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Last Updated: Friday, 2 June 2006, 17:48 GMT 18:48 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)


10 mice by David Coleman

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

1. One in four smokers use roll-ups.

2. About 7% of England's land - equivalent to 1.6 million football pitches - is open for the public.

3. Files on nuclear waste from the recently-closed Windscale reactor at Sellafield are kept on acid-free paper, stored in copper bags, with no plastic binders or staples to contaminate the pages.

4. Professional football referees can run 13km in a match.

5. The croquet set John Prescott so memorably used at Dorneywood was presented to the grace-and-favour house by previous resident Kenneth Clarke.

6. There are about two million cohabiting couples in the UK .

7. The writer/director of Withnail and I had his 70,000 pay packet cut to 40,000 to pay for the elaborate scene in which Withnail and his mate drove back to London and were stopped by coppers for drink driving.

8. It takes 354,000 scrap tyres to make a mile of re-cycled rubber road.

9. Music can help reduce chronic pain by more than 20% and can alleviate depression by up to 25%.

10. The vaults beneath the Bank of England, which include three disused wells, have more floorspace than the City of London's tallest building, Tower 42 (formerly the NatWest Tower).

(Sources, where no links are included: 3 - Daily Telegraph, 30 May; 5 - Independent, 1 June; 7 - Independent, 1 June; )

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

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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: Whatever happened to the superheroes of old? We had our very own superhero in Basildon called 'Captain Basildon.' He only made one public appearence. Whatever happended to him, eh?

I'm surprised no one has mentioned buffalo milk in Milk: One hump or two?. It is more easily digested, and has a taste far superior to cows milk with none of the sourness of goats milk.
Clare Faulkner,

And then there's "kumys", fermented mare's milk - a central Asian speciality that is definitely an acquired taste!
Matthew Austin,

We were brought up to drink the milk of pygmy shrews. It's very high in saturated fats but very healthy as you can only get such a small amount. We only had one shrew and mum had to share out the milk between my 10 brothers and I. You wouldn't notice the difference on cereal. In fact, you wouldn't notice it.
Philip Pickering,

It seems we're missing out on WWII bomb-watch, they are appearing all over the place...where next?

Why do the guys in my office suggest we "talk to" slides when making a presentation, instead of talking about them? And will people stop "flicking" me e-mails? I'd rather they sent them. Or even e-mailed them.
Margaret Grant,
Christchurch, New Zealand

Swimming the English Channel has got much in common with a snail crossing the M25.

Regarding "hand-cooked" crisps, I once worked in the factory of a well-known crisp maker, and I can assure you that they were hand-cooked. If, that is, you take hand cooking to mean pressing a button to chop up spuds, stirring with a garden rake (I kid you not) for about three minutes, and then pressing another button to put them on a conveyor.


Picture: ISF Photos

It's time for the caption competition vote.

This week, the picture showed John Prescott wielding a croquet mallet in the garden.

Here are the six top entries - your challenge is to decide which is the cream of the crop.

1. ... and if they're too far away to punch, I slap them with this.
Alan J Heath, Aberdeen

Choose from one of the following caption entries
1. Alan Heath, Aberdeen
2. Jake, London
3. Barry, London
4. Sarah, Halifax, Canada
5. Peter Craske, Sidcup
6. Gareth Jones, Anglesey

2. Labour finally hit back at Bush.
Jake, London

3.John Prescott demonstrates Labour's new border control methods.
Barry, London

4. "Mandleson. Are you sure the Tolpuddle Martyrs played this?"
Sarah, Halifax

5. Now, my career's in here somewhere. Come on, help me look for it.
Peter Craske, Sidcup

6. My house ... my rules
Gareth Jones, Anglesey


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A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Disciples of Britain's greatest ever cookery writer, Mrs Beeton, are advised to steel themselves. Stealing of a different sort was all that Mrs B was good for according to the Guardian, which tells of the startling revelation in a new biography of the Victorian cook. When the doyenne of home economics began her cookery writing career aged 21 she made a Victoria sponge and left out the eggs. Seven years later she was dead (although there's no inference this was a result of her inexperience in the kitchen) having written the seminal cookery book. How did she do it? "She copied everything," says biographer Kathryn Hughes.

