BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
The Magazine Monitor


Welcome to the Magazine Monitor, the home for:

  • Daily Mini-Quiz results
  • Paper Monitor
  • Your letters
  • Punorama (Weds)
  • Caption Comp (Thurs)
  • 10 things we didn't know (Sat)


Piano keys
10 black piano keys by Peter Thompson

Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.

1. In colonial America, servants negotiated agreements that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than twice a week.

2. The daily cost of water for the average household is 68p - what it would cost to buy a 2-litre bottle of Evian in a supermarket.

3. Bill Gates does not have an iPod.

4. The majority of those living alone are aged over 65, particularly widowed women.

5. There used to be signs on buses in the UK warning against spitting to guard against the spread of TB.

6. Carousel fraud, a VAT scam in which products are circulated around fake companies, is so widespread that it costs EU countries the equivalent of the VAT take of France.

7. Des Lynam saw Laurel and Hardy on stage at the Brighton Hippodrome in 1951 aged eight.

8. Rather than abstaining, an MP can vote both for and against a motion at the same time.

9. Prince Charles may not live the most carbon-neutral of lifestyles, but he does drive a hybrid car.

10. And he wrote a fan letter to Jamie Oliver after the TV chef's School Dinners series.

[Sources, where stories are not linked: 1: Times, 24 Oct. 5: Guardian, 26 Oct. 6: Guardian 27 Oct. 7: Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, 21 Oct. 9 & 10: interview broadcast on BBC News 24, 26 Oct.]

If you spot anything that should be included next week, use the form below to tell us about it.

Your e-mail address
Your thing and where you saw it

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


Letters logo
Amusing thing happens when waiting in a departure lounge. Go online on public terminal, fancy a bit of the Monitor for diversion, and find that - alone among BBC pages, access is forbidden. "Unsuitable content," it says.
Elgan, UK

In Microsoft aims to trounce Google (27 October), Bill Gates said that "the PC of today is still not the PC he dreamed about 30 years ago"; doesn't he remember how in 1981 he said "nobody will ever need more than 640k RAM"?
Chris Simmons, Bristol

I see that TC (Monitor Letter, 27 October) has won Monitor Letter of the Week with a blatant bit of sucking up. Well I'm feeling pretty jealous, and would like to try a late attempt to win the title. So here goes: Hi Monitor, how are you? You're really smart, you know, and you do make me laugh. Hey, have you been working out?
Luke L, banana13
Winner of the Monitor's Letter of the Week for next week.

Re the caption comp - to be pedantic, it is surely a giant Westie rather than a giant Scottie (being white, rather than black), is it not?
Sarah, Oxford

Wine-loving French speakers use "Chateau la Pompe" for tap water (castle handpump). The current year is excellent and comes quite cheap.
Matt, London, UK

I've been wondered who it is that Phil Spector's amazing hair reminds me of... happily I've realised it's the eponymous Hair Bear from classic cartoon The Hair Bear Bunch.
Norbert, London, UK

I just tried Isabella's ego-surfing (Monitor Letter, 26 October) and was extremely disappointed to find a picture of me popping up!
Kris, Orkney, Scotland

At last! An excuse to be wasting time at work - claim the health benefits with this article saying that Cabbaging prevents cancer (doesn't it?).
Ben Hill, Cardiff, Wales


Newspapers logo
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press. (Apologies for late delivery. Paper boys these days...)

While the rest of the press revel in the visual spectacle of Thursday's endless blue skies and record-busting temperatures, the Independent dons its hairshirt bikini and reminds us to temper our enjoyment.

Across a front page picture of a family silhouetted against the sun and playing in the wash of Brighton beach, the Indy reports "A scene of simple pleasures on the hottest October 27 ever. Reason to be cheerful? Hardly."

Global warming is to blame, of course. And who's responsible? Well the Guardian is not alone in pointing out how Prince Charles, despite his recently voiced concerns about the environment, is not exactly a model citizen in such matters.

Annual skiing holidays, global travel, a handful of homes - these aren't the sort of things that cut down on greenhouse gasses. Yet the Prince has many eco plus points as well, such as his organic farm and the fact he appears to be a convert to renewable energy.

On a similar line, the Daily Mail notes that HRH is a convert to eco-friendly kettles and lightbulbs, double-sided photocopying and printing in his offices and using recycled official notepaper. Proof perhaps that now the blue skies have gone and temperatures are starting to dip, every cloud has a silver lining.


Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked, as forecasters predicted a mini-heatwave for the UK, when the last record high for 27 Oct was set? Another close-run result - 39% wrongly opted for 1976 (perhaps remembering the long, hot summer of that year), and 30% said it was 1918. It was in fact 1888, which 31% of you got right. Another heatwave-related question is on the Magazine index now.


Letters logo
On this page it is stated that poverty is defined as "below 60% of the UK average wage" yet it also states that the average salary (in London I presume) is £31,370. This means that if you're earning less than £19,000 you're living in poverty. Surely there's some mistake?

Re Kate's Monitor Letter, 26 October, about tap water being called "council pop", I spent my 1980s childhood with a father who only allowed me to drink 'corporation pop' with meals. It did make water sound more exciting somehow.
London, UK

If you go to my uncle's house (obligatory family cad), he will be mashing (making tea) with council pop (water) and cow juice (obvious).
Michael Rhodes,
South Normanton, Derbyshire

In The Netherlands tap water is known as 'gemeentepils', which translates as 'council pilsner'.
Charlbury, UK

Is cabbaging becoming the new Mornington Crescent?
David Gorton,
Oldbury, UK

Re the sexiest sections of motorway in Britain (Monitor Letter, 26 October), I dont know if it was a motorway or dual carriageway but I was a passenger in a car the other day and we passed a closed down Little Chef that had been reopened as a sex shop. Does that count?
Bedford, England

Surely a candidate for 10 Things We Didn't Know This Time Last Week, from a story about beavers due to be released in Britain: "The beaver was hunted to extinction for its fur and the pain-relieving properties of its anal gland secretions. " Just the thought makes my eyes water.
Cape Town

Re: Punorama's search for a new name for Yorkshire feta: Oh dear, please don't tell the EU I've been guilty of making Yorkshire Pudding in Sussex, Lancashire, Herts,and even for a few years in the US.
Herts UK

Re:Net users told to get safe online: does anyone else often type their password in the "town/city and country" form on the Monitor?
Basil Long,
Newark Notts

Re: The Daily Telegraph article, mentioned in Paper Monitor on Wednesday with the headline "I waited with sick baby for two hours as doctor rode unicycle on ward". For anyone who didn't read the entire article, the best part is the quote, "a letter from hospital managers...[said]...that in future all unicycling on the ward would be restricted to 'special occasions'". This seems only reasonable, doesn't it?
Louisa Henney,
Woking, UK

With all these changes coming in to the BBC News website, can the Magazine be given more 'space'? Especially the Monitor section. I would love to see more features, and most especially, more letters published. I'm sure I can't be the only one?

Winner of the Monitor's Letter of the Week.


It's time for the caption competition.

This week, gymnast Steve Frew and a giant Scottie dog unveil the new Scottish team tartan ahead of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. But what's being said?

6. J Gates, Reading
"I canny take the strain no longer, Captain."

5. Angela Barlow, Liverpool
The mystery beast of the Lost jungle is finally revealed.

4. Christian Cook, UK
After the fire, the Aardman animators had to work from memory in re-creating their most famous duo.

3. Colin, Dublin, Ireland
Despite long hours of intense traning, wee Scotty still hadn't quite grasped the concept of walkies.

2. Stuart, West Midlands
Nobody took the Cybermen seriously after cutbacks in the BBC costume department.

1. Bottly, Bristol, UK
"It's the only way we thought we could get away with 'Scottish Team' and 'Winalot' in the same sentence."


Newspapers logo
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. As is crisis.

Last week the Guardian was given the unusual privilege of being allowed to send a photographer into a Cabinet meeting. It resulted in quite an interesting photograph, showing where Tony Blair sits in relation to his colleagues, at a "boat-shaped" table which enables him to have eye contact with everyone in the room. It was interesting.

This is what the paper said about it: "On one of the few occasions that the cabinet has been photographed in active session, Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, stands before her fellow cabinet ministers to set out details of today's education white paper with the help of computer slides projected onto a screen at the end of the room."

Today the Daily Mail reprints the photo, and sees things which had completely passed the Guardian by.

"CABINET IN CRISIS" it says. "His chin jutting forward imperiously, his face a portrait of haughty arrogance, the photograph of Tony Blair presiding over last Thursday's Cabinet suggests a statesman at the height of his political power.... But as the viewer's eye takes in the rest of the scene, an altogether different picture emerges - of a Cabinet riven by rivalries and plotting its political survival."

