. Claridge’s four-bed, 16,000 sq ft penthouse will set you back £60,000 a night. It includes a dining table inset with a disc of malachite, a giant onyx fireplace, a bathroom with lacquered silver leaf ceiling, a glass piano pavilion on the terrace for the £120,000 Steinway and 35 Damien Hirst artworks. Occupancy is expected at 30-40% a year.

*****

Cricket’s ODI World Cup has exposed the frightening air pollution in Indian cities. Air quality in Delhi has been rated at 500 on the Air Quality Index — the UN Environment Programme says an AQI of 50 or below is safe. It’s the same in Mumbai. Joe Root reports: ‘You couldn’t get your breath. It was like eating the air. It was unique.’

*****

We could be a year away from the election but has Rishi given up already? It seems so, says Alice Thomson in The Times. She confides that after the PM met ministers for informal drinks one said: ‘It felt like he’d already checked out, his wheelie was at the door and he was looking forward to a few foreign sightseeing trips.’ A backbencher adds: ‘We call him Sunk.’ Watch this space!

*****

Veteran BBC producer Trevor Hill, who has just died at 98, may have launched the careers of Ben Kingsley, Billie Whitelaw, Robert Powell and Julie Andrews, not to mention Pinky and Perky and Sooty and Sweep, but drew a blank with young Roger Moore, advising him to forget acting and concentrate on modelling. Many years later, as Live and Let Die was being launched, the new Bond wrote to Hill: ‘Still can’t act but an earning a living.’

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the inaugural publication of his works, without which 18 of his iconic plays would have been lost.


WFH gone mad. Super computer Lee Robinson  takes two flights and an Uber from his Iowa home to his San Francisco office fortnightly. Eight hours door-to-door.


Europe’s cocaine market is exploding in size: 306 tonnes of the drug seized in 2021, five times more than a decade ago. Traffickers target Dutch and French ports.

___________

Socialite and interior designer Nicky Hallam unveils his latest list of things he finds ‘common’. This year’s selection, printed, as always, on a tea towel, includes strawberries, podcasts, remote-controlled lawnmowers, Grayson Perry, ‘Aperol anything’, Drone columnists’ verbal diarrhoea and saying ‘more-ish’.

*****

Marks and Spencer’s Christmas TV ad depicts the colours — red, white and green — of the Palestinian flag burning in a fire. Cue faux global outrage. But they are also the colours of the Italian tricolore. Was the UK ambassador called in for a ritual bollocking at the Palazzo della Farnesina in Rome? Did that perky blonde PM call an emergency Cabinet? Did Il Papa pronounce from a balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square? Did the footie ultras of Lazio start ripping up seats? We know the answer. 

*****

Don’t envy former Telegraph editor Will (now Sir William) Lewis, new publisher and CEO of the Washington Post. Since he acquired the iconic newspaper for $230 million in 2013, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has been very patient as its digital audience fell 28% and it is on course to lose $100 million this year. Now Bezos has written to staff assuring them of his commitment to the Post but emphasising the importance of turning a profit. We all know what that means: Mush! Mush!

*****

My first manifestation as a gossip scribe was under the byline The Chiel. It was a reference to Rabbie Burns: ‘A chiel's amang ye takin' notes —and, faith, he'll prent it.’ So it was good to see The Goss’s most faithful and industrious snout pictured at David Laws’s funeral surveying the scene … and takin’ notes. 


PleaseSayThisIsBollocks (a new series): ‘Alongside sat Camilla in a champagne-coloured Bruce Oldfield dress embroidered with the names of her grandchildren and images of her Jack Russells, Beth and Bluebell’ — Quentin Letts, Daily Mail.

*****

Superagers: that’s the majority of Drone readers, people aged 70 to 85, who still have the cognitive abilities of someone around 25 years younger. But how to ensure you retain membership of this happy breed? According to research in Spain, two of the best things you can do are playing music and getting a divorce. Eh?

*****

Nidelven Bla, a semi-solid blue produced near Trondheim, Norway, is winner of the 2023 World Cheese Awards, beating 4,000 other varieties. Second was a Belgian hard cows’ cheese ahead of a Swiss hard cheese. Neither fromage snob nations, Britain and, particularly, France, troubled the scorers.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

Kim Kardashian’s $4 billion underwear company, Skims, launches men’s range online: 25,000 orders in first five minutes


Mobile phone use may affect semen quality, study suggests


77% of adult Americans sent a sext this year and 88% received one — survey


Fans camping near  Buenos Aires stadium for five months to bag front row seats for Taylor Swift gig.


OldJokesHome: Neil Diamond was called Neil Coal until the pressure got to him.

*****

Scorching summers and wildfires are changing the holiday calendar.  July and August are so last summer: most popular months next year are May and June, says a survey of 2,000. Tui has already extended package offerings in Turkey and Greece into November; EasyJet will offer extra flights to Rhodes that month.

*****

Contrails. That’s one answer to climate change. The white lines planes leave in the sky account for 35% of aviation’s addition to global warming. Google and American Airlines used AI (!) to discover that minor changes to flight paths could reduce contrails by 54%. If that were scaled up, at effectively zero cost, aviation’s global warming impact would be cut by 20%.
*****
O tempora, o mores: An abandoned town of half-finished mansions near Shenyang, China, has been reclaimed by local farmers, France 24 reports. Cattle now wander among the buildings and manicured gardens have been ploughed up and planted with crops. These are stark symbols of the country’s deflating housing bubble.

*****

Forget celeb influencers and Gen Z icons, half of college students name ‘old’ Bill Gates, 68, as their ideal of financial success. Jeff Bezos (40%) was second; Elon Musk (35%) third. Only person in the top six who isn’t a current, or former, CEO is Taylor Swift. She is a billionaire, though.

*****
StrangePeopleTheYanks: The Silver Crest Donut Shop in San Francisco has set some sort of record: it’s been open 24 hours a day since 1970. Its owner, George, 84, who works nights, even refused to shut during the pandemic. His wife, Nina, does the day shift. Presumably, they meet up for a free ‘donut’ now and again.

*****

The excitable Hibernian who pens an inferior column on the newspaper I am discouraged from mentioning has already broken a seasonal record concerning pantomimes and cliches. Oh yes he has.

*****

Retro Rambleshanks’s Yesterday Once More exposure of bullying, sexism etc involving female news reporters on the Express prompts a victim to confide that the all-male news desk once banned them from drinking/fraternising with subs, who were much more congenial, because it was ‘disloyal’.

*****
HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short.

South Korean girl group STAYC mistakenly wear Glasgow Rangers shirts, complete with McEwans Lager ads, at Dallas gig thinking it’s Texas Rangers baseball kit. 


Two ‘pristine’ coral reefs - one eight football fields long - discovered off Galápagos Islands.


Rolling Stone journo Jesse Rosenfeld, critic of Netanyahu administration, denied press accreditation by Israel which claims RS ‘not a news organisation’.

__________

Crap, isn’t it, that the charity and emergency responders with ‘cross’ in its title doesn’t use the word ‘Christmas’ in its, er, Christmas cards? Still, Happy Wokeness to all our readers.

*****

Drone* Exclusive: Biden Back In White House. Clallam Says: Go With Joe. Of more than 3,000 counties in the US, only Clallam in Washington State has voted for the winner of every presidential election since 1980. In a survey there of ‘a range of people — committed Biden voters, committed Trump voters and those who were hoping for anyone but Biden or Trump’ every one thought Biden would win the county again in 2024 — and the election itself. * The Run-Up podcast, actually.

*****

SportDigest with Rockard Rambleshanks, our ice hockey star who wants to know what the puck’s going on


Rangers trialist Gordon Ramsay’s claim to have been good footballer exposed by ex-teammate Derek Ferguson: ‘He couldn’t kick his own arse.’


Swiss ski competition organisers accused of stealing snow from glacier near Zermatt threatened by climate change.


Basketball’s Magic Johnson fourth US sports star, after Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods, to become billionaire.


Bazball (‘noun: a style of cricket in which batting side plays in a highly aggressive manner’) added to Collins Dictionary.

__________

Depressing stat: Fourteen years after George W Bush’s presidency ended, he is, at 77, still a month younger than Trump and three years junior to Biden, both of whom are frontrunners for 2024. 

*****

StrangePeopleTheYanks. Americans have many bizarre names for ghosts. Skookum, for instance, or bugaboo, catawampus or duppies. Then there are swoons, plat-eyes or tommyknockers. Those familiar with To Kill A Mockingbird will recall a ‘hot steam’, described as ‘someone who can’t get to heaven, just wallows around on lonesome roads’.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek. Dominic Cummings. Where would you like me to start?

*****
LetterOfTheWeek. Beryl Whyatt, of Welwyn Garden City, to The Times: We helped a friend, married to a doctor in Pakistan, to wind up her father’s affairs when he passed away. Months later, we invited them for dinner. We didn’t expect a bottle of wine but neither did we expect the rolled-up carpet he carried in over his shoulder or the box of mangos. 

*****

TheSlicker. Finance and City with Fred Needleshanks

Amazon shares leap after e-commerce giant’s Q3 revenue hits $143.1 billion - up 13% and higher than analysts’ forecasts.


Apple, which saw Mac sales slump 7% last quarter, is fighting back by upgrading its processing chips. ‘They’re scary fast,‘ a spokesperson reports, breathlessly.


Meta spends $25 million a year on security for Mark Zuckerberg and $2.3 million flying him around.

*****


Spotted on the charity book stall at the GP surgery in the tiny village of  Caythorpe, Lincolnshire: Deadlier Than The Male — True Stories Of Women Who Kill —  by someone called Terry Manners. Matthew McConaughey decided to promote the launch of his new organic tequila called Pantalones by shedding his strides (geddit?). Then he and wife Camila made a moody ad video riding motorbikes through fields of agave naked from the waist down. As Danielle Cohen says in The Cut: ‘Watching them zoom through the dusty, dry desert wearing nothing but a shirt, I was overcome with concerns about chafing.’

*****
Boys’ Own Paper gadabout Sir Ranulph Fiennes, named by Guinness records as ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’, isn’t infallible. The 79-year-old gentleman adventurer once tried to cure his vertigo by scaling the north face of the Eiger. How did that go, then? ‘It didn’t work’.

*****

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

US Senator Chuck Grassley, 90, celebrates marriage of 20th couple who met while working in his office. Aaaah.


Airbnb names most popular holiday destinations this winter:  Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Maung Pattaya, Thailand and Mablethorpe.


Surfer off Sydney survives after baby whale leaps on him and drags him 30ft below surface.

__________

HeadsUp. Stuff subbed short

Brits currently eat just under two pounds of meat each a week, lowest since records began more than 50 years ago.


Survey finds 44% of Gen Z (age 11-26) ‘would rather clean the loo than go on another online date’.


Judge in Oz rules cruise line Carnival was negligent for not cancelling trip on which 663 passengers caught Covid- and 28 died.


Dolphin skull found in unaccompanied suitcase at Detroit Airport

__________

That George Orwell was a rum cove. Especially when it came to eating. Once, a new biog reveals, his wife went out 'leaving a shepherd’s pie in the oven and a dish of eels on the floor for the cat and came home to find that Orwell had eaten the eels’. Even after his books made him rich, he affected poverty, attending smart cocktail parties in a shabby, corduroy suit. Trouble was, everyone could see that the suit had been expensively cut.

*****

More on Dave Courtney, the Cuddliest Crook in Christendom (not), who has passed on to Fagin’s Kitchen in the Sky. Our Dave, whose challenging rap sheet included an incident involving six Chinese waiters, a meat cleaver and a Samurai sword, was asked by Stumpy’s pal, Reggie, to oversee security for brother Ronnie’s funeral. He dutifully recruited a phalanx of bouncers, bruisers and other assorted knuckle heads. ‘With this lot I could invade Poland,’ he was heard to muse.

*****

No further comment from me about allegations that Shadow Chancellor Rachel (Cut ‘n’ Paste) Reeves is guilty of plagiarism, except to mention that one of the themes in her book that sparked the controversy is ‘women not receiving credit for their work or ideas’.

*****

Where is the much-vaunted BBC Verify as terrorists peddle their ‘truth’? That beacon of impartiality, Mishal Husain, was challenged by an Israel spokesman to verify a Hamas claim, she had just repeated, that thousands of Palestinian children are being killed in IDF air strikes. Of course, she could not. 

*****

LetterOfTheWeek. Sam Williams, of London, to The Economist: ‘Brevity is important in exams. I am reminded of an old Oxford essay question: “Was Hegel a good philosopher? Be brief. One smug student wrote, simply: “Yes”. When the paper came back, the examiner had given a high mark but scribbled in the margin: “This was a good, brief answer. But a better, briefer answer would have been: “No”’.

*****

StatsLife: Young people are turned off by sex on screen, says a survey. Some 47.5% of 13-24-year-olds think it isn’t needed to move the plot along. And 51.5% said they wanted more content focused on friendships rather than romantic relationships.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek: Italian climate show-off Gianluca Grimaldi, who burnished his carbon cred by making the 14,000-mile, 35-day journey from Germany to Papua New Guinea on five trains, nine buses, two ferries, two taxis, one shared car, one police convoy and, when there were no other options, two flights. When he proposed returning in a similar way, his thinktank employers … sacked him.

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SportToday with Rockard Rambleshanks, our flanker rucking about in a rolling maul


The Sri Chinmoy 3,100-mile Self Transendence road race, just ended, involved athletes running an average 59.6 miles a day for 52 days. Crazy? Yep but it was also run around just one city block, thousands of times, in Queens, New York.


When a broken-down Land Rover blocked the All Blacks’ coach during the World Cup, players lifted it out of the way.


Japan Airlines laid on an additional flight for 27 sumo wrestlers because, at 19st each, they were too heavy for one plane.

__________

Spain’s Duke of Huescar has been told his baby daughter’s name is too long to be registered. There was no comment from Sofia Fernanda Dolores Cayetana Teresa Angela de La Cruz Micaela del Santisimo Sacramento del Perpetuo Socorro de La Santisima Trinidad y de Todos Los Santos. She was asleep.

*****

The Goss passes on, without comment, a report that ‘deeply disturbed’ BBC staff have been ‘crying in the lavatories and taking time off work’ because they say Auntie is being too lenient on Israel and is dehumanising Palestinian civilians. Now the weather: ‘The first snowflakes of winter have beenBobi, a Portuguese Rafeiro do Alentejo acknowledged by Guinness as the oldest dog ever, has died aged 31 years, 165 days. That’s 217 in dog years. His longevity is attributed to the fact that he only ate human food and had never been on a leash.

*****

Taking the piss: Chinese brewers Tsingtao had to accelerate into full damage limitation mode after a viral video appeared to show a uniformed employee peeing into a tank of ingredients. The company quickly assured customers that the malt involved wasn’t going to be used anyway. Nothing to see here. Move on — by order.

*****

The Slicker. City&Finance with Fred Needleshanks

Tech giants report big jumps in revenue. Google parent Alphabet: 11% ($77 billion); Microsoft: 13% ($56 billion).

$$$$$

Nokia sheds 14,000 jobs as profits sink 69% YOY in Q3.

£££££

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon reportedly stops moonlighting as a DJ because it causes ‘a distraction’ for the Wall St firm.

$$$$$

Chairman of Russian oil giant Lukoil dies, a year after last boss killed falling out of hospital window

____________

Can it be that, for the first time in its 238-year history, The Times has used the word ‘buggering’ in the head on its top leader?

*****

HeadsUp: News subbed short.

Lithuanian arrested in Spain for faking heart attacks 20 times in restaurants to dodge paying.


Crocs launches Croots, its Classic Cowboy Boots, at £98.


Women in Iceland, including premier Katrin Jakobsdottir, strike for greater gender equality.


Monmouth University in New Jersey names building after Bruce Springsteen. He played free shows there in sixties.

________________

Rent-a-Thug Dave Courtney, who has been found dead at 64, may have  been a serial ne’er do well said to have inspired Vinny Jones’s character in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, but he wasn’t daft. Fed up with having his front door broken down in repeated, boisterous police raids, he gave the cops a key.

*****

*****

BoffinQuiz: Q: Which is heavier, water or Butane? A. Water. Butane is a lighter fuel.

*****

It was said that one of the benefits of subbing on the Express was that ‘they let you stay up late’. Dr Johnson was a kindred spirit. Boswell tells how the original wordsmith was once woken at 3am by two over-refreshed pals who persuaded him to get up and join them roistering in Covent Garden. ‘I’ll have a frisk with you,’ said the good doctor, ‘whoever thinks of going to bed before 12 o’clock is a scoundrel.’

*****

Caine’sCorner: The Bayeux Tapestry depicts 632 men, 200 horses, 55 dogs, 500 other animals and birds, five women and 93 penises - 88 on horses and five on men. NMPKT.

*****

Hail, King Esunteros! A new ancient British monarch has been discovered after a detectorist unearthed a coin bearing his name in a Hampshire field. The coin, dating from 50BC, is smaller than a fingernail.

*****

A tongue-in-cheek rumour has resurfaced that Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau is the secret love child of Fidel Castro. While there are facial similarities, The Goss could not possibly comment. However, it is true that Trudeau’s father, Pierre, also a Canadian premier, was friendly with the Cuban firebrand who was a pallbearer at his 2000 funeral. 

*****

Heaven forfend that I jest but laughing gas will become illegal next month. Serial users of nitrous oxide, aka ‘hippy crack’, face up to two years in prison; maximum sentence for dealers will be doubled to 14 years. 

*****

WankersOfTheWeek: The international correspondents with the self indulgent, grandiose and preposterous job titles who knee-jerkedly assumed that Israel must have been responsible for the Gaza hospital tragedy. It’s ingrained in them, you know.

*****

Tel Aviv is awash with graffiti in these troubled times. But the message attracting most attention is: ‘End The War And I’ll Show U My Tits’. 

*****

Once, retired pro footie grunts enhanced their pensions by knocking out some hooky fags or doing a bit of driving for East End faces. Now, though, a former West Ham academy player has been arrested for (allegedly) trying to flog a rare Ming vase. The £1.9 million antique, stolen from a Swiss museum in 2019, was feared lost until one of the gang fired off an email to a Hong Kong auction house asking for a valuation. Duh!

*****

A mysterious pink light in the sky made people in Kent think the world was coming to an end (not a bad idea if you live in Thanet). Don’t panic, Captain M. The horror hue was artificial light from a massive greenhouse growing 400 million tomatoes.

*****

Jan Moir in the paper without a discernible revise system: ‘Lingerie company Victoria’s Secret is reverting back to sex appeal and raunch…’ Prodnose on a break then? (This is how they speak these days, for instance, ‘dancing’ is now called ‘dance’ — Ed.

*****

Who says throwing a wobbly doesn’t pay? According to Popbitch, Julia Hartley-Brewer, OTP, was so pissed off after being snubbed in TalkTV’s first birthday party Greatest Hits reel that she stormed out and hosted her own splinter drinkies in a nearby pub. Now she’s just been offered a prime time slot on her own on twice the money.

*****

HeadsUp.  News subbed short

NBC News ranks 100 spoons based on size, design, feel and finish.

*****

Hundreds of MEPs accidentally end in Disney, Paris, when points failure diverts their Brussels-Strasbourg express.

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Billie Eilish baffles fans with new mystery tattoo.
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What was it that Churchill was saying?  In a huge blow (sic) to India’s LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ+ community, the country’s Supreme Court has turned down a bid to legalise homosexual marriage. The ruling comes five years after the court repealed a colonial-era law outlawing same-sex intercourse.

*****

Former High Court judge Sir Nicholas Stadlen, who has died at 73, takes with him a court record which will probably never be broken: as a leading commercial QC he once spoke for 119 consecutive court days opening the defence case on behalf of the Bank of England against a compensation claim brought by the liquidators of the collapsed bank BCCI. He started his speech in July, 2004 and finally sat down the following May. His opponent, Gordon Pollock, QC, took 79 days setting out the case for the liquidators.

*****

Slicker: finance&city by Fred Needleshanks

The US government is one of the world’s largest holders of bitcoin, says the

 WSJ. It holds more than $5 billion worth, seized from cybercrims and darknet markets.

£££££

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour concert film pre-sold more than $100 million worth of tickets, sending stock in cinema chain AMC soaring.

$$$$$

Ferrari starts accepting cryptocurrency as payment

£££££

Bad news: the pandemic forced 179 businesses in the Times Square area of New York to close. Good news: The 180th business in the area since Covid has just opened.

__________

Who knew? Shadow Environment Secretary Steve Reed is obsessed with making perfect roast potatoes, confides the Sunday Telegraph. He once spent a week off work to find the perfect roastie, cooking  two different varieties a day. His top recipe: boil two Maris Pipers for 14 minutes in salted water. Then roast for 90 minutes at 190C, ‘turning them exactly twice’.


HeadsUp: Latest news subbed short


Booze boffins say climate change is hitting hops production, affecting taste of beer


Zoom to release own version of Google Docs; Google acts to cut spam 


Nearly 70% of Kenyans say ‘most’ or ‘all’ police are corrupt

__________

This Paris bedbug panic has got out of hand, don’t you think? Trust the Frogs. It’s a big fuss over fuck-all, says the New York Times from a safe 3,625 miles away. Numbers of the blood-sucking pests are only ‘modestly higher’ than usual in the French capital and as many as two-thirds of calls to pest control are from people mis-identifying other bugs, it says.

*****

Nudity is in vogue on the catwalk/runway as fashion showcases what gels will be wearing next spring. ‘The most consistent trend isn’t clothes but, rather, the lack of them,’ says Jo Ellison breathlessly in the FT. ‘Everyone’s letting it all hang out.’ It’s bums and boobs and anything in between. Jo confides: ‘At Stella McCartney the shorts were so short I could have offered some models a full gynaecological report.’ Ooh er, Matron.

*****

Former colleagues rightly queue to praise the contribution David Laws, LOTP, made to both the Daily and Sunday Express over decades. They include some who held high office on both papers. A question occurs: Why was David never given a title (Assistant Chief Sub, say) to recognise his commitment and dedication? Just askin’.

*****

CourtWatch: A 76-year-old man has pleaded guilty to stealing a pair of ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz from a museum in Minnesota in 2005.

*****

Criminal gangs are the fifth-largest private sector employer in Mexico, advises The 

Economist. They have 175,000 members, a quarter of whom work for the two big drug cartels, Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation. Mexico’s National Guard, a militarised federal police force, has 100,000 officers.

*****

South Korea is fast becoming one of the world’s largest arms dealers, says The Economist. Sales were $17 billion last year, more than double 2021. It aims to be the fourth largest exporter by 2027. Biggest customer is Poland: 1,000 tanks are on order, more than are operating in the armies of Britain, France, Germany and Italy combined.

*****

LetterOfTheWeek: Geoff Jones, of Ross-on-Wye, in the Telegraph: I went into WH Smith and asked to order a book advertised as ‘ready to pre-order’. I was told I couldn’t order it but had to pre-order it. I said I just wanted to order it. This flummoxed the assistant so much that I took by custom elsewhere.

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WankerOfTheWeek: John Simpson, World Affairs Editor who doesn’t go anywhere, pathetically trying to justify the BBC’s weasely woke policy of not calling terrorists terrorists.

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G’DaySport with Rockard Rambleshanks, who dreams  of being very big Down Under but can’t get a visa


AFLW is celebrating the heritage of indigenous Australians and some of their long-held traditions. All 18 teams will wear specially designed Indigenous Round guernseys; umpires will turn out in uniforms designed by Nowongar Wandandi Boodja man and umpire Joshua James.  The artwork is called Moorditj Koondarm which means strong dreams in the Noongar language. Nope, me neither.

*****

Elsewhere, Juventus player Vucinic avoided a yellow card for taking off his shirt after scoring — by removing his shorts instead.

*****

Great balls of fire! The Drone’s self-proclaimed pop historian Billy-Jo Rambleshanks (he of the stepped-on blue suede shoes and unruly sideburns) has unearthed a chart-topper from 1949 titled ‘The Old Master Painter from the Faraway Hills’, by Frank Sinatra et Al (Who Al? — Ed). Chortles Billy-Jo: ‘It’s impossible to sing or say it without it sounding like an tale of self-pleasuring behaviour of the kind our grandfathers warned would send us blind!’

I’m afraid I shall have to confiscate his laptop.

*****

A fierce mother bear is winner of this year’s Fat Bear Week in Alaska. Grazer, only the third female champ, won over fans with her ‘gutsy’ willingness to challenge bigger rivals.

*****

San Francisco 49ers struck gold when they signed Brock Purdy, the very last 2022 NFL draft pick. Since the 23-year-old took over as starting quarterback, his team are undefeated. Yet Purdy is the lowest-paid starting QB with a $930,000 annual salary which can’t be renegotiated until next season. Contrast Cincinnati Bengals QB, Joe Burrow, the highest paid in the league, on $55 million a year.*****

Gossip columns aren’t what they were. The Mail’s leads on Giles Coren and wife involved in a parking row. Eh?

_________________________

Eco warriors Harry and Meghan took a seven-car convoy in New York to go to a venue 200ft away. They left a garage near the Equinox Hotel and had to negotiate a one-way system to reach their destination, a few minutes’ walk. Their seven fuel-guzzling blacked-out SUVs were flanked by police escorts. The preposterous pair hosted an event at the World Mental Health Day Festival.

*****

An online rumour that our (awards-pending) Country Boys column was axed to make way for overmatter from other so-called columnists has been denied by Lord Drone. A spokeslady said: ‘It’s true we are concerned about the sheer volume of words from contributors: the subs are overwhelmed. But we have the capacity to contain this torrent for now.’ Farrer & Co, solicitors acting for Teddy and Oliver, declined to comment.

*****

Ulez? Piece of piss. Try driving in Singapore. In 1990 the city state limited the number of vehicles on the road to 950,000. To become one of those drivers you had to buy a 10-year ‘certificate of entitlement’, prices for which have quadrupled since 2020 to £88,000. Once you have factored in registration fees and taxes, buying a Toyota Camry Hybrid would cost £151,000.

*****

Strange People, The Yanks: our cousins across the pond are going bonkers over new pasta shapes. Novelty designs help brands and restaurants to gain traction on TikTok (inevitably). But now it’s getting silly: hearts, dinosaurs, tennis racquets and, even, zebras anyone?