Yes, cookery is in crisis. And when plagiarism's not at fault, you can blame the PC brigade. What could be more rattling to a Daily Mail reader than news that a retired district nurse and Women's Institute member, no less, had her baking credentials questioned when she cooked up a Madeira cake to celebrate the 96th birthday of an old folks' home resident. Officials who run the home said they could be sued if said birthday "boy" took a turn for the worst having feasted on the home-made cake. Even more sickening is the fact they gave the green light to a shop-bought cake which was stuffed full of E numbers and inverted-hydrogenated-stabiliser-type stuff.

The spectre of barmy PC pen-pushers has spurred the Sun into action on a different theme - that of the St George's flag. In the run-up to the World Cup it seems all sorts of killjoys are banning the flying of the flag and the Sun pulls no punches when it comes to naming the big offenders: "Heathrow bosses... over-sensitive religious types... Scots" (Paper Monitor's emphasis).

PM doesn't have access to the Scottish edition of the Sun, but would be interested to hear if this entire nation has been "shamed" in its pages too.


Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked what did fans steal from David Beckham when they mobbed him while he was shopping in Manchester. A thumping 93% got it right - his beanie hat. Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine index


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A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

So Prescott's given up Dorneywood? No shortage of coverage in the papers, including the Daily Mail, which sent reporter Quentin Letts undercover to the house for a look around. But even Mr Letts misses the most pressing question that Prezza's climbdown gives rise to: does this mean Mavis Cruet, Evil Edna and the Moog get to move back in?

While Prescott's been hauled over the coals in recent weeks, that's nothing compared to the fate of the victims who end up on the gallows built by Suffolk farmer David Lucas, and exported to despotic regimes around the world. Only, maybe he doesn't.

Mr Lucas' supposed sideline had provoked howls of outrage from human rights groups following a recent spate of articles in the Guardian, the Mail, the Independent and the People (not to mention coverage by Sky and the BBC). He'd even told the papers that top policemen had visited and muttered their approval. But the whole thing's a complete hoax according to the Times, which quotes Mr Lucas' landlord who says the only set of gallows the farmer has ever made are those that he's been photographed/filmed in front of.

A habit seems to be developing here - witness how Metro was hoaxed last week about a 5ft blade handed in as part of the knife amnesty. It turned out to be a Star Trek prop. Could the lightweight anti-armour "tankbuster" rocket, featured in today's Mail as the latest bizarre trophy from the amnesty, in fact be a 3ft piece of drainpipe from B&Q?

Parents, meanwhile, must be asking whether they're being "had" once again with the latest instalment of the should you/shouldn't you leave your baby to cry. Latest research, reported in the Telegraph, shows that attending to your wailing infant does not, as previously thought, mean they get into the habit of crying. There's no confirmation of the belief that feckless parents who ignore a crying child will see said toddler grow into an emotionally stunted tankbuster-wielding hoodie.

Of course, one method of helping a baby comfort itself and cry less is to give it a dummy - but Independent readers will note that, according to new research, this is now believed to hinder breastfeeding.

All of which would be valuable information for the paper's mum-to-be Bridget Jones. But she'll probably miss it - it sounds, from her latest column, as if she's just gone into labour.


On Wednesday, the Daily Mini-Quiz asked in the lyrics of Sandi's Thom chart hit, I Wish I was a Punk Rocker, what did footballers still have? Salute the 55% who identified the right answer as long hair and dirt on their faces.


Letters logo

John Newby (Tuesday letters): yes it is our job to provide an opportunity for, provide a refuge for people fleeing persecution. Anyway, of all the somali people I know I would estimate that around 75% work (usually in jobs Briton's don't want) and contribute through taxes.
Alfred Airey,

To John Newby (Tuesday letters): yes, it is, most of our ancestors arived this way. It's what makes the UK the rich vibrant culture it is, the wealth of experience high and low, of old money and old poverty rubbing shoulders with new poverty and new money. Beats the American system hands down!

