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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 16:33 GMT
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)


10 bales of straw by Peter Bradshaw

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

1. During WWI, drinking water was often delivered to the front in old petrol canisters. "If you'd been there long enough you could tell the difference between water that had come in a BP can and one that had come from a Shell can," one veteran recalled in BBC One's The Last Tommy.

2. The mother of stocky cricketer - and surprise Strictly Come Dancing front-runner - Darren Gough was a ballet dancer. She has been helping him with his pivots.

3. Nettles growing on land where bodies are buried will reach a foot higher than those growing elsewhere.

4. Brian Cobby, the voice of the speaking clock, was also the man behind Thunderbirds' "5,4,3,2,1 Thunderbirds are Go".

5. It was partly thanks to the pioneering use of LPs by the Royal National Institute for the Blind that they were eventually adopted by the music industry.

6. The late Lord Lichfield used a whistle to keep the Royal Family in order when taking the photographs at Charles and Diana's wedding.

7. The concept of ransom comes from the medieval code of chivalry, which decreed that defeated knights be unharmed and exchanged for a sum of money.

8. A 19th Century covenant forbids the building of sports facilities on a plot of land earmarked for the 2012 Olympic development in east London. The government is planning to pass a law overturning the rule.

9. Armistice Day is one of the four peak times of the year for the speaking clock, the others being News Year's Eve and when the clocks change.

10. The French equivalent of the Remembrance Day poppy is the blue cornflower.

Sources where no link: 2: BBC Two's It Takes Two, Wednesday. 4: Radio 4's PM, Thursday. 6: BBC News 24, Friday. 9: Daily Mail, Thursday. 10: BBC One O'Clock News, Friday.

Thanks this week to Lucy Jones and Bryce Cooke.

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

Re British 'hostages' freed in Iran, 11 November. Can you explain why being detained by the Iranian authorities without charge for 13 days is "being held hostage" while being detained by the British authorities without charge for 28 days (or 60 or 90) is not? It is even more ironic that your report ends with "Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said "a good deal of work behind the scenes" had helped secure their release. "It has been distressing for the Wises and for their family," he said. "I am very glad that they have been released safely and without any charge by the Iranians.""
David Hardy,
Farnborough, UK

About your Paper Monitor piece about men's briefs and its reporting of a letter from Ralph Jones in the Guardian. Aren't we getting over PC? Recently a female collegue mentioned her preference in knickers. What's the problem? Everybody seems to be over PC. I think Ralph Jones needs to get a life, as does anybody else who has nothing better to do than worry about offending people.
Guildford, UK

A question for Monitor monitors: I'm considering auctioning my LBQ keyring on Ebay next week, in aid of Children in Need. How much should I ask as a reserve price?
Simon Robinson,
Birmingham UK

Why didn't the producers of Strictly Come Dancing choose Charles Dance to partner Camilla? It works on so many levels.....ok just two, but still it would be amusing.
Erol Fehim,

Surely there's enough "flexicontent" to publish a rushed stocking filler for 2005? You know, the comic "littlerature" that they pile up on that shelf in front of the tills at bookshops (aka the "final front-tier").
Tim G,
London, UK

Shame on you, Monitor! How could you place Andrew Payne's caption at no.6? It was by far the best of the bunch.
Sue, London, UK

A while back there was a fad of formulae for everyday living. Is there a formulae for getting letters posted? If not, may I propose one?
C = 1/L * W
C is the chance of getting posted
L is the length of the letter - short is good
W is the wittiness
(and I bet after all this effort my letter is too long to be posted)

Perhaps Sir Christopher Meyer might be an embarassador in the Flexicon?
Norwich UK

OK, I give up. What *is* an almost imperceptible witticism?


It's time for the caption competition.

This week, the driver of the world's largest supermarket trolley parks up outside a store in Henley-upon-Thames, Oxfordshire, in preparation for a world record attempt.

6. Andrew Payne, Northwich, Cheshire
"So they want me to present Supermarket Sweep, write the theme tune, sing the theme tune..."