*****

Former US Army sergeant Joseph Schmidt, charged with trying to pass military secrets to China, is obviously no George Smiley. His internet history reveals searches for ‘countries with the most negative relations with the U.S.’, ‘what do real spies do?’ and ‘can you be extradited for treason?’ Oh dear: he also allegedly created a 22-page document entitled ‘Important Information To Share With The Chinese Government’.

*****

The sight of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailing into the eastern Mediterranean in response to the Hamas terrorist outrage causes some to trot out the line that the U.S. defence budget of $800 billion is larger than those of the next 10 countries combined. It’s probably not true, though. China’s defence budget is thought to be $700 billion and, because wages and other costs are lower, the money goes a lot further.

*****

Luxury hotel. In Afghanistan. Run by the Taliban: not a confluence of words one often sees. Yet the Intercontinental in Kabul, is still operating — up to a point, Copper effendi. Check-in requires handing over Kalashnikovs and sidearms. No credit cards: best bring a carrier bag of cash. Half the lights switched off to save leccy. A fifth of the 198 rooms occupied: some by the UN running a course on ‘interpersonal conflicts’, others by secretive Russians. A picture on a wall shows guests relaxing by the pool in the hotel’s glory days: all the women have been painted over.

 *****

HeadsUp: Latest news subbed short


BBC militants in Hamas terrorism denial outrage


Netflix to hike prices on ad-free offering when actors’ strike ends


Mini tornado, 200ft wide and a mile high, spotted on Mars by NASA

An amazing 690 words have been added to America’s Merriam-Webster dictionary this year. They include ‘thirst trap’: trying to gain attention online by posting sexy pix; ‘doomscrolling’: trawling gloomy news sites excessively; ‘jorts’: jean shorts and ‘rizz’: charisma.

Sometimes it pays to live in the Alaskan tundra, home to the biggest oilfield in North America. Residents are standing by to receive this year’s divi from the state’s oil earnings fund — a cheque for $1,312. 

*****

Never say we don’t  keep you up to speed: the elusive African dwarf crocodile communicates by mooing. Boffins from a Polish uni recorded 97 different sounds from the reptiles, unlike anything from other crocs. Drums, rumbles and gusts were on the list as well as an utterance ‘uncannily reminiscent of a cow’.

*****

Caine’sCorner: Names of asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter include Mother Teresa, James Bonds, (political activist) Ocasio-Cortez and Lancearmstrong. NMPKT

*****

A painting valued at $15,000 two years ago is to be offered at, wait for it, $18 million. It’s a ‘work of great significance’ by Rembrandt, say Sotheby’s.

*****

WankerOfTheWeek: ITN’s Robert Peston interviewing the prime minister wearing a dark suit, tie and…adidas trainers.

*****

My crumb about Michelin’s plan to start awarding ‘keys’ to top hotels prompts my skivvy up to his elbows in greasy washing-up water to recall that the purpose of the eponymous Guide, launched in 1900, was to entice the guzzling classes to take long drives to restaurants it recommended. Pourquoi? Help wear out their tyres, of course.

*****

Seen the Beckham documentary on Netflix? Delicious moment when Victoria is trying to big up her ‘very working class’ roots. Becks pops his head round the door and challenges her to say what car she was driven to school in. ‘OK,’ she finally admits, ‘in the 80s my dad had a Rolls-Royce.’

*****

Strange People, The Yanks: Speed dating is speeding up in the States, says the New York Times. ‘Courtship entrepreneurs’ have launched a group night that ‘fast tracks intimacy’. Breathless lovelorn gather in a candlelit loft, forget the getting-to-know-you preliminaries and immediately address the question: Where are you at this moment in this wild human ride that is your life? Bless.

*****

Letter of the Week Simon McIlroy, of Croydon, in the Telegraph on Rishi’s new smoking ban: What will young people do in future when they meet behind the bike sheds?

*****

Michelin, famous for the stars it awards to restaurants who serve lovely grub, will next year start awarding ‘keys’ to grade top hotels worldwide. It’s part of a move to grab a larger chunk of the rapidly growing travel and hospitality industry.

*****
HeadsUp: Latest news subbed short.

Netflix stops sending out DVDs after 25 years


Costco offers 24-karat gold bar ($1,900 to you, squire) on its website


Gulf of Mexico saltwater seeping into Mississippi polluting drinking water

*****

Caine’sCorner: Researchers, who studied 125 mammal species, including cats, bats polar bears and wombats, found all showed forms of fluorescence: 86% actually glowed under UV light. NMPKT

*****

Inglese farlocco, or fake English, is becoming popular in Italy, my FT tells me. For instance, WFH or smart working is partially Italianised to lavaro in smart. Italian verb endings are added to English. Schedulare (schedule a meeting) or ti brieffo (I’ll brief you). There are plenty of hybrids from boomerata (things a baby boomer will do) to cringissimo (the ultimate in cringe).

*****

Poor old Joe Biden.  If an upcoming election campaign isn’t enough, he’s got to learn to stand on his own two feet. Aides are paranoid that a ‘bad fall’ in public would scupper his re-election chances and are secretly working on a ‘don’t trip strategy’. The 80-year-old has started wearing tennis shoes to avoid slipping and has regular balance-enhancing exercises with a physio. The steep steps of Air Force One are a challenge: now he boards via a lower deck so he may use a shorter staircase.

*****

ThisIsSport with Rockard Rambleshanks, our Roue of the Rovers

FC Barcelona have been charged with sending more than €7.3 million in bribery payments to companies linked to the former vice president of Spanish football’s refereeing committee.

*****
Man United have been drawn at home 12 times in a row in domestic cup competitions. The chance of that happening is 0.02%.

*****

Jose Mourinho has received payoffs totalling £80 million after being defenestrated at Chelsea (twice), Real Madrid, Man U and Spurs. Mind you, he has won the league title in four different countries as well as sundry other silverware. 

*****

They all laughed when the Washington Post unveiled a new slogan — Democracy Dies In Darkness — in 2017. But it wasn’t actually the first choice, former editor Martin Baron tells The Atlantic. Post owner Jeff Bezos insisted on being involved in the decision-making and after two ‘tortuous, torturous’ years they agreed a different option: A Free People Demand To Know. But when Bezos ran it past his then-wife, novelist MacKenzie Scott, she said it was too chunky, a ‘Frankenslogan’. So, back to the drawing board.

*****

An intrepid old duck from Chicago has become the world’s oldest skydiver - at 104. Dorothy Hoffner says she wasn’t nervous before the 10,000ft descent and had no idea she was breaking a record. ‘All I thought about was: What’s for dinner?’

*****

My sombre note about Thomas Midgley, whose introduction of lead to petrol was said to have caused 100 million deaths worldwide, prompts a boffin at one of our more obscure universities to remind me that Midgley also invented CFCs, the chemicals which punched a huge hole in the ozone layer. Tom seem to hover ever closer to the Vortex of Doom (sic, Dick). In 1940, after contracting polio, he created an elaborate system of pulleys and ropes to lift himself out of bed. Alas, he became entangled in the contraption…and died of strangulation.

*****

Peter Hedley was definitely a superstar of the subbing world: who can forget his intro on an itinerant salesman who survived a night trapped in a blizzard ‘because he travelled in ladies’ underwear’? But was he the best? Some say that Cliff Barr, who decamped to Canada, was the real deal. Now we’ll never know.

*****

The Goss’s offer of a Crisp Fiver as a contest prize prompts a correspondent to ask whether one is still available to the first reader to name the Express exec who exchanged bodily fluids with actress Janet Munro behind The Old Bell during the shooting of The Day The Earth Caught Fire. Indeed it is. But, like Ms Munro, I am not holding my breath. 

*****

Who’s responsible for, the most deaths in history? Mao? Stalin? Hitler? In fact, says Brian Klaas on Substack, it’s probably Thomas Midgley Jr. In 1921 he discovered that adding tetraethyl lead to petrol prevented a common fault in combustion engines. Although it was widely known that lead was dangerously toxic, the economics of motor manufacturing triumphed until the U.S. government banned it in the 1990s — about 100 million deaths too late.

*****

What did the Romans ever do for us? Well, engender envy for a start, says Thomas Mitchell in the Sydney Morning Herald. Two thousand years ago all Romans drank red wine all day, wore sandals at work, enjoyed 135 public holidays a year and had deep thinkers, such as Seneca and Cicero, running the place.  And then there were the orgies...

*****

A last minute agreement after one of those inexplicable political point-scoring feuds between Democrats and Republicans means the US government has avoided shutdown. Whoopee, exclaims my snowshoe-clad contact at the State Capitol in Juneau breathlessly. Fat Bear Week at the Katmai Park in Alaska, which was under threat, can go ahead.

*****

Woe, Venice. The main islands now have more beds for tourists than residents. Many fear the fabric of the city  is on the brink of collapse. 

*****

Commander, a German shepherd belonging to Joe Biden, has bitten yet another of his bodyguards. The two-year-old mutt has now nipped members of the security detail 11 times. It’s all down to the stress of living in the White House, explains a spokeswoman. 

*****

A new de luxe Sound of Music album is to be released featuring the voice of Christopher Plummer. The Canadian actor, who died aged 91 two years ago, was incensed when he learned his voice was to be dubbed for the original release in 1965. At least he was told. Poor Natalie Wood only discovered that West Side Story producers had used Marnie Nixon’s voice and not hers as she watched the film at its premiere.

*****

Mention of Peter Hedley recalls that he had a distinctive casting off system. Peter routinely did not sub on copy. He preferred to do a total write-off in tiny, neat handwriting. He’d put about five or six words a line on his copy paper before starting another. Thus, he replicated a line of type s/c nes: in min that equated to 10 lines an inch. Simps!

*****

What will the world look like in 250 million years? Bristol University boffins have been having a think. They say the present seven continents will fuse together into one supercontinent. Extreme weather will be routine with huge amounts of volcanic activity. Think the expected toasty temp of 60C will be too much for you? Fear not. All mammals will have died out long before that.

*****

As the US celebrates National Coffee Day, let’s reflect that three million cups are consumed around the world every 24 hours. The number has doubled in the past 30 years, says the FT, and is expected to double again by 2050. And if you’d like another shot of stats: over the next two years Starbucks aims to open a new outlet in China every nine hours.

*****

So fuck off, Country Boys. Like Ashley Walton, LOTP, I didn’t understand it. Do you think Oliver ever realised that some of the things he said could be taken the wrong way? Anyway, on the bright side: there will now be more space for other loquacious Drone columnists’ overmatter. Or at least some of it.

*****

Dental whizzes in Japan are developing a drug that could allow people to grow new teeth by stimulating dormant ‘tooth buds’. Toregem Biopharma, of Kyoto, says there have been encouraging results involving dogs and ferrets. Testing on humans starts next summer.

*****

Pathetic (ie: zero) response to my crisp fiver challenge inspired by the TikTok hashtag about cleaning loos. My mention of ‘Anita, my streetwise sanitary reporter’ refers, as any Ancoats grunt should know, to Sanitary Street behind the Express building. Its back-to-backs were the first to have their own sinks and lavatories. Highfalutin Mancunians pressed for the street’s name to be changed to Anita in the 1960s.

Dumpster is economic with the actualité. There was one suggestion — from me: Anita ‘Arris, rhymes with Aristotle, rhymes with Bottle, Bottle and Glass, Arse. — Ed

*****

The Goss’s improbable revelation that a TikTok hashtag about cleaning loos had 84 billion views leads Anita, my streetwise sanitary correspondent, (a crisp fiver to the first who gets that allusion) to report that Unilever says it would pay 100 ‘cleanfluencers’ to feature its products on their vids. Apparently, to Gen Z, staying home cleaning is the new going out. 

*****

Suella Braverman may be the longest-serving Home Secretary in the history of mankind but she does say the oddest things. Such as ‘multiculturalism has failed’. As The Times’s Hugo Rifkind says on X: ‘She’s British, descended from Indians from Mauritius and Kenya, married to a Jewish husband in a government headed by Britain’s first Hindu PM. What would successful multiculturalism look like?’

*****

Letter of the Week from cellist Jane Cutler in The Times: ‘I was once stopped by an airport check-in agent for having a tuning fork in my bag. He asked: ‘Is it sharp?’ I was pleased to be able to answer: ‘No - it’s bang-on!'

*****

SportScene with Rockard Rambleshanks, our coach showing the St Drone Academy for Girls sixth form how to be good at handball


Brazilian midfielder Paqueta has quickly become a favourite at West Ham. So fans were baffled when he was substituted during a televised game and a caption on screen named him as Tolento Coelho de Lima. Apparently, Paqueta is just a nickname, a reference to his birth place, Paqueta Island, off Rio de Janeiro.

*****

Thought you ought to know: Lazio goalkeeper Ivan Provedel was born in 1994, is 1.94m tall, wears the shirt number 94 and scored a 94th minute equaliser in a European match. It was Lazio’s 94th Champions League goal.

*****

Former Scotland hard man Duncan ‘Big Dunc’ Ferguson, appointed manager of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, was introduced as ‘a box-office attraction second only to the Loch Ness Monster’.

Most drivers were upset when speed limits were introduced on motorways in 1965. When the trial was announced, one miffed motorist told the Beeb: ‘It’s quite ridiculous. You’re expected to sort of dawdle along at 70 miles an hour.’  So what happened? There was a sharp fall in accidents; the trial was made permanent two years later.

*****

Congrats to Jimmy Carter, the longest-living American president, who is about to turn 99.  The undistinguished but amiable former leader of the western world caused a surprise when he turned up at a peanut festival in his home town of Plains, Georgia because in February he was taken into hospice care with only days to live. He was joined at the festival by former first lady, Rosalynn, who is 96. They have been married for 77 years.

*****

Popette Taylor Swift breaks off from her billion dollar world tour to watch her rumoured new boyfriend, Kansas Chiefs’ tight end (sic) Travis Keice, play an NFL game. Interestingly, Swift has played in more football stadiums this year (17) than Keice will this season (12 max).

*****

NMPKT —  The Garrick Club, beloved of London's luvvies and their arty chums, was founded in 1831 by, er, the Duke of Sussex, whose brother was, er, William, the king at the time. One of its aims was ‘to promote easy intercourse between artists and patrons’. Hmm. Oh, and there's only been one other Duke of Sussex — Harry.

*****

StatsLife: There are more than 40 million miles of roads on earth. That’s bad news for animals and birds. More of the latter are killed on America’s roads than were victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2015 (about 82,000). More deaths of vertebrates are caused by roads than dams, poaching or wild fires. It’s getting worse: 50 years ago the toll was just 3% of land-based mammals; by 2017 it was 12%.

*****

Extinction Rebellion loonies in France have scored a spectacular own goal, it pains me to report. They protested about a new toxic waste dump near Colmar, in Le grand est, by dying the city’s river green (geddit?). They claim they used fluorescein, a harmless organic dye. But the mayor is pointing to the dozens of dead fish floating on the surface.

*****

Guess how many want to watch someone else clean a loo: 84? 8,400? 84,000? TikTok’s ‘Cleantok’ hashtag has attracted 84 billion views, says the Wall Street Journal. It’s the most viewed hashtag on the platform. 

*****

Pioneer female bodybuilder Lisa Lyon, who has died at 70, celebrated winning the inaugural Women’s World Pro Bodybuilding Championship in 1979 by hoisting Arnold Schwarzenegger on to her shoulders. (It’s usual at this juncture for The Goss to utter an Atta Girl, in memoriam

*****

HeadsUp: This week’s news summed up short.  

●Vicar slammed over beer pumps in church. 

●Stonehenge built by black people, says kids’ book. 

●University, listed 814th globally, told to drop words ‘world leading’ from ad. 

●Armed Met officers refuse to carry guns.

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LitBit: This year’s six-strong Booker Prize short list includes more men called Paul (Harding, Lynch and Murray) than it does women.

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Letter of the Week from David Staples, of London N10, to The Times: ‘Sadly, as an author I was never offered a book signing. I approached my nearest bookshop in Muswell Hill to ask if they’d be interesting hosting a launch, stressing that I was a local author. The manager wearily replied: “Sir, everyone in north London is a local author”.’

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The Slicker.  City and finance with Fred Needleshanks

The booming sales of weight-loss drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy have so boosted the profits of Danish manufacturer Novo Nordisk that its $419 billion market value has eclipsed the nation’s $406 billion GDP.

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Disney plans to spend $60 billion on its global parks and cruise line over the next 10 years. This is double its investment in the last decade. The parks have bounced back, post Covid: they expect to generate $10 billion profit this year, almost five times what they earned 10 years ago.

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Stock in ARS Pharma in the States took a hit when the Food and Drug Administration unexpectedly refused to approve its nasal spray, developed as an alternative to EpiPen injections for treating severe allergic reactions. 

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Danish conceptual artist Jess Haaning was commissioned by a gallery to recreate two of his early pieces which used bank notes to represent average incomes.  But, after sending him notes worth £60,000, they received two empty frames in return. They were entitled Take The Money And Run. Despite his protestations that this was a valid artistic statement, a court has ordered him to repay the cash.

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Since being crowned ‘global pizza-maker of the year’ Michele Pascarella, who operates in Chiswick, not Naples, has had to turn away 2,000 customers from his pizzeria, Napoli on the Road. They included a member of the Qatari royal family who wanted two tables — one for his party and the other for his security team.

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To the Garrick where women are still being denied membership after nearly 200 years. Joanna Lumley was put up about 12 years ago but the salmon and cucumber-tied brigade turned her down. Strange chaps. Who wouldn’t want to have the fragrant Joanna on the Long Table?

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France has halted the sale of iPhone 12 after the country’s radiation watchdog raised fears over emissions in excess of European restrictions. Belgium is now looking into potential health risks and other European countries are bound to follow. Apple disputes the findings.

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The Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset is considered a bit of a niche attraction, welcoming only a few hundred thousand to its collection of 300 armoured vehicles. But on YouTube it’s stellar. The museum’s total of 550,000 subscribers is just behind the British Museum’s 580,000 but beats New York’s Museum of Modern Art (520,000) and the Louvre (106,000). 

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The world’s biggest onion, 21ins long and weighing nearly 20lb, won its category at a Harrogate show. It was grown in a polytunnel with 24-hour lighting and automatic irrigation by Gareth Griffin from Guernsey.

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Who’s counting? Labour’s conference slogan, Give Britain Its Future Back, is the party’s 14th in three years.

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Kevin Beresford, known as ‘the dullest man in Britain’, has just spent months taking pix for his 2024 calendar, Allotments of Redditch.

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Can it be that the readers of Prospect magazine, which boasts it ‘offers independent, balanced analysis and long-form journalism taking readers to the heart of the biggest stories, ideas and issues of our time’, voted Russell Brand ‘the world’s fourth most influential thinker’? Oh, dearie me, it surely can.

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FT opera critic Richard Fairman (sic) thought it fair enough to have a go at the octogenarian actress Rose Knox-Peebles, playing Erda, the Earth goddess in Das Rheingold at the ROH. He commented that she was ‘made up to look quite a fright’. Rose, acclaimed for the role in which she spends most of the time naked, wearily wrote to the Pink ‘Un: ‘I wore no make-up. The “fright” look is naturally mine.’

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The American Senate is ditching its dress code and allowing its 100 members to go casual. Majority leader Chuck Schumer insists he will continue to wear a suit but expect controversial 6ft 8in senator John Fetterman to let it all hang out in trademark shorts, trainers and hoodies. Meanwhile, Republican Susan Collins, 70, threatens to wear a bikini. Is this the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it?

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StatesSnips: Talk Like A Pirate day has been widely celebrated in the U.S.


Magic Kingdom at Disney World, Florida, was partially closed when a wild bear was spotted in the park.


A well-preserved dinosaur skeleton, known as Barry, is being offered at auction. Bidders will need an estimated $1.2 million and a very big room.

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There has been much unfair criticism over the $100m F-35 jet fighter that ‘went missing’ after the pilot was forced to eject over South Carolina. Nitpickers, who complained that no one knew where it was, are missing the point. It was fitted with anti-radar to make it undetectable which, after all, is the whole point of a stealth fighter.

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Poor old thesps: they really suffer for their art. Take Sarah Lawson, who has just died at 95. She starred in a Hammer version of Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out. Not only did she have to swoon, scream and be covered in fake blood like everyone else but she was hypnotised, possessed by a dead friend and was attacked by a giant tarantula summoned up by evil forces. She also had to stand up to a sinister cult leader and save her daughter from being sacrificed to the devil.


TopSport with Rockard Rambleshanks, our hunk playing keepy-uppy with the Daily Drone Ladies team


Hard-up Czech third tier footie team FK Usti nad Labem has sold a place in its squad to the portly son of a local millionaire. Law student Michael Podhajsky, 22, will replace the club captain for 10 minutes in a forthcoming league game. A club spokesman admitted: ‘He has never played football. However, you don’t see 500,000 Czech crowns (about £17,500) rolling on the floor every day. If someone gives us this type of money, we’ll let anyone play.’

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Peruvian shamans placed a curse on Brazilian superstar Neymar ahead of their country’s crunch World Cup qualifier in Lima. They stabbed a voodoo doll of the striker with tiny swords. Final score: Peru 0, Brazil 1.

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College football coach and Hall of Fame hero Deion Sanders was heavily criticised for insisting on wearing the Coach Prime designer sunglasses he promotes in media interviews before an important game. He’s not daft. The next day $1.2 million worth of the shades were sold.

DNA may have revolutionised forensics but it has its eccentricities, admits my German police contact. They were offering a €300,000 reward for info about the so-called ‘Phantom of Heilbronn’, a woman whose DNA had been identified at more than 40 crime scenes over 15 years. Was there a Gotcha moment? Not really: it transpired she worked in the factory that made cotton swabs France, home of haute cuisine, has more McDonald’s per head than any other country in Europe.

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Don’t say The Goss doesn’t keep you in the know.  Americans are buying so many laxatives that there is a national shortage. Searches for the drugs on Amazon have tripled in the past year; makers of fibre supplements report double-digit sales growth. What’s going down? Post-Covid surge in travel plus hybrid work schedules disrupting routines and meal times, say ‘bowel experts’.

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That Meghan Markle’s a fashion icon isn’t she? Within hours of her wearing a J.Crew white blazer at the Invictus Games in Germany, the company’s website crashed as wannabes tried to buy one. It’s currently sold out. Don’t worry, gasps Fru-Fru, our gender-fluid fashion intern with a City and Guilds in cross stitch, Prince Louis’s shorts are now available in adult sizes. Good to know.

How thoughtful of Clive Myrie to warn viewers that a report on Russell Brand’s alleged sexual proclivities contained ‘flashing images’.

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Askin’ For A Friend: Why does the Beeb, reporting on Wales’s new 20 miles per hour speed limit, give stopping distances in metres?

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So farewell, Fraser Island. The world’s largest sand isle was named after Eliza Fraser, shipwrecked there in the 1830s. The 76-mile spit of sand off Australia’s east coast has been the subject of a decades-long campaign by the Butchella people, who have lived there for more than 5,000 years. Now it will be known by its traditional Aboriginal name, K’gari. 

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StatsLife: Trump’s political action committee Save America spent $40.2 million in legal costs in the first half of 2023 defending him and his associates, says the Washington Post.

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The new whizz among celebs is ‘compression pants’, massive inflatable trousers which stimulate the body’s lymphatic system and are celebrated for cellulite-busting qualities. ‘They may look silly,’ says Edwina Ings-Chambers in the Standard ‘but they’re a little piece of body makeover magic.’ Legs and ankles look less puffy and the body feels ‘lighter and freer’. All fine then? Up to a point, Lord C: they cost £10,000 a pair.

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Floating on the Prinsengracht canal past Anne Frank’s house, I am reminded of a, maybe apocryphal, tale about the hapless American actress Pia Zadora playing the tragic diarist in a Broadway play. So awful was Zadora that when German soldiers raided the house, roughnecks in the audience shouted: ‘She’s in the attic!’

Strange People, The Yanks: Texas, hardly a beacon of enlightenment, made 93 attempts to ban 2,349 books last year, according to the American Library Association.

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Following my scoop (I’m sure I read it in Lepidoptery Today — Ed) about healthy numbers for red admirals, I can add that, overall, the UK butterfly population is at its highest for four years. Volunteers counted 1.5 million in July and August. It’s a 34% increase on 2022

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WhoKnew? Mating anchovies cause turbulence in the waters off Galicia at night, a university study has revealed.

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StatsDeath: A huge epidemic is growing in China. Not Covid but cigarette smoking. The country has one fifth of the world’s population yet buys half its cigarettes. A total of 2,459,569,900,000 were sold in China last year, more than the next 67 countries combined. There are 300 million smokers; one million die each year of smoking related illnesses.

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Pilton, our inactive drama critic, sharpens his HB as the admirable Tracy-Ann Oberman heads for Stratford-upon-Avon where her re-imagined RSC production, The Merchant of Venice 1936, begins previews at the Swan.  A campaigner against anti-Semitism, Oberman, who plays Shylock, had to tone down publicity for the show. She says: ‘It was Hitler’s favourite play. I wanted to put that on the posters but was told it probably wasn’t a selling point.’

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Don’t worry — be hoppy. That’s the message from Belgian Beer World, the world’s largest interactive experience centre concentrating on beer, which has just opened at the former Brussels Stock Exchange.  Belgium spent nearly €100 million to showcase its brewing history and the 1,600 beers its producers make. 

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WatchThisSpace: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has identified carbon-based molecules on a distant exoplanet suggesting it could have water and, consequently, life.

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I don’t usually lift stuff from the Mail’s excitable Hibernian scribe, mainly because it’s usually been here first, but a tale about Hugh Grant is worth passing on. The grumpy thesp is giving voice to an 18in, green-haired, orange-hued Oompa Loompa in director Paul King’s new film Wonka (sic). How did he land the part? King says: ‘I was thinking about the character, someone who can be a real shit, and I went: ‘Ah — Hugh!’

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Labour is denying that Sir Sir Keir (less to him than meets the eye) Starmer is suing Penny Mordaunt for saying he has ‘zero balls’, just like Barbie’s Ken.

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Downing Street’s iconic sooty look isn’t real, you know. It used to be back when Dick Van Dyke was sweeping London chimneys. But, during the restoration of No.10 etc in 1954, workers discovered that beneath the dirty facade the building was, in fact yellow brick. ‘The shock was considered too much for the country to take, says Jay Owens in The Guardian, ‘so the newly clean building was painted black to maintain its previous, familiar appearance.’