How on earth could the Guardian have missed this?

Meanwhile another mention (in itself something of a record) to the Times People column, which yesterday gave us alternative suggestions for Angelina Jolie's tattoo. Today it morphs a photograph of Cherie Blair and her new haircut into Ann Widdecombe in four easy steps. Scary, whichever side of the political spectrum you're on.


Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how long since a new nuclear reactor was last built in Europe? A bit of a poser, it would seem, from how close the scores were - 30% correctly said that it was a decade, while 36% said it was 20 years and 33% thought it 25 years. Today's mini-quiz is on the Magazine index now.


Letters logo
Re How smart are you? - History, and the Nelson question. Just to be pedantic, Nelson was preserved in rum betwen Trafalgar and Gibraltar and then brandy from Gib to London. It was rumoured that the sailors guarding the barrel of rum quietly drained off quantities in order to give themselves some of Nelson's courage. The tradition continues in Nelson's birthplace in Norwich where one local pub sells a concoction called Nelson's Blood.
Hamilton, Bermuda

Re: Suckers, 25 October, in which you discuss the increasing sale of bottled water. Has anyone else come across the term "council pop" for tap water?
Manchester, UK

Interesting to hear of Neil's creation of "photo-cabbaging" (Monitor letters, Tuesday). Try ego-surfing Google Images for another diverting pastime. Type in your name and see whose picture pops up. I am apparently a dreadlocked singer-songwriter, my boyfriend a check-shirted snow-mobiler and my baby daughter a middle-aged librarian with a worrying fondness for loud floral prints.

Re James's Cabbaging experiences (Monitor Letters, Tuesday). This is clearly an example of reverse-switch cabbaging, as defined in the 2002 Supplement, and as such should be discounted. Unless of course you were playing under the Strasbourg variant, which allows reverse-swtiching if any one of your opponents executes a double pack-pass cabbage.
London, UK

Jeremy Langworthy's letter in the Monitor on Tuesday criticises the BBC's choice of pictures of motorways for being dull. Please point out sections of motorway that are exciting in still life and I, for one, will award you a metaphorical coconut.

I am intrigued to see what an "interesting" section of motorway looks like. Maybe we could have a new challenge for Monitor Readers - what are the sexiest sections of motorway in Britain? How would we measure their "Lang-worthiness"? I'd like to nominate a stretch of the M40 towards Oxfordshire which runs through a cutting type thing, which I find quite nice.
Croydon, Surrey

Elle Dodd asks which places in the world, apart from Hollywood, Machynlleth and Brasov have "Hollywood"-style signs. She can add Mosgiel in New Zealand - sometimes referred to as "Mosgielwood".
Dave Johnson,
Dunedin, New Zealand

Another small Welsh town that might benefit from such a sign would be Holywell, Flintshire.
David Green,
Flintshire/Oxford, UK

As you drive over the QE2 bridge from Essex to Kent you see the word 'CROSSWAYS' in large white letters. It is, alas, no more exciting than an industrial estate.

In Can a home wind turbine make money?, 25 October, we are advised "You should be able to buy [a wind turbine] at B&Q and stick it in yourself." Ouch, well that'd put me off right away.
Bagshot, UK

Proof if proof were needed that the new Have Your Say system works. The most recommended comment on the debate about the smoking ban: "Having a smoking section in a pub or restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool." Pure genius.
Paul Taylor,
Manchester, UK

If someone were to cough up mineral water, could they be said to have Evian flu?
Lee Pike,

So Lamb and Lynx have decided they "want to keep being white" (Paper Monitor, Tuesday). It's always nice when young people set attainable goals, don't you think?
Calgary, Canada


Punorama's on a training course all week - "The role and uses of word-based comedy in the 21st Century" or similar - so here's a special Wednesday Objective instead.

You will have seen that the Yorkshire firm which has been producing Feta cheese has been told that from now on, Feta can only be produced in Greece. They will have to find something else to call it.

But what is it to be? Here is a selection of your suggestions, cut into handy little cubes and presented with olives and tomatoes.