5. Christian Cook, UK
"0-60 in 10 seconds, alloy wheels, air-conditioned... Forwards? Well, no, it doesn't do that."

4. Louise, UK
"What do you mean panic buying?!"

3. Ross, Reading, UK
"I found this one dumped in the Giant's Causeway."

2. Stuart Allen, UK
"Long story love. I work at the Asda just down the road from Hogwarts. Pesky kids. You should see what they did to the cigarette counter, we'll never get rid of those camels..."

1. Christian Cook, UK
"Could the 30-foot woman please report to the car park."


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

Today, friends, Paper Monitor is troubled. There had been glee when it heard the Davis/Cameron briefs/boxers revelations. But now, following a letter in today's Guardian, glee is replaced by guilt:

Ralph Jones of Rochester, Kent, asks: "Can you imagine the reaction if a male BBC interviewer had asked two female politicians which type of knickers they preferred."

This does indeed pose some uncomfortable questions. So instead of going into too much of a downer, let's instead revive our DVD-watch. It seems the DVD revolution might nearly be over - it was only a few weeks ago that every paper seemed to including a disc in its weekend editions which would fall out onto the floor never to be watched. This weekend, it appears only two papers - the Times (Hitchcock's Rebecca) and the Daily Mail (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) - will be so laden.

Which means... maybe the papers are going to be concentrating on their stories rather than free gifts. If true, this is terrible news, since it means Paper Monitor might have to start working weekends.


Ok, no great surprises. Sixty-eight percent of you guessed correctly in yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz, that, on average, we spend 95 seconds in a telephone queue before speaking to a human when ringing big businesses and utilities? Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is in the Magazine index.


Letters logo

I notice that there is an increasing number of letters wherein the correspondent pleads to be awarded 'Letter of the Week'. Should these letters perhaps be described in the Flexicon as 'Begulars'?
Peter Collins, Belfast

Re: Darkness song titles. Anna seems to have left her sense of humour at home when reading that story... I wouldn't expect an album title less silly than "One Way Ticket..." from the band that gave us songs called "Love On The Rocks... With No Ice".
Richard, Reading

I note your headline, Fake psychic in evil spirit scam. May I ask how your correspondent ascertained the difference between a 'fake' and 'real' psychic?
Keith Collantine, London, UK

Yes, Biff (letters, Tuesday), but Americans don't use the Greek alphabet, do they? They use the Latin alphabet - the same as us - so there's no excuse, really.
Ben Paddon, Luton, England

Re: Parliament Cleaners Strike Again - surely they should have been caught by now?
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

I notice you refer to 'tidbits'. I always thought it was titbits. Having checked the dictionary (I know- not as modern as a flexicon but perhaps a little more reliable) I see they are both listed, though tidbit is American. I think I'll stick with titbit- you know what you're getting
Basil Long, Newark Notts

I have two observations on your story about New Zealand trying to lure its ex-pats back home. Mention is made of young people leaving, and Brits emigrating in "droves". This is clearly an ancient mode of transport (there was a cattle drover in Rome last night), surely modern people would prefer boats or planes. Also, New Zealand has the "lowest unemployment in the Western world" but just where does the west stop and the east begin?
Ralph, Cumbria

If Brian Ritchie (letters, Wednesday 9th) hadn't been in such a hurry to get his coat, presumably he would have found a link to Pseudo Queue?
Boots, Epsom

Congrats to Brian Ritchie from Oxford. He gets my letter of the week award. Genius!
Rick, Uganda

Regarding today's mini quiz about ringing businesses: I noted that there are a few people who guessed 25 seconds. What I would like to know is which businesses have they been ringing - I wanna switch to them!
Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK

To Teri of Detroit : one of the criteria for Letter of the Week is to be very picky; for example, by making the distinction between 'criteria' (plural) and 'criterion' (singular). I'm still trying to find out what the other criteria are.
Gareth, Cambridge, UK

In answer to Teri from Detroit, to be considered for the honour of letter of the week, one must be able to spell "honoUr"
Jimlad, Amersham, UK

In answer to Teri from Detroit (Monitor letters, Wednesday) I believe to be considered for Letter of the Week, your letter must contain at least three almost imperceptible witticisms.
Gareth Edwards, Stoke on Trent , UK


Woman's Hour interview
"OK, I've been dared to ask this one, boxers or briefs?"
It's Punorama, our headline pun-writing contest.