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America’s largest newspaper company, Gannett, is hiring two reporters, one just to cover Taylor Swift and the other Beyoncé. The move reflects the popularity of the chanteuses: Swift’s Eras tour expects to take $1.6 billion while Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour could eclipse that with $2 billion. Incidentally, both tours have done wonders for the sparkly cowboy hat industry, say Drone business analysts.

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Half of the current Billboard Hot 100 songs are in a minor (ie: sad) key. This compares with 30% at the millennium and 15% in the sixties. Even the Pharrell Williams song, Happy, is in F minor. The reason? Gen Z is perceived to be sadder than previous generations. 

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Instead of aiming for 100% in what you do —work, sport, pub quizzes, sex — and feeling dejected when you fail, it’s better to put in 85% effort, scientists have found. Or, as that well known scientific journal the Daily Star puts it: ‘If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again until you hit 85% — then give up.’

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A reader writes: ‘I was tickled by the Yesterday Once More story of Roy Wright being unable to tell what Andy Carson was saying. Who could? I understood only two things he said to me: “That headline is crap” and “If you’re buying, I’ll have a wee Bell’s and a light ale.”’

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Employment news: Durex is hiring 50 men, at £100 a pop, to test its new ultra-thin condom, Nude.

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Further to my item about Ken Dodd’s tax travails, I am reminded that he was highly amused that the Revenue office tasked with retrieving vast arrears of tax from him was in Andover.

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Did you see that little Kim Jong Un, off to a Big Boys summit in Vladivostok with Putin, prefers to travel by choo-choo?  But it’s no ordinary train. For a start, top speed is only 37mph. The 21 carriages contain a medical  centre, Kim’s personal Merc and a karaoke room. Live lobsters are airlifted in, the wine is the best France can offer and there’s, er, donkey meat for tea.

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RunForCover: This year’s crazy weather has caused insurance premiums to be even crazier, says Bloomberg. One homeowner on Miami’s Star Island, an ultra-rich enclave with some of the highest house prices in America, has been quoted $622,000 for annual house insurance, triple the previous year. A growing number of well-heeled residents are choosing to forgo hurricane insurance altogether and are trusting to luck.

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StatsLife: The number of the migrant butterfly red admiral has soared by 400% in Britain this year. The Big Butterfly Count has recorded 170,000 red admirals this summer, five times last year’s total. It’s down to climate change, apparently (You sure we can’t blame Brexit? — Ed)

Letter of the Week. Mike Roberts, of Somerset, writes to The Times about Ken Dodd: ‘I always thought his best line was after his protracted case with the Inland Revenue. “I didn’t think it applied to me — I live by the seaside”.’

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Caine’sCorner: Uncle Sam, the US government’s nickname, was a real person. One supplier to the US Army during the 1812 war was meat packer from Troy, New York, called Samuel Wilson. He labelled his barrels of beef ‘US’ which troops joked was short for Uncle Sam. In 1961 Congress adopted a resolution saluting Wilson as ‘the progenitor of America’s national symbol of “Uncle Sam”.’ NMPKT

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SportsSnaps with Rockard Rambleshanks, our man with the fluorescent pink balls


WFH has led to a boom in mid-week golf. Stanford Uni boffins (have they nothing better to do?) say the number playing on Wednesdays rose by 150% between 2019 and 2022 while those on Saturdays declined. Top pop tee time? Wednesday at 4pm - up 275%.

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About 11,000 of the 30,000 runners in the Mexico City Marathon were disqualified for taking unauthorised short cuts. Some even rode part of the course in cars or on public transport.

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Former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson denies money motivated him to switch to the new Saudi footie league. He says: ‘I just wanted something that would excite me.’ Henderson’s wedge for playing for Al Ettifaq is said to be £700,000. A week.

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Evenin’ All. Crime update with Reprobate Rambleshanks


Naughty boys in Spain have stolen 50,000 litres of a precious commodity, olive oil. The contraband, half-inched in a night-time raid, was worth €500,000. Thefts have increased since a major drought sent prices soaring. The cost of a bottle of oil in Spanish supermarkets has jumped 15% since July, according to Bloomberg.


A TV crew in Chicago was  robbed while reporting on robberies … in Chicago. The thieves even stole the camera so the story was never broadcast.


Gangs in Sweden are using Spotify to launder money. They convert the dirty cash - earned from drug deals, robberies, fraud and contract killings - into bitcoin, says Svenska Dagbladet. Then dodgy techies sell ‘fake streams’ on Spotify, earning real money for gang-affiliated artists. Nope. Me neither.

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HotSpot: Temperatures topped 43.3C (110F) for the 54th day this year in Phoenix, Arizona — a new record.

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Askin’ For A Friend: What possessed the Mail to illustrate the sad story about Alastair Stewart‘s early onset dementia diagnosis with a pic of the newsreader grinning? 

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StatsLife:  Half of Americans who earn at least $175,000 (among the richest 10% of US taxpayers) consider themselves merely ‘comfortable’. A quarter of the 1,000 surveyed by Bloomberg said they felt ‘very poor’, ‘poor’ or ‘getting by but things are tight’.

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Coffee nuts be warned: your favourite beverage, once a staple, could soon be a luxury. Demand is increasing, mainly because of a growing middle class in Asia and Africa, who see it as a status symbol, says the FT. Trouble is, warming temps mean that ‘up to half of current coffee farmland could soon be unusable’. One solution, replacing the dominant arabica bean with the hardier but ‘less refined’ robusta, would mean coffee lovers would be faced with a brew that doesn’t taste as good.

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Crime and punishment? They don’t piss about in Turkey, so be warned. The CEO of a collapsed crypto exchange has just been jailed for aggravated fraud and money laundering which cost investors $2.6 billion. The sentence? 11,196 years. Is this a record? Surprisingly not. In 1989 a woman who operated a pyramid fraud in Thailand got 141,078 years but was freed after only a few years.

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Askin’ For a Friend: Why is the river that rises in the Black Forest and empties into the Black Sea called the Blue Danube?

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Estonian high-wire loony Jaan Roose has set a new world record for the longest single-building slack line crossing. The 31-year-old battled strong winds and high temps to walk 150ft along a one-inch wire between two 60th-floor penthouses at the Katara Towers in Quatar.

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Falling battery costs and a tax exemption mean many electric cars in China are cheaper than fuel-powered equivalents. EVs account for 37% of car sales; seven of China’s best selling cars last month were electric or hybrids. Top? Tesla’s Model Y, comfortably.

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Is India about to change its name? Narendra Modi’s government has increasingly been using ‘Bharat’, the traditional Sanskrit and Hindi name, in diplomatic settings such as the G20 summit, says the Washington Post. Apparently, the word India has colonial baggage (wouldn’t you know?). There’s irony here, though.  Modi’s critics note that his Hindu nationalist BJP, party uses Bharat to ‘evoke the sense of an exclusively Hindu past’. This in a country with one of the largest Muslim populations in the world.

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Is Il Popo (as Kelvin would call him) losing it? Pope Francis has hailed the marauding Mongol tyrant Genghis Khan as a bringer of peace. Fact: up to 60 million people (11% of the world’s population) were killed during his reign of terror.

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The heatwave has melted Britain’s longest-lasting patch of snow, says my weather girl with the short skirt and the gleaming teeth who’s only filling in until a job as a reporter comes along. The patch, known as The Sphinx, in the Cairngorms has vanished only 10 times in the past 300 years. Worryingly, in this year of extreme weather, this has occurred five times in the last seven years.

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O tempora, o mores: Workers aged over 35 in China are finding it increasingly difficult to get and keep jobs. Part of the reason is the country’s notorious 996 culture (9am - 9pm, six days a week) which makes it difficult for employees with families. Also, the perception that anyone who hasn’t achieved an exec role by 35 probably isn’t worth keeping. 

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used to take samples.

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I’m depressed. Why so? I’ve just met a 17-year-old youth who has never heard of the Rolling Stones.

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Reminiscences about the intimidating bar’maid’ Mrs Moon by Richard Dismore (he’s everywhere, isn’t he?) jogs a reader’s memory. He recalls a stranger holding his freshly-drawn beer (Young’s or Fuller’s was it?) (Youngs — Ed) up to the light and exclaiming admiringly: ‘My, that’s a fine pint!’ Whereupon, La Moon expelled him. Her point was that every pint drawn in the Dive Bar was ‘fine’. To comment on it was to question this truth. 

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SportsScene by Rockard Rambleshanks, our poet in the Press Box composing cliches  (at least they’re new!)


The crowd acknowledged the pluck and fortitude of snooker ace Kyren Wilson as, obviously injured, he limped around the table at the European Masters. Training mishap, perhaps; pushing his body too far? Ahem, no. Wilson, on a stag do in the Algarve, got into a row over a doner kebab and was whacked on the calf by a baton-wielding cop. ‘I was very much the worse for wear as you’re supposed to be on a stag do,’ he explained.

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Entertaining reminiscences elsewhere about Mohamed Al Fayed fail to mention what an inspirational football club owner he was. Fulham FC were never relegated when he was there. He went through a phase of handing out Viagra tablets to the team before each match. As one player said: ‘He knew how to keep us up.’

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Young Retro’s reminiscences about Afters in Fleet Street in our nostalgic new series Yesterday Once More reminds me of a conversation with Richard Littlejohn, OTP. Rich, being an evening paper man with a different time clock, introduced me to Befores: having a snifter ahead of a pub officially opening. Once he was ‘entertaining a contact’ in the Cartoonist when two City uniforms staged a 10am ‘raid’ and came over all officious. Littlejohn’s snout had a quiet word and they pissed off: they weren’t going to argue with the head of the Flying Squad.

Just when we thought South Africa rugby bad boy Elton Jantjies stood a chance of a World Cup call-up it’s all gone wrong again. On his last international tour he went AWOL with the team’s dietician. They checked into an hotel where their exuberant shagging kept other guests awake. They also racked up a £1300 bill on food and booze before doing a runner. Even so, hard work by the fly half brought him back to the fringes of the squad. Until he tested positive for a banned body-building drug, that is. 

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For the first time in Rugby World Cup history Wales have picked a squad without a Jones in it.

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Quote of the week from an anonymous Labour MP on Sir Sir Keir Starmer’s reshuffle:‘Even Tony Blair didn’t have this many Blairites in his cabinet’.

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More than 3,000 invasive plants and animals are costing the world $423 billion in damage annually, according to a UN-backed report. That’s more than the economic toll of natural disasters. Water hyacinth is taking over lakes and rivers, blocking boats and sucking up water. Non-native grasses fuelled wildfires in Maui. Elsewhere, giant snails, bee-killing hornets and spotted lantern flies threaten ecosystems.

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StatsLife: Up to 91% of women report receiving romantic advances on LinkedIn, says survey. 

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The Slicker. Finance update with Fred Needleshanks


The world’s third most valuable carmaker is a loss-making Vietnamese EV outfit founded just six years ago. VinFast has a market cap of $218 billion, behind only Tesla ($816 billion) and Toyota ($227 billion) after its stock rose almost 700% in two weeks. Tempted to jump in? Easy, tiger: the valuation is dropping and is almost entirely ‘froth’, a combination of not many shares available and over-optimistic amateur get-rich-quick traders.

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The cargo ship snarl-up on the  Panama Canal, where drought has restricted passage and there is huge congestion, is starting to affect economies worldwide. The owners of one ship, desperate to deliver vital goods, coughed up $2.4 million to skip the queue.

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California’s economy has been deprived of almost $5 billion by the Hollywood actors’ and writers’ 127-day strike, says the FT. Other businesses, such as caterers, car rental outfits and even dry cleaners, have been badly affected. The hit from the 2007 strike, which lasted 100 days, was $2.1 billion.

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Sir Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet reshuffle summed up by the estimable Quentin Letts in the Mail: Brian Nonentity and A.N. Other have been given the elbow and replaced by N.V. Goode and Eve N. Verse.

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Pride goeth before destruction … Little Manny Macron’s vanity project, designed to cement his place in France’s history, has become the object of ridicule, says our gal with a front seat in the Place de La Concorde, knitting a Christmas jumper. His centre for celebrating and promoting the French language, which is about to open, cost €208 million, twice the original budget. Collapsed sponsorship deals mean the taxpayer is having to foot the bill. ‘Macron’s folly’, as it has already been called, is also expected to make a loss of €6 million a year.Nice Work If You Can Get It: Tiny Caribbean nation Anguilla struck gold when it was given the country-specific website domain name .ai in the Nineties. You can see where this is going: the acceleration of .ai domains — they doubled to nearly 300,000 in the past year — means that domain revenue is expected to reach as much as $30 million in 2023, roughly 10% of the country’s entire GDP, compared with $8.3 million last year.

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Further to the West Point cadets who opened a near 200-year-old time capsule at a packed college ceremony only to find it contained …mud: well, deciding that they perhaps needed to pay more attention to detail, they subsequently combed through the gunge and finally discovered six American silver coins, dated 1795-1828 plus a commemorative medal. ‘Pity we didn’t find them when we had all those people here,’ moans my grunt with the shiny shoes and the thousand-yard stare.

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Following my snippet about former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s amazing sub-par golf round comes news that President Mugshot has also been in top form. Trump carded a 67 on a 72-par course at his New Jersey club. He explains: ‘Some think that sounds low but there is no hanky-lanky. Many watch plus I’m surrounded by Secret Service agents. Not much you can do even if you wanted to — and I don’t.

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Must be something in the water but 17 sets of twins are due to start school at Inverclyde in Scotland. It continues a tradition of multiples in the area. In 2015 there were 19 sets and since 2013 a total of 147 have attended school there giving the area the name of (wait for it…wait for it) Twinverclyde. 

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Yevgeny Prigozhin: hero? villain? well meaning bloke who just got a bit carried away? Now that he’s safely dead, Russian media are doing a bit of vacuuming and tidying up. The Kremlin has already rehabilitated the boss of the Wagner group, says Ian Garner in UnHerd. He’s now ‘an exemplary military hero’. Pravda says Prigozhin was ‘an epochal man, a heroic man, a legendary man’. Hang on. What about that attempted coup? Apparently, he was simply forcing senior officials ‘to listen to the voice of the people’.

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The actor who plays Italian carmaker Enzo Ferrari in the upcoming biopic, Ferrari, wasn’t allowed to drive any of the iconic cars during filming for insurance reasons. The fact that his name is Adam Driver didn’t seem to help at all.

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Roy Keane’s brush with a fan reminds Roger Watkins, OTP, of an encounter with the excitable Hibernian footie person. He wakes, briefly, to write: ‘My family and I were dining al fresco in a restaurant in Quinta do Lago on the Algarve. My youngest daughter happened to take a pic of our table just as Keane, who we weren’t aware was there, emerged with a takeaway. Realising that he was on the snap, he went into full eye-bulging, finger-jabbing mode as if she were the ref. I’m proud to say that after a brief exchange which, among others, featured the words Pikey, off and piss the result was announced: Watkins Family 1, Keane O.’

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Must be something in the water but 17 sets of twins are due to start school at Inverclyde in Scotland. It continues a tradition of multiples in the area. In 2015 there were 19 sets and since 2013 a total of 147 have attended school there giving the area the name of (wait for it…wait for it) Twinverclyde. 

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SportsSnaps with Rockard Rambleshanks, our snout with the impeccable sources (and the gaffer’s missus on speed dial)


Fans of University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (really!) set a new global record for attendance at a women’s sports event: 92,003 people packed into a specially enlarged stadium to watch a volleyball match. It surpassed the 91,648 fans at a women’s Champions League game in Barcelona in 2022.

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Former Rangers winger Ryan Kent is settling in nicely at Turkish club Fenerbahce. There’s just one item left on his to-do list: finding a pet sitter for his two crocodiles. Kent has form. He once gave a team-mate a snake as a Secret Santa.

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Recollections vary over why German midfielder Nadiem Amiri turned down a move to Leeds United at the last minute. The club says his wage demands were too high and they sent him packing. In Germany they’re saying the Bayer Leverkusen star and his family took one look at Leeds … and legged it.

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How outrageous that a so-called star sketchwriter and columnist is allowed to describe the Leader of the Opposition as ‘a steaming dullard, a juddering bore, constipated as a camel’. It’s not clever and it’s not funny. Keir Starmer is a knight of the realm, a distinguished lawyer, an acclaimed DPP, an accomplished parliamentarian and our next prime minister. OK, so The Goss wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire but that’s neither here nor there.

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Much excitement at West Point Military Academy in the US as staff and cadets gathered for the opening of a time capsule left in 1820. Would it contain a flag? A class ring? A rousing note of encouragement to future students? Er, no. It was full of mud.

A gnarled, bemedalled  veteran comments: ‘Perhaps they should have been told that the next time you pry open a lead casket that’s been buried for centuries, please watch at least one horror movie first — y’all just released a demon!’

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Writers everywhere, be warned. After being pilloried on social media for an hilariously awful report on a football game — it included the phrase ‘a close encounter of the athletic kind’ — the Gannett-owned Columbus Dispatch has halted its Artificial Intelligence sports writing initiative. However, news outlets such as Reuter and AP persist in trying to figure out how to incorporate AI into their reporting process. They might just as well: experts estimate that 90% of internet content will be generated by it in a few years.

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Use of cannabis and psychedelic drugs among US adults hit an all-time high last year, according to a survey. Stats? 44% of people aged 19-30 and 28% of 35-50 year-olds reported using marijuana. More than 11% of young adults used cannabis on at least 20 of the previous 30 days. Psychedelic drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin  were used by 8% of young adults — more than double the rate in 2012.

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Strange People, The Yanks: Tamis Manis, 58, of Knoxville, Tennessee, has just set a Guinness World Record: for the length of her mullet. Measured at 5ft 8ins, it was last cut 33 years ago. 

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StatsLife: CDs now make up only 3% of the music industry’s earnings, down from 96% in 2002.

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Letter of the Week from Elizabeth Challen, of Twickenham, in The Times: Can nothing be done about the plague of inanimate objects talking to us? Lorries on the motorway inform me ‘I’m green’, the cornflakes packet tells me ‘I’m recyclable’, the magazine wrapper implores me ‘Don’t put me in the bin’. A house spoke to me the other day to say ‘I’m for sale’. The final straw came in the ladies’ lavatory at the motorway services, which cooed: ‘I’m sorry, I’m out of order but I WILL BE BACK SOON!’ I wrote on it: ‘Thank you for reaching out to me. Best wishes. Have a nice day.’

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 Thanks to Fru Fru, our eager gender-fluid fashion intern with a City and Guilds in cross stitch, for alerting us to the fact that biker boots are the new ‘thing’. Miu Miu’s  autumn/winter collection started it all and now everyone’s offering their own take. This includes Paris Brown’s distressed brown boots. Vogue suggests combining them with a slip dress or Bermuda shorts for an ‘unexpected, yet undeniably chic, combo’.

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Strange People, The Yanks: Tourists seeking a different New York experience are signing up for late night rat tours. Guides shepherd them around well known rat runs near the Rockefeller Center and in Flushing and Sunnyside, Queens. The city’s rodent population is booming: there were 60,000 reports of activity in 2022, a 102% increase on 2021. Aaron Liddell, who journeyed to NYC with his wife from Pennsylvania just to join a rat tour, confided: ‘It’s just one of those things you gotta see.’ Aaron particularly likes to (and you may wish to avert your eyes) pinch the rats’ long, pink tails.

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I don’t know what Young, Wood, Dempster et al would have made of it but Paris Hilton has acquired a special anti-paparazzi scarf to foil eager snappers. The £150 garment’s highly reflective material makes the flash extra bright, effectively turning the wearer invisible.

Ferrari and a Range Rover Sport, worth a total of £1 million plus have been returned to two Premier League footie stars after being found in a container bound for Dubai at Thurrock, Essex.

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Times online reported that a super blue moon would brighten UK skies ‘in a rare phenomena’. Where have all the classicists gone?

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It’s still the Silly Season (just) so no apologies for breathlessly quoting Mandrake in The New European that Rishi, stung by criticism that his trousers are too short, has decided to wear longer-length outfits. 

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More than 100 million tomatoes have been thrown in the streets of Bunol, Spain, as the world’s largest food fight takes place. Known as La Tomatina, the annual festival draws an army of 20,000 tomato chuckers. Oh, what a mess! Not really. Once it’s all cleared up, the citric acid in the fruit leaves Bunol more sparkling than before.

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Caine’s Corner: The English are sometimes known, with a sort of grudging respect, in Argentina as Las Piratas after Sir Francis Drake. NMPKT

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O tempora, o mores: Rory Stewart’s father died in his arms after suffering a heart attack in 2015. When the then Tory junior minister returned to work on Monday, his boss, Liz Truss, asked him how his weekend had been. ‘I explained that my father had died,’ he writes in his new book, Politics on the Edge. ‘She paused for a moment, nodded and asked when the 25-year environment plan would be ready.’

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It’s little known but Luis Rubiales, the baldy at the centre of the Spanish kissgate batahola, used to play as a defender for Scottish team Hamilton Academical. Four games, four defeats. Then he moved on to greater things.  Accies’ former chairman Ronnie MacDonald remembers: ‘He was a proper gentleman, polite to everyone. I’d never guess he’d be involved in something like this. You never know what’s coming but at this club there’s always something coming…’

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Village sign enthusiasts among Drone readers, of whom there are a few, follow up my vignette about Cock Bridge losing its signs to souvenir hunters. Apparently those in the nearby hamlet of Lost are regularly, er, lost. And don’t get me started about Twatt on Orkney. Further south in Dorset, residents clubbed together to carve their village name on a one-and-half tonne slab of Purbeck stone. ‘Let’s see them try to take that away in the back of a Ford Fiesta,’ says Ian Ventham, chairman of the parish council in Shitterton.

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This Sporting Wossname with Rockard Rambleshanks, our side-stepping superstar who’s a bit standoffish.

England’s rugby woe as the World Cup looms wrings no tears from The Goss. Statistically, the team should win every match it plays. Out of 6.6 million players of all ages registered with World Rugby,  England has 2,220,988; Fiji who have just beaten England for the first time just 136,030. Ireland has 237,080; Wales 60,557; Scotland 62,500 and perennial over-achievers New Zealand 156,893.

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Just thought you’d want to know: London Zoo has just conducted the yearly weigh-in of its 14,000+ animals. Not only does it update records but it helps other zoos to benchmark animal health.

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Now over to the Economist for our Letter of the Week: ‘Your article on smuggling banned products into Iran reminded me of the problems encountered by foreign embassies in Saudi Arabia when the importation of alcohol was prohibited. Import papers had to be crafted so as not to raise alarms. As a result, the British embassy was informed by Saudi customs that “your consignment of pianos is leaking”.’

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O tempora, o mores: The French government is allocating €200 million to destroy surplus wine and support producers. A growing thirst for craft beer over vino is the reason. The cash will buy excess stock; the alcohol will be sold for use in hand sanitiser, cleaning products and perfume. In 1926 the average French citizen drank 136 litres of wine a year; today it’s 40 litres.

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O tempora, o mores: The tiny Aberdeenshire village of Cock Bridge has ordered tamper-proof signs to deter thieves.  Souvenir hunters regularly take the place name. Now local councillor Geva Blackette says: ‘I want it back up: it’s a world-famous sign. But when the sign for Cock Bridge goes up next it must stay up.’

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The Goss Colour Supplement: Welcome to some new highly specific colours you’ve never heard of, according to the website Mental Floss. Bamber-Amber, used in theatres to give the illusion of dawn or dusk; Drunk Tank Pink, proven to have a calming quality when painted on the walls of police holding cells; Lusty Gallant, the name of a Tudor dance adopted as a colour by Elizabethan dressmakers and Sang-de-Boeuf, another word for the rich crimson of ox blood.

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As Quantas prepares to launch 22-hour, nonstop flights from Sydney to London and New York, the airline has been using volunteers, hooked up to biometrics monitors, to find ways to combat jet lag. Result? Eat plenty of chocolate and chilli is the advice: they encourage a healthy sleeping pattern and better adaptation to new time zones.

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Shame, isn’t it, that the Trump mugshot has given naughty media outlets the excuse to re-use the LAPD image of Shit Grant (wearing a truly awful shirt, by the way)? It was taken in ‘95 after vice cops swooped on him receiving a BJ from prostitute Divine (sic) Brown in his parked BMW near Sunset Boulevard. She said police were alerted by flashing brake lights inadvertently caused by Shit in rhythmic extremis. His ‘career’ hardly suffered. Divine made $1.6 million from the publicity, enabling her to buy a house and educate her daughters privately.

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StatsLife: The number of illegal migrants in Britain is 100,000; six million have entered the US during Biden’s presidency alone.

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Only 35 non-English songs have reached the Top 10 of the Billboard chart since it began in 1958, says the Drone’s tame troubadour Rihanna Rambleshanks. Six of those have been this year though.

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The boss has allowed me a few days’ respite from my treadmill tyranny and deadline drudgery (It’s only The Goss, for fuck’s sake - Ed). I told him I’d be out of contact in Communicado, a cliff top village down the coast from Cognito. ‘OK’, he said, ‘but don’t let me catch you in Flagrantedelicto’. Chance’d be a fine thing.

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QwickQwiz: What have Ronald Reagan and Robert Redford in common with Rockard, Rhett, Reynard and Rosalie Rambleshanks? (Er, none of them exist — Ed)

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O tempora, o mores: Of course you need one; you just never knew you did. A wine bag that is, somewhere to put that bottle of Chateau Cashinella you pick up on the way to a ‘do’. Let’s banish carrier bags, shall we? Instead, posh plonk holders include Anya Hindmarch’s seagrass model (£225), a cork-topped carafe by Ancient Greek Sandals (£200) or really impress with Mulberry’s two-bottle carrier in ‘vintage oak’ leather (£495).

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Never let it be said that The Goss is outside the gastronomic beltway. Thus, sidle up to Darkroom Core, which is currently exercising America’s trendiest eateries, says the NY Times. The aesthetic of ‘dim interiors lit primarily in red’ is thought to stimulate hunger, cover up diners’ blemishes and evoke a sexy, nocturnal atmosphere. A bit like the old Express canteen, then.

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Whatever’s going on in Russia, its economy really is suffering from the war and stringent sanctions. The rouble has dropped 40% since November; energy sales are down to €2 billion a month from €12 billion last year. The Kremlin can’t afford aircraft parts: some passenger jets have to land with their brakes switched off so as not to wear them out. Pilots rely on reverse thrust alone.

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Sporting Snippetettes by Rockard Rambleshanks, our scout in the home team’s showers on a slippery slope with the slippery soap

Anxious to attract sporting stars, North Korea is inviting leading golfers to play the Taesong course in Pyongyang. This is where former leader Kim Jong Il shot an incredible 38-under round which included an unprecedented 11 holes in one: a feat witnessed, authenticated and verified by at least 17 personal bodyguards.

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Goalkeeper David Raya, Arsenal’s new signing from Brentford, embarrassingly has a tattoo celebrating the West London club’s win over the Gunners in 2021.

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Amid praise for the Lionesses Down Under and England’s Ashes fightback at home, let’s not forget the Silver Ashes, in which our over-70 cricketers dominated a three-match series of ODIs. Special mention to England captain John Evans, 71 in July, who hit a splendid 114 against the Aussie visitors in a ‘Test’ at Colchester. As he said, not bad for a man who waited six decades for his international debut.

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West Indies cricketer Sherman’s Rutherford was named player of the series in the GlobalT20Canada tournament. His prize: half an acre of land in the USA.

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Miami Marlins baseball franchise celebrated the capture of Chicago White Sox infielder Jake Burger by flogging burgers at a cut price $5. Now fans clamour for the signing of Yankees’ pitcher Dan Oysters’n’champagne. 

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StatsLife: The crap late summer has provoked a last-minute rush to the sun. British Airways Holidays has seen a 22% year-on-year increase in bookings; Club Med’s sales are up 146%.

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India’s successful moon shot, apart from proving how the Drone Picture Desk leaves no scone unturned in its space coverage (It was a crumpet, dolt — Ed), reveals how daft Britain’s foreign aid policy is. In the five years to 2021 we spent £2.3 billion on aid to India, which has a larger economy, and this is set to continue. Eh?

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Joke of the Week

Old man at GP surgery: I’ve had to buy a roof rack. His friend: Why? OM: To get my prescription drugs home.  This is an entrant in the Online Newspapers’ Life’s a Joke contest. Is this the best you can do? — Ed

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Caine Corner: the Royal Mint is making jewellery out of silver extracted from old x-rays. Metal will be taken from the hundreds of tonnes of images stored by the NHS. It will be fashioned into pendants and bracelets celebrating sustainable design. NMPKT

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If you thought the airport was busy (and the Red Lion in Swanage was heaving) this summer, brace yourselves. You ain’t seen nothing yet. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that travel will be a $15 trillion industry by 2033. That’s 11.6% of the global economy and a 50% increase from 2019. Some 430 million people will work in travel - one in every nine jobs worldwide.

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A Times Letters correspondent, pondering, like many, the future of the longest-serving Home Secretary in the history of the world, writes: ‘In your story about Suella Braverman you describe her as a polarising figure, with some of her colleagues describing her as “totally useless” and others hailing her as a future party leader. I’d like to point out that, based on recent experience, the one doesn’t rule out the other.’

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Our old pal, Bic Mac, holiday stand-in on another publication, mentions difficult interviewees. What about Vladimir Nabokov who never gave a one-to-one without having the questions in advance? Once he greeted a journalist with: ‘Here’s your interview: you can go home now.’ He handed over a sealed envelope marked ‘finished interview’ containing his thoughts on Don Quixote, being a lepidopterist and Ezra Pound (‘that total fake’).

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Stat’sLife: 17 million: population of Netherlands; 22 million: bike population of Netherlands; 12,000: number of bikes dredged from Amsterdam’s canals — each year.

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Much hilarity in the BB of the FF over my item about people being naughty in the driverless taxis of San Francisco. Now I hear the cars are also the object of amusement. Ten suddenly stopped, causing chaos at a busy junction outside a music festival. Concertgoers using their mobiles had disrupted the cabs’ communications. Another cab drove on to a construction site and became embedded in fast-setting concrete. More seriously, a fare was hurt when his taxi failed to give way to a fire engine on blue light alert.

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Remember the rumpus when boys were forced to learn ‘domestic kitchen’ at school? Actually, I don’t: we did Greek instead. Russia, though, is beginning classes which require teenagers to be taught how to strip down, assemble and clean Kalashnikovs. Using hand grenades and first aid in combat are also on the curriculum. By the way, UK defence chiefs estimate Russian casualties to be 220,000 in the Ukraine war.

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Egalité? C’est couilles! France is now home to 2,821,000 dollar millionaires, says UBS. (Britain has 2,556,000). Good for the French economy maybe but it doesn’t help Macron’s ‘we’re all in this together’ vibe.

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Much grumpiness at the Drone where staff shortages have led to copy hardly being subbed. Shame-faced Chief Sub LP Brevmin says: ‘It’s true. Some of the so-called ‘celebrity columns’ have got away with it. As a result, there’s been an awful lot of dross in the Drone. Writers used to self sub but not in any more. Anyone got a number for Bunny Laws?’ (If I could get Brevmin out of the pub, things might improve  — Ed)

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A recent re-run of Great Hoary Anecdote No. 33 prompts a reader to comment: ‘I remember Billy Montgomery, who was there, thought it frightfully poor form’. (As would any alumnus of Dollar Academy like what Bill was — Ed)

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Evenin’ all with Reprobate Rambleshanks, Crime Corr

One of Italy’s Most Wanted, Mafia capo Vincenzo La Porta, spent 11 years on the run, sometimes living on rain water and tinned sardines, before setting up, under an assumed identity, on Corfu. All sunshine and spanakopita, then. Until his beloved Napoli won their first Serie A title in 30 years: Vinnie, hearing fans celebrating in a restaurant below his apartment, couldn’t resist joining them. Alas, pesky social media pix were spotted by the carabinieri and his collar was felt a few days later.

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My titbit about shuffling cards has had abacus-wielding Drone readers in a bit of a frenzy. One called Wood, who boasts he was a Wizard of the Slide Rule, (I’ll be the judge of that, Stevie love — Ed) says: ‘If the TikTok Twat is correct, you could make a strong claim that no two packs of cards in history, when properly shuffled, have had the same sequence.’

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As temps remain high, zoo keepers in Dallas are making ice lollies for the lions — out of horses’ blood. (Oh purlease! — Ed)

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Oh, I say: the MoS carries a picture of Dick Emery as Bovver Boy in a spread on the enduring appeal of denim. Dick Emery died 40 years ago.

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Great Hoary Anecdotes No. 33. Talk about dropping in for lunch! Give Jameson his due, he carried on as if nothing had happened — Ed 

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The case of Andrew Malkinson, whose rape conviction, for which he spent 17 years in jail, was quashed after another man’s saliva was found on the victim’s vest, is such a scandal that I am surprised that more people in public office aren’t shouting from the rooftops. It turns out that the CPS first received this vital DNA evidence in 2009. Who was DPP then? Well, there’s less to him than meets the eye, certainly. He is a man who rose without trace and on whom The Goss wouldn’t piss if he were on fire. That’s who.

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StatsLife: A third of people in the US have a tattoo; 22% have more than one. More women (38%) have one than men (27%). Gays (50% +) outnumber straights (31%); young, under 30 (41%), pensioners (13%). The tattoo industry will hit $3.9 billion by 2030. Removing them is also big business and is expected to bring in $795 million in 2027.

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Freckles, once considered an imperfection to be hidden, are now desirable, the Washington Post confides. So much so, that digital ‘freckle filters’ are available on Snapchat and Instagram to doctor pix. Freckle pens can be used on your face and, for the really committed, a tattoo-like procedure can apply fake ‘sun-dappled dots’ which last up to three years.

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Lovely tale, courtesy of Popbitch, about Michael Parkinson when he was working in Oz in the 80s. Elton John invited him and wife, Mary, to a yacht party. Alas, they were late and arrived to see HMS Elton sailing towards the horizon. Friendly harbour police came to the rescue, though, and ferried them out to the vessel. Was Elton impressed? Was he fuck. Seeing the police launch approaching, the yacht’s revellers assumed it was a drug bust and dumped all their gear overboard —thousands of pounds worth.

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The Goss, scarcely literate, never mind numerate, passes on this from a TikTok Twat:

He says that the possible number of ways you can shuffle a pack of cards is so unfathomably large that you could gather 1 trillion people, hand each of them 52 cards, tell them to shuffle them 1 trillion times a second for 1 trillion years, let that happen across 1 trillion civilisations in the universe, let that happen across 1 trillion universes … and a pack of cards you shuffled right now would only have a 40% chance of matching the sequence of any single one of the packs in this experiment. Er, that’s it.  

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More good news from the world’s greatest paperless newspaper: the clean energy revolution is accelerating. Renewables are projected to surpass coal as the world’s top electricity source in 2025.

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Do you sometimes wonder about Aussies? Their government has hired an ethics consultant to advise on how to work with consultants. The consultant who recruits the most consultants will win … a pink car. Oh frabjous day!

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Say what you like about the Beeb, it’s the world’s most trusted source of news and other info. In June bbc.co.uk and bbc.com had 1.1 billion visits, 3% up year on year. That’s well ahead of No.2, msn.com on 733.9 million. Mind you, timesofindia.com, with only 193.4 million visits, has put on 35% YOY. 

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A rare two-headed snake is back on display in a Texas zoo after taking two years to recover from an injury caused when it tried to go in two directions at once. (I promise I’m not making this up. Indeed, I’m lifting it from a very reputable website). The 3ft long Western rat snake, known as Pancho and Lefty, has the same condition which results in conjoined twins in humans.

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O tempora, o mores: thousands of troops and police were needed to move just one man — a gang leader called Fito — to a maximum security jail in Ecuador. It follows a massive operation, aided by the FBI, to find who assassinated presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, an outspoken critic of corruption and organised crime.

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Not sure whether to file this in Caine’s Corner or under Remember Who Told You First but we’ve all been frustrated by those daft ‘are you a robot?’ tests where you have to list how many tractors or traffic lights etc appear in a grid. But I didn’t know that so-called CAPTCHA programmes come from Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

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Diana, Princess of Wales, was so ahead of her time when it came to shoes, gushes Frou-Frou, our new gender-fluid fashion intern with an AI laser tape measure and a City and Guilds in cross stitch.  Not only are her ballet flats back in vogue but ‘silver shoes’, which she spent the 80s and 90s wearing, are one of the most popular trends this summer. The late icon had so many shoes that costly cobbler Jimmy Choo confessed he had lost count of those he had designed for her.

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Elsewhere, there’s mention of a cafe owner in Lake Como charging €2 to cut a toastie in two. Now I hear of another case of outrageous banditry: €20, added to the restaurant bill as ‘servizio torta’. That’s slicing up a cake to you and me.

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Ever wonder how a ragtag mob as bizarre as UKIP screened its candidates? Former party treasurer Andrew Reid sheds some light in a new book: one felt she was born on Sirius eight light years away; another subscribed to the ‘lizard people’ theory about the royal family and yet another had been ‘convicted of starving 250 sheep to death’. One would-be candidate, asked to pledge that they had ‘never engaged in, advocated or condoned racist, violent, criminal or anti-democratic activity’, crossed out ‘criminal’.

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The things they say: Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, was asked what advice he’d give to young entrepreneurs wishing to make a fortune. ‘Make sure you have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror.’

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My whimsical jotting about holes in copy prompts an aged reader to wake up and recall the occasional stand-in copytaster with the florid face and early onset paranoia who had a unique way of ‘spiking/filing’ stories he deemed not fit for use. He used to attach paper clips to the sheets and slot them onto a spike. Then, when the cry went up: Hey, anyone seen Wild Gunman Wipes Out Cabinet? he would discreetly slip the copy from the clips and hand it over — without any telltale holes.

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The Goss mention of Iowa State Fair aroused a fever of interest (Eh? — Ed). If you intend going, and there’s still time, forget cutlery. Everything to eat there is served on a stick: hard boiled eggs, deep fried strawberry shortcake, pickles, edible dough. But the No.1 dish, as voted by readers of the Des Moines Register, is pork chop on a stick. Way to go, buddy. 

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StatsLife: Oppenheimer, at more than $500 million, has become the highest-grossing film set in World War II, eclipsing Dunkirk and Saving Private Ryan.

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What is a significant plank in Japan’s healthy economy? Cherry blossoms, believe it or not. The annual floral display generates billions of dollars through tourism and predicting when the trees bloom is a fine art. In 2007 the Japan Meteorological Agency had to make a grovelling apology  when its blossom forecast was nine days out. Now private companies employ teams to take temperatures and monitor trees. This year analyst Hiroki predicted Tokyo’s first blooms to within a day

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Nanny always said eating too much cheap, ultra-processed food was bad for a chap (and chapesses, I suppose). But it’s true, says Henry Dimbleby in his new book, Ravenous. Today 28% of Britons are obese; in 1950, before junk food took off, it was 1%.

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Last word on Ron and Eth (with apologies to Muir and Norden): 'Ooooh, Ron. I see you there with your eyes narrowed and sinister, your finely-sculpted lips drawn back in a demonic leer, your cheeks flushed, your breath coming in short pants and your hands fluttering nervously by your sides. What are you thinking about, my beloved?’ ‘Nothing, Eth.’

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Give Gwyneth Paltrow her due: she’s one cool girl. Her magnanimous reaction to her ski crash court victory showed why she’s so popular. Which brings me to the revelation that she used to carry a separate mobile phone for every man she was dating in addition to her main device. That was so she knew which one was calling. At one point in 2000 she had dedicated mobiles for Ben Affleck, talent manager Guy Oseary and, despite the fact that he was engaged to Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt. May I say: Atta girl?

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Depressing statistic of our time: if you live in Hampstead you can expect to survive 12 years longer than someone born in Glasgow. That’s 88 years old compared with 76. Fifteen of the top 20 parly constituencies with highest life expectancies are in London and the south east; 17 of the worst are in Scotland; Glasgow’s seven seats fill the bottom seven spots. I’m tempted to say it must be all those deep fried Mars bars but you wouldn’t approve so I won’t.

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What’s depressing me about Trump’s upcoming comeuppance in court (although if you believe that, you’ll believe anything) isn’t that he is the first former president to face criminal charges but hearing a breathless BBC hack saying that he’s in ‘unchartered waters’.

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I habitually take half a hour or so every April 1 to go through the papers to spot their April Fool japes. I’m so glad the Daily Drone doesn’t go in for that sort of thing, aren’t you?

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Witty gag writers who contribute to the Drone have been asked to tone down their humour. A confidential memo from the editor, seen by a Goss nark, warns that too much hilarity isn’t good for the ageing readership. Compline and a period of silent, contemplative prayer will follow shortly.

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Old Man Manners, the hermit seer of the North, he say: Good news travels fast; Goss travels at speed of light. 

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I have been admonished by Take It From Here fans for not crediting the fabulous writing duo, Frank Muir and Denis Norden, for their razor-sharp scripts. As I do so, here’s another example of Ron and Eth’s frustrated canoodling. For a change, they are grappling on the sofa when Mr Glum (Jimmy Edwards) bursts in: ‘Ullo, ullo! Sorry to interrupt but have you seen the garden shears? Mrs Glum wants to do her eyebrows.’

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It gives me little pleasure to join the throng gleefully pissing on the chips of those stone-throwing glasshouse dwellers on the Grauniad but their abject apology, accompanied by £10million for ‘restorative justice’, for their founders’ link with slavery is beyond satire. And, as Charles Moore points out in the Spectator, poses a dilemma. Website readers of the paper which lauds its ‘fearless journalism’ are regularly asked to make a donation. But to what? The current newspaper or historical reparations? Better to pay directly to the cause, says Moore, rather than ‘rewarding a paper which has taken two centuries to admit its wickedness’.

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Can’t resist Lily Savage’s view on weddings: ‘It’s a very big occasion to make it up the aisle in Liverpool. Usually you just get shagged in a bus shelter.’

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Sweden’s gone bonkers! A huge wave of gun violence is sweeping the supposedly peaceful Shangri-La. Twenty years ago the country had fewer than 10 gun-based murders a  year. In 2022 there were 391 shootings, in which 63 were killed, and 90 explosions involving hand grenades and homemade explosives. This year? 71 shootings; 38 explosions. Stockholm is thought to contain three times as many illegal firearms as London which has 10 times the population.

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My nostalgic reference to Ron Glum and his fiancée, Eth, prompts a flurry of emails from readers either reminiscing or in WTF mode. They were, of course, the long-engaged couple, played by Dick Bentley and June Whitfield in the radio series Take It From Here, who could never quite get it on or have it off. Sometimes Eth would inquire: ‘Oh, Ron. Is there anything on your mind, beloved?’ To which he would reply: ‘No, Eth.’ I vaguely recall Eth saying: ‘Oh, Ron. Do you expect me to just sit here like a lemon?’ ‘No thanks, Eth, I’ve just had a banana.’

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Richard Dismore sets a tantalising puzzle at the end of his new column:  Fill in the blanks in the sentence: ‘If that’s a splash…’ Writing hacks almost always go for: ‘My prick’s a bloater’. Subs, being wordsmiths seduced by alliteration, prefer: ‘My cock’s a kipper’. Dismore, of course, would say: My dick’s a Dickie’.

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What a wasted opportunity when ITV News paid generous tribute to Paul O’Grady, who has just died. A police raid on a gay club where he was performing in the eighties was recalled, mainly because the cops, astonishingly, wore rubber gloves fearing they might catch AIDS. Alas, ITV neglected to record O’Grady’s response: ‘Oh, look. It’s the police come to do the washing up.’

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Anyone who’s drunk in an American bar knows how spiteful mandatory tipping can be: currently 20%, I’m told. Yet in the 19th century the practice was considered ‘disgustingly Un-American’. In the early 1900s some states even passed laws banning it. Now, though, tipping fuels tens of billions of dollars in the U.S. hospitality industry and makes up the bulk of workers’ pay.

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Eagle eyes are constantly focussed on Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis these days. Now we are told he has ‘terrible table manners’. Former aides report that on a flight from Tallahassee to Washington he wolfed down a choccie pud using only three fingers. I don’t know why but I am tempted to say: ‘Ooooh, Ron.’ You are supposed to reply: ‘Yes, Ef.’

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Boris’s fans (and they’re looking more bonkers by the day) claim he won the 2019 election on his own. But, the FT’s Tim Bale confides, detailed polling reveals the victory owed more to the slogan Get Brexit Done and almost universal antipathy to Corbyn than any great love for the blond mop head. On election day he was actually less popular with voters than Corbyn or May were at the 2017 election.

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The narrow-eyed rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ fraternity are marking the 21st anniversary of the death of Simo Häyhä at 96. His is not a name on most people’s lips but he is a genuine legend. The White Death, as he is known, is history’s leading exponent of a highly refined art: sniping. During the four-month Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-40 he shot 500 enemy troops — at long range. He was truly phenomenal and had the ability to estimate distances with an accuracy of one metre over 150. Once, for fun, he hit a target 16 times in a minute from 150 metres away.

*****

It’s a small world: on the back of Westminster School’s decision to admit girls at all ages, Giles Coren writes a nostalgic piece in The Times about his time in Rigaud’s house; meanwhile, his wife, Esther is beavering away on a Telegraph reminiscence on her years in Westminster’s sixth form. Nice work if you can get it.

*****

Forget the frustrations with beleaguered health services everywhere. The medical staff, particularly surgeons, are fantastic. Doctors in Turin have restored a blind man’s sight by transplanting part of one eye into the other which began to work again. Emiliano Bosca, 83, says: ‘I woke from the anaesthetic and could see the outline of my fingers: I felt as though I was being born again.’

*****

Reluctant Romeos in China are renting girlfriends at £120 a day to stop their mums nagging them to find a nice girl and settle down. Worried parents are even arranging blind dates for their sons in the hope they’ll find someone.  A 29-year-old graduate, who regularly poses as a potential bride, tells the South China Morning Post business is booming. She doubles her rates and books multiple ‘dates’ a day at peak times. Most lads just want someone nice to introduce to mum. Sweet, in a way, isn’t it?

*****

What are we to make of the fact that even fewer journalism trainees achieve 100wpm shorthand? Only 17% passed in 2021-22, compared with 21% and 24% the two years before. Yet an NCTJ survey reveals that 82% of media employers consider shorthand to be vital, desirable or essential. My old shorthand teacher, Miss Fitztitely (180wpm Pitman’s), must be spinning in her grave.

*****

There are few politicians more up themselves than doe-eyed Andy Burnham, Labour mayor of Manchester. So let’s all cry cock-a-doodle doo now that some chickens have flocked home to roost. Burnham, an outspoken denouncer of speeding motorists, has just been fined a chunky wedge for driving at nearly twice the speed limit. This is same Andy Burnham who criticised Boris for undermining trust and integrity in politics and called on him to quit. Latest score: Andy Burnham: £1,984 fine; Boris: £50. 

*****

Another titbit from The Goss’s Tomorrow’s World section: athletes and spectators at next year’s Paris Olympics hope to be able to travel from one venue to another by electric air taxi. Five ‘vertiports’ will be set up across the city enabling pilots to ferry around solo travellers. There is a downside, however. Aviation experts are concerned the taxis might be vulnerable to down draft from passing choppers.

*****

The ‘Cronut’ (a croissant-doughnut mix): so passé; the ‘cruffin’ (a croissant-muffin) ancien aussi. Latest trendy pastry is a cube-shaped croissant from Le Deli Robuchon. The London patisserie’s Le Cube Robuchon is a flaky confection full of chocolate, vanilla or matcha cream. £6.95 to you, squire. But hurry. They usually sell out by mid morning, says my random Rambleshank on the coffee/pastry run.

*****

The newspaper without a discernible revise system, which I am unable to name, carries a picture of Call the Midwife star Helen George stepping out with a new, brunette hairstyle. Writer Ronan O’Reilly (we have a name and shame protocol here) identifies and prices her handbag and trainers and lists her past credits including a sixth place in Strictly. Alas, there’s no mention of Helen’s current starring role in a lavish multi-date touring production of the King and I which was even featured on Saturday night telly.

Nice turn of phrase from Rose Wild’s Feedback column in The Times on newspapers’ use of short forms such as ban, probe and axe: ‘Headline writers probably dream in three and four-letter words.’

*****

The Goss came down like the wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold.

Just days after the Goss proclaimed a complete boycott of this year’s Proms because of the BBC’s decision to axe the BBC Singers, Corporation chiefs have climbed down (they’re rather good at that lately).  It may also have had something to do with a huge cry of outrage from the classical music world and a 140,000-signature petition. The closure of the choir to save about £1.3 million annually has been suspended while alternative funding is explored. In other news, Gary Lineker is paid £1.3 million pa by the hapless Beeb.

*****

Beleagured Boris Johnson hired (aided by sizeable infusion of taxpayers’ spondulicks) a team of very specialist lawyers to help him fight his case against the Partygate Privileges Committee. Before his appearance in front of Madame Hattie Defarge and Co he was spotted in the Fetter Lane offices of Peters & Peters. Who they? According to an established registry, they are listed as a top firm for ‘Fraud: White-collar Crime (Advice To Individuals)’. It’s probably not significant, though.

 *****

Overheard in Fortnum and Mason (Sure you don’t mean Freeman, Hardy and Willis? — Ed): ‘Of course, I always turn to The Goss first with my morning Ethiopian, Petunia. Religiously. Yes, even before darling Pat Kidd in The Times. And as for that strange chap on the Mail — no, not Andrew Pearce — sometimes I don’t get to him at all.’

*****

Our mission on The Goss is to boldly go to the outer reaches of the vast, forbidding universe of knowledge (Get on with it! — Ed) to bring you snippets such as: Slovenian skier Ema Klinec has set a new world record for ‘sky flying’ — a sort of super ski jump. Competing at the Norwegian resort of Vikersund, the 24-year-old ‘flew’ nearly 250 yards and was airborne for an astonishing eight seconds. Atta girl!

*****

I don’t want to worry you but we all know that what happens in the States usually occurs here, too. So look out for a boom in car thefts. Last year in the U.S. they went up 50% in Atlanta and El Paso, doubled in Chicago and tripled in Dayton, Ohio. Why? Viral TikTok videos by so-called Kia Boys show how to start Kias or Hyundais using a USB charger. In the first half of 2022 Chicago had 551 Kia or Hyundai vehicles half-inched; second half: 6,250! 

*****

As the Met tailspins into a deepening crisis, a cautionary tale from Central America: the 90% approval rating for El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, is attributed to a dramatic drop in violence and crime. The murder rate has fallen from 106 per 100,000 people - the world’s highest - to just 7.8, triggering a revived tourism industry and a boost to the economy.  Lonely Planet even lists the country as a ‘top destination’. All good news, then? Not really. Bukele’s mano dura (iron fist) has produced a new law allowing police to arrest anyone without cause. Since then 62,000 (2% of the adult population) have been locked up by the state. Now people are more terrified of the police than they previously were of gangs.

*****

Breakfast cereal has come to the crunch. With more people favouring eggs, yoghurt or skipping the meal entirely, cereal makers have had to come up with a new marketing wheeze: bedtime cereal, eaten before turning in. One product, Sweet Dreams, touts notes of lavender and chamomile as well as vitamins and minerals to increase production of the sweet hormone melatonin. It’s all billhooks* isn’t it? 

*Food Standards Agency guidelines

It’s OK to say bollocks when it is bollocks — Ed

*****

Chilling, isn’t it, to see Putin and visiting Xi Jinping cosying up together in Moscow? But, hey, it’s just for the cameras, yes? Hmm.  Apparently not. The 10-year bromance between the two leaders is real.  They have a lot in common: similar age, dads who fought in the war, daughters. They bonded at a 2013 summit when it was Putin’s birthday. Xi threw an impromptu party and the two shared cake, sandwiches and vodka shots late into the night. Xi later said of Putin: ‘No matter what fluctuations there are in the international situation, he is my best, most intimate friend.’

*****

There’s nowhere left to hide for the Met after the Casey Report: but where does it leave Captain Hindsight? According to Casey,  trust in the police plummeted about the time a certain Cressida Dick led the Met from 2017 to 2022. And who was an enthusiastic cheerleader for her? Step forward Sir Keir Starmer. Even after Sarah Everard’s murder, he was telling Good Morning Britain: ‘I’ve worked with Cressida over many years in relation to some very serious operations when I was Director of Public Prosecutions and I was pleased that her contract was extended and I support her.’ One thing you’ve got to say about Keir: he’s completely unspoiled by failure.