Feta Compli
Simon Rooke, Nottingham UK

People often add 'ish' to denote a near similarity, ie: 2C is cold and 10C is cold-ish. Therefore I propose 'Fet-ish'.
Helen, York, UK

Phil, Bristol, UK

How about calling the cheese Ilfeted?
Rob McKay, Banbury

They could sell it with a string tied around it and call it "fetter". If the Greeks declare war on Yorkshire over this, will it be a "fetwa"?
Mark Esdale, Bridge, Canterbury

Fresh and Excellent and Tantelisingly Appetising cheese, which could be shortened to...
Kahla, Leeds, UK

Beta. Because it's beta than feta.
Hazel Johnson, London, UK

I Can't Believe They Wouldn't Let Us Call It Feta
Chris Field, US

Phetta. I'd like to see the Eurocrats stop that one.
Richard Peers, Croydon, England


Newspapers logo
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When the end of the year comes, Paper Monitor hopes - as part of our annual 52 weeks 52 questions extravaganza - to host a quiz on the year's best headlines. Who can forget, for instance, the Express's "BOMBERS ARE ALL SPONGEING ASYLUM SEEKERS" from July?

Telegraph headline: 'I waited with sick baby for two hours as doctor rode unicycle on ward'
Well there's an entrant to the bizarro category today in the Telegraph (right). Great work.

And a special mention to the Times "People" diary today which notes Angelina Jolie's new bad taste tattoo across the back of her neck. In the unpleasant Gothic font so beloved of tattooists, she now has the words "know your rights" etched on her. Profound, huh? Diarist Hugo Rifkind does the decent thing, though, and suggests alternative texts for her: "Bad Hair Day" (especially appropriate because the tat is only visible when Jolie has her hair up), "Kick Me" and "How is my driving?".

It all puts Paper Monitor in mind of the legendary story from 1999 when three American biker chicks sued a tattooist after they realised that their new tattoos across their chests did not, as they had requested, say "Satan's Slaves". Oh no. They said "Stan's Slaves". That font can be so confusing, can't it?


Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how many British graduates now choose to work abroad? A respectable 41% of you correctly answered one in six, while 37% said one in nine and 22% said one in 12. Today's mini-quiz is on the Magazine index now.


Re: Steer in Monitor Letters, was there some humour that I missed in your letter? What on EARTH are you trying to say? I for one am completely baffled!

While having my first go at cabbaging, I ended up on this page: There isn't a date on the page itself, but the date is in the title bar, and in the address. Does this count, or am I disqualified? We cannot award the teacake until we have official adjudication! Thanks for a great magazine.

Congratulations BBC online. Whilst I understand that finding stimulating imagery for some of your "drier" stories may be a challenge you really have set new standards with the photos in the article Scanner to 'see inside' concrete These are, without question, two of the dullest sections of motorway I have ever seen.
Jeremy Langworthy

Quick question: are Lamb and Lynx the same blond little girls that were featured on one of those Louis Theroux's shows a while ago? I seem to remember he spent some time with some white supremacist family and the two girls would sing about how great it was to be white...
Milton Keynes

With reference to the article about the EU decision on naming of Yorkshire-made feta cheese How about 'the cheese formerly known as Feta'?
Ben Simkins
Vevey, Switzerland

Reading about the new Hollywoodesque sign in Machynlleth made me think, how many other cities have a Hollywood sign? Are there enough for me to stop calling it a Hollywood sign, does it have real name? The first (or rather third) place on the list, is Brasov, Romania.
Elle Dodd
Brasov, Romania


Newspapers logo
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

An interesting tale to tell you today, plus an elegant turn of phrase - the kinds of things that Paper Monitor was put on this earth to share.

Firstly a tale from the Times about 13-year-old twins from California who sing songs together. They're called Lamb and Lynx and look charming, pretty girls with long blond hair (Flexicon:"blong hair"). Their "Smiley" T-shirts are also typical of many girls their age, apart, that is, from the way the face has been made to look like Hitler. The pair are the biggest thing to hit the white supremacist pop scene in some time.

In a statement (which is not believed to be related to the need for taking precautions in the hot Californian sun), Lynx told reporters: "We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white."

The paper reports: "Their mother appears to be the main source of inspiration. 'I'm going to give them my opinion, just like any parent would,' [she said]... April Gaede said that she had tutored the twins herself at home, teaching them her own version of current affairs and history. The girls have also been brought up surrounded by their father's taste in décor, which relies heavily on the swastika. He wears it on his belt buckle, plasters it on the side of his pick-up truck and has even registered it as his cattle brand."