The rules are simple - we give you a story and in return you give us a punning headline, with the accent on originality.

The story for this week is how it's briefs for Tory leadership hopeful David Davis, while his younger rival David Cameron prefers boxers (the pair revealed their preferences during a pop quiz on BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour).

Some stunning punning folks.

We lost count of the Brief Encounter suggestions and pants references, referring to the underwear of course and not the calibre of entries.

James Evers from London offered Tory Panty Split and Guy Thompson, also from London, came up with Panty Political Broadcast.

Some of you got a bit naughty, take Julian, Warks, with Battle of the Bulge and the offering of Geoff Alderman, London, Two very different approaches to keeping Tory members happy.

Others took the opportunity to take a little pot shot at the two candidates. Gerard Krupa from Coventry came up with Tories openly admit their pants, while Paraskos from Norfolk offered Two Knickerbocker Glories up for election

Some ran with the news angle, James from Cape Town, South Africa, suggested News in briefs: Cameron boxers clever.

Time to love you and leave you.


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

Tony Blair's defeat in the Commons over the 90-day detention plan for terror suspects leads both the anti-Blair Daily Mail and Blairite Times to ask the same question on their front pages: "Beginning of the end?"

Meanwhile, it's the last day of the serialisation of Sir Christopher Meyer's memoirs in the Guardian and the Mail, and a chance for our former man in Washington to reflect on his time as press secretary to prime minister John Major.

A scattering of tidbits...

  • There was no one to arrange newspaper deliveries at Downing Street when Meyer pitched up.
  • John Major would hold morning briefing sessions with Meyer while getting dressed "no matter what stage this process had reached".
  • Norma Major used to sit in bed reading the papers and drinking tea while Meyer perched on a bench at the end of the bed.
  • Mr Major gained succour from the stubborn and sectarian politics of Northern Ireland. His "cares would fall from his shoulders" when visiting Belfast.
  • The ailing Greek president of the day, Andreas Papandreou, once so ineptly chaired a meeting of European leaders that they all got up and left early, mistakenly thinking it was over.


In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked how many members of the Conservative Party there are, and 42% of you answered correctly - 253,689. Thursday's question is on the index now.


Letters logo
Interesting to read Signs of spring, 9 November. I was told we could expect a long, cold winter. Did I sleep through it?

In the genetics question in How smart are you? - Bioglogy, 9 November, I noticed with amusement the inclusion of the word "married" when describing the couple with kids. This isn't a subtle call for a "return to traditional family values", is it?

Your Biology quiz has the usual comment at the end to see how good you are. But surely with 12 being "Head Bone", people like me who got 3 should be "Bone Head"...
Kirk Northrop,
Manchester, England

Isn't it a good job us Monitor Monitors aren't put off by comments with too many exclamation marks! (Re: Signs of spring)
Basil Long,
Newark Notts

Your story about the Darkness album being leaked prior to release (Darkness singer tackles eBay leak, 9 November). I notice the album is called "One way ticket to hell... And back". Surely a return ticket would be in order then? Although "Super Apex (restrictions apply) to hell and back" isn't quite as catchy.
Bristol, UK

I've noticed the odd letter awarded the "Letter of the Week" designation. What I want, no, beg to know is what is the criteria to be considered for this honor? How can I stay up all night putting together a clever letter strategy if I don't know what I'm up against? Pray tell, dear Monitor.
Teri, Detroit,

Re: Curtain rises on virtual Dylan, 9 November. Has Matt Lucas got another string to his bow?
Tom Lee,

"Is there a Flexicon word for a 'regular feature of the Magazine Monitor that is not as regular as some'?", asked Robin, Edinburgh last week. How about "reguliar"? Then again, perhaps that better describes the promiser than the promise. Could a failed promise be a "promiss"? Then repeated failure would be a "promiss queue", and so the Monitor could be chastised for being too "promiss-queue-ous". (I'll get me coat.)
Brian Ritchie,
Oxford, UK

I notice that Mark Kennedy has unwittingly solved the original question which is why its ASBO and not ABO (Monitor letters, Tuesday). It must be because it is in fact an order to enforce someone to be social i.e SBO and you simply put A on the front to make it A Social Behavior Order. God i'm bored. (not checked spelling either in hoop of getting letter published.)

With the BBC news website's long-running obsession with the word "set" ("Energy Demand set to soar", "Europe Set for Mission to Venus" etc), I'm surprised the Japanese whaling item wasn't entitled "Japan's Whaling Fleet Set to Set Sail"
Bob Peters,
Leeds UK

Could you publish the Monitor letters a bit earlier in the day, please? I finish work at five and always end up reading them when I get home. My at-home productivity and morale are suffering.
Jack Hatfield,


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

Two gems to come from Sir Christopher Meyer's book today (he is the former British ambassador to Washington - see yesterday's Paper Monitor for more details), as serialised in the Guardian and the Daily Mail.

  • Alastair Campbell can sing.
  • The late Mo Mowlam, as well as adjusting her wig at unexpected moments during discussions with officials, would also belch.

Meanwhile this week's Private Eye has a satire of Sunday Telegraph editor Sarah Sands' extraordinary letter to readers, which Paper Monitor wrote about on Monday.

"For me, a Sunday newspaper is like a bath bubble, floating in the air, smelling of perfume, with a picture of a woman in her knickers on the front page. And, just like a bath bubble, it should leave you transformed, fragrant, news-based and waspish."


In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked whether London or Manhattan had more branches of Starbucks. 61% of you answered correctly that it was London, which has 220 branches - 40 more than Manhattan. Wednesday's question is on the index now.


Letters logo
Unfortunately for Chris B (Monitor Letters, Monday), the use of 'z' in words that end -isation isn't a lazy Americanism (as it's popularly thought of). It originates from differences in the Greek and Latin alphabets - and dates back centuries before the US.

It's nice to know that the government is keeping those elderly people out of hospital. More space for us youngsters! (Government announces 60m scheme to keep elderly people out of hospital, 8 November)
Nicholas Hill,
Port Talbot, Wales

Re: James's letter on anti-antisocial behaviour order (Monitor Letters, Monday). Wouldn't a double negative turn it into a social beheviour order (SBO)?
Mark Kennedy,
London, UK

I think you make up all your letters. Infact you probably made this one up aswell.
Will James,
Oundle, UK

Nobody's asked for a while. When will the LBQ be back?
Chicago, IL

You asked for signs of an early spring (Spring into autumn, 4 November). How about Easter eggs being in the shops .... does this count?

How about this: I'm moulting!
Panda (a Border Collie),
Harrow, UK

I have had many attempts at writing something I can get published in the Monitor letters. I double-check spelling, grammar & punctuation but my attempts so far have all been in vain. So when I see letters like that of chelseys, edmonton getting published (Monitor Letters, Monday) my world comes crumbling down!
Luke May,

I've noticed that recently you've been including pointless and badly spelt letters. Presumably this is to have a laugh at the expense of the writer. This is very petty and childish so please post more of these, they always make me giggle.
Gareth Edwards,
Stoke on Trent, UK

Meanwhile at the State Banquet for the Chinese President....
"OK Prime Minister, here's the running order. Hu's on first."
"I don't know. Who's on first?"


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

Some of the best reading at the moment is coming in the serialisation of the autobiography of the UK's former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer. The prospect of a career diplomat turning out a gripping tale was perhaps unpromising, but he has delivered on a number of counts.

He has said plenty about the build-up to war, detailed here by our political correspondent Nick Assinder. But Paper Monitor loves telling details above all, and of those there are plenty.

How about these:

When Tony and Cherie Blair first met George and Laura Bush, they sat up to watch the film Meet The Parents. "When it was revealed that the character played by Stiller was called Gay Focker, the President split his sides," Sir Christopher wrote.

Later on, Mr Blair wore trousers which were too tight. "Blair looked uncomfortable, his efforts to appear similarly insouciant undermined by the inability to get his hands fully into pockets that appeared glued to the groin."

On a different occasion, Cherie Blair's hairdresser went missing at Camp David.

John Prescott talked about "the Balklands" and "Kovosa", he claims.

Hillary Clinton fell asleep during a "narcoleptic" speech by former Culture Secretary Chris Smith.

There's bags more, and more to come as the book is serialised in both the Guardian and the Daily Mail.

But Sir Christopher is in an unusual position, not least because former diplomats are not in the habit of being so undiplomatic. But in addition he is now chairman of the Press Complaints Commission - something which papers not serialising his book are quick to point out.

Today's Telegraph says: "It is impossible to see how anyone could confidently confide in Sir Christopher in his new role, fearing his next volumen of memoirs is under way."

And the Indie: "There is nothing in this book that Sir Christopher had a burning responsibility to reveal to the British public. And there is certainly nothing in it that justifies the compromising of his position as a trusted chairman of the Press Complaints Commission."

Seriously? Does Gay Focker not justify it all?


In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked how many children didn't know that chips were made from potatoes. The most popular answer, submitted by 45% of you, was 1 in 8 children. Dunces! The correct answer was 1 in 3 children, given by 43%. Tuesday's Mini-Quiz is on the index now.


Letters logo
Re: David Cannadine's Point of View: Wouldn't it be more appropriate to lament the AmericaniZation of British life?
Chris B,
Truro, UK

Have the Magazine writers been presented with beach-side homes in Dubai? With all three main articles today being about how wonderful Dubai is, I think we should be told.
R J Tysoe,
London, UK

Anyone noticed how the reporter for the new Harry Potter Movie (left)) looks a lot like a certain editor (right) for a major tabloid? Coincidence?
Malcolm Owen,

"If bathrooms have become modern temples, then 'Stella' is the pinnacle of bath time reading." (The editor of the Sunday Telegraph's statement, quoted in today's Paper Monitor.) The only time when I think of Stella in the bathroom is usually the day after the night before.

Ben Paddon asked why, since antisocial is either one word or hyphenated, is an Asbo an Asbo and not an Abo. As the aim of an ASBO is to prevent antisocial (or anti-social) behaviour, surely it is really an anti-antisocial behaviour order and therefore should be called an AASBO or an AABO.
Cape Town, Brightest Africa

i am really happy yo get a magazine

The Friday Objective asked readers to suggest what the rules of a game called Pseudoku might be. How about this: go to your local supermarket, take three rows of three baskets and randomly fill them with nine articles, plus one with eleven, then queue up at the ten items or less checkout and if they spot the odd basket that is pseudoqueue... I'm very bored, the nurse hasn't given me my medication ...


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

Regular readers will know how Paper Monitor is fascinated by those rare occasions on which newspapers have re-launches and editors break cover to write about their paper. This weekend was a fine example, as the Sunday Telegraph had a redesign and we were treated to a beauty from editor Sarah Sands, of which these are the highlights:

  • "I want to encourage intelligent writing, and to present it in an elegant fashion. I suppose you could call it brains and beauty."
  • "'Seven' is the highest form of entertainment."
  • Our second magazine is 'Stella'. This is a journalistic spa: beautiful, calm, witty, transforming. If bathrooms have become modern temples, then 'Stella' is the pinnacle of bath time reading."
  • "I want the Sunday Telegraph to be like your iPod - full of your favourite things."
  • "Some Sunday papers are merely nasty habits. I hope you will buy the Sunday Telegraph because you love it..."
And here, in turn, is Paper Monitor's thoughts on these points:
  • That doesn't sound like an over-rehearsed soundbite at all.
  • Seven is a listings magazine.
  • Makes Paper Monitor want to go to the bathroom. And not for a spa.
  • Sunday Telegraph readers have iPods?
  • Is it not a fact of life that the nastiest habits are often the most enjoyable?

Never let it be said that Paper Monitor is miserable, however: congratulations and good luck to Ms Sands and her team.


And with the start of a new week, here is the result of Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz. We asked which TV programme Tony Blair was to appear on over the weekend. 64% of you said The Simpsons. Only 29% of you were correct with Football Focus, so well done you. Monday's Mini-Quiz is on the index now.

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