Bird boffins from the University of Exeter have been on to confide that flamingos form social cliques based on their personalities. They studied a ‘flamboyance’ of 147 Caribbean pink ‘uns and a gathering of 115 of the Chilean variety. The Caribs were generally a bolshy lot with the bolder birds ganging together. They not only started more fights but were more likely to pile in if their mates did. Who knew? (And who cared? — Ed)

*****

Following my GossGem about Noel Coward, Raviolo, my favourite cocktail guru, diamanté-encrusted swizzle-stick agleam, FaceTimes from Frambo’s lounge on West 71st Street to reveal how the polymath liked his Martini: London gin, one olive and a token wave of the glass in the general direction of Rome.

*****

Stop me if you’ve heard it, but thanks to Oliver Soden’s new biography of Noel Coward for reminding us of The Master’s reaction to an ad for the 1954 Michael Redgrave-Dirk Bogarde film, The Sea Shall Not Have Them: ‘I don’t know why not — everyone else has.’

*****

Now it can be told: Sweden had such major concern about the dwindling birth rate in 2001 that the government hired Bjorn Borg to lead a campaign to get the population, er, bonking. In a full-page ad in the business daily Dagens Industri, the tennis champ declared: ‘There aren’t enough babies being born but there’s a simple solution that’s both enjoyable and relaxing. Get to it!’ The ad ended with the catchy come-on: Frack* For The Future!

*for att skydda de oskyldiga

*****

Who’d be a clickbait chancer on the online La-di-da? Some poor sap bylined ‘Jennie Buzaglo’ (get a proper job, luv) files a ‘story’ at 6.57 am proclaiming that there has been a ‘huge shake-up’ on BBC Breakfast. She takes 14 pars to tell us that one presenter and a weather woman she expected to be on duty, er, weren’t. Those damned rota rejigs!

*****
We (or at least I) have chuckled here over Michael Caine’s stage name. When he was known as Michael Scott, he was in a Leicester Square phone box on a call to his agent who told him another actor was already using that name and he should choose another. Looking around for inspiration he saw a half-obscured poster for a famous Bogart film at the Odeon. And that was that. Later he said that, had he been able to see all the poster, he could have been Mickey Mutiny. A new version says that, had he looked the other way, he would now be Sir Michael 101 Dalmatians.

*****

Reminiscing about Michael Caine, now 90, leads me effortlessly into our popular Not Many People Know That feature: an autopsy on American writer Sherwood Anderson, who died in 1941, found his intestine had been pierced by a three-inch toothpick stuck through an olive he swallowed while drinking a martini. But today’s winner is Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, killed when an eagle mistook his bald head for a rock and dropped a tortoise on it.

*****

I have already been billhooked* by the Drone’s Inclusivity and Diversity Unit for using ‘wily’, ‘oriental’ and ‘chink’ in the same sentence but what are we to make of the fact that a growing number of China’s elite are insisting on being educated in the West? Over 20% of the Central Committee have had some schooling at Western universities, an increase of 6% since the millennium. And eight out of the 24 members of the all-powerful Politburo have studied in the West.

*T&Cs

*****

A novel perception of the fabulously rich Rishi from Deborah Ross in The Times. Sunak paid for upgrading the local leccie network around his Yorkshire estate because his heated swimming pool was using so much power. My heart goes out to him, Debs laments. ‘He must feel so left out of this whole cost of living crisis thing. Looking across his pool and new tennis court, he must wonder: why can’t we be miserable and desperate like everyone else?’

*****

The beleaguered Beeb’s crazy decision to disband the BBC Singers, on the eve of their centenary, to save the equivalent of Gary Lineker’s salary has rightly been condemned. There has been talk of a performers’ strike at the Proms and suggestions that the audience should join the boycott. I’d like Tim Davie to know that, while I had no intention of attending the Proms, I definitely won’t be going now. So there.

*****

My note about used Lamborghinis prompts my man with the oily rag in the transmission shop at Sant’Agata Bolognese to remind me how the iconic super car was born. Ferruccio Lamborghini manufactured the best tractors in Italy but drove Ferraris. Alas, the car’s clutches were crap. So he drove to Enzo Ferrari’s home in the next village to suggest some modifications. Ferrari must have come to regret his response: ‘Let me make cars. You stick to tractors.’ Pissed off Ferruccio then did both.

*****

While Britain is enthusiastically backing Ukraine, some chaps in the U.S. are not so keen. In fact, both Republican presidential hopes are now openly sceptical. Trump claims he’ll end the war within 24 hours of becoming president; DeSantis says further involvement in a distant ‘territorial dispute’ is not in America’s interests. Fewer than 40% of Republican voters think the U.S should continue arming Ukraine. And Tucker Carlson, influential Fox News presenter, describes President Zelensky as a ‘despot’, a ‘corrupt strong man’ and Biden’s ‘Ukrainian pimp’. Get off the fence, buddy!

*****

The economy. Is there something we ought to know, do you think? Something they’re not telling us? Hunt is like a bright-eyed, bob-tailed bunny; Rishi’s smile is as wide as his new swimming pool. Yet, and perhaps it’s just me, is the fact that there are 420 used Lamborghinis, including a £314,950 Aventador, currently on Autotrader a cause for worry? Or not? Answers on the back of a Credit Suisse share certificate to the usual address.

*****

Last word (I hope) on Linekergate: pop popette Self Esteem (aka Rebecca Lucy Taylor) caused a ‘social media flurrying ’ by wearing a FREE GARY T-shirt on stage. Fans started posting pics…just as the story was breaking that nasty predatory paedophile Gary Glitter was being recalled to prison for parole violations.

*****

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. Silicon Valley Bank is the latest financial institution to crash catastrophically after being celebrated by Forbes magazine. Just three days before it was declared insolvent, Silicon Valley tweeted that it was ‘proud to be on Forbes’ annual ranking of America’s Best Banks for the fifth straight year’. How fleeting is fame.

*****

If you’ve ever sashayed along Avenue Princesse Grace you won’t be surprised that Monaco has the most expensive real estate in the world. According to Knight Frank, $1million can buy only 17 square metres of residential space; in Sao Paolo it’s 231. Unsurprisingly, New York and London are pretty expensive at 33 and 34 square metres respectively. Basildon didn’t trouble the scorers.

*****

Anyone who’s tried to unravel the intricacies of Shakespeare stuck behind two chattering Japanese girls flashing their iPhone 193s will agree with Nick Curtis in the Standard that the behaviour of theatre audiences is appalling these days. Drunkenness, bad manners, verbal and physical abuse: they’re all there. One usher was punched for asking a punter to stop singing along in a musical and in an NT performance of The Life of Pi, before the hero was taken to the ocean, a man was ejected for repeatedly shouting: ‘He’s meant to be at sea!’

*****

It is proof, if we needed it, that the world is, inexorably, going bonkers. President Biden has approved a huge new drilling project in Alaska. Trouble is, permafrost there is melting so quickly that equipment might get damaged so engineers are installing cooling gear to keep it frozen. Hard to disagree with Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker that artificially chilling the Arctic in order to pump out more climate-warming oil is ‘the perfect metaphor for our time’.

*****

Paris in the spring? Forget it. London has been named the most scenic city in the world at this time of the year. A travel firm trawling Instagram found more than 100,000 posts tagged #springinLondon. That’s 20,000 more than second placed Paris. Next were Seattle, Melbourne, Chicago and Sydney.

*****

When Rishi became PM he must have been, understandably, apprehensive about facing forensically-posed questions from one of the country’s top lawyers at PMQs. He need not have worried. I suspect he receives more scrutiny from Larry, the Downing Street cat. I may have touched on it before, but there really is less to the Rt Hon Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition than meets the eye.

*****

My item about frogs’ legs prompts a Goss groupie to refer me to a piece in the i newspaper which says environmental campaigners are urging us to eat squirrels because increasing numbers are damaging ecosystems. Intrepid Sophie Morris writes that she ordered two ‘vacuum-packed critters’ at £4.95 each. They arrived ‘beautifully skinned with deep purple flesh’ but were a bit of a sod to prep. However, after dicing and cooking them with wine, veg and spices, the resulting ragu was ‘meltingly soft.’ I don’t know about you but I’m going to take her word for it.

*****

This new Artificial Intelligence is the coming thing all right. Someone called Richard Dismore obviously employed it to ‘write’ an entertaining piece, elsewhere in the Drone, on Drunks I Have Known. It reminds me of the story of William Wilberforce who, after a religious moment, decided to leave behind his dissolute life and reduce his gambling and drinking. He cut back to only six glasses of port today. Hard.

*****

Nigel Farndale of The Times, known as Nostradamus Nige because he won an office sweepstake accurately predicting the 2019 Tory landslide, is toying with the idea of becoming the new Mystic Meg. He reveals his eerily successful technique: ‘Whatever the BBC/Guardian/Twitter nexus is predicting, I predict the opposite’. I do that, too. When the Grauniad rubbishes a new film, book or TV series I know I’m going to love it and vice versa. As Nige says: ‘It never fails.’

*****

Next time you need a good sit-down after filling your petrol tank, here’s something to consider. It won’t make you feel better, though. Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco made a $161billion profit last year, the highest ever by a publicly quoted firm. Bloomberg’s David Ingles tells his Twitter faithfuls: ‘That’s $5,000 every second.’

*****

Them rich toffs should know better don’t you think? But no: light-fingered Oxford students have taken to half-inching their colleges’ fancy crockery. Magdalen has warned that lifting plates and cups with the college crest will be regarded as theft. Balliol is now using place mats and plain cups without crests.

*****

You can’t keep The Donald down, you know. The former President is publishing 150 private letters sent to him by celebs and statesmen. The RRP of Letters to Trump is $99 or, if you want a signed copy, $399 (that’s some signature). It will include correspondence from Nixon, Reagan, both Clintons, Princess Diana, Liza Minnelli and cuddly Kim Jong-Un. One 2000 letter from Oprah was in response to his saying she would be his ‘first choice for vice President’. She gushed: ‘Too bad we’re not running for office. What a team!’ Bet she regrets that now.

*****

The lustrous Gabby Logan introduces coverage of the Scotland v Ireland match supported by a full complement of commentators, summarisers and pundits. Does this mean that the rugger chaps, by actually turning up for work, back the BBC and not Lineker? Answers (in pencil, please) on the back of an Ireland-England ticket for the 18th. 

*****
Young people can be challenging and contradictory, don’t you think? Their favourite new sport is, apparently, Formula One motor racing. Eh? You wouldn’t think that ‘Generation Greta’ would be keen on a something which showcases rich, male, mostly white tax exiles driving fuel-guzzling cars in socially illiberal oil states. But 16 to 35-year-olds were responsible for 77% of F1’s audience growth in 2020.

*****

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted…Awards Nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks, who is still a trainee, of this parish, announces that, in solidarity with Gaz, Wrighty and the rest of the team, she will not be contributing to Match of the Day, Match of the Day 2, Football Focus and Final Score in the immediate future. She wishes it known that she considers the whole situation is well out of order and that jumped-up herbert, Tim Davie, must be having a giraffe. Thank you for sharing that with us, Rosalie.

*****

The Goss - a statement

The Drone’s popular daily gossip column, reflecting the whimsy and the mores of contemporary life, has had to be held over because its editor, William Dumpster, and sundry members of the Shanks family who contribute, have withdrawn their labour in solidarity with Wrighty, Big Al, Danny, darling little Alex and anyone else nimble and opportunist enough to clamber aboard the passing Gary Lineker bandwagon.

The Drone is unable to remove this column as the entire staff are working to rule, which its effectively a strike and they do fuck all anyway — Ed

*****

A strikebreaker contributes: Sony may have ceased production of floppy discs 12 years ago but they still remain crucial. Amazingly, the antiquated date storage devices are still used in some commercial planes such as 747s, 767s and the Airbus A320. San Francisco’s subway system couldn’t run without them and — yikes! — they were an essential part of America’s nuclear weapons programme until 2019.*****

A scab writes: Don’t you think that the Bidens are taking this wholesome, down-home, ma and pa act a bit too far? Joe and Jill popped out to a Red Hen near the White House and ordered exactly the same meal. They both had a glass of Barbera, bread and butter, a chicory salad and rigatoni with sausage. Predictably, DC sophisticates have poo-pooed their choice but Leonie Cooper in Vogue says: ‘Personally, I found it pretty damn cute’.

*****

A blackleg writes: it had to happen and I guess we ain't seen nothing yet. Artificial Intelligence is now aiding scammers. Free software obtained online enables someone’s voice to be recreated from only a 30 second sample. Fraudsters are creating scripts in which a person asks for an urgent money transfer then playing the plea over the phone to relatives. The family of a victim in Canada transferred £12,800 after hearing what they thought was their son appealing for cashThe Seychelles: a sun-shining, palm-waving, sea-lapping holiday haven in the Indian Ocean, right? You betcha! But, says BBC News, it is also in the grip of a drugs epidemic. Around 10% of the local population is addicted to heroin, the highest per-capita consumption rate in the world. Why though? The island nation is on well-established trafficking routes from Afghanistan and Iran to East Africa and Europe with easy sea access to smugglers, says my beach bum with the vacant look.

*****

Pity the poor Oscar nominees. It’s a nervous time for them. Will I win? Will my acceptance speech be OK?  One thing they don’t need to be apprehensive about: Will ‘Rocky’ Smith, having been banned, won’t be causing pugilistic mayhem this year. And, I can disclose, everyone’s a winner when it comes to goody bags. All the nominees in acting and directing categories are guaranteed a $100,000 hamper containing 60 gifts. They include a facelift, courtesy of a celeb surgeon, silk pillowcases, a three-night stay in Ottawa, trendy Japanese milk bread and, bizarrely even for La La Land, a plot of land in Australia - ‘size and location unknown’.

*****

Will someone please tell that ubiquitous smartarse Amol Rajan that, when discussing the problems of HS2 on Today, it’s best not to say Haitch instead of aitch? That’s if you want to be considered a serious broadcaster.

*****
A nice example of virtue-signalling recalled by Martin Samuel, a fine sportswriter who, since moving to The Times, has added straight pieces and book reviews to his armoury: the Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore a dress to the Met Gala in New York with the bold red message ‘Tax the rich’. Samuel points out her outfit and accessories cost $990; her stay at the five-star Carlyle Hotel and other exes, $5,580. They really don’t get it, do they?

*****

Whoever wins the Oscars it’s British night at the official after party. Elliott Grover, executive chef at London’s CUT at 45 Park Lane, where an 8oz ribeye will set you back £170, is serving a classic national spread at the 95th Academy Awards: fish and chips, chicken pot pie and sherry trifle. Not very glamorous is it? And can you really picture Hollywood’s finest in a chippy?

*****

I don’t wish to be indelicate but the sad death of the iconic astrologer Mystic Meg prompts the question: is there no seer, soothsayer, clairvoyant or visionary on the Drone’s staff who could have predicted it? She’s disappeared due to unforeseen circumstances — Ed

*****

For all my life ‘experts’ have predicted that machines would take over running the world, leaving millions jobless. The Economist demurs. It says it’s worth remembering that the total spent on industrial robots in 2020 was a relatively meagre $25bn. ‘People spent more on sex toys,’ the mag points out. Ooh er, missus.

*****

Those luvvies just have to ‘live the role’ don’t they? Who can forget Daniel Day-Lewis’s Oscar-winning performance in My Left Foot when he insisted on remaining in a wheelchair even when he wasn’t filming? Gary Oldman, playing Churchill in Darkest Hour, really ‘got into character’ by insisting on smoking genuine Cuban cigars for the entire shoot. He later claimed he had puffed on a dozen £50 cigars a day for 48 days. That’s nearly £30,000 of method acting. 

******

Gorgeous, pouting (sic) crusader for truth Isabel Oakeshott maybe on thin ice over the leaking of little Matty Hancock’s WhatsApp messages. Ghostwriter Issy claims she broke her NDA with the former Health Secretary because it was in the public interest. However, Mandrake in the European, says she has good reason for being shy about how much the Telegraph paid her for disclosing the messages: lawyers say that if it can be shown that her main motive was money, her public interest defence could well fall apart.

*****

When Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron meet for vital talks about migrants it could be dubbed the Shortarse Summit: neither hovers much above 5ft 6ins. No wonder, then, Florida Governor and US Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, a Napoleonic 5ft 9ins, is so anxious to have greater stature on the world’s stage that he has started wearing high heel boots and shoes. My snout in the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee says Ron is conscious that every President since Jimmy Carter has been 5ft 11ins or taller. However, a Republican critic, who has posted a pic of him apparently standing level with 6ft 1ins Tiger Woods, comments: ‘He must have had a growth spurt’.

*****
Millionaires’ Row? Forget it, cheapskate, says my tame estate agent with a tape measure and a pocket book full of hyperbolic phrases. London now has a Billionaires’ Row, Avenue Road in St John’s Wood, where more mega-mansions are being built than on any other street in the capital and it has supplanted the former champion,  Bishops Avenue in Hampstead. According to Tatler, leafy Avenue Road, which runs from Regents Park to Swiss Cottage, is lined with homes ranging from the spacious (5,700 sq ft) to the gor blimey at 30,000 sq ft. The 25 properties currently being built will be worth a total of £930m or an average £37m each.

*****

The more we read about Misprint of the Month Roald Dahl the more we realise he wasn’t as nice as he looked. When Salman Rushdie was sentenced to an Iranian fatwa in 1989 for The Satanic Verses, Dahl was quick to denounce him as ‘a dangerous opportunist’ who knew exactly what he was doing. All praise then to the Booker winning author for not bearing a grudge. Rushdie has attacked the recent ‘absurd censorship’ of Dahl’s books by ‘bowdlerising sensitivity police’  and said the publisher, Puffin, should be ashamed.

*****

This trans billhooks* is baffling me. Apparently, it’s ‘an article of trans faith’ that there are 73 genders, according to Mary Wakefield in The Spectator. Fastest growing is ‘xenogender’ — people more akin to animals and plants than humans. Wakefield also tells of a horse child who is taken out for gallops by school staff, a boy dinosaur who only eats strips of meat and several people who ‘identify as cake’.

* Rainbow preferred

*****

Shadow Home Sec, the  Rt Hon Pixie, sporting her I Am a Serious Politician specs, bounces up and down in response to Suella Braverman’s Illegal Immigration Bill statement and condemns the Government’s record on asylum seekers. Fair enough: she is the Opposition, after all. Pixie lost me, though, when she droned on, in forensic detail and with intricate incisiveness, outlining the Labour blueprint for solving the crisis. Enough, already. TMI.

*****

When is someone going to make a film about Antoine-Charles-Louis, Le Comte de Lasalle, larger-than-life, rootin’ tootin’ French hero of the Napoleonic wars? Flashman? Forget it. This guy was the real deal: joined the army as an officer at 11, gained rapid promotion, was busted to private, fought his way back to the top and became known as the Hussar General. Gambler, seducer, duellist and dieu sait quoi d’autre. Lasalle once said: ‘Any hussar who lives beyond 30 is a layabout.’ He was killed in battle, aged 34.

*****

Lovely story about Wally Fawkes, cartoonist and jazz aficionado (a session buddy of our own Tim Holder) who has died, aged 98. He was drawing his Mail strip cartoon, Flook, a small, hirsute creature with large ears and a small trunk, when the boss’s wife, Lady ‘Bubbles’ Rothermere, chanced by. ‘How’s your lovely little furry thing?’ she inquired. ‘Fine, thank you. How’s yours?’

*****

Who’d be a digital journalist toiling to fill the 24/7 ‘news’ schedule? Take The Sun’s Stephen Moyes (yes, we name and shame here). He’s put his name to an ‘exclusive’ about a pub waitress so scared of tomato ketchup she bursts into tears when ever she even sees it. She shares an incident when she had to be comforted by her boss after dropping a dollop of the red stuff on her shoe. Meanwhile, thousands are dying in a European war, Britain faces a migrant crisis, inflation is more than 10%, the NHS is in turmoil etc etc.

*****

The infiltration of woke billhooks* into our daily lives continues apace. In the US one outfit wants employees to avoid the words ‘stand’ and ‘American’ because not everyone can stand or is American. Likewise, ‘blind’ and ‘crazy’, even in figures of speech are frowned upon. Use of ‘battle’ and ‘minefield’ out of context is disrespectful to military vets. Students in California (where else?) are discouraged from using ‘fieldwork’ because ‘it could be associated with slavery’. But at least San Francisco Board of Supervisors has given up trying to replace ‘felon’ with ‘justice-involved person’.

*Webster Dictionary preferred usage

*****

Not that you’re really interested but Nicola Peltz’s £2.85m wedding to Brooklyn Beckham sounds as if it didn’t exactly go off smoothly. A lawsuit has revealed some of the snotty messages petulant Peltz sent to her wedding planner (the second of at least three the couple saw off).  She complained about the flowers ‘not being white enough’ and that she was ‘tired of catching mistakes’. Tame by industry standards, apparently. One bride in New York wanted to arrive suspended from a trapeze in a venue with 70ft ceilings; another wanted dogs to give her wedding a ‘country vibe’; yet another insisted on arriving by chopper (Freudian?) despite having stayed at the venue the previous night. These difficult ladies are known as Bridezillas in the trade.

*****

As the 23 vehicle number plate is launched, those sensitive spoilsports at the DVLA have banned those combinations it deems offensive and inappropriate. Come on,  whatever’s wrong with BO23LOX, EU23NOB, GO23SHT, LE23ZBO and TO23ERS?

*****

Bless old Auntie — always guaranteed to amuse and irritate us. How does the Beeb get away with it? The Archbishop of Canterbury has been recalling being invited to do Thought for the Day on Radio 4 one Good Friday. Justin Welby says that when he decided to talk about the crucifixion he was told: ‘There’s a bit too much Jesus in this.’

*****

Horreur de choc! Carthusian monks in Voiron in France have announced they are cutting production of their iconic liquor, Chartreuse. A publication called Everyday Drinking (Surely not - Ed) says they want to protect their monastic life and devote time to solitude and prayer. Frères chartreux have been brewing the green stuff since the early 18th century from a secret 1605 recipe using 130 different flowers, plants and herbs. Just three monks know the full formula; two others know different halves of it. All five have taken a vow of silence. Just don’t all fly on the same plane, bruvs!

*****

Orientals have always had a reputation of being, er, short-arsed (Isn’t that heightist and racist? — Ed). But the South Koreans have really shot up over the past 100 years. While the average human has grown about three inches, that country’s men are six inches taller; the women eight inches. How so? Switching from producing things such as textiles to cars and consumer electronics has substantially increased wealth enabling people to afford better nutrition and healthcare. By contrast, in neighbouring, impoverished North Korea average height has hardly changed.

*****
Moving story about Boris Pasternak nervously addressing a Soviet writers’ conference in 1937 at a time when an ill-judged word could consign you to the Gulags. As the literary giant walked to the lectern it was said that the silence could be heard all the way to Vladivostok. He began his speech with just one word: Thirty. Immediately the audience of 2,000 rose and recited, by heart, Shakespeare’s 30th sonnet When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past. Proving, I think, that they can’t touch what we hold in our heads

*****
Following the Sun’s ‘Frogzit’, I welcome the Daily Star’s entry into our Headline of the Millennium (Sure that shouldn’t be Week? — Ed) competition: ‘Apocalypse Miaow’ — on a story that officials briefly considered culling cats at the start of the pandemic because of fears that they could spread Covid.

*****

I’m not sure if I believe this but I’ll carry on typing anyway.  Ford has been granted a patent for a gizmo that make autonomous cars ‘repossess’ themselves and drive back to the dealers if the owner fails to keep up with payments. That’s only the ultimate sanction though: before that the vehicle will start disabling features such as the GPS, speakers and AC as well as emitting incessant and unpleasant sounds. The car could also lock itself randomly or refuse to be driven to certain places.

*****

It’s all to play for in the Republican race for the White House next year. Or is it? A Fox News vox pop at a diner in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, within walking distance of where leading hopeful Ron DeSantis used to live, produced some interesting replies. The first six people asked for whom they would vote all declared: ‘Trump’. Finally, the question was put to a woman wearing a DeSantis T-shirt. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ she replied. ‘Trump or DeSantis: I’m an either/or.’

*****

Fans of Brentford FC shouldn’t be all that surprised that their striker Ivan Toney faces a six-month ban after admitting breaking betting rules. His full name is Ivan Benjamin Elijah Toney making his initials I.B.E.T.

*****

My ball boy playing keepy uppy in the car park of the Luigi Ferraris Stadium in Genoa pauses to confide that all’s not well with the local footie club, Sampdoria, languishing at the bottom of Serie A. That was a bit of an understatement, alas. Club president Massimo Ferrero has received a package containing a pig’s head with a note declaring: ‘Your head’s next.’ It follows another special delivery in January: a bullet with a note reading: ‘It’s blank but next time it will be real’. Try telling the Sampdoria ultras that it’s only a game.

*****

Poor old Popbitch has had a fit of the vapours over a ‘tabloid hack’ who gets scoops at award ceremonies after downing free drink, staggering around obviously drunk and then writing ‘hazy, half-cut recollections of what he thinks happened’. The email newsletter reports this, wide-eyed and breathless, as if such behaviour is new. They should try the Artistes’ Bar of the Flying Frack* on BAFTA night!

 *Stage Management Association T&Cs

*****

Following that well known literal, Roald Dahl, we come to that Winfrey woman. Oprah, right? Er, no. Actually, it’s Orpah. The broadcaster was named after a woman mentioned in the Bible (Ruth 1:4) but no one knew how to pronounce it. ‘On the birth certificate it’s Orpah,’ she told an interviewer ‘but then it got translated to Oprah so here we are.’

*****

Trust the currant bun: Frogxit, the latest family slight on the Spare Part and his shy, self-effacing wife, is one of theirs but it’s too late to join new words just unveiled by Dictionary.com. Among them is ‘cakeage’ (qf corkage), the fee charged by a restaurant for serving cake brought in from outside, and ‘cakeism’ (qf Boris Johnson), the false belief that you actually can have your cake and eat it. Other newbies are ‘rage farming’, provoking political opponents by putting inflammatory posts on social media, ‘petfluencer’, prats who gain a large online following by posting pix of their pets and ‘bed wetting’, the exhibition of emotional over-reaction.

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Isn’t this incessant hounding of JK Rowling such a fracking* load of woke billhooks*? For months now gobby, hand-wringing, lip-trembling snowflakes have campaigned for a boycott of the new Harry Potter video game, Hogwarts Legacy, in protest against the author’s alleged transphobia. So how’s that going, then? In its first two weeks the game has sold more than 12million copies, making it one of the fastest-selling titles ever. Vox populi, vox dei.

*Compliant with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry rules.

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Remember when boy (standing around with his mates) met girl (dancing around her handbag) at the Locarno? No? Well you know what I mean. In the States, though, for the first time in history a majority of couples now meet online. My tame cherub with the bow and arrow tells me 53% of heterosexual pairings met virtually, way more than ‘in a bar or restaurant’ (23%) and ‘through friends’ (15%).

*****

If you thought the national dailies were having a hard time (see this page) pity our provincial cousins. Although most have morphed into online news providers, they also continue to churn out print editions. Why? It doesn’t make sense for dailies, which once sold more copies than the Express does now, to flog on selling fewer than 10,000. Circs in the last ABC period widely dropped by more than 20%. And what’s the point of the Oldham Times even opening up each morning to sell 819 copies?

*****

You can’t seem to move for that literary literal Roald Dahl these days. If it isn’t the woke folk trying to rewrite his work, it’s stories of his legend as a serial shagger. Dahl was recruited by fellow author CS Forester (who knew?) to spy for Britain in Washington during the war with the specific task of enticing the US to join the conflict. This meant it was open season for the notorious womaniser to go through (sic) as many DC socialite wives as he could. But, says Helen Lewis in The Bluestocking, he met his match in the formidable writer, politician and diplomat Clare Boothe Luce, a woman with a sexual appetite even more voracious than his own. He had to beg his spymasters to reassign him. ‘I’m all fracked* out,’ he shouted down the phone.

*To accord with SIS peacetime protocols.

*****

Quirky detail from the mass coverage of Rishi Sunak’s Windsor Framework breakthrough: is it the Stormont Brake or the Stormont Lock? Rishi, the broadcast media and the Press, including The Times, say Brake but the Thunderer’s leader writer says Lock. Does he know something that we don’t or could it be that the paper, like another I am proscribed from naming, has no discernible revise system either? 

*****

Draw up a chair at the chef’s table in The Goss’s Curious Culinary Tastes Dept. My scullery maid, up to her armpits in greasy washing-up water, confides that American presidents are known for their whacky menus: Garfield and Eisenhower favoured squirrel soup; Taft was partial to possum while Teddy Roosevelt and his distant cousin, Franklin D, loved bison steaks with terrapin soup as a starter.

George Dubya? Takeaway hot dogs, of course.


*****

While the woke thought police step up their campaign to rewrite Dahl and Fleming, a Times reader offers: ‘For a reasonable fee I will read books that have been neutralised and sanitised and edit them back to normal English’.

*****

As the Falklands War hotted up, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Knight, who has died aged 90, was charged with organising bombing raids on a target 7,000 miles away. Trouble was, long-range Vulcan bombers were being scrapped; several had even been donated to American museums along with their air-to-air refuelling probes. Sir Mike was forced to send RAF technicians in civvies to the US to sneak around museums to surreptitiously retrieve the vital gear. And, after the Port Stanley runway was put out of action and the conflict ended, one museum wrote congratulating the RAF but ‘demanding the immediate return of stolen property’.

*****

Norman Mailer, who would have been 100 this year, tried ever so hard to be, er, hard. So much so that he was accused of being a ‘prisoner of the virility cult’. Inevitably, he was drawn to fisticuffs, embracing  boxing lasciviously and just loved sparring with young admirers. Once in the Green Room at a late night chat show he head butted his great literary rival, Gore Vidal. A pugilist to the end, Mailer insisted on being buried in full boxing regalia.  Hmm.

re than 105 times it’s original $599 retail price.

*****

If you’re still umming and aaahing over whether you can afford a week in Tossa this year, you may want to hurry on to the next Goss titbit. Alternatively, if you’ve got $200million to spare, the most expensive home ever to be offered for sale in the Caribbean could be yours. It comprises nine separate structures set in 17 acres on Mustique. The main 16,000 sq ft Italian-style villa has nine bedrooms. There are three swimming pools, several guest cottages and a 12,000 sq ft entertainment space connected to the main house by a tunnel. Don’t all rush.

*****

Like eastbound No.11s, when you’ve already got one mobile another one’s sure to follow. So when Karen Green, who already had a first generation iPhone in 2007, received another as a gift she didn’t even take it out of its sealed box. Like you do, she wrapped it in a pair of jim-jams, tucked it away and forgot about it. Until recently, that is. Then, as she told Insider.com, she saw a similar vintage mobile on eBay at $10,000 and started rummaging in her drawers. It was worth it: her pristine iPhone fetched $65,356 at auction mo

*****

Bimimbap anyone? Or how about some kimchi? Yes, those favourite dishes have sent Korean food to the top of a list of the most popular worldwide cuisines compiled by a travel firm. If that’s a bit of a shaker, it settles down after that: Italian and Mexican are second and third with Indian, Vietnamese and Turkish also in the top 10. French? Tu blagues.

*****

Thanks to Tom Jones in The Critic for reminding us how woke and precious Manchester Art Gallery has become. Latest up yer bum ‘installation’ is The Empty Space — literally an empty space reserved for black womens’ art because, alas, the gallery doesn’t have any.

*****

I regret that there is more controversy over the sartorial impeccability of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club (see picture, this page). One derogatorial armchair Beau Brummell has unkindly referred to one member wearing a ‘Primark anorak’. I am grateful to Drone Fashion Director Reckless Rambleshanks for clarifying the situation. She says that, on the contrary, the item is clearly from My Guy in the Damart Debonair range.

*****

Oh, how we love Quentin Letts on The Goss. His Times sketch on Sir Keir Starmer’s Manchester speech was a gem. The Labour booby was introduced by the auburn-tressed temptress who said the country was fed up with ‘three-word slogans’: pity she hadn’t told the boss. He launched into his speech with a pledge of ‘mission-driven government’ before assuring the audience that these would be ‘laser-targeted missions’ which would replace ‘sticking plaster politics’. There really is less to him than meets the eye, you know.


*****

What’s the most irritating phrases used in the office when the Express was in Fleet Steet? Bob Haylett’s away: you’re late stop for the next fortnight? Your turn for the tea? David Laws wants you back? Nowadays, according to a new survey,  top of the list is ‘holibobs’ (holiday); ‘happy hump day’ (Wednesday); ‘nice to E-meet you’ and that old faithful ‘think outside the box’.

*****

Anyone can make a mistake - but not as much as Japan’s coast guard. Back in 1987 they manually totted up on a map the number of islands the country has: 6,852.

Right? Er, no. Using modern advanced mapping devices and aerial snaps, geographers have now discovered 7,000 more. Now it’s 14,125.

*****

When money’s no object you tend not to feel constrained, I guess. That’s why architects in Saudi Arabia are bashing on with planning a 1,312 feet high cube-shaped skyscraper to be built in Riyadh. The Mukaab (the cube) will be 20 times larger than the Empire State Building in New York with more than 21 million square feet of shops and tourist attractions. ETA? By 2030, say ambitious government officials.

Welcome to The Goss’s Tell Me Something I Don’t Know dept: London has the worst traffic of any world city. Data from GPS maker TomTom’s many devices found that it takes an average 36mins 20secs to crawl 10km in the capital. A distant second is the chaotic Indian metropolis Bangalore where it takes 29mins 10secs. Mind you, TomTom doesn’t say whether you get there in one piece or not.

*****

Albert Einstein may have been relatively good at quantum mechanics but don’t rely on him for marriage guidance. The theoretical physicist laid down strict rules for his wife, Mileva including: ‘Make sure I receive three meals a day in my room; forgo my sitting at home with you; leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it; stop talking to me’. Did it work? They separated a few months later.

*****

Here’s something you thought you’d never read: the Prime Minister’s wife has been spotted on the school run wearing carpet slippers. Not Primark’s faux fur at £3.50 a pair. Akshata Murty, holder of £430million in shares in her family’s IT empire, went for a pair of JW Anderson suedes at £570. ‘Expect more off-duty looks from the UK’s First Lady,’ says the Evening Standard’s Amy Watkins, who, with a surname like that, is obviously in the know.

*****

Dear Oscar had it right: what is it with women and handbags? Are they never content? After years of  Berkins, Mulberries, Vuittons and the rest being the objects of lust, ‘visibly worn-in styles’ bearing scratches and stains are now more sought after, reports The Wall Street Journal. Searches for such beaten-up bags has soared by 13% in six months, says one site. A New York stylist explains: ‘They help you look like you’re not trying too hard: you just appear cooler.’

ITV News deserves praise for its investigation into the NHS’s crumbling infrastructure, including one hospital where a roof has been leaking for eight years. Of course, the implication is that a callous Government has been starving ‘our NHS heroes’ of funds. Could this be the same NHS that recently advertised for a Director of Living Experience at £115,000 pa and spends £40 million a year on 812 equality, diversity and inclusion managers? Sure darn tootin’ it could.

*****

Jimmy Carter was always a homespun country boy even when he was in the White House. The 39th President, 98, currently receiving hospice care, never tried to make a fortune and moved back to a two-bed home in his native Georgia. It’s worth just $167,000, considerably less than the armoured Secret Service vehicles on permanent guard outside. 

*****

Affable World of Sport presenter Dickie Davies, who has just died at 94, may have been an avid sports fan but he was not an accomplished competitor. Once he had just gone out to bat for the Lord’s Taverners when his wife, Elisabeth, rang. ‘It’s all right,‘ she said. ‘I’ll hang on.’


*****

I wish I’d thought of it (You will, dear boy, you will — Ed) but Michael Gove has been dubbed the Revelling Up Minister. He’s only gone clubbing again (Oh, no!) in his home city of Aberdeen where he was visiting his mum. The Govester was seen at the 1980s-themed Club Tropicana whirling a woman around to I Feel Love by Donna Summer.

*****

First I need to apologise to Garth Pearce for omitting him from my recent list of Sad Bastards Who Survived Eric Price on the Western Daily Press. Garth’s amazing tale of the demise of Terry Pratchett mentions the WDP’s news editor, Norman Rich, a kind, avuncular soul in complete contrast to Price. He once attended the cremation of a former colleague. As the curtain closed and the coffin glided to its fiery end, Norman could be heard proclaiming: ‘Christ, it’s hot in here.’

*****

Warning: the following item on the worrying increase in the Sun Online Clickbait Crap Quotient contains words which may offend some readers. 

Viewers of a Premier League game on Sunday will have seen Spurs and West Ham

midfielders Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Declan Rice confronting each other in what the website called ‘a brutal three word blast’. Tempers flared, we are told; the ref had to intervene as ‘choice words were exchanged’. Then — and you may wish to look away now — the Sun reveals the brutal three words. Rice told Hojbjerg: ‘Nobody likes you.’

*****

Don’t panic! Don’t panic! It’ll probably be OK but I thought you ought to know that a chunk of a nuclear bomb is buried in a field in North Carolina. It dates from 1962 when a B-52 carrying two nukes crashed in the area. One deployed its parachute and landed safely; the other one ploughed into the field at 700mph. The army found the main part of the bomb but of the secondary core,  a ‘torpedo-shaped piece of radioactive material’ there was no sign. And because it had no detonator, searchers just left it there. That’s all right, then. So why is the farmer forbidden from digging deeper than five feet? Yikes! 

*****

Food lovers are ‘racing’ to social media to laud the swankiest dish in London just now: Mount St Restaurant’s lobster pie for two — at £96 is the most expensive on the menu if you forget the Oscietra caviar. Pictures of the dish, with the lobster’s head peeking out of the puff pastry crust, have gone viral and the Mayfair eaterie is getting through 140 of the arthropods a week. So what’s it like? ‘Delicious but very rich,’ confides Harry Wallop in The Times. ‘I needed a lie-down afterwards.’

*****

It’s a Catch 24 (yes, 24) situation. The second largest democracy in the world is in an awful muddle as next year’s US presidential election looms. Only 31% of Democrats want Joe Biden to run for a second term but that’s not going to stop him. Joe sees his mission as keeping Donald Trump out of the White House and he worries no other Democrat could do it. Thus the Catch 22 is: Biden will run unless a ‘plausible alternative’ emerges. But unless he rules himself out no alternative can arise.

*****

Trust those wily Orientals (Are you sure you can still say that? — Ed). A Chinese culinary favourite — a hotpot of meat cooked in a hot, oily broth — could be the future of aviation. That’s because used cooking oil ‘is emerging as a major source of sustainable jet fuel’, says Bloomberg. For instance, Chengdu, capital of the hotpot-loving Sichuan province, produces 12,000 tons of waste oil each month, much of which is starting to be exported to countries which recycle it into biofuel.

*****

The land of the automobile is facing a downturn in the demand for cars because Gen Z couldn’t give a flying frack* about learning to drive. In 1967, 62% of Americans aged 17 held a driving licence; today it’s just 45%, reports the Washington Post. Why? The environment and the high cost of fuel and car insurance. Another important reason: the ubiquity of affordable ride-booking apps. As Dorothy sang on the road to Oz: Somewhere Uber the rainbow…’

*US Department of Transportation advisory

*****

As I idly leaf through the holiday brochures I am reminded that the iconic swimwear, the bikini, celebrates its 77th anniversary this year. Designed by Louis Réard, a French automobile engineer (What was that all about?), it was named after the Bikini atoll in the Pacific where the US had tested an atomic bomb four days before its unveiling. Réard sought well known Parisian models to debut the two-piece, made out of 30 square inches of cloth, but none would come across, as it were. Step forward Casino de Paris nude dancer Micheline Bernardini to make history. Micheline, still going strong at 94, carried on modelling bikinis until she was 58. Atta girl!

*****

Following my piece on France being excised from an international top 10 of cheese makers, my tame gourmand with the florid face, bulging waistband and Gaviscon on drip reminds me that the Bulgaria-based outfit, TasteAtlas, responsible for the survey, has form on this. Last year it placed our Gallic neighbours behind the U.S. (imagine!) in terms of world cuisine.

*****

NASA boffins probing the mysteries of travel to the far reaches of the universe are turning to arctic squirrels — as you do. Researchers are studying the rodents’ hibernation patterns when their brain activity slows, cells stop dividing and their body temperature falls allowing them to survive in freezing conditions without their bones or muscles wasting away. Now the challenge is to see whether astronauts can be placed in such a state.

*****

I report the following strictly without comment and, please, absolutely no schoolboy sniggering from the down table fraternity: Beth Neale and fiancé Miles Cloutier have broken the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss down under, the water that is. The ‘free divers’, who met through a mutual love of ocean conservation, managed four minutes and six seconds of underwater tonsil tickling.

*****

Like ubiquitous, gobby footie pundit Micah Richards’s carefully coiffed hairstyle? He’s proud of it. So he should be: he has it cut three times a week - at £200 a time.

*****

Mon ami, le grand fromage avec le Huanyu Commercial Cheese Slicer, est triste. Pourquoi? (Stop it! — Ed). A major survey has excluded any French cheese, of which there are hundreds, from an international top 10, a decision which has been described as ‘a crushing blow to French gastronomy’ by the news channel BMFTV. Bulgaria-based TasteAtlas names eight Italian cheeses (first was Parmigiano Reggiano) in its top 10; the others are Polish and Portuguese. One hundred cheeses were rated: best French offering is reblochon at 13; Britain did not trouble the scorers.

*****

This working from home, bed, pub, wherever is getting out of hand, my Haitch-Arr mole with a fine line in management-speak reports (in triplicate). Some chancers are even fitting in ‘hush holidays’: 36% of employees already have a clandestine trip booked for this year. A 29-year-old marketing manager confides that for the past month she has been joining Zoom calls from Mexico without her boss being any the wiser. Downside: she has to log in at 5am. Upside: she’s all done by noon and ‘can drink margaritas on the beach for the rest of the day’. 

*****

I must confess to not being backward when it comes to kicking the BBC: a bloated monolith in urgent need of reform, say I. But Welsh newscaster Huw Edwards celebrates the centenary of BBC Wales by reminding me that the broadcaster was responsible for Under Milk Wood - by commissioning Dylan Thomas to write it. For that, I’d forgive ‘em anything.

*****
Precocious Kate Forbes, 32, Scottish government Finance Secretary, is regarded as a front runner in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister. I do hope she wins and becomes an instant pub quiz question…as the only leading politician to have been married to a chimney sweep.


*****

What are we to make of the fact that, arguably, the best player in the best international rugby team in the world, Ireland, is a 6ft 4ins, 17stone back row forward called…Doris?

*****

Just because Valentine’s has passed doesn’t mean that you can’t still use some historic terms of endearment to your loved one. Bagpudding — literally a pudding boiled in a bag — was all the rage in the 16th century. Cabbage is another pet name first recorded in the OED in 1722. Crustaceans were popular, too. As one character says to another (presumably called Marie Rose) in William Pett Ridge’s 1895 novel Minor Dialogues: ‘I expect you’re a saucy young prawn.’ Maybe, though, we should hesitate to use a favourite  term, meaning candied fruit sweetmeat: Sucket.

*****

Stay up for the Super Bowl? No, me neither. But it gives me an excuse to continue my ad hoc series Strange People, the Yanks. The NFL spent two years — and $800,000 — preparing the turf for the big match, sportswriter Joe Pompliano reveals. It was grown on a local farm and laid two weeks before the game and was able to be stored under cover at night and rolled out in the sunshine each morning. Good job? Hardly. The playing surface was dreadful with the players sliding and slipping all game. One said: ‘It’s the worst field I’ve ever played on.’ Sod’s Law, I suppose.

*****
What is the main cause of car crashes? Speed. Alcohol. Drugs. Fatigue. To these should be added Masculinity, says a new French road safety ad. Last year in France 84% of those suspected of causing road accidents were men as were 93% of drunk drivers. Thought you ought to know.

*****
Bluetooth is named after a 10th century Viking king. The ubiquitous wireless system was originally going to be called PAN (Personal Area Networking) but techies decided they needed a snappier more with-it vibe. One engineer, who had been reading about King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormsson, of Denmark, suggested the name. The Bluetooth logo was designed by combining the Viking runes ᚼ (H) and ᛒ  (B). Or as a well-known actor would put it: NMPKT

*****

It used to be said that when cabs were easily available you could tell there was a recession. Now there is also the Lipstick Index and the Y front X Factor: sales of the beauty product increase during a downturn because it’s an ‘affordable luxury’. Men’s underwear is replaced less. In the U.S. a reliable guide is strippers’ tips. One dancer confides: ‘I know girls who dance in Las Vegas and even they weren’t making  money. And if Vegas girls aren’t, no one is.’

*****

The leafy Cotswolds haven of Nailsworth is holding its breath as the new boss of local team, Forest Green Rovers, settles in. He’s Duncan (Big Dunc) Ferguson, at first sight an unlikely gaffer of the world’s first vegan football club. The 6ft 4ins former Scotland hardman has a combative reputation: he has spent spells at Her Late Majesty’s Pleasure for head-butting a policeman, punching a fan who was on crutches and meting out justice to a burglar so severely that CPR was required. Now he is more familiar with carbon credits and polar ice melt than the inside of Barlinnie. Perhaps the former Everton assistant manager always had a gentler side: once in a Scottish pub he was wearing silk gloves and a flower behind his ear when he was ridiculed by two fishermen. He knocked them both out. Perhaps not, then.

*****
Don’t all rush now but Waitrose has a special Valentine’s offer: oysters delivered to your door. The so-called aphrodisiac costs a reasonable £8.40 for six and is brought to you by Deliveroo. As The Times says, lovers can expect an evening of anticipation ‘either of sex or a bad reaction to the molluscs.’

*****

Proddie, my man with the sharp pencil, the eagle eye and the unforgiving nature, has come over all excitable at a piece lauding the style guide of the Kansas City Star where a young Ernest Hemingway worked, albeit briefly. The first of 110 precepts in the guide was: Use short sentences; Use short paragraphs; Use vigorous English; Be positive, not negative. The Wall Street Journal says they might as well be an introduction to Hemingway’s technique. As the author said in 1940: ‘Those were the best rules I ever learned. No man with any talent can fail to write well if he abides by them.’ Easy for him to say, mind.

*****

As the annual Valentine’s red roses rip-off gathers pace, a reminder, from Matthew Wilson in The Spectator, that they haven’t always symbolised ‘courteous romance’. In the classical world roses were often associated with decadence, immorality and rampant sexual desire. The pouting red blooms depicted in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting Venus Verticordia offended critic John Ruskin so much that he blanked the painter thereafter. And the ‘Rosebud’ in Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane was an in-joke. William Randolph Hearst, inspiration for the title character, used it as a codeword for his doxie’s pudenda. Oooh er, missus.

*****

Americans (who else?) are ushering in a new age of etiquette. Meetings now begin with attendees articulating what they look like. You know: ‘I’m Alan. I’m a journo with silver hair, wearing a suit, white shirt, inappropriate tie and carrying a small sausage on a stick’. Apparently, it’s to make the partially sighted feel more comfortable. Microsoft recently started a conference by acknowledging that the land delegates were on ‘was traditionally occupied by the Sammamish, Duwamiash, Snoqualmie, Suquamish, Muckleshoot, Snohomish, Tualip and other coastal Salish people since time immemorial.’ Strange herberts, the Yanks, as I may have mentioned before. 

*****

You’ve got to admire the Swedes for their get up and go. They’re moving a town in the north of the country one building at a time because of severe subsidence caused by being next to the world’s largest iron ore mine. Cracks have appeared in Kiruna’s hospital; the school is unsafe. Now entire structures are to be loaded on to trailers and transported two miles east. Some 6,000 out of the town’s 18,000 inhabitants expect to be relocated.

*****

What fun to hear that scamp Johnson on TV resurrecting his nickname for Keir Starmer: Sir Crasheroonie Snoozefest, the Human Bollard. As a venerable copy taster of my acquaintance might have said: ‘Oi, Boris. Ever thought of taking up journalism full time?’

*****

A BBC2 continuity announcer breathlessly warns that there are sexual scenes in the latest episode of Marie Antionette: ‘And tongues are wagging at Versailles’.

*****

You’d better believe it 1: New Yorker Kingsley Burnett, fed up with the winter, decided to chase some sun. But it was only when he flew over a snow-covered mountain peak that he realised he’d booked to go to Sidney, Montana, not Sydney, Australia. ‘I couldn’t believe the flight was so cheap,’ said  Burnett, 62. Still, he’s not alone: the owner of the inn where he stayed while awaiting a return flight said it was the second time someone had checked in after making the same mistake.

*****

You’d better believe it 2: Six sniffer squirrels have been trained in China to foil drug deals. Police in Chongqing say they are cheaper and more agile than dogs and can wriggle into tight spaces and climb walls in ‘complex environments’ such as warehouses

*****

Forget the rhetoric about growing tensions between the U.S. and China, says my tame bean counter with the high-tech abacus and the avaricious mien. The two countries are trading more than ever — a record $690 billion last year. When you account for US tariffs on Chinese imports and Beijing’s ban on American tech, it just goes to show, says Politico, how intertwined are the world’s largest economies despite their efforts to ‘decouple’.

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The death at 94 of prolific songwriter Burt Bacharach prompts nostalgic sniffs about the 1965 recording by Cilla Black of, what to many, was his most beautiful composition, ‘What’s It All About, Alfie?’ Burt was so determined to produce a perfect version of the song, written for the Michael Caine movie, that he flew over to supervise the recording at Abbey Road. He conducted, from the piano, a 48-piece orchestra and the Breakaways as backing singers. Poor Cilla, then only 22, was reduced to tears when he insisted on 29 takes — and used the first. Still, it won an Oscar.

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Those film chappies love a flash, bang, wallop don’t they? My best boy with a key grip on the cutting room floor points out that the Guinness World Record for the ‘largest film stunt explosion’ is held by the 2015 Bond movie Spectre. The spectacular destruction of Blofeld’s sinister lair used 8,400 litres of kerosene and 33kg of explosives, the equivalent of 68 tonnes of TNT. Shaken and stirred, eh?

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If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. Adult male killer whales so depend on their mothers that they struggle to survive without them, boffins have found. Orca mums even catch all their food and cut it up in bite-size chunks. Aaaah.

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More on the very trendy ChatGPT: I confide that it displays distinctively Leftish tendencies.  Ask it and the AI bot will willingly create an ode praising Joe Biden. A similar request in favour of Trump elicits the response that it would be ‘in poor taste’. It won’t tell jokes about women or Allah but will churn them out at the expense of men or Jesus. Don’t try asking it to praise fossil fuels: ‘against my programming’ comes the haughty reply. Should we worry?

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A pedant writes: increasingly these days I see the once deprecated  form ‘comprised of’ appearing in publications. Have we lost this battle? Well, technically, ‘comprise’ means ‘composed of’ so using the phrase you complain of is tautological. But when it crops up in The Times, in the top leader no less, I suspect we should, regretfully, just shrug and move on.

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The latest soldiers in the front line of the war against cancer could be…ants. They have such a good sense of smell that they can detect the disease which kills millions each year. The Max Planck Institute in Germany has discovered that the insects are able to differentiate between the urine of healthy mice and that from mice implanted with human breast cancer tumour. There is hope that the ants can be trained to spot cancer quickly and cheaply compared with current more invasive methods.


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The bizarre compulsion to photograph and post everything you do has spread to drinking vessels. So trendy bars now offer booze in a variety of containers such as conch shells, novelty milk bottles, bath tubs, shopping trolleys (it says here) and flamingo-shaped glasses. A TikTokker gushes: ‘After all, we drink with our eyes first and a bizarrely-shaped beaker brings just a little extra joy to the night.’ Bless.
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A rare shaft of common sense among woke language police in California (where else?). Back in December Stanford University listed 161 words and phrases that should be banned under the Orwellian-sounding Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative. Thus, ‘addicted’ to drugs would read ‘devoted’. Don’t call people ‘crazy’: they’re ‘surprising’. Thankfully, the dumb (oops, ‘non-verbal’) project has been aborted ‘ended’.

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The 2009 film Avatar is usually hailed as the most profitable of all time: adjusted for inflation, it made $4billion. But so has Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Titanic (1997). The key benchmark, though, is return on investment which includes marketing and production costs. Here, the top performer is ET. The 1982 movie recovered 7,552% of its $10.5 budget. A kewpie doll for anyone who can name second on the list. It’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). Budget: $5million; takings $369million - a 7,375 return.

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TikTok? That’s sooo last year. ChatGPT is where it’s at (if ‘where it’s at’ is still where it’s at) nowadays. It’s the fastest-growing consumer app ever, say boffins at investment bank UBS. The AI bot notched up 100 million active monthly users in January only two months after its launch. TikTok took nine months to reach that figure; Instagram about two and a half years.

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Who knew? Pope Francis swears like a docker, Charles Moore tells The Spectator. His Holiness  regularly punctuates speeches with four-letter tirades. He recently described priests who deny absolution to the unrepentant as fracking* careerists who frack* up the lives of others. The Pope’s predecessor, the conservative Benedict XVI, was reputed to be ‘harsh’ but was, in fact, a sweetie-pie. Easygoing, fun-loving Francis is thought to be an advocate of toleration but appears to be anything but.

*Colossians 3:8

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There’s nothing like oiling up and getting to grips with some do-it-yourself…Oops! Musings from some future Country Boys bulletin seem to have infiltrated our system. What I meant to say is: WD-40, the lubricant that loosens nuts and bolts, also has a distinctive smell. Or should I say ‘fragrance’? A New York art collective has created a cologne based on the spray called Smells Like WD-40. They must be having a giraffe, eh? Not really: it sold out instantly.

An over-excited, hyperbolic MC proclaims breathlessly that, after her latest awards, Beyoncé is the greatest Grammy artist ‘of all time.’ Calm down, laddie. Fact: The awards are 65 years old; time is nearly 14 billion.

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Wokey, wokey! The ‘University of Greenwich’ (who knew?) has issued a trigger warning for Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Academics (sic) denounce the novel as containing ‘sexism’ and ‘gender stereotypes’. A Goss favourite, Victoria Richards in the Indy says they’ve missed the whole point: It’s a satire that wryly mocks gender roles rather than upholding them. As Austen herself said: ‘The person who has no pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid’

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Equestrian skijoring? Come one, you must have heard of it. According to the self-proclaimed ‘essential lifestyle guide for adventurous and established men’ InsideHook, it’s the ‘wildest show on snow’. Retired racehorses pull skiers downhill at speeds up to 40mph including scary jumps and gates. High adrenaline? You betcha:

It’s the fastest growing winter sport in North America. More than 4,000 competitors and spectators are expected at Skijordue 2023 in Calgary, a festival celebrating skijoring and fondue. I ask you.

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Airships haven’t always had the best Press — remember the R101 and the Hindenburg back in the 1930s — but they may be making a comeback. Newly designed models can carry up to 130 passengers or, in an upmarket configuration, a handful of guests in luxury suites for up to five days. One company, OceanSky Cruises, offers a 36-hour trip from Norway to the North Pole. The upside: gazing at polar bears, snow foxes and reindeer from 1,000ft; the downside: $200,000 a ticket. Ouch!

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Be assured that The Goss Monitoring Section scours the world (plunders other websites you mean — Ed) for the zany, quirky and just downright odd. Our Down Under stringer with the sun-tanned eyelids texts to say that the male Oz marsupial the Northern Quoll fracks* itself to death. They have so much sex that they succumb to fatal sleep deprivation. Females, who are more laid back (sic) live four times longer.

*Northern Territory compliant.

Animal lovers, avert your eyes. The boss of a zoo in Chilpancingo, Mexico has been ‘let go’ for conduct unbecoming. Jose Ruben Nava killed four pygmy goats to serve up at an end-of-year party. Oh, and he also traded a zebra for some DIY tools.

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We all know lazy teenage boys who roll out of bed just in time for Bargain Hunt. They’ve nothing on 14-year-old Isaac Ortman who has slept in a tent in his garden for 1,000 consecutive nights. Trouble is, he lives in Minnesota where the temperature can dip to -38C. Isaac, who began the habit when he was 11, tells me: ‘Even in the cold I sleep just fine. My dad has a job to wake me sometimes.’ 

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You may not have heard of shy, retiring Carol (shrinking violet) Vorderman, 62. But the selfie-effacing former game show totty has announced she has five lovers on the go, as it were. How does the former Countdown presenter keep up with it all, muses Michael Deacon in the Telegraph. Schedule dates on a kitchen calendar like council bin collections? Five separate summer holidays? Birthday parties? As he says, thank goodness she has a head for numbers.

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Those psephologists who poo-poo Donald Trump’s chances of a presidential comeback must beware of peaking too soon. Will his main rival for the Republican nomination pass the crucial Beer Test? Voters in the US are famously supposed to plump for the candidate they’d most want to have a beer with. But Florida governor Ron De Santis, who ostensibly seems an ideal candidate, is perceived as having absolutely no personal charisma and, it is said, speaks with the stiffness of a lolly stick. Mind you, my barkeep with the swanky swizzler reminds me that Trump is teetotal so where does that leave us?

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Having routed the smokers and scared the arse off the drinkers, what next for the health and safety zealots? It’s got to be coffee. Have you noticed how everyone is suddenly comparing the caffeine kick delivered by different high street baristas? You know, Costa cappuccinos deliver 325mg —equivalent to four cans of Red Bull — five times as much as Starbucks. It’s got be awfully bad for us and it’s time something was done about it!

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A reckless pledge by libidinous, perma-tanned, sleazebag Silvio Berlusconi has come back to bite him on the bum, so to speak. The owner of newly-promoted Italian footie team AC Monza told players at the club’s Christmas jolly that if they beat one of the top sides: ‘I’ll bring a coachload of whores into the locker room.’ Late flash (sic): Monza 2, Juventus 0. ‘I’ve already received 100 calls asking me to stand by my word,’ admits the former Italian prime minister, 86.

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After my note about Eric Price’s four-letter reign of terror at the Western Daily Press, I am reminded that some distinguished figures worked as journalists in Bristol. Forget Expressmen Terry Manners, Bertie Brooks, Graham Noble, John Fox Clinch and Roger Watkins: I’m thinking of Terry Pratchett and Tom Stoppard. 


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What you’ve got to feed a population of 1.412billion you have to try to be ahead of the game. That’s why China is developing a Super Cow to cut its dependence on imported milk. Der Spiegel says that three cows born in the last month are capable of each producing 18 tons of milk a year, more than twice the yield of your average German cow. Now boffins are trying to identify the five out of every 10,000 cattle that produce more than 100 tons in their lifetime. Let’s copy their DNA and assemble a herd of more than 1,000 Super Cows in three years! That’s the theory anyway.


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Never let it be said that The Goss doesn’t bring you the really important intelligence de nos jours. So here’s a stonker: NASA’s latest mission is to land a spaceship on an asteroid said to be worth 70,000 times more than the global economy. Asteroids are usually made of rock and ice but the 137-mile wide Psyche is mostly iron or nickel worth $10quintillion - that’s $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 to you. So that’s the end of the cost of living crisis then? Alas, no. Rather than finding a way of bringing this lucrative rock down to Earth, scientists merely want to enhance their knowledge of how planets form. Zzzzzzz.


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Reports of alleged bullying of civil service snowflakes by Dominic Raab wring hollow groans of irony from those who worked at Bristol’s Western Daily Press when edited by Eric Price. The notorious former Express sub didn’t suffer fools at all and regularly subjected them to sneering, four-letter monstering. So much so, that one new recruit lasted only until his first mid shift break. Another, who also couldn’t stand the pace, walked out and, subsequently, took a restorative cruise during which he wrote to his former tormentor: ‘I’m on a ship leaving a sinking rat…’

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My bulging In tray contains an exciting update from The Goss’s ‘Just Saying’ fact-checker desk: Despite the ‘prophecies’ of the gloomsters and doomsters, the visionaries and seers, the crystal ball charlatans and the gimcrack turf accountants, Suella Braverman has now celebrated 100 days as Home Secretary and is officially the longest serving in that Cabinet post in 2023. Thought you deserved to know.

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LATEST GOSSGoss groupies will recall my item about the decline of bank raids in Denmark because the increase in digital transactions mean that few banks actually carry cash. Cow horn-helmeted blaggers should move to Argentina instead. Bloomberg says that, with inflation nudging 100 per cent, the volume of physical currency there is growing so fast there just isn’t enough room for piles of pesos.

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An early front-runner for The Goss’s Strange People, the Yanks trophy, sponsored by Drone Enterprises: for $10 this Valentine’s Day, the zoo in St Antonio, Texas, will name a cockroach after your ex…and feed it to an animal. If you feel like pushing the boat out, you may upgrade to a rodent for $25. And if you’re feeling really vindictive to your past paramour, you may pay $150 for the zoo to record a personalised video showing your choice of nosh being ceremonially devoured.

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Journos throughout the country are grateful that hundreds of thousands of teachers, university lecturers, train drivers and civil servants have staged the biggest mass strike in more than a decade. One news editor confides: ‘It’s a real blessing to be honest: February 1 is traditionally a slow news day when absolutely nothing of note ever happens.’

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The Tories, awake to their fading election prospects, are going woke. Prospective MPs are having the latest diversityspeak drummed into them. Election candidates are being instructed on concepts such as ‘micro aggressions’, ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘white resentment’. Our old pal Michael Deacon wonders in the Telegraph how this will all play ‘on the doorstep’. Will voters shun questions on the cost of living, the broken NHS and people in boats to ask: ‘What are you doing to increase the cultural visibility of gender-fluid pansexual demiboys?’

Come on, let’s not be judgmental: it could happen to anyone. Mining company Rio Tinto has confessed to losing a highly radioactive caesium-137 capsule somewhere in an 870-mile chunk of Western Australia.  Exposure to the device can cause skin burns and even cancer, warn boffins. Apparently, the 8mm x 6mm capsule fell off the back of a lorry (No, really) and would easily fit in a tyre tread. Walt Hickey (no relation) tells his readers in the Numlock News not to worry: ‘It’s not even in the top 10 most dangerous things in Australia.’

*****

This time next year the 2024 US presidential election race, in which Donald Trump has vowed to run, will have started. Trouble is his Republican Party already agrees it’s time to move on from Trumpism but they don’t know how to dump him without alienating his many fanatical supporters. Latest plan is just to wait for him to pass on to the great White House in the Sky. The rationale is simple: Trump’s 76, overweight, thinks exercise is bad for you and enjoys the diet of a college freshman. While party managers are waiting for nature to take its course, though, they might like to consider that the 45th President’s mother died at 88 and his father at 93.

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It’s a must for cartel chiefs, insecure South American presidents and, maybe, Spare Parts worried about lack of protection. The latest hyper-secure vehicle to keep baddies out is the Rezvani Vengeance, a 4X4 styled like a ‘steroidal tank’, assures the Grauniad. The beast has bulletproof glass (natch), electrified door handles  and blinding strobe light. Your driver can execute a neat handbrake turn while blasting pepper spray out of the wing mirrors and a Bond-style smokescreen out of the back. Will it fit your wallet? To you, squire £400,000.

*****

As the man pertinently said: never send to know for whom the bell tolls…

I mean did you really know that until the late 18th century people actually believed that ringing church bells during a thunder storm would stop lightning from striking the steeple? Alas, says a source who puts the camp into campanology, between 1753 and 1786 386 churches in France were struck by lightning. Some 103 bell-ringers were killed.

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Everyone’s selfie mad these days (ask Carol Vorderman). Now even the animals are joining in. A black bear has taken more than 400 pictures of himself by setting off a motion-activated camera snapping wildlife in Colorado. He was caught in a variety of  poses from full face staring into the lens (a lot of those!) to side profile and even poking his tongue out. I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille!

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As spring beckons, earnest eco groupies are starting to prepare for the annual toad migration when thousands of the reptiles return to ‘ancestral ponds’ to breed, says my gal in a Wildlife Trust beanie and Hunter wellies. Volunteers are needed to prevent nasty scenes as the toads stream across main roads. It was also an excuse for Les Diver to hand out a short and woe betide the sub who failed to write the line: Major Toad Ahead.

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What are we to make of young people? My tame InstaTokGrammer tells me that youthful social media users innocently refer to spag bowl as the abbreviated term for a popular pasta dish.

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Following my note about the golfin’ Commander in Cheat, that nice David Aaronovich in The Times confirms that we live in an era of ‘great liars’. Not just Trump, of course, but pretend heiress Anna Sorokin and Theranos fraudster Elizabeth Homes. However, the gold-plated, bevel-edged, cantilever action, appliqué inlaid, Karla-trained fibber supreme is US Congressman George Santos. The 34-year-old with the ever-lengthening schnozzle has been caught out lying about his education (not a private school), where he worked (not Goldman Sachs) how is mother died (not 9/11), his religion (not Jewish) and his grandparents (not Holocaust survivors). There’s more…but you get my drift.

*****

The Drone’s food critic — he of the veloute-flecked, bechamel-stained Garrick tie — warmly recommends the oldest restaurant in the world, which must be the only place to have served Columbus, Mozart and Clint Eastwood. St Peter Stiftskulinarium in Salzburg has been dishing up food since 803 but now combines classic Austrian with nouvelle cuisine. ‘We love history but don’t live in the past,’ say the owners, rather smugly one feels.

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Those among us who still wince as we recall bending over the housemaster’s chair and receiving a sound thrashing with a spiteful cane have some sympathy with the 69,000 children who receive corporal punishment each year in the US. Amazingly, it’s still legal in 19 states with Mississippi the worst offender by far. Meanwhile, the UK banned the practice in 1986 and it is also illegal throughout Europe and most of East Asia and South America. Strange people, the Yanks.

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Amid all the hysterical predictions of meteorological Armageddon in the red tops, one development we should, perhaps, take notice of: an iceberg the size of Greater London has broken free from Antarctica’s 500ft-thick Brunt Ice Shelf. It is likely to follow another giant berg, named A74, which broke off in 2021 and is currently pootling around the Weddell Sea.

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The 45th president of the United States is notorious for being, how can I put it, deceitful on the golf course. So much so that Donald Trump is known as Commander in Cheat. Competing in a tournament at his own West Palm Beach club, Trump missed the first day’s play. Players turning up for day two were, therefore, surprised to see him top of the leaderboard by five shots. He explained that he’d played a ’very good round’ earlier in the week and that would be his first day’s score. Late flash: The worthy champion  is…Donald J. Trump.

*****

Wayne Rooney has hidden depths, it seems. The footie star appears to be making a success of his transition from playing to managing and is revealing a sharp line in self deprecating wit. His current club, the American side DC United, has posted on YouTube a rousing speech he made to gee up his players. Pity they didn’t film another morale booster he gave in the autumn. In it he said: ‘You may look at me as a serial winner but I’ve made my frack*-ups. I’ve had to overcome my limitations: I’ve got a tiny cock.’ My dressing room toady says: ‘Some of the young lads were horrified. They don’t get the British sense of humour.’

*Major League Soccer profanity protocol

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I may have mentioned it before but strange people, the Yanks. My tame Minuteman basks in dawn’s early light and reveals that an American company is hiring people to eat cheese before bed for three months. Why? To disprove the old theory that fromage eaten late at night causes nightmares. Each volunteer will receive $1,000 to record how their dreams, sleep quality and energy levels are affected. Downside: participants, who must have a ‘consistent sleep schedule’, are required to sleep alone.

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Inflation running at 10.7%? Taghdhiat aldajaj! You should try Lebanon, says my boulevardier in a white suit and jaunty Panama reclining in a rattan chair outside a seafront restaurant in Beirut. A Twitter user in the Lebanese capital has posted a cafe bill for two lattes drunk two-and-a-half hours apart: the second cost nearly 9% more than the first.

*****

A snippet from The Goss’s I’ve Heard It All Now dept: camping inside churches, known as champing, is gaining popularity. Some 573 ‘guests’ stayed at 22 registered sites last year raising £86,000 for building repairs and maintenance. They get basic bedding and access to water and a lavatory. Some churches co-operate with pubs and cafes to provide meals. Prices start at £49 for adults and £25 for kids. Room with a pew anyone?

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Never let it be said the Goss doesn’t keep you up with the fascinating eccentricities of the mysterious Middle East. My souk shisha smoker in the soiled dish-dash reminds me that the villages of Nahwa and Madha on the Arabian peninsula are a geopolitical oddity in that they are an enclave within an enclave. Nahwa, part of the UAE, is entirely surrounded by Oman-controlled Madha which is itself entirely encircled by the UAE. I didn’t know that and I suspect not many people do. (Even fewer care — Ed)


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We try to avoid footie stories in The Goss. But take pity on relegation-threatened Everton, managerless, rudderless and with directors advised to stay away from Goodison because of fans’ protests. Then the club ‘signs’ Dutch forward Arnaut Danjuma to help reverse the decline. Our Arnaut poses for photos and vows: ‘I will do absolutely everything I can to keep Everton in this league’. So what did he actually do?Sign for Spurs the next day.

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That Buzz Aldrin: he’s a card isn’t he? The iconic astronaut, just married for the fourth time at 93, was once lined up for a live TV interview. As the director counted down the seconds to transmission, scamp Buzz leaned over to the TV presenter and whispered: ‘Nothing about the moon, OK?’

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Dogooders, worthies, sycophants and those just doing their jobs who are recommended for honours have to be vetted by a traffic light system aimed at highlighting those with unhealthy tax records. Green is OK, amber questionable and red is absolutely no fracking* way. Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi was put up for a knighthood in the New Year honours. Or should I say Mr Nadhim Zahawi as he still is?

*Complies with HMRC guidelines

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What is it with newspapers and constant dire warnings of meteorological Armageddon? The Express, of course, used to be famous for its flammed up weather stories, a mantle that has lately passed to the Mirror. Now the paper without a discernible revise system says that, if we think it’s cold now, just wait until February when a ‘polar vortex’ could trigger a ‘sudden stratospheric warming’ (it’s all such billhooks* isn’t it?) causing Arctic air to rush towards Britain. Amid all the conjecture they rather give the game away by quoting a weatherman who says there is ‘a small chance’ the SSW will bring cold weather.  Personally, I rely on lookoutthewindow.com for my forecasts.

*To protect the vulnerable

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Trust The Times  obituarists to turn an elegant phrase. Reviewing the many-faceted life of libel lawyer Sir Richard Hartley, KC (Private Eye’s Sir Hartley Redface) who has just died at 90, one notes: ‘While he rested his head on many scented pillows, it was not until 2018 that he finally married.’

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Beware digital assistants such as Alexa and Siri: they can cause trouble with a capital T. It was the latter which activated itself on Australian boxing trainer Jamie Alleyne’s Apple Watch as he was sparring. When Jamie grunted ‘One, One, Two: nice shot’ it dialled 112 - Oz’s equivalent of 999 - where a call handler picked up the word ‘shot’ and dispatched 15 cops and several ambulances to his gym.

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Heartening, isn’t it, to see the Irish hell-raising actor (hell-raising? Irish? actor? surely not — Ed) Colin Farrell cleaning up his act? The 46-year-old, lauded for his appearance in the movie The Banshees of Insherin, is on his best behaviour these days. A far cry from the time he was better known for shaggin’ and drugging’. He once said his weekly intake was ‘20 Es, four grams of coke, six of speed, half an ounce of hash, three bottles of Jack Daniel’s, 12 bottles of red wine, 60 pints and 40 fags a day’. And he learned lines?

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Mixed messages from the US’s nicer neighbour, Canada, according to my stringer with the glazed look and the silly giggle. The government’s new alcohol guidelines are no more than two drinks a week, down from 15 for men and 10 for women. Bizarrely, next month some parts of the country will decriminalise heroin and crack cocaine. 

*****

A nostalgia gem from music promoter Tony King’s autobiog The Taster: he once had to usher John Lennon out of a Four Seasons concert after the Beatle kept bellowing at Frankie Valli: ‘Show us your dick!’

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I haven’t seen it but, apparently, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is starring on social media in a video to explain why inflation is so high and how he’s going to bring it down. Using a flat white as an example he explains why a coffee that was £2.50 a year ago is now costing nearly £3. Of course, he doesn’t mention that, thanks to taxpayer subsidies, a flat white in Parliament’s The Despatch Box cafe is still only £1.85. Priceless.

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You know how we love words on The Goss. After all, we claim to be wordsmiths. So let’s welcome a new study which identifies the hardest word to pronounce in English: the Irish name Aoife (ee-fa). Others include the Brazilian fruit açaí (ah-sa-ee) and the Greek kebab gyros (yee-ros). Also mentioned is the traditional English shed-yool as opposed to the pesky American sked-yool.

Medical news: My informant in a white lab coat with pipette RSI tells me that university researchers in the States have tracked down a protein which counteracts key toxins in rattlesnake bites. The hope is that this will lead to identifying effective anti venoms for all snake bites. Just as well: they caused 120,000 deaths last year.

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Look, it could happen to anyone. These TV discussion programmes aren’t easy you know. Sometimes you forget things. Thus, Sky News staged a Q&A on the teachers’ strikes with a ‘handpicked panel of experts’ including a primary school headteacher who had nothing but criticism of the Government during the hour he was onscreen. Not surprising, really: Sky forgot to mention he was chairman of his local Labour Party branch and even stood for the party in the 2017 election. 

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Oh, what fun they had back at the beginning of the 20th century. The online mag Mental Floss reminds us of some of the whimsical slang terms in vogue in 1910. Such as: Againster — a contrarian or hater; Bosher — someone who talks bosh or nonsense; Woofits — a malaise caused by anything from lack of sleep to being Peloothered or, to you and me, pissed.

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Look, I don’t want to worry you but…on December 5, 2022, a Russian airbase 500 miles southeast of Moscow was bombed by a Ukrainian drone. What didn’t receive much coverage was that this airbase appears to contain nuclear warheads, says Eric Schlosser, of The Atlantic magazine, which means that this was the world’s first aerial assault on a nuclear base. OK, so there was very little risk because the warheads are in heavily fortified underground bunkers but as Eric says: ‘It’s a reminder how dangerous this war remains.’


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Don’t let anyone tell you that The Goss only concentrates on trivia: Stoke-on-Trent is Britain’s smelliest place — official. The Staffordshire city received 860 smell complaints last year, more than any other local authority. 

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I don’t know how to put this, and stop that down table sniggering, but 2023 is The Year of the Beaver. That’s Castor Canadensis to you, not any other sort. Two beavers, Chompy and Hazel, have been released into the wild in Hampshire marking the first time in 400 years that the toothy rodent has lived there. Forget darling little Greta, apparently beavers are the ultimate climate activists: they build dams that reduce flooding, help store water for droughts and help wildlife. Why, they’ve even been helping the Ukrainian war effort by churning up the land on the border with Belarus making it impassable for the Russians.

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Our old tartan-hued chums in Albion Street have known this for years but now experts catch up by confirming that Scotch whisky is one of the best investments. Rare Scotch increased in value by 428% between 2011 and 2021, considerably more than classic cars (164%), fine wine (137%), watches (108%) and art (75%). Investors clamour for rare bottles from  so-called silent distilleries, such as Port Ellen, Rosebank and Ladyburn, which closed long ago. Slàinte Mhath!

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It’s about time we had a new year contribution from the Drone’s The World Has Gone Mad monitoring department. So The Wall Street Journal’s assertion ‘The latest TikTok star is canned tuna’ is a pretty good start. There have been more than 25million views of clips tagged #TinnedFish and year-on-year sales are up by 10%. Now there are new varieties featuring flavoured olive oil, sauces and spices on the market and some glitzy brands are retailing at $20 a can. A tame marketing guru tells me: ‘It’s not about repackaging a standard tuna sandwich but proving it’s possible to have a gourmet experience with a can of tuna.’  I thought you’d want to know.

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Alice, front of house at the Drone’s ‘executive staff eaterie’, pauses for a chat as she slaps down my daily egg and chips. She confides that a 34-year-old American has broken the record (who knew?) for visiting the most Michelin-starred restaurants in 24 hours. Eric Finkelstein managed 18 locations in New York. Dishes ranged from oysters to a savoury Japanese custard called chawanmushi. Cost? Not too spiteful: $494 before taxes and tips.

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Our hand-wringing religious correspondent Father Terry, he of the unbelievably dirty habits, bewails the fact that young people are increasingly shunning God and turning to Satan. In the 2021 census more than 5,000 respondents say they’re batting for Beelzebub compared with 1,893 in 2011. London-based Satanist chaplain Leopold says that only a minority actually worship the Prince of Darkness (sic). The rest ‘just like rituals’.

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Those sharp-suited shysters at Goldman Sachs, the finance institution often criticised for lack of ethical standards, have done it again. They’ve  laid off 3,200 workers, some with only half an hour’s notice. Forget the sacked staff, it’s win, win for the bosses. Not only did the bank save all those salaries but money-grubbing investors were so impressed by the mass cull that the GS market cap was boosted by $3.3billion. Even I can work out that this is more than a million dollars for each employee let go.

*****

Don’t breathe a word to the Haitch-Arr team at Reach, because it may give them ideas, but American companies have devised a devious way to avoid paying overtime. A legal loophole means that managerial staff don’t receive pay for extra work. So lowly workers are now being given fancy titles such as ‘price scanning co-ordinator’, ‘lead shower door installer’ and ‘carpet shampoo manager’. Don’t laugh: it’s saving US firms $4billion a year.

*****

Power lunch? Purlease: that’s sooo 2022. Haven’t you heard? It’s  all about the spa these days: clients entertained in infra-red saunas, brainstorming in ice baths, job interviews to the accompaniment of vitamin drips. And just because it’s happening in the States doesn’t mean it isn’t real, you know. Most popular spa spot? ‘The foot rub area,’ reveals Kane Sarhan, founder of spa chain, Well. ‘I’ve seen dozens and dozens of meetings there.’ Sounds a bit like the dodgy Turkish bath a certain Express exec used to patronise between editions. Nuff said, though.

*****

Pity Christmas is past. Here’s a gift guaranteed to be first in most people’s stocking: a pillow that detects when a sleeper is snoring and subtly nudges their head into a different position to stop the noise. The Motion Pillow, developed by a Korean tech company, can tune into the timbre of anyone’s snore and when grunts start it slowly inflates to improve the sleeper’s airflow.

*****

The Spare Part’s  whingetome reveals he consulted ‘a woman with powers’ to contact his late mother. Mysticism and communicating with loved ones beyond the grave is all the rage nowadays. One astrologer, trusted by nobs such as Princess Eugenie, even charts ‘a DNA map of your soul’. Trust the luvvies to get in on the act, so to speak. Helena Bonham Carter hired a psychic to contact Princess Margaret to ask if it was OK to play her in The Crown.

*****

Anyone who’s been there knows that Japan is a strange place. Home to humanoid robots it may be but its bureaucracy remains ‘steadfastly analogue’, says the Washington Post. Official documents are still transmitted by fax (what’s that?) or floppy disk. Bank transactions and housing contracts can still require a personal seal. At last, though, a brave new world beckons: a digital minister has been appointed to oversee a huge switch of public services online.

*****

Readers have been petitioning the editor for more, ahem,    s-e-x in The Goss. So here goes: the constant drone (sic) of ships’ engines is disrupting the love lives of crabs, an innovative study at the University of Derby has found. Researchers say it really, really spoils the mood for the amorous invertebrates. Now they’ve come up with the idea of presenting male crabs with yellow sponges doused in sex pheromones to stimulate randy females. After all, says author Kara Rising (sic), ‘poor little crabs need to have sex, too.’ (I can’t believe I‘ve just typed that).

*****

Now a return to our popular Oddballs-R-Us feature in which we scour the globe for snippets about, er, oddballs. A man in Japan has just spent £18,000 on a full-size wolf suit to fulfill a childhood dream to be an animal. The grey and white outfit, modelled on a timber wolf, took three days to make. ‘But,’ says Woolfie, ‘those three days felt very long. It was the kind of excitement I have not felt for a long time.’ The recipient chose to remain anonymous (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)

*****

Former BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellen-Jones, 64, retains his sense of humour despite suffering from Parkinson’s. He has formed a dining club with other sufferers, including ex-colleagues Mark Mardell and Jeremy Paxman. They’re thinking of launching a Movers and Shakers podcast.*****

My west coast stringer with the Hawaiian shorts and the 7ft FireWire Dominator surfboard texts: California (where else?) has a new law requiring companies with 15 or more employees to give salary estimates for all job postings. But they’re all pretty elastic. Tesla is offering one job paying between $83,200 and $417,600; a berth at Netflix is listed at $90,000 to a whopping $900,000.

Golden Globes viewers were a tad surprised to hear Austin Butler, who played Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic last year, still using the King’s distinctive southern drawl. The 31-year-old insists his DNA ‘will always be linked’ to Presley after immersing himself so fully in the role. Luvvies, don’t you just love ‘em?

*****

Richard Littlejohn’s column about union leaders trotting out the cliché of always wanting to ‘get around the table’ with bosses to attempt to solve disputes rings a distant, nostalgic bell. The rheumy-eyed among us recall the Express FOC who wore one of those rotating bow ties, beloved of clowns, when he got ‘around the table’ with Struan Coupar and Co. Whenever the management said something with which he disagreed his only response was a spinning bow tie. On another occasion he claimed he had a bad back and lay down on the floor causing Struan to have to stand up and peer over the table every time he addressed him. Not so much around the table but under the table.

*****

The Spare Part didn’t actually say ‘My cock’s a kipper’ on a US chat show but, during a discussion on the perils of frostbite, he did describe his penis as my todger, my  johnson, my wilson, my manpiece, my willy.  Interestingly, the Late Show censors only started bleeping when he referred to a ‘cock cushion’. Strange people, the Yanks.

*****

The apocalyptic weather in the US just lately, including a frightening deluge in California, has left San Francisco largely unscathed. This has been attributed to an initiative by the city to allow citizens to adopt individual storm drains and keep them free of debris in exchange for naming rights. Thus, top choices include Grate Expectations, You’re So Drain, Watergate, Lana del Drain and, inevitably, Drainy McDrainface. Strange people, the Yanks.

*****

Always been partial to a bit of Madness, me. Top ska performers who have maintained their popularity over the years. So much so that they caused a minor earthquake at a reunion concert in 1992.  As the lads launched into One Step Beyond, the crowd of 35,000 at Finsbury Park started jumping up and down in unison causing a tremor which registered 4.2 on the Richter scale cracking windows and balconies. Three nearby tower blocks were evacuated. Lead singer Suggs says: ‘It’s something to go on the CV.’

*****

Do you think Harry Windsor and his publishers might regret the title of the whingetome? The English phrase ‘heir and spare’ doesn’t translate well so Spare is very much a challenge. In Poland it’s The Other One; in France The Substitute and in Sweden The Second. Reserve is the title in Dutch and German while in Portuguese-speaking Brazil they went, appropriately you may think, for What’s Left Over.

*****

Who said footie chaps haven’t got a literate sense of humour? One of the Beckham boys, making his debut for Brentford’s development team, asked what number shirt he should wear. Came the reply: ‘Wear four out there, Romeo.’ In fact he wore 21 but as Shakespeare says, in The Merry Wives of Windsor: ‘Good luck lies in odd numbers’.

*****

Oh, what larks! Bert’s Books, an independent retailer in Swindon, has Prince Harry’s whingetome, Spare on prominent display…alongside Bella Mackie’s new novel, How To Kill Your Family.

*****

Some of us remember the rather haphazard way the Express interviewed potential staff (Raybould and Benett anyone?). But they had nothing on Thomas Edison: he quizzed research assistants over a bowl of soup because he wanted to see if they added salt and pepper before tasting their food or afterwards. Premature seasoners failed the test because it showed they were overly reliant on assumptions and lacked curiosity.

*****

The Goss recruits pioneering outriders who roam the far frontiers of human endeavour,  knowledge and understanding so that you don’t have to. Consequently, we can reveal that heavier, potato-shaped stones are better for skimming across water that the flat ones everyone spends hours looking for. Chunkier rocks can give a ‘super-elastic response’. They may not bounce as many times but because they press into the water more deeply and for longer, the force they achieve can cause a ‘mega bounce’ that launches the object further.

Next: New formula for knocking skin off rice pudding.

*****

In the unlikely event that you’re ‘lucky’ enough to book an invasive op when our NHS heroes are actually working, please check for unseemly post-op clanking when you’re up and about again. My George Clooney lookalike in the green scrubs and matching Crocs reveals that the number of ‘foreign objects’ left inside patients was a record 291 in the year 2021-22. Of course, swabs and gauzes are the most common items sewn up in patients but scalpels and drill bits have slipped in, too.

*****

We’re used to the French paranoia about their precious language but now welcome to the irony-free zone that is the Italian Culture Ministry. Its boss, Gennaro Sangiuliano is outraged by foreign (especially English) words infiltrating Italian. Trouble is, he labelled the practice: ‘snobismo, molto radical chic’. Snobismo, of course, comes from snobbery, radical from, er, radical and chic from the French chic.****

To the Rattlebone Inn at Sherston, Wiltshire, in a field behind which the Spare Part claims he lost his virginity to an older woman who obviously ‘went like a rattlebone’. Particularly recommend the popular £14.95 Pie & Pint night with a choice of three pies prepared, appropriately, ‘by Roger and his team’.

*****

Oh, the vagaries of publishing, as Prince Harry would tell you (well, he’s told you everything else).  A beautifully produced glossy, full colour, copy of the latest Rupert Annual, originally priced at £10.99, is available at my local WH Smith for a crisp onecer. As Rupert writes: It really isn’t very fair that I am now a cut-price bear. Bill Badger says it is a sin that I am in the discount bin.

*****

You can’t avoid recaltricant strikers these days. If it isn’t revolting railmen, it’s posties and NHS ‘heroes’. My man with a free bus pass tells me of encountering slogan-chanting protesters outside a retirement home near our office in Walton-on-Thames: 

‘What do we want?

More cash for pensioners.

When do we want it?

Want what?’ 

Old people, eh…

*****

Bank robbers in Denmark are, apparently, hanging up their stocking masks and retiring discreetly to their villas in Spain, the Caribbean and Thailand. There wasn’t a single bank raid in Denmark last year. Just as well, says my snout in the horned Viking helmet: the vast increase in digital payments means that cash transactions are so rare that only 20 branches in the whole country carry physical money.

*****

It’s squeaky bum time in Hollywood, I hear. News that Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, teenage stars of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, are suing Paramount for $500million, alleging they were tricked into a semi-nude scene has had studio bosses choking over their popcorn. Yikes, says my best boy on the cutting room floor, if they succeed what about Brooke Shields as a sexually exploited child in Pretty Baby or Jodie Foster playing a prostitute in Taxi Driver when she was only 12?

*****

Frack* the New Year sales! Now Mrs D wants one of those super new ‘intelligent’ ovens which can not only cook delicious food but scrape the plates and put out the cat at night. Samsung’s latest version claims to be able to recognise 106 dishes as soon as you put them inside and recommend a cooking time for each. The Goss’s skivvy in a pinny reports that other features detect when a dish is being over-cooked and a hidden camera which enables you to watch your food cooking on your device or, if you’re really tech savvy, live-stream it straight to social media.

*Lord D compliant

*****

Time was when any Back Bar punter could name warblers who were top of the pops. Stars such as Sid Vicious, Terry Tantrum and Lenny Livid. Not any more. The real stars rarely figure in the charts or even earn a mention on TV or in newspapers. Bad Bunny, for instance, ‘is both one of the most popular artists in history and an unknown entity’, Tom Taylor, of Far Out magazine, tells me. The Puerto Rican purveyor of Spanish language reggaeton songs was the most streamed Spotify artist last year for the third consecutive year with an astonishing 18.5 billion plays. Yet he has never had a number one in the UK charts and only two in the top 40.

*****

We wordsmiths are notoriously poor at maths so we should all applaud teacher Sunak’s ambition for all school pupils to study the subject until they’re 18. Mind you, a lot of MPs are no better.  When 101 were asked a simple GCSE maths question - if you toss a coin twice, what’s the probability of getting two heads? - only half gave the correct answer: 25%.


*****

Nostradamus is alive and well and is posting on Twitter. A thread featuring predictions for 2023 made in 1923 has accumulated 10 million views. Some are amazingly accurate, such as the population of the US ‘will probably reach 300 million’ and people will communicate using radio telephones the size of watches. Others not so much, including cancer will be ‘eradicated’, life expectancy will be 300 years, newspapers will be obsolete by 1973 and ‘all people will be beautiful’.

*****

Pity those poor Albanians booked on flights to Rwanda. Their new home has a unique system for keeping the place clean and tidy. On one Saturday morning every month all bars, restaurants and shops have to close and people are only allowed to leave their homes to clear up litter. Those who try to ignore the rule can be stopped by police and made to start litter picking on the spot. Tirana was never like this, says Bujar, under footman at Drone Towers.

*****

Following my note about an American university banning cliches, I now record the finals of the World Cup of Random English Words. And the winner is…shenanigans!

The noun, meaning either secret, dishonest activity or manoeuvring or silly, high-spirited behaviour or mischief, triumphed after a year-long series of Twitter polls, beating codswallop in the final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro (not really).  Other words that made it to the knockouts were: kerfuffle; skulduggery; pandemonium; murmuration; cantankerous; flibbertigibbet and bollocks*

*Protocol breach permitted

*****

Did you see that British diplomats have been judged the most honest in the world - at least when it comes to parking tickets? A five-year study of unpaid penalties by envoys at the UN in New York revealed the Brits didn’t receive a single one. Alas, Kuwait can’t claim the same: its diplomats notched up an average of 246 each every year.

*****

They’ll blame Brexit for anything…even the ‘quality’ of illegal drugs. Ravers have been warned that because of supply snags, including Brexit, ecstasy pills contain less and less actual ecstasy and more guff such as caffeine. My man with a vacant look tells me that nearly half of the gear sold as ecstasy at festivals last summer contained no trace of the drug at all. Back on the Carly Special!

*****

Bravo to the American university that has joined the Drone’s crusade to avoid cliches like the plague. Lake Erie College has issued a list of words and phrases that are banned on campus. They are:

GOAT (greatest of all time); inflection point; gaslighting; quiet quitting; moving forward; amazing; absolutely; does that make sense? irregardless; it is what it is. Onwards and sideways, I say!

*****

Guinness  World Records are becoming increasingly bizarre, although I suppose that’s the name of the game. Last year saw the longest tightrope walk in high heels: 639 feet in four-inch stilettos (well done, Frambo!), the largest gathering of people with the same names: 178 Hirokazu Tanakas in Japan and the longest voyage by pumpkin boat: 38 miles down the Missouri River.  

*****

Norway is among the richest countries in the world and maybe this is one of the reasons why: forces’ conscripts have been ordered to return their government-issue underwear when they leave military service so that the pants, socks, vests and bras may be passed on to the next batch of recruits. After what defence chiefs insist were ‘proper checks and cleaning’, of course.

*****

Lunch With The FT, the Pink ‘un’s weekend interview spot, is a cherished tradition. Back in 1995 the poet Gavin Ewart, then 79, was the subject. He insisted on having several negronis (not for the faint-hearted) as aperitifs and carried on from there. Next day the interviewer received a call from Mrs Ewart. ‘There are two things you need to know,’ she said. ‘The first is that Gavin came home yesterday happier than I have seen him for a long time. The second - and you’re not to feel bad about this - is that he died this morning.’

*****

*****
Whom the gods would destroy, first they make mad … by completing a US Department of State Consular Electronic Application Center Online Nonimmigrant Visa Form. A chum of The Goss says he aged visibly filling in the notorious DS-160. And don’t anyone mention ESTA: if you’ve visited what the Yanks consider a country guilty of State Sponsored Terrorism, you’re fracked*. Only tortuous and torturous visa grovelling will do. To be fair, the website did (accurately) warn it would take 90 minutes. Our pal says: ‘Now all I’ve got to do is the provide a current photo and arrange a formal interview at the US embassy (three months’ waiting list) and wonder what they will ask me in the hour and a half I’m told it will take. Of course, I could  just go to Skeggie.’

*To attune with American sensibilities 

*****

Much has been made of the revelation that supermodel Heidi Klum’s (admittedly admirable) legs are insured for $2.2million. But readers with grey, or ash blond, hair may remember the dancer Cyd Charisse whose pins were covered for a $5million pay-out way back in the fifties when money really was money.  However, the record insurance for legs (£40million) is claimed by a tattooed ubiquity who used to kick a football for England. Shuffle forward, David Beckham.*****
A former Express mouse racer, a devotee of the match-making app, Tinder, shares the latest dating trend (as if I give a flying frack*). It’s ‘situationship’, more than a mere hook-up, I’m told, but not quite a traditional relationship. 

Other developments in this alternative world: Dinner and drinks are a no-no but ‘activity dates’ (remember them?) such as picnics, mini-golf, walking and bowling are in. Interests most likely to attract a match in users’ bios are concerts, yoga and vintage fashion.

*To protect the innocent

*****

The World’s Gone Mad No. 653: the art market went totally fracking* bonkers in 2022. Six pieces sold for more than £100million compared with only one the previous year. Top price was for Andy Warhol’s 1964 work Shot Sage Blue Marilyn which went for $195million. Georges Seurat’s 1888 piece Les Poseuses Ensemble (petite version) fetched $149million and La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, painted by Cezanne also in 1888, was sold for $138million. Unbelievable!

*T&Cs
*****

Courtesy of The Goss: your handy guide to the jargon nouveau you’re threatened with in 2023, according to The Economist. Productivity Paranoia describes WFH tensions around bosses suspecting that staff are just drinking coffee and munching Hobnobs while the workers are paranoid about being perceived as just drinking coffee and munching Hobnobs. Post-quantum Cryptography is the phrase for ultra cyber security systems handy for combating hacking from super powerful quantum computers. And Battery Belt is the new name for the Rust Belt, America’s old industrial heartland rejigged for electric cars and other green tech.

*****

Who’d be an author? Ask Matt Hancock about poor sales and less than enthusiastic criticism. Now LitHub has listed some of the year’s most scathing reviews.  They include the New York Times’s ‘reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo’ on Breaking History by Jared Kushner. Bob Dylan’s The Philosophy of Modern Song was summed up by the LA Times: ‘I began to feel like a therapist sneaking glances at my watch while the crackpot on the couch blurts one creepy fantasy after another.’ Even more brutal was the TLS verdict on Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise: Anyone must have a brain of stone to finish it without shedding tears of relief.’

*****

Thanks to the Times obit of satirist John Bird for reminding us of the character he created who said: ‘I don’t like the word xenophobic. For one thing it’s a Greek word and I detest Greeks.’

*****

Who’d be a snapper? Richard Pohle of The Times rather gives the game away as he reviews his year in pictures. On the day the Queen died he clambered on to the wall of the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buck House to take an historic picture of sombre crowds gathering to mourn. He says: ‘I realised to my horror that, in my haste to get there, that I’d forgotten my wide angle lens.’ You’ve got to admire him for admitting he used his mobile instead. Who knew?


*****


Twenty years ago Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, sold (aka practically gave away) 395 metric tons of gold — 55 per cent of Britain’s total reserve — at an average price of $275 an ounce. Why? To diversify the UK’s reserve assets away from gold which was thought to be too volatile. Mr Brown has recently become very active among the Labour Party hierarchy and is regularly consulted by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves. Should we be alarmed? Well, the price of gold today is $1,815 an ounce. Go figure!


*****


Actor Martin Compston proves again what a good operator he is in the agonising BBC two-parter, Mayflies. Of course, he’s better known as London detective Steve Arnott from the award-winning series Line of Duty. But in 2016 he made a dramatic switch in roles to star as the Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel in In Plain Sight to great acclaim, except from one reviewer, no names etc, who rubbished his dodgy Scottish accent. Pity. Compston was born and brought up in the Clydeside town of Greenock and was even a professional with Greenock Morton football team.


*****


Salvador Dali was not only one of the most accomplished artists of the 20th century but he also wasn’t far behind the door, as mummy used to say. He would avoid paying for meals out by putting a doodle on the back of his cheque knowing full well that the restaurateurs would rarely cash them. Michael Jackson also used the ploy: when he had to cancel a concert, he refunded ticket holders with hand-signed cheques. Fewer than one in 10 were cashed.


*****


Henry Ford dismissed history as ‘bunk’ and the academic Arnold J. Toynbee said it was ‘just one damned thing after another’ so I suspect neither would have been impressed by the knowledge that Cleopatra (69-30BC) lived closer to the launch of the iPhone in 2007 than the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza in about 2,600BC.


*****


More fodder from The Goss’s Esoteric Snippets Dept to help if you’re stuck for witty, incisive conversation at new year gatherings: hamsters are the heaviest drinkers in the animal kingdom. They can, according to researchers, neck the human equivalent of one and a half litres of 95% ABV vodka at a sitting. The rodents need this hardy tolerance to survive the winter when their hoards of ryegrass seeds and fruit ferment. They also seem to have developed a taste for it, says The Atlantic: ‘Given a choice between alcohol and water they always go for the booze.’


*****

Woke snowflakes have joined gnarled old inkies to lament the further gentrification of Ancoats in Manchester, home since 1939 to the Black Lubyanka (northern branch). The opening of a Michelin star restaurant in an area where black pudding used to hold sway was bad enough. Now, though, worried conservationists gather in the Crown and Kettle sipping schooners of Vita Maris IPA (6.5% ABV) to discuss a new planning application for a 20-storey Hilton Hotel just off Great Ancoats Street. Former Natsopa FOC Joe Suggs texts me: ‘It used to be a nice, rundown area of the city but now it’s going to the fracking* dogs.’


*Amended to protect the innocent.


*****


What a monster, that Vladimir Putin. He just loves playing childish power games when entertaining visiting prime ministers and presidents (remember he and Macron ‘negotiating’ at either end of a very long table before the Ukraine invasion?). Once, when meeting Angela Merkel, he allowed his huge black Labrador, Konni, to roam the room. Why? The former German Chancellor has a dog phobia after being bitten as a child and was visibly scared. Putin just sat back and enjoyed her discomfort.


*****


Perhaps it was the pioneering spirit of the Old West or, maybe, he just dismissed the excitable weather poppets’ dire warnings of the worst winter storm in living memory, but whatever possessed Ditjak Ilunga to go for a spin as the US’s deadly ‘bomb cyclone‘ approached? Not just down the road to a drug store near his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland but 421 miles to Hamilton, Ontario. Accompanied by his two young daughters and (as you do) a Pomeranian puppy. Of course, they became trapped in a snowdrift near Buffalo, NY but managed to stay warm by keeping the engine running. When the fuel ran out at 4am, Ditjak really chanced his luck and continued on foot. Happy ending though: they reached safety. Twat!


*****


Proof, if we needed it, that the world has gone fracking* bonkers: Charli D’Amelio, an 18-year-old dancer from Connecticut, now earns nearly £13million a year from posting dancing clips for her 149.2million followers on TikTok. Mind you, she’s just an also-ran compared with YouTube’s Jimmy Donaldson, 24, aka MrBeast. He garnered £39million from videos of his zany stunts. A bit of context: the median pay for top CEOs in the US is £9.6million, says The Wall Street Journal.


*T&Cs


*****


Back by popular (Eh? - Ed) demand, the Drone’s homage to a famous British actor: Barbra Streisand sang in the same school choir as Neil Diamond and was a classmate of chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer. Not many people know that.


*****


A reader confides: ‘My grandson received Christmas gifts of a dehumidifier, an orangutans calendar, a cast iron frying pan, a pack of Tarot cards and a pair of socks adorned with illustrations from the Kama Sutra. What, if anything, should I read into this?’


*****


Grateful to Allan Massie in The Oldie for the reminder that Scotland is a late convert to Christmas. When he was a child in the 1940s, Christmas Day wasn’t even a public holiday: work carried on in factories and shipyards and banks were even open until noon. All because of the Scots’ enthusiastically embracing the Reformation and the shunning of ‘Papist idolatry’. Hogmanay was the great winter festival but the jocks were eventually seduced by festive-themed TV: oh the lure of Christmas Night With The Stars.


*****


Fed up with carols? (how can Aled be as big a pain now as he was then?) Me too. Yet Jingle Bells started out as a Thanksgiving song called The One Horse Open Sleigh. Then Americans started singing it at Christmas and it sort of caught on, to put it mildly. And Good King Wenceslas wasn’t some gnarled old codger with a white beard but a young thruster in his twenties murdered by his brother with a lance. Not very festive was it?


*****

ITV’s programme The Savoy at Christmas recalls the halcyon days when the hotel was once a sort of upmarket canteen for some senior Express execs. There’s a tale of Sir Larold Lamb being forced to take public transport to the Strand when his office car was off the road. Hopping aboard a west-bound No. 11 Routemaster outside PA, the great man ordered the conductor: ‘Take me to The Savoy!’

*****

Who knew? Elizabeth Taylor amassed a fabulous fortune from films, including a percentage cut of Cleopatra, and husbands but this was easily eclipsed by a perfume she developed and marketed in 1991. White Diamonds, described as ‘a magical and glamorous fragrance’ has brought in £1.5billion (and counting).Channel 4’s Wagatha Christie trial re-enactment (bit tedious, isn’t it?) gives everyone another chance to laugh at Peter André’s allegedly diminutive cock. Not that André, a genial chap, seems fazed. Apparently, at an after show media trough fest to mark his West End turn in Grease he handed around a tray of chipolatas to hacks to help the medicine go down. 


Incidentally, another name for the Rooney-Vardy libel tussle: The Scousetrap.  


*****


How the ‘mighty’ have fallen: jungle over-achiever Matt Hancock entered the book charts at 191 with his much-hyped Pandemic Diaries. Now, though, it has plummeted out of the Top Thousand altogether, comprehensively outsold by The Air Fryer Cookbook. Ouch!


*****


Just when you thought it was safe to return to the No10 rose garden … BoJo takes the first important step on his comeback trail. The ousted prime minister has flown to Rupert Murdoch’s ranch in Montana to beg the media mogul to support him when, the theory goes, May’s local election results make Rishi Sunak’s position untenable. 


Apparently, Murdoch ‘heard him out’ and now Victoria Newton, Tony Gallagher and Emma Tucker are said to be dreading the phone call telling them to back Johnson.


*****


Darts? That’s for cissies. Latest craze in the US, says The Economist, is axe throwing. Some 20,000 competitors take part in 324 dedicated venues (up from 16 in 2017) all over the country. Chucking axes at wooden targets is also popular for team-building, stag dos and break-up parties where women target pictures of their exes. As retired cop Dean Cooper, from Texas, says: ‘I get to throw sharp stuff into wood and drink beer with friends. What’s not to like?’


*****


My snippet recalling Dorothy Parker’s Wrath of Grapes warning to those who, ahem, like a tincture prompts old chums to message The Goss with other examples of her keen wit.


From Country Boys’ Billie the Ghillie (and he should know): ‘I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.’


And from a feature writer who, wisely, wishes to remain anonymous: ‘I’m not a writer with a drinking problem but a drinker with a writing problem.’


Finally, from cheeky little Flo, who sometimes used to assist Alice (as in ‘pass the sickbag’) in the Express Grill Room: ‘I like to have a Martini: two at the very most. After three I’m under the table; after four I’m under my host.’


*****


As the Christmas party season builds to its over-loud, often embarrassing, sometimes vomit-flecked climax let’s remind ourselves of, and heed, Dorothy Parker’s warning about the Wrath of Grapes.


*****


Worried how Donald J Trump is faring two years after his fall from grace? Don’t bother. Legal problems aside, the 45th president is like a pig in shit, says the Washington Post (it didn’t really but you know what I mean). The strawberry blond-tressed 76-year-old plays 18 or 27 holes of golf six days a week using a golf buggie equipped with a laptop and printer which a lackey, who rides shotgun, uses to show him nice media coverage. On ‘quiet days’ another lackey calls his allies to request they phone him ‘to boost his sprits with positive affirmations’.


*****


Talk about the cost of living crisis: loaves of a Japanese-style milk bread are selling for £11.40 a pop in London and £15 in Los Angeles. The Tokyo bakery Gina Nishikawa, which created the latest must-try nosh called Shokupan, has a secret (up till now) ingredient for each loaf: a spoonful of honey.


*****


A bearer pads into my den bearing a cleft stick containing a dispatch from a chum at the Mirror. The message reads: This is the first par of the latest Hi folks, coming after our paltry 3% and all the misery of staff cuts and rota mischief:


'Hi folks

This week I've begun my annual tradition of reading A Christmas Carol … It's a reminder on the importance of reflection and a great recharge of your empathy batteries!'


My contact commented: 'Presumably he's lost the charger for the 'self-awareness batteries’.


To spare the author’s blushes I hesitate to name him. Suffice to say it’s Big Jim, who may or may not be CEO of Reach.


*****