Re: North Yorks countryside tops Kent. So, Middlesex is England's least-favourite county. Perhaps that's because it ceased to exist in 1965 so nothing good has happened in Middlesex for over forty years?
David Richerby,
Athens, Greece

To Colin, Thatcham (Tuesday letters). Our players "crash out" because failing to win tennis matches is a national passtime. If we lost we'd look like a bunch of amateurs; crashing out is losing with style, thus professional.
Richard Wainman,
Lancashire, UK

Colin (Tuesday letters) asks why British tennis players "can't just lose?" My complaint is "can't they just win?"

Never mind crisps hand cooked (Tuesday letters). I am always getting junk mail inscribed with the phrase "Delivered by hand". How else would they get it through my letter box?
Darren Walker,
Leeds, England

Re: Diana inquiry 'reveals new leads'. I nearly fell off my chair! Has the BBC news site been edited by the Express this morning!!!

Re: Diana inquiry 'reveals new leads' on your front page. But it's not a Monday, how can this be?!

How many versions of Super-Cally-brick-ballistic-exmiaow-atrocious or whatever do you expect for your pun comp? I reckon it will be hundreds. So predictable. (yawn)

I can't tell you how nice it is to be back at work. I missed you while I was on holiday.
Martin Ruck,


Cally the cat
It's Punorama results time.

The rules are straightforward - we choose a story which has been in the news, and invite you to create an original punning headline for it.

This week it's the story of the family cat that was trapped for 72 hours after builders bricked it into a wall.

Cally the cat went missing from the family home in Stratford-upon-Avon and was only found three days later when her miaows were detected from behind a newly-repaired wall. She was freed with the help of a pick-axe.

Boy oh boy, Cally really got creative juices flowing across the world. There were a couple of ridiculously popular suggestions.

Let Miaowt! and Get mia-ow-t of here! was suggested by Iain and Lou in London, Shaky in Manchester, Susie Poulton in Didcot and Gareth Jones from Anglesey - among many others.

While TS Elliot and his famous cat Macavity were the starting point for a lot of other people. MaCavity Wall Insulation was sent in by many, including Stoo in Lancashire, James Peterson in Wolverhampton, James in Lancaster and James Carter from Manningtree. Ian Watson in Sandy had a slight twist on the popular pun with Macaverty Wall Incarceration!

There was also solid support for Puss In Bricks from Maddy Allen and Dave Smith, both from London, and Keith in Whitstable.

And there are honourable mentions for Cat between a brick and a hard place suggested by Jip Foster in Reading, Catastrophe from BoBo in Oxford and Purr-puss built from Rachael in Cambridge.

But a big round of applause for those who managed to work in a Magazine Monitor favourite. The wonderful Super Cally goes ballistic, the builders are atrocious was suggested by Richard Ryan in Kuala Lumpur, while Daniel Hassall in Newcastle offered Super Cally, Family Missed It, Builders Were Atrocious. Eat your heart out Mary Poppins.


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A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There is righteous indignation in the Sun over the use of mentally unstable people for our entertainment on Big Brother. Mental health groups are worried and the Sun asks "are producers right to exploit mentally fragile contestants?".

This must be a different Sun to the one that angered mental health groups with its headline of "Bonkers Bruno locked up" to describe the boxing legend's treatment. Paper Monitor always likes to see a Damascene conversion.

It's a red letter day for the Daily Express. They're able to lead on a Diana story that actually features in other papers. Lord Stevens says he has new forensic evidence and witnesses but refuses to say more. Over in the Mirror's early edition he's been demoted to mere Sir John Stevens. Is there something they know?

The Daily Telegraph highlights an issue that is very likely to affect its key demographic all too soon - old graves are going to be reused to save space. Britain, and particularly London, has many areas with a shortage of burial plots.

Harriet Harman, the minister responsible, is considering the ominous sounding "lift and deepen", meaning graves could go double-decker.

Over in the Daily Mail there is interest in the weight loss apparent on former "curvy teen" Joss Stone. She is doing it by healthy eating in the West Indies apparently, and the Mail identifies the key difference in a pithy caption: "Joss two years ago - She loved eating pasties". So that's the key.


On Tuesday, the Daily Mini-Quiz asked what proportion of the workforce admitted to having been drunk at work recently. Raise a glass to the 53% who identified the right answer as one in six.


Letters logo
Regarding your story about Somalis in Britain, I arrived at Nairobi airport a few months ago to find a sorry looking large group of Somali refugees. Poor does not describe what they looked like. Think 1980s shell suits, ripped T-shirts and broken shoes. These of course were their best traveling clothes. An hour later they were being pre-boarded on to my flight. Scary, terrorists, I thought - the media has done a good job there. The flight passed peacefully and the Somalis left the plane in the UK carrying their new socks and blankets courtesy of BA. What hope for such a poor people carrying such a horrible stigma? Little hope. But the question in my mind is, is it our job as tax payers to fund the lives of people who can't possibly fit in to our culture for at least a generation?
John Newby,
Kalajoki, Finland

In response to Chris Maylin's request for a word describing a witty remark thought of after the moment has passed. Diderot came up with the best (and wittiest) term - 'L'esprit de lescalier' - literally, the 'spirit' or 'wit' of the staircase. i.e. a witty retort you come up with walking up or down the stairs on the way out of a social gathering, when its far too late to say it!
Alexander Morley,
London, UK

Witty things to say after the event, isn't that like deja vu backwards, or uvajed as in "I've just been uvajed." A phenomenon often seen on trains and tubes when that passenger suddenly contorts his/her face in a wry smile, realising that it's way too late for what they wanted to say. Followed by the thought, I know, I'll recreate the situation with someone else and throw in my killer punch line and they'll think I'm brilliant!

With all this talk about a word to describe the feeling of thinking of a witty thing to say long after the opportunity has passed, my friends and I have invented a word for another occasion. When you and another person say something at exactly the same time, and there is an anticlimax while you both grin at each other - "Donship". This is also accompanied by each person clenching fists and touching wrists. The word (and action) can also be used to congratulate someone on doing something good or well!
The Keeper of the Donship,

Please explain why when a British tennis player loses he always "crashes out"? Can't they just lose?

Can any Monitor readers explain this: while shopping on Saturday, I saw some crisps which were labelled as "Hand-cooked". Presumably, the cook does not lower them into the hot fat whilst holding them, so presumably they lower the baskests into the fat by hand. In which case, how do making these crisps differ from someone pressing a button with their finger? Or, for that matter, why are hand-cooked crisps supposedly better?
Stephen Buxton,
Coventry, UK, thelbiq.co.uk

The Magazine story about the Bank of England mentions "tigernapping" - where does this come from? A Google for the word turns up only a handful of references to the theft of an actual tiger. You're making these things up, aren't you?
MJ Simpson,
Leicester, UK

Sean Coughlan writes: Tigernapping is a phrase used to describe when bank robbers take an employee's family hostage and use them to force co-operation. The rationale being that by seizing the cubs you can catch the tiger.

"Ex-minister Glenda Jackson also backed Mr Prescott, saying nobody had worked hard for the Labour government.". So Prescott's not atypical, then?


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

Fear is all around us. Earthquakes, knife violence, croquet matches. And on the front page of the Daily Mail is another warning to anyone thinking they could relax.

"The danger lurking in your toothbrush," reveals the Daily Mail. It's not just dangerous, it's lurking as well. And in an ingenious combination of anxieties, the story promises that the "humble toothbrush can spread as many germs as unprotected sex".

So even brushing your teeth is something to worry about.

What we need is a holiday. And the BBC History Magazine has found that the most popular date for a new public holiday would be June 15 to mark the Magna Carta.

This is the result of an online click poll on the magazine's website. But does it show that we're a nation of medieval enthusiasts dedicated to the ideal of constitutional government? Or does it show that we're all enthralled by survey-based talking points.

And how tempting is it to just keep clicking on one of the possible options in these instant polls? There's a current poll on which area of history is neglected from school - what would happen if everyone started clicking on the "classical history" option?

There were several more reports today revealing the relationship between statistics and news.

The Times reported that despite the saturation news coverage, the Da Vinci Code took less money at the box office in its first weekend than the less headline-friendly X-Men: The Last Stand. Which is the bigger movie, discuss?

And the Independent reported a tale of our time, about Sandi Thom, a pop singer who has come from nowhere to be at number two in the charts. These days, how do you measure publicity? Bandwidth. Her concert "tour" was a series of performances on her website. And the article's pull-out quote challenges: "How does a poor, starving artist afford the bandwidth for 70,000 video streams?" That's the rock 'n' roll question being asked.

And back on the numbers. How do you measure that something is at an "all-time low", particularly when the thing being calibrated is "morale"?

If anyone should know, it's the Office for National Statistics, where employees are threatening to strike, because, the Times reports, the statistics workers are "among the lowest paid" and because of the aforesaid morale measurements.

The prospect of an all-out strike by statisticians must have newspaper headline writers everywhere sharpening their pens. Well, at least a percentage of them.


On Monday we asked for the meaning of the name of Brad and Angelina's baby daughter, Shiloh Nouvel. The correct answer, New Messiah, was spotted by 54% of readers.


Letters logo

Tailoring lessons for every pupil - was it just me who had visions of dressmaking classes?
Carol Langham,
Milton Keynes

Re: Tailoring lessons for every pupil. A measure designed to shift teenagers' fashion preferences away from hoodies and jeans?

Re: Chris Maylin (Friday letters) and his request for a word describing an incredibly witty thing to say after the opportunity has passed.I can't think of one at the moment but probably will in a few weeks time!
Derek Behan,
Blackburn, Lancs

Re Chris Maylin's request for a word that describes thinking of a witty thing to say long after the opportunity has passed. (Friday letters) The Scarlet Pimpernel called it Carriage Wit.
Gina, Here

Chris Maylin (Friday letters), I think these used to be called "carriage comments" as in, what you thought of in the carriage on the way home. To bring us properly up to date, they'd probably be called 4x4 comments today.

I'm glad to hear that someone else likes banana and marmite sandwiches (Friday letters). I thought I was the only one...

My all time favourites (Friday letters) are marmite and marmalade on toast (very sweet and sour), and marmite and peanut butter (not the low fat peanut butter - too much sugar)!Also marmite cheese on toast and scrambled egg on toast, it's great. You could say I'm a marmite freak.

Re Marmite (Friday letters). It's just wrong.

I'm trying to find myself. If you see me, tell me I'm looking for me and give me my number. Thankyou.
Newport, Wales

Arrr... you just did it again!


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A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

You'd have thought the arrival of the new Messiah would have made the headlines in all the papers, but even in The Sun it only makes page nine. Paper Monitor is of course talking about the birth of Shiloh Nouvel - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's new daughter - whose name apparently means new Messiah, among other things.

The birth was one of the most-eagerly anticipated in tabloid land, but when Shiloh finally arrived she was immediately taught a tough lesson about the fickleness of fame - she was knocked off the front page of The Sun and The Mirror by John Prescott. Harsh.

The mallets are out in most papers for the deputy prime minister whose "credibility is in meltdown" after he was pictured playing croquet less than two hours after being left in charge of the country by Tony Blair, according to the Daily Mail .

As the Mirror points out, it's hardly the sort of activity you would expect from a hard-nosed ex-boxer and former union firebrand. "What next, fox hunting!" asks Richard Littlejohn, in the Mail. Sensing the delight of certain people - Littlejohn's bacon sandwich was ruined by the tears of laughter he shed after seeing the pictures in his morning paper - one anonymous Labour backbencher was heard to wail: "If only he'd been caught playing rugby."


Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz was inspired by American Idol's victor winning with 63m votes, more than any president. So between Clinton, JFK or Nixon, which attracted the most votes? It was Nixon with 47m - which just 24% of you correctly answered, then Clinton with 45m and JFK on 34m. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index.

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