Ah well, here's something to cheer - the Guardian's Simon Hoggart interpreting what he sees as an idealised way that 24-hour drinking will work. "[T]he new hours will create a relaxed and continental drinking culture, in which young persons toy with a glass of rose until two in the morning, as twinkle-eyed peelers stand outside pubs suggesting that they might move along, but only if they've had enough. Then the young women will ride home on unicorns."


Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked - after Goodfellas what has been named the second best film ever in a poll for Total Film magazine. Only 18% of you got it right and opted for Vertigo, 48% thought it was the Godfather Part II and 34% thought it was Jaws. So, to be blunt, you were mostly wrong. Today's mini-quiz is on the index now.


Letters logo
In Sneeze into the hanky! Got it?, 24 October, you say "Charley Says worked because kids...thought they were cute little cartoons... The animation had a home-made, cut-out look similar to the Roobarb and Custard cartoons, so they didn't look scary". Two things: 1) Roobarb & Custard didn't have a cut-out look, it had a wiggly drawn look, and b) Charley Says films used to scare the bejeezus out of me. They were coloured in shades of mud and looked as though they were set in the most depressing town in Britain. The look of the animation freaked me out even before they had got to The Message.
Runcorn, UK

Re: Lobsters, 24 October. An American colleague was on a visit to Thailand when some locals asked him a most poignant question: "Why do you eat lobster when you can afford meat?"
Mark Esdale,
Bridge, Canterbury

I've been reading (with some interest) the thoughts about Brian Cant's absence from the Quaker Oats advert (Ad Breakdown: Miller's sexed-up tale, 21 October). I'd like to shed some light on to the matter - if you look on a list and see "Brian Cant", then surely the best thing to do would be just to keep moving down the list and find someone who can? I suggest Brian removes the "t" from the end of his surname - more work may result.

Re: Paper Monitor's request for a Flexicon word for the vindication of obsessive menu-keepers: perhaps they could call themselves "save-yours"? (Suggested by a colleague, I must admit.)
Brian Ritchie,
Oxford, UK

If I only were able to come up with an entry to the Flexicon, that entry would be "correctrospective". Ah well indeed.
Croydon, Surrey

Rey Apple faces iPod Nano litigation, 24 October, in which you report: "Commenting on the lawsuit, Apple said: 'We do not comment on pending litigation.'" At last, news stories from The Day Today!
Basil Long,
Newark Notts

I have stumbled along a new pastime for time-wasting at work.. photo-cabbaging. I managed five clicks starting here Chippy named best in Wales, all using the same stock photo (or close up from the same photo) of a particularily unappetising-looking bit of fish & chips. I have duly awarded myself a picture of a teacake.

Luv your site, lads!!!
Catherine Monaco, Los Angeles
Monitor note to Monaco: What about us gals?

Can we have someone who can watch over theys websit makes. so each one to be carefull in want they say about thinks they are going to happen when they are not going to happen like thres plx .

RE: the introduction of a Flash 7 days 7 questions, 21 October: I thoroughly miss the excitement of not knowing my score until I press results. That is all.
Dave Candy,
Bicester, United Kingdom

Monitor note to Candy: We'll see what we can do.


Newspapers logo
A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Spare a thought for those obsessives among us who do weird things like, oh I don't know, collecting the menus from every restaurant they go into.

For as today's Times reveals, by comparing the prices of seafood in US restaurants over the past 150 years, it's possible to glean all sorts of interesting facts about people's tastes and prices. "All this comes from a few crazy people who collected menu cards, but it's a remarkable resource," the researcher behind the project says.

So what can we tell? That in the 1850s it was "unusual to see lobster on menus at all except in bargain-priced lobster salad". "It was considered a trash fish - it was not something you'd want to be seen eating. In colonial America, servants negotiated agreements that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than twice a week."

If only there was an entry for the Flexicon which could accurately describe such a vindication that an obsessive might experience. And failing that, if only there was a group of creative-minded folk who might come up with one. Ah well.


On Friday's G'Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked what was the name of Stefan Dennis's hit in 1989. 60% of you were right, saying it was Don't It Make You Feel Good. 12% thought it was Mona, which was of course a number two charting effort from Craig McLachlan and Check 1-2 in 1990. 23% of you thought it was Something Outa Nothing, which was in fact an EastEnders' duet between Paul Medford and Letitia Dean which reached no 12 in 1986. So well done to the 60% - don't that make you feel good?

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
Your e-mail address
Town/city and country
Your comment